Friday, February 29, 2008

No Choice But McCain

The man whom everyone seemed to agree would be the strongest Repub presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, was speaking at a town hall meeting in Richardson, Texas on February 28, 2008 when, according to's Jake Tapper, he stated "I am a proud conservative, liberal Republica--- conservative Republican," he said, catching himself. "Hello?" he said as the crowd laughed. "Easy there."

Now, I don't think John McCain is a liberal. He has become a favorite of The Wall Street Journal, and the Wall Street crowd is quite comfortable with a President who pledges to extend the tax cuts for the wealthy. And if he chooses to keep American troops in Iraq for up to a hundred years, it should make Japanese bankers and the mainland Chinese government happy. And there is no telling the impact high spending coupled with low taxes, a budget underpinned by the Chinese, could have on our national debt, the value of the dollar, even national security.

Now comes word that Reverend John Hagee of the 17,000 member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas has endorsed McCain. In a news release, bombastic director of the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights Bill Donahue alleges the Christian Zionist Leader has called the Roman Catholic Church "the great whore," an "apostate church," "the anti-Christ," and "a false cult system." In its press release on Sadie Hawkins Day, the Democratic National Committee sets out some other views held by Rev. Hagee:

Hagee on Hurricane Katrina
"All hurricanes are acts of God because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that." [NPR Fresh Air, 9/18/06]

Hagee on Islamic Beliefs
Fresh Air host Terry Gross asked if Hagee believed that "all Muslims have a mandate to kill Christians and Jews," to which Hagee replied, "Well, the Quran teaches that. Yes, it teaches that very clearly." [NPR Fresh Air, 9/18/06]

Hagee on African-Americans
The San Antonio Express-News reported that Hagee was going to "meet with black religious leaders privately at an unspecified future date to discuss comments he made in his newsletter about a 'slave sale,' an East Side minister said Wednesday." The Express-News reported:

"Hagee, pastor of the 16,000-member Cornerstone Church, last week had announced a 'slave sale' to raise funds for high school seniors in his church bulletin, 'The Cluster.'

"The item was introduced with the sentence 'Slavery in America is returning to Cornerstone" and ended with "Make plans to come and go home with a slave." [San Antonio Express-News 3/7/96]

Hagee on Catholicism
"Most readers will be shocked by the clear record of history linking Adolf Hitler and the Roman Catholic Church in a conspiracy to exterminate the Jews." [Jerusalem Countdown by John Hagee]

Hagee on Women
"Do you know the difference between a woman with PMS and a snarling Doberman pinscher? The answer is lipstick. Do you know the difference between a terrorist and a woman with PMS? You can negotiate with a terrorist." [God's Profits: Faith, Fraud and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, Sarah Posner]

"[T]he feminist movement today is throwing off authority in rebellion against God's pattern for the family." ["Bible Positions on Political Issues," John Hagee]

Hagee on LGBT Americans
"The newspaper carried the story in our local area that was not carried nationally that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came. And the promise of that parade was that it was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other Gay Pride parades. So I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing. I know that there are people who demur from that, but I believe that the Bible teaches that when you violate the law of God, that God brings punishment sometimes before the day of judgment." [NPR Fresh Air, 9/18/06]

Hagee on Iran
"The coming nuclear showdown with Iran is a certainty," Hagee wrote [in 2006] in the Pentecostal magazine Charisma. "Israel and America must confront Iran's nuclear ability and willingness to destroy Israel with nuclear weapons. For Israel to wait is to risk committing national suicide." [The Nation, 8/8/2006,]

So John McCain jokes about being a liberal, is revealed likely to have had an "inappropriate relationship" (romantic or otherwise) with a lobbyist, and now accepts the endorsement of a man who appears to hostile to women, Roman Catholics, blacks, Muslims, and gay people. And all this after Mitt Romney (who as a Mormon himself failed to rally Republicans around his candidacy) drops out of the race. This leaves to challenge John McCain only a Southern Baptist clergyman who is (to the base) embarrasingly anti- abortion rights, anti- gay rights, pro- public education; and- worse yet to the economic conservatives who dominate the Republican Party- anti- greed. Which of course leaves the the GOP faithful with.... Senator John McCain.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

An Interesting Question

If not a strong debater, Senator Obama clearly has become an adept politician. At the presidential debate of 2/26/08 in Cleveland, Ohio, Obama and co-host Tim Russert participated in a discussion about one of America's premier bigots:

RUSSERT: Senator Obama, one of the things in the campaign is
that you have to react to unexpected developments. On Sunday, the
headline in your hometown paper, Chicago Tribune, "Louis Farrakhan
Backs Obama for President at Nation of Islam Convention in Chicago."
Do you accept the support of Louis Farrakhan?

OBAMA: You know, I have been very clear in my denunciation of
Minister Farrakhan's anti-Semitic comments. I think they are
unacceptable and reprehensible.

I did not solicit this support. He expressed pride in an
African-American who seems to be bringing the country together.

I obviously can't censor him, but it is not support that I
sought. And we're not doing anything, I assure you, formally or
informally with Minister Farrakhan.

RUSSERT: Do you reject his support?

OBAMA: Well, Tim, I can't say to somebody that he can't say that
he thinks I'm a good guy.


You know, I have been very clear in my denunciations of him and
his past statements. And I think that indicates to the American
people what my stance is on those comments.

RUSSERT: The problem some voters may have is, as you know, the
Reverend Farrakhan called Judaism "gutter religion."

OBAMA: Tim, I think -- I am very familiar with his record, as
are the American people. That's why I have consistently denounced it.

This is not something new. This is something that -- I live in
Chicago. He lives in Chicago. I've been very clear, in terms of me
believing that what he has said is reprehensible and inappropriate.
And I have consistently distanced myself from him.

RUSSERT: The title of one of your books, "Audacity of Hope," you
acknowledge you got from a sermon from Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the
head of the Trinity United Church. He said that Louis Farrakhan
"epitomizes greatness."

He said that he went to Libya in 1984 with Louis Farrakhan to
visit with Moammar Gadhafi and that, when your political opponents
found out about that, quote, "your Jewish support would dry up quicker
than a snowball in Hell."

RUSSERT: What do you do to assure Jewish-Americans that, whether
it's Farrakhan's support or the activities of Reverend Jeremiah
Wright, your pastor, you are consistent with issues regarding Israel
and not in any way suggesting that Farrakhan epitomizes greatness?

OBAMA: Tim, I have some of the strongest support from the Jewish
community in my hometown of Chicago and in this presidential campaign.
And the reason is because I have been a stalwart friend of Israel's.
I think they are one of our most important allies in the region, and I
think that their security is sacrosanct, and that the United States is
in a special relationship with them, as is true with my relationship
with the Jewish community.

And the reason that I have such strong support is because they
know that not only would I not tolerate anti-Semitism in any form, but
also because of the fact that what I want to do is rebuild what I
consider to be a historic relationship between the African-American
community and the Jewish community.

You know, I would not be sitting here were it not for a whole
host of Jewish Americans, who supported the civil rights movement and
helped to ensure that justice was served in the South. And that
coalition has frayed over time around a whole host of issues, and part
of my task in this process is making sure that those lines of
communication and understanding are reopened.

But, you know, the reason that I have such strong support in the
Jewish community and have historically -- it was true in my U.S.
Senate campaign and it's true in this presidency -- is because the
people who know me best know that I consistently have not only
befriended the Jewish community, not only have I been strong on
Israel, but, more importantly, I've been willing to speak out even
when it is not comfortable.

