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Sunday, August 10, 2008

John McCain Says He Needs More Sleep

I almost (but not quite) feel sorry for McCain's campaign staff. How can they possibly spin this as a positive? (Emphasis added.)

McCain said he would concentrate on getting more sleep when he can.

"If I put in three or four 18-hour, 20-hour days in a row, I'm not sharp. It's just a fact," the Republican senator from Arizona said. "I'm more sharp if I get a little rest."

McCain said he feels best sleeping until 7:30 or 8 a.m., as opposed to his usual morning drill of rising at 5:30 or 6 a.m.

"It seems to help me to get up a little later in the morning," he said, joking, "Sorry to bother with that intimate detail."

Earth to McCain: the presidency is a 24/7 job.

Keep in mind that this is a guy who already doesn't work weekends. Even reporters are amazed at his light workload.

This is just another piece of evidence that John McCain is the candidate who isn't ready to be President. It's just August, and he is already complaining about the grueling pace of the campaign.

Does he have any idea what's in store for the next occupant of the White House?

::: :::

Update -- Over at Daily Kos, cookiesandmilk made a poignant comment that I want to highlight:

I think the people working 2 & 3 jobs to keep up in this Bush/McCain economy need more sleep then this beer fortune heir does.

So true. Talk about out of touch. The fact is, McCain isn't doing one of his 2 jobs, he's doing the other one at half strength, and he's whining about it. Meanwhile, lots of American families are every bit as tired as he is, but without $100 million in the bank.

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WSJ Publishes Pro-Obama Editorial

Things really have deteriorated between John McCain and the press: even the Wall Street Journal editorial board is turning on him. The famously conservative group publishes a column praising the economic policy of none other than Barack Obama:

The underreported economic news of the week is that Barack Obama favors a stronger dollar. Even better, he thinks a stronger greenback would help to reduce oil prices.

That at least is what the Democratic Presidential candidate told a town hall forum in Parma, Ohio, on Tuesday. "If we had a strengthening of the dollar, that would help" reduce fuel costs, he said, according to a Reuters dispatch ignored by most of the media. ... We don't know who is whispering in Mr. Obama's ear about the dollar, but he's on to a rich political vein.

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McCain Dazed And Confused (VIDEO)

TPMtv takes the best of the worst John McCain gaffes, awkward pauses, and lame catchphrases and puts them all into one handy video reel:

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How is John McCain's Affair Different than John Edwards'?

We have this weird notion in America now that if a politician is caught in an affair that his career is done. We seem to be saying that what he did in his private life effects his policies or how he governs. But we all know that isn't true. We know that because almost all of our great presidents, and great leaders throughout history, have had numerous affairs. Obviously it didn't hurt how they governed at all.

I love the idea of someone saying Alexander the Great can't lead his empire because he's cheating on his wife (by the way, doesn't Alexander's bisexuality single-handedly destroy the idea that gays can't serve in the military). How about Genghis Khan? He had so many affairs that nearly 1% of the entire world population has his genes. Not fit to lead? And there have also been men of great compassion who led noble fights while still doing ignoble things in their private lives. We are all human at home.

We have now heard the stories of JFK receiving sexual favors after speeches in his limo and partying with several women on a yacht while his wife was delivering. But those are all in the past -- so they don't count. But John Edwards is caught having an extramarital affair and the overwhelming assumption is that his political career is absolutely over. How does that make any sense?

Does John Edwards care less about poor people today than he did yesterday? Would his affair lead him to change his position on NAFTA? How would it alter his policy on Iran?

Some will claim, as they did with Bill Clinton, that it's not the affair but the lies that went along with it. Really? Did JFK come out and tell the American people - or his wife - "by the way, while my wife was in the hospital I was having an affair with not one, but several women at the same time"? No, of course, he lied too. Every man that has ever cheated on his wife has lied (and so has every woman who has ever cheated). It is part and parcel of the affair.

Now, we get to the most relevant question - if John Edwards' political career is done, why isn't John McCain's? John McCain had a well-documented affair on his first wife, with his current wife. He has admitted in the books he has written about his life that he ran around with several different women while still married to his first wife. And don't forget that he left her for a younger, richer woman - multi-millionaire Cindy Hensley who is now Cindy McCain - after she had been severely hurt in a car accident.

So, why are McCain's actions any more excusable than Edwards'? Because it was thirty years ago? Does that wash it away? Will we be fine with Edwards running for office again in a couple of years because then it will all be in the past? What is the statute of limitations on an affair?

Remember Ronald Reagan, Nancy Reagan and Ross Perot were so upset with how John McCain dealt with his first wife that they didn't forgive him for a very, very long time. Perot still hasn't forgiven him. In fact, he said recently about McCain dumping his first wife for Cindy, "McCain is the classic opportunist. He's always reaching for attention and glory."

So, I want every pundit who condemns John Edwards today to tell me what the difference between him and McCain is and why John McCain shouldn't also be run out of politics for his adulterous affairs and what he did to his first wife.

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Plouffe: McCain's DHL Deal A Critical Moment Of Campaign

Barack Obama's presidential campaign claimed that the general election had reached a critical turning point this past week after it was revealed that John McCain and his campaign manager had helped facilitate a merger that could result in the loss of thousands of jobs in Ohio.

On a conference call with reporters, Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe said news of McCain and Rick Davis' involvement in the DHL deal was "the most important development of the entire campaign this week" and would convince voters in the critical swing state that the Arizona Republican was far from his maverick image.

"He was there a month ago in this community and was asked a question about this DHL issue and did not say one word about his role in this or the role of his campaign manager. That is the furthest thing from straight talk that we can imagine," said Plouffe. "John McCain can become an emblem for people about what is wrong with Washington. He released an ad this week about how Washington is broken and how he will strive to fix it. He didn't mention that he has been enmeshed in a broken Washington culture for 26 years or that his campaign is run by the most powerful, now former lobbyist in Washington."

Prior to the press conference the Obama campaign released a harsh new radio ad blasting McCain for his role in helping "foreign-owned DHL buy a U.S. company and gain control over the jobs that are now on the chopping block in Ohio."

On Thursday, the Republican presidential candidate called on the Justice Department to launch an investigation into DHL's plans to puts its packages aboard the planes of a rival, United Parcel Service. If that deal is to go through (with UPS flying its cargo out of Louisville, Kentucky) DHL's shipping hub in Wilmington, Ohio would be effectively closed, eliminating up to 10,000 jobs.

