Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Uncurious Sarah Palin

Courtesy of Elizabeth Snead's "The Dish Rag," a Los Angeles Times blog, here is the transcript of the portion of Katie Couric's interview with Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin in which the candidate is asked about the source of her "world view":

Couric: And when it comes to establishing your world view, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world?

Palin: I've read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media.
Couric: What, specifically?

Palin: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years.

Couric: Can you name a few?

Palin: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news too. Alaska isn't a foreign country, where it's kind of suggested, "Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?" Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.

(You can view these comments beginning at 3:45 of the youtube

Here are a few suggestions for Mrs. Palin:

a)magazines- the traditional, relatively objective newsweeklies, Time or Newsweek; the conservative Republican standbys, The Weekly Standard or The National Review;

b)newspapers- among those distributed widely, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal (she'll like the editorial policy), Washington Post (from the nation's capital, where she hopes to take up residence in a few months), Los Angeles Times; those with a more limited distribution, including the Des Moines Register (which we hear constantly about every fourth autumn and winter in the runup to the Iowa caucuses), Manchester's Union-Leader (same as the last, but for the New Hampshire primaries); the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (which periodically includes items about current events in Alaska); the Anchorage Daily News.

Any of them- Governor Earmark could have mentioned any number of newspapers or magazines- a conservative-leaning magazine or newspaper to buttress her conservative credentials; a New Hampshire or Iowa newspaper to signal that she always has been interested in national politics; a newspaper nationally known, suggesting that she is sophisticated or cosmopolitan to counter the stereotype of the small-town hockey mom; or a weekly magazine to prove that she is well-rounded. Anything, and her claim to read it need be no more true than her claim(s) to have adamantly opposed the Bridge To Nowhere. Something to demonstrate that she has an interest in an event occurring anywhere outside of Juneau, Anchorage, or Wasilla, asode from victory for the Palin and McCain ticket.
Palin, Confused

I truly don't know what Sarah Palin means.

CBS News on Tuesday, 9/30 broadcast excerpts of an interview Katie Couric conducted on September 29 with John McCain and Sarah Palin. Palin was asked by Couric whether global warming is "manmade" and Governor Earmark responded:

You know … there are man's activities that can be contributed to … the issues that we're dealing with now with these impacts. I'm not going to solely blame all of man's activities on changes in climate. Because the world's weather patterns … are cyclical. And over history we have seen changes there. But kind of doesn't matter at this point, as we debate what caused it. The point is it's real, we need to do something about it. And like … Tony Blair had said … when he was in leadership position, he said, "Let's all consider the fact that it is real." So instead of pointing fingers … at different sides of the argument as to who is to blame, and if nature just to blame, let's do something about it. Let's clean up our world. Let's reduce emissions. And let's go with reality.

In remarking "man's activities that can be contributed to.... the issues that we're deaing with now" is Palin saying that a) "man's activities" contribute to "these impacts" (a reasonable observation, but contrary to a previous statement and not what she said here); or b) "man's activities" can be attributed to global warming (reversing cause and effect)?

Does the V.P. nominee really believe it "kind of doesn't matter.... what caused it?" How does a nation address a problem for which it has no idea of the cause? Curiously, Palin argues "if nature (is) just to blame, let's do something about it." Do something about nature? And to clean up our world? This would be an overwhelming task for a nation which, in her view, does not know the cause of the problem and which should not "point fingers."

Sarah Palin's response is a confused answer symptomatic of someone who evidently has never bothered to think about this issue, and of someone unqualified to be a member of the United States Congress or to take up residence at the Naval Observatory.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Article Of The Week

In a piece in slate.com entitled "The Downsides of Diversity, " Dahlia Lithwick finds lessons in the experiences of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and the phenomenon of Sarah Palin.

Lithwick argues "Clarence Thomas has always excoriated liberals for promoting token blacks so that America might someday look just like a Benetton commercial (while) John McCain has mastered the fine art of turning women into campaign accessories, a flag pin with nice calves." She observes "Clarence Thomas has learned to neatly divide the entire world into angels and demons.... (and) Palin similarly casts everyone as either a supporter or a 'hater.'"

Lithwick is more sympathetic (or, rather, less unsympathetic) to Thomas and Palin than I am. The Democratic Party, I believe, has more genuinely valued women and ethnic minorities (see Clinton, Hillary and Obama, Barack) who are clearly qualified than has the Republican Party (see Palin, Sarah). Nevertheless, this article, a version of which appeared concurrently in Newsweek, reflects an interesting perspective on affirmative action and two public figures of considerable professional achievement, if not merit.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Now A Weak Argument

The Washington Post reported on Sunday, 9/28:

(Senior Advisor Steve) Schmidt said the campaign will press two arguments as forcefully as possible in the coming days. One is that Obama is not ready to be commander in chief and that, in a time of two wars, "his policies will make the world more dangerous and America less secure." Second, he said, McCain will argue that, in a time of economic crisis, Obama will raise taxes and spending and "will make our economy worse."

So McCain wants to argue that Barack Obama's policies "will make the world more dangerous and America less secure." Arguably, this would have been McCain's strongest argument to elect himself rather than the junior senator from Illinois. Only the 72-year-old (admittedly skin) cancer survivor should have thought about this before he selected as his running mate the author of these response the first four from the interview with ABC's Charlie Gibson, the last from the interview with CBS' Katie Couric):

On the perspective that she has of Russia's national security threat: They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.

On a possible Israeli attack (which the White House reportedly would oppose): We cannot second guess the steps that Israel has to take to defend itself.

On whether she agrees with the Bush Doctrine: In what respect, Charlie?

On pursuing terrorists on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan: In order to stop Islamic extremists, those terrorists who would seek to destroy America and our allies, we must do whatever it takes and we must not blink, Charlie, in making those tough decisions of where we go and even who we target. (A legitimate and debatable position held by Barack Obama- and opposed by John McCain, prompting the latter to retract his mate's statement)

On meeting with Iran: I've never heard Henry Kissinger say, "Yeah, I'll meet with these leaders without preconditions being met." (Stated, presumably, because she did not hear Kissinger say "Well, I am in favor of negotiating with Iran.....But I do not believe that we can make conditions for the opening of negotiations.")

It's painfully obvious: any guy who puts "Country First" and would like to argue credibly that his opponent would endanger national security would not have chosen Sarah Palin as first in succession to the Presidency of the United States of America.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Quiet, Please

Now that I have criticized moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS for not mentioning mainland China during the September 26 presidential debate in Mississippi, I have to give him major credit for asking generally good questions and, more so, for asking something of the audience: to keep quiet.

Presidential, and other, debates are plagued by audience laughter and applause. Not ony does reaction by the audience interrupt the flow of debate, it skews the response of both the listening, and the voting, public. Television networks include a sound track in sitcoms for a reason: when the viewers hear laughter, they tend to laugh, or at least find the dialogue amusing. And supporters of a candidate know that if there is more favorable response to their candidate's comments than to those of his or her adversary, it will accrue to the benefit of their candidate, especially (though not exclusively) if that comment becomes a frequently-played soundbite.

Lehrer's admonition to the audience thus leveled the playing field. It also incidentally hurt candidate McCain, who is more at ease with a soundbite, especially a humorous one, than is Obama. Note these lines from the Arizona senator:

You know, we spent $3 million to study the DNA of bears in Montana. I don’t know if that was a criminal issue or a paternal issue, but the fact is that it was $3 million of our taxpayers’ money.

I have fought against it. I was called the sheriff, by the — one of the senior members of the Appropriations Committee. I didn’t win Miss Congeniality in the United States Senate.

It’s well-known that I have not been elected Miss Congeniality in the United States Senate nor with the administration.

I’m not going to set the White House visitors schedule before I’m president of the United States. I don’t even have a seal yet.

So let me get this right. We sit down with Ahmadinejad, and he says, “We’re going to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth,” and we say, “No, you’re not”? Oh, please.

I looked into Mr. Putin’s eyes, and I saw three letters, a “K,” a “G,” and a “B.”

