Thursday, October 23, 2008

McCain Cuts Off Murphy, Critical 2000 Chief Strategist

Many observers have marveled at how drastically different John McCain's campaign this year is from the one he ran in 2000. Now the New York Times reports

that McCain has cut off all communication with Mike Murphy, the chief strategist of the '00 campaign and a longtime friend and adviser to the candidate. The reason -- McCain sees Murphy's criticisms of his current campaign as a "betrayal."

Mr. McCain has told associates that he has viewed Mr. Murphy's criticisms of his campaign -- its advertisements, his selection of Ms. Palin and Mr. McCain's aggressive manner -- as an act of betrayal, the actions of a former friend seeking attention and a network platform. Mr. McCain was described as particularly incensed that one of Mr. Murphy's platforms was MSNBC, which Mr. McCain's campaign has repeatedly treated as an enemy.

Mr. McCain has cut off all communications with Mr. Murphy, associates said. And McCain aides, including Steve Schmidt, a chief strategist who worked with Mr. Murphy on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign for governor of California, have stopped talking to him as well, ignoring telephone calls or e-mail messages, according to Republicans close to the campaign.

Mr. Murphy, in a brief e-mail comment, said that he was saying only what he believed, and that he still admired Mr. McCain.

Murphy's latest critique of his former boss is a post on Time's Swampland blog offering sarcastic potential responses to the news of Palin's $150,000 makeover:

I saw the RNC statement on Gov. Palin's $150,000 clothing bender on the RNC's tab. This caper is gonna make for a long day at the office for the good folks at the RNC/McCain press operation. Thought I'd offer a little help in a humorous vein; some other possible spin lines for the RNC.

1.) What you sneering critics in the liberal MSM fail to see here is... a Jobs Program! Saks floorwalkers, cashiers, a team of sweating porters to haul the merchandise from the store to the motorcade... chiropractors to treat those porters. Sarah Palin knows how to create jobs!

2.) What's the difference between a Pit Bull and a Hockey Mom? You can feed a pit-bull for 483 years with 150 grand.

3.) Still cheaper than Mitt Romney's hair products. We're saving money here...

4.) William Ayres is a terrorist!

5.) New ad slogan: "Clothes for Gov. Palin? $150,000. Time machine to go back two months to late August and ask what the Hell were Schmidt and Davis thinking when they cooked up this idea and sold it to McCain? Priceless."

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Waiting for Nov. 4th

I can't take much more of this. Two weeks to go, and I'm at the end of my rope. I can't work. I can eat, but mostly standing up. I'm anxious all the time and taking it out on my ex-wife, which, ironically, I'm finding enjoyable. This is like waiting for the results of a biopsy. Actually, it's worse. Biopsies only take a few days, maybe a week at the most, and if the biopsy comes back positive, there's still a potential cure. With this, there's no cure. The result is final. Like death.

Five times a day I'll still say to someone, "I don't know what I'm going to do if McCain wins." Of course, the reality is I'm probably not going to do anything. What can I do? I'm not going to kill myself. If I didn't kill myself when I became impotent for two months in 1979, I'm certainly not going to do it if McCain and Palin are elected, even if it's by nefarious means. If Obama loses, it would be easier to live with it if it's due to racism rather than if it's stolen. If it's racism, I can say, "Okay, we lost, but at least it's a democracy. Sure, it's a democracy inhabited by a majority of disgusting, reprehensible turds, but at least it's a democracy." If he loses because it's stolen, that will be much worse. Call me crazy, but I'd rather live in a democratic racist country than a non-democratic non-racist one. (It's not exactly a Hobson's choice, but it's close, and I think Hobson would compliment me on how close I've actually come to giving him no choice. He'd love that!)

The one concession I've made to maintain some form of sanity is that I've taken to censoring my news, just like the old Soviet Union. The citizenry (me) only gets to read and listen to what I deem appropriate for its health and well-being. Sure, there are times when the system breaks down. Michele Bachmann got through my radar this week, right before bedtime. That's not supposed to happen. That was a lapse in security, and I've had to make some adjustments. The debates were particularly challenging for me to monitor. First I tried running in and out of the room so I would only hear my guy. This worked until I knocked over a tray of hors d'oeuvres. "Sit down or get out!" my host demanded. "Okay," I said, and took a seat, but I was more fidgety than a ten-year-old at temple. I just couldn't watch without saying anything, and my running commentary, which mostly consisted of "Shut up, you prick!" or "You're a fucking liar!!!" or "Go to hell, you cocksucker!" was way too distracting for the attendees, and finally I was asked to leave.

