Saturday, June 14, 2008

Taking Down Barack Obama

As I noted the other day, the tables have turned in this year's election. Whereas the 2004 election was Democrats simply running against Bush-- and not for any specific grand vision (though really, shouldn't that have been enough?)-- now the Republicans have no vision of their own, and are pinning all their hopes of victory on convincing Americans that Barack Obama is a scary, unpatriotic, elitist black nationalist Muslim socialist who will destroy America. It certainly didn't help matters that a certain one of Obama's primary opponents worked to fan those flames.

To me, the stealth weapon in that fight are the chain smear emails that everyone has been getting. I had a friend from Long Island just the other today tell me that his father's girlfriend was forwarding him emails about Obama, including one insisting Obama will "stand with the Muslims" (it purposely misquoted a section from Obama's book in which he discussed the mistake America made in interning Japanese citizens during WWII). I even got one months back, entitled 'Who Is Barack Obama', which states-- among other things-- that "Let us all remain alert concerning Obama's expected presidential candidacy. The Muslims have said they plan on destroying the US from the inside out, what better way to start than at the highest level - through the President of the United States , one of their own!!!!"

This has all lead to voters like Shelby Sugg and Wanda Gibson here-

Now the news has picked up on Obama's efforts to fight back by... "form[ing] a rapid response internet 'war room' to track and respond aggressively to online rumours." The Obama fact-check website is here (look at the menu on the right for specific sections on Obama's religion and patriotism). And they have now launched a new, specific site-- Fight The Smears-- to maximize these efforts.

The problem there is that the percentage of Americans-- even among political junkies-- who visit a candidate's website(s) in this detail is really low. How much time is a Wanda Gibson going to take out of her day to surf through months and months of fact-check archives?

The GOP, of course, isn't just relying on stealth emails. They are being direct... if not very effective. John McCain's big attack of the week was responding to criticism that he's running for Bush's third term-- no, not by denying that!-- by saying that Obama is just like Jimmy Carter! Neener neener! During Carter's years, we had an energy crisis and Middle East woes... any party which presided over that would definitely be hated! Good point, John!

Sen. McCain's campaign is also running online banner ads juxtaposing Obama's face with that of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The right even has the creator of the infamous 1988 Willie Horton working on 'exposing' Barack Obama. His latest ad is like a parody of all the smears mentioned above.

Sen. Obama will definitely need to do more than put a fact-check on his website to combat all of this. One of the main reasons that the Swift Boat lies became conventional wisdom in 2004-- besides media laziness-- was John Kerry's failure to fight the attacks immediately and aggressively. I have been glad to see that Obama is playing a good game of offense, but he can't slack on the defense either.

Andy McCarthy's Totally Geniune Curiosity

I'm going to be posting next about all the Obama smear emails, but I wanted to post this first because it is relevant. The National Review's Andy McCarthy just doesn't get why those silly Democrats could be upset at all the suggestions that Obama is a crazy Muslim terrorist (oMg terrorist fist jab!). He writes-
Remarkable, isn't it, that someone so concerned about our image in the "international community," so offended by Bush's purported cowboy insensitivity, can get so spun up over "false rumors that [he] is a Muslim." Even if his accusations against Sen. Lieberman had any merit, why does Sen. Obama — who used to say that his middle name, Hussein, would be a real asset in the signals it would send to the world — now think it's defamatory to be taken for a Muslim?

Where does one even begin?

No, it should not be defamatory to be taken for a Muslim, and yes Obama's appeal to a broader swath of the world community than most U.S. leaders will be a huge plus for his presidency. But the reason that it's seen as a smear and has already turned some voters against Obama is because... conservatives have spent the last 7 years associating Muslims/Islam with terrorism and portraying most of the rest of the world as a scary place full of brown-skinned murderers and job-stealers!!! Seriously Andy, go fuck yourself. Hard.

