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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Obama To McCain: Dignify Your Campaign

There was a thread of stern if not defensive outrage in Barack Obama's address at the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Tuesday. The Illinois Democrat did not raise his voice, nor did his facial expression reflect a sense of anger. But he was pointed in his criticism and direct in lambasting the type of campaign his Republican opponent, John McCain, is running.

"Yesterday, Senator McCain came before you," said Obama. "He is a man who has served this nation honorably, and he correctly stated that one of the chief criteria for the American people in this election is going to be who can exercise the best judgment as Commander in Chief. But instead of just offering policy answers, he turned to a typical laundry list of political attacks. He said that I have changed my position on Iraq when I have not. He said that I am for a path of "retreat and failure." And he declared, "Behind all of these claims and positions by Senator Obama lies the ambition to be president" -- suggesting, as he has so many times, that I put personal ambition before my country. That is John McCain's prerogative. He can run that kind of campaign, and -- frankly -- that's how political campaigns have been run in recent years. But I believe the American people are better than that. I believe that this defining moment demands something more of us."

It is a vintage Obama line: deploring the tactics of his opponent as a method of rising above the fray. And, indeed, later in the address -- which was focused on redefining proper judgment on Iraq (why, Obama asked, should we give McCain a pass on his false predictions leading up to the invasion?) -- the presumptive Democratic nominee again chastised his challenger for resorting to the politics of the past.

"One of the things that we have to change in this country is the idea that people can't disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism," he said, to applause. "I have never suggested that Senator McCain picks his positions on national security based on politics or personal ambition. I have not suggested it because I believe that he genuinely wants to serve America's national interest. Now, it's time for him to acknowledge that I want to do the same. Let me be clear: I will let no one question my love of this country. I love America, so do you, and so does John McCain."

It's curious to see how this method of campaigning, which was effective in the primary campaign, will play out in the general. Obama's substantive critiques of McCain's foreign policy -- like asking why the Arizona Republican nominee would "follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell" but not target him in Pakistan without that country's permission -- were equally if not more effective. Moreover, there is a growing list of Democratic observers who are pining for a more aggressive posture in which Obama is not just parlaying the McCain attack de jour, but dictating the campaign theme.

Original here

Commentary: Is McCain another George W. Bush?

By Jack Cafferty

ditor's Note: Jack Cafferty is the author of the best-seller "It's Getting Ugly Out There: The Frauds, Bunglers, Liars, and Losers Who Are Hurting America." He provides commentary on CNN's "The Situation Room" daily from 4 p.m.-7 p.m. You can also visit Jack's Cafferty File blog.

Jack Cafferty says John McCain shows virtually no intellectual curiosity, emulating President Bush

Jack Cafferty says John McCain shows virtually no intellectual curiosity, emulating President Bush

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Russia invades Georgia and President Bush goes on vacation. Our president has spent one-third of his entire two terms in office either at Camp David, Maryland, or at Crawford, Texas, on vacation.

His time away from the Oval Office included the month leading up to 9/11, when there were signs Osama bin Laden was planning to attack America, and the time Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city of New Orleans.

Sen. John McCain takes weekends off and limits his campaign events to one a day. He made an exception for the religious forum on Saturday at Saddleback Church in Southern California.

I think he made a big mistake. When he was invited last spring to attend a discussion of the role of faith in his life with Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, McCain didn't bother to show up. Now I know why.

It occurs to me that John McCain is as intellectually shallow as our current president. When asked what his Christian faith means to him, his answer was a one-liner. "It means I'm saved and forgiven." Great scholars have wrestled with the meaning of faith for centuries. McCain then retold a story we've all heard a hundred times about a guard in Vietnam drawing a cross in the sand.

Asked about his greatest moral failure, he cited his first marriage, which ended in divorce. While saying it was his greatest moral failing, he offered nothing in the way of explanation. Why not?

Throughout the evening, McCain chose to recite portions of his stump speech as answers to the questions he was being asked. Why? He has lived 71 years. Surely he has some thoughts on what it all means that go beyond canned answers culled from the same speech he delivers every day.