All of these- with the possible exception of the last- were intended to draw snickers, if not guffaws. Eliminating this reaction was a major step in honest, objective evaluation of the debate, especially in consideration of actual issues. If the Democratic nominee were better at doing stand-up, I'd be reluctant to praise Lehrer's approach- but I still wold.
An Omission

Originally, the presidential debate held on September 26 at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi was to pertain to foreign policy. Then, with financial collapse looming, there would be a portion (at the beginning, it turned out) about the nation's grave economic crisis. The Treasury Secretary has proposed bailing out financial institutions at a cost, ultimately to the American taxpayer, of at least $700 billion, estimated to be roughly three times the cost thus far of Gulf War II.

Both candidates promise a tax cut to the American middle class, and McCain promises a generous cut forthe wealthy, also. The cost of whatever bill is approved will be enormous, and neither candidate suggests that it be fully assumed initially by the current generation of Americans. Much of the money will have to be borrowed- much of it by a gigantic communist nation in Asia. And at no time during the approximately 95 minutes of debate did the moderator see fit to mention the 600-pound elephant in the room: mainland China.
Definitive, Prematurely

During the discussion among Barack Obama, John McCain, and moderator Jim Lehrer at the presidential debate of 9/26/08 about the current economic crisis, the following exchange transpired:

LEHRER: Are you going to vote for the plan, Senator McCain?
MCCAIN: I — I hope so. And I…
LEHRER: As a United States senator…
LEHRER: … you’re going to vote for the plan?
MCCAIN: Sure. But — but let me — let me point out, I also warned about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac...

This is the presidential nominee who dropped everything (including David Letterman, though not Katie Couric) to hustle down to Washington to meet with House Republicans- who are fairly hostile to the bailout idea- and helped scuttle a proposed agreement on September 25. Now, with negotiations continuing, John McCain says not a) "I'm hopeful I can support it;" b) "if it meets the needs of the middle class hurting in this country, who will be victimized if we don't get it right";" or c) (consistent with his myth of a bipartisan maverick) "Congressional negotiators haven't stopped their partisan bickering long enough to present a full bill yet so it would be irresponsible not to withhold judgement." Instead, he says "sure," I'm going to vote for it.

A complete reversal within a few days is conceivable, however. When Russia invaded Georgia, McCain declared on August 12 "I think it's very clear that Russian ambitions are to restore the old Russian Empire. Not the Soviet Union, but the Russian Empire" and "'Today, we are all Georgians. " On August 14, he ruled out military action against the aggressive regime, stating

I don't think we're going to reignite the Cold War here with Russia. I think this is a very serious situation but I don't see it as a return to nuclear standoffs, etcetera, etcetera. I want to have a dialogue with the Russians, I want them to get out of Georgian territory as quickly as possible and I'm interested in good relations between the United States and Russia.

If his opponent had taken military action off the table (which he did not) Senator McCain may have criticized Obama- justifiably, I believe- by charging "This is dangerous. It isn’t just naive; it’s dangerous." (This was McCain's criticism of Obama for wanting to negotiate with Iran without preconditions, as former Secretaries of State believe the President should.)

Impulsive to the end. John McCain.
Debate Opportunities

Perhaps stung by (unfounded) allegations from the mainstream media, right-wing blogs, pundits sympathetic to the GOP, and Repub politicians that unnamed "Democrats" have been unfairly attacking Sarah Palin, the Biden-Obama ticket appears to be ignoring John McCain's running mate.

In the presidential debate on Friday, 9/26/08, Barack Obama was given at least two openings, which he chose to bypass, to respond effectively to John McCain by invoking the name of the Alaska governor.

Early in the debate, McCain criticized earmarks and pork-barrel spending and quipped:

You know, we spent $3 million to study the DNA of bears in Montana. I don’t know if that was a criminal issue or a paternal issue, but the fact is that it was $3 million of our taxpayers’ money. And it has got to be brought under control.

This gave Obama an opportunity to respond "not the $3 million to study the DNA of bears in Montana, nor the $3.2 million in part to study the genetics of harbor seals in Alaska, as Governor Palin requested."

In another instance, McCain had been asked about Afghanistan and replied in part:

Now, on this issue of aiding Pakistan, if you’re going to aim a gun at somebody, George Shultz, our great secretary of state, told me once, you’d better be prepared to pull the trigger.
I’m not prepared at this time to cut off aid to Pakistan. So I’m not prepared to threaten it, as Senator Obama apparently wants to do, as he has said that he would announce military strikes into Pakistan.

Obama's response was reasonably effective but he could have added: "Apparently Governor Palin disagrees with you because when asked whether we have the right to go across the border, with or without the approval of the Pakistani government, she stated "we must do whatever it takes." So before you take off after me for wanting to go after terrorists on the Pakistani border, Senator, you may want to debate your running mate."

Sure, McCain is at the top of the ticket and the debate was with him. But pointing out a major difference between the presidential and the vice-presidential candidates probably would have been effective, and at worse highlighted John McCain's decision to select someone unfocused, unformed, and with few clues about foreign policy in a dangerous world.
Debate- Pakistan, Afghanistan

In the relatively boring presidential debate on Friday evening (9/26/08) that most objective observers would consider roughly a "draw," there were a few issues raised which give me the opportunity to demonstrate my bias- or, rather, incisive analysis.

One of these was Pakistan/Afghanistan. A question from Jim Lehrer about Afghanistan elicited these responses:

(McCain) Now, on this issue of aiding Pakistan, if you’re going to aim a gun at somebody, George Shultz, our great secretary of state, told me once, you’d better be prepared to pull the trigger.
I’m not prepared at this time to cut off aid to Pakistan. So I’m not prepared to threaten it, as Senator Obama apparently wants to do, as he has said that he would announce military strikes into Pakistan.... And I guarantee you I would not publicly state that I’m going to attack them.

(Obama) Nobody talked about attacking Pakistan. Here’s what I said.
And if John wants to disagree with this, he can let me know, that, if the United States has Al Qaida, bin Laden, top-level lieutenants in our sights, and Pakistan is unable or unwilling to act, then we should take them out.,,, And the problem, John, with the strategy that’s been pursued was that, for 10 years, we coddled Musharraf, we alienated the Pakistani population, because we were anti-democratic. We had a 20th-century mindset that basically said, “Well, you know, he may be a dictator, but he’s our dictator.”
And as a consequence, we lost legitimacy in Pakistan. We spent $10 billion. And in the meantime, they weren’t going after Al Qaida, and they are more powerful now than at any time since we began the war in Afghanistan.

There are a few points that ought to be made:

1) Al Qaida is more powerful now than at any time since we began the war in Afghanistan, as this New York Times article of 6/30/08 suggests;

2) Obama never said, even figuratively, that he would "aim a gun" at Pakistan, nor did he publicly state that he would "attack them." At most, the Democratic candidate said that he would attack Al Qaeda. Here is exactly what Obama has said:

(8/1/07) As President, I would make the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional, and I would make our conditions clear: Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters, and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan. I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will.

(7/15/08) The greatest threat to that security lies in the tribal regions of Pakistan, where terrorists train and insurgents strike into Afghanistan. We cannot tolerate a terrorist sanctuary, and as President, I won't. We need a stronger and sustained partnership between Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO to secure the border, to take out terrorist camps, and to crack down on cross-border insurgents. We need more troops, more helicopters, more satellites, more Predator drones in the Afghan border region. And we must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights.
Make no mistake: we can't succeed in Afghanistan or secure our homeland unless we change our Pakistan policy. We must expect more of the Pakistani government, but we must offer more than a blank check to a General who has lost the confidence of his people. It's time to strengthen stability by standing up for the aspirations of the Pakistani people. That's why I'm cosponsoring a bill with Joe Biden and Richard Lugar to triple non-military aid to the Pakistani people and to sustain it for a decade, while ensuring that the military assistance we do provide is used to take the fight to the Taliban and al Qaeda. We must move beyond a purely military alliance built on convenience, or face mounting popular opposition in a nuclear-armed nation at the nexus of terror and radical Islam.

