The Consortium Report
A project of The Media Consortium
 

All reports by addiestan


Toil and Trouble
McCain NewsLadder


by addiestan, The Media Consortium: Sat., Nov 1, 2008
Filed under: NewsLadderPresidential campaign 2008John McCainReligious rightEconomy

NOTE: After you click a link, click the title of the item to get the full text or video.

This week finds our war hero, on Old Hallow’s Eve, having finished yet another very difficult stretch of his presidential campaign, as it draws to a close. As if it wasn’t tough enough to find himself having to defend his home state of Arizona from that one’s blithely effortless incursion onto desert turf — never mind the continuing parade of defectors and detractors among high-powered Republicans — G.O.P. presidential nominee Sen. John McCain learned, via the press, that his senior advisers think his vice presidential pick, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a “diva” and “a wack job” who was bent not just on “going rogue,” but going even “more rogue” than her campaign has already gone. Which would be pretty far, since her remarks this week indicated that she may have already set her sights on 2012 presidential race, reportedly having written off the top-of-the-ticket’s chances in 2008.

Not just a river in Egypt

In a Halloween morning interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America”, McCain called his running mate, Sarah Palin, the new face of the G.O.P., adding, “She’s united the party.” Which left The Nation’s Ari Berman scratching his head:

Um, tell that to Colin Powell, Christopher Buckley or Ken Adelman, all lifelong Republicans who’ve cited the Palin pick as a chief reason they’ve endorsed Obama. Or to conservatives like David Brooks, David Frum, Kathleen Parker, Ross Douthat–all past or present McCain supporters–who’ve strongly criticized Palin.

Or, TAPPED’s Tim Fernholz reminds us, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, who served under Bush 41, — or former Reagan chief of staff, Ken Duberstein. Not to mention that hard-core conservative, Stephen Colbert.

All about her

Palin kicked up a bit of dust earlier this week when, in an interview with ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas, she challenged Vargas’ suggestion that she might want to go back to Alaska for good if McCain lost the presidential race to Barack Obama. “Absolutely not,” Palin replied. “I think that, if I were to give up and wave a white flag of surrender against some of the political shots that we’ve taken, that … that would … bring this whole … I’m not doin’ this for naught.”

Then CNN’s Dana Bash rather breathlessly reported that when she read Palin’s comments back to a senior McCain aide, the aide was “speechless.”

Coming on the heels of her rogue comments last weekend in Iowa, touting the beauties of ethanol — anathema to John McCain’s anti-earmark crusade but dear to the hearts of Iowans, who set the course in their caucuses for the presidential primaries to follow — it’s not surprising that Palin’s comments to Vargas were seen and evidence that she had thrown McCain under the wheels of the Hate Talk Express. Notes The Nation’s Ari Melber, in the third presidential debate, McCain condemned ethanol subsidies as market distorters, wagging his finger at Obama for supporting them. But by the time I caught up with Palin at a Halloween Day rally in York, Penn. (having hitched a ride with The American Prospect’s Sarah Posner), Palin was back on message. Asked if she was running for president in 2012, she responded to my shouted question by walking over to where I was standing behind a barricade, , saying, “I’ll be campaigning for John McCain’s re-election in 2012.”I’ll be campaigning for John McCain’s re-election in 2012.”

From Posner’s TAPPED report on the Halloween Day York, Penn., Sarah Palin rally.
photo (c) 2008 Sarah Posner

The Colorado Independent looked at what it calls the fight for the soul of the Republican Party, which many believe are evident in the fissures exposed by the Palin pick. Writes Jeff Bridges:

Palin’s popularity with [a conservative] group meeting in Virginia [the day after the election], though, does signal the strategy Republicans will likely pursue following what looks to be the second consecutive election with strong Democratic gains. The Politico story argues the party will not pursue a moderate agenda, but instead return to the core conservative values of “small government, a robust national security and unapologetic social conservatism.”

This could lead to a colossal struggle within the Republican Party between the moderate wing and conservatives. Tuesday the Colorado Independent broke a story on former Colorado Republican U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis’ blaming his party’s move to the right for their expected losses in November. “Most of the races we’ve lost in the last six years are two reasons: one, money, and two, the candidates we put up,” McInnis said. “Generally, people in Colorado don’t like somebody who’s radically to the right or radically to the left.”

While she has no doubt that conservatives are looking to their moment in 2012, The American Prospect’s Sarah Posner is less than certain that Sarah Palin will become the right’s standard bearer, at least within the G.O.P.’s ranks:

According to a recent Newsweek poll, only 20 percent of Republicans favored Palin as their party’s nominee in 2012, if McCain loses next week, with 35 percent favoring Romney and 26 percent favoring Huckabee. Among “traditional” (taxes, economy, national security) Republicans, Palin, and Huckabee’s numbers were worse (19 percent for Palin, 23 percent for Huckabee) than Romney’s (42 percent), but among what the poll termed “social issue” (abortion, immigration, guns, and “family values”) Republicans, Palin drew 23 percent, Romney 30 percent, and Huckabee 31 percent.

The invisible man in that poll is Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who next month is headlining the Iowa Family Policy Center’s big fundraising dinner, widely seen as his first step in building a base of religious-right support for the 2012 Iowa caucuses.

Along the campaign trail, however, Salon’s Rebecca Traister found conservative women entralled with Palin:

“I’m a strong woman, and I really relate to strong women,” explained 67-year-old Gloria Stere, who wore a bright blue Palin Power T-shirt. Stere said she had just retired from running her own sewing machine business, and though a “dyed-in-the-wool Republican,” she had considered — just thought about — voting for Hillary Clinton. But, she was quick to add, “Palin is the one that absolutely made my mind up about supporting John McCain. I took one look at her, heard her speak, and thought, ‘Oh my god,’ she is the one.”

Pro-American parts of the Constitution

In weeks past, Palin wowed politicos with her expansive view of the powers of the office of the vice presidency, as she contends it is laid out in the U.S. Constitution. This week saw another novel constitutional interpretation, this time of the First Amendment, whose 45 words guarantee freedom of speech, religion and peaceable assembly. In her complaint about media coverage of her remarks and campaign, Palin alleged that her First Amendment rights were being abridged, ostensibly by media criticism. At Salon’s War Room, Alex Koppelman reported Palin’s comments from a Friday morning radio interview:

“If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations,” Palin said, “then I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.”

In a commentary on his radio program, the Hightower Lowdown, Jim Hightower takes on Palin’s remarks about who lives in the “pro-American parts of America” and who doesn’t:

It hurts me deeply to say this, but here goes: I’m not a real American.

Oh, I’m proud to live in America and grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given in this great country. Also, I would probably seem pretty American to you: I was born and raised in Texas, I came up through public schools, I drive a made-in-America 1997 Ford, I own a modest house, I have a small business, I pay taxes and meet a payroll, I work hard, I’m a beer drinker, I love baseball… and so on.

But here’s where I fall down: I don’t live in a place that Sarah Palin likes.

Rachel Maddow, writing with Jill McDonnough for the Women’s Media Center, examines the provenance of some Palin’s remarks, in particular a quote from Ronald Reagan used by Palin in her debate with Democratic rival Sen. Joe Biden that turns out to have a purpose far less noble than its burnished glow might suggest:

“It was Ronald Reagan who said that freedom is always just one generation away from extinction. We don’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. We have to fight for it and protect it and then hand it to them, so that they shall do the same, or we’re going to find ourselves spending our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, about a time in America, back in the day, when men and women were free.”

…It could be talking about loose nukes, or civil liberties, or national defense or some competing ideology seeking global dominance. Except this was Reagan–so of course the creepy truth is that he was predicting what would happen if we got Medicare.

The issues

Like Ronald Reagan, John McCain is apparently no fan of Medicare, having concocted a health care plan the relies on cutting Medicare and Medicaid funding. According to the Economists’ Policy Group for Women’s Issues, he doesn’t do so well on other family-friendly and women-friendly policies either. Writes Amie Newman at RH Reality Check:

Today, the Economists’ Policy Group for Women’s Issues (EPGWI)…released a report card for each of the presidential candidates, evaluating them on ten key, critical areas of concern for women and with an overall grade of “D”, Senator McCain barely passed. Senator Obama received an overall grade of “B.”

Speaking of economists, you’d be hard-pressed, according to economist Matthew Rothschild, writing in The Progressive, to find one who thinks that McCain’s proposed capital gains tax cut is a good idea in this ailing economy. In fact, he says, it will as to the economy, for every dollar spent a mere 37 cents. Best returns on the dollar come from ideas McCain opposes or fails to consider:

Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com, has put out a chart showing that the biggest bang for the buck would be to boost food stamps. For every $1 the government spends on this, $1.73 returns to the economy as the benefits ripple through the economy.

Next best is extending unemployment benefits, which returns $1.64 for every dollar spent.

Next is spending on infrastructure, which returns $1.59.

And aid to states is right behind, returning $1.36.

But McCain is not advocating any of these.

AlterNet’s Joshua Holland finds irony in the McCain campaign’s description of Barack Obama as the candidate scarily seeking to redistribute wealth, when McCain’s redistributionist tendencies, as he sees it, are far more radical:

McCain … takes money from poor people and sends it upward.

[He] is a firm believer in a philosophy of governance that’s been responsible for the most dramatic redistribution of American income and wealth since the New Deal. For the past 30 years, the conservative movement has focused relentlessly on redistributing income, but always upward, toward the top. It’s a great irony of the 2008 campaign: Nobody is more dedicated to redistributing wealth than adherents of the ideology that McCain represents.

And yet, writes Mother Jones‘ David Corn, during the 2000 presidential campaign, it was McCain who was seen as the champion of regular people when it came to taxes:

[E]ight years ago, in January and February 2000, McCain was on the receiving end of similar criticism, as conservatives and Republicans accused him of engaging in class warfare by opposing tax breaks for the rich while advocating tax cuts for middle- and low-income Americans. That is, McCain was denounced in much the same way as he is now denouncing Obama.

