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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

FLASHBACK: McCain Claimed That ‘Americans Are Overall Better Off’ Under Bush»

Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) campaign has released its latest tv ad today, attempting to distance the senator from President Bush. From the ad’s narration:

Washington’s broken. John McCain knows it. We’re worse off than we were four years ago. Only McCain has taken on big tobacco, drug companies, fought corruption in both parties. He’ll reform Wall Street, battle Big Oil, make America prosper again. He’s the original maverick.

Watch it:

This statement actually isn’t so maverick. During a January debate at the Reagan Library, McCain stated that Americans were “overall are better off” than they were eight years ago. Watch it:

In April, McCain also said that under the Bush administration, “you could make an argument that there’s been great progress economically over that period of time.”


The Tire-Gauge Solution: No Joke

Man using tire gauge on tire of car
How out of touch is Barack Obama? He's so out of touch that he suggested that if all Americans inflated their tires properly and took their cars for regular tune-ups, they could save as much oil as new offshore drilling would produce. Gleeful Republicans have made this their daily talking point; Rush Limbaugh is having a field day; and the Republican National Committee is sending tire gauges labeled "Barack Obama's Energy Plan" to Washington reporters.

But who's really out of touch? The Bush Administration estimates that expanded offshore drilling could increase oil production by 200,000 bbl. per day by 2030. We use about 20 million bbl. per day, so that would meet about 1% of our demand two decades from now. Meanwhile, efficiency experts say that keeping tires inflated can improve gas mileage 3%, and regular maintenance can add another 4%. Many drivers already follow their advice, but if everyone did, we could immediately reduce demand several percentage points. In other words: Obama is right.

In fact, Obama's actual energy plan is much more than a tire gauge. But that's not what's so pernicious about the tire-gauge attacks. Politics ain't beanbag, and Obama has defended himself against worse smears. The real problem with the attacks on his tire-gauge plan is that efforts to improve conservation and efficiency happen to be the best approaches to dealing with the energy crisis — the cheapest, cleanest, quickest and easiest ways to ease our addiction to oil, reduce our pain at the pump and address global warming. It's a pretty simple concept: if our use of fossil fuels is increasing our reliance on Middle Eastern dictators while destroying the planet, maybe we ought to use less.

The RNC is trying to make the tire gauge a symbol of unseriousness, as if only the fatuous believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil without doing the bidding of Big Oil. But the tire gauge is really a symbol of a very serious piece of good news: we can use significantly less energy without significantly changing our lifestyle. The energy guru Amory Lovins has shown that investment in "nega-watts" — reduced electricity use through efficiency improvements — is much more cost-effective than investment in new megawatts, and the same is clearly true of nega-barrels. It might not fit the worldviews of right-wingers who deny the existence of global warming and insist that reducing emissions would destroy our economy, or of left-wing Earth-firsters who insist that maintaining our creature comforts would destroy the world, but there's a lot of simple things we can do on the demand side before we start rushing to ratchet up supply.

We can use those twisty carbon fluorescent lightbulbs. We can unplug our televisions, computers and phone chargers when we're not using them. We can seal our windows, install more insulation and adjust our thermostats so that we waste less heat and air-conditioning. We can use more-efficient appliances, build more-efficient homes and drive more-efficient cars, preferably with government assistance. And, yes, we can inflate our tires and tune our engines, as Republican governors Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Charlie Crist of Florida have urged, apparently without consulting the RNC. While we're at it, we can cut down on idling, which can improve fuel economy another 5%, and cut down on speeding and unnecessary acceleration, which can increase mileage as much as 20%.

And that's just the low-hanging fruit. There are other ways to reduce demand for oil — more public transportation, more carpooling, more telecommuting, more recycling, less exurban sprawl, fewer unnecessary car trips, buying less stuff and eating less meat — that would require at least some lifestyle changes. But things like tire gauges can reduce gas bills and carbon emissions now, with little pain and at little cost and without the ecological problems and oil-addiction problems associated with offshore drilling. These are the proverbial win-win-win solutions, reducing the pain of $100 trips to the gas station by reducing trips to the gas station. And Americans are already starting to adopt them, ditching SUVs, buying hybrids, reducing overall gas consumption. It's hard to see why anyone who isn't affiliated with the oil industry would object to them.