When I was -- just last point I would make -- when I was giving
-- had the honor of giving a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in
conjunction with Martin Luther King's birthday in front of a large
African-American audience, I specifically spoke out against anti-
Semitism within the African-American community. And that's what gives
people confidence that I will continue to do that when I'm president
of the United States.

WILLIAMS: Senator...

CLINTON: I just want to add something here, because I faced a
similar situation when I ran for the Senate in 2000 in New York. And
in New York, there are more than the two parties, Democratic and
Republican. And one of the parties at that time, the Independence
Patty, was under the control of people who were anti-Semitic, anti-
Israel. And I made it very clear that I did not want their support.
I rejected it. I said that it would not be anything I would be
comfortable with. And it looked as though I might pay a price for
that. But I would not be associated with people who said such
inflammatory and untrue charges against either Israel or Jewish people
in our country.

And, you know, I was willing to take that stand, and, you know,
fortunately the people of New York supported me and I won. But at the
time, I thought it was more important to stand on principle and to
reject the kind of conditions that went with support like that.

RUSSERT: Are you suggesting Senator Obama is not standing on

CLINTON: No. I'm just saying that you asked specifically if he
would reject it. And there's a difference between denouncing and
rejecting. And I think when it comes to this sort of, you know,
inflammatory -- I have no doubt that everything that Barack just said
is absolutely sincere. But I just think, we've got to be even
stronger. We cannot let anyone in any way say these things because of
the implications that they have, which can be so far reaching.

OBAMA: Tim, I have to say I don't see a difference between
denouncing and rejecting. There's no formal offer of help from
Minister Farrakhan that would involve me rejecting it. But if the
word "reject" Senator Clinton feels is stronger than the word
"denounce," then I'm happy to concede the point, and I would reject
and denounce.

CLINTON: Good. Good. Excellent.


WILLIAMS: Rare audience outburst on the agreement over rejecting
and renouncing.
Some things stand out for me in this exchange:

1) Obama said he has "been very clear in my denunciation of Minister Farrakhan's anti-Semitic comments;" "would (not) tolerate anti-Semitism in any form;" and paid homage to the critical support for the civil-rights movement among "Jewish-Americans" ("Jewish-Americans"?- Are they anything like "Catholic-Americans" or "Protestant-Americans"?)

2) Obama declared he has "consistently denounced" what he termed "Farrakhan's record" and implied that what the latter "has said is reprehensible and inappropriate." Clinton, instead of specifically challenging Obama to renounced Farrakhan's support, instead foolishly framed the argument as "a difference between denouncing and rejecting," thus enabling Obama, in his condescending yet charming way, to declare "but if the word 'reject' Senator Clinton feels is stronger than the word 'denounce,' then I'm happy to concede the point, and I would reject and denounce." We're still waiting (or at least I am) for the Illinois senator to reject Farrakhan's support. That would be an act of political courage.

3) The only important issue: Obama identified Israel as "one of our most important allies in the region." Huh? What is our nation's most important ally in the region?
Maybe Too Little; Certainly Too Late

Early in the Democratic presidential race, before there were Oprah Winfrey, Caroline Kennedy, and Edward Kennedy, before most of the talk of Martin Luther Kind, Jr., bipartisanship, and the politics of hope, there was Iraq. Senator Hillary Clinton had voted in favor of a resolution authorizing President Bush to take military action against Saddam Hussein's Iraq while State Senator Barack Obama, speaking from an anti-war district in Chicago, Illinois, had spoken out against the resolution. With the war the biggest issue among the American people and especially among Democrats, Obama had been on the right side, Clinton on the right side.

As a Presidential candidate, Obama emphasized the differences he had 4-5 years earlier on Iraq with the Senator from New York. Although for many months behind Clinton in national polls of Democrats, Obama early on was a highly credible candidate in part because of the stance he had taken. Later came Oprah, celebrityhood, and a commanding lead in the quest for the nomination.

At the debate on February 26, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio, Obama highlighted this distinction while defending the approach he has taken toward Gulf War II, once he was actually able to effect the course of the war. He eloquently declared:

And the fact was this was a big strategic blunder. It was not a
matter of, "Well, here is the initial decision, but since then we've
voted the same way. Once we had driven the bus into the ditch, there were only so many ways we could get out. The question is: Who's making the decision initially to drive the bus into the ditch?

Near the end of the debate, co-host Tim Russert asked the candidates "before you go, each of you have talked about your careers in public service. Looking back through them, is there any words or vote that you'd like to take back?" and Clinton responded:

"Well, obviously, I've said many times that, although my
vote on the 2002 authorization regarding Iraq was a sincere vote, I would not have voted that way again."
Sensing he had something, Russert followed up "But to be clear, you'd like to have your vote back?" and Clinton reiterated "absolutely. I've said that many times."

But of course she hadn't said that many times. Or at all. Sure, Mrs. Clinton had implied it several times, and it was clear that she had learned that her vote was wrong both in terms of policy and politics, but she hadn't so stated.

It reminded me of October, 1968. Hubert H. Humphrey was headed for defeat in the presidential race, in part because of his loyalty in supporting President Johnson's conduct of the Vietnam War, when he finally found his voice and advocated a halt in the bombing of North Vietnam. His poll numbers went up (aided by an actual halt ordered by Johnson) and Humphrey barely- by under 1%- lost an election he likely would have won had the campaign lasted one more week.

The analogy isn't perfect. Clinton was not Vice-President and she acquiesced in the policy of a Republican, not Democratic, President. And Hillary Clinton (like Barack Obama) is no Hubert Humphrey. Still, it struck me that had the New York Senator conceded a year ago that she would have liked to have taken her vote back, she might have blunted Obama's argument, and perhaps even his candidacy. Now, of course, it is too late.

Monday, February 25, 2008

McCain And The Hard Right

A blog with the enticing title "Breaking News: Mitt Romney to Rejoin GOP race?" comes to us from the Los Angeles Times. Andrew Malcolm writes (or types) "Josh Romney, one of former Gov. Mitt Romney's five sons, says it's "possible" his father may rejoin the race for the White House, as a vice presidential candidate or as the Republican Party's standard-bearer if the campaign of Sen. John McCain falters."

Of course, Mitt Romney a) would accept a Vice-Presidential nod, which he won't get; and b) will not rejoin the race as a Presidential candidate.

The irony is that with the recent report that Senator (and then-Commerce Committee chairman) McCain "had an improper relationship with a female lobbyist and did favors for her corporate clients," the GOP nominee-to-be probably would have faltered- if Romney hadn't already dropped out of the race. When The New York Times, under pressure from an impending New Republic story that the Times had sat on the story, reported the McCain-Iseman relationship, the Repub right, especially the talk show hosts who had been attacking McCain and suggesting a preference for Huckabee, faced a dilemma. Would they use the scandal as an opportunity to try to bring down a candidate they bitterly resent, or would they 'rally around the flag?'

We soon had our answer. Numerous Repubs, including the anti-McCain contingent, used the story as an excuse to attack The New York Times, a favorite GOP bogeyman, and a newspaper which had endorsed the Arizona Senator for the nomination. And the mainstream media reflexively put two and two together- and came up with "five."

These guys and gals may hate The New York Times (or pretend they do) but that's not the full story. As for "the rest of the story," (as famous conservative, partisan Republican Paul Harvey would put it), I refer to "The Stump" blog posted by Noam Scheiber of The New Republic on October 26, 2007 in describing the threat posed to the GOP by Mike Huckabee:

The typical Republican candidate argues something like the following: Democrats are out-of-touch cultural elites who want gay-marriage, abortion-on-demand, and Godless schools. They want to weaken the military and retreat from the war on terror. And, oh yeah, they also oppose tax cuts for rich people. When these candidates win, they (and Grover Norquist and their friends at the Wall Street Journal editorial page) turn around and say, "See, tax cuts for rich people are really, really popular." But, of course, tax cuts for the rich aren't very popular. Certainly less so than culture-war pronouncements and real-war demagoguery. (See my colleague Jon Chait on this subject.)