The numbers

Polling numbers in what should be McCain strongholds continue to afflict him — like, for instance, his home state of Arizona. There, he’s resorting to a fear-mongering robo-call, writes Greg Sargent at TPM Election Central. Here’s part of the script:

If Democrats win full control of government, they will want to give civil rights to terrorists and talk unconditionally to dictators and state sponsors of terror. Barack Obama and his Democratic allies lack the experience and judgment to lead America. This call was paid for by the Republican National Committee and authorized by McCain-Palin 2008.

Ohio is also looking bad for McCain, though Democrats may which to touch wood before uttering those words, given the results of the 2004 election, in which the late polls — after reports of widespread voting irregularties — from Ohio ultimately gave the race to Bush.

The numbers are looking good, too, for Obama’s 30-minute advertisement, which ran on seven networks — including the broadcast networks CBS, NBC and FOX — on Wednesday. Writes Ernest Luning of the Colorado Independent, but McCain campaign officials were not amused:

One in five Denver households watching TV tuned in the half-hour Barack Obama campaign commercial broadcast Wednesday night on seven networks, according to overnight Nielsen ratings, slightly below the nationwide average…”As anyone who has bought anything from an infomercial knows, the sales-job is always better than the product,” McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said in a statement. “Buyer beware.”

As a sort of counterpoint, Air America Radio’s “Maron v. Seder” show offers a satire of what the writers read as the subtext of the McCain message, which they offer in the form of a mock ad.

And in the context of that subtext, there’s more bad news for McCain, according to Chris Rabb of Afro-Netizen: lots and lots of African-Americans are voting early:

Hat tip to the addictive FiveThirtyEight.com for numbers-jockeys, political addicts and graph-whores.

This graph shows how highly correlated early voting rates this year are tied to states with large populations of Blackfolk.

No doubt, the RNC and Fox News will contend that these aren’t genuine people, but fictitious voters brought to life by the magic ink of crafty ACORN workers.

The Vietnam legacy

Like John Kerry, John McCain intially wrapped his campaign around his personal story of heroism in the Vietnam war. Unlike John Kerry in 2004, John McCain has endured virtually no scrutiny of his personal account of his life in the military, and in Vietnam. While no credible critic contests the fact that McCain suffered terribly in his captivity at the hands of the North Vietnamese, official accounts of some of McCain’s military history differ from his own. Why, wonders historian Mary Hershberger at the Women’ Media Center, do most mainstream media shy from examining discrepancies in the McCain story, when they seemed all too eager to air the largely false claims of the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth:

McCain’s war record is a legitimate topic of investigation precisely because he cites it as evidence that he should be president, as proof that he is tested and ready to lead from day one. As such, it ought to be more thoroughly examined than anything else. The few investigations that have been carried out are not reassuring.

On the single issue of his plane crashes, for example, the Los Angeles Times has concluded that “though standards were looser and crashes more frequent in the 1960s, McCain’s record stands out.” A pilot whose performance included two plane crashes and a collision with power lines usually underwent official review to determine his fitness to fly. McCain refuses to allow his military records to be released so that the voting public can see whether his record matches his claims.

At AlterNet, Norman Stockwell examines the story of McCain’s plane crash in Hanoi — the one that landed him in captivity — and tracks down the tale of McCain’s rescuer, Mai Van On, with whom McCain was reunited in 1996, but who McCain failed to mention in his 1999 book, Faith of My Fathers. Mai Van On, Stockwell learned, not only pulled McCain out of the lake while the pilot was sinking to the bottom, but also intervened when the crowd on the shore began beating McCain, who was badly injured by his ejection from the plane.

One bright spot for McCain, writes Andrew Lam of New America Media, is the support McCain enjoys in the U.S. Vietnamese community:

If Ho Chi Minh, the father of Vietnamese communism, is idolized in Hanoi and hated in Little Saigon, Orange County, it is to be expected. Hanoi, the stronghold of the Vietnamese Communist Party, and Little Saigon, formed by those it forced into exile, have never seen eye to eye on any modern political figure or issue.

That is, until now. As the U.S. presidential election date draws near, both sides have suddenly found common ground and enthusiasm in one man: Sen. John McCain.

The 2008 National Asian American Survey recently found that among Asian groups, Vietnamese Americans are by far the most conservative: two out of three said they would vote for McCain.

[…]

In 2001 and 2004 [John Kerry and John McCain] collaborated to block the Vietnam Human Rights Act in the Senate, though in 2004 it passed 410-to-1 in the House. The bill, had it become law, would have tied U.S. humanitarian aid to Vietnam’s human rights record. For his efforts, John Kerry, who fought to defend South Vietnam from communism, became a hated man in Little Saigon, and they showed it in the 2004 election by voting overwhelmingly for Bush, who managed to avoid the Vietnam War by serving in the National Guard. Oddly enough, John McCain remained their hero.

Osama who?

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo had a warm and fuzzy feeling on Wednesday. He wrote: “My favorite campaign moment of the day: Wolf Blitzer asking Ed Rollins whether McCain needs an assist from Laden to win on Tuesday …”

At The American Prospect Online, Paul Waldman considers the likely result of just such an “assist”:

[T]he American people may just be getting the picture. The sight of Osama bin Laden could make them rush to George Bush’s arms four years ago, but would it have the same effect today? Would voters react to a new bin Laden tape — or even a terrorist attack — by saying, “We need someone who’ll get tough on terrorism”? Or might they say, “Why the hell haven’t we caught this guy yet? What are we doing wrong?”

More McCainiacs

Prof. Todd Gitlin of Columbia University recently encountered a media-neglected category of McCainiac: the occasional pro-Israel suburban Jew who’s convinced that Obama means death to Israel. Gitlin writes at TPM Cafe of his encounter with a McCain partisan during a talk the professor gave at at Temple Emmanuel in Great Neck, on Long Island:

During the Q-and-A, a man halfway back in the audience started shouting: “You have no business here! Shut up! Get out! Obama hates Israel! You hate Israel! You’re anti-American! You’re a Communist!” And so on. (I think there was something about terrorists, too, though I’m not sure, the acoustics not having been designed for enraged disruptions.) The shouter had to be, as they say, escorted away. Among the one-fifth or one-quarter of American Jews who’ll vote for McCain are a number — a small number, but small numbers make history — who have worked themselves into an apocalyptic furor. They know that the devil stalks the gate to the temple. This won’t be the first time that the prospect of a Democratic president drives their sort around the bend. They’ll be back.

According to Josh Marshall, a McCainiac mob appeared to be reading from a similar script, minus the stuff about Israel, when they surrounded two Obama supporters who entered a McCain rally wearing Obama tee shirts and holding Obama signs:

McCain mob surrounds two Cuban-American Obama supporters in Miami before police intervene to hustle the two away to safety. “People were screaming, ‘Terrorist!’ ‘Communist!’ ‘Socialist!’”, said Raul Sorando, [one] of the two Obama supporters. “I had a guy tell me he was gonna kill me.”

At an Obama rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, McCain supporter Charles David Ficken arrived with a 10-foot tall picture of Barack Obama in East African attire, shouting the United States doesn’t need a “Muslim-leaning” person for president, according to the American News Project’s Davin Hutchins, who has the video.

Speaking of McCainiacs and video, you won’t want to miss the latest music video, “Hounds,” from our own Max and the Marginalized.

Now, don’t forget to vote, y’all. And before you do, check out Yes! magazine’s Checklist for a Fair Election: 12 Ways to Safeguard Your Vote.

Adele M. Stan

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting
about John McCain. Visit JohnMcCain.NewsLadder.net
for a complete list of articles on McCain. And for the best progressive reporting on two
critical issues, check out Immigration.NewsLadder.net and Healthcare.NewsLadder.net.

JohnMcCain.NewsLadder.net is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder. Adele M. Stan is executive editor of The Media Consortium’s syndicated reporting project.

Palin Wows ‘Em in PA


by addiestan, The Media Consortium: Fri., Oct 31, 2008
Filed under: NewsLadderPresidential campaign 2008John McCain

cross posted from The Huffington Post

YORK, PENN.–It’s easy to make fun of a vice presidential candidate who can’t seem to tell you what periodicals she reads, what Supreme Court cases she disagrees with, or who thinks the First Amendment to the Constitution assures her the right to not be criticized. But today, after seeing Sarah Palin address a rally in famously conservative York, Pennsylvania, I’m not laughing.

Palin was completely impressive, even when calling Obama a socialist.

At the end of the event, she spent at least a half hour shaking hands, walking the rope line. I asked her whether she’d be running for president in 2012.

She smiled sweetly and said, “I’ll be campaigning for John McCain’s re-election in 2012.”

Real National Security Begins at Home, Say Women Leaders


by addiestan, The Media Consortium: Fri., Oct 24, 2008
Filed under: Live From Main StreetWar Making and Oversight

Has defense spending become the new patriotism? Even as homeland security funds dwindle, the Pentagon now sucks up 54 percent of the federal budget. Yet politicians rarely challenge the current formula, fearful of being tagged as “weak.” Meet the leaders who say it will take women to fix our nation’s defense priorities.

By Adele M. Stan
The Media Consortium

Times are tough. Wall Street has tumbled, and Main Street is squeezed. As housing values plummet and people lose income, governments are also feeling the pinch. Despite it all, there’s one area of the federal budget that continues to grow: defense spending.

A growing chorus of women leaders are rising in protest, seeking to educate voters on the perils of a dangerously unbalanced set of priorities. From spending cuts in state budgets in such bread-and-butter areas as public health and sheltering the homeless, to a dangerous underfunding of port security and an exodus of first responders to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, women are seeing the Pentagon’s growing share of the federal budget take a toll on the well-being of their own families. Yet an absence of women in the halls of power helps maintain the status quo, say activists, and a failure to enlist military women as allies in the cause of national security reform has held back the progressive funding agenda.

Women are paying attention to who’s getting federal dollars, says Celinda Lake, the Democratic pollster who leads Lake Research Associates. In focus groups, says Lake, “we do have women volunteering …that they wonder how we could find overnight all the money to fight a war and to bail out Wall Street, but we can’t find enough money to provide national health care reform. And there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence of that.”