3) The Associated Press reported on 8/2/07: "McCain said the situation in Pakistan is "very delicate," since the country's leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, is an American ally with a tenuous hold on power. The Arizona senator said a direct American attack on the country could cause a backlash that might topple Musharraf." 9/27/08: Al Qaeda apparently resurgent in the border area of Pakistan/Afghanistan and Musharraf, disgraced, is gone anyway, no longer army chief of staff or president. United States policy toward Pakistan was in fact shaped by the ethos of the foreign policy establishment "well, you know, he's a dictator, but he's our dictator."

The Repub nominee may have confused Pakistan with Afghanistan (about which he had been asked), inasmuch as Obama said also on 7/15/08 "I will send at least two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan, and use this commitment to seek greater contributions - with fewer restrictions - from NATO allies." Or McCain may intentionally have been misrepresenting Obama's policy toward Pakistan. Dishonesty or mental confusion- it's getting difficult to differentiate between the two with John McCain.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Straight Talk Pander

When John McCain spoke before the Irish-American presidential forum in Scranton, Pa. on September 22, 2008, he assured the audience

So -- so we came up with a comprehensive plan, and we worked, and we worked, and we brought it to the floor of the Senate twice. And we came very close. And it didn't make me the most popular member of my own party. And it almost cost me the nomination of my party. But I believe we have to have a commitment because it's a national security issue as well as economic issue as well as a humanitarian issue that we enact comprehensive immigration reform.

And this exchange took place during an interview conducted by Jorge Ramos of Univision on September 15, 2008:

Senator Barack Obama told us in an interview that he would present a comprehensive immigration reform to congress during the first year. Could you match that?

Sure, I would do it in the first day.

And from the same interview, on sealing the border:

Ramos.....How exactly are you planning to secure that border? Every single minute there is an immigrant coming into the United States illegally.

McCain: I didn’t vote for, I am not sure what you are talking about, but we can secure…

Ramos: …about 700 miles.

McCain: I say we can secure our borders with walls and/or fences in urban areas, and then virtual fences, vehicle barriers

Ramos: But, you did vote for the wall.

McCain: I didn’t vote for an…, I don’t know what you are exactly, what you are referring to.

Similarly, the campaign of the Repub presidential nominee is running a commercial in Spanish in Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico blaming Barack Obama and congressional Democrats for the defeat of comprehensive immigration reform.

This contrasts with the January, 2008 Republican presidential debate at the Reagan Library, in which McCain was asked if he would vote for his original "comprehensive immigration reform" bill and stated

No, I would not, because I know what the situation is like today.

This was consistent with his remarks before the Conservative Political Action Committee on February 7, 2008:

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

John McCain was for "comprehensive immigration reform" before he was against it before he was for it. He is, predictable, though: it all depends on whom he's speaking to at the moment.

Palin And Iran

The second portion (broadcast Tuesday, 9/25/08) of the interview by CBS News' Katie Couric of Sarah Palin featured this exchange about Iran:

Couric: You met yesterday with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who is for direct diplomacy with both Iran and Syria. Do you believe the U.S. should negotiate with leaders like President Assad and Ahmadinejad?

Palin: I think, with Ahmadinejad, personally, he is not one to negotiate with. You can't just sit down with him with no preconditions being met. Barack Obama is so off-base in his proclamation that he would meet with some of these leaders around our world who would seek to destroy America and that, and without preconditions being met. That's beyond naïve. And it's beyond bad judgment.

Couric: Are you saying Henry Kissinger …

Palin: It's dangerous.Couric: … is naïve for supporting that?

Palin: I've never heard Henry Kissinger say, "Yeah, I'll meet with these leaders without preconditions being met." Diplomacy is about doing a lot of background work first and shoring up allies and positions and figuring out what sanctions perhaps could be implemented if things weren't gonna go right.

I doubt the Alaska Governor is lying. It is highly unlikely Kissinger actually uttered the exact words in this exact order: "Yeah, I'll meet with these leaders without preconditions being met." However, at the forum of five former secretaries of state held on 9/15/08 (and aired on 9/20/08) at George Washington University in the District of Columbia, Kissinger came awfully close:

Well, I am in favor of negotiating with Iran..... we ought to have a clear understanding of what is it we're trying to prevent. What is it going to do if we can't achieve what we're talking about? But I do not believe that we can make conditions for the opening of negotiations.

Immediately after the interview was aired, Couric announced that Richard Nixon's Secretary of State had been contacted and confirmed that he supported direct talks with Iran without "preconditions." (By the way, aren't conditions in fact preconditions?) And Kissinger had previously, in a March 15, 2008 interview with Bloomberg News, strongly implied the same.

Sarah Palin is governor of a tiny state (in population) which is detached from the rest of the country and prospering from the same high energy prices bedeviling most Americans in arguably every other state. But she is also smart and shrewd. Having spoken the day before with Mr. Kissinger, she probably was aware she was inferring that he is "off-base," "naive," and guilty of ideas "beyond bad judgement." The Repub vice-presidential nominee has been thoroughly briefed by the McCain campaign and is not ignorant or stupid- just detached and unconcerned about world affairs.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

McCain: Confused Or Self-Serving?

On Wednesday, September 24 John McCain decides to "suspend" his campaign (except for local and state offices, campaign surrogates, some advertising, fund-raising through his official campaign website, and Sarah Palin). Says he's rushing down to Washington (where he hasn't cast a vote since April) to save the country from financial collapse and, 26 hours later (following a speech, non-political, I'm sure, to the Clinton Global Initiative) , arrives in the nation's capital.

Meanwhile on Thursday, House Financial Committee Chairman Barney Frank, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, and a group of Senate Republicans and Democrats reach agreement, according to Politico, "on the framework for legislation authorizing the massive government intervention," as suggested by statements of GOP Senators Robert Bennett of Utah and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the latter close to the White House and representing Senate Republicans on the bill. Once in Washington, McCain attends a meeting with House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio and other House Republicans, at which an alternative plan is presented. McCain avoids commitment. President Bush convenes a meeting- requested by McCain- which is attended by McCain and a campaign aide, Barack Obama and a Senate aide, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Congressional leaders, and others. As {Politico's David Rogers noted, "the whole sequence of events confirmed Treasury’s fears about the decision by Bush, at the urging of McCain, to allow presidential politics into what were already difficult negotiations."

As ABC News has repoorted, House Republicans now have an alternative plan but "the group acknowledged briefing McCain on the plan, but Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., said that it was not a product of the McCain campaign and that the GOP presidential nominee had not endorsed it." Nevertheless, ABC News reports McCain has an alternative plan featuring "fewer regulations and more corporate tax breaks for businesses." This, of course, is largely what got us where we are now.

So the Repub presidential nominee goes to Washington, helps scuttle a rescue plan with the nation's economy in crisis, then refuses to commit to an alternative, and then changes his mind (though this is unconfirmed). This is grandstanding. It's not leadership. And it's not "Country First."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Politics As Usual

When John McCain issued a statement Wednesday vowing to work "to delay Friday night's debate until we have taken action to address " the current financial crisis, he "temporarily set politics aside." However, former U.S. Representative Mickey Edwards (R.-OK), now a lecturer at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, explained best the illogic of McCain's misguided effort to intervene in this affair:

McCain and Obama are both members of the senate and they're both able to help craft a solution if they wish to do so without putting the presidential campaign on hold; after all, I’m sure congressional leaders would be willing to accept their calls if they have some important insights to impart. And while one of them will eventually become president, neither one is president yet, nor is either one a member of the congressional leadership; I’m confident that somehow the administration and the other 533 members of congress will be able to muddle through without tapping into the superior wisdom and intellect of their nominees. Sorry, john; it really sounds like you're afraid to debate. This sounds like the sort of ploy we used to use in junior high school elections.

As Ben Smith of Politico put it: "in terms of the timing of this move: The only thing that's changed in the last 48 hours is the public polling."

But this is not the Repub Party's most politically expedient move that has come to light in the past 48 hours. According to the Wonk Room at think progress.org, Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki on September 17 described in an interview with Al-Iraqiya the nature of negotiations between the United States and Iraq about withdrawal of American troops. According to a transcript obtained from the Open Source Center, Maliki explained

Actually, the final date was really the end of 2010 and the period between the end of 2010 and the end of 2011 was for withdrawing the remaining troops from all of Iraq, but they [the Bush administration] asked for a change [in date] due to political circumstances related to the domestic situation [in the US] so it will not be said to the end of 2010 followed by one year for withdrawal but the end of 2011 as a final date. Agreement has been reached on this issue. They are willing to respond positively because they, too, are facing a critical situation.