Assuming November 4th ever comes, my big decision won't be where I'll be watching the returns, but if I'll be watching. I believe I have big jinx potential and may have actually cost the Dems the last two elections. I know I've jinxed sporting events. When my teams are losing and I want them to make a comeback, all I have to do is leave the room. Works every time. So if I do watch, I'll do it alone. I can't subject other people to me in my current condition. I just don't like what I've turned into -- and frankly I wasn't that crazy about me even before the turn. This election is having the same effect on me as marijuana. All of my worst qualities have been exacerbated. I'm paranoid, obsessive, nervous, and totally mental. It's one long, intense, bad trip. I need to come down. Soon.

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Republicans Voting for Obama: In Their Own Words

There are a number of people in my life -- some family, some friends, some colleagues -- with whom I have never agreed upon anything political. Ever. These are my political opposites. My bizarre-o twins. And they have been my adversaries in countless debates; the kind nobody ever wins, but nobody ever seems to tire of, either.

Sadly, politics have become sort of a new sports league in modern culture. We don't really listen to each other's points of view so much as we pick a side and root for it. And just as with our favorite sports teams, our faith in our parties can become blind. I have had about as much success convincing my Republican father-in-law of my liberal points of view as I have had convincing my father, an Ohio State alumnus, to root for Michigan.

But over the last few months, something unprecedented has happened. Almost all these folks have told me that, for the first time ever, they are voting for the same candidate I am: Barack Obama.

Now, these are not casual conservatives. These are people who, each in their own way, are deeply committed to their conservative beliefs. For most, this will be the first time they have voted for a Democrat in their entire lives. And when taken as a whole, they represent a fair cross section of the Republican Party. Some younger, some older. Some fiscally driven, some culturally driven. But almost all, up until now, have been intractable. Yet here we all are, staring down the barrel of a remarkably nasty presidential election, all in a rare moment of agreement. I figured this simply could not be an anomaly. Perhaps this was a groundswell.

I started asking around and found a number of my liberal friends were having a similar experience. So we asked these folks if they would appear on camera and share with the world why they changed. It seemed to me that the most convincing argument a conservative on the fence could hear might not come from a liberal, or even from Obama himself, but instead, from one of their own; a conservative who had crossed over. So we turned on the camera, and they did the rest.

I fully expected the results to be compelling and convincing. And they are. What I didn't expect was the emotional wallop these unscripted interviews deliver. A combination of deep disillusionment with the last eight years, disappointment in John McCain's candidacy, and an undeniable draw to Obama brought these people to a political decision that was deeply personal and courageous. It became clear to me that these were more than interviews. These were confessions.

This is what democracy is supposed to be. These people actually listened, considered and were open to the possibility of change. They didn't support a candidate. They actually chose one. And while I'm happy this year they are voting for "my team," they also inspired me to be more open in my own political life.

I thought we were making an ad campaign about Obama. But I think we ended up making an ad campaign about the essential ingredient that makes democracy work: an open mind. We don't belong to our political parties. Our political parties belong to us.

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'Rednecks for Obama' defy conventional wisdom

Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer

Les Spencer is an atypical Barack Obama supporter. He's a redneck. His buddy Tony Viessman calls himself one, too. Without accessing their inner Jeff Foxworthy, they define redneck as hardworking guys who like to hunt, fish, and maybe pop a beer or two.

"I hunt squirrels, too," Spencer said, in between drags of bummed Pall Malls on Viessman's back porch. "And I like eating turtles."

Spencer and Viessman comprise the sum total of the Rolla, Mo.-born-and-bred "Rednecks for Obama." Unaffiliated with the Obama campaign, it's a home-grown shtick the two retirees invented to address what may be Obama's most serious challenge in becoming commander in chief: winning - or at least not totally losing - the "redneck" vote.

The two retirees have traveled on their own dime to all the debates and the Democratic National Convention to try to convince doubters that Obama is redneck-friendly. "This election is too important," Viessman said.