He was asked "if evil exists." His response was to repeat for the umpteenth time that Osama bin Laden is a bad man and he will pursue him to "the gates of hell." That was it.

He was asked to define rich. After trying to dodge the question -- his wife is worth a reported $100 million -- he finally said he thought an income of $5 million was rich.

One after another, McCain's answers were shallow, simplistic, and trite. He showed the same intellectual curiosity that George Bush has -- virtually none.

Where are John McCain's writings exploring the vexing moral issues of our time? Where are his position papers setting forth his careful consideration of foreign policy, the welfare state, education, America's moral responsibility in the world, etc., etc., etc.?

John McCain graduated 894th in a class of 899 at the Naval Academy at Annapolis. His father and grandfather were four star admirals in the Navy. Some have suggested that might have played a role in McCain being admitted. His academic record was awful. And it shows over and over again whenever McCain is called upon to think on his feet.

He no longer allows reporters unfettered access to him aboard the "Straight Talk Express" for a reason. He simply makes too many mistakes. Unless he's reciting talking points or reading from notes or a TelePrompTer, John McCain is lost. He can drop bon mots at a bowling alley or diner -- short glib responses that get a chuckle, but beyond that McCain gets in over his head very quickly.

I am sick and tired of the president of the United States embarrassing me. The world we live in is too complex to entrust it to someone else whose idea of intellectual curiosity and grasp of foreign policy issues is to tell us he can look into Vladimir Putin's eyes and see into his soul.

George Bush's record as a student, military man, businessman and leader of the free world is one of constant failure. And the part that troubles me most is he seems content with himself.

He will leave office with the country $10 trillion in debt, fighting two wars, our international reputation in shambles, our government cloaked in secrecy and suspicion that his entire presidency has been a litany of broken laws and promises, our citizens' faith in our own country ripped to shreds. Yet Bush goes bumbling along, grinning and spewing moronic one-liners, as though nobody understands what a colossal failure he has been.

I fear to the depth of my being that John McCain is just like him.

Original here

McCain Camp Slams NBC Report It Endorsed Earlier In Day

Buckle up, because this one is pretty incredible -- and if my hunch is right, it's all an attempt to distract attention from McCain's apparent theft of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn's "Cross in the Dirt" story.

It starts with McCain campaign manager Rick Davis, who has now sent an angry letter to NBC News chief Steve Capus whining about Andrea Mitchell's performance on Meet The Press earlier today. Here's the Mitchell quote that Davis cites in his letter:

ANDREA MITCHELL: The Obama people must feel that he didn't do quite as well as they might have wanted to in that context, because what they are putting out privately is that McCain may not have been in the cone of silence and may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama. He seemed so well-prepared.

But earlier in the day, McCain Deputy Communications Director Michael Goldfarb used those exact same words as evidence for this point:

The Obama campaign, shocked that John McCain would have the temerity to upstage their celebrity candidate on national television, is now struggling to find an explanation. According to Andrea Mitchell's reporting earlier today on Meet the Press, the only explanation the Obama campaign could come up with was foul play.

Moreover, as I pointed out earlier, Goldfarb's own post confirmed the suspicions of Mitchell's sources. And as Nate Silver points out, the Rick Davis letter provides even more evidence confirming the basic allegation -- that McCain wasn't in the cone of silence and therefore had the capacity to gain advanced warning.

(Update: The New York Times also confirms it -- McCain was not in the cone of silence. As debrazza noted, the McCain campaign's stunning defense is that McCain is a POW.)

::: :::

So the big question is why in the world would the McCain campaign send out a letter attacking Andrea Mitchell for making a statement that only hours earlier they had used to attack Barack Obama, especially when both the letter and the earlier statement confirmed the concerns of Mitchell's sources?

I think the answer is Alexandr Solzhenitsyn's "Cross in the dirt" story -- the same story that John McCain seems to have stolen from Solzhenitsyn, perhaps with the help of Mark Salter.

The McCain camp would rather fight a battle over the cone of silence -- even if they lose -- than to fight over whether or not McCain was telling the truth when he relayed that story.