Meanwhile, in Washington, a consensus is building among defense experts that something needs to be done to straighten out those priorities for the very sake of what all that spending is supposed to buy us: real national security. While tax dollars are poured into the pockets of defense contractors for projects of debatable value or documentable waste, homeland security budgets are starved, leaving the nation vulnerable in the face of attack. Yet defense spending sops up more than half of the federal discretionary budget.

What’s pie got to do with it?

At Women’s Action for New Directions, field director Bobbie Wrenn Banks has taken to the road with a victual demonstration of the classic pie chart that WAND calls the Great American Pie project.

“We actually use a pumpkin pie — literally, a pumpkin pie,” Banks explains. “And we go into groups and we slice the pie; it represents the discretionary budget.” The discretionary budget is the piece of the federal budget that gets negotiated between the president and Congress (unlike such programs as Social Security and Medicare, whose costs are mandatory expenditures). “And over half of that pie — 54 percent of that pie — that slice goes to the Pentagon,” says Banks. “Then we have very small little slivers of pie that go to environmental concerns, income security, affordable housing…” And that doesn’t even cover the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Banks says. Add in the nearly $200 billion that taxpayers have anted up for the wars in this year alone, and “we’re spending nearly $700 billion a year on the military,” she says.

Banks’ pie show is headed this week to Mississippi, where she’ll visit the district offices of Sen. Thad Cochran, the Republican ranking member of the appropriations committee.

Absent a pie-bearing visit from Banks herself, she advises women to take a look at an effort at reform outlined in the Unified Security Budget proposed by the left-leaning group, Foreign Policy in Focus (part of the Institute for Policy Studies), which looks at how the budget is divided among various security needs. “[W]hen you look at the overall security spending pie, it’s just so staggeringly lopsided, because 90 percent of our security money goes to the offense, with a 6 percent slice of that pie going to… homeland security, and only a 4 percent slice going to (conflict) prevention.” Prevention includes diplomacy, foreign assistance in the form of infrastructure-building, and activities such as those done by the Peace Corps.

States starved for security

As president of the Women Legislators’ Lobby, Nan Grogan Orrock, a state senator in Georgia, knows all too well how the dearth of homeland security funding plays out on the ground. “You’ve got an array of issues around homeland security, around the railroads, and the freight containers, you know, the ports and the whole baggage and cargo screening,” says Orrock. “They need another $ 1.25 billion just to meet what are considered appropriate standards for cargo and baggage screening.”

Earlier this year, 339 women state legislators signed WiLL’s letter [PDF file] to members of Congress, asking them not to increase the Pentagon’s budget. “At least 22 states in the country have budget gaps, and 29 states…have had to cut their budgets to try to balance them,” Orrock says. “We have seen cuts to rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters, cut anywhere from 38 to 42 percent of their state funding…and yet, under these Bush military budgets, we’re spending more than at any time on the military since World War II.”

But Lorelei Kelly, policy director for the White House Project’s Real Security Initiative and a member of the task force that put together the Unified Security Budget, cautions against riding roughshod on the military itself. “The first thing you shouldn’t say, always, is ‘Cut the military’s budget, cut the military’s budget,’” asserts Kelly, who co-authored, with Army Reserve Lt. Col. Dana Eyre, A Woman’s Guide to Talking About War and Peace [PDF file]. “Talk about the need for national security reform, and within that, that military’s budget has to change. And let’s not just go in with a bunch of hacksaws and blindly start whacking away at things.”

Members of the military, Kelly contends, can be progressives’ best allies when trying to enact reform. Too often, she says, progressives have lumped in with the institutional military everything bad about the military-industrial complex, alienating potential partners. Among the real culprits in the budget dilemma are the procurement process and the contracting out of work that used to be done by soldiers. “It’s appalling, the level of privatization that’s happened within the military budget, and of the service,” Kelly explains. “The institution itself has been very badly damaged in many ways.”

Service members, especially women, are often less than happy with the ways in which contracting and privatization affect their mission, and can be helpful to the cause of reform if asked the right questions in a respectful way, says Kelly. She notes a 2005 House hearing on possible exit strategies for the Iraq war at which former Air Force Under Secretary Antonia Chayse testified. In hearings convened by Sen. Byron Dorgan, chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee, Bunnatine Greenhouse, the highest-ranking civilian in the Army Corps of Engineers, blew the whistle on waste and fraud committed by contractors to the military in Iraq. In fact, if you scroll through the report issued by Dorgan’s committee, you’ll find that in the course of the last three years, many of the the whistleblowers on abuses by military contractors have been women.

Women could change the national security equation

One could argue that the lopsidedness in the federal budget that favors defense contractors exists in inverse relationship to the number of women in the halls of power. (Among the 188 countries listed in the International Parliamentary Union’s index of Women in National Parliaments, the U.S. ranks number 69 in its representation of women in the national legislature; Afghanistan’s rank is 27.) “While there’s nothing being biologically special about women being able to champion peace, I do believe that the life experiences and perspectives that women bring serve these issues well,” Banks says. When it comes to domestic spending, she says, women tend to lean to the progressive side.

Then there’s the matter of Iraq itself. “You have a pretty big gender gap on the war,” Lake explains, who co-authored, with Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, the book, What Women Really Want. “You have men thinking it was worth it to go in, women thinking it wasn’t — which is interesting, given that both men and women are against the war…”

In an August Lake Research Partners/Tarrance Group Battleground poll, likely voters were asked the question: “All in all, do you think the war in Iraq is worth fighting, or not?” Among men, 50 percent said the war was worth fighting, 45 percent said it was not. However, only 35 percent of women said it was worth fighting, while 57 percent said it was not — a double-digit spread on either side of the equation.

Even women in the military see the war differently from their male counterparts. As early as 2005, a poll by Military Times found that 63 percent of men among the active service members they surveyed “said they believe(d) the United States should have gone to war in Iraq, but only 42 percent of the women believe(d) that.” Less than half of the women service members said they approved of the way President Bush was “handling the war,” while 65 percent of the servicemen did.

If more women were in Congress, says Banks, you’d see a difference in the ordering of priorities. “Women in Congress vote more progressively on many issues,” Banks says. In the 109th Congress, WAND reports, women voted for progressive policies in 67 percent of those votes, compared to 48 percent for men. The votes WAND examined fell within the categories of national security, and legislation affecting children, women, and the environment.

Women are naturals at the sort of skills required to effect real security, Kelly asserts. In Afghanistan, the U.S. counterinsurgency plan calls for the creation of constituencies that have a stake in seeing democracy succeed, she explains. “Women are really good at creating stakeholder constituencies in the public,” Kelly says. “Doesn’t everybody know a woman who holds the neighborhood together? That’s a strategic security skill in today’s world.”

# # #

This article is part of The Media Consortium’s Live From Main Street series, and is published in conjunction with the next Live From Main Street program, “Beyond Hockey Moms and Palin Politics: Women on Real National Security.” Hosted by Laura Flanders of GRITtv, the town hall will feature a number of progressive women leaders, including Ports Commissioner Gael Tarleton; Erin Solaro, author of Women in the Line of Fire: What you should know about Women in the Military, Carol Kessler, director of Center for Global Security for Pacific Northwest National Lab and co-chair of Women in International Security; Rep. Maralyn Chase, Washington’s 32nd D;strict and Washington State director for the Women Legislators’ Lobby; Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director of Moms Rising; Rosalinda Guillen, co-founder and executive director, Community to Community Development; Martha Burk, author and money editor at Ms. magazine; Sarah Van Gelder, executive editor at Yes! magazine.

This edition of Live From Main Street will tape on Sunday, October 26, 2008, at 7:00 p.m. EDT/6:00 p.m. CDT/4:00 p.m. PDT in Seattle. The town hall will be streamed live and can be viewed at www.livefrommainstreet.org. The taping is open to the public: click here for more details; Click here to RSVP to this event.

McCain’s Kitchen Sink Strategy
McCain NewsLadder


by addiestan, The Media Consortium: Sat., Oct 18, 2008
Filed under: NewsLadderPresidential campaign 2008John McCain

With less than three weeks to go in the run-up to the presidential election, the McCain campaign, with help from the Republican National Committee, continued to keep its focus on attempts to discredit the Democratic contender, Sen. Barack Obama, more than on the policy goals of G.O.P. standard-bearer Sen. John McCain — or those of either man, for that matter.

In a week that featured RNC-sponsored robo-calls in battleground states alleging all manner of evil from the Democratic nominee, the McCain campaign, apparently with a little help from the Bush Justice Department, continued to demonize the non-profit, community-organizing group, ACORN, which conducts a large-scale voter registration program among low-income citizens. During Wednesday night’s debate, McCain sought to link Obama to ACORN, which he called a threat to “the fabric of our democracy.”

Meanwhile, many issues of interest to major constituencies — issues such as immigration, reproductive health and gender equity — went largely unaddressed. But first, a little levity.

When last we left you, gentle reader, our friend Ezra Klein, in summing up last Wednesday’s final presidential debate, had all but dared some enterprising videohead to do just what our colleagues at The Minnesota Independent have done.

Here’s Ezra:

Someone is going to create a vicious video of McCain’s eye roles, neck bulges, sighs, head tilts, death stares, and evident moments of gastrointestinal distress.

Well, perhaps not so vicious; more of a loving tribute: (video link) John McCain, Man of a Thousand Faces

Okay; enough fun. Now let’s take a look at these allegations against ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Among the many things that ACORN does (like organize the survivors of Hurricane Katrina to rebuild their neighborhoods), it registers voters from among the people it serves. It does this by hiring contract workers, a few of whom rip off ACORN by just filling in registration forms with fraudulent information. Many of these bad registrations are even caught by ACORN and flagged for the public officials who will evaluate them. (Some states require that once a registration form is filled out under a group’s aegis, it must be submitted to the state, even if it contains errors.)

These bad registrations form the basis of a widespread campaign to tar ACORN as an agent of voter fraud. Indeed, “ACORN” has become the routine response to documented concerns about voter disenfranchisement at the polls, as occurred in Ohio and elsewhere during presidential election night in 2004.