The Funds and Norquists of the world like to claim that there's something natural about the social-conservative/supply-sider worldview, and something unnatural about a socially-conservative economic populist. In fact, it's the opposite. According to the survey data on the matter (see, for example, here), there are many more of the latter in the Republican base (and, for that matter, the country) than the former.

That's why Huckabee is so threatening: His combination of economic populism, such as it is (and, believe me, Huckabee is no Bernie Sanders), and social conservatism threatens to decouple economic policies that favor the rich from the political message that makes them possible. From the perspective of Fund and Norquist, Huckabee must be stopped so as to maintain the fiction of intense grassroots support for both supply-side economics and social conservatism, rather than just the latter.

So activist, conservative Republicans faced an intriguing dilemma: rally around the despised John McCain, or attack him when he's vulnerable- and, if successful, face the possibility of the nomination of Mike Huckabee. Given their fear of a cultural conservative who questions the raison d'etre of the Repub Party (further concentration of wealth in the hands of a few), they probably made the wise choice.
Some Perspective On The Obama Vote

It's easy to get excited. The very likely Democratic nominee for President has vanquished several opponents, including two experienced and accomplished United States Senators; one candidate who ran, with some success, for the nomination only four years earlier (and ran a national campaign as a V.P. nominee); and, of course, the formidable, money-generating, Clinton machine. And Obama stil is surging in the polls, drawing crowds of incomparable size, raising money in unparalleled amounts, and winning every primary/caucus (what is it now, 11 in a row?), most of them in blowouts- especially when the candidates have had time to campaign in the state.

Still, we need some perspective, including consideration of the nature of the Democratic nominating electorate. Thus far, from what I can tell, Obama has won 25 contests, including the District of Columbia, Americans Abroad, and the "beauty contest" in Washington State. Clinton has won 11 contests, including New Mexico, so tight the race wasn't decided until several days after the vote. Ten of Obama's victories have come in caucus states, none by a narrow margin. Only two of Clinton's victories have come in caucuses, narrowly in Nevada and more narrowly in New Mexico. And both of these have a disproportionately large number of Hispanic voters in the Democratic electorate- and Clinton has done better in the Hispanic vote than in the non-Hispanic white cohort.

There are several possible explanations for Obama's extraordinary strength in caucuses. These include: 1) a highly effective organization in caucus states; 2) a preponderance of highly motivated voters, a defining characteristic of the Obama campaign; 3) a preference of liberal, Democratic non-Hispanic Caucasian individuals to be seen voting in a public (though not all of them are) caucus for a black and/or a tendency for such persons not to vote for a black in a secret ballot.

In either case, voting in the general election is not public, but private; not amongst primarily Democrats, but including independents and Republicans. A major factor determining the outcome of the election will be whether the broad swath of voters will be as anxious to transcend American history as have the highly motivated, educated, tolerant, and progressive voters who dominate Democratic primaries and caucuses.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

John McCain and Charlie Black

In the wake of the scandal involving the ties of then-Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain with lobbyist Vicki Iseman, the Arizona senator said on February 21, 2008of the chief political adviser to his presidential campaign "I'm proud of the record of many of my advisers. One small example, Charlie Black. Charlie Black was involved in the first Reagan campaign, and he's been involved in every national presidential campaign since."

Charles R. Black Jr. is chairman of BKSH & Associates. According to information reprinted by a blog of Mother Jones magazine, the Center for Responsive Politics lobbying database,, has compiled the following list of lobbying clients, along with the total value of the contracts, since 1998 of this public relations giant:

Accenture - $780,000
ACCURAY- $120,000
Accuray Inc - $60,000
Accuray Incorporated - $60,000
Advertising Co Art-Eria - $200,000
Agency for Humanitarian Technolgoies - $120,000
Alcoa - $100,000
Amerada Hess Corp - $80,000
American Financial Group - $80,000
American Hotel & Lodging Assn - $460,000
American Hotel & Motel Assn - $240,000
American Kidney Fund - $20,000
American Management Systems - $80,000
American Medical Response - $840,000
American Psychological Assn - $940,000
AMR Corp - $280,000
Arc Enterprises - $40,000
Asoex Chilean Exporters Assn - $40,000
Assn of American Medical Colleges - $420,000
AT&T - $1,185,000
AT&T Inc - $720,000
Authentix - $210,000
Baxter International - $60,000
Bethlehem Steel - $540,000
Biochem Resources - $20,000
Bristol-Myers Squibb - $690,000
California School Employees Assn - $40,000
Carlton Co - $20,000
Cavendish Digicom - $40,000
Center of the Development of Information - $50,000
CGI Group - $80,000
Chenega Corp - $120,000
ChevronTexaco - $140,000
Childrens Memorial Medical Center - $470,000
Chilean Salmon Farmers Assn - $100,000
Cintas Corp - $95,000
Citizens for Liberty in Cuba - $40,000
City of Chesapeake, VA - $10,000
City of Muncie, ID - $60,000
City of Muncie/Delaware County, ID - $160,000
City of Napoleon, OH - $120,000
City of Sunnyvale, CA - $70,000
Coca-Cola Co - $380,000
Colombian Textile & Apparel Industry - $80,000
Comasa, de la Optica - $80,000
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico - $2,400,000
Compusa - $60,000
Conservation Trust Fund of Puerto Rico - $240,000
Contran Corp - $505,000
Cook Childrens Health Care System - $660,000
Cummins Engine - $140,000
Cummins Inc - $1,300,000
DaimlerChrysler - $20,000
Dairy Fresh - $20,000
DARE America - $80,000
Dayton Advocacy Consortium - $120,000
Dayton Chamber/Miami Valley Reg Commis - $160,000
Delaware North Companies - $580,000
Digene Corp - $815,000
Dominican Republic-US Business Council - $40,000
Education Finance Council - $100,000
Egan & Assoc - $20,000
Eistream - $56,000
El Pomar Foundation - $50,000
Emergent BioSolutions - $80,000
Energy Finance Team - $10,000
Entergy Corp - $60,000
Featherlite Inc - $70,000
Federation of State Medical Boards - $420,000
First Transit - $60,000
Fort Lauderdale Downtown Devel Authority - $180,000
Freddie Mac - $820,000
General Electric - $680,000
General Motors - $570,000
Geovox Security - $20,000
Glaxo Wellcome Inc - $40,000
GlaxoSmithKline - $590,000
Global Strategies Group - $180,000
Goodman Corp - $20,000
GTECH Holdings Corp - $980,000
Harper, Meyer et al - $180,000
Harris Corp - $40,000
Health Industry Manufacturers Assn - $80,000
Honeywell International - $220,000
Importers Service Corp - $540,000
Impulso 2000 - $80,000
Indiana Dept of Transportation - $20,000
Insors - $330,000
Instinet - $440,000
Institute for Democratic Strategies - $10,000
International Franchise Assn - $290,000
International Org/Masters/Mates/Pilots - $80,000
International Steel Group - $20,000
International Tire & Rubber Assn - $50,000
Intl Assn of Convention & Visitor Bureau - $20,000
Intl Council of Shopping Centers - $680,000
Ion America - $80,000
Iprivacy - $20,000
Johnson & Johnson - $280,000
JP Morgan & Co - $140,000
JP Morgan Chase & Co - $724,000
Kosmos Energy - $40,000
Lincoln Group - $40,000
Liquidnet Inc - $60,000
Lockheed Martin - $487,500
Lucent Technologies - $20,000
Lumenos - $100,000
MacAndrews & Forbes - $180,000
Magellan Systems International - $350,000
Mariner Post Acute Network - $20,000
Maxxam Inc - $430,000
McTigue & Brooks - $20,000
MDA International - $320,000
Medactinium Inc - $40,000
Medtronic Inc - $40,000
Methodist Health Care System - $500,000
Michigan State University - $320,000
Microbran Products - $140,000
Mortgage Bankers Assn of America - $140,000
Morton International - $180,000
Mtbe Litigation Inc - $20,000
M-unit - $20,000
National Assn of Home Builders - $20,000
National Assn of Mortgage Brokers - $60,000
National Assn of Rocketry $50,000
National Assn of Trailer Manufacturers $60,000
National Auto Dealers Assn - $320,000
National Automobile Dealers Assn - $200,000
National Football League - $100,000
National Foreign Trade Council - $40,000
National Mentoring Partnership - $150,000
National Propane Gas Assn - $80,000
National Renal Administrators Assn - $640,000
National Restaurant Assn - $760,000
National School Transportation Assn - $400,000
Natl Assn of Classified School Employees - $300,000
Natl Assn of Passport & Visa Services - $60,000
Natl Center For The American Revolution - $30,000
Natl Conf of State Historic Preser Offcs - $360,000
Nec Corp - $695,000
Neopath/Tripath Imaging - $140,000
Nielsen Media Research - $240,000
North Americas Supercorridor Coalition - $440,000
Northeast Utilities - $40,000
Occidental Petroleum - $1,650,000
Occidental Petroleum - $1,650,000
Ocean Duke Corp - $20,000
Oryxe Energy International - $170,000
Osmose Holdings - $40,000
Pacific Supreme - $20,000
Par Technology - $70,000
Partners for Democratic Change - $40,000
Payne Shea & Assoc - $180,000
PCS Health Systems - $20,000
Peter NG Schwartz Management Co - $100,000
Pharmanex - $20,000
Philip Morris - $1,292,500
Policom Inc - $140,000
Popular Democractic Party - $260,000
Psi International - $20,000
Public Broadcasting Service - $385,000
Puerto Rico Highways & Transp Authority - $270,000
Radio Sedaye Iran - $37,500
Repeal PUHCA Now Coalition - $160,000
Rhoads/Weber Shandwick Govt Relations - $10,000
Roaring Fork Railroad Holding Authority - $220,000
Roaring Fork Transportation Authority - $200,000
Roche Group - $360,000
Rolls-Royce - $320,000
Safety-Kleen Corp - $810,000
SafeView Inc - $80,000
Sanborn - $165,000
Santa Clara County - $100,000
Santa Clara County, CA - $1,403,752
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Auth - $1,070,000
SAP America - $440,000
Screening for Mental Health - $30,000
Securicor Gray - $40,000
Shaw Group - $20,000
Silverleaf Resorts - $30,000
South Carolina Dept of Health/Human Srv - $40,000
South Carolina Judicial Dept - $20,000
Space Imaging Inc - $605,000
Stand Up for Steel - $120,000
State of Indiana - $120,000
Strategy Group International - $40,000
Sybase Inc - $100,000
Tam Bay Partnership - $20,000
Teck Cominco American - $100,000
Texas Childrens Hospital - $320,000
Thales - $1,055,000
Tobacco Quota Warehouse Alliance - $120,000
Travel Business Roundtable - $1,860,000
Travel Industry Assn of America - $180,000
Trilogy International Partners - $40,000
Tripoli Rocketry Assn - $50,000
United Motorcoach Assn - $20,000
United Network for Organ Sharing - $460,000
United Parcel Service - $50,000
United Technologies - $570,000
US Airways Group - $180,000
USEC Inc - $240,000
UST Inc - $1,360,000
Ust Public Affiars - $60,000
Values First - $30,000
Values Government Relations - $20,000
Vietnam Assn of Seafood Exporters & Prod - $340,000
Viohl & Assoc - $220,000
Visiting International Faculty Program - $40,000
Vladeck, Waldman et al - $20,000
Washington Group International - $20,000
Washington Metro Area Transit Authority - $440,000
Washington Mutual - $20,000
Webb County, TX - $40,000
Western Wireless Corp - $435,000
Williams Companies - $140,000
Wolf, Block et al - $60,000
WPP Group - $200,000
Wye Oak Technology - $10,000
Yukos Oil - $155,000

Total - $57,426,252

(My favorite: Phillip Morris, which comes in 5th in total value of the arrangement.)

Now the Washington Post reports "Black said he is still being paid by his firm and does work for clients in his 'spare time' (and) said he does a lot of his work by telephone from McCain's Straight Talk Express bus." That's the same John McCain who has striven to make hostility toward lobbyists and special interests a hallmark of his image as a "maverick." Conveniently, some of the companies represented by Charlie Black's lobbying firm have business before the Senate- and the Commerce Committee, of which John McCain still is a member.

While pundits preferred to talk about Barack Obama appropriating sentences from Deval Patrick, or Hillary Clinton appropriating some generic lines from her husband, John Edwards, or whomever, one of the issues virtually ignored in the commentary following the debate of 2/21/08 was health care.

That's understandable. Discussion of health care is boring and, anyway, it might betray the media's conservative bias. But a couple of things struck me as interesting when Senators Obama and Clinton went at it with each other in Austin.

At one point, Obama stated

Now, Massachusetts has a mandate right now. They have exempted 20 percent of the uninsured because they have concluded that that 20 percent can't afford it. In some cases, there are people who are paying fines and still can't afford it, so now they're worse off than they were. They don't have health insurance and they're paying a fine.

Clearly, the Illinois Senator is against mandates, right? But not for children's health insurance: "point number two, the reason a mandate for children can be effective is we've got an ability to make affordable health care available to that child, right now." It's somehow necessary for children, but not for adults. And as for health care for adults? Obama, again: "And it is true that, if it turns out that some are gaming the system, then we can impose, potentially, some penalties on them for gaming the system." Curious, given that earlier in the argument he criticizes this general approach: "In order for you to force people to get health insurance, you've got to have a very harsh penalty, and Senator Clinton has said that we won't go after their wages. Now, this is a substantive difference." Mandates, penalties? For or against? It's hard to tell. Clinton is much clearer: "We would not have a social compact with Social Security and Medicare if everyone did not have to participate. I want a universal health care plan."

It's almost heretical. In this season of the Obama campaign and the media emphasizing the involvement of youth in the presidential campaign(s) and the clear implication that their interests, above all else, must be served, it's refreshing to hear a candidate actually refer to Social Security and Medicare. She sounds almost like.... dare I say it.... a Democrat.

Friday, February 22, 2008

An Issue, Barely

Most of the debate over the debate Senators Obama and Clinton had in Austin, Texas on February 21, 2008 involved the matter of plagiarism. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, an early and ardent supporter of Senator Obama, exclaimed in October, 2006 while running for the Statehouse:

But her dismissive point, and I hear it a lot from her staff, is that all I have to offer is words — just words. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, [applause and cheers] that all men are created equal.’ [Sustained applause and cheers.] Just words – just words! ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself.’ Just words! ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’ Just words! ‘I have a dream.’ Just words!