On the conference call, Plouffe was forthcoming about the political advantages that he believed the revelation presented.

"He has spent several days now dogged with questions about this," said the campaign manager. "His appearances in Ohio were completely overshadowed by this. And by November 4 in the Cincinnati and Dayton markets this is something that is going to be known by every voter in this area."

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U.S. Attorney Scandal Probe Enters White House Circle

The Justice Department investigation into the firings of nine U.S. attorneys has been extended to encompass allegations that senior White House officials played a role in providing false and misleading information to Congress, according to numerous sources involved in the inquiry.

The widened scope raises the possibility that investigators will pursue criminal charges against some administration officials, and recommend appointment of a special prosecutor if there is evidence of criminal misconduct.

The investigators have been specifically probing the role of White House officials in the drafting and approval of a Feb. 23, 2007 letter sent to Congress by the Justice Department denying that Karl Rove (President Bush's chief political adviser at the time) had anything to do with the firing of Bud Cummins, a U.S. Attorney from Arkansas. Cummins was fired in Dec. 2006 to make room for Tim Griffin, a protégé and former top aide of Rove's.

The February 23 letter stated, "The department is not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the decision to appoint Mr. Griffin," and that the Justice Department was "not aware of anyone lobbying, either inside or outside of the administration, for Mr. Griffin's appointment."

Federal investigators have obtained documents showing that Kyle Sampson, then-chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and Chris Oprison, then an associate White House counsel, drafted and approved the letter even though they had first-hand knowledge that the assertions were not true. The Justice Department later had to repudiate the Sampson-Oprison letter and sent a new one informing Congress that it could no longer stand by the earlier assertions.

The Justice Department's Inspector General (IG) and the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) are jointly conducting the current investigation. Both can initiate disciplinary action only against Justice Department employees and neither has prosecutorial powers.

People close to the investigation say that the investigators' final report will not only examine the reasons and circumstances behind the firings of the nine U.S. attorneys, but efforts by senior Justice Department and White House officials to mislead the public and Congress about the firings:

"It will be as much about the cover up as about the firings," said one former senior Justice Department interviewed at length because of his personal role in the firings. This source believes the investigators "are going to tell a narrative, and they have taken their investigation right into the White House."

If the IG and OPR believe that there is evidence of potential criminal wrongdoing, or evidence of wrongdoing by officials outside its jurisdiction altogether, they can recommend that the Justice Department initiate a criminal investigation.

If senior administration officials or White House officials come under suspicion, a special prosecutor would likely be named.

While a central focus for investigators apparently has been the role played by aides to Rove in the Griffin matter, some witnesses to the investigation told me that they have been asked specifically about Rove's own personal efforts.

Two former senior Justice Department officials, former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty and principal Associate General William Moscella, have separately provided damaging information to the two internal investigative agencies.

Both, according to sources familiar with their still-confidential testimony, said they inadvertently gave misleading testimony to Congress about the firings of the U.S. attorneys because they were misled by Rove himself in addition to other White House figures.

In his March 6, 2007, testimony to Congress, Moscella contended that all but one U.S. attorney was fired because of issues related to their performance. When specifically asked if Rove played any role in the firings, he testified: "I don't know that he played any role."

But one day before the congressional testimony, on March 5, 2007, McNulty and Moscella attended a strategy session at the White House in which they discussed Moscella's testimony and how he should answer allegations that most of the U.S. attorneys were fired because of politics.

McNulty and Moscella told investigators that among the attendees were Rove and Sampson, then Gonzales' chief of staff. Neither Rove nor Sampson, both men told investigators, told them anything about their own role in the firings even as they encouraged Moscella to say politics had nothing to do with it.

One senior Bush administration official told me that White House staffers talk about their "nightmare scenario" in which any one of the three currently internal DOJ probes "spins out of control" and leads to the appointment of a special prosecutor with broad authority.

And the probe by the Justice Department's IG and OPR and firings of nine U.S. attorneys is only one of three internal DOJ investigations that have the potential of morphing into criminal probes of the Bush administration--and even the appointment of a special prosecutor. DOJ's IG is probing whether former Attorney General Gonzales testified truthfully to Congress about the administration's warrantless electronic eavesdropping program. A probe by OPR is investigating whether government attorneys acted within the law in authorizing and overseeing the eavesdropping program.

Former and current Justice Department investigators caution against assuming that just because White House officials are being scrutinized, a criminal investigation or one conducted by a special prosecutor will be the likely result. They noted that the threshold for initiating a criminal probe is relatively high, and the standard for appointing a special prosecutor even higher.

They also said that cases involving false statements to Congress are considered by prosecutors one of the most difficult to prove, which in turn could lead officials to be reluctant to act in either requesting a criminal probe or pressing for a special prosecutor in the first place.

A spokesman for the Inspector General declined to comment about any aspect of the investigation because the probe is still ongoing.


Apparently, advances in the investigations have been spurred by key emails that the Bush administration has withheld from Congress--claiming executive privilege--and that have now been obtained by DOJ investigators.

Among other things those documents show that Oprison, the associate White House counsel, knew that Rove was involved in the US Attorney firing when he reviewed drafts of the letter and approved final language claiming Rove was not involved.

Some of these emails withheld from Congress based on claims of executive privilege were provided to me by an administration official for this National Journal story posted on May 10,, 2007.

Additional emails and other material withheld and not provided to Congress were made available to me for this story.

A senior Justice Department official said in an interview that it was the discovery of a December 19, 2006, e-mail from Sampson to Oprison--in which Sampson wrote that "getting [Griffin] appointed was important" to Rove and to then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers--that prompted the Justice Department to repudiate the February 23, 2007 letter to four Senate Democrats.

The Dec. 19, 2005 email clearly suggests that both Sampson and Orpison had reason to believe that the letter that Sampson drafted and Oprison edited and approved was false.

Confronted with the email after it was made public, Sampson was asked during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 27, 2007 whether Rove had advocated for Griffin to be made a U.S. attorney:

"I knew that [then-White House political director] Sara Taylor and [Taylor's then deputy] Scott Jennings had expressed interest in promoting Mr. Griffin for appointment to be U.S. attorney, and I assumed, because they reported to Karl Rove, that he was interested in that," Sampson testified.

So why did Sampson draft and approve the letter saying that there had been no involvement by Rove?