Obama's 'small-town' gaffe

Every voter worth his deer rifle remembers what Obama told attendees at a San Francisco fundraiser in April. He said small-town voters in Pennsylvania and elsewhere had become "bitter" over losing their jobs. That bitterness caused them to "cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people like them," he said.

Obama told the New York Times recently the statement was "my biggest boneheaded move" of the campaign, saying that he was "clumsily" trying to say the opposite: that since Democrats hadn't done a good job of reaching out to rural voters on cultural issues, they haven't been able to connect with them on economic ones.

Far more than his losing predecessors Al Gore and John Kerry, Obama has traveled to the reddest parts of states like Virginia, North Carolina and Missouri to try to connect. In 2004, George W. Bush won two-thirds of the vote in these rolling hills of Phelps County two hours southwest of St. Louis.

'Change is hard'

Viessman was so impressed that Obama was the first presidential candidate to visit Rolla since native Missourian Harry Truman that he made a 3-by-7-foot sign ("Cost me 25 bucks" he said) to welcome him to town.

But visits are only the start of a courtship. Viessman is more succinct in analyzing why fellow rednecks may not be flocking to Obama's campaign.

"Guns," he said. "And that he's black."

"We are just trying to tell people that you don't have to be afraid of Obama," said Spencer, who has done everything from working as a laborer to selling real estate. "He's not going to try to take away your guns, no matter what the NRA says."

"Sometimes change is hard for people," said Viessman, a retired highway patrol officer. "But I don't care if you're black or Oriental or green, if you can do the job. And he can do the job. He's pretty near the smartest guy who's ever run for president."

Cultural wedge issues

In 2004, author Thomas Frank wrote in his bestselling book "What's the Matter with Kansas?" that Republicans had convinced working-class whites to vote against their economic self-interest by appealing to them with cultural wedge issues like abortion, gay rights and gun laws.

Viessman's neo-redneck take on that: "My dad used to say, 'A poor man who votes for a Republican is a fool.' "

But McCain supporters say opposition to Obama goes deeper than race in rural Missouri.

"Race is absolutely an issue to some people, and that is unfortunate," said Missouri state Rep. Jason Brown, a Republican legislator from suburban Kansas City and a McCain supporter who was wounded while serving a tour of duty in Iraq during his legislative term. "But what people should be focusing on is that Barack is too liberal for many people in Missouri, particularly those outside the cities of St. Louis and Kansas City."

K.C. Morrison, a professor of political science at the University of Missouri, said Obama has copied the political playbook of his top Missouri surrogate, Sen. Claire McCaskill, in directly appealing to rural voters with economic and health care issues. Nearly 18 percent of the nation's rural residents didn't have health insurance in 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Economic focus

"While he can't take off the blackness when he goes into these areas, he has made an effort to moderate his views on issues like guns," said Morrison, who concentrates on racial politics. "He also makes a genuine effort to talk about economic issues. The pocketbook issues may cause them to listen to another message in this moment in time."

As for the impact of race in rural Missouri, "that is the great imponderable of this election," Morrison said. "It's unclear."

While "Rednecks for Obama" may have won the hearts - or at least piqued the interest - of the 1.2 million folks who have visited their Web site, rednecks4obama .com, in the six weeks since its launch, not all rednecks are fans.

"So what do (Rednecks for Obama) say a redneck is?" asked Matt Hinds, 27, who lives on the other side of Rolla. When told, he turned to his buddy Jason Boswell and said, "If that's what they say rednecks are, well, that sounds like you."

"You, too," Boswell, 28, said.

But these rednecks aren't Obama fans.

"I think he's a two-talker," said Boswell, who works at a local Wal-Mart. "He'll say something to you that you want to hear, then he'll turn around and say something different to somebody else."

Hard times

The past few months have been tough on both men. Hinds' three kids, playing on a tire swing in the side yard, don't have health care. Boswell, a father of two, worries about how price of groceries has gone up $50 every two weeks and how it now costs $40 more a week to fill his truck up with gas than it did a year ago.

Missouri polls say the economic downturn caused many in the state to support Obama a month ago, pulling him into a virtual tie with McCain. But not Boswell - he will vote for the Republican.

Hinds doesn't vote.

"It doesn't make any difference," Hinds said. "Politicians can say all that they want, but they never do anything that will help poor people."