That's what makes the most sense to me: I think this is a big distraction. They want to create a storm over this issue and then hope that Obama quickly picks a VP, thereby burying questions over McCain's theft of Solzhenitsyn's "Cross in the dirt" story.

Hopefully Obama isn't planning on picking his VP until later in the week -- I'd like to see how these stories play out first, and there'd be nothing better than Obama making his VP pick while John McCain is on the ropes.

Original here

A day after forum, Obama has harsh words for McCain

RENO, Nevada (AP) -- So much for hugging in church.

Barack Obama speaks with supporters in Reno, Nevada, on Sunday.

Barack Obama speaks with supporters in Reno, Nevada, on Sunday.

A day after Barack Obama and John McCain exchanged an embrace during a faith forum at a California megachurch, Obama called the U.S. economy a disaster thanks to "John McCain's president, George W. Bush," and chided his Republican rival's campaign for trying to make him look unpatriotic and weak.

At a town hall meeting with several hundred union members, Obama said he had a great conversation with McCain at the forum at Saddleback Church sponsored by the popular evangelical pastor Rick Warren.

The two candidates shook hands, briefly hugged and stood onstage with Warren, the first time they appeared together in public since the end of the primary season.

But Sunday, after praising the Arizona senator as a "genuine American patriot," the Democratic presidential hopeful got back to business -- methodically tearing into McCain's health care, tax and energy policies and criticizing his advisers.

"McCain says 'Here's my plan, I'm going to drill here, drill now which is something he only came up with two months ago when he started looking at polling," Obama said of McCain's energy policy.

The GOP hopeful has become a vocal proponent of offshore oil drilling as a way to ease U.S. dependence on foreign oil and has criticized Obama for failing to embrace it as a way to help bring down oil prices. Obama noted that McCain had long opposed lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling.

The Illinois senator also criticized McCain's advisers as "the same old folks that brought you George W. Bush. The same team." He noted many had been lobbyists in Washington before McCain asked them to sever all lobbying ties.

Obama added, "They say this other guy is unpatriotic, or this guy likes French people. That's what they said about Kerry," referring to the 2004 Democratic nominee who lost narrowly to Bush. "They try to make it out like Democrats aren't tough enough, aren't macho enough. It's the same strategy."

McCain spokesman Brian Rogers responded, "John McCain has never questioned Sen. Obama's patriotism, but he clearly does question Sen. Obama's experience and judgment, and they do have profound differences of opinion on the best way to reduce our dependence on Mideast oil, bring jobs back to America and keep our nation safe."

Earlier this summer, McCain handed day to day operation of his campaign to Steve Schmidt, a veteran GOP strategist who was a spokesman for Bush during the 2004 campaign. Most of his other top advisers are longtime loyalists who have worked for McCain for years.

Even so, Obama stepped to McCain's defense when a voter criticized his Vietnam era record. A Naval aviator, McCain spent 5 ½ years as a prisoner of war there after being shot down and badly wounded.

"Respectfully I'm going to disagree with you on McCain and his service," Obama said. "I think his service was honorable. He deserves respect."

Original here

Gingrich Claims Tire Inflation Lines Big Oil’s Pockets

Last night on Fox News, host Sean Hannity and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) returned (as they often do) to Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) recent suggestion that Americans inflate their tires properly in order to save energy costs.

Seeming to outdo his previous false attacks on this issue, Gingrich claimed that Obama’s idea is actually encouraging Americans to “enrich Big Oil” because selling air has “a higher profit margin than selling gasoline”:

GINGRICH: Well, I got a very funny e-mail from a retired military officer in Tampa who pointed out that most tire inflation is done at service stations and you pay for it. And it’s actually a higher profit margin than selling gasoline. So Sen. Obama was urging you to go out and enrich Big Oil by inflating your tires instead of buying gas.

Watch it:

This claim is absurd for a number of reasons. First, gas station owners, not Big Oil, receive the profits from selling air — if they sell air at all (presumably from mechanized air machines). Second, air is free. So of course the profit margin for selling air is going be higher than a gallon of gas. By contrast, the cost of oil accounts for a significant portion of the price of gasoline. So any profits from gasoline sales (which are actually quite small) also go to the gas station owners, after Big Oil has already been paid.