Friday, June 13, 2008

John McCain's Love-Hate Relationship With War

The big screaming headline at The Huffington Post and other websites earlier this week was John McCain's answer to the question on when U.S. troops can ever leave Iraq thusly... "that’s not too important." He then went on to reiterate his previous policy that we can occupy the country forever, since we will soon be in the fantasy scenario in which our troops will not be harmed or engaged in war for doing so.

But the attitude he wants to portray to the wider voting public is much less gung-ho. In his general election pitch, John McCain is a man who loathes war and understands that it's serious business with 'terrible costs'.

This scam is hardly new in American politics. Just two years ago, McCain's BFF Joe Lieberman also tried-- successfully, as we know now-- to trick voters into believing he understood the public sentiment toward the war. "No one wants to end the war in Iraq more than I do," Lieberman insisted in October 2006, adding "I have been very critical of a lot of the mistakes the Bush administration has made in Iraq." Does that last line sound familiar? Lieberman, of course, went on after securing reelection to become the most shameless apologist for war escalation (in Iraq and elsewhere) in the Senate, leading at least one Connecticut newspaper to retroactively apologize for endorsing him.

And, via blogger 'dday', here's a 1968 Nixon ad, in which he ran against the Johnson administration's Vietnam policy. In his campaign, he also played up the idea that he had a secret plan to end the war-

President Nixon went on to win and then to not only escalate the war in Vietnam, but expand it into Cambodia, briefly considering dropping nukes, all at the cost of countless lives, before finally allowing the plug to be pulled on that debacle of war near the end of his presidency (when he had other things to worry about, obviously).

Sen. McCain is right that war is serious business. And like Nixon and Lieberman, he's too dangerous to be trusted with it.

[Related reading: Iraq PM: security deal talks at dead end (AP)]

NBC's Tim Russert Dies.

Apparently, was a heart attack. I imagine Sunday's 'Meet The Press' will largely be a tribute.

Weekend Odds and Ends

It's Friday the 13th. Beware of black cats and bad M. Night Shyamalan films. Here's news...

If the terrorists hate us for our freedoms and liberties, they (like the White House) are going to be pissed: "In a stinging rebuke to President Bush's anti-terror policies, a deeply divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday that foreign detainees held for years at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have the right to appeal to U.S. civilian courts to challenge their indefinite imprisonment without charges." Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy states 'The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.'

The White House expresses disagreement, but it says it will abide by the ruling. Or not.

And right-wing pundits lament that America "lost to radical Islam" and propose just killing all the prisoners.

Meanwhile, in economic news: "A flood of economic aid payments pushed the federal budget deficit to $165.9 billion, the highest imbalance ever for May. The Treasury Department reported Wednesday that the May deficit was more than double what it was in May 2007. Some $48 billion in payments went out as part of the $168 billion economic relief effort to revive the economy and keep the country from a deep recession." ECONOMY = SAVED!

And as jobless claims rise again, there was news that "The House on Thursday approved an extra three months of jobless benefits for all unemployed Americans, knowing the plan's chances are slight in the Senate and almost nonexistent at the White House." So, yea.

U.S. life expectancy continues to lag behind most other first-world nations.

GOP-backed voter ID laws once again prevent the crime of eldery women voting.

Moving on to campaign news, Barack Obama's takeover of the DNC operations continues as he moves to centralize its work outside of DC, and into his home turf of Chicago.

Fox News/Michelle Malkin refer to Michelle Obama as "Obama's baby mama"; are way sorry.

And Sen. McCain takes a page from the Bush playbook and hosts a 'town hall' meeting which shockingly turns out to be just packed with supporters and ringers. Democracy inaction!

McCain also threatens to veto every single beer, lose election.

Finally, Ron Paul is either quitting the GOP base or starting a new revolution, he's not sure.

"Sen. McCain wants to turn Bush’s policy of 'too little, too late' into a policy of 'even less, even later.'

Sen. Obama went after Sen. McCain hard this week, on economic issues from the housing crisis to energy concerns. You know what I like? Democrats who don't just play defense.