Campaigning in Wisconsin on February 16, 2008, Senator Obama declared “Don’t tell me words don’t matter! ‘I have a dream.’ Just words. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ Just words! [Applause.] ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself.’ Just words — just speeches!”

Following the debate, Clinton was generally slammed because she commented during the debate "and, you know, lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in, it's change you can Xerox. And I just don't think...," a quip met by boos from the enthusiastic, if somewhat rude, Obama supporters. No one seemingly noticed that she had immediately prior noted "well, I think that if your candidacy is going to be about words, then they should be your own words. That's, I think, a very simple proposition."

Senator Obama appropriately points out that Patrick is national co-chairman of his campaign, that he and the Governor confer periodically, and that the issue is of relatively little significance. Still, Merriam-Webster online defines plagiarize as "to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own: use (another's production) without crediting the source." So Obama did indulge in plagiarism. If the mainstream media wants to downplay its significance, even to continue to ridicule Mrs. Clinton for a joke that fell flat, that's just fine. But when the GOP plays up the matter in the fall campaign, consistency demands that the media be equally harsh on the Repub party for exploiting the issue. I'm not optimistic.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

No Way To Explain

Michelle Obama, nee Michelle Robinson, was born in 1964, was raised on the south side of Chicago- hardly a privileged venue- yet worked and succeeded in high school, and was accepted into Princeton University. After graudating from Princeton, she was accepted into Harvard University Law School and after gaining her law degree, she got a job at Sidley & Austin, described by Newsweek Magazine as "a blue-chip corporate-law firm in Chicago (where) she was making good money as an associate on track to becoming a partner." (There she was assigned to mentor a young associate named Barack Obama.) Soon afterward she left her position for one with the City of Chicago- where she accepted a cut in pay- after being interviewed by Mayor Daley's Deputy Chief of Staff, who found her "so confident and committed and extremely open." And then, the Chicago director of Public Allies, described by Newsweek as "a nonprofit that encouraged young people to go into public service—just the kind of encouragement she felt she had never gotten." And then, a $275,000 job at the University of Chicago Medical Center (from which she has taken a leave of absence to work in the Obama campaign), where "she inspired a program to send doctors from the prestigious University of Chicago Medical Center into community hospitals and clinics in poor surrounding neighborhoods."

No wonder Barack Obama, himself an extremely impressive, high-achieving individual, refers to his wife as his "rock." No wonder acquaintances describe her, Newsweek reports, as poised, relaxed and confident. An unusually impressive individual.

So, forgive me for wondering what Michelle Obama was doing at a campaign appearance on February 18, 2007 in Madison, Wisconsin when she declared

For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. And I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction. And just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment I've seen people who are hungry to be unified around some basic, common issues and it's made me proud.

According to, the Obama campaign explained:

Of course Michelle is proud of her country, which is why she and Barack talk constantly about how their story wouldn’t be possible in any other nation on Earth. What she meant is that she’s really proud at this moment because for the first time in a long time, thousands of Americans who’ve never participated in politics before are coming out in record numbers to build a grassroots movement for change.

Does this mean that Michelle Obama, understandably, is proud of the success of the campaign ("....thousands of Americans who've never participated in politics....")? If so, is she proud of her country- or the campaign? Or does this mean that she is proud because "their story wouldn't be possible in any other nation..."? And if so, why is this the first time that something in the political realm has made her proud of her country? Or is she proud precisely (only) because of the overwhelmingly positive response engendered by the campaign?

I don't know what the Obama camp was trying to say, and I'm not sure it does, either. We do know, though, that Barack Obama (presuming no extraordinary comeback by HRC) will be running against a fellow who has spent his entire political career in Washington, D.C.; was a leading cheerleader for a very unpopular war run by an extremely unpopular President (whom he infamously has been photographed hugging); has no compunction about admitting that American troops might be in the Persian Gulf for another century; concedes, in the face of an impending recession, that he doesn't know much about the economy; will have to contort himself further into a pretzel pandering to the extreme right; and has earned the antipathy of several legislators in his own party for his legendary temper. And we know something else for sure: the Repub Party will remind the voters that while that candidate was spending his time (though before Mrs. Obama was an adult) being "tied up" (as he referred to it in a joke about Hillary Clinton he told at a GOP debate) at the Hanoi Hilton, others were finding it difficult to be proud of their country. Good luck fighting that one.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Beware establishment figures with a vested interest in maintaining a convenient fiction without revealing their motive.

Consider the February 18, 2008 episode of MSNBC's Countdown. Keith Olberman was interviewing Gary Mack, the curator of the 6th Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas about the release of a transcript (among other documents) of a purported conversation between Lee Harvey Oswald and his assassin, Jack Ruby, approximately seven weeks before the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The documents were kept inside a courthouse safe under the supervision of then-Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade, who prosecuted Ruby and, according to one document, had signed a movie deal in 1967.

The Chicago Tribune reported the conversation as following:

"There is a way to get rid of him without killing him," Oswald says.

"How's that?" Ruby responds.

"I can shoot his brother," Oswald says.

After a discussion of the logistics of shooting the president, Ruby says the money for the operation's coming from the Mafia.

"Are you with the Mafia?" Oswald asked.

"You're asking too many questions," Ruby responds.

Later, Ruby gives a lengthy warning that Oswald must not get caught or say anything, noting that "if you do talk, then the boys will make me follow you, wherever you go, and kill you."

The papers, such as they are, describe a plot by La Cosa Nostra to assassinate the President, which would result in the Presidency being assumed by Lyndon Johnson, enemy to Attorney General Robert Kennedy, a nemesis of organized crime.

Many people, including Mack, have cast doubt on the veracity of the conversation. The curator contended "virtually all the hard evidence leads directly to Lee Harvey Oswald and no one else, at least so far. The problem is that most people just are not convinced of the official story."

One problem, Gary. Although you may be enamored of the Warren Commission report, there is no one "offical story," despite what some experts imply. Perhaps you missed the conclusions of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which in the late 1970's investigated the assassinations of J.F.K. and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The Committee concluded in part that: there were two gunmen, one on the grassy knoll, and the other Lee Harvey Oswald (who may have had ties with Jack Ruby, who fired three of four shots; both Oswald and Ruby had ties to La Cosa Nostra; the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. had misled, and withheld information from, the Warren Commission; and the Warren Commission did not investigate the possibility of conspiracy.

So whatever one may think about the theory that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing John F. Kennedy, clearly there is not one "official" version of the assassination- a fact of which the "experts" are very much aware.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Finally, former President George Herbert Walker Bush has endorsed for President Arizona Senator John McCain, contending he has the "right values and experience to guide our nation forward" and "no one is better prepared to lead our nation at these trying times....." Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report (generally a worthwhile read) commented "this is just another sign that the race for the Republican nomination is effectively over and that the party establishment is wrapping their arms around McCain."

What gave you your first clue, Charlie? Might it have be the 846 delegates won by McCain (with only 1191 needed for nomination) compared to the 268 by Romney (who has urged his delegates to vote for McCain), 243 for Huckabee (who makes the Repub establishment at least as queasy as does McCain), and the 14 for Ron Paul? Could it be that it's almost statistically impossible for McCain to blow the nomination?

Much of the Repub "party establishment" already supports the Arizona Senator, although his endorsements from GOP Representatives and Senators have been underwhelming. The Repub establishment is not McCain's problem. The right wing is McCain's problem, the likes of Thad Cochran, Rick Santorum, Tom DeLay, George F. Will, and Laura Ingraham. Instead, today's was an endorsement of the president who famously uttered "read my lips- no new taxes," then raised them when necessary, thereby incurring the disappointment of most of the GOP and the wrath of much of it. If George H.W. Bush was revered- or even respected- by the Republicans McCain has been courting (actually, pandering to), the Repub debates wouldn't have been consumed by each candidate (save Paul) trying to out-Reagan Reagan. And the presumptive nominee himself might have missed at least one opportunity to proclaim himself "a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution."