His explanation to the Senate Judiciary Committee was this: "In February, when I participated in the drafting of that [February 23] letter, I did not remember then ever having talked [directly] to Mr. Rove about it. I don't remember now ever having talked to Mr. Rove about it. I'm not sure whether Mr. Rove was supportive of Mr. Griffin's appointment."

Before drafting the letter, Sampson made no further effort to talk to Rove, Taylor (who as White House Political Director was Rove's top aide), or to Jennings as to whether the allegations were true, Sampson's attorney Brad Berenson told me in an interview.

Sampson did, however, send the letter to the White House for Oprison for review. According to Berenson, in sending the letter, Sampson was relying on Oprison to see that it was accurate. Berenson told me:

"Kyle didn't want to traffic in assumptions, so he circulated the letter to the White House for confirmation whether what he believed to be true was accurate or not. He drafted the letter according to his understanding of the facts, and he circulated it beforehand to other people for clearance to assure that it accorded with their understanding of the facts."

Why did Oprison in turn approve the letter to be sent knowing what he knew?

Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, told me that Oprison "had no reason to believe" that the reference to Rove was inaccurate and cleared the letter. Asked about the December 19 e-mail in which Sampson told Oprison that Griffin's appointment was important to Rove and Miers, Fratto said: "Chris did not recall Karl's interest when he reviewed the letter."

Oprison, in turn, consulted with White House Counsel Fred Fielding and Deputy White House Counsel Bill Kelley in approving the draft of the letter, according to a review of White House records undertaken in response to questions for this story.

Did Oprison, Fielding, or Kelly think to seek out Rove and Rove aides Taylor and Jennings to see if they played any role in seeking Cummins to be fired and Griffin named to replace him?

Fratto told me that Oprison and others in the White House counsel were relying on Sampson that such was not the case: "We have no record of that letter even leaving the White House counsel's office."


Sampson also played a central role in the drafting of a January 31, 2007 letter from acting Assistant Attorney General Richard Hertling to Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) implying that the White House had never contemplated using an obscure provision in the USA PATRIOT Act to install Griffin as a U.S. attorney without Senate confirmation.

Gonzales and Sampson later changed course completely--when confronted with evidence to the contrary--and testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Bush administration did indeed consider using the PATRIOT Act to install Griffin as a federal prosecutor.

Under an obscure provision in the act, the President had authority to permanently install interim U.S. attorneys without their being confirmed by the Senate. Pryor suspected that this was exactly what was going on--which later turned out to be the case. But the Bush administration still misled him into thinking otherwise.

Records withheld from Congress by the Bush administration because of claims of executive privilege--but allowed to be reviewed by IG and OPR investigators--show that Oprison once again assisted Sampson in drafting the response to Congress.

Despite the fact that Justice Department records show that Sampson and Oprison worked closely together devising the original plan to install Griffin as U.S. attorney under the PATRIOT Act provisions, both men helped write a letter to Congress saying that such plans never existed.

The January 31, 2007 letter to Pryor contended that "not once" had the Bush "administration sought to avoid the Senate confirmation process" by exploiting the PATRIOT Act.

In drafting the letter, Sampson consulted with Sara Taylor. Taylor had been aware of the possible use of the PATRIOT Act to permanently install Griffin, according to withheld administration papers.

In an e-mail to Sampson, after it appeared that Griffin's appointment as U.S. attorney was in trouble, Taylor wrote: "I'm concerned we imply that we'll pull down Griffin's nomination should Pryor object."

A senior executive branch official who read the e-mail said that it demonstrates that Taylor signed off on the letter despite the fact that she, Oprison, and other White House officials knew that the administration had indeed considered using the PATRIOT Act to make Griffin a U.S. attorney.

Fratto, the White House spokesman, contends that the email does not show that Taylor wanted to utilize the PATRIOT Act to appoint Griffin but instead only indicated that Taylor wanted Griffin confirmed the ordinary way. "We battle with the Senate with nominations every day," Fratto said. "It is very important to us.... That's what Sara was saying: 'We shouldn't imply we're willing to walk away from the nomination.'"

But sources familiar with Sampson's interview with Justice's Inspector General tell me that Sampson told quite a different story: that Taylor, Jennings, and Oprison all had repeatedly pressed him to utilize the PATRIOT Act to install Griffin and other potential U.S. attorney candidates without Senate confirmation.

Documents made public after Sampson, Taylor, and Oprison collaborated on their letter to Pryor indicate that Sampson himself wanted to invoke the PATRIOT Act to install Griffin--party because he thought it was important to Rove.

On December 19, 2006, Sampson e-mailed Oprison with his own detailed strategy to have Griffin stay permanently as U.S. attorney, utilizing the PATRIOT Act: "I think we should gum this to death... ask the Senators to give Tim a chance. meet with him. give him some time in office to see how he performs, etc. they ultimately say, 'no never' (and the longer they forestall the better). Then we can tell them we'll look for other candidates, and otherwise run out the clock. All of this should be done in 'good faith' of course."

By that time, Griffin would have been able to serve out the remainder of the Bush administration because of his appointment as interim U.S. attorney under the emergency provisional authority of the PATRIOT Act.

Sampson added in his e-mail: "The only thing really at work here is a repeal of the AG's appointment authority. There is some risk that we'll lose that authority, but if we don't ever exercise it then what's the point of having it."

Then Sampson concluded his email by saying: "I'm not 100 percent sure that Tim was the guy on which to test drive this authority, but know that getting him appointed was important to Harriet, Karl, etc.," The reference is to Harriet Miers and Karl Rove.

The day after the email was sent, Cummins formally resigned as U.S. attorney and Griffin was named as his interim replacement. Cummins told me that officials at Justice sped up the timetable on his departure, going so far as to call him on a cell phone when he was on a hunting trip with his son to say he must leave on December 20. The abrupt demand for Cummins' departure on that date appears to indicate that Sampson and the White House were attempting to implement their plan.

Berenson, Sampson's attorney, told me that the letter Sampson had helped draft and approved to be sent to Congress was technically accurate because Sampson and Oprison never ultimately implemented the plan to install Griffin as U.S. attorney through the PATRIOT Act provision. "The principals never adopted it, and it was never done," Berenson said. "The statement in the letter is accurate."


It is still unknown what conclusions the Inspector General will reach in his much anticipated forthcoming report on the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.