From the AP-
Democrat Barack Obama on Monday seized on heightened concerns about the economy, tying John McCain to the Bush administration's recent record of soaring gasoline prices and slumping employment.

Launching a two-week economics tour in a state the GOP usually considers safe, Obama warned that McCain's policies on taxes, spending and energy would continue the nation's slump, which some fear is already a recession. He called for new taxes on oil companies and wealthy individuals, along with $1,000 tax cuts for most working families...

...The centerpiece of McCain's economic plan "amounts to a full-throated endorsement of George Bush's policies," Obama told about 900 people in Raleigh...

...Obama offered no new policies in his speech, which he read from teleprompters. Rather, he used the occasion to emphasize his economic differences with McCain and summarize earlier proposals. They include raising income taxes on wealthy individuals, granting a $1,000 tax cut to most others, winding down the Iraq war, tightening credit card regulations and pumping more money into education, alternative fuels and infrastructure such as roads and bridges...

...The two differed somewhat on energy production as well. Obama called for greater government investments "in a renewable energy policy that ends our addiction on foreign oil, provides real long-term relief from high fuel costs and builds a green economy that could create up to five million well-paying jobs that can't be outsourced."

Sen. McCain's retort? Attempting to resurrect the gas tax holiday scam. "I don't pretend that it's an answer to our energy problems," he admits. Well, ummm, okay then.

Also, CNN looked at the Tax Policy Center's report comparing John McCain and Barack Obama's proposed tax plans (video), and found that 90% of Americans would save $$$ under the Obama plan. The only group that would save with a President McCain are the rich, and I don't think too many of them are swing voters anyway.

The debates this Fall should be fun.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sen. Obama's 50-State Strategy

One of the reasons, in my opinion anyway, that Barack Obama triumphed in the primaries is because he ran using Howard Dean's 50-state strategy, while Clinton ran using the Democrats' usual 'focus on the big blue states and the two or three swings states we believe matter' strategy. The latter crashed and burned in 2004, and the former triumphed in 2006.

Obama is obviously looking to expand this strategy for the general election. Sen. McCain will be very competitive in key states (sorry, I think Florida is a goner for us), and so it's good that Obama wants to expand the Democratic map. There are a number of states that I think he has a better than good shot at taking given his appeal and the political winds... Virginia, New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, maybe even something in the South.

Josh Marshall has a good primer this week-

But the underreported benefit of this strategy is the big boost it will give to down-ticket candidates in all of these states. Democratic candidates in these states had previously been under-funded and largely invisible. But the Obama camp has built grassroots armies all over the country and he is raking in small donor money hand over fist, a good deal of which can be handed down to these other candidates. We've seen in the past year or so how successful these candidates can be when they have the tools to fight.

The progressive agenda has been struggling along slowly the past two years because the GOP minority in Congress has proven better at obstruction and holding the line than was expected. For an Obama presidency to truly accomplish anything, he will need a larger and fresher Democratic majority (filibuster-proof Senate?). If this strategy gets him that, it will be as big a triumph as the presidency itself.

Hurricane Katrina... Thanks for the Memories

Blog reader deevee45 had suggested strolling down memory lane with some of the Daily Show's initial post-Katrina episodes. Katrina was back in the public eye this month because not only of reports of Karl Rove's role in the botched response-- or lack thereof-- to the storm, but also because of the DNC refusing to allow Sen. McCain to distort his record on Katrina-related issues.

Here is the initial report (search more Katrina videos here)-

This seems like so long ago now. At least Harry Shearer is still writing about it.


Mark Kleiman nails it on the liberal media once again praising McCain's maverickness-
Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations! Just because John McCain, at some phases of the moon, is less reality-challenged than most of his Republican opponents this year doesn't make his solid right-wing record into "centrism."

On several points, the editorial in today's LA Times is simply, factually wrong:

* McCain started out as an opponent of torture, but then turned around and voted against a provision that would have forbidden torture by the CIA. Either he only cares about keeping the uniformed services out of it, or he decided that he needed the wingnut vote too badly to stick by his principles.