At Mother Jones, Jonathan Stein writes of one pre-debate salvo in the McCain camp’s war on ACORN:

At a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, the McCain campaign put the chairmen of its “Honest and Open Election Committee,” former Republican Senators John Danforth and Warren Rudman, front and center before the national media.

[…]

The Senators didn’t quite accuse Barack Obama of orchestrating massive voter fraud, but they came close.

The leadership of ACORN, Stein writes, requested a sit-down meeting with Danforth and Rudman, who had, at press time, not taken up the offer. Stein explains:

The McCain campaign has a political interest in declining the invitation. After all, why would it put to bed a controversy that has the ability to energize its base in the final weeks of the election?

McCain himself declared that “voter fraud” could lose him the battleground state of Florida. That’s one way to have blame placed and ready should he actually lose the state on the merits. (Don’t forget that Florida Gov. Charlie Crist seems quite disinterested in campaigning for McCain, telling reporters that he would do so if he has some extra time in his schedule.) Talking Points Memohas the video of McCain’s comments to a local Florida news station.

Last night came word of an F.B.I. investigation of ACORN’s activities, an investigation in which leader of the Obama campaign,according to Zachary Roth of TPM Muckraker, sees links to the U.S. Attorneys scandal that ultimately led to the resignation of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. And so does David Iglesias, one of the U.S. Attorneys fired during Gonzales’ tenure for refusing to pursue what he saw as baseless allegations against ACORN’s voter registration drive in New Mexico.

All of this makes even more delicious the find by our friends at Truthdig of a 2006 video of McCain addressing an ACORN-sponsored immigration rally in Miami (what state is that again?), at which he lauded the event as being what America is all about.

If the ACORN business doesn’t fulfill your need for distasteful campaign news, how ’bout the latest batch of robocalls from the Republican National Committee? Greg Sargent of TPM Election Central has the audio of a call recently blasted through landlines in North Carolina, a once-safe Republican state that is now in play. A female voice makes the long-ago-discredited accusation that Obama opposes providing medical care to fetuses that survive botched abortions. The call ends thusly:

Please vote — vote for the candidates who share our values. This call was paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee at 202 863 8500.

Other McCain/RNC robo-calls, Sargent reports, include:

* One that questions Obama’s patriotism by saying he put “Hollywood above America” during the financial crisis.

* One that says that Obama and Dems “aren’t who you think they are” and claims they merely “say” they want to keep us safe.

* One that attaches him to “domestic terrorist Bill Ayers,” whose group “killed Americans.”

McCain’s apparent scorched-earth approach to campaigning led Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wisc.), McCain’s colleague and co-sponsor of the famous campaign-finance legislation to tell The Nation’s John Nichols:

“It won’t seem credible for the John McCain I know to say his campaign should be respectful, while seeming to look the other way as his campaign employs certain tactics and rhetoric which apparently are intended to appeal to the fears of some Americans.”

New America Media’s Andrew Lam, author of Perfume Dreams, sees a parable for McCain in Shakespeare’s MacBeth:

In his desire to be king, Macbeth destroyed the kingdom itself and brought chaos to the moral order. So obsessed is he with his vision to be king, he compromised all that was good about him.

The parallels with senator McCain are striking. Descendant of Navy admirals, and a war hero, his presidential campaign, unlike any in recent memory, has gone over to the dark side by stoking the fire of racism. With ads calling Senator Obama “Dangerous” and “dishonorable” while Sarah Palin, his running mate, went on the offensive, with phrases like, “This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America,” and “palling around with terrorists,” the once veiled racism became overt. As Lady Macbeth, she is full of glee and smiles as she goes about her task of character assassination.

As his campaign has stoked the passions of fearful voters with such attacks on Obama, McCain has been called to account for some of the more unsavory characters that he and his running-mate, Sarah Palin, have trafficked with. According to Max Blumenthal, blogging for The Nation, the McCain campaign “went into full damage control” when David Neiwert, Blumenthal’s co-author on a Salon piece (we reported it in last week’s column), appeared on “CNN Newsroom” to discuss Sarah Palin’s associations with two Alaska secessionists, one who claimed to have enough weaponry in his basement “to raise an army.”

According to Blumenthal, the McCain campaign issued a statement during Niewert’s appearance that read, “CNN is furthering a smear with this report, no different than if your network ran a piece questioning Senator Obama’s religion.” To which Blumental retorts:

By referring to Obama’s “religion,” the McCain-Palin campaign, obviously attempted to provoke the most inflammatory charge leveled against Obama’s character: What religion is he? Is he a crypto-Muslim?The McCain campaign also asserted an equivalency between Obama’s religion and Palin’s political ties to a far right group.

When McCain returned on Thursday to the “Late Show with David Letterman”, he probably didn’t expect an easy time of it. But neither did he likely expect to have to defend his association with and embrace of G. Gordon Liddy, “the “mastermind behind the Watergate burglary,” according to Salon’s Alex Koppelman, who recounts McCain’s Letterman appearance.

Indeed legendary Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein wrote that in 1998, Liddy, who Bernstein says, at one time planned “to firebomb a Washington think tank and assassinate a prominent journalist”, gave a fundraiser in his Arizona home for McCain’s senatorial campaign, and that McCain lauded Liddy during a 2007 appearance on Liddy’s radio show.

At the Washington Monthly’s Political Animal, Steve Benen highlighted the revelation by Murray Waas that “William Timmons, the Washington lobbyist who John McCain has named to head his presidential transition team, aided an influence effort on behalf of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to ease international sanctions against his regime.”

While many commentators have seen the tactics of the McCain campaign as a reflection of its flagging poll numbers, one potential bright spot appeared this week. Among Asian voters, a group that may prove to be key in this election cycle, 34 percent remain undecided, according the National Asian American Survey. While Obama clearly led McCain, with 43 percent to McCain’s 22, the high numbers of undecided could swing McCain’s way, according to Nguoi-Viet.com, via New America Media.

Perhaps that large number of Asian undecideds has something to do with absence of talk about issues that enthuse them. For instance, reports Jonathan Adams of ColorLines‘ RaceWire, neither McCain nor Obama has had much to say about immigration:

Because of the economy, neither candidate wants to be the one to bring up the issue. Immigrants aren’t coming to the United States as quickly now–historically, this is typical during bad economic times–but the next administration has to come up with a plan to deal with the inevitability of immigration.

Women, too, aren’t hearing much on their issues. Peggy Simpson of Women’s Media Center reports that Lifetime TV is pursuing to the wire a live candidates’ forum on issues important to women. Apparently the McCain camp balked at one proposal because the leaders of several of the women’s groups involved were pro-Obama:

Talks with the campaigns for a more extended forum on women’s issues have gone on since early July. CNN had been brought in as a probable sponsor as well–and CNN then objected to the direct sponsorship by the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) because some of its members had backed Obama.

NCWO’s Kim Otis said only five of the 240 groups had endorsed Obama but they did include some of the heavyweights such as the National Organization for Women. And the candidates had both appeared at African-American and Hispanic forums that included individuals who backed Obama.

On the eve of Wednesday’s debate, a person close to the Lifetime-campaign talks said “they’re still continuing.”

In the meantime, AlterNet has done the service of putting togther a compare-and-contrast accounting of the candidates’ positions on reproductive justice and gender issues. (Another AlterNet guide details “The 10 Biggest Differences Between Obama and McCain That Will Affect Your Daily Life.”)

While some predict that the rash of anti-gay-marriage ballot measures afflicting the presidential campaign may play well for McCain, not everybody agrees, reports Mother Jones‘ Josh Harkinson:

The tacit support for gays by prominent Republicans such as [Florida governor Charlie] Crist and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger plus the recent defeat of anti-gay-marriage amendments in Iowa and Indiana suggest that opposition to gay marriage may no longer be a slam dunk for the GOP.

Speaking for another core constituency, veteran investigative journalist James Ridgeway cautions liberals against being too nasty about McCain’s age. Writes Ridgeway:

Every year, despite their purported senility and decrepitude, elderly people like myself somehow manage to hobble to the polls with their canes and walkers, or zip down in their golf carts or aging Cadillacs, and figure out which lever to pull or which little box to fill in.

Another 17 days — not that I’m counting, or anything.

Adele M. Stan

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting
about John McCain. Visit JohnMcCain.NewsLadder.net
for a complete list of articles on McCain. And for the best progressive reporting on two
critical issues, check out Immigration.NewsLadder.net and Healthcare.NewsLadder.net.

JohnMcCain.NewsLadder.net is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder. Adele M. Stan is executive editor of The Media Consortium’s syndicated reporting project.

Debate: Mr. Hothead, Meet Mr. Cool
McCain NewsLadder


by addiestan, The Media Consortium: Thu., Oct 16, 2008
Filed under: NewsLadderPresidential campaign 2008John McCain

Special Debate Edition
In the much-anticipated final presidential debate of the 2008 campaign season, the man who landed the greatest number of punches, say the commentators, ultimately lost the debate. Despite the invocation of a terrorist, it was a plumber who may have been McCain’s undoing. Salon’s Joan Walsh explains it this way:

John McCain promised to kick Barack Obama’s “you know what” on Wednesday night. He hinted that he’d bring up former Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers and worse. Instead McCain bludgeoned Obama with Joe the Plumber, and the effect was more farce than fierce.

Indeed, one Joe the Plumber, “an apparently wealthy Toledo businessman who complained he’d pay more taxes under Obama’s plan,” according to Walsh, was cited repeatedly by McCain as the kind of regular guy who would suffer under several Obama proposals, ranging from income tax to health care. In fact, it was later discovered, Joe would only pay higher income taxes under Obama’s if he netted $250,000 for himself, and would only incur a fine under Obama’s health care plan if he was a large employer who refused to make “a meaningful contribution” to his employees’ health care coverage.

But McCain just couldn’t let go of Joe — and then Obama got in on the act.

Live-blogging for Mother Jones, Johnathan Stein and Nick Baumann, initially began counting the JTP references, but by the half-hour mark, simply offered up this:

10:01: Joe the plumber Joe the plumber Joe the plumber Joe the plumber Joe the plumber Joe the plumber Joe the plumber Joe the plumber Joe the plumber.