If former President Bush had endorsed John McCain six weeks ago, that might have had an effect on the Republican race. We now would be anticipating the nomination of Mitt Romney.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The son of sharecroppers, John Robert Lewis graduated from American Baptist Theological Seminary and Fisk University, both in Nashville, Tennessee.

A Freedom Rider, John Lewis was beaten bloody by an angry mob of Klansmen on Saturday May 20, 1961 at the bus terminal in Montgomery, Alabama. He was a keynote speaker at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, at which Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech . Less than two years later, on Sunday, March 7, 1965, as John Lewis, Dr. King and 600 civil rights marchers headed east from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama, they were severely beaten at Edmund Pettis Bridge, by state police and sheriff's department officers, with their complement of billy clubs, tear gas, and bully whips in what became known as "Bloody Sunday."

Mr. Lewis was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1986 and has been reelected every two years, facing no opposition since 2002. As a U.S. Representative, he is a superdelegate to the Democratic National Convention and on October 12, 2007 endorsed for the Democratic nomination for President Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom he supported through Georgia's primary on February 5. When in January, according to (Atlanta Journal-Constitution website), a Repub political consultant used an anonymous, automated phone call to criticize Lewis' support for Clinton over Obama, Lewis reportedly said of switching allegiance "It's unthinkable. "You make a commitment, you keep that commitment."

Now John R. Lewis telling the New York Times, as reported on 2/14/08, “something is happening in America, and people are prepared and ready to make that great leap” and that he could “never, ever do anything to reverse the action” of the voters of his district, who voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama in the primary. On February 15, Lewis told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the report by the Times' Jeff Zeleny is "inaccurate"- but the reporter adamantly maintains that Lewis' intent was clear. The same day, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, a black South Carolinian whom Lewis serves as chief deputy, says "John is wrestling with this."

We all can sympathize with the weighty decision facing John Lewis. Yet, when party rules added Democratic officeholders, members of the Democratic National Committee, and activists as delegates, they were not designated in order to ratify the vote in their district, their state, or the nation as a whole (in which many Independents and Republicans have voted). They were expected to exercise independent judgement which, especially given John Lewis' long record of service to nation and party, is a right and privilege, as well as an obligation. Those individuals who decided long ago to endorse either Democratic candidate may have been premature, even foolish. But they did make a commitment. And just as Senator Edward Kerry, Senator John Kerry, and Governor Patrick Deval, all Massachusetts officeholders/superdelegates who endorsed Obama before a primary which Hillary Clinton won convincingly, have not questioned their decision, neither should Lewis.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Quote of the Week

"I don't believe any general election polls in February."

-Jeffrey Toobin of CNN on 2/12/08
FISA Reauthorization and Partisanship

The U.S. Senate on February 12, 2008 voted 67 to 31 to defeat the Dodd Amendment, which aimed to "strike the provisions providing immunity from civil liability to electronic communication service providers for certain assistance provided to the Government." Later, the upper chamber approved by a vote of 68 to 29 this update of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The House of Representatives had late last year passed a version of reauthorization which did not include immunity for the telecommunications industry and representatives of the two chambers will negotiate in conference.

There are approximately 40 lawsuits pending against companies for engaging in illegal wiretapping and internet eavesdropping against American citizens. Information about the program will not be revealed to the American people except by lawsuits, so it is not surprising that the Bush Administration is indulging its penchant for secrecy and contempt for the American people by vigorously supporting telecom immunity. And it's routine for Bush to frighten the American people, as by declaring "at this moment, somewhere in the world, terrorists are planning new attacks on our country. Their goal is to bring destruction to our shores that will make September the 11th pale by comparison."

But as we approach a general election campaign for President in which the media, reporting the attacks by Repubs against the Democratic Party, waxes indignant at "hyperpartisanship" and longs for "bipartisanship," let's remember: S 2248, the bill which passed the Senate, was sponsored by the Intelligence Committee chairman- Democrat Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. And the crucial Dodd amendment was opposed by 19* (out of 51) Democrats, who thereby voted with the Republican President and all 48 Repubs (one not present) in denying the rule of law and declaring that, in America, some (corporations) are in fact above the law. This is what the GOP and the mainstream media consider bipartisanship.

*Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Tom Carper (D-DE), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Jim Webb (D-VA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Joseph Lieberman (officially an "Independent Democrat").

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

McCain In Full Pander Mode

Senator John McCain at the CNN/YouTube debate on November 28, 2007, responding to Anderson Cooper's question "Is waterboarding torture?":

And again, I would hope that we would understand, my friends, that life is not "24" and Jack Bauer.

Life is interrogation techniques which are humane and yet effective. And I just came back from visiting a prison in Iraq. The Army general there said that techniques under the Army Field Manual are working and working effectively, and he didn't think they need to do anything else.

My friends, this is what America is all about. This is a defining issue and, clearly, we should be able, if we want to be commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, to take a definite and positive position on, and that is, we will never allow torture to take place in the United States of America.

Fast forward to February 13, 2008. The Senate approves by 51 to 45 an intelligence authorization bill containining a provision, sponsored by Dianne Feinstein (D.- Cal.), which would restrict the C.I.A. to the 19 intelligence techniques authorized by the Army Field Services Manual, which prohibits eight specific techniques, including waterboarding. And John McCain, under attack from the far right of his party? He joins 42 other Repubs in voting against the measure. (Five Republicans vote "aye" and one does not vote.)

Score it a victory for Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter & Co.- and a defeat for candor.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

McCain And The Rule Of Law

Really, one should have some sympathy for John McCain. In speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 7, 2008, the Arizona senator knew he would have to address the issue of illegal immigration, one of the issues which has put him at odds with the Repub base and majority of registered Republicans.

So he finessed the issue, successfully putting off till later his day of reckoning on the matter. This is what he said in relevant part:

I have pledged that it would be among my highest priorities to secure our borders first -- (cheers, applause) -- to secure our borders first. And only after we have achieved widespread consensus that our borders are secure would we address other aspects of the problem in a way that defends the rule of law and does not encourage another wave of illegal immigration. (Applause.)

If you don't know what McCain was saying, you've read carefully. Of course, he was trying to say "I'll close the border first." Except that he didn't say that, but instead "it would be among (his) highest priorities"- whether that means one of his two or one of his eight-six highest priorities is anyone's guess. And he didn't say that he would- or wouldn't- build a wall, which opponents of the McCain-Kennedy "Comprehensive Immigration Act" want above all.

Understandably, then, McCain did not define a solution which would "defend the rule of law and does not encourage another wave of illegal immigration." For that matter, McCain might argue that the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 did not "encourage another wave of illegal immigration"- though it did legalize millions of illegal immigrants. And lest the applauding conservatives did not notice, McCain did not pledge to propose legislation consistent with that objection and the rule of law- only that he would "address" the problem- and not necessarily "comprehensively" (a term dear to the Senator) but only "other aspects." I do, though, admire McCain's speechwriters for their sleight of hand.