So the timing of the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq would be subject to political considerations- presidential politics and George W. Bush's effort to get John McCain elected president. So much for "supporting the troops."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Quote Of The Week

"It's the same way Bush and Cheney did the Iraq war. It's the same way Bush and Cheney did the Patriot Act."

-Freshman Senator Sherrod Brown (D.-Ohio) on MSNBC's "Road To The White House" on 9/23/09 regarding the Administration's heavy- handed approach to the crisis of, and brought on by, the financial services industry
Saint McCain

(In the interests of full disclosure, I'm not of Irish descent.)

Speaking at his appearance at the Irish-American Presidential Forum/town hall meeting yesterday in Scranton, Pennsylvania, John McCain led off with a joke (YouTube video here).

You know, I don't know why it is that -- and I'm sure you know, but I still don't know why it is. There's only one ethnic joke can be told in politics and that's Irish jokes. And I don't know why that is. But it's just is the case. So, here's the joke.

There's a bar in Philadelphia, empty. One guy down at either end of the bar. Finally, one guy get up, goes down, sits next to the guy next to him in the bar and says, where are you from? He says, I'm from Ireland. He says, really? He says, I'm from Ireland, too. He says, oh, let me buy you a drink. He says no, let me buy you a drink. Buying each other drinks back and forth. The guy says, well where you from in Ireland? He says, I'm from Dublin. He says, no. He said, I'm from Dublin, too. Really? Back and forth. Finally, the guy says, where did you go to high school? He said, I went to St. Mary's. He said you couldn't have gone to St. Mary's. He said, I went to St. Mary's. Wow. Buying each other drinks, a lot of commotion. A guy walks in the bar, sees all the commotion down there and says to the bartender, he says, what's going on down there? The bartender said, it's just the O'Reilly twins getting drunk again.

Irish-Americans: stupid drunks. That's John McCain speaking- not me.

To be sure, McCain went on to note "the contributions that Irish-Americans have made in every war" and to claim Scotch-Irish descent, as if the largely Protestant Scotch-Irish have any relation to the largely Roman Catholic Irish-American population. And this "joke" reinforcing stereotypes is hardly more justified because the audience is of Irish descent.

It's more acceptable, unfortunately, to ridicule Irish-Americans than individuals of most other ethnic groups, as McCain noted when he rationalized the upcoming crack by noting "There's only one ethnic joke can be told in politics and that's Irish jokes. And I don't know why that is. But it's just is the case."

But think of it this way: if Barack Obama had made an Irish joke in front of that audience, would the news media have ignored it? If Barack Obama had made a joke ridiculing blacks in front of a black audience, would the media have ignored it, even though Obama is African-American (on one side)? In the first instance, and probably in the second, the result would have been an uproar: game, set, match. Election over. Period.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Senator Deregulator

As if the current "economic meltdown" weren't (alliteration alert) distressing, depressing, or debilitating enough, it is discouraging that the man who threatens to be the next President of the United States appears not to have learned anything from it.

In an interview on September 21 with John Harwood on CNBC, John McCain was asked about the impact of the current financial crisis upon his plans to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy:

HARWOOD: Would you concede, then, that you could not achieve your goal of balancing the budget in your first term with this huge bailout added?
MCCAIN: I believe we can still balance the budget.

Never mind that the cuts would cost the Treasury more than two million dollars over the next decade; bestow 58% of its benefits to the top 1% of taxpayers; and continue the shift of the tax burden from investment income onto earned income; lead to increased sheltering of income.

On the "Sixty Minutes" episode aired on Sunday, 9/21/08, interviewer Scott Pelley and John McCain discussed the deregulation impulse which has led to the virtual collapse of the American banking system:

Pelley: In 1999 you were one of the senators who helped pass deregulation of Wall Street. Do you regret that now?
McCain: No, I think the deregulation was probably helpful to the growth of our economy.

And on MSNBC on September 22, McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds got into this exchange with the network's David Shuster (transcript from crooksandliars.com) about former Texas Senator Phil Gramm:

BOUNDS: …Let’s talk about tissues. Let’s talk about honesty and which candidate is going to shoot straight with the American voters. And when Barack Obama says that John McCain has chosen Phil Gramm to be Secretary of Treasury when this election isn’t even over, and he is not advising this campaign, he is lying. And when you talk about it with me over national air, I don’t understand why we’re doing it.
SHUSTER: You can make it clear right now. Can you assure that John McCain will not pick Phil Gramm as Treasury Secretary if John McCain wins the election?
BOUNDS: He is not even an adviser on this campaign, David. I don’t know where the sorts of rumor mills come from.
SHUSTER: Why don’t you put them down…
BOUNDS: But I think they come from the Obama campaign, straight to you, straight to us on air.
SHUSTER: Well, Tucker, you can make your point better just to say Phil Gramm-John McCain has told me Phil Gramm will not be Treasury Secretary under any circumstance in the McCain administration.BOUNDS: It is an absurd thing to say. It would be as if I was to say Franklin Raines would head up the Housing and Urban Development wing for Barack Obama.
SHUSTER: Right, but the difference, Tucker, the Obama campaign said that will never happen and I have yet to hear you say -
BOUNDS: If I were to make that allegation, you’d call it a lie. You’d call it a lie and I’m not making it , but Barack Obama is.
SHUSTER: Tucker, Tucker. The difference is the Obama campaign will tell us flat out he will not be part of the Obama administration. I still haven’t heard you say Phil Gramm will not be part of a McCain administration.
BOUNDS: It is inherently true. He stepped down from this campaign. He is not advising the campaign. I mean, these are the sorts of absurdities that we’re talking about and it is all because Barack Obama gets away with saying things are not true and then people believe them to be some way based in fact. It is absurd.
SHUSTER: All right. Tucker, spokesperson for the McCain campaign. Pleasure as always.

Shuster gave Bounds at least four opportunities to say that the U.S. Senate's leading advocate of deregulation in the 1990's will not be part of a McCain administration, presumably Treasury Secretary, and Bounds chose not to address the issue, suggesting that Gramm isn't going away.

Intermittently, John McCain has played the populist card, railing against Chris Cox one day, corporate greed the next. However, his record belies such rhetoric, which would be welcome if it were thoughtful, focused, or sincere. Unfortunately, it's just the flavor of the moment for a candidate who has never found an issue (except, arguably, the surge) he can't be on both sides of.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

McCain: Deregulate Health Care

We know that Senator John McCain has a long history of opposing regulation of the market.. Thinkprogress.org has noted these statements of support for deregulation:

— “I don’t think anyone who wants to increase the burden of government regulation…has any real understanding of economics and the economy and what is needed in order to ensure the future of this country.” [McCain Town Hall in Inez, KY, 4/23/08]
– “We need to return to the Reagan years. We need to have fiscal conservatism. We need less government. We need less regulation.” [PBS, 1/25/08]
– “I am a deregulator. I believe in deregulation.” [CNN, 7/13/03]
– “I have a long voting record in support of deregulation.” [St. Petersburg Times, 6/5/03]

Apparently, only in the past few days has the Repub presidential nominee has changed his tune. In an article, "Better Care At Lower Cost For Every American," in the September/October (that's September/October, 2008) issue of Contingencies, the magazine of the American Academy of Actuaries, the Arizona Senator writes

Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.

Yes, it worked so well for the financial services industry, we have to try it for health care. Or, as Senator Obama put it today at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida "So let me get this straight -- he wants to run health care like they've been running Wall Street."
Palin: Against Skin Cancer Before She Was For It

We were all delighted recently to read that the self-described "hockey mom," Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, had a tanning bed, reportedly bought used from a health club, installed in the governor's mansion shortly after she took office in early 2007. We learned that Governor Earmark paid for this luxury out of her own funds, though little or no mention has been made of parts, who installed the tanning bed (and on whose time), the cost of the energy used, or the expense of maintenance.