10:05: Do you think Sen. McCain’s advisers told him to speak directly to the American people, and McCain thought they said he should talk directly to an American person? Thus the to-the-camera addressing of JTP?

[…]

10:15: Turns out, the plumbers were the first union to endorse Obama…

“Barack Obama is the choice of the UA because he has always fought for working people throughout his career and will do the best job of bringing badly-needed change to Washington. Obama will help us keep existing jobs and work to develop new, higher paying jobs here in America, reform our health care system, fix our ailing schools and make sure that the pensions of our retirees are safe.”

All this Joe stuff from MoJo’s liveblogging boy team clearly irritated the magazine’s live-Tweeting girl team of Laura McClure and Elizabeth Gettelman, who said via Twitter, in essence, enough about Joe; what about the much more accomplished Josephine the Plumber?

The plumbing of the depths of inanity rather than economy led The American Prospect’s Dana Goldstein to sum up the debate this way on TAPPED:

Thank God these horse-and-pony shows are done with, truly. “Joe the Plumber,” if you exist, bless your heart, but I’ve never experienced a more irritating gimmick than your insertion into this debate. The economic crisis? It has been boiled down by moderator after moderator this season into a contest on which candidate is the more convincing budget hawk. But has anyone ever heard of Keynes or FDR? Infrastructure and social spending is what will create jobs in a recession. Unfortunately, the lessons of history have never been major topics in these debates.

Greg Sargent of TPM Election Central puts it this way:

[C]onsider McCain’s frequent evocation of Joe The Plumber. This attack from McCain was clearly labored over heavily by his aides. But it fell flat for a very simple reason: It didn’t change the basic underlying policy disagreements between the two men. It didn’t change the fact that people agree with Obama’s solutions to our economic crisis, and reject McCain’s ideas. In the face of that overwhelming reality, the constant evocation of Joe The Plumber just came across like a stunt.

Of course, Joe is not the man we came poised to hear about. After weeks and months of accusations about the alleged role of a former member of the Weather Underground in Obama’s career, we sat ready to hear the name “William Ayers” fall from McCain’s lips. In the first two debates, McCain failed to utter Ayers’ name, instead allowing his running-mate to invoke it on the campaign trail, alleging that Barack Obama was “palling around with terrorists”. (And do note the plural.) Obama, before this debate, threw down, daring McCain to raise the issue “to my face.” And so McCain did. David Corn of Mother Jones recounts:

Prior to the debate, there was much chatter about whether McCain would play the Ayers card. Judging from video of his recent rallies, it appeared that his base was demanding blood on this front. But polls indicated that these sorts of attacks have been hurting McCain with in-the-middle voters. So he faced a tough decision: ignore Ayers and upset the diehards or accuse Obama of being a pal of a domestic terrorist and alienate the indies.

McCain and his strategists came up with a hybrid approach: take a shot on the Ayers front and combine it with a traditional political assault. “I don’t care about an old washed-up terrorist,” McCain huffed, but then he went on to say, “we need to know the full extent of that relationship.” Huh? If you don’t care about Ayers, why do you care about the relationship?

In The Washington Independent, Ari Melber, blogging at the debate site at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., says:

Asked about his running mate’s false charge that Obama “palled around with terrorists,” McCain offered an indignant non-sequitur. He demanded that Obama condemn Rep. John Lewis’s criticism of incendiary rhetoric at GOP rallies, which McCain said was unfair because it likened his campaign to America’s segregation era. “That, to me, was so hurtful,” he intoned. Yet within minutes, McCain busied himself with the guilt-by-association attacks.

Another line of attack pursued by McCain was his attempt to link Obama directly to ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. As progressives have redoubled efforts to prevent the sort of voter disenfranchisement seen in Ohio and elsewhere during the 2004 presidential election, Republicans have focused on the voter registration efforts of ACORN, which is active in communities of color. An acknowledged lack of quality control has led to false registrations filed in some states, usually at the hands of subcontractors who defrauded ACORN itself. When McCain raised the issue, Obama dismissed it rather handily. But on another question, Obama coyly challenged the ACORN and Ayers narratives by going after FOX News. As Ari Melber, writing on this aspect for The Nation reports:

Standing beneath a dark blue campaign sign in the “spin room” at the Hofstra gym, Obama communications director Dan Pfeifer said the campaign had determined that Fox was a “powerful infrastructure whose goal is to drive a cultural schism in America.” Pointing to the channel’s “calculated” efforts to “push issues like ACORN and Bill Ayers,” Pfeifer said the campaign will confront “anyone who seeks to advance a false argument about Obama.” Some reporters at Fox are “fair and admirable,” he added, but “they’re the exception rather than the rule.”

Despite all the drama in McCain’s attempts to paint Obama as a less than savory character, McCain’s real undoing likely came on a subject that has plagued nearly every American politician for more than 25 years — abortion. To please his base, McCain said he would appoint “strict constructionists” to the Supreme Court. Then, apparently to please independent voters, he offered a disquisition on how he would adhere to no “litmus test” in appointing justices. Pretty likely to tick off the base. Then came his sneering comment about provisions for the health of a pregnant women in abortion law. AlterNet’s Don Hazen describes the moment:

Late in the debate was the clincher for McCain’s demise. McCain lost it the most when discussing abortion, putting air quotes around “health of the woman,” belittling women’s health concerns as if it were a political slogan, This stage of the debate was infuriating, and will be remembered by millions of women. The notion that many women thought McCain to be pro-choice, is now ancient history.

At RH Reality Check, Emily Douglas gives us the McCain quote (remember the air quotes around “health of the mother”) and explains:

McCAIN: Just again, the example of the eloquence of Senator Obama. He’s for the health of the mother. You know, that’s been stretched by the pro-abortion movement in America to mean almost anything.

The health exception [to late-term abortion bans] allows women who are physically or mentally compromised by pregnancy to protect themselves by terminating. This means “almost anything?” This is “extreme?” Since when does ensuring protection of the health of women — many of them mothers - when discussing abortion access become something to challenge or argue against? It’s a testament to the anti-choice movement that their positions are so extreme and punitive that they need to resort to attacking women.

At the night’s end, though, it seemed that McCain was undone more by his affect and temperament than any one thing he said. As The American Prospect’s Ezra Klein cracked wise in his live blog:

10:04: Someone is going to create a vicious video of McCain’s eye roles, neck bulges, sighs, head tilts, death stares, and evident moments of gastrointestinal distress.

The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel adds, “[B]y halftime, punditocrats brayed in virtual unison, it seemed as if McCain needed anger management therapy.”

Laura Rozen of War and Piece is more compassionate:

[O]ne can increasingly foresee McCain as a somewhat tragic figure, likely to be defeated in a way by his own party and the pressures to be his party’s candidate and run his party’s type of divisive, smear-filled, non-issue based negative campaign, against perhaps some of his own inclinations. McCain really comes across as increasingly embittered.

Despite the growing consensus that last night’s debate was a win for Obama, The Progressive’s Ruth Conniff isn’t about to hedge her bets. Live-blogging, she put it like this:

Obama: the biggest risk we could take right now is to adopt the same failed polices and the same failed politics we’ve seen over the last eight years and somehow expect a different result.

But the American voter just might fit this definition of insanity.

Or maybe not.

Obama didn’t play to his base. He remained unfazed when McCain took rhetorical shots, and delivered a performance that was so reserved as to be a bit of a snooze, thus shoring up the doubts his campaign has planted about his opponent’s temper. However dull it looked on screen, Obama’s performance in this final debate may be remembered as quite masterful.

Adele M. Stan

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting
about John McCain. Visit JohnMcCain.NewsLadder.net
for a complete list of articles on McCain. And for the best progressive reporting on two
critical issues, check out Immigration.NewsLadder.net and Healthcare.NewsLadder.net.

JohnMcCain.NewsLadder.net is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder. Adele M. Stan is executive editor of The Media Consortium’s syndicated reporting project.

Cranking Up the Slime Machine
McCain NewsLadder


by addiestan, The Media Consortium: Sat., Oct 11, 2008
Filed under: NewsLadderPresidential campaign 2008John McCain

Just days before the second face-to-face, nationally televised meeting of presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain came a torrent of accusations and innuendo against Obama, the Democrat, by McCain, the Republican, and his GOP surrogates — especially his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. By week’s end, Palin would be standing with egg on her face, chided by the Alaska state legislature for abuse of power in violation of the state Ethics Act., and revealed to have relationships with a couple of anti-government (as in anti-United States Government) types in her home state.

Before the week officially began, accusations against Obama that had months earlier failed to make a splash were urgently regurgitated by McCain and Palin — most especially an inference that Obama’s acquaintance with a Chicago figure who was active in the Weather Underground in the 1960s proves a disregard for his own country by the Democratic candidate.

As the McCain campaign tried to link Obama to former Weatherman William Ayers, respectable news organizations, Truthdig reports, questioned the claims as racially charged and misleading:

“Americans need to ask themselves if they’ve ever befriended an unrepentant terrorist,” says McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds. The AP called similar remarks by running mate Sarah Palin “racially tinged” and Time said the claim was “simply wrong,” but the McCain campaign shows no signs of backing down from its new strategy.

Though the campaign — especially Palin — pushed the theme throughout the week, it was mysteriously absent from Tuesday’s town hall meeting in Nashville, leading Obama himself to throw down with a dare to McCain during an interview with ABC’s Charlie Gibson, stating that if McCain had an accusation to make, he should make it when they’re both in the same place. “…I guess we’ve got one last debate,” Obama told Gibson. “So presumably, if he ends up feeling that he needs to, he will raise it during the debate.”

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly’s Political Animal put it this way:

One almost gets the sense that Barack Obama wants John McCain to confront him directly with some of these guilt-by-association attacks…He’s practically questioning McCain’s fortitude, calling him out for using sleazy tactics behind Obama’s back, but not to his face.

That didn’t stop the McCain camp from putting out another ad that leads with Ayers, and somehow mixes in the subprime mortgage meltown, somehow trying to lay that mess of deregulatory debauchery at Obama’s feet. Salon’s Alex Koppelman reports that the ad is lated to run “nationally”. [Video included at link.]