Of course, in recent years, the Republican Party has been affiliated with the oil industry. It was the oilman Dick Cheney who dismissed conservation as a mere sign of "personal virtue," not a basis for energy policy. It was the oilman George W. Bush who resisted efforts to regulate carbon emissions. And most congressional Republicans have been even more reliable water carriers for the industry's interests.

John McCain has been a notable exception. He is not an oilman; he has pushed to regulate carbon emissions; and he opposed Bush's pork-stuffed energy bill, which Obama supported. He also opposed efforts to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and until recently opposed new offshore drilling. But now that gas prices have spiked, McCain is running for President on a drill-first platform, and polls suggest that most Americans agree with him. It's sad to see his campaign adopting the politics of the tire gauge, promoting the fallacy that Americans are powerless to address their own energy problems. Because the truth is: Yes, we can. We already are.

Original here


Obama: McCain's Not Running A Campaign To Be Proud Of

Barack Obama accused John McCain on Tuesday of running a campaign that the presumptive Republican nominee himself couldn't take pride in.

Speaking at a town hall in Youngstown, Ohio, the Illinois Democrat fielded a question about the "myth" that elderly white women wouldn't support his candidacy. From there, however, Obama pivoted into the increasingly personal and negative tone to which the general election campaign has descended.

"When John McCain gets up there and says I'd rather win an election than win a war. When he says I didn't visit the troops when I was overseas, even though every media outlet says that's just not true... [It suggests] you are not trying to solve problems. All you are trying to do is divide people so you can win an election. That is nothing to be proud of. Let's have a real honest debate about policies that are going to make a difference in people's lives."

The harsh rebuke of the McCain campaign's tone and tenor comes amidst growing calls for the presumptive Democratic nominee to lash back. And it is a traditional Obama counterpunch: positioning himself above the fray while painting his opponent as trivial.

Indeed, earlier in the speech Obama offered a riff about the now-infamous Britney Spears/Paris Hilton attack ad -- a line he has used before.

"That's his idea of a really relevant campaign," said the Illinois Democrat. "But I don't have time to deal with that mess because America is facing some serious problems, some serious challenges."

Original here

Obama Delivers a Real Energy Plan for America: Efficiency Now, 10% Renewables by 2012, One Million Plug-ins by 2015

Senator Barack Obama has fulfilled the promise of his earlier climate plan with a detailed and comprehensive "New Energy for America" plan.

This is easily the best energy plan ever put forward by a nominee of either party. By comparison, the plan of John "Nothing but Nukes" McCain is a joke, with nothing on energy efficiency and a pointless $300 million battery prize and long-standing opposition to renewable energy. In contrast, Obama's plan has real depth and breath:


  • Increase Fuel Economy Standards: Obama will increase fuel economy standards 4 percent per each year while protecting the financial future of domestic automakers....

  • Invest in Developing Advanced Vehicles and Put 1 Million Plugin Electric Vehicles on the Road by 2015: As a U.S. senator, Barack Obama has led efforts to jumpstart federal investment in advanced vehicles, including combined plug‐in hybrid/flexible fuel vehicles, which can get over 150 miles per gallon of gas... [more details below]

  • Partner with Domestic Automakers: Obama will also provide $4 billion retooling tax credits and
    loan guarantees for domestic auto plants and parts manufacturers, so that the new fuel‐efficient
    cars can be built in the U.S. by American workers rather than overseas.

  • Mandate All New Vehicles are Flexible Fuel Vehicles

  • Develop the Next Generation of Sustainable Biofuels and Infrastructure

  • Establish a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard: ... The standard requires fuels suppliers in 2010 to begin to reduce the carbon of their fuel by 5 percent within 5 years and 10 percent within 10 years.


This is the only way to jumpstart an end to our addiction to oil in a climate friendly way. Indeed, an accelerated transition to plug-in hybrids and electric cars -- a core climate solution-- must be the cornerstone of any serious effort to dramatically reduce oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions (see "Why electricity is the only alternative fuel that can lead to energy independence"). That is the crucial litmus test for any presidential candidate's energy independence or clean transportation policy.