But it is clear that a priority for his investigation is whether top Justice Department political appointees and senior White House officials purposely mislead Congress about the firings. Many of those whose conduct has been scrutinized have had senior positions in the administration or the White House: Kyle Sampson was the chief of staff to the Attorney General of the United States. Sara Taylor was White House political director. Scott Jennings was Taylor's deputy as well as a top aide to Rove. And Karl Rove is, of course, Karl Rove.

Several of those people, under federal regulations, could be the subject of an investigation by a special prosecutor if Fine believes there is evidence of potential crimes.

At a minimum, if two other reports that Inspector General Fine has already made public about the politicization of the Justice Department during the Bush administration are any guide, the report on the firing of nine U.S. attorneys will be scathing and contain new disclosures embarrassing to the White House.

Whether the fears of administration officials--their "nightmare scenario" of top White House officials having to face a criminal investigation or even be probed by a special prosecutor turns out to be the case--remains to be seen.

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Would Obama prosecute the Bush administration for torture?


David Scull/The New York Times/Redux President Bush speaks at the White House on Sept. 6, 2006, about the transfer of 14 terror suspects from secret CIA custody to the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

WASHINGTON -- On the campaign trail in April, Barack Obama was asked whether, if elected, he would prosecute Bush administration officials for establishing torture as American policy. The candidate demurred. "If crimes have been committed, they should be investigated," he said. But he quickly added, "I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of the Republicans as a partisan witch hunt, because I think we've got too many problems to solve."

People who have given advice to the Obama campaign say they see little political advantage in the candidate discussing during a general election campaign how his administration might investigate or prosecute Bush administration officials for torture. Other than the response above, prompted by a question from Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News, he has said little about his plans. But behind the scenes, a slate of foreign policy and human rights experts with various degrees of connections to the Obama campaign, some of them likely to occupy positions of authority in an Obama administration, have begun to discuss that very issue, and in great detail. What they're likely to recommend to Obama, should he become president, won't fulfill the dreams of those who've hoped for immediate criminal accountability for Bush administration officials.

Members and advisors of the administration-in-waiting have formed largely informal working groups to take up a whole host of issues related to the Bush administration's legacy, like what to do about the Guantánamo detainees. While they have not been asked to develop a formal recommendation for Obama on the question of criminal accountability for torture, those who are weighing the issue, a group that includes some of the 300 people the New York Times recently described as Obama's "mini State Department," are moving toward consensus on some key points. Specifically, don't hold your breath waiting for Dick Cheney to be frog-marched into federal court. Prosecution of any officials, if it were to occur, would probably not occur during Obama's first term. Instead, we may well see a congressionally empowered commission that would seek testimony from witnesses in search of the truth about what occurred. Though some witnesses might be offered immunity in exchange for testimony, the question of whether anybody would be prosecuted would be deferred to a later date -- meaning Obama's second term, if such is forthcoming.

While there are certainly participants in these discussions who believe that top-level administration officials deserve to be hauled before a judge, even the harshest critics of the current administration's torture policies don't think there will be an immediate effort by the next president to prosecute anyone from the Bush administration. "I don't sense the political appetite for it," said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, who is involved in the informal discussions about what Obama could do about investigating torture. "I don't think the next president will do that no matter who he is."

Attorneys say successful prosecutions would be tough anyway. The Justice Department approved the abuse and Congress changed the War Crimes Act in 2006 to make prosecutions more difficult. There is also speculation that any end-of-term presidential pardons by Bush might include some of the likely torture defendants.

But the avenues of investigation being discussed don't necessarily rule out at least an attempt at prosecuting Bush officials at some later date. The nonpartisan presidential commission that Malinowski and other people involved in the discussions are advocating would have considerable power, granted by Congress, to force cooperation. The commission would ultimately deliver recommendations to the president that would include, among other things, whether or not Cheney deserves that walk up the courthouse steps.

The first order of business, however, would be learning the truth. "I think a lot of us feel that the American people are entitled to the whole truth," said another person who knows about the discussions. "The American people are entitled to [an investigation] from an official body that has access to the classified documents that makes as much public as it can," that person added.

The commission would focus strictly on detention, torture and extraordinary rendition, or the practice of spiriting detainees to a third country for abusive interrogations. The panel would focus strictly on these abuses, leaving out any other allegedly illegal activities during the Bush administration, such as domestic spying.

It would also try to confirm or debunk, once and for all, the claims of high-level Bush administration officials that the use of abusive interrogations worked and resulted in significant intelligence gains.

This might include claims made by the president. In a Sept. 6, 2006, White House address, Bush admitted to a network of secret CIA prisons and the use of "tough" interrogation techniques by the agency. He then ticked off a treasure trove of intelligence he said the CIA pried out of Abu Zubaydah, a suspected al-Qaida operative captured on March 28, 2002, by intelligence agents from the United States and Pakistan.

But FBI agents initially interrogated Zubaydah using tried and true, noncoercive techniques, reportedly with success. The CIA later took over and used coercive methods that included waterboarding. Controversy lingers over claims about the effectiveness of the CIA's methods, particularly in comparison to the FBI's approach.

Like the 9-11 Commission, Congress could grant this panel the authority to issue subpoenas to compel witnesses to cooperate and leverage the production of documents. The panel might also have the power to grant witnesses immunity from prosecution in exchange for cooperation.

Immunity, in fact, remains one of the thorniest issues in the ongoing discussions about how to investigate the Bush administration's interrogation program. A recent Newsweek piece by Stuart Taylor Jr. suggested that Bush "pardon any official from cabinet secretary on down who might plausibly face prosecution" for torture during the Bush years. Taylor argued that this would encourage those individuals to testify freely in front of some sort of truth commission.

That indemnity arrangement is more reminiscent of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the 1990s-era investigation aimed at unearthing the sins of apartheid. But blanket indemnity would not be part of the commission under discussion. "A lot of people think that that is not something that goes over well with the American people," said the person familiar with the discussions. "What we have much more of a tradition of is presidential fact-finding commissions."

Instead of offering a blanket amnesty, the fact-finding commission would delay any decisions on whether or not to attempt to prosecute any Bush administration officials for their transgressions. Given the time it would take for a commission to do its work, any such decision would probably not take place till Obama's second term. That would be in accord with what Obama said in April, in what seems to be his lone statement on the issue of accountability, about not wanting his first term to be taken up by what critics would try to characterize as political retribution.