But it won’t work, says Republican strategist Ed Rollins, who engineered Ronald Reagan’s1984 victory. He’s a guy who knows from landslides (Reagan in ‘84 won every state except Minnesota and the District of Columbia), and he’s predicting one for Obama. Writes Ari Melber at The Nation:

So it means something when an old hand like Ed Rollins unloads on John McCain, as he just did, declaring that the race is over, “no one cares” about McCain’s Ayers attacks, and the GOP nominee must think about the fundamental question, “how do you want to end your career?”

As mentioned, on the stump, the purveyor of the Ayers smear is none other than Sarah Palin, who appears to have some pretty interesting friends of her own, according to Max Blumenthal and David Neiwert writing at Salon. Take, for example, a guy called “Black Helicopter Steve” Stoll, “a John Birch Society activist,” according to Blumenthal and Neiwert, whom Palin tried to appoint to a vacant city council seat in Wasilla. Or Mark Chryson, the former chairman of the the secessionist, who showed the reporters the 9-millimeter Makarov PM pistol he keeps in the glove compartment of his truck, adding, “I’ve got enough weaponry to raise a small army in my basement.” Todd Palin belonged to the Alaska independence Party for seven years.

If that’s not enough to give one pause about the company Palin keeps, check out Michelle Goldberg’s piece in The Nation about the churches Palin attends, and their political pull.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that local churches like the Wasilla Assembly of God, which Palin grew up attending, became aggressively political. A few years before Palin became mayor, a group of preachers confronted the school board with questions about social issues that had never before surfaced in local politics, according to O’Hara, who wrote first for the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman and then for the Anchorage Daily News. “They started asking me, ‘Would you allow a homosexual to teach in schools?’ and ‘Do you favor abortion?’” she said. “At the time, I didn’t know what was coming. I said, ‘This is not a school board issue. We have overcrowding. We have funding problems.’” The last time O’Hara ran, conservative pastors mounted an effort to defeat her, saying she favored hiring homosexuals, but they failed. Nevertheless, in 1996, feeling increasingly alienated in a place she’d lived for twenty-five years, she quit the school board and moved to more liberal Anchorage.

The Obama campaign sought to offset McCain’s Project Ayers by reminding voters of the Republican’s very real links to Charles Keating, one of the key players in the collapse of many “savings & loan” lending institutions in the 1980s.

The Nation’s Ari Berman brought readers’ attention to a “breathtaking 1990 exposé” written for his magazine by Robert Sherrill, in which McCain’s role is featured. Berman links the McCain of the S&L scandal to the part he says McCain played in the current economic crisis:

A constant in both crises is John McCain. McCain and four other senators (dubbed the Keating Five) intervened to protect Keating from banking regulators. McCain was later rebuked by the Senate Ethics Committee for “poor judgment” and embarrassed by the $112,000 in campaign contributions, trips and gifts he had accepted from Keating. Cindy McCain and her father were also partners with Keating in a shopping mall development in Arizona. In his autobiography, McCain called the Keating episode “the worst mistake of my life.”

McCain eventually became a born-again crusader for campaign-finance reform. But he continued to surround himself with corporate lobbyists and push for greater deregulation of the finance industry, missing the greatest lesson from Sherrill’s story: “thievery is what unregulated capitalism is all about.”

Dan Schulman of Mother Jones looked at the two organizations to which McCain directed one of his questioners at Tuesday’s town hall forum with Obama. Theresa Finch asked the candidates, “”How can we trust either of you with our money when both parties got us into this global economic crisis?”

It’s not surprising that McCain directed Finch to Citizens Against Government Waste or the National Taxpayers Union. Both anti-spending organizations are ideologically aligned with the Arizona Senator and have ties to his presidential campaign….

CAGW…gives McCain its highest marks–100 percent–in its latest report, though Finch and other voters may want to consider the source before placing stock in the nonprofit’s congressional scorecard. CAGW was one of five nonprofits accused by Senate investigators of “laundering payments and then disbursing funds” at the direction of Jack Abramoff. Earlier this year the Washington Post reported that CAGW was actively helping McCain.

Ezra Klein of The American Prospect noted the concurrence of a drop in McCain’s poll numbers and the Dow Jones, treating readers to a chart from The State of the Union. Klein writes:

It’s a useful reminder that elections are heavily structural. McCain’s problems are, in large part, the product of actual world events that don’t favor Republicans. They’re not the result of some awesome new Obama ads, or Palin, or even McCain’s erratic and odd campaign style.

And it’s not just presidential candidates who are powerless over the whims of the moneymen, according to one author; presidents themselves fare little better. At The Real News Network, author and former CIA consultant Chalmers Johnson told Paul Jay that he’s skeptical about the claim to real power that any president has over the conduct of the US on the world stage. Johnson went on to critique the visions and advisory teams being unveiled by both Obama and McCain.

Speaking of the world stage, David Corn of Mother Jones examined Palin’s claim to have conducted trade missions with Russia and meetings with representatives of foreign governments. Writes Corn:

But the calendars tracking Palin’s official meetings during her tenure as governor contain not one listing indicating she ever met with a Russian official. In fact, the 562 pages of her daily schedules–obtained by Mother Jones under Alaska’s Open Records Act–indicate that Palin had few meetings at all with any foreign representatives and rarely dealt with any topic related to foreign policy. The schedules include about 20 meetings, events, or phone calls in which Palin interacted with foreign officials.

Then, of course, there’s Troopergate, in which the McCain running made stands accused of using the power of her office of governor to retaliate against a public servant who refused to fire somebody with whom she had a few issues. Writing from Anchorage for The Washington Independent, Laura McGann explained on Friday:

A report released today finds that as Alaska governor, Sarah Palin “abused her power,” a specific violation of state law.

Palin was accused of firing the head of the Alaska safety commission, Walt Monegan, for not intervening in what amounted to a personal family feud. Evidence in the report suggests that Palin and her husband, Todd, pressured Monegan to fire their former brother-in-law, the state trooper Mike Wooten.

As if the week’s relations weren’t enough bad news for Camp McCain, the week ended with word that Christopher Buckley, the conservative son of William F. Buckley, founder of the modern conservative movement, has endorsed Barack Obama, prompting Kevin Drum to write at Mother Jones:

The modern GOP is the party of Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Karl Rove, George Bush, Dick Cheney, John McCain, and Sarah Palin. It’s not just off the rails. It doesn’t even know where the rails are anymore.

Adele M. Stan

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting
about John McCain. Visit JohnMcCain.NewsLadder.net
for a complete list of articles on McCain. And for the best progressive reporting on two
critical issues, check out Immigration.NewsLadder.net and Healthcare.NewsLadder.net.

JohnMcCain.NewsLadder.net is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder. Adele M. Stan is executive editor of The Media Consortium’s syndicated reporting project.

McCain Fails to Vanquish “That One”
McCain NewsLadder


by addiestan, The Media Consortium: Wed., Oct 8, 2008
Filed under: NewsLadderPresidential campaign 2008John McCain

Special Debate Edition

In a forum on a college stage in Nashville, Tenn., Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain faced off for a second time before the television cameras, fielding questions on the economy, energy and foreign policy from an audience selected largely for its members’ self-description as “undecided voters.”

The discussion included plenty of policy, but will likely be more remembered for a moment when McCain pointed his finger at Obama than for anything either man said.

You said you wanted substance in the presidential campaign? If you watched last night’s “town hall” or debate or whatever it was, you surely got some, though not in a particularly energizing setting. As Liliana Segura, writing for AlterNet, sees it:

The first problem with this debate was calling it a debate. The second was calling it a “town hall.” In the strange, stilted ritual atop the red carpet at Nashville’s Belmont University, the studio audience looked less like an inquisitive cross-section of the American public than it did a cast of apolitical drones programmed to deliver canned questions in exchange for canned lines.

David Corn of Mother Jones described it this way:

For an evening billed as The Night McCain Attacks, Obama landed as many blows as did McCain. Neither took any wild swings. But Obama, leading in the polls nationally and within swing states, didn’t have to. He is going smooth and steady. He was practically cruising in this debate–slow and calm. He exuded confidence. McCain was no slouch. He just couldn’t overcome a high-performing foe.

Okay, but who won? Not surprisingly, perhaps, writers for progressive news outlets saw Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, as the clear winner. But so did a CBS poll. And a CNN poll. As Laura Rozen of War and Piece explains, “CBS poll of 500 uncommitted voters: 40% said Obama won, 26% said McCain, 34% thought it was a draw…A CNN debate poll found 54% said Obama did the best job, 30% said McCain did.”

By significant margins, respondents to the CNN poll found Obama to be more likable (65 percent to 28 percent for McCain) and more intelligent (57 percent to McCain’s 25 percent).

That likability thing: Perhaps that’s where that finger-pointing moment comes into play. While making an accusation about Obama’s voting record on the controversial Bush energy bill, McCain asked, rhetorically, ” You know who voted for it? You might never know.” He pointed he finger at Obama and, answering his own question, said, “That one.”

Sure got my attention. In one fell swoop, McCain not only pointed his finger angrily at his opponent, but chose to refer to a black man in a way that omitted any reference to his humanity. Even if that was not his intention, it was not a particularly deft move.

The general sense around the progressive blogosphere was that the “That one” comment wasn’t coming from a racist place. Ezra Klein, writing at his blog on The American Prospect site, called it “tone deaf”. “It’s Grandpa Simpson,” Klein writes. Mother Jones‘ Jonathan Stein heard a certain derision that was not race-based, in his view: “I, for one, read no racism into the comment. Condescension, yes. Racism, no.”

Though not seeing racism in the swipe, The Nation’s John Nichols did see it as a deliberate word choice:

Understand what the Republican nominee was doing.

He did not slip up.

The McCain campaign and its media acolytes have for weeks been spinning the notion that Obama is running as some sort of messianic character who sees himself in something akin to Biblical terms.

In internet advertisements, campaign spin and talk-show commentary, Obama is mocked as “the one.”