Liberal supporters of comprehensive immigration reform need not panic at the possiblity of election of McCain (except for other reasons). He may want to cut taxes for the hyper-rich; allow mentally ill individuals to buy weapons (pledging opposition to waiting periods); cut Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor (propagating the myth of "entitlement programs that are bankrupting us"); promote federal control over citizens (curtailing the right to an abortion); and turn a blind eye to our urgent need for health care- but he'll wait awhile to "defend the rule of law." And given McCain's attack on Democrats for blocking "an extension of surveillance powers," it's clear that the rule of law, like the protection of privacy, would not be one of those "highest priorities" of his administration.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

McCain and the Alternative Minimum Tax

In Senator John McCain's speech on Thursday, 2/7/08, to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., he twice pledged to end the Alternative Minimum Tax.

The AMT was enacted as part of the Tax Reform Act of 1969, applies to corporations and individuals which because of "tax preference items" (deductions and the like) pay little or no income tax. Conservatives targeting the tax note that an increasing number of middle income taxpayers have become ensnared because it is not indexed to inflation.

But there is another reason more individuals have become subject to this tax. As the great columnist Michael Kinsley has noted, "George W. Bush's first-term tax cut lowered the regular income tax for affluent people so dramatically that many more people qualify for exactly what the AMT is supposed to do -- make sure that nobody with a high income gets away with paying little or no income tax."

Ending the Alternative Minimum Tax, therefore, is a supporting pillar of the Repub's "starve the beast" spending philosophy. You know how that works: inveigh against "big government;" cut government spending, thereby making government less effective; then complain about how ineffective and inefficient the government works. So, for taxation: complain about how much of a burden the (progressive) income tax is on the middle class; cut income taxes for the wealthy, as George W. Bush has done and John McCain wants to continue; watch as the AMT inevitably includes more of the middle class; then complain that the AMT is a plague upon the middle class and urge its abolition.

Cutting tax rates for millionaires and multi-millionaires is only one of the ways this "maverick" from Arizona will pander to the Repub base over the next nine months. Fasten your seat belts, for more is coming.
McCain on Health Care

Now that John McCain, in a day I never thought would come, has been effectively nominated for President, he has begun his campaign against the Democratic Party, especially those he accuses of waving "the white flag of surrender" (translation: committing treason).

McCain's speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, February 7, 2008, hit, largely effectively, most of the Repub's hot button issues. He quoted the renowned conservative philosopher Edmund Burke and pledged allegiance to Ronald Reagan. He defended the Iraq war and increasing troop levels there. He attacked abortion rights, supported extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich, knocked earmarks- and advocated a line item veto, thereby urging an expansion of executive power. He advocated defense of the United States by dependence upon state militias (a/k/a Second Amendment), opposed Iran, Islamic extremists, and supported Israel, the last as safe a position as it is sensible.

And he pledged fealty to "free market" health care, warning that the Democrats will "offer a big government solution to health care insurance coverage" while he would pursue a market-based remedy. That's right- the free market, which has produced in the U.S. A. a, health care system in which:

-as of 2003, spending amounted to 15% of the Gross Domestic Product, considerably higher than in most industrialized countries, including Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Germany, France, and Canada;

-over 40 million citizens have no health insurance;

-according to the World Health Care Organization, is (modestly) better than that in Slovenia, Cuba, Brunei; also Slovakia, Libya, and Ghana and other nations- but unfortunately worse than in France, the U.K., Canada, and 33 other countries.

Fortunately, the Democratic nominee can benefit by campaigning on health care to defeat Senator McCain in the fall. After all, it is an issue he knows little about, cares little about, and is wrong about.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Saint McCain- No. 7

"McCain will also run on a biography that has shown character and courage and a willingness to buck convention...."

-Staff Writer Dan Balz of The Washington Post in a 2/8/08 article describing John McCain's appearance the previous day at the Conservative Political Action Conference

(This is getting too easy.)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Quote of the Week

"What kind of man calls his dog "Dave" and his Chief of Staff "Scooter?"

-Chris Matthews on 1/7/08 speaking on MSNBC's "Hardball" of Dick Cheney, on whom he has very much soured since he voted for him as Vice President in 2000
Patriot McCain

Senate Democrats yesterday, 2/6/08, failed to invoke cloture on Senate Amendment 3983to House Resolution 5140, the Recovery Rebates and Economic Stimulus for the American People Act of 2008. The amendment would have added $40 billion in rebates for the elderly, disabled veterans, and jobless individuals. With Senators Clinton and Obama returning to Washington specifically to cast an "aye" vote, 46 other Democrats, eight Republicans, and the two Independents (Lieberman and Bernard Sanders) also voting to cut off debate. In all, 58 Senators voted in favor of the Democratic measure with only one- Majority Leader Harry Reid- voting against it. However, as the Boston Globe reports, Reid voted yes, then no as a parliamentary maneuver designed to allow him to re-introduce the amendment. (In fact, the Senate a few minutes ago voted passed by 91 to 7 a scaled-back measure.)

One Senator was en route to Dulles International Airport just outside of Washington shortly before the vote. He spoke as if he was unsure how he would vote on this measure which would help disabled veterans but (and?) was opposed by the White House and the conservatives of his party. His plane landed as proceedings in the Senate began. He decided not to show up.

That was the man of courage, John McCain. The Arizona Senator will do whatever he can to help his fellow veterans.... except when there is any political risk.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Quote of the Week

"Huckabee is McCain's campaign manager."

Jeffrey Toobin of CNN on "The Situation Room" on 1/4/08 referring to Governor Huckabee's refusal to leave the GOP race, thereby denying the nomination to Mitt Romney and handing it to John McCain

Monday, February 04, 2008

Saint McCain- No. 6

"You know, Margaret, you talk about the POW experience and you and I have worked with John interviewing him in different ways and being with him- John McCain, it's very hard not to believe his story that in the five and a half years he was in camp, prison camp, and the two years he was in solitary that he really did fall in love with the country. I think he is patriotic. How is that for the bottom line?"

-Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball, on 2/4/08 explaining to Margaret Carlson the difference between John McCain and, I guess, the rest of us whose patriotism is suspect

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Quote of the Week

"The media doesn't want either one of these to get off the stage."

Howie Kurtz, host of CNN's Reliable Sources, explaining the media's exultation at the possibility, raised during the 1/31/08 debate broadcast on CNN, of a Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton ticket
Saint McCain- No. 5

"Who else has taken that kind of risk?"

-Mara Eliasson, of National Public Radio, on Fox News Sunday on 2/3/08, marveling at John McCain's ascent from dark horse candidate, with little money, to odds-on favorite in the GOP presidential race
My Vote, Reluctantly

"I can tell you, comrades, with all the brainwork we have to do nowadays, You would not rob us of our repose, would you, comrades? You would not have us too tired to carry out our duties? Surely none of you wishes to see Jones back."

-"Squealer" in Animal Farm, chapter 6
George Orwell

And so it goes, that the events of the past week in the Democratic presidential race reminded me of the great World War II-era novel in which the animals, who take over the farm from the oppressive human beings, come to forget that Farmer Jones was in fact no worse than their current regime.

It is in that context that I read this past week the eloquent commentary on the Op-Ed pages by Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Caroline wrote "I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans."

This fits nicely with the soaring, inspirational rhetoric of the Obama campaign, infused with a post-partisan appeal. Perhaps his campaign theme was best summarized when on December 2, 2007 the Illinois Senator said at a fund-raiser in Boston “I don’t want to spend the next four years re-arguing the same partisan arguments that we had all through the 1990s. I don’t want to pit red America against blue America."

And Obama has been drawing huge, rancorous crowds for months, drawing comparisons to a youthful, energetic JFK and largely avoiding detailed descriptions of policy proposals. But his rhetoric criticizing "the same partisan arguments" of the 1990s and the urge to "build a bridge back to the 1990s" has touched a chord with millions of Americans, disproprotionately (understandably) the youth whom it appears Caroline Kennedy has been talking to.