But beyond Gingrich’s ridiculous assertion, the Auto Alliance has noted that maintaining proper tire pressure is “more important than you may think” because it saves fuel and reduces costs and greenhouse gases.

Indeed, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) — whom Gingrich once praised as one of the “great winners” — agrees. Today he endorsed the thrust of Obama’s idea, saying “you can reduce your fuel costs by more than 15%. And I am talking about simple things, like proper tire pressure, avoiding rapid starts and stops, and keeping your engine tuned.”

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Colbert, Stewart viewers more well-informed than those watching O’Reilly, Dobbs.

A new Pew Survey on News Consumption released yesterday reveals that viewers of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are more knowledgeable about current events than those who watch Bill O’Reilly, Lou Dobbs, Larry King, and the “average consumers of NBC, ABC, Fox News, CNN, C-SPAN and daily newspapers.” Thirty percent of Daily Show and 34 percent of Colbert viewers correctly identified Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the majority party in the U.S. House of Representatives, compared to the national average of just 18 percent.

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McCain's ad revisits some oft-mentioned examples of pork, but is he really the one who rooted them out?

Republican presidential candidate John McCain cites three absurd-sounding examples of pork-barrel spending in a recent ad: a "bridge to nowhere," a study of the DNA of bears and a Woodstock museum.

McCain is known for fighting against earmarks, the other term lawmakers use for funding of pet projects back home. But he appears to have chosen these three because they're easy to mock, not because he had significant involvement in removing them from the budget.
  • He never specifically went after the "bridge to nowhere," and he was absent for key votes on its funding.
  • While he tried to cut money for several other projects in the same bill, he never proposed cutting the bear study and voted for the final bill containing it.
  • He wasn't present for the most important votes on the Woodstock museum, including one on an amendment he co-sponsored to kill the earmark and divert some of the funds.
John McCain’s ad, “Outrageous,” which began running November 12, touts the Arizona senator's long-standing fight against pork-barrel spending. The ad includes three examples of projects that McCain deems unnecessary and claims that “one man” has “the guts to stand up to wasteful government spending.”

It is indisputable that McCain has been a vocal opponent of earmarks, and indeed of all government spending that he considers wasteful (he has said that Congress spends money “like a drunken sailor”). He has been recognized for his efforts both by the media and by taxpayer advocacy groups.

But the three examples of spending highlighted in the ad – a “bridge to nowhere,” a study of bear DNA and a museum dedicated to Woodstock – seem chosen more for their impact than for any direct involvement McCain had in attacking them. In fact, he voted in favor of the bill that included the bear study funding; he was absent for key votes on the Woodstock museum (including one on an amendment he co-sponsored); and he never specifically tried to eliminate the bridge earmark and missed some crucial votes on that one, as well.

For what it's worth, we’ll note that the three projects together cost a little under $300 million, which is a tiny fraction of yearly earmark activity. The Office of Management and Budget reports that the fiscal 2005 budget included 13,492 earmarks totaling $18.9 billion dollars. The taxpayer watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste gives a higher estimate for that year – 13,997 projects for a total of $27.3 billion – and estimates that 2006 earmark activity cost $29 billion. That would make earmarks account for about 0.2 percent of the gross domestic product.

A Bridge to Nowhere

McCain’s ad cites “$233 million for a bridge to nowhere,” calling the cost “outrageous.” Funding for the “bridge to nowhere,” also known as the Gravina Island bridge in Alaska, was tacked on to a 2005 transportation bill, along with projects from many other states. Whether it was truly a “bridge to nowhere” is debatable: Gravina Island, while it has almost no permanent population, is also home to the Ketchikan International Airport, which processes about 200,000 passengers a year. Alaskan officials hoped that the bridge would simplify airport access and allow development on Gravina, according to Alaska’s Department of Transportation. The bridge was not the only or the most expensive project attached to the transportation bill, and it may not have been the most frivolous. But it became a symbol for government pork.