A McCain Web commercial from earlier this year compared Obama with the Nazarene. That ad opened with the announcer declaring, “It shall be known that in 2008 the world will be blessed. They will call him ‘The One.’”

The ad proceeds to ridicule Obama’s high-minded rhetoric before closing with the narrator telling Americans: “Barack Obama may be ‘The One.’ But is he ready to lead?”

But is McCain’s tone-deafness in racially sensitive situations indicative of a lack of understanding of our increasingly diverse culture? Joan Walsh of Salon observed McCain’s interaction with Oliver Clark, the second audience member to question the candidates:

Barack Obama dominated this debate from the very first question John McCain fielded directly, when he condescended to the African-American questioner, a young man named Oliver, who asked how the $700 billion rescue plan passed last week would help the average American. McCain first implied that Oliver and other regular voters wouldn’t know that much about Fannie Mae and and Freddie Mac…tThen McCain told Oliver that his plans would “help Americans like Allen … stay in their home.” Allen? Allen was the nice older white man who asked the first question. So what about Oliver? Did he not matter? Was McCain confused?

And McCain did not acknowledge by name Ingrid Jackson, the African-American woman who asked him how quickly a McCain administration would move to push Congress on green jobs and climate change. Calling questioners by their names is pretty much the unspoken rule of enforcing the false intimacy of the town-hall format.

David Roberts of Grist was taken aback by McCain’s answer to Jackson: “Now, how — what’s — what’s the best way of fixing it? Nuclear power. Sen. Obama says that it has to be safe or disposable or something like that.”

The transcript doesn’t convey it, but this line — “Sen. Obama says that it has to be safe or disposable or something like that” — is delivered with a kind of bemused sputter, like he’s trying to figure out some peculiar idiosyncrasy of Obama’s. High-handedly dismissing safety concerns about nuclear power struck me as jarring and a little bizarre.

Another policy matter that drew a sharp distinction between Obama and McCain was health care. As The Nation’s Nichols recounts:

“Quick discussion: Is health care in America a privilege, a right, or a responsibility?” said the NBC newsman. “Senator McCain?”

“I think it’s a responsibility,” responded the Republican nominee for president.

[…]

Brokaw then turned to Obama.

“Well, I think it should be a right for every American,” the Democrats declared. “In a country as wealthy as ours, for us to have people who are going bankrupt because they can’t pay their medical bills — for my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they’re saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don’t have to pay her treatment, there’s something fundamentally wrong about that.”

AlterNet’s Segura noted several “eyebrow-raising moments,” one on health care,

…when McCain proposed, “Let’s put health records online” — a cunning way to offset his own lack of Internet savvy, perhaps, but a comment that no small number of critics will respond to by saying, “Let’s start with yours.”

The McCain campaign has only allowed reporters glances at the Republican candidate’s health records, in a setting that gave them little time to examine thousands of pages of records, and in which they were forbidden to take notes or make copies.

Several bloggers mentioned moments and attributes that made the 72-year-old McCain come across as elderly in their eyes. Here’s Ezra Klein:

Tonight, even though McCain made no major mistakes, the debate was clearly Obama’s. And not only on the merits, though I thought this Obama’s best outing on the substance. Rather, it was the visual contrast that proved striking. The constant movement required by the format left McCain looking old and slow and tired. It’s not his fault. He moves like a 72-year-old man because he is a 72-year-old man. But that fact was emphasized this evening, and not to McCain’s advantage.

Laura Rozen noted McCain’s several invocations of Ronald Reagan:

And like one has sometimes with like a great uncle or something, a lack of awareness of how dated and out of touch some of the talking points sound. Does Ronald Reagan still offer the answer to today’s economy? (When the US was still manufacturing the world’s cars, there weren’t really global markets, no China as a trading partner, still a Soviet Union, no 401k plans, or ATM machines, no one except MIT professors had computers, and you made long distance calls to your grandparents once a week?) To listen to McCain, it did.

One topic was notable for its absence, especially because it’s a theme that the McCain campaign has been hammering since the weekend — that of a certain “domestic terrorist” whom Obama knows through his service on the board of a Chicago-based education project. As TPM Election Central’s Greg Sargent put it:

As multiple observers have pointed out, McCain needed to jar the electorate into seeing this race in a new way. It isn’t even clear if McCain even tried to do this tonight — there was no moment where he appeared to make an aggressive bid to take down Obama or grab the initiative. McCain did try to hit Obama by saying that the presidency is no time for “on the job training,” but the attack was a stale one that we’ve heard before. There was no mention of the words “William Ayers.”

In essence, looking at last night’s forum, the guilt-by-association stuff seems all McCain has left to use against Obama, and that was a tack he preferred not to take before the entire television-viewing nation. And so, writes the Washington Independent’s Matthew DeLong, McCain probably didn’t improve his poll numbers in this outing:

So, how did McCain fare? Overall, it was probably a draw. There wasn’t a clear win on either side. Will tonight’s performance be shifting the polls tomorrow? Not likely — and because McCain came into the debate desperately needing a decisive victory, with just one more debate remaining, the lack of one would constitute a defeat.

In that case, chalk up one for That One.

Adele M. Stan

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting
about John McCain. Visit JohnMccain.NewsLadder.net
for a complete list of articles on McCain. And for the best progressive reporting on two
critical issues, check out Immigration.NewsLadder.net and Healthcare.NewsLadder.net.

JohnMcCain.NewsLadder.net is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder. Adele M. Stan is executive editor of The Media Consortium’s syndicated reporting project.

Palinpalooza a Diversion from Deeper Problems?
McCain NewsLadder


by addiestan, The Media Consortium: Sat., Oct 4, 2008
Filed under: NewsLadderPresidential campaign 2008John McCain

1, 2

View on One Page

The hard times continue for Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, who today pulled up his stakes in Michigan, a state his campaign once thought worth contesting.

In the progressive cyberspace, we find McCain ever-so-slightly better off than the week began, on account of the fact that his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, failed to fulfill the dreams of liberals, a dream that would have had her imploding on the podium in a torrent of stammers, a potentiality foreshadowed by her supernova performance in a multi-part interview with CBS News anchor Katie Couric.

In March, McCain changed his mind on waterboarding, voting to sustain President Bush’s veto of a bill that would have banned U.S. interrogators from the practice; he seemed to be rewarded this week with a metaphorical version of a more traditional water torture, as steady drip, drip, drip of mortifying Palin responses to Couric’s questions leaked daily out of CBS over the course of a week. Palin couldn’t name the newspapers she read, the Supreme Court decisions she opposed (excepting Roe), explain why Alaskan proximity to Russia made her a foreign policy expert, or give more than one narrow example of John McCain’s support for regulation of the financial sector.

Last night, facing off with Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden, Palin lived to fight another day, playing the game by her own rules, declaring to Biden that she “may not answer the questions the way you or the moderator want me to.” Indeed, observed many progressive bloggers, she answered the questions she wanted to be asked, whether they were asked of her or not.

Earlier in the week, the McCain campaign began making noise about the fact that moderator Gwen Ifill, host of PBS’s “Washington Week in Review” and an African-American, was the author of a forthcoming book about race and the Obama campaign. The inference by McCain campaign operatives was one of a lurking bias toward the Obama camp, even though McCain himself said he had no problem with Ifill moderating the debate. But, wrote Greg Sargent of TMP Election Central, the merits of the argument are beside the point.

At bottom, though, debating whether there’s any merit in the attack on Ifill is beside the point, because as this is really just a transparent game, of course. The criticism is about trying to spook the moderators into going easy on Palin — a “time-honored form of pre-debate spin,” as [the Politico’s] Ben Smith put it.

And, indeed, some commentators suggested that Ifill tossed softballs at Palin most of the night, and rarely challenged either candidate when they strayed from her questions.

Some feared that the novelty of Palin’s gender posed perils for Joe Biden and commentators alike.

Before the debate began, famed feminist Robin Morgan, writing at the Women’s Media Center site, offered this helpful guide to those covering Palin:

Do investigate Palin’s opposition to listing polar bears and other animals as endangered. Do not call her one: no chick, bird, kitten, bitch, hen, cow. Also no produce: tomato, peach, etc.

Morgan also reports that, like Palin, both of John McCain’s wives were beauty queens.

< Next page 1 2 View on One Page

Palinpalooza - Page 2
McCain NewsLadder


by addiestan, The Media Consortium: Sat., Oct 4, 2008
Filed under: NewsLadderPresidential campaign 2008John McCain

Back to Page 1 View on Single Page

In truth, Palinpalooza proved to be a mere sideshow to what appears to be chaos and confusion in the McCain camp. Last week saw McCain claiming to suspend his campaign to return to Washington to broker a deal on a financial bailout bill for which a deal appeared to have been reached before McCain showed up. Once he was on the ground the deal fell apart when a majority of House Republicans balked at what was on the table.

At first, wrote Ben Craw on Sept. 30 at Talking Points Memo, McCain pointed the finger at his opponent, then said he didn’t:

To review: yesterday John McCain said in consecutive sentences, “Senator Obama and his allies in Congress infused unnecessary partisanship into the process. Now is not the time to fix the blame”…

In a new interview with ABC News’s Ron Claiborne however, McCain says he never blamed nobody…

According to Mark Schmitt, editor of The American Prospect, the House Republicans’ rebuke of McCain and the first version of the bailout package is symptomatic of a problem much bigger for Republicans than any immediate concern:

Republican strategist Ed Rollins gave the game away on CNN: “At the end of the day, there’s a lot of people thinking about how to rebuild this party, and do we want to rebuild it with John McCain, who’s always kind of questionable on the basic facts of fiscal control, all the rest of it, immigration…”

[…]

The Republican coalition since at least Reagan has been a miraculous alliance of Wall Street and Main Street. Populist politics, such as the attack on “elites” now embodied by the enthusiasm for Gov. Sarah Palin, were the vehicle for Wall Street policies, the very policies that led to the crash. The alliance always seemed unsustainable.