"Something like this would be unprecedented in the American experience and I think it would be absolutely necessary," Kenneth Kitts, author of "Presidential Commissions and National Security: The Politics of Damage Control," said when informed of the rough plans for the commission. "We've had panels that have looked at scandals. We've had panels that have looked at intractable political problems," said Kitts, a political science professor at South Carolina's Francis Marion University. "But nothing in terms of looking at an issue that has this array of legal, moral and even spiritual questions attached to it."

Ben Rhodes, a foreign policy advisor to the Obama campaign, did not respond to Salon's request for comment by press time.

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China tells Bush to stay out of other countries' affairs

Chinese officials have told U.S. President George W. Bush to stay out of other countries' affairs after he condemned Beijing's human rights record before heading to the Olympic Games.

U.S. President George W. Bush delivers a speech at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Bangkok on Thursday ahead of his visit to Beijing.U.S. President George W. Bush delivers a speech at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Bangkok on Thursday ahead of his visit to Beijing. (Gerald Herbert/Associated Press)

"We resolutely oppose any words or actions which interfere in the internal affairs of another country in the name of issues such as human rights and religion," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Thursday in a statement on its website that was translated by the Associated Press.

The statement was published hours after Bush criticized China's approach to freedom and rights of citizens in a speech in Thailand during a three-country tour of Asia before heading to China for Friday's Olympic opening ceremonies.

"America stands in firm opposition to China's detention of political dissidents and human rights advocates and religious activists," Bush said in Bangkok early Thursday.

"We press for openness and justice not to impose our beliefs, but to allow the Chinese people to express theirs."

China 'puts people first'

Bush said he wasn't trying to antagonize China, but called for free press, free assembly and labour rights in China as the only path the U.S. rival can take to reach its full potential.

But China seemed irritated by the comments on the eve of the international sporting event.

"The Chinese government puts people first, and is dedicated to maintaining and promoting its citizens' basic rights and freedom," Qin said in a statement. "Chinese citizens have freedom of religion. These are indisputable facts."

Qin said there are divergences between China and U.S., but noted that it is in the common interest of both countries to have a good relationship, and advocated talks on the differing views.

Leading up to the Olympics from Aug. 8 to 24, Bush has been walking a tightrope, trying to avoid causing China embarrassment for its time in the world limelight, but coming under pressure to use his visit to press China for greater religious tolerance and other freedoms.

Tries to address 2 polar issues

Bush's speech praised China for market reforms, saying change in the country "will arrive on its own terms, and in keeping with its own history and its own traditions."

"With this speech, Bush is trying to address two polar issues: easing the controversy created by those who oppose his visit during the Games and simultaneously maintaining America's strategy with China," said Yan Xuetong, an expert in U.S.-China relations at Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University.

Bush, who arrived in Beijing Thursday night, has said the Games are not the right occasion to push a U.S. political agenda, and he is visiting as a sports fan. He plans to attend the opening ceremony and several sporting events.

Ahead of the Games, China has rounded up opponents and imposed restrictions on journalists, despite promises to the contrary when it landed the Olympics.

Bush is reportedly the first U.S. president to attend the Olympics on foreign soil.

The president, first lady Laura Bush and their daughter Barbara came off Air Force One together and had a red-carpet greeting from Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and others.

Dedication ceremony

However, several hours later Bush seemed to offer China the olive branch during a dedication ceremony for the U.S.'s new $434 million US embassy in Beijing, calling it a symbol of their burgeoning bond.

Bush said the eight-story structure, which is the second-largest U.S. embassy in the world after its diplomatic office in Baghdad, represented the "solid foundation underpinning" relations between the two countries.

"To me it speaks of the importance of our relations with China," Bush said. Both his father, former president George H.W. Bush, and former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger were in attendance for the ceremony on Friday morning in China.

China unveiled its own foreign embassy — the biggest in the U.S. — in Washington, D.C. last week.

Original here

Tape: Top CIA official confesses order to forge Iraq-9/11 letter came on White House stationery

In damning transcript, ex-CIA official says Cheney likely ordered letter linking Hussein to 9/11 attacks

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A forged letter linking Saddam Hussein to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks was ordered on White House stationery and probably came from the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, according to a new transcript of a conversation with the Central Intelligence Agency's former Deputy Chief of Clandestine Operations Robert Richer.

The transcript was posted Friday by author Ron Suskind of an interview conducted in June. It comes on the heels of denials by both the White House and Richer of a claim Suskind made in his new book, The Way of The World. The book was leaked to Politico's Mike Allen on Monday, and released Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the White House released a statement on Richer's behalf. In it, Richer declared, "I never received direction from George Tenet or anyone else in my chain of command to fabricate a document ... as outlined in Mr. Suskind's book."

The denial, however, directly contradicts Richer's own remarks in the transcript.

"Now this is from the Vice President's Office is how you remembered it--not from the president?" Suskind asked.

"No, no, no," Richer replied, according to the transcript. "What I remember is George [Tenet] saying, 'we got this from'--basically, from what George said was 'downtown.'"

"Which is the White House?" Suskind asked.

"Yes," Richer said. "But he did not--in my memory--never said president, vice president, or NSC. Okay? But now--he may have hinted--just by the way he said it, it would have--cause almost all that stuff came from one place only: Scooter Libby and the shop around the vice president."

"But he didn't say that specifically," Richer added. "I would naturally--I would probably stand on my, basically, my reputation and say it came from the vice president."

"But there wasn't anything in the writing that you remember saying the vice president," Suskind continued.

"Nope," Richer said.

"It just had the White House stationery."

"Exactly right."

Later, Richer added, "You know, if you've ever seen the vice president's stationery, it's on the White House letterhead. It may have said OVP (Office of the Vice President). I don't remember that, so I don't want to mislead you."

Suskind says decision to post transcript unusual

Suskind posted the transcript at his blog, saying, "This posting is contrary to my practice across 25 years as a journalist. But the issues, in this matter, are simply too important to stand as discredited in any way." It was first picked up by ThinkProgress and Congressional Quarterly's Jeff Stein.

Suskind's new book asserts that senior Bush officials ordered the CIA to forge a document "proving" that Saddam Hussein had been trying to manufacture nuclear weapons and was collaborating with al Qaeda. The alleged result was a faked memorandum from then chief of Saddam's intelligence service Tahir Jalil Habbush dated July 1, 2001, and written to Hussein.