Still, the most interesting aspect might be Governor Earmark's proclamation on 5-5-07 of May, 2007 as "Skin Cancer Awareness Month." Skin cancer, she lectures, "is caused, overwhelmingly, by over-exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun and from tanning beds. It is largely preventable." Good news, then, with a Vice-President Palin waiting in the wings, that John McCain commonly sports sunscreen, a hat, and a long-sleeved shirt.
McCain and Workers

In a speech in Jacksonville, Florida on Tuesday, September 15, Repub presidential nominee John McCain exclaimed

You know that there's been tremendous turmoil in our financial markets and Wall St. And it is -- people are frightened by these events. Our economy, I think still -- the fundamentals of our economy are strong. But these are very, very difficult times.

Recognizing that what he said was a major gaffe and, well, ludicrous, McCain that afternoon rationalized his comment, remarking

My opponents may disagree, but those fundamentals of America are strong. No one can match an American worker. Our workers sell more goods to more markets than any other on earth. Our workers have always been the strength of our economy, and they remain the strength of our economy today.

As Steve Benen of The Washington Monthly noted "most policy makers would look at "fundamentals" like economic growth, wages, unemployment, inflation, trade imbalance, value of the dollar, budget deficit, interest rates, etc." And if McCain even respects American workers, somewhere along the line he got religion. Who can forget this memorable exchange (video here) in a speech to the AFL-CIO's Building and Construction Trades Department on April 6, 2006?

John McCain: "I don't think I need to tell you that there are jobs that Americans will not do. I don't think I have to tell you that there are ... the backbone of our economy...

Audience members: "Pay them the right wages."

John McCain: "You know I've heard that statement before. Now, my friends, I'll offer anybody here fifty dollars an hour if you'll go pick lettuce in Yuma this season and pick for the whole season. So, ok, sign up! Ok, when you sign up, you sign up, and you'll be there for the whole season, the whole season, ok, not just one day. Because you can't do it, my friend."

Yep, John McCain- he hated American workers before he didn't.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Republican Media- No. 18

Did you hear the one about technology-averse John McCain inventing the Blackberry? No, he didn't say he invented it, but top policy advisor Douglas Holtz-Eakin said he helped create it. Holding a Blackberry, Holtz-Eakin (as quoted in startribune.com, Minneapolis) boasted on September 16 "He did this. Telecommunications in the United States, the premiere innovation in the past 15 years, comes right through the Commerce Committee. So you're looking at the miracle that John McCain helped create."

You might not have heard about it, because it didn't get nearly the play that Al Gore's remark about the Internet has, even today. On CNN's "Late Edition" on 3/9/99, Gore stated

During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.

Snopes.com drew this apt analogy in May, 2005:

If President Eisenhower had said in the mid-1960s that he, while President, "created" the Interstate Highway System, we would not have seen dozens and dozens of editorials lampooning him for claiming he "invented" the concept of highways or implying that he personally went out and dug ditches across the country to help build the roadway. Everyone would have understood that Ike meant he was a driving force behind the legislation that created the highway system, and this was the very same concept Al Gore was expressing about himself with his Internet statement.

Even the startribune.com article noting the McCain campaign's statement couldn't resist the cheap shot against the former Vice-President, quipping "Move over, Al Gore. You may lay claim to the Internet, but John McCain's campaign is laying claim to the BlackBerry."

And then there was this comment on 9/4/08 from North Carolina Republican Rick Goddard, seeking a U.S. House seat, about black MSNBC reporter Ron Allen:

I’ll tell you one thing, I think we’re going to have a very, very strong, capable president in John McCain. Last night, Newt Gingrich disarmed a very uppity newscaster who tried to question him on the capabilities and leadership of Governor Palin. There’s simply no comparison between a governor and a community organizer….

.... which followed by only a few hours this comment by another Republican from North Carolina, U.S. Representative Lynn Westmoreland, about Barack Obama:

Just from what little I’ve seen of her and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they’re a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they’re uppity.

You've probably not heard of these comments, which have been virtually ignored by the mainstream media. If, say, a Democratic legislator and aspiring Democratic legislator had made a parallel remark about Sarah Palin's gender, the attention would have eclipsed the "lipstick on a pig" furor.

And so it goes, in the land of the mythical "liberal media."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Economy, Spain

"The Chairman of the SEC serves at the appointment of the President and has betrayed the public’s trust. If I were President today, I would fire him."

When I heard John McCain say this today in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I figured that he meant "serves at the pleasure of the President" and that the dismissal of former U.S. Representative Chris Cox (R.-Ca.) was worth considering. Finally, I thought, a reasonable suggestion from a fellow who was never so honest as when in November, 2005 had admitted: "I'm going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated.”

Except that I was wrong- it turns out that McCain is adept at semantics, not so much on economics. ABC News reports

while the president nominates and the Senate confirms the SEC chair, a commissioner of an independent regulatory commission cannot be removed by the president.

From time to time, presidents have attempted to remove commissioners who have proven "uncooperative." However, the courts have generally upheld the independence of commissioners. In 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt fired a member of the Federal Trade Commission, and the Supreme Court ruled the president acted unconstitutionally.

McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds tried to explain away the ignorance, implying that his candidate meant that he would ask for Cox's resignation.

But at least the Repub nominee is a sure hand on foreign policy. Sort of. In an interview with a Spanish-language radio station on 9/17/08, McCain was confronted with a question about U.S. relations with Spain. Although a few months earlier, he had stated that as President he would meet with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luiz Rodriguez Zapatero, this transcript indicates otherwise:

INTERVIEWER: Senator finally, let's talk about Spain. If elected president would you be willing to invite President Jose Rodriguez Louis Zapatero to the White House, to meet with you?

McCAIN: I would be willing to meet with those leaders who are friends and want to work with us in a cooperative fashion. And by the way President Calderone of Mexico is fighting a very, very tough fight against the drug cartels. I'm glad we are now working with the Mexican government on the Merida Plan, and I intend to move forward with relations and invite as many of them as I can, of those leaders to the White House.

INTERVIEWER: Would that invitation be extended to the Zapatero government? To the president himself?

McCAIN: Uh, I don't, I, ya know, I, honestly, I have to look at the situations and the relations and the priorities. But I can assure you, I will establish closer relations with our friends and I will stand up to those who want to do harm to the United States of America.

INTERVIEWER: So you have to wait and see. If he's willing to meet with you, would you be able to do it? In the White House?

McCAIN: Well, again, I don't -- All I can tell you is I have a clear record of working with leaders in the hemisphere that are friends with us and standing up to those who are not. And that's judged on the basis of the importance of our relationship with Latin America and the entire region.

INTERVIEWER: OK, what about Europe? I'm talking about the president of Spain.

McCAIN: What about me what?

INTERVIEWER: OK. Are you willing to meet with him if you are elected president?

McCAIN: I am willing to meet with any leader who is dedicated to the same principles and philosophy that we are for human rights, democracy and freedom, and I will stand up to those who are not.

Opinions differ as to whether McCain was confused about what continent Spain is in, thought that (Prime Minister) "Zapatero" referred to the Zapatista rebel group in Mexico, or really does not want to meet with the head of a democratic state which is in NATO, had soldiers in Iraq until its homeland suffered a terrorist attack by Al Qaeda, and still sends its soldiers to Afghanistan.

It's getting increasingly difficult to determine if John McCain is thoroughly dishonest, thoroughly confused, or consistently misguided. The choices are not pleasant.
A Real Class Act

The New York Times on 9/14/08 offered a glimpse into the character of the woman who would be the next Vice President of the United States. At the time, she was chairman of the commission in Alaska overseeing oil and gas drilling and would go on to win the 2006 Repub primary for governor. In the article "Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends and Lashed Foes," we read:

Palin discovered that the state Republican leader, Randy Ruedrich, a commission member, was conducting party business on state time and favoring regulated companies. When Mr. Murkowski failed to act on her complaints, she quit and went public.

The Republican establishment shunned her. But her break with the gentlemen’s club of oil producers and political power catapulted her into the public eye.

“She was honest and forthright,” said Jay Kerttula, a former Democratic state senator from Palmer.