* Whatever McCain says to Latinos in California, he has said in public that he would now vote against the immigration bill he sponsored.

* The difference between an 80% cut in greenhouse-gas emissions and a 60% cut may seem small to an innumerate editorialist, but the remaining emission level after a 60% cut is precisely twice the remaining emission level after an 80% cut. That's aside from the fact that Obama is, and McCain isn't, willing to pursue policies that might actually get us to his announced target.

* Agreeing on stem-cell research and a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage isn't really much of an offset to disagreeing fundamentally about reproductive choice. Not only has McCain promised to appoint justices just like those who have already voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, he's also been a solid vote against contraception and for "abstinence-only" sex education, which demonstrably fails.

* Nor does the fact that McCain and Obama agree on opposing a marriage amendment mean that they have similar stances on gay rights. Obama wants to repeal Dont Ask, Don't Tell; McCain voted for it and still supports it.

Yes, the fact that the Republican candidate isn't a global-warming denier or a flagrant gay-baiter does represent progress toward sanity. But to the question asked by the editorial's headline — Obama-McCain, the Same?" the only correct answer is "No!"

And that's not change you can believe in.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Poor George W. Bush

President Bush totally regrets that anyone got the impression that he is a man who wanted war. Perhaps history will vindicate him as the angel of peace and mercy that he is.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan...

...The violent status quo continues in its seventh year.

Iraqi PM Appeases Iranian President With Promises of Peace

Even as President Bush continues to use the remaining months of his presidency to saber-rattle against Iran, and as his two potential successors debate over whether bombs or diplomacy will solve all our problems, Iraq's prime minister has bad news... he may have to accept that we're indefinitely occupying his supposedly sovereign nation, but he draws the line at us blowing up his largest neighbor.

From a recent visit between the leaders of those two countries-
Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Sunday tried to allay Iranian fears over a planned U.S.-Iraq security pact, saying his government would not allow Iraq to become a launching pad for an attack on its neighbor.

"Iraq today doesn't present any threat as it used to be in the times of the former regime," al-Maliki told Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a Sunday meeting between two leaders, according to a statement from the prime minister's office.

"Today's Iraq is a constitutional state based on the rule of law, and it seeks to develop its relations with the regional countries based on cooperation and mutual respect," al-Maliki said...

On some level, of course, Maliki knows that we make the decisions in Iraq, and he may even be fine with that to some degree. But I do believe this is where he draws the line. We could never launch any (successful) attack on Iran without the approval of Iraq, and we will never get that. That is why I am less worried than some liberals about the possibility of war with Iran before the Bush years end. A McCain presidency will heighten those concerns, of course.

And despite retroactively justifying the war in Iraq based on a push for Middle East democracy, the fact is that most conservatives secretly hate al-Maliki (not that he's an upstanding leader, but that's neither here nor there) and find the democratic particulars of Iraq to be boring and irrelevant. You even have prominent conservative journalists reminiscising about their favorite old dictators like Augusto Pinochet and hoping someday we can put such a thug in charge of Iraq (until 20 years later, when he becomes a nuisance, then we'll invade again to remove him). Pesky facts like how the vast majority of Iraqis want the U.S. to withdraw or are opposed to a military attack on Iran don't exist in that world. Acting tough is all that matters, consequences be damned.

"It all goes—it all goes back to appeasement... energized, legitimated. It's the exact same thing."

[Related reading: Immunity for private guards in Iraq a sticking point: US (AFP)]

Are You An Elitist?

Stephen Colbert warns his viewers of the dangerous elitist menace lurking in our society...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Odds and Ends

Al Gore sucks, he made it so hot today. Here is some miscellaneous news...