The transportation bill did include a total of $223 million (not $233 million, as the ad says) earmarked for the Gravina bridge – $100 million for construction, plus $18.75 million a year for four years, and an additional $48 million to build an access road. McCain tried, unsuccessfully, to add a “sense of the Senate” amendment to the bill, stating a general objection to earmarks; in the end he voted against the legislation. Several months later, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) tried to divert the Gravina funds to a bridge in need of repair over Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans. McCain was not present to vote on Coburn’s amendment proposing this change, which did not pass. Instead, Congress removed Gravina’s earmarks, tossing that money into Alaska’s general transportation pot to be used however the state chose. McCain wasn’t there for that vote, either.

In light of the furor over the “bridge to nowhere,” Alaska’s governor opted to use the money for other pursuits. The bridge was never built, but McCain has been using it as his prime pork example since 2005, even blaming it for the Minneapolis bridge collapse in August 2007. (He cited it as an example of a pet project that diverted money from necessary highway maintenance.)

Paternity Tests for Bears

The ad goes on to criticize an earmark that provided “$3 million to study the DNA of bears in Montana.” This is not the first time McCain has poked fun at the bear project. He first mentioned it on the Senate floor, while discussing the 2003 Omnibus Appropriations Bill that included funding for the project:
McCain (Senate floor, Feb. 13, 2003): Because these appropriations are never discussed with nonmembers of the Appropriations Committee, one can only imagine and conjure up an idea as to how this might be used. Approach a bear: That bear cub over there claims you are his father, and we need to take your DNA. Approach another bear: Two hikers had their food stolen by a bear, and we think it is you. We have to get the DNA. The DNA doesn't fit, you got to acquit, if I might.
Good laugh lines, maybe, but the United States Geological Service’s Northern Divide Grizzly Bear Project didn’t study DNA for paternity tests or forensics. Rather, it explored a means of estimating Montana’s grizzly bear population by analyzing bear fur snagged on barbed wire. The project was funded partly by federal appropriations – about $1 million per year in add-ons to USGS in 2003 through 2005, $400,000 in 2006 and $300,000 in 2007, plus a $1.1 million earmark through the Forest Service in 2004, according to the study’s principal researcher, Katherine C. Kendall. Part of that funding was doled out as part of the omnibus appropriations bill McCain discussed in February 2003.

Despite the fun McCain had ridiculing the bear project on the Senate floor, he didn’t actually try to remove it from the bill. He did introduce several amendments, including three to reduce funding for projects he considered wasteful or harmful, but none removing the grizzly bear project appropriations. And despite his criticisms, he voted in favor of the final bill.

A Hippie Museum

The last earmark McCain highlights in the ad is $1 million for a Woodstock museum, which, he mentions not-so-subtly, was proposed by Sen. Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic presidential contender. The earmark would have allotted $1 million to New York state’s Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, future site of a museum celebrating the 1969 Woodstock music festival and its effect on American culture.

But McCain wasn’t present for the vote on an amendment he co-sponsored (spearheaded again by Coburn) to remove the stipulated funding for the museum and reroute about a third of it to maternal and child health services. He was out on the campaign trail.

It’s true, as the McCain campaign points out, that McCain’s vote would not have changed the outcome. Still, we wonder whether voters might have a different view of McCain’s ridiculing of the museum not just in this ad but in two others, as well as a presidential debate, if they knew of his absence for the key votes.

The ad claims that “one man” has the audacity to stand up to “wasteful government spending,” but in fact, several men were actively involved in removing the Bethel Woods Center earmark: Coburn led the charge, and Republicans Jon Kyl of Arizona and Jim DeMint of South Carolina were co-sponsors along with McCain. McCain was the only one to miss the vote.

Where's the Beef on Pork?

As we noted, we do not dispute that John McCain has been a tireless crusader against earmarks. In fact, in another recent ad, “Guts,” McCain focused on the 2003 Boeing scandal, in which McCain was considered to be the harshest critic of a wasteful government contract; he was described by the New York Times as having “almost single-handedly thrown one roadblock after another before the arrangement.”

But in this ad, with its focus on issues in which McCain played a minor role, we find that he is overstating his case and misleading his viewers.