Ms. Palin entered the 2006 primary for governor as a formidable candidate.

In the middle of the primary, a conservative columnist in the state, Paul Jenkins, unearthed e-mail messages showing that Ms. Palin had conducted campaign business from the mayor’s office. Ms. Palin handled the crisis with a street fighter’s guile.

“I told her it looks like she did the same thing that Randy Ruedrich did,” Mr. Jenkins recalled. “And she said, ‘Yeah, what I did was wrong.’ ”

Mr. Jenkins hung up and decided to forgo writing about it. His phone rang soon after.

Mr. Jenkins said a reporter from Fairbanks, reading from a Palin news release, demanded to know why he was “smearing” her. “Now I look at her and think: ‘Man, you’re slick,’ ” he said.

Now we know why Sarah Palin can field-dress a moose- she's awfully good with a knife, especially to the back. One word of advice for a President McCain: when the Vice-President offers you a turn at her tanning bed, think twice.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Article Of The Week

"For there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...."
-Romans 3:22b-23, English StandardVersion

Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post opens her 9/17/08 column, "True Whoppers," by writing

Economists are not generally known for their lyrical phrasing. But the other day, one told me something about the election that has stuck with me: He cautioned against succumbing to the "symmetry of sin."

What Marcus, and that unnamed economist, understand is

All campaigns fall short, but some fall far shorter than others. And it is a phony evenhandedness, comfortable for journalists but ultimately misleading, that equates these failures without measuring the grossness of their deviation from the standard of decency.

The Obama campaign has deviated from complete truthfulness- but the McCain campaign has rarely deviated from deception. In theological terms, they both have sinned; but unlike in Christianity, the sins are not equal and John McCain must be held to account for a campaign which has acted as if truth itself is a sin.
Quote Of The Week

"The 'old boys network?' In the McCain campaign, that's called a staff meeting."

-Barack Obama on 9/17/08 speaking in Elko, Nevada, on John McCain's repeated boast to break up "the old boys network," in light of the control of McCain's campaign by lobbyists
Strange Priorities

It appears that Sarah Palin had no problem sacking Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan who, by the Governor's own admission, had been effectively combating alcohol abuse in rural Alaska.

But Sarah Palin already had fired another head of law enforcement. After being elected mayor of Wasilla in 1996, Palin fired its longtime police chief, Irl Stambaugh. Evidence suggests that Stambaugh was dismissed partly because of pressure upon the new mayor by two of her campaign contributors, the National Rifle Association and tavern owners. Stambaugh opposed legislation pending in the state which would have permitted carrying concealed weapons in banks and bars. And the chief, reacting to increased drunk driving arrests and accidents, advocated moving the closing time of bars from 5:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. (Stambaugh's breach of contract suit was dismissed when the court ruled that the police chief serves at the pleasure of the mayor.)

In May, 2000 Democratic Governor Tony Knowles of Alaska signed a bill preventing municipalities from charging victims of sexual assaults the $300-$1200 cost of a rape kit used to gather evidence of such offenses. Only one municipality in the entire state charged the alleged victim for the test.

As Jacob Alperin-Sheriff explains at The Huffington Post, that town would be Wasilla, with its mayor, Sarah Palin. The law pre-dated the administration of Mrs. Palin, who then replaced Stambaugh, who had submitted each year in his budget a line item to pay for the cost of exams. His replacement- handpicked by the new mayor- was Dwayne Charles Fannon, who began the policy (budget request can be downloaded here) of victim payment in the 1998-1999 fiscal year (and went on to oppose publicly the law signed by Governor Knowles). His budget request was signed by "Sarah Palin Mayor."

As we are continually told, Sarah Palin is charming, charismatic, attractive, well-spoken, savvy, conservative.... and tough. Tough on law enforcement- but soft on the NRA, alcohol abuse.... and crime.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Palin and Monegan

Governor Sarah Palin has given conflicting explanations for the departure of Public Safety Commisioner Walt Monegan, apparently fired on July 11, 2008 after he failed- despite pressure from Mrs. Palin, Mr. Palin, and members of the governor's administration- to fire State Trooper Mike Wooten. Wooten had been married to Sarah Palin's sister and was involved in a bitter custody dispute with his estranged wife.

In an interview on July 21 with right-wing Larry Kudlow of CNBC's "Kudlow and Company, " Governor Earmark said (YouTube video here) the firing was made "to fill vacant trooper positions to deal with bootlegging and alcohol abuse problems, especailly in our rural villages." On August 13, she argued Monegan was fired because he "did not turn out to be a team player on budgeting issue" and failed to fill trooper vacancies and deal with alcohol abuse in rural areas. Apparently, though, the Governor did believe he was expert in alcohol abuse programs in the rural part of the state. In a New Yorker article published this week, reporter Philip Gourevitch writes

She said that one of her goals had been to combat alcohol abuse in rural Alaska, and she blamed Commissioner Monegan for failing to address the problem. That, she said, was a big reason that she’d let him go—only, by her account, she didn’t fire him, exactly. Rather, she asked him to drop everything else and single-mindedly take on the state’s drinking problem, as the director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. “It was a job that was open, commensurate in salary pretty much—ten thousand dollars less”—but, she added, Monegan hadn’t wanted the job, so he left state service; he quit.

So as of mid-August, the public safety commissioner who had been fired now turned out to have resigned his position, a convenient shift once she had "lawyered up." In papers filed on 9/15 with the state Personnel Board, Palin's personal lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, implied Monegan had not been fired while accusing him of "an escalating pattern of insubordination on budget and other key policy issues."

But maybe there was another reason that Palin and Monegan parted company. ABC News has reported that Alaska has for many years (according to the FBI) been the nation's leader in forcible rapes per capita and among its leaders in sexual assaults, with domestic violence commonly referred to as "epidemic." Officials in the Department of Public Safety responded with an ambitious, multi-million dollar plan, which was shelved in July by Governor Palin.

And who was the main proponent of the plan? None other than the Commisioner of Public Safety, one Walt Monegan.

Monday, September 15, 2008

For Government Before She Was Against It

The hypocrisy just keeps coming.

At an appearance today in Colorado, Governor Earmark of Alaska appeared to channel Ronald Reagan:

We became part of the fastest growing area of the state because businesses wanted to be there. They also knew that they would have elected leaders knowing that government isn't always the answer. In fact, too often government is the problem.

The vice-presidential nominee neglected to mention her recent lust for big government: the $450,000 set aside for an agricultural processing facility in Wasilla that was requested during Palin's tenure as mayor and was approved by Congress soon after she left office in 2002; or the $500,000 for a community transit center in Wasilla; or the $1 million for a communications center in town.

Nor did Mrs. Palin remember any of the $256 million in earmarks she requested in 2008. She didn't mention the $1 million (which was refused by Congress) which she requested to investigate rockfish fisheries or the $3.2 million requested in part for researching the “genetics of harbor seals.” Or any of these projects noted by Politico:

• $400,000: Alaska Invasive Species Program: Continues to comprehensively prevent, identify, and respond to the threat of invasive species on the Alaska environment.

• $494,900: Assessment of Recreational Halibut Harvest in Alaska: This is an ongoing effort to collect data on the recreational halibut fishery that is conducted by federal agencies though relying on the state for data.

•$2 million: Bering Sea Crab Research and Management: Researches Bering Sea crab productivity and sustainability as necessary to restore crab stocks.

• 3.2 million: Seal and Steller Sea Lion Biological Research: Funds monitoring of ice seal populations in Native villages, research on the species delineation and genetics of harbor seals to understand the declines in population and provide for population restoration, and continues research into Steller Sea Lion population decline.

And then there is the infamous $223 million Governor Earmark supported for a bridge linking Ketchikan to Gravina Island with its airport and 50 residents. She continues to lie about it-today for the tenth time.

As mayor, Sarah Palin was all for big government. As governor, she was all for big government. And now as candidate for national office, Sarah Palin tells her adoring right wing audiences that she's against big government. Sarah Palin is a champion- a champion hypocrite.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Palin And The Bush Doctrine

No portion of Sarah Palin's interview with ABC News' Charlie Gibson has received as much attention as the exchange on the "Bush Doctrine" which took place in the first of the interview's three segments. Here are the transcript and the YouTube video:

GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?

PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?

GIBSON: The Bush -- well, what do you -- what do you interpret it to be?

PALIN: His world view.

GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.

PALIN: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. And with new leadership, and that's the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.

GIBSON: The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?

PALIN: Charlie, if there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country. In fact, the president has the obligation, the duty to defend.

In light of all the debate about whether Governor Earmark should have known what the "Bush Doctrine" is, I figured I would hunt down the doctrine as it was first enunciated. Apparently, the National Security Strategy was released by the White House on 9/20/02. In an article written in December, 2002, Keir A. Lieber, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame and Robert J. Lieber, Professor of Government & foreign Service at Georgetown University, argued that it contained four elements:

1. preemption, "use of military force against terrorists or state sponsors of terrorism that attempt to gain or use WMD." (This is inaccurate on three counts: a)not premptive war, but preventive war; b) the state does not need to be a sponsor of terrorism or attempt to gain or use destructive weapons; c)not "WMD," chemical and biological weapons- which, unlike nuclear weapons, are not of mass destruction- also qualify);

2. military primacy, apparently intent to build up military force sufficiently to deter any potential rival from attempting to compete with us;

3. a new multilateralism, in which "the Bush administration appears to reject the single-minded pursuit of multilateralism for its own sake; that is, as something inherently necessary for international legitimacy or morality;"

4. the spread of democracy, which "commits the United States to spread democracy worldwide and promote the development of "free and open societies on every continent." (This really is the core of "neoconservatism.")

Obviously, the Liebers write favorably about the Bush Doctrine- but then this was late, 2002, when it looked like Iraq and Afghanistan were going to turn out fairly well. And they make the philosophy look fairly complicated.

Nevertheless, the core of the Bush Doctrine has come to be known as principle #1, the euphemistically-termed "preemption." Here is George F. Will, in a column entitled "The Bush Doctrine at Risk," on June 22, 2003 (after it began to appear that our Iraq policy had sprung a leak) writing

And overshadowing the military achievement is the failure -- so far -- to find, or explain the absence of, weapons of mass destruction that were the necessary and sufficient justification for preemptive war. The doctrine of preemption -- the core of the president's foreign policy -- is in jeopardy.

And here and here is a YouTube video of President Bush arguing "we must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and contront the worst threats before they emerge"- and Senator McCain agreeing with him.

Unless Governor Earmark is a foreign policy intellectual on par with academics holding a Ph.D. in international relations (and maybe not even then), she, like Bush, McCain, Will, and most of us, would understand the Bush Doctrine to be about preemptive/preventive war.

She didn't. But I don't find that the most disturbing aspect of her answer, or rather, her process of fishing around for an answer. James Fallows, writing in atlantic.com on 9/12/08, captures the concern effectively:

What Sarah Palin revealed is that she has not been interested enough in world affairs to become minimally conversant with the issues. Many people in our great land might have difficulty defining the "Bush Doctrine" exactly. But not to recognize the name, as obviously was the case for Palin, indicates not a failure of last-minute cramming but a lack of attention to any foreign-policy discussion whatsoever in the last seven years.

She didn't know and, at least up till now, didn't care. And that is in an individual who hopes to be the first in succession to the presidency of the United States. And an individual who was chosen by an erratic 72-year-old who has put politics above country while cynically claiming "Country First."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Disturbing Outlook

I don't want to be disingenuous. I don't know whether an Israeli attack upon Iran's nuclear facilities would enhance or harm the long-range prospects for stability in the Persian Gulf or for freedom from nuclear blackmail. Still.....

As Jonathan Karl reports in a 6/30/08 article on the ABC News website,

The widely held view among Pentagon officials is that an Israeli attack would do only temporary damage to Iran's nuclear program, and that it would cause major problems in the region and beyond, prompting a wave of attacks on U.S. interests in Iraq, the Persian Gulf and elsewhere.

And on 9/11/08 canada.com reported

Without citing where or how it received the information, the widely read Israeli daily said the U.S. had refused an Israeli request for deep penetration bombs, tanker refuelling aircraft and a corridor through U.S.-controlled airspace in Iraq that would provide the quickest secure route between Israel and Iran, the newspaper reported.

The so-called "bunker buster" bombs that Israel was said to have sought could be particularly effective against Iran's nuclear research centres, many of which have been built in underground shelters.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak reportedly conveyed the request while visiting Washington.

The Israeli government had conveyed its requests to U.S. President George W. Bush when he visited Jerusalem in May, and repeated them several weeks later when Defence Minister Ehud Barak was in Washington, Haaretz reported.

"The Americans made very clear to the Israelis that for now they are sticking to the diplomatic option to halt the Iranian nuclear project, and that Jerusalem does not have a green light from Washington for an attack on Iran," Haaretz said

So the U.S. government apparently is currently discouraging Israel from attacking Iran's nuclear facilities. But Sarah Palin knows better. This is from the portion of her interview with Charlie Gibson broadcast on 9/11/08:

GIBSON: Let me turn to Iran. Do you consider a nuclear Iran to be an existential threat to Israel?

PALIN: I believe that under the leadership of Ahmadinejad, nuclear weapons in the hands of his government are extremely dangerous to everyone on this globe, yes.

GIBSON: So what should we do about a nuclear Iran?

PALIN: We have got to make sure that these weapons of mass destruction, that nuclear weapons are not given to those hands of Ahmadinejad, not that he would use them, but that he would allow terrorists to be able to use them.So we have got to put the pressure on Iran.

GIBSON: What if Israel decided it felt threatened and needed to take out the Iranian nuclear facilities?

PALIN: Well, first, we are friends with Israel and I don't think that we should second guess the measures that Israel has to take to defend themselves and for their security.

GIBSON: So if we wouldn't second guess it and they decided they needed to do it because Iran was an existential threat, we would cooperative or agree with that.

PALIN: I don't think we can second guess what Israel has to do to secure its nation.

GIBSON: So if it felt necessary, if it felt the need to defend itself by taking out Iranian nuclear facilities, that would be all right.

PALIN: We cannot second guess the steps that Israel has to take to defend itself.

Question: If Sarah Palin believes "we cannot second guess" Israel, is she ignorant about United States policy- or does she believe that the world's only superpower has no interest in nuclear proliferation or stability in the Persian Gulf? Either way, she is unprepared for high national office- and John McCain's slogan "Country First" is yet again revealed as merely a cynical slap at Barack Obama's patriotism.
Confused- or Deceptive?

What to make of this exchange during the portion of the Charlie Gibson interview with Sarah Palin broadcast on 9/11/08?

GIBSON: Have you ever met a foreign head of state?

PALIN: I have not and I think if you go back in history and if you ask that question of many vice presidents, they may have the same answer that I just gave you. But, Charlie, again, we've got to remember what the desire is in this nation at this time. It is for no more politics as usual and somebody's big, fat resume maybe that shows decades and decades in that Washington establishment, where, yes, they've had opportunities to meet heads of state.

Is she saying "many vice presidents.... may have the same answer ("I have not") that I just gave you?" That would be uninformed, given that as, Lisa Chinn of ABC News reports, "every vice president over the last 30 years had met a foreign head of state before being elected." Or is she aware her experience is relatively limited and arguing that meeting a foreign head of state is "politics as usual?" It's hard to tell because, as with other answers she gave, Palin is either confused- or intentionally ambiguous, deftly avoiding giving a straight answer to most questions.
Pakistan: Obama, Bush, McCain, Palin

It's a fair question. What do our national leader(s) and those who want to be national leaders think about "hot pursuit"- not by police of suspects trying to escape, but by United States armed forces of Al Qaeda in northwestern Pakistan?

Barack Obama has made his position clear. In a speech on August 1, 2007 he declared:

There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will.

In a foreign-policy speech delivered on July 15, 2008 Obama argued

The greatest threat to that security lies in the tribal regions of Pakistan, where terrorists train and insurgents strike into Afghanistan. We cannot tolerate a terrorist sanctuary, and as President, I won't. We need a stronger and sustained partnership between Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO to secure the border, to take out terrorist camps, and to crack down on cross-border insurgents. We need more troops, more helicopters, more satellites, more Predator drones in the Afghan border region. And we must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights.