Trying to straddle the factions of that “miraculous alliance” may well have proved the undoing of John McCain, according to Edward McClelland, writing at Salon:

McCain has run for the presidency twice, as two completely different candidates. His campaigns and his image have been shaped by the nasty partisanship of the late 20th and early 21st century, an era that may be remembered as the Late Culture Wars.

[…]

Writers loved McCain during his first run for the presidency, in 2000. But eight years later, they think he’s a flip-flopping hack.

McClelland’s essay comes to us in the form of a review of four books about John McCain, authored, respectively, by David Foster Wallace, Paul Begala, Cliff Schecter and Matthew Welch — and argues for occasional forays by news junkies into the erudite realm of book reviews.

Addressing more immediate matters, Jonathan Stein of Mother Jones and Tim Fernholz of TAPPED give us the low-down on two conference calls with reporters by the McCain camp.

On Wednesday, Stein detected something of a ringer on a press call with McCain surrogate Rudy Giuliani:

The second question was from someone named Chuck Pardee. Pardee asserted that Tina Fey and many reporters make their living “embellishing the facts.” After criticizing the press for treating Sarah Palin unfairly, Pardee concluded*:

“Do you think embellishing the facts is actually what the concerned voter is after? And specifically, Joe Biden seems to embellish and forget facts just to kind of impress people but when you take Sarah Palin she seems to impress others with her quick study without embellishing the facts. In other words do you think people want a straight shooter or do they want the stuff and fluff?”

[…]

Pardee, by the way, is the “founder and president” of Newsbull.com. He has donated the maximum $2,300 to McCain.

TAPPED’s Fernholz, on the next day’s called, reported a new “aggressiveness” on the part of the campaign:

But McCain political director Mike Duhaime and senior adviser Greg Strimple aren’t worried, because they’re aggressive — in fact, everyone’s aggressive. The word came up about 50 times in the call, used to describe everything from Obama’s liberalism to President Bush! (Amateur psychologists, make of it what you will.) They also promised an aggressive last 30 days, which is no surprise as conventional wisdom is beginning to coalesce around the idea that the McCain camp needs to/will go negative to win.

That’s because the polls continue to bode ill for McCain.

Also boding ill for McCain was an ad by Brave New PAC and Democracy for America that was airing on MSNBC, before Fox’s Bill O’Reilly started slamming the rival network about it. The ad raises questions on the state of McCain’s health, which some viewers found offensive.

In other health-related campaign news, Doug Cunningham of Workers Independent News reports that the AFL-CIO is targeting voters in battleground states with a leafletting campaign challenging McCain’s health plan.

And so concludes another wild week in campaignland.

Adele M. Stan

1, 2
View on Single Page

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting
about John McCain. Visit JohnMccain.NewsLadder.net
for a complete list of articles on McCain. And for the best progressive reporting on two
critical issues, check out Immigration.NewsLadder.net and Healthcare.NewsLadder.net.

JohnMcCain.NewsLadder.net is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and CommonSense NMS. Adele M. Stan is executive editor of The Media Consortium’s syndicated reporting project.

Palinpalooza a Diversion from Deeper Problems?
McCain NewsLadder


by addiestan, The Media Consortium: Sat., Oct 4, 2008
Filed under: NewsLadderPresidential campaign 2008John McCain

The hard times continue for Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, who today pulled up his stakes in Michigan, a state his campaign once thought worth contesting.

In the progressive cyberspace, we find McCain ever-so-slightly better off than the week began, on account of the fact that his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, failed to fulfill the dreams of liberals, a dream that would have had her imploding on the podium in a torrent of stammers, a potentiality foreshadowed by her supernova performance in a multi-part interview with CBS News anchor Katie Couric.

In March, McCain changed his mind on waterboarding, voting to sustain President Bush’s veto of a bill that would have banned U.S. interrogators from the practice; he seemed to be rewarded this week with a metaphorical version of a more traditional water torture, as steady drip, drip, drip of mortifying Palin responses to Couric’s questions leaked daily out of CBS over the course of a week. Palin couldn’t name the newspapers she read, the Supreme Court decisions she opposed (excepting Roe), explain why Alaskan proximity to Russia made her a foreign policy expert, or give more than one narrow example of John McCain’s support for regulation of the financial sector.

Last night, facing off with Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden, Palin lived to fight another day, playing the game by her own rules, declaring to Biden that she “may not answer the questions the way you or the moderator want me to.” Indeed, observed many progressive bloggers, she answered the questions she wanted to be asked, whether they were asked of her or not.

Earlier in the week, the McCain campaign began making noise about the fact that moderator Gwen Ifill, host of PBS’s “Washington Week in Review” and an African-American, was the author of a forthcoming book about race and the Obama campaign. The inference by McCain campaign operatives was one of a lurking bias toward the Obama camp, even though McCain himself said he had no problem with Ifill moderating the debate. But, wrote Greg Sargent of TMP Election Central, the merits of the argument are beside the point.

At bottom, though, debating whether there’s any merit in the attack on Ifill is beside the point, because as this is really just a transparent game, of course. The criticism is about trying to spook the moderators into going easy on Palin — a “time-honored form of pre-debate spin,” as [the Politico’s] Ben Smith put it.

And, indeed, some commentators suggested that Ifill tossed softballs at Palin most of the night, and rarely challenged either candidate when they strayed from her questions.

Some feared that the novelty of Palin’s gender posed perils for Joe Biden and commentators alike.

Before the debate began, famed feminist Robin Morgan, writing at the Women’s Media Center site, offered this helpful guide to those covering Palin:

Do investigate Palin’s opposition to listing polar bears and other animals as endangered. Do not call her one: no chick, bird, kitten, bitch, hen, cow. Also no produce: tomato, peach, etc.

Morgan also reports that, like Palin, both of John McCain’s wives were beauty queens.

In truth, Palinpalooza proved to be a mere sideshow to what appears to be chaos and confusion in the McCain camp. Last week saw McCain claiming to suspend his campaign to return to Washington to broker a deal on a financial bailout bill for which a deal appeared to have been reached before McCain showed up. Once he was on the ground the deal fell apart when a majority of House Republicans balked at what was on the table.

At first, wrote Ben Craw on Sept. 30 at Talking Points Memo, McCain pointed the finger at his opponent, then said he didn’t:

To review: yesterday John McCain said in consecutive sentences, “Senator Obama and his allies in Congress infused unnecessary partisanship into the process. Now is not the time to fix the blame”…

In a new interview with ABC News’s Ron Claiborne however, McCain says he never blamed nobody…

According to Mark Schmitt, editor of The American Prospect, the House Republicans’ rebuke of McCain and the first version of the bailout package is symptomatic of a problem much bigger for Republicans than any immediate concern:

Republican strategist Ed Rollins gave the game away on CNN: “At the end of the day, there’s a lot of people thinking about how to rebuild this party, and do we want to rebuild it with John McCain, who’s always kind of questionable on the basic facts of fiscal control, all the rest of it, immigration…”

[…]

The Republican coalition since at least Reagan has been a miraculous alliance of Wall Street and Main Street. Populist politics, such as the attack on “elites” now embodied by the enthusiasm for Gov. Sarah Palin, were the vehicle for Wall Street policies, the very policies that led to the crash. The alliance always seemed unsustainable.

Trying to straddle the factions of that “miraculous alliance” may well have proved the undoing of John McCain, according to Edward McClelland, writing at Salon:

McCain has run for the presidency twice, as two completely different candidates. His campaigns and his image have been shaped by the nasty partisanship of the late 20th and early 21st century, an era that may be remembered as the Late Culture Wars.

[…]

Writers loved McCain during his first run for the presidency, in 2000. But eight years later, they think he’s a flip-flopping hack.

McClelland’s essay comes to us in the form of a review of four books about John McCain, authored, respectively, by David Foster Wallace, Paul Begala, Cliff Schecter and Matthew Welch — and argues for occasional forays by news junkies into the erudite realm of book reviews.

Addressing more immediate matters, Jonathan Stein of Mother Jones and Tim Fernholz of TAPPED give us the low-down on two conference calls with reporters by the McCain camp.

On Wednesday, Stein detected something of a ringer on a press call with McCain surrogate Rudy Giuliani:

The second question was from someone named Chuck Pardee. Pardee asserted that Tina Fey and many reporters make their living “embellishing the facts.” After criticizing the press for treating Sarah Palin unfairly, Pardee concluded*:

“Do you think embellishing the facts is actually what the concerned voter is after? And specifically, Joe Biden seems to embellish and forget facts just to kind of impress people but when you take Sarah Palin she seems to impress others with her quick study without embellishing the facts. In other words do you think people want a straight shooter or do they want the stuff and fluff?”

[…]

Pardee, by the way, is the “founder and president” of Newsbull.com. He has donated the maximum $2,300 to McCain.

TAPPED’s Fernholz, on the next day’s called, reported a new “aggressiveness” on the part of the campaign:

But McCain political director Mike Duhaime and senior adviser Greg Strimple aren’t worried, because they’re aggressive — in fact, everyone’s aggressive. The word came up about 50 times in the call, used to describe everything from Obama’s liberalism to President Bush! (Amateur psychologists, make of it what you will.) They also promised an aggressive last 30 days, which is no surprise as conventional wisdom is beginning to coalesce around the idea that the McCain camp needs to/will go negative to win.

That’s because the polls continue to bode ill for McCain.

Also boding ill for McCain was an ad by Brave New PAC and Democracy for America that was airing on MSNBC, before Fox’s Bill O’Reilly started slamming the rival network about it. The ad raises questions on the state of McCain’s health, which some viewers found offensive.

In other health-related campaign news, Doug Cunningham of Workers Independent News reports that the AFL-CIO is targeting voters in battleground states with a leafletting campaign challenging McCain’s health plan.

And so concludes another wild week in campaignland.

Adele M. Stan

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting
about John McCain. Visit JohnMccain.NewsLadder.net
for a complete list of articles on McCain. And for the best progressive reporting on two
critical issues, check out Immigration.NewsLadder.net and Healthcare.NewsLadder.net.

JohnMcCain.NewsLadder.net is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and CommonSense NMS. Adele M. Stan is executive editor of The Media Consortium’s syndicated reporting project.