– by Jess Henig

Original here

NYT Backs Up NBC: McCain Was Not In "Cone Of Silence" Before Saddleback

Last night, John McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis sent a strongly-worded letter to NBC News president Steve Capus, complaining about "unsubstantiated, partisan claims" on the network made "in order to undercut John McCain."

The claim in question was made by Andrea Mitchell on yesterday's broadcast of "Meet the Press," while discussing McCain and Obama's respective performances during the Saddlebeck Forum on Faith led by Pastor Rick Warren. The full quote is as follows:

MITCHELL: The Obama people must feel that he didn't do quite as well as they might have wanted to in that context, because that — what they're putting out privately is that McCain may not have been in the cone of silence and may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama.... He seemed so well-prepared.

In the letter, reprinted by Mike Allen of Politico, Davis claimed that the claim was "completely unsubstantiated" and a "blatant falsehood."

However, the New York Times' Kit Seelye has boldly backed up Mitchell's claim in today's story, "Despite Assurances, McCain Wasn't in a 'Cone of Silence'." Per Seelye:

Senator John McCain was not in a "cone of silence" on Saturday night while his rival, Senator Barack Obama, was being interviewed at the Saddleback Church in California... The matter is of interest because Mr. McCain, who followed Mr. Obama's hourlong appearance in the forum, was asked virtually the same questions as Mr. Obama. Mr. McCain's performance was well received, raising speculation among some viewers, especially supporters of Mr. Obama, that he was not as isolated during the Obama interview as Mr. Warren implied.


Mr. Warren, the pastor of Saddleback, had assured the audience while he was interviewing Mr. Obama that "we have safely placed Senator McCain in a cone of silence" and that he could not hear the questions... Interviewed Sunday on CNN, Mr. Warren seemed surprised to learn that Mr. McCain was not in the building during the Obama interview.

This corroborates Mitchell's report, which was "McCain may not have been in the cone of silence" (he wasn't, at least not for the duration) and "may have some ability to overhear" the question (unclear, but if the purpose of the 'cone of silence' is to guard against that, then presumably being outside it might have afforded that opportunity.

But even without Seelye, Mitchell was Davis. He wrote, "The fact is that during Senator Obama's segment at Saddleback last night, Senator McCain was in a motorcade to the event and then held in a green room with no broadcast feed." That means that he was not in the cone of silence during the Obama questioning, confirming Mitchell's report.

The issue, of course, isn't whether or not he cheated, but whether he could have cheated. The cone of silence was meant to ensure that the second candidate had no possible advantage over the first. It is a time-honored tradition, from its coinage on TV show Get Smart to a reference on Everybody Loves Raymond to numerous game shows through history.

McCain spokeswoman Nicolle Wallace, told the NYT that McCain had not heard the broadcast while in the motorcade, nor had he any of the questions. That neatly accounts for just one way McCain might have learned the content of the questions; the event was being broadcast live, and presumably his aides have Blackberries. Coaching could have taken place without McCain hearing anything directly from the broadcast at all.

This is not meant to make the claim that McCain received information relating to Warren's questions to Obama, just that he could have done, since the constraints of the cone of silence were not in effect. Those constraints were pointedly put in place by Pastor Warren to provide an excplicit safeguard of fairness, and it was reported to the audience as such. The fact that such a safeguard might not have been universally applied is a relevant fact, one which Mitchell reported dispassionately, citing the source (the Obama campaign), providing caveats ("may have") and providing the context (that McCain had performed very well). Today, Kit Seelye and the NYT back that up.

This, incidentally, is the third letter of complaint Capus has received this year relating to perceived bias by presidential figures. In February, presidential contender Hillary Clinton wrote to Capus complaining about David Shuster's use of the term "pimped out" to describe daughter Chelsea Clinton's campaigning on her behalf. In May, White House Counselor Ed Gillespie took issue with the editing of an interview conducted by Richard Engel, including in his complaint to Capus a suggestion of overall liberal bias at NBC from cable sibling MSNBC. Davis made a similar allegation in his letter, expressing concern that "your News Division is following MSNBC's lead in abandoning non-partisan coverage of the Presidential race" and requesting a meeting to discuss the McCain campaign's "deep concerns about the news standards and level of objectivity at NBC."