John McCain has been almost as clear. The Associated Press on August 2, 2007 described the Arizona senator's response at Stanford University to Obama's remarks of the previous day:

McCain said the situation in Pakistan is "very delicate," since the country's leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, is an American ally with a tenuous hold on power. The Arizona senator said a direct American attack on the country could cause a backlash that might topple Musharraf.
"I think it's kind of a simplistic view of a very complex situation."

Sarah Palin is less clear. In the portion of her interview with ABC News' Charlie Gibson that was aired on 9/11/08, Palin first advocated a policy at odds with the guy at the top of the ticket, then said "we have got to have all options out there on the table," which only means we should never say never. Here is the transcript:

GIBSON: Do we have the right to be making cross-border attacks into Pakistan from Afghanistan, with or without the approval of the Pakistani government?

PALIN: Now, as for our right to invade, we're going to work with these countries, building new relationships, working with existing allies, but forging new, also, in order to, Charlie, get to a point in this world where war is not going to be a first option. In fact, war has got to be, a military strike, a last option.

GIBSON: But, Governor, I'm asking you: We have the right, in your mind, to go across the border with or without the approval of the Pakistani government.

PALIN: In order to stop Islamic extremists, those terrorists who would seek to destroy America and our allies, we must do whatever it takes and we must not blink, Charlie, in making those tough decisions of where we go and even who we target.

GIBSON: And let me finish with this. I got lost in a blizzard of words there. Is that a yes? That you think we have the right to go across the border with or without the approval of the Pakistani government, to go after terrorists who are in the Waziristan area?

PALIN: I believe that America has to exercise all options in order to stop the terrorists who are hell bent on destroying America and our allies. We have got to have all options out there on the table.

And George W. Bush? In 2005 (according to The New York Times in July, 2007)

The decision to halt the planned “snatch and grab” operation frustrated some top intelligence officials and members of the military’s secret Special Operations units, who say the United States missed a significant opportunity to try to capture senior members of Al Qaeda.
Their frustration has only grown over the past two years, they said, as Al Qaeda has improved its abilities to plan global attacks and build new training compounds in Pakistan’s tribal areas, which have become virtual havens for the terrorist network.

And now? The Chicago Tribune's Washington bureau (in their blog, "The Swamp") reports

The helicopter-borne U.S. Special Operations raid in Pakistan last week was not an isolated incident "but part of a three-phase plan, approved by President Bush, to strike at Osama bin Laden and top al-Qaeda leadership'' at the end of Bush's term, National Public Radio is reporting, citing well-placed sources.
"The plan calls for a much more aggressive military campaign, said one source, familiar with the presidential order, which gives the green light for the military to take part in the operations,'' NPR reports.

The bad news is that the plan may have been undertaken only because of the upcoming election and "represents an 11th-hour effort by the Bush administration to hammer al-Qaeda before leaving office,'' according to NPR. The good news? Bush seems to have adopted Obama's approach, reminiscent of Nouri al -Maliki adopting Obama's approach to a timeline when he declared in early July "the current trend is to reach an agreement on a memorandum of understanding either for the departure of the forces or to put a timetable on their withdrawal;” and the announcement approximately two weeks later (7/18/08) of a long-term security pact between the U.S. and Iraq including "horizons" for withdrawal.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flatter, Barack Obama should be flattered that the Administration seems to value his judgement.... as long as the Democratic nominee doesn't expect any admissions: from Bush that his primary motive is political; from McCain that he's out of step; or from Palin that she hasn't a clue as to what she's saying.
John McCain, Outraged

It's amazing the things John McCain finds "disgraceful." In a speech to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers on September 12, Barack Obama contended

Because John McCain didn’t just oppose the requirement that the government buy American-made motorcycles, he called Buy American provisions "disgraceful."

Did the Arizona senator really refer to a provision geared to preserving American jobs "disgraceful?" Politifact.com explains

In this item, we’ll focus on whether McCain called a requirement for the federal government to buy American products "disgraceful."

Indeed he did.

McCain has repeatedly voted and spoken against requiring the government to buy American-made products. He argues that such a requirement hurts trade and doesn’t guarantee the lowest prices for taxpayers.

In a 1997 article in Defense Daily, McCain criticized the requirement as "the worst, most disgraceful aspect of the legislative process in Washington. I can not be more strong in my views without using four letter words. It’s crazy for us, because ball bearings are made in a certain state, to somehow prevent the United States Defense Department from purchasing ball bearings if they meet quality standards from our allies."

In 2005, he specifically mentioned motorcycles during Senate debate on a spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security.

"Lastly, I am also disappointed that the bill once again this year contains a department-wide 'buy America' requirement, and specific language directing the Secret Service to purchase American-made motorcycles. I firmly object to all 'buy America' restrictions, as they represent gross examples of protectionist trade policy."

Disgraceful. A strong word usually reserved for something an individual finds abhorrent.

Like Social Security. As you can see and hear in this youtube video, in July, 2008 John McCain responded to an inquiry at a town-hall meeting in Portsmouth, Ohio, by asserting

Americans have got to understand that we are paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America today. And that's a disgrace. It's an absolute disgrace, and it's got to be fixed.

That's the way Social Security works. Retirees are paid by present-day workers, some obviously young. The system currently turns a surplus and is robbed to pay for items in the general budget, given the passion of Repub presidents for running huge deficits. As any informed United States senator would know, the program is an intergenerational transfer necessitated by our concern as a society for the well-being of Americans as they age. And what do we have if Social Security is not funded by "paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America today?" Perhaps a welfare program, but certainly not Social Security.

John McCain on Social Security: "disgraceful." John McCain on saving American jobs: "disgraceful." And John McCain himself?
Why Not McCain?- 5

Barack Obama had this to say in a speech yesterday to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which recently endorsed his candidacy:

Just ask your brothers and sisters at Boeing. Because while it was right for the Pentagon to cancel competition yesterday for the next generation of tankers, it was wrong for John McCain to reward two of the Washington lobbyists who worked against Boeing with jobs on his campaign.

Just ask the Machinists in Pennsylvania who build Harley-Davidsons. Because John McCain didn’t just oppose the requirement that the government buy American-made motorcycles, he called Buy American provisions "disgraceful."
Just ask the workers across this country who have seen their jobs outsourced. The very companies that shipped their jobs overseas have been rewarded with billions of dollars in tax breaks that John McCain supports and plans to continue.
So when American workers hear John McCain talk about putting country first, it’s fair to ask – which country?

Democrats.org lists other instances in which Senator McCain has expressed his contempt for American manufacturing jobs. Biased website, you say? So let's go back to Boeing, and these excerpts from an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer of March 7, 2008:

The Air Force last week awarded the contract (i.e., a $35 billion contract to build new Air Force aerial refueling tankers) to a team of Airbus parent EADS and Northrop Grumman Corp., triggering a firestorm from Boeing advocates who said the victory by the European-led consortium ignored American national security interests and would cost U.S. jobs.
Boeing advocates say McCain was a major force behind the Air Force decision to ignore the issue of government subsidies to Airbus when the tanker contract was put up for competitive bidding last year.

The issue of European government subsidies for Airbus has been raised for years by Boeing supporters who claim that those financial breaks have allowed the Toulouse, France-based company to undercut Boeing's prices and thus gain market share in the global competition between the two aircraft manufacturers. (Both the U.S. and the European Union, which claims Boeing also receives subsidies, have filed cases with the World Trade Organization.)

Boeing advocates assert that those same subsidies helped European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. and Los-Angeles-based Northrop Grumman win the Air Force tanker project, with a value that could eventually top $100 billion.

Given a choice between his free-market principles (presumably suspicious of government subsidies) and awarding a lucrative contract with implications for national defense to a foreign-based consortium (and costing American jobs), the Arizona senator chose option B.

This lack of interest in the people of our country now has extended to his selection of a running mate- inexperienced, uninformed, and uncurious. Because when it comes to "Country First," John McCain just hasn't figured out which country.


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