I find it a curious, disturbing argument, though no more curious than the remarks of Senator Kennedy reported in a 1/28/08 article in the New York Times. Obama, he said, "will be a president who refuses to be trapped in the patterns of the past,”whose campaign will help the nation "rise above the old politics that parses us into separate groups and puts us at odds with one another." Then, we read, the Massachusetts senator headed west with Obama, "helping him firm up support from unions and Hispanics, as well as the party base." So much, I guess, for avoiding "pars(ing) us into separate groups."

At least Ted appears to be avoiding the naivete infecting Caroline and many of the Obama supporters. The latter, could, of course, question the Clinton campaign's embrace of huge campaign funds from the pharmaceutical and energy industries. But, alas, widening the rift between generations, between young and old, has been more enticing to the Obama contingent. It is ironic that the first black candidate with a serious chance at the presidency, who has assiduously avoided a race-based campaign, has been supported by multitudes embracing distinctions predicated on age.

Obama himself should not escape criticism here. Typically, in November, 2007 he told Fox News "I have no doubt that we represent the kind of change Senator Clinton can't deliver on.... and part of it is generational." A candidate who wants to bridge the divide between black and white and increase it between old and young cannot apply a salve to the nation's wounds. He has, as in this interview with the National Journal, referred to Social Security as a "crisis," which New York Times columnist Paul Krugman noted is "in large part.... the result of decades of scare-mongering about Social Security’s future from conservative ideologues, whose ultimate goal is to undermine the program."

It is an appeal to the young voter, who has, throughout, his life, been told by Republicans and the corporate media that Social Security is facing a crisis which it demonstrably has not. Further, it is an element of Obama's post-partisan appeal. Krugman quotes Obama as claiming "“we can’t tackle the big problems that demand solutions” because “politics has become so bitter and partisan.”

The Illinois senator and I have been living in different worlds. A Democratic Congress was elected to end the war; instead, Democrats have made only half-hearted attempts to end it and generally have acquiesced in President Bush's effort to continue it. A recession looms- and Speaker Pelosi and President Bush come together in mere days to forge a stimulus package- not including extended unemployment benefits, home heating assistance, a minimum wage increase, or a public works program, all items one might expect Democrats, and liberals, to promote. (Even conservative Republican Mike Huckabee has recommended a program to give the unemployed jobs building highways!) Bill Clinton was impeached (though acquitted) for lying to a grand jury about sexual activity- sex!- and barely a peep has been heard from this Democratic congress about impeachment- and oversight of the Executive has been grievously insufficient. Partisanship? Hardly. As Gary Younge has written in The Nation, "the terrible truth about the past seven years is not that the country has been divided but that the wrong side has been winning. The right has fought for its agenda and has never been in doubt about who its enemy is." (Even John McCain, whom many Republicans excoriate for "sticking his finger in the eye of" conservatives, has taken to attacking some Democrats for waving "the white flag in surrender in Iraq.")

The obsession among some Democrats with bipartisanship has serious practical implications. The New York Times, in an article dated February 3, 2008, tells of residents of Illinois complaining to Senator Obama about radioactive leaks tolerated by the Exelon Corporation.

Mr. Obama scolded Exelon and federal regulators for inaction and introduced a bill to require all plant owners to notify state and local authorities immediately of even small leaks. He has boasted of it on the campaign trail, telling a crowd in Iowa in December that it was “the only nuclear legislation that I’ve passed.”

“I just did that last year,” he said, to murmurs of approval.

A close look at the path his legislation took tells a very different story. While he initially fought to advance his bill, even holding up a presidential nomination to try to force a hearing on it, Mr. Obama eventually rewrote it to reflect changes sought by Senate Republicans, Exelon and nuclear regulators. The new bill removed language mandating prompt reporting and simply offered guidance to regulators, whom it charged with addressing the issue of unreported leaks.

The bill eventually died, but nevertheless is testimony to bi-partisan politics as usual. And while Democrats pursue the moral high ground of bipartisan purity, Republicans invariably are at work pursuing conservative legislation that continues to drag the middle class ground.

Senator Clinton is not the perfect progressive candidate, as demonstrated by her arguable coziness with special interests and regrettable vote in 2002 authorizing force in Iraq, indicate. And Barack Obama deserves credit for wise judgement in opposing that authorization, though he was able to do so from a cozy, liberal legislative district in a nominally Democratic state. Many Democrats who voted with the President no doubt feared that otherwise they would be accused by the GOP of a lack of patiotism and a desire not to "support the troops." (Over the past year, one of John McCain's most aggressive supporters, Independent Senator Joe Lieberman, has nearly accused Democrts who opposed the surge as treason- even as he has, not coincidentally, maintained the admiration of the mainstream media, who describe him favorably as a "maverick" or "centrist" man of integrity.) The confidence that a Senator Obama would have voted against authorization of military force is belied by two related factors: State Senator Obama apparently on six occasions availed himself of a rule quirk in Illinois that permits a legislator to vote one way on a bill- and then make a public statement supporting the opposite point of view (Obama says that he mistakenly hit the wrong button each time); and his unfortunate tendency to miss controversial votes in the U.S. Senate, such as the condemnation of for its Petraeus ad and the declaration of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a "foreign terrorist organization."

This suggests a man who has the right perspective and positions, but may lack the fortitude or persistence ideal in a progressive president. The positions held by Mrs. Clinton, generally like Mr. Obama and unlike the Republican field, are sound and sensible, whether on health care (where she unquestionably supports universal coverage), taxation, energy independence, or education. And I have no doubt that Mrs. Clinton possesses the knowledge, industriousness, and determination which would help advance the progressive agenda. Thus, in an imperfect field, one lacking a candidate who would make poverty and the slow decline of the middle class his focus, or one who would make environmental degradation his focus (and who, presciently, supported Gulf War I and opposed Gulf War II), I'll cast my vote for the candidate who is more likely to effect the change we Democrats know is necessary. That is Hillary Clinton.

(And what of Farmer Jones? Really, he was no worse than Napoleon and the crowd of dictatorial animals which succeeded him, though the rhetorical question "surely none of you wishes to see Jones back," helped convince the animals otherwise. And surely, President Kennedy must have been better than Presidents Johnson and Clinton? Right? Right?)

Friday, February 01, 2008

Not Straight Talk on Illegal Immigration

John McCain was asked at the Repub presidential debate on January 30, 2008 whether he would vote for the bill he sponsored establishing a "pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who were already here" if it returned to the Senate floor. This was, in brief, the exchange on the issue:

(Janet Hook of the Los Angeles Times): "What I'm wondering is -- and you seem to be downplaying that part. At this point, if your original proposal came to a vote on the Senate floor, would you vote for it?"

(McCain): "It won't. It won't. That's why we went through the debate."

HOOK: "But if it did?"

MCCAIN: "No, it would not, because we know what the situation is today."

(Anderson) COOPER: "So I just want to confirm that you would not vote for your bill as it originally was?"

MCCAIN: "My bill will not be voted on; it will not be voted on."

Three opportunities to answer the question. Three opportunities for a little "straight talk." Three times obviously avoiding answering a simple question.

And this from the guy most people actually believe would be the strongest Repub presidential candidate. Sad? Startling? Disturbing? Or perhaps all three?

One of Our Own, Or So He Says

So do your thing ,Charles! Stephen A. Smith on Fox News on Wednesday night commented I got to tell you something. As much as people may ha...