The bogus memo claimed that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta had received training in Baghdad but also discussed the arrival of a "shipment" from Niger, which the Administration claimed had supplied Iraq with yellowcake uranium -- based on yet another forged document whose source remains uncertain.

The memo subsequently was treated as fact by the British Sunday Telegraph, and cited by William Safire in his New York Times column, providing fodder for Bush's efforts to take the US to war.

The Sunday Telegraph cited the main source for its story on Iraq's 9/11 involvement as Ayad Allawi, a former Baathist who rebelled against Saddam and was appointed a government position after the US occupation.

Nothing in the story explains how an Iraqi politician was privy to the fake memo, but the New York Times column alluded to Allawi and described him as "an Iraqi leader long considered reliable by intelligence agencies."

"To characterize it right," Richer also declares in the transcript, "I would say, right: it came to us, George had a raised eyebrow, and basically we passed it on--it was to--and passed this on into the organization. You know, it was: 'Okay, we gotta do this, but make it go away.' To be honest with you, I don't want to make it sound--I for sure don't want to portray this as George jumping: 'Okay, this has gotta happen.' As I remember it--and, again, it's still vague, so I'll be very straight with you on this--is it wasn't that important. It was: 'This is unbelievable. This is just like all the other garbage we get about . . . I mean Mohammad Atta and links to al Qaeda. 'Rob,' you know, 'do something with this.' I think it was more like that than: 'Get this done.'"

Magazine asserts Feith created bogus document

Today, The American Conservative also published a report saying that the forgery was actually produced by then-Defense Undersecretary Douglas Feith's Office of Special Plans, citing an unnamed intelligence source. The source reportedly added that Suskind’s overall claim “is correct."

"My source also notes that Dick Cheney, who was behind the forgery, hated and mistrusted the Agency and would not have used it for such a sensitive assignment," the magazine wrote. "Instead, he went to Doug Feith’s Office of Special Plans and asked them to do the job. … It was Feith’s office that produced the letter and then surfaced it to the media in Iraq. Unlike the [Central Intelligence] Agency, the Pentagon had no restrictions on it regarding the production of false information to mislead the public. Indeed, one might argue that Doug Feith’s office specialized in such activity."

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Police Clear Name of Maryland Mayor After Drug Raid

BERWYN HEIGHTS, Md. — A small-town mayor whose dogs were killed in a drug raid was cleared of any wrongdoing after police had been reluctant to rule out his involvement in drug smuggling or apologize for the violent incident.

Prince George's County Police Chief Melvin High said Friday he called Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo and his wife, Trinity Tomsic, on Thursday to say they were no longer suspected in a drug smuggling scheme.

A SWAT team raided the mayor's home July 29 after intercepting a FedEx package shipped to Tomsic that was filled with 32 pounds of marijuana. Officers broke down the door, shot the two dogs and kept Calvo and his mother-in-law bound for nearly two hours.

Police now believe the drug delivery was part of a scheme that sent packages to the homes of unsuspecting recipients. The packages would then be picked up by someone else shortly after delivery. Two suspects have been arrested in the case.

"The Calvo family members were the apparent victims of a local drug ring," High said in a statement. "I called him to express my sorrow and regret for that and for the loss of the family's beloved dogs."

High stopped short of apologizing for how the drug raid was carried out. He said the police department was conducting a review of the narcotics investigation that led to the raid. The county sheriff has said the dogs' deaths were justified, saying officers felt threatened.

Investigators had been tracking the package that arrived on Calvo's front porch since it drew the attention of a drug-sniffing dog in Arizona.

Calvo and Tomsic requested a federal civil rights investigation of the case on Thursday, and the FBI responded by launching a review. The couple says there may be a systemic abuse of search warrant powers and use of force in the county.

"The deputies opened fire and executed our dogs the very second they broke down our front door," Calvo, 37, said at a news conference on his front lawn Thursday. "We were harmed by the very people who took an oath to protect us."

Calvo did not immediately respond to a telephone message requesting comment Friday. Calvo has said he and his wife considered their dogs to be their children.

Maryland State Sen. Paul Pinsky, who represents the suburban Washington district, said the case was a good example of frequent police action in minority communities that fails to capture the same level of attention as Calvo's case.

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Barack Obama says John McCain is 'in the pocket' of oil firms

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., smiles as the crowd sings "Happy Birthday" to him

(Alex Brandon/AP)

Barack Obama unveiled a sweeping energy plan during a speech in Michigan

Barack Obama accused John McCain of being in the pocket of the big oil companies that were making record profits while US drivers were suffering, in an effort to regain the initiative after a week of attacks wiped out his lead in the polls.

With the faltering US economy – and petrol prices in particular – now the top issue among voters, the two candidates began the week concentrating on their proposals to reduce the dependence that America has on Middle Eastern oil, a subject that both believe could tip the election their way.

Mr Obama announced a sweeping energy plan during a speech in the battleground state of Michigan, and released an advertisement linking Mr McCain to President Bush, whose approval rating is at a record low.

Mr McCain has received $1. 3 million (£662,000) in campaign contributions from the oil industry, according to the nonpartisan Centre for Responsive Politics.

“After one president in the pocket of big oil, we can’t afford another,” the announcer on the advertisements for Mr Obama said.

The McCain campaign responded quickly, pointing out that Mr Obama’s boasts of taking no contributions from oil companies is misleading because he has received $400,000 in contributions from oil industry employees.

Aides to the Republican also accused Mr Obama of hypocrisy because he voted for Mr Bush’s 2005 Energy Bill, which gave $14.5 billion in tax breaks to oil companies – legislation that Mr McCain opposed.

The energy issue is dominating voter surveys. It is one of the few areas where Mr McCain believes he has the edge because of his recent decision to reverse course and support expanded oil drilling off the US coastline, a policy that Mr Obama opposed. The Arizona senator repeated his calls for offshore drilling last night.

In a series of polls by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, voters in six of the seven largest swing states said that the energy policy of a candidate was more important to their choice of president than their views on the war in Iraq. By two to one, US voters – who until recently largely opposed offshore drilling – now back oil exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf.

Aware of how quickly the attitudes of voters are shifting, Mr Obama changed position. After long opposing such a move he called for tapping into the US strategic oil reserve as a short-term way to bring down petrol prices. He also said that he would be open to the idea of offshore drilling if it were part of a broader energy Bill aimed at funding alternative energy sources.

