Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Smear: Joe Lieberman Says McCain Is More Patriotic

Another day, another false political attack from the McCain campaign. This time it comes from Joe Lieberman, who directly smeared Barack Obama at a McCain town hall event:

Lieberman: Obama Has Not Always Put Country First

YORK, Pa. – One of the McCain campaign’s new themes, that Senator John McCain has always put his country first, has been seem by some analysts as a subtle suggestion that his opponent, Senator Barack Obama, has not.

But as he introduced Mr. McCain at a campaign event here on Tuesday, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut made the attack a lot more explicit, calling the election a choice "between one candidate, John McCain, who has always put the country first, worked across party lines to get things done, and one candidate who has not."

If Joe Lieberman honestly believes what he's saying, then why did he urge Barack Obama to run for president in the first place?

Update: Here's video of Lieberman's comments, along with the video of him talking about why he told Barack Obama to run for president. Unfortunately, you can't see Lieberman's face during his comments from today, but you can hear him clearly.

Original here

DNC Parodies Cornyn Ad To Hit McCain On Big Oil Donations

The Democratic National Committee has unveiled another portion of its Exxon-McCain '08 ad campaign, and it's clearly designed to go viral.

Just over one minute in length, "Exxon John" capitalizes on perhaps the most embarrassing piece of video ever produced in order to promote a politician: that's right, the "Big John" video for Texas Sen. John Cornyn. But instead of lionizing McCain, of course, the DNC's piece chides the Arizona Republican for taking $2 million in contributions from big oil and failing to support a Senate compromise proposal that would revoke tax credits from top companies in the industry.

As for last week's counter-intuitive report from the Center for Responsive Politics that accused Obama of receiving more donations from three top oil companies, the DNC has a response to that, as well. "Most reports on the Exxon numbers ignore the combined contributions to
the joint McCain/RNC fundraising apparatus," a DNC staffer emailed the Huffington Post. "Together, the McCain/RNC team raised MUCH, MUCH more than the Obama/DNC team--both from Exxon specifically and the three companies CPR highlighted. McCain and the RNC raised $56,361 from Exxon employees, compared to $42,808 on our side. McCain and the RNC raised $204,461 from Exxon/Chevron/BP employees, compared to just $94,221 for the Obama/DNC team."

Adopting the echo-laden dirge theme from Cornyn's original misfire, the parody ad lumbers through the DNC's oppo research, which is delivered by a narrator not quite as deep-voiced or (unintentionally) hilarious as the one in the original ad.

Take a look:

And just for fun, take a look at Cornyn's piece again, in which we are told how the Texas senator "makes lesser states squirm":

The DNC's parody may be a touch meta for average viewers, perhaps, but should delight political junkies -- and the producers of cable news chatfests.

Below, you can find some some DNC number-crunching, which is meant to settle once and for all the question of which party receives more money from oil companies:

Numbers in the CRP Report:

$56,361: Combined amount McCain and the RNC have raised from Exxon

$42,808: Combined amount Obama and the DNC have raised from Exxon

$204,461: Total McCain/RNC combined contributions from Exxon, Chevron &
BP employees

$94,221: Total Obama/DNC combined contributions from Exxon, Chevron & BP

79%: percent of Exxon employee contributions that go to GOP

74%: percent of Chevron employee contributions that go to GOP

57%: percent of BP employee contributions that go to GOP

$1,332,033: Amount McCain has raised from Oil and Gas industry employee

$394,465: Amount Obama has raised from Oil and Gas Industry employee

$2.1 million: Amount McCain and the RNC together have raise from Oil and
Gas industry since Jan. 2007***

15 out of 20: Number of Oil Companies whose employees gave more to

3-to-1: "overall, McCain's campaign has gotten three times more money
from the industry than Obama's has -- $1.3 million compared to about

3: number of Republican Presidential candidates who received more money
from Oil & Gas Industry than Barack Obama (McCain, Giuliani, Romney)

Original here

GOPers For Obama Rip McCain On Georgia, Tout Hagel As VP

A group of prominent Republicans supporting Barack Obama took to a conference call Tuesday morning to tout their preferred candidate, make the case for other GOPers to cross party lines, and warn about the dangers of John McCain's foreign policy.

Hoping to fill a void in news with Senator Obama on vacation, former Rep. Jim Leach, former Sen. Lincoln Chafee and Rita Hauser (a national intelligence expert who served in the Bush administration), offered at times sharp lines of criticism for the presumptive Republican nominee.