As for the test of a candidate's grasp of electricity policy, energy efficiency is obviously The only cheap power left and a limitless resource and THE core climate solution. Obama understands energy efficiency in a way few other major politicians do, as his plan makes clear:

Book says White House ordered forgery

By

A new book by the author Ron Suskind claims that the White House ordered the CIA to forge a back-dated, handwritten letter from the head of Iraqi intelligence to Saddam Hussein.

Suskind writes in “The Way of the World,” to be published Tuesday, that the alleged forgery – adamantly denied by the White House – was designed to portray a false link between Hussein’s regime and al Qaeda as a justification for the Iraq war.

The author also claims that the Bush administration had information from a top Iraqi intelligence official “that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq – intelligence they received in plenty of time to stop an invasion.”

The letter’s existence has been reported before, and it had been written about as if it were genuine. It was passed in Baghdad to a reporter for The (London) Sunday Telegraph who wrote about it on the front page of Dec. 14, 2003, under the headline, “Terrorist behind September 11 strike ‘was trained by Saddam.’”

The Telegraph story by Con Coughlin (which, coincidentally, ran the day Hussein was captured in his “spider hole”) was touted in the U.S. media by supporters of the war, and he was interviewed on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"Over the next few days, the Habbush letter continued to be featured prominently in the United States and across the globe," Suskind writes. "Fox's Bill O'Reilly trumpeted the story Sunday night on 'The O'Reilly Factor,' talking breathlessly about details of the story and exhorting, 'Now, if this is true, that blows the lid off al Qaeda—Saddam.'"

According to Suskind, the administration had been in contact with the director of the Iraqi intelligence service in the last years of Hussein’s regime, Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti.

“The White House had concocted a fake letter from Habbush to Saddam, backdated to July 1, 2001,” Suskind writes. “It said that 9/11 ringleader Mohammad Atta had actually trained for his mission in Iraq – thus showing, finally, that there was an operational link between Saddam and al Qaeda, something the Vice President’s Office had been pressing CIA to prove since 9/11 as a justification to invade Iraq. There is no link.”

The White House flatly denied Suskind’s account. Tony Fratto, deputy White House press secretary, told Politico: “The allegation that the White House directed anyone to forge a document from Habbush to Saddam is just absurd.”

The White House plans to push back hard. Fratto added: "Ron Suskind makes a living from gutter journalism. He is about selling books and making wild allegations that no one can verify, including the numerous bipartisan commissions that have reported on pre-war intelligence."

Before “The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism,” Suskind wrote two New York Times bestsellers critical of the Bush administration – “The Price of Loyalty” (2004), which featured extensive comments by former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, and “The One Percent Doctrine” (2006).

Suskind writes in his new book that the order to create the letter was written on “creamy White House stationery.” The book suggests that the letter was subsequently created by the CIA and delivered to Iraq, but does not say how.

The author claims that such an operation, part of “false pretenses” for war, would apparently constitute illegal White House use of the CIA to influence a domestic audience, an arguably impeachable offense.

Suskind writes that the White House had “ignored the Iraq intelligence chief’s accurate disclosure that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq – intelligence they received in plenty of time to stop an invasion.

“They secretly resettled him in Jordan, paid him $5 million – which one could argue was hush money – and then used his captive status to help deceive the world about one of the era’s most crushing truths: that America had gone to war under false pretenses,” the book says.

Suskind writes that the forgery “operation created by the White House and passed to the CIA seems inconsistent with” a statute saying the CIA may not conduct covert operations “intended to influence United States political processes, public opinion, policies or media.”

“It is not the sort of offense, such as assault or burglary, that carries specific penalties, for example, a fine or jail time,” Suskind writes. “It is much broader than that. It pertains to the White House’s knowingly misusing an arm of government, the sort of thing generally taken up in impeachment proceedings.”

Habbush is still listed as wanted on a State Department website designed to help combat international terrorism, with the notation: “Up to $1 Million Reward.”

Former CIA Director George J. Tenet says about the supposed forgery, in a statement: “There was no such order from the White House to me nor, to the best of my knowledge, was anyone from CIA ever involved in any such effort.”

NBC’s David Gregory reported on “Today” that Habbush passed his information in “secret meetings with British intelligence.”