E-mail Joe Garofoli at

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McCain Urged Reagan Admin To Meet Terror Groups Without Pre-Conditions

In 1987, John McCain cast several votes in an attempt to force the Reagan administration to meet with RENAMO1, a guerrilla organization in Mozambique that State Department officials at the time described as a "terrorist group," 2 without requiring that the group meet any preconditions.

McCain's support for RENAMO directly contradicts his attacks on opponent Barack Obama for having "worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers" and having "pledged to meet, without preconditions, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea." Senator Obama has made it clear that this policy does not extend to non-governmental organizations. In response to questions about the Palestinian militant group Hamas, Obama specified that "we should not be dealing with them until they ... renounce terrorism."

According to a Congressional Research Service report in 1988, the initially doctrinaire Marxist FRELIMO government of Mozambique began moving towards privatization and progress on human rights in the early 1980s, signing a non-aggression treaty with neighboring South Africa in 1984. Due to this progress, the Reagan administration provided the FRELIMO government with non-lethal military aid in their fight against RENAMO -- until Reagan was stymied by a 1985 Congressional prohibition . Reagan himself hosted FRELIMO leader and Mozambican President Samora Machel at the White House in September of 1985.

The Reagan administration's embrace of the nominally Marxist Mozambican government, even as it funded anti-communist resistance in Angola(UNITA), Afghanistan(the mujahideen) and most famously Nicaragua (the Contras), had a lot to do with the nature of the anti-communist resistance forces in Mozambique. At a June 1987 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Chester Crocker, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, testified that RENAMO was "created by the Rhodesian secret services in 1977" as a fake anti-communist black liberation movement, designed to "punish Mozambique for that country's assistance to the Zimbabwean liberation movements." After the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980, apartheid South Africa began sponsoring RENAMO, with their support becoming clandestine after the signing of the 1984 non-aggression treaty.

RENAMO's tactics combined those of the most brutal terrorist groups and regimes in recent history. While ostensibly opposing the FRELIMO government, their attacks focused mostly on civilians. During the 1980s, their actions ranged from attacks on buses3, trains4 and cars5 to kidnapping American and other foreign missionaries6. They "killed bedridden hospital patients and chanted political slogans while killing children" in July of 1987 in what was later found to be a typical attack on a village; an American aid worker witnessed these attacks and they were thus widely reported.7 RENAMO even accepted "compensations" from Moscow.8

However, since the group claimed to be "anti-communist," they had support from the far-right in the United States. The Heritage Foundation supplied office space to a RENAMO representative in Washington, and Grover Norquist of K Street Project fame lobbied for them and for the UNITA resistance group in Angola. The U.S. Council for World Freedom funded RENAMO (and other anti-communist organizations) directly between 1984 and 1986 while John McCain was on their advisory board. Though he claims to have left the organization in 1984, news articles from October of 1985 show that he attended a U.S. Council on World Freedom event honoring Wali Khan, an Islamic militant from Afghanistan, for his efforts in opposing the Soviet occupation.9 Moreover, two former council members do not recall him having ever resigned from the group. It is unclear whether or not McCain ever donated money to RENAMO via the U.S. Council for World Freedom, though he is on record as having donated to the Contras. The McCain campaign did not respond to a request for a list of anti-communist organizations to which he has donated.

These RENAMO-backing organizations had friends in high places. Senator Jesse Helms and a faction of conservative Senators (a similar faction existed in the House, led by Representative Dan Burton) also wanted to shift U.S. policy from the Reagan administration's position to the support of RENAMO. Helms and the conservatives decided to make their stand on the nomination of Melissa Wells to be ambassador to Mozambique. Their only problem with Melissa Wells was that she supported the Reagan administration policy of supporting the FRELIMO government and not recognizing the RENAMO terrorists. From a July 20, 1986, United Press International article by Jim Anderson:

After eight months of silence, the State Department came to the public defense Wednesday of Melissa Wells, a career foreign service officer whose confirmation as ambassador to Mozambique has been held up by Senate conservatives.

The conservatives, led by Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., made it clear in statements last week in the Senate that the nomination of Wells, who has been approved by the Foreign Relations Committee, is meant as an attack against the State Department and its policies in Africa.