"I served with Sen. McCain, and he and I were the only two to vote against the Bush/Cheney tax cuts," recalled Chafee. "During this campaign it is a different John McCain. He is saying he would make the tax cuts permanent. He is advocating more drilling whereas he voted against drilling in ANWR. It goes to his credibility. And that is such an important issue for this country... plus his foreign policy has been consistently with Bush/Cheney and I know from my perspective that is a huge issue for the United States."

Hauser, meanwhile, pivoted off current events to highlight why Republicans like her viewed McCain's foreign policy as shortsighted and, quiet possibly, at odds with international interests.

"I think the little flare up we are witnessing in Georgia is another illustration of the different approach these two men are taking," she said. "McCain is bellicose: threatening to kick Russia out of the G8, use force if it is required. Obama is far more of the traditional position: turn to international institutions, call for reconciliation, call for an end of hostilities, but also be firm in his words. And that's the kind of leadership we need."

Reflecting disenchantment over the Bush/Cheney years, Leach, Chafee and Hauser all touted Obama's pledge of post-partisanship as a defining aspect in why they were crossing party lines. As for the true test of Obama's bipartisanship -- whether he would appoint a Republican official as vice president or to his cabinet -- the officials on the call deferred to the candidate. But Leach did give a nod to Sen. Chuck Hagel, a prominent Republican who seems tailor made to endorse Obama.

"There are a number of very impressive vice presidential candidates and this is a singular decision for one person and that is Sen. Obama. But I would be hopeful that among the serious list of people to be considered would be Chuck Hagel," said the Iowa Republican. "I think Chuck would be the type of Republican who will represent well this country."

As part of their Republicans-for-Obama effort, the group said they would be launch a website in the next few days that would, primarily, contrast Obama's positions against McCain's through a Republican lens. "It will encourage others to come on because they will see that there is a growing number of Republicans around the country that support him," said Hauser.

The imperative was there, said Leach. It was simply a matter of showing Republicans the shortcomings of the current administration and convincing them that Obama was within their political mainstream.

"This is not a time for politics as usual," said the former congressman. "The portfolio of issues passed on to the next president is as daunting as any since WWII. The case for inspiring new political leadership and the social ethic has seldom been more evident. Barack Obama's platform is a call for change, but the change that he is articulating is more renewal than departure. ... It is rooted in very old American values that are very much part of the Republican as well as the Democratic tradition. ... The national interest requires a new approach to our interaction with the world -- including the recognition that a long-term occupation of Iraq is likely dangerously destabilizing."

Original here

Still 'The One' For Lobbyists

Here's my newest video, focusing on McCain's relationship with Washington, DC lobbyists, using clips from the past 18 years, from the Keating scandal to present. The video is about two minutes long.

YouTube link

Setting aside the substance of the clips, it's really jarring to see just how much McCain has changed over the years, physically speaking.

As always, let me know what you think -- I'm looking forward to your feedback.

Original here

Modern Iwo Jima (Pic)

Top of the Ticket: Reader calls for Ron Paul revolution

Ron Paul spreading the word on Meet the Press

The Technorati Top 100 blog, Top of the Ticket, the Times' most popular blog, has received almost 60,000 reader comments since its first post a little more than a year ago. But few, if any, readers are as loyal as the one who calls himself "dave." In these last few months, dave has rarely let a day go by without submitting a comment in support of Ron Paul. The stories that dave remarks upon may have nothing to do with Ron Paul, but that is besides the point.

On a story about the magazine covers that Michelle Obama has graced, dave wrote: "the candidate for president who practiced as an ob/gyn doctor for decades, delivering many babies, is RON PAUL."

On "'Barns for Obama' -- Can 'Museums for McCain' be far behind?," dave wrote: "the RON PAUL rEVOLution resorted to this kind of advertising many months ago as the legitimate candidates were kept from getting their message out by the constant media censorship and propaganda."

On a National electoral map update, dave made a post at 4:10 in the morning, West Coast time: "so some will dream of a blue donkey, and others hope for a red elephant to save them, and many fail to see they'll fall again, for the same deceitful purple cow. only when people stop to vote for political parties, or the interests of corporations and cartels, and banking dynasties, but reserve their vote for someone who will represent their own vital interests, and is accountable to them - only then can they reclaim their country, and see their rights and liberties restored. to implement constitutional principles and values in government and politics, will guarantee true and lasting benefits for everyone. this can best be done, by people of wisdom and integrity, such as RON PAUL."