This weekend, we got the news of $4 a gallon becoming the natural average for gas. Then today we got this news: "Saved by Senate Republicans, big oil companies dodged an attempt Tuesday to slap them with a windfall profits tax and take away billions of dollars in tax breaks in response to the record gasoline prices that have the nation fuming... The Democratic energy package would have imposed a 25 percent tax on any 'unreasonable' profits of the five largest U.S. oil companies, which together made $36 billion during the first three months of the year. It also would have given the government more power to address oil market speculation, opened the way for antitrust actions against countries belonging to the OPEC oil cartel, and made energy price gouging a federal crime."

In campaign news, Sens. Obama and McCain reject a NY Town Hall offer, since only ABC would broadcast it.

Bad news for the White House... Scott McClellan agrees to testify before a House committee on the Plame case.

And look out, because Rep. Kucinich is totally going to impeach them.

Hey, maybe he can add this to the charges: "The Pentagon urged interrogators at Guantanamo Bay to destroy handwritten notes in case they were called to testify about potentially harsh treatment of detainees, a military defense lawyer said Sunday."

Ohh, and throw in this too while you are at it.

Also, yes, you will be able to watch the Beijing Olympics on TV (NBC, to be exact), but how much of what is happening in China you will actually see is not clear. The government is looking to control what gets shown.

Meanwhile... is Walmart too liberal?! oMg they won't discriminate against gays, WTF?!

Finally, Al Franken's road to the Senate just got a little easier.

Quote of the Day

"In reality there is only one candidate. Barack Obama. In November he will win or he will lose. John McCain is relevant only in so far as he is not Barack Obama. The Senator from Arizona is incapable of energizing his party, brings no new people to the polls, and has a personality that is best kept under wraps."
--Conservative columnist Bay Buchanan, in her newest piece.

Religion, Politics, and The...

I found these two videos the other day... they're an excellent juxtaposition on where each candidate stands on the role of religion in America. Let me just state for the record that there's no question that Sen. McCain is just bullshitting here. Unlike Bush, he has never been a true believer. He just knows he needs evangelicals to turn out for him in November or he is in trouble. Sen. Obama, however, gives a pretty thoughtful answer.

Sen. McCain-

Sen. Obama-

Monday, June 09, 2008

Good News!

I don't have much time for blogging today (lucky you!), so I'll leave you with this for now... it's a fake version of Google News, with all the headlines we wish we could see. Which is your favorite?

Video Smörgåsbord

Sen. Obama gives a turning-point speech to rally his Chicago campaign HQ staff.

And Fox News asks the tough questions about Barack and Michelle: "A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab?"

Keith Olbermann and Richard Clarke discuss new revelations about pre-war intelligence.

Finally, Bill Moyers addresses the National Conference for Media Reform.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

"I had learned... how dangerous it can be when travel is substituted for thought."

Peter Beinart-- of Time and the New Republic-- hasn't always had the best track record on Iraq (scroll down in this 'Buying The War' transcript as he tries to explain to Bill Moyers the shoddy journalism he performed in the run-up to war), but I think he gets it exactly right in this new Time piece.

Time magazine: Barack, Don't Go to Baghdad

Read it in full if you have the time; it's worth it.

I do believe, however, that a trip to Iraq should happen before November for Sen. Obama. But not this type of PR trip that McCain wants (and Obama should go alone). Rather, it should be a quiet, private trip for Obama to meet with Iraqi leaders, and top U.S. military personnel, to lay the groundwork for relations should he become President.

Back at home there has also been the issue of whether Sen. Obama should engage in regular town hall meetings/debates with Sen. McCain. I say a very enthusiastic 'yes' to this one. Sen. Obama should seek to highlight, at every opportunity possible, the night and day contrasts between his domestic policy proposals and those of McCain, such as they are. The economy is the key area where the GOP is seeking to bamboozle and woo away independent voters and Obama needs to engage with them constantly. The more Obama debates McCain-- on the economy, or any other issue-- the better he will do. By the time the Fall arrives, McCain will be ditching them left and right. Bring 'em on!

[Iraq, Not Economy, Frames the Presidential Debate (Washington Post)]