It's a claim that tends to rally the GOP base; after the NYT's front-page story implying improper relations with a young blonde lobbyist, McCain vowed "war" against the paper; his supporters responded with a surge in donations. McCain's and he has continued to fan those flames.

This, like the Gillespie letter, may be the real reason for the complaint: Airing the grievance that NBC is being corrupted as a news organization, and tilting liberal under the weight of MSNBC. It's what AP television writer David Bauder called "the soft white underbelly" of NBC News, and it's an easy target for Team McCain, whose base is no fan of the so-called "liberal" media — and more and more, conservative elements have been including NBC in that grouping (cf. Bill O'Reilly).

Whatever motivation McCain and Davis have, they picked a bad battle to fight here, because Mitchell was right: McCain was not in the Cone of Silence for the duration of Obama's questioning.

Original here

McCain suggests raiding Colorado's water

By Bob Ewegen

Memo to: John McCain.

From: Five million thirst-crazed Coloradans.

Subject: Forget about winning our nine electoral votes next November. We don't vote for water rustlers in this state; we tar and feather them!

Yes, fellow citizens of the state whose official motto is "Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting," John McCain has thunk the unthinkable — and proposed renegotiating the 1922 Colorado River Compact.

To quote from Charles Ashby's story in the Friday Pueblo Chieftain:

"The water compact that Colorado and other upper basin states have with California and Arizona should be renegotiated," U.S. Sen. John McCain said Thursday.

"In a telephone interview with The Pueblo Chieftain, the presumptive GOP candidate for president said the water sharing agreement reached in 1922 between seven Western states doesn't take into account increases in population and changing water needs."

You can read the rest of McCain's politically suicidal ramblings at Suffice to say, they aren't pretty.

As a senator, McCain has long represented a state, Arizona, that would love to steal Colorado's water. But now, he wants our votes. Apparently, nobody bothered to brief the candidate who Paris Hilton called "that wrinkly, white-haired guy" that stealing Colorado's water to benefit Arizona, California and Nevada isn't as popular an idea in Colorado as it is in Arizona, California and Nevada.

Who knew?

As Ashby notes: "The Colorado River compact allocates 7.5 million acre-feet of water to California, Nevada and Arizona. Anything left over is split between Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming."

None of the latter four upper basin states whose snowmelt feeds the river is ecstatic about giving up our meager share of our birthright to fill those artificial lakes beloved by Las Vegas casinos. By the time Ashby's story finishes rocketing around the Rockies, McCain's name will be McMud among the water buffaloes.

The problem, from Colorado's perspective, is that in the 76 years since the compact was signed, California, Nevada and Arizona have grown much more rapidly in population — and political power — than the upper basin states. So when the lower basin states talk about "renegotiating" the compact, that's their code for a process of give and take — in which Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming give and California, Arizona and Nevada take.

Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar, an expert on water law, sprang at McCain's blunder like a mongoose throttling a cobra.

The compact would be reopened "over my dead body," the normally mild-mannered Salazar roared.

Even the Sierra Club, rarely a friend to water buffaloes, piled on. Southwest regional director Rob Smith said, "Scientists have predicted a 10 to 30 percent reduction of water flow in the Colorado River due to long-term drought and higher temperatures associated with climate change in the Southwest. Instead of threatening a diminishing resource, it would be better to help states and communities with water conservation projects and stream restoration."

Here's some free advice, wrinkly guy: When campaigning in Colorado, you might survive advocating atheism, taking our guns away or outlawing apple pie. But never, ever, mess with our water.

McCain would have been wiser to heed the warning a visitor got years ago when he arrived in Pueblo to speak to the annual Lincoln Day Dinner. His hosts cautioned him that water is always a controversial topic in the Arkansas Valley. The speaker, whose former life in water-rich Iowa left him ill-prepared for the intensity of the wrangles over our liquid gold in semi-arid Colorado, asked, "What should I know about water?"

"Well, it's all right to drink some," his host replied. "But don't talk about it. And for God's sake, don't spill any!"

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