In his speech Mr Obama promised a windfall tax on the soaring profits of oil companies to finance a $1,000 per family rebate to help with high fuel costs. He pledged to cut consumption so that within ten years the US could save more oil than it currently imports from the Middle East. He said that he would create five million jobs by investing in clean energy schemes.

A windfall tax was imposed on oil companies by Jimmy Carter late in his presidency. It prompted oil companies to cut back on production and was repealed by Ronald Reagan in 1988.

Mr Obama again decried the idea of offshore drilling and said that it represented only 3 per cent of the oil reserves in the world in a country “that uses 25 per cent of the world’s oil”.

He also cited the public campaign mounted last month by T Boone Pickens, an oilman from Texas who has produced a plan to wean America off oil through alternative energy such as natural gas, wind and solar power. Mr Pickens, a Republican who funded the Vietnam Swiftboat attack campaign against John Kerry in 2004, appeared to have undergone a Damascene conversion on the oil issue.

He said that in 1970 the US imported 24 per cent of its oil – and that today it imported more than 70 per cent. “This is one emergency we can’t drill our way out of,” Mr Pickens said.

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Note To DHS: Searching A Laptop Is Not The Same As Searching A Backpack

swire.JPGThe Department of Homeland Security has offered a new, unconvincing argument for why they can conduct border searches, and take travelers’ laptops and other electronic devices without needing any reasonable suspicion or probable cause. The public needs to help Homeland Security understand why they’re wrong.

The background: Senator Russ Feingold held the first Congressional hearing on border laptop searches on June 25, and I testified about the many reasons such searches should only be done when the government has reasonable suspicion about a traveler. Homeland Security did not provide a witness, but issued guidelines for border laptop searches on July 16. These guidelines hit the front page of the Washington Post last week, with new focus on the issue in the traditional media and leading online sources such as DailyKos and Salon. Meanwhile, the Center for American Progress Action Fund began its “Hands off My Laptop” campaign, calling for Homeland Security to put privacy safeguards in place for these searches.

On August 5, Jayson Ahern, the Deputy Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, responded to this growing public concern. His basic argument is there’s nothing new here at all — border searches have been conducted since the birth of the Republic:

Making full use of our search authorities with respect to items like notebooks and backpacks, while failing to do so with respect to laptops and other devices, would ensure that terrorists and criminals receive less scrutiny at our borders just as their use of technology is becoming more sophisticated.

Homeland Security seems to need help in understanding why searching a backpack for drugs is different from taking a laptop and copying everything on it. Here are three reasons why laptop searches are more intrusive:

1. Laptop searches last far longer. The backpack search is complete when the traveler leaves the border. For a typical laptop, the government can make a copy and then search every file at its leisure.

2. It’s like searching your home. Our laptops contain family photos, medical records, finances, personal diaries, and all the other detailed records of our most personal lives. Having the government rummage through all these files is like searching your home, and that requires a probable cause warrant.

3. Confidential and privileged information. Many kinds of confidential information are in laptops, including journalists’ notes about an investigative story, trade secrets and other key business information, and many more. Lawyers’ laptops contain attorney-client privileged information, as reinforced by a recent case that says the privilege is lost once the government sees a file during a search.

The Homeland Security blog lets you post your own reasons why searching a laptop is more intrusive than searching a backpack. Let them know your reasons, and participate in the online campaigns of “Hands Off My Laptop” and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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Judge: Denver can restrict protests at convention


DENVER (Reuters) - Protesters at the Democratic National Convention in Denver can be restricted to fenced-in areas, federal judge ruled on Wednesday, saying that security needs outweighed curbs on their rights.

A dozen groups who intend to protest at the August convention sued the U.S. Secret Service and the city of Denver over plans to confine their activities to a parade route and fenced-in zone, saying that their Constitutional rights to free speech were being violated.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the American Friends Service Committee and others argued that the rules would keep them too far away from delegates to get their message across during the convention, which is scheduled for Aug 25-28 at the city's downtown Pepsi Center.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger agreed that the protesters would suffer some infringement on their freedom of expression but said those interests had to be balanced with security concerns.

"The restrictions inhibit the plaintiffs' ability to engage in some forms of expressive conduct, (but) ... the plaintiffs have a wide variety of alternative means of expression that will allow them to effectively communicate their messages," Krieger wrote in her 71-page ruling.

(Editing by Jackie Frank)

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Bush White House has its own interrogation room.

In Ron Suskind’s new book, Suskind describes a disturbing case in Washington, D.C., where security officials detained and interrogated Usman Khosa, a Pakistani U.S. college graduate, because he was “fiddling” with his iPod near White House gates. Officials took Khosa to an interrogation room “beneath” the White House:

wh3.jpgHe turns as a large uniformed man lunges at him. The backpack!” the man yells, pushing Usman against the Italianate gates in front of Treasury and ripping off his backpack. Another officer on a bicycle arrives from somewhere and tears the backpack open, dumping its contents on the sidewalk. […]

Usman is trundled from the SUV, escorted through the West Gate, and onto the manicured grounds. No one speaks as the agents walk him behind the gate’s security station, down a stairwell, along an underground passage, and into a room — cement-walled box with a table, two chairs, a hanging light with a bare bulb, and a mounted video camera. Even after all the astonishing turns of the past hour, Usman can’t quite believe there’s actually an interrogation room beneath the White House, dark and dank and horrific.

“Usman Khosa is a Pakistani national in his early twenties, a graduate of Connecticut College now working for the International Monetary Fund,” Suskind notes.

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Tim Pawlenty, Possible McCain Running Mate, Says GOP Needs Obama's Positive Message

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, shown July 24, 2008 in Bloomington, Minn., says the Republican Party is "too cynical" and "fatigued." This is the message that Pawlenty will bring in a speech to the National Press Club Wednesday in Washington. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

ARLINGTON, Va. — Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, often mentioned as a possible running mate for Republican presidential candidate John McCain, said Wednesday GOP candidates would do well to adopt a positive tone like that of McCain's Democratic rival, Barack Obama.

"Say what you will about Barack Obama," the Minnesota Republican told a conservative group, "people gravitate when you have something positive to say." He added that McCain has been positive as well.

"People want to follow hopeful, optimistic, civil, decent leaders," Pawlenty said in a speech to GOPAC, which helps recruit Republican candidates. "They don't want to follow some negative, scornful person."