Tenet says about Habbush in the statement: “In fact, the source in question failed to persuade his British interlocutors that he had anything new to offer by way of intelligence, concessions, or negotiations with regard to the Iraq crisis and the British – on their own – elected to break off contact with him.

“There were many Iraqi officials who said both publicly and privately that Iraq had no WMD – but our foreign intelligence colleagues and we assessed that these individuals were parroting the Ba’ath party line and trying to delay any coalition attack. The particular source that Suskind cites offered no evidence to back up his assertion and acted in an evasive and unconvincing manner.”

Asked about Tenet's statement by Meredith Vieira on “Today,” Suskind said it’s “part of George’s memory issue.”

“[B]y placing so much on its secret ledger,” Suskind writes in his final chapter, “the administration profoundly altered basic democratic ideals of accountability and informed consent.”

The book (HarperCollins, $27.95) was not supposed to be publicly available until Tuesday, but Politico purchased a copy Monday night at a Washington bookstore.

Suskind, an engaging and confident Washingtonian, writes that the book was “one tough project.” He won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, where he worked from 1993 to 2000.

The White House said Suskind received no formal cooperation. He writes in the acknowledgments section at the end of the book: “It should be noted that the intelligence sources who are quoted in this book in no way disclosed any classified information. None crossed the line.”

Among the 415-page book’s other highlights:

--John Maguire, one of two men who oversaw the CIA’s Iraq Operations Group, was frustrated by what Suskind describes as the “tendency of the White House to ignore advice it didn’t want to hear – advice that contradicted its willed certainty, political judgments, or rigid message strategies.”

And Suskind writes that the administration “did not want to hear the word insurgency.”

-In the first days of his presidency, Bush rejected advice from the CIA to wiretap Russian President Vladimir Putin in February 2001 in Vienna, where he was staying in a hotel where the CIA had a listening device planted in the wall of the presidential suite, in need only of a battery change. The CIA said that if the surveillance were discovered, Putin’s respect for Bush would be heightened.

But Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s national security adviser, advised that it was “too risky, it might be discovered,” Suskind writes. Bush decided against if as “a gut decision” based on what he thought was a friendship based on several conversations, including during the presidential campaign. The CIA had warned him that Putin “was a trained KGB agent … [who] wants you to think he’s your friend.”

--Suskind reports that Bush initially told Cheney he had to "‘step back’ in large meetings when they were together, like those at the NSC [National Security Council], because people were addressing and deferring to Cheney. Cheney said he understood, that he’d mostly just take notes at the big tables and then he and Bush would meet privately, frequently, to discuss options and action.”

--Suskind contends Cheney established “deniability” for Bush as part of the vice president’s “complex strategies, developed over decades, for how to protect a president.”

“After the searing experience of being in the Nixon White House, Cheney developed a view that the failure of Watergate was not the break-in, or even the cover-up, but the way the president had, in essence, been over-briefed. There were certain things a president shouldn’t know – things that could be illegal, disruptive to key foreign relationships, or humiliating to the executive.

“They key was a signaling system, where the president made his wishes broadly known to a sufficiently powerful deputy who could take it from there. If an investigation ensued, or a foreign leader cried foul, the president could shrug. This was never something he'd authorized. The whole point of Cheney’s model is to make a president less accountable for his action. Cheney’s view is that accountability – a bedrock feature of representative democracy – is not, in every case, a virtue.”

--Suskind is acidly derisive of Bush, saying that he initially lost his “nerve” on 9/11, regaining it when he grabbed the Ground Zero bullhorn. Suskind says Bush’s 9 p.m. Oval Office address on the fifth anniversary was “well along in petulance, seasoned by a touch of self-defensiveness.”

“Moving on its own natural arc, the country is in the process of leaving Bush – his bullying impulse fused, permanently, with satisfying vengeance – in the scattering ashes of 9/11,” Suskind writes. “The high purpose his angry words carried after the attacks, and in two elections since, is dissolving with each passing minute.”

--Suskind writes in the acknowledgments that his research assistant, Greg Jackson, “was sent to New York on a project for the book” in September 2007 and was “detained by federal agents in Manhattan. He was interrogated and his notes were confiscated, violations of his First and Fourth Amendment rights.” The author provides no further detail.

Original here