Helms and the other conservatives attacked Wells because of her lack of support for Renamo, an insurgent group seeking to overthrow the central one-party government of Mozambique. Sen. Gordon Humphrey, R-N.C., described Renamo as ''freedom fighters trying to topple a communist regime.''

They initially failed to block Majority Leader Byrd's motion in May to proceed to the consideration of her nomination10 (McCain was absent for this vote). However, the threats of a filibuster allowed them to hold up further consideration of the nomination until September. During this time, the Reagan administration did not budge on its support for FRELIMO and opposition to recognizing and meeting with RENAMO. In fact, the administration's position was strengthened after the revelation of a RENAMO massacre of 408 people in the village of Homoine in July of 1987, witnessed by American citizen Mark van Koevering.

Despite this revelation, RENAMO retained support in the Senate when that body began consideration of the Wells nomination in September. In what Senator Alan Cranston referred to during debate on the nomination as "truly Orwellian fashion," conservative Senators claimed that the massacre was a set-up by the governing FRELIMO. Most Senators voted to confirm her, but John McCain was one of the 24 Senators who voted against cloture on her nomination and against confirming her as ambassador to Mozambique.11. Of the Republicans still in the Senate today, Richard Lugar, Pete Domenici and Arlen Specter voted for her nomination; Grassley, Bond, McCain, Hatch and McConnell voted against it; and Ted Stevens and John Warner missed the vote. A month after Wells was confirmed, Jesse Helms introduced an amendment to the State Department authorization bill that would have forced the Secretary of State to meet with RENAMO without requiring any pre-conditions12. Senator McCain opposed the motion by fellow Republican Senator John Danforth to kill the Helms amendment.

In April of 1988, the State Department released a report which "conservatively estimated that 100,000 civilians may have been murdered by RENAMO." At a United Nations event later that month, Roy A. Stacy, deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs, described RENAMO as guilty of "one of the most brutal holocausts against ordinary human beings since World War II." The report's release silenced Congressional RENAMO supporters.13

Notes and Sources:
1 RENAMO is the acronym in Portugese for the group's full name, the Mozambican National Resistance.
2 Friedland, Jonathan. "MOZAMBIQUE: THE MNR CONFUSES WASHINGTON." IPS-Inter Press Service. 30 October, 1986.
3 "Report: Rebels Kill 60 Bus Passengers." The Associated Press, 3 January, 1984 (the attack itself was on Christmas Day)
4 "Anti-Marxist Rebels Blow Up Passenger Train." The Associated Press. 9 February, 1984
5 "Rebels Claim Maputo Car Bomb, Battlefield Success." The Associated Press 22 April, 1986.
6 "Rebels kidnap seven whites from farm mission" United Press International 15 May, 1987.
7 Keys, Laurinda. "Survivors Say Attackers Killed Bedridden Hospital Patients, Children." The Associated Press 24 July, 1987.
8 "Rebels in Mozambique Free 12 Soviet Captives." The New York Times. 26 January, 1984: A10.
9 "Congressmen and Doctor Call for Increased Aid to Afghan Resistance" States News Service. October 15, 1985. Wali Khan was later killed by the pro-Soviet forces. He has no relation to the similarly-named Wali Khan Amin Shah, another Afghan guerrilla who later worked with WTC I mastermind Ramzi Yousef in a plot to bomb airplanes.
10 Byrd, D-W. Va., motion to proceed to the consideration of President Reagan's nomination of Melissa Wells of New York to be ambassador to the People's Republic of Mozambique. Motion agreed to 56-28: R 13-25; D43-3 (ND 31-0, SD 12-3), May 1, 1987
11Senate Roll Call votes 234 and 237, September 9, 1987.
12 S 1934. State Department Authorization, Fiscal 1988/Official Residence; Mozambique Policy. Danforth, R-Mo., motion to table (kill) the Helms, R-N.C., amendment to prohibit any expenditures related to the acquisition of a permanent residence for the secretary of state or any other Cabinet member. The tabling vote also had the effect of killing a Helms second-degree amendment aimed at forcing the secretary of state to consult with both sides in the civil war in Mozambique. Motion agreed to 61-34: R 21-24; D 40-10 (ND 27-5, SD 13-5), Oct. 6, 1987
13 Wayne, E.A. "Washington woos Marxist government of Mozambique." Christian Science Monitor. 16 August, 1988.

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