31 October 2008

Rumor Central: API & Michelle Obama

Here’s another little Internet-based rumor that’s been around for a while.

Allegedly, an obscure, Norway-based organization, African Press International, received a phone call from Michelle Obama last month. According to API, the phone call featured an angry Mrs. Obama raging against all manner of perceived injustices--most significantly, those committed against her husband. API claimed that it had recorded the phone call, and, for hte past month, has promised to release it “any day now.” It hasn’t emerged so far.

After nearly a month of setting dates for, and then delaying, the tape's release, API announced that Fox News would air the recording on either Hannity & Colmes or On The Record with Greta Van Susteren. This news prompted Van Susteren to post on her blog:


Van Susteren then quotes a website perpetuating API’s claims. Additionally, TV Newser offers this denial from Fox News on whether the network has anything to do with API:

An FNC spokesman tells TVNewser: "API's dubious claim that FOX News has purchased a supposed audio tape to be aired prior to Election Day is absolutely false."

Van Susteran’s and Fox’s public negation of any deal hasn’t stopped API. Its website declares that the group has a written agreement with Fox, and that Fox will air the tape prior to election day. Don’t count on this happening.

This seems little more than a regurgitation of the “Whitey tape” story: last summer, some wags began propelling a story that Michelle Obama was caught “railing at white people” on tape. Various websites proclaimed that the tape was going to be released “any minute now.” Several specific dates of release were announced, but the tape never materialized.

The similarities between the API rumors and the “Whitey” rumors are numerous (so numerous that Ben Smith at Politico seems to have confused the two). As such, it's rather surprising that the people who believed fully in the “Whitey” tape’s existence, and who were disappointed in its non-appearance, would have fallen for a similar, albeit incredibly unlikely, story just a month or so later.

Added: Mr. Smith has amended his fine report on some of the campaign's ugliest rumors; he notes that there are two "phantom tapes."

By the way, in August, Paula (or Paulie) Abeles submitted her debunked allegations about Obama’s ties to Kenyan politics to the site, where they duly appeared as an API article under her byline (cached page here). That about spells out API’s credibility: if it were a legitimate news source, it would have researched Abeles’s claims prior to publishing them.

Heads up: Mountain Sage (no Obama supporter) has researched and published online a plethora of material on API. Take a look.

Questionable Endorsements? You Don't Say....

Forget the Bradley Effect. This is disconcerting (or just plain old strange).

What do Tom Metzger (of White Aryan Resistance), Erich Gliebe (of National Alliance), and Rocky Suhayda (of the American Nazi Party) have in common?

They’re all “supporting” Senator Obama.

And "General" Yahanna (of the Israelite School Of Universal Practical Knowledge, who happens to be a Black supremacist)?

He’s "supporting" Senator McCain.

Can this election cycle get any stranger?

Do read “Why White Supremacists Support Barack Obama,” by David Peisner of Esquire, here.

30 October 2008

Is Palin Being Scapegoated?

This is what Roger Simon wonders in a piece at Politico. There's no doubt that, should Senator McCain lose Tuesday's vote, the shouts of Palin-blame will intensify. Moreover, whether the McCain-Palin ticket wins or not, it's quite likely that the McCain aids' public scorn will play directly into the larger struggle between moderates and Social Conservatives for party control--especially as the Governor will maintain a major presence within the GOP from here on out. So we're going to hear about this "diva"/"whackjob"/ "goin' rogue" nonsense for a while yet, and it could well backfire on McCain's people (and their political futures) in the long run.

Aside: If you haven't yet read Ross Douthat's piece, "Rush Limbaugh Explains It All," you should. Douthat takes on Limbaugh's argument that "moderate republicanism had its chance this year, and it failed."

Say It Isn't So. . . .

Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings suggests, quite rightly (and a bit cheekily), that Senator McCain's economic plans amount to a redistribution of wealth. Read "Socialism is Everywhere" here.

Aside: To be fair, on Larry King Live, Senator McCain said he doesn't believe Senator Obama is a socialist.

How About Spellchecker of America?

Google News 10/29/08:
Obama Airs Primetime TV Ad; McCain Continues Attakcks on Riival
Voice of America - 3 hours ago
By VOA News Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama stressed his call for change Wednesday in a prime-time television advertisement that has been ...

Yes, just a typo. But a striking typo.

29 October 2008

NPR: "'Socialist' Charge Draws on Old Fears"

A link to an audio piece by NPR's Geoff Nunberg on past and present uses of the term "socialism" in American politics--and why it's so powerful.

Senator McCain's Ties to Rashid Khalidi?

The blogosphere is abuzz about a "new" link between Obama and radicalism, one that the L A Times wrote of earlier this year.

The McCain campaign has directed some of its energies at “uncovering” the relationship between Senator Obama and a professor at Columbia University, Rashid Khalidi. Khalidi is “a Palestinian scholar and activist” (L A Times). While it would be prudent to look into this relationship a bit further, perhaps it would also be prudent (more on this later today), