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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Palin promotes general after he changes his stance on her experience

John Byrne and Mike Sheehan

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has promoted an adjutant-general in the Alaska National Guard to Lieutenant General after he reversed course on remarks that seemed to criticize the now-Republican candidate for Vice President.

Last Wednesday, Maj. Gen. Craig Campbell suggested to the Boston Globe that Gov. Sarah Palin's role as commander of the state's National Guard was largely ceremonial, thus blunting attempts by the McCain campaign to assert she had foreign policy experience.

"Our National Guard is basically just like any National Guard," Campbell told the paper. "You could call [Adjutant General] Joe Carter in Massachusetts and he would say he is organized the same way."

"She is very much engaged in what we are doing and she asks a lot of questions," Campbell added. "Maybe not the most engaged, but definitely engaged.

He noted that 75 percent of the Guard's budget is controlled by the National Guard Bureau in Washington, and that Alaska's anti-nuclear missile site is not under his or Palin's purview.

Later in the week, however, Campbell appeared on Fox News to tout Palin's candidacy.

"I'll tell you, in the last few days, I've been watching the press, and I've not been very pleased with what I've been seeing about the chastising of the National Guard by having it diminished by the insinuation that a commander-in-chief of the National Guard doesn't really control the military," he remarked. "The National Guard has 500,000 people in it around this great country, serving in states and overseas. National Guards are state military forces run by governors, and Sarah Palin does it great."

On Monday, he was quietly promoted. A statement -- issued by Palin's office -- asserted that the promotion signified "Governor Sarah Palin's support of the Guard and her commitment to reinforcing the cooperation between federal and state military assets."

"Palin took the opportunity to promote Campbell ahead of any pending emergency that may occur with the upcoming fall storm season," it added. "This allows Alaska to have more of a say in times of state disasters."

"This is about Alaskans serving Alaskans," Palin said in the release. "The promotion is a statement that the Alaska National Guard is the state military force responsible for responding to state issues, at the direction of the Governor. The decision to promote the Adjutant General to Lieutenant General is based on a fundamental states'-rights stance, for which Alaska has a strong historical position."

The promotion was first noted by VoteVets' Brandon Friedman.

At least one Alaskan National Guardsman has expressed outrage at the promotion. In a posting on the blog of an Alaska radio host, a man who claims to be a member of the Alaska National Guard expressed his ire.

"The Guardsmen found out about this travesty when a call went out for volunteers to fill the room for his ceremony," the Guardsman wrote. "The response was almost non-existent."

Campbell's promotion is largely ceremonial, the poster noted. Only the federal level of the national guard is able to promote individuals to the Major General rank.

"General Campbell's promotion will be a 'state' promotion," he said. "He will be a three-star general only while on State business. In a very rank-conscious environment, this distinction will not be lost on the other Flag Officers. He will look the part of a three-star general but will not be regarded as one by the very people he needs to work with and influence."

"No one can be promoted to the top ranks because of perceived leadership deficiencies but even with his obvious leadership flaws, he has no reluctance whatsoever to accept a cosmetic promotion," he added. "I believe the Governor's office will receive substantial correspondence urging her to reconsider this insult to the men and women of the Alaska National Guard."

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Meghan McCain: ‘No one knows what war is like other than my family. Period.’

n an interview on the Today Show this morning, host Meredith Vieira asked Meghan McCain about Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) comments that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) “doesn’t get it.” Meghan responded by pointing to her dad’s service in Vietnam and her two brothers who are currently enlisted. She then went a step further, however, saying that her family is the only family that understands war:

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Koch backs Obama, calls Palin 'scary'

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, who endorsed and worked for George W. Bush in 2004, is endorsing Obama today, NY1 first reported.

I asked Koch just now what prompted the move.

"The designation of Palin to be vice president," he said. "She's scary."

He said he was alarmed by the report that she'd triggered a conflict with the local librarian in Wasilla, Alaska by inquiring about the possibility of banning books.

"Any time someone goes to the library and says, 'I want to ban books,' and the librarian says 'no,' and she threatens to fire them -- that's scary," he said.

(Palin at the time said she was just inquiring about the library's policy on banning books, with no aim of actually banning any. "It was a rhetorical question -- nothing more," the McCain-Palin campaign said in a memo yesterday. And no books were banned, the town says.)

In an endorsement statement, Koch wrote that "the issue for me is who will best protect and defend America" and that both parties were strong on terrorism.

I have concluded that the country is safer in the hands of Barack Obama, leader of the Democratic Party and protector of the philosophy of that party. Protecting and defending the U.S. means more than defending us from foreign attacks. It includes defending the public with respect to their civil rights, civil liberties and other needs, e.g., national health insurance, the right of abortion, the continuation of Social Security, gay rights, other rights of privacy, fair progressive taxation and a host of other needs and rights.

If the vice president were ever called on to lead the country, there is no question in my mind that the experience and demonstrated judgment of Joe Biden is superior to that of Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin is a plucky, exciting candidate, but when her record is examined, she fails miserably with respect to her views on the domestic issues that are so important to the people of the U.S., and to me. Frankly, it would scare me if she were to succeed John McCain in the presidency.

Koch said he'd visited six states for Bush in 2004, primarily Florida, but also several others. ("Why they sent me to Iowa, I don't know.") He said he'd be happy to campaign for Obama "if they ask me to."

Koch is a member of a set of secular, swing-voting Jewish Democrats who may have been pushed away by the selection of Palin, and his endorsement may be a marker of an opportunity for Obama to strengthen his campaign among older Jewish voters in Florida.

Koch's full endorsement statement is after the jump.

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Sarah Palin's Alaskonomics

By MICHAEL KINSLEY

sarah palin republican vice presidential running mate
John McCain's vice-presidential running mate, Alaska governor Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin thinks she is a better American than you because she comes from a small town, and a superior human being because she isn't a journalist and has never lived in Washington and likes to watch her kids play hockey. Although Palin praised John McCain in her acceptance speech as a man who puts the good of his country ahead of partisan politics, McCain pretty much proved the opposite with his selection of a running mate whose main asset is her ability to reignite the culture wars. So maybe Governor Palin does represent everything that is good and fine about America, as she herself maintains. But spare us, please, any talk about how she is a tough fiscal conservative.

Palin has continued to repeat the already exposed lie that she said "No, thanks" to the famous "bridge to nowhere" (McCain's favorite example of wasteful federal spending). In fact, she said "Yes, please" until the project became a symbol and political albatross.

Back to reality. Of the 50 states, Alaska ranks No. 1 in taxes per resident and No. 1 in spending per resident. Its tax burden per resident is 2 1/2 times the national average; its spending, more than double. The trick is that Alaska's government spends money on its own citizens and taxes the rest of us to pay for it. Although Palin, like McCain, talks about liberating ourselves from dependence on foreign oil, there is no evidence that being dependent on Alaskan oil would be any more pleasant to the pocketbook.

Alaska is, in essence, an adjunct member of OPEC. It has four different taxes on oil, which produce more than 89% of the state's unrestricted revenue. On average, three-quarters of the value of a barrel of oil is taken by the state government before that oil is permitted to leave the state. Alaska residents each get a yearly check for about $2,000 from oil revenues, plus an additional $1,200 pushed through by Palin last year to take advantage of rising oil prices. Any sympathy the governor of Alaska expresses for folks in the lower 48 who are suffering from high gas prices or can't afford to heat their homes is strictly crocodile tears.

As if it couldn't support itself, Alaska also ranks No. 1, year after year, in money it sucks in from Washington. In 2005 (the most recent figures), according to the Tax Foundation, Alaska ranked 18th in federal taxes paid per resident ($5,434) but first in federal spending received per resident ($13,950). Its ratio of federal spending received to federal taxes paid ranks third among the 50 states, and in the absolute amount it receives from Washington over and above the amount it sends to Washington, Alaska ranks No.

Under the state constitution, the governor of Alaska has unusually strong powers to shape the state budget. At the Republican National Convention, Palin bragged that she had vetoed "nearly $500 million" in state spending during her two years as governor. This amounts to less than 2% of the proposed budget. That's how much this warrior for you (the people) against it (the government) could find in wasteful spending under her control.

One thing Barack Obama and McCain disagree on is an oil windfall–profits tax. McCain is against it, on the theory that it is a tax and therefore bad, and also that it would discourage domestic production. Obama is for it, on the theory that if oil companies can make a nice profit when oil sells for $50 per bbl., they can still make a nice profit when it sells for more than $100, even if the government takes a bit and spreads the money around to those who are hurting from higher oil prices.

Although Palin's words side with McCain in this dispute, her actions side with Obama. Her major legislative accomplishment has been to revamp Alaska's windfall-profits tax in order to increase the state's take. Alaska calls it a "clear and equitable share" tax. The state assumes that extracting oil from the tundra costs about $25 per bbl. and takes as much as 75% of the difference between that and the sale price.

Why is a windfall-profits tax good for Alaska but not for the U.S.? Well, it's obvious, isn't it? People in Alaska are better than people in the rest of the U.S. They're more American. Although there are small towns and farms and high school hockey teams in the lower 48, there are fewer down here, per capita, than in Alaska. And there are many more journalists and pollsters and city dwellers and other undesirables who might benefit if every American had the same right to leech off the government as do the good citizens of Sarah Palin's Alaska.

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