Two days later, dave wrote a second, longer comment for the same story: "the implementation of the election of the president by national popular vote, as promoted by birch bayh (in), john anderson (il), tom campbell (ca) and others, would be the end of the american republic. it would transfer the powers now remaining at state level (after already having stripped the districts and local levels of their influence) to the federal government, practically reducing presidential elections, then by national popular vote, to an empty ritual or 'democratic' fig leaf, as typically seen in many de facto dictatorships, some even named 'people's republic' and the like."

That's only about a fifth of the post, but you can read the rest here.

dave's longer comments all adhere to a similar formula. They begin with a slow build-up, at first making no mention of the Texas congressman. Not until the final sentences does Ron Paul's name finally appear in heroic, all-capital letters: "all legitimate and qualified candidates of integrity, not corrupt and bought by corporate and banking interests; all who care about the country and the people, and offer real solutions to the problems, have been suppressed and silenced from the start (despite all that, RON PAUL the legitimate presidential candidate for the republican party advocating constitutional values, having been excluded from the neocon convention, has managed to organize the REAL republican convention in minneapolis, right next door to the neocons' show in st. paul)."

At this point in the election season, it seems impossible that Ron Paul could become president, but dave would probably disagree. Want to join dave in the Ron Paul revolution, or at the very least, send him a sympathy comment? Share your thoughts!

-- Amy Silverstein

Photo by Mark Wilson/ Getty Images for Meet the Press

Original here

Justice Staffers Won't Be Prosecuted For Illegal Hiring Practices

U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, left, faces reporters as Michael Sullivan, U.S. attorney general for Massachusetts, right, looks on during a news conference, in Boston, Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2008. The Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it had charged 11 people in connection with the hacking of nine major U.S. retailers and the theft and sale of more than 40 million credit and debit card numbers. The retailers included TJX, BJ's Wholesale Club, OfficeMax, and Boston Market among others. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

NEW YORK — No criminal prosecutions are planned for former Justice Department officials accused of allowing politics to influence the hiring of prosecutors, immigration judges and other career government lawyers, Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Tuesday.

Mukasey used his sharpest words yet to criticize the senior leaders who took part in or failed to stop illegal hiring practices during the tenure of his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales.

But, he told delegates to the American Bar Association annual meeting, "Not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime. In this instance, the two joint reports found only violations of the civil service laws."

Other intrusions of Bush administration politics into department hirings and firings remain under investigation. Justice officials say the attorney general's remarks do not preclude criminal prosecutions if wrongdoing is found in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006 and the hiring practices in the department's civil rights division.

The political controversies prompted Gonzales' resignation last year.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said Mukasey "seems intent on insulating this administration from accountability."

The Vermont Democrat said Mukasey's remarks "appear premature based on the facts and evidence that congressional investigators and the inspector general have uncovered so far" in the hiring scandal. "We must continue to pursue the truth and facts, and hold any wrongdoers accountable," Leahy said.

An internal investigation concluded last month that for nearly two years, top advisers to Gonzales discriminated against applicants for career jobs who weren't Republican or conservative loyalists.

The federal government makes a distinction between "career" and "political" appointees, and it's a violation of civil service laws and Justice Department policy to hire career employees on the basis of political affiliation or allegiance.

Yet Monica Goodling, who served as Gonzales' counselor and White House liaison, routinely asked career job applicants about politics, the report concluded.

Mukasey, who once was a federal judge in New York, said the Justice Department has taken steps under his leadership to prevent a recurrence of the hiring scandal.

"I have made repeatedly clear ... that it is neither permissible nor acceptable to consider political affiliations in the hiring of career department employees," Mukasey said.

If the problems were to recur, Mukasey said, he is confident department employees would speak up.

That did not happen during Gonzales' tenure, he said. Gonzales appeared unaware of the political hiring process outlined by Goodling and his then-chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, the report said.

"There was a failure of supervision by senior officials in the department. And there was a failure on the part of some employees to cry foul when they were aware, or should have been aware, of problems," Mukasey said.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said more must be done to prevent political hiring at the agency. "Even if it is true they didn't commit a crime, it would be appropriate to make what they did a misdemeanor so that in the future, those who violate the civil service laws cannot escape unscathed," Schumer said in a statement.