Ronald Reagan still offers important lessons for today's Republican Party, Pawlenty said, because the former president was civil, optimistic, pragmatic and a good communicator.

"He actually had some ideas," Pawlenty said, adding that the Republican idea factory has seemed "a little stagnant in recent years."

Pawlenty, 47, said he came of age during President Reagan's tenure in the 1980s, but acknowledged the Republican icon is ancient history to young people.

"If you're under 40, that was a long time ago, man," he said to laughter.

The party needs to update its message to appeal to voters who want new ideas and government results and to counter the perception that Republicans are "not for the working person," Pawlenty said. He advocated policies like better training and performance pay for teachers, online college education opportunities and reworking health insurance to reward providers that show good results and save money.

Pawlenty shied away from talking about joining McCain on the ticket.

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Justice Dept Subpoenas Former Lawyers In Civil Rights Probe

A federal grand jury has subpoenaed several former senior Justice Department attorneys for an investigation into the politicization of the Department's own Civil Rights Division, according to sources close to the investigation.

The extraordinary step by the Justice Department of subpoenaing attorneys once from within its own ranks was taken because several of them refused to voluntarily give interviews to the Department Inspector General, which has been conducting its own probe of the politicization of the Civil Rights Division, the same sources said.

The grand jury has been investigating allegations that a former senior Bush administration appointee in the Civil Rights Division, Bradley Schlozman, gave false or misleading testimony on a variety of topics to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sources close to the investigation say that the grand jury is also more broadly examining whether Schlozman and other Department officials violated civil service laws by screening Civil Rights attorneys for political affiliation while hiring them.

Investigators for the Inspector General have also asked whether Schlozman, while an interim U.S. attorney in Missouri, brought certain actions and even a voting fraud indictment for political ends, according to witnesses questioned by the investigators. But it is unclear whether the grand jury is going to hear testimony on that issue as well.

One person who has been subpoenaed before the grand jury, sources said, was Hans von Spakovsky, who as a former counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights was a top aide to Schlozman. An attempt to reach Spakovsky for comment for this story was unsuccessful.
Earlier this year, Spakovsky withdrew his name from nomination by President Bush to serve on the Federal Election Commission after repeatedly claiming a faulty memory or citing the attorney-client privilege to fend off questions from senators about allegedly using his position to restrict voting rights for minorities -- and that he hindered an investigation of Republican officeholders in Minnesota accused of discriminating against Native American voters.

Three current and former Justice Department officials were questioned by investigators about allegations that Schlozman--with Spakovsky advising and assisting him-- made decisions whether to hire and fire attorneys in the Civil Rights Divison on the basis of their political affiliation.

Another person subpoenaed by the grand jury, according to several sources, was Jason Torchinsky, who, like Spavosky, was also a Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.

Torchinsky is not under investigation for any wrongdoing himself, but rather subpoenaed as a witness in the probe, sources said. Previously, however, Torchinsky had refused to voluntarily answer questions from investigators working for the Justice Department's Inspector General about the politicization of the Civil Rights Divison. Reached at his home on Tuesday night, Torchinsky declined to comment for this article.

Sources familiar with the federal grand jury subpoenas say that they were approved at the highest levels of the Justice Department.

Leaked McCain Memo: Paint Obama As A "Job Killing Machine"

John McCain was widely ridiculed several weeks ago for fielding reporter's questions in the cheese aisle of a grocery store. But the location of the impromptu press conference was hardly random. The McCain camp, in a strategy memo, has pinpointed grocery stores as an important venue for the Senator to push his economic agenda.

In a McCain campaign "Economic Communications Plan" that was obtained by the Huffington Post, an aide to the Senator lays out several themes, tactics and objectives to shore up the Arizona Republican's standing on the economy and paint Barack Obama as a "job killing machine."

"Our polling tells us that Americans are still not tuned into what the candidates might do to fix the economy," reads the memo. "We have an opportunity to fill in that gap."

The strategy, which was authored by Taylor Griffin -- a veteran of the Bush White House and Treasury Department who serves McCain as a senior adviser -- seems built around traditional themes. The McCain campaign will paint Obama as being "aligned with trial lawyers" and "unions (card check, trade, education reform)," and push the frame that he "raises taxes" and "will kill jobs."

In contrast, McCain will be positioned as a bold leader on economic matters, someone who has a "record of taking on corporate interests" and will "fight speculation driving up prices of oil and food" as well as "the lawsuit culture."

"People are tired of big corporations, lobbyist and special interests who they feel prosper at their expense," the memo reads. "People must understand that John McCain is not only thinking of their future, but their children's futures as well."

To do this, McCain's camp plans to utilize a number of tactics, including "family budget roundtables, grocery store visits," and "roundtable events heavily tilted towards women to discuss the pressures the economy is placing on family finances and how McCain's plan would help." The campaign also will work the fourth estate. As detailed in Taylor's memo, McCain will "provide compelling set of programming and surrogate activity to drive media interest," and "mobilize economists in target states supporting the McCain plan to engage the media in support of our plan."

Framing, indeed, is a major component of the strategy document. Aides to the Senator envision an "All Star Economists Project" that would "use prominent economists to bolster [the] intellectual case for the McCain plan" -- see the much-disputed list of 300 -- and "roll out Nobel Prize winners endorsing [his] plan." On a local level, the Senator will rely on a "Small Business Network," in which small business owners would serve "as local surrogates for the McCain plan... write letters to the editor, op-eds and participate in surrogate events."

One Griffin bullet point made its way into a recent public McCain statement: emphasizing similarities between the Senator's prescriptions for Iraq and those he is offering for the economy.

"Draw the parallel with the same kind of bold leadership that McCain demonstrated in pushing the surge strategy that allowed us to win in Iraq. Need that same vision, intensity and leadership to attack our economic problems."

The communications strategy is, according to Griffin's accompanying email: "working it's way around the campaign.... Think it can help us focus."

Reached on his cell phone, Griffin said he was in the middle of a conversation and couldn't talk. The McCain campaign did not immediately return requests for comment.

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Only 21 percent of Americans approve of Bush’s handling of the economy.

In a new poll for Time magazine, only 21 percent of Americans said they approve of the job President Bush is doing in terms of handling the economy. Overall, 29 percent of Americans said they approve of Bush’s job as President, which is where his approval has hovered steadily for some time now.

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