Goodling's lawyer, John Dowd, declined comment when asked about Mukasey's speech.

The ABA has been at odds with the Bush administration on a range of issues, including treatment of prisoners suspected of terrorist ties and the need for a federal law to shield reporters from subpoenas.

Mukasey said that on the issue of politics in his department, there was no disagreement with the lawyers' group.

"Professionalism is alive and well at the Justice Department," he said.

Some candidates for career Justice Department jobs who were excluded because of politics could be invited to apply for new positions, Mukasey said.

He also ruled out firing or reassigning those who were hired under the now-discarded evaluation process.

"Two wrongs do not make a right," he said. "People who were hired in an improper way didn't themselves do anything wrong."


Associated Press reporter Natasha Metzler contributed from Washington.

Original here

Obama: Seniors Making Under $50,000 Wouldn't Pay Income Tax

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks to the media about the conflict between Georgia and Russia conflict in the driveway of the home he is staying Kailua, Hawaii, Monday, Aug. 11, 2008. Sen. Obama is in Hawaii for a vacation.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON — If you're a senior citizen and make less than $50,000 a year, Barack Obama has a deal for you: the rest of your life free of federal income tax.

Sounds appealing, right? Maybe to many seniors. But tax policy experts in Washington are giving it bad reviews. They see it as another subsidy for senior citizens, who already get federal help through Social Security and Medicare and often have economic advantages over other demographic groups.

Seniors typically have paid off their mortgages. Many have investments and usually don't pay taxes on their Social Security benefits. The kids are usually grown, so they're not saddled with day care or college costs.

"The odds are the retired folks _ they're getting pensions, they're getting Social Security, they have investment assets, they own a house _ so ... they're better off than somebody who is 30 or 40 years younger who's trying to buy a house (and) trying to start saving," said Clint Stretch, managing principal of tax policy for Deloitte Tax.

The Obama campaign says the idea would give tax cuts averaging $1,400 to 7 million seniors who are battling inflation with mostly fixed incomes. The campaign also says the plan would relieve millions of older people from having to file complicated tax returns.

"If you work hard and pay into the system, you've earned the right to a secure retirement," says a description of the plan on the Obama campaign's Web site. "But too many seniors aren't getting that security, even though they've held up their end of the bargain. Lower- and middle-income seniors are struggling as their expenses on health and energy skyrocket while their incomes do not keep pace."

Some of Obama's allies in Washington think he's onto a bad idea.

"Most low- and moderate-income seniors already owe no income tax. Among seniors with incomes below $50,000 who do owe income tax, a significant number have modest incomes because they are retired but possess substantial assets," said Robert Greenstein, who heads the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank. "Given all the problems and needs the nation faces, targeting relief to this group isn't a priority."

The Tax Policy Center, a think tank run jointly by the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, gave the idea bad grades in a recent study of the two presidential candidates' tax plans.

Seniors already get preferential treatment in the tax code. They get to claim an additional standard deduction and only a portion of their Social Security benefits are taxed. Many don't pay payroll taxes because their income is from investments rather than wages.

"The proposal would exempt comparatively well off, though not affluent, senior citizens from tax and give them a benefit not generally available to working Americans," said the Tax Policy Center paper. It "helps only those low-income seniors who currently pay income taxes. Those too poor to owe any tax _ arguably those most in need _ would get no benefit."

Even the powerful seniors' lobby AARP doesn't seem excited about Obama's idea. An AARP bulletin on the presidential candidates' tax plans barely mentions it, saying that Obama's proposal could partly offset additional taxes that Obama would impose on seniors through higher tax rates on dividends and capital gains.

Tax experts across the political spectrum also fault the Obama plan's abrupt $50,000-a-year threshold. As described by the campaign, seniors making, say, $48,000 would pay no income tax, while someone with income slightly more than $50,000 could pay several thousand dollars in income taxes. Seniors nearing the $50,000 threshold would have incentive to quit working.

Congress likely would add a phaseout, according to tax experts. "Everyone knows there would never be this $50,000 cliff," said Ben Harris, a senior research associate at Brookings.

The proposed new tax break for seniors is one of about a dozen tax changes proposed by Obama, including raising rates on people making more than $250,000 a year; extending most of the rest of President Bush's tax cuts; subsidizing Social Security and payroll taxes for low-income workers; and boosting income and child care tax credits for low-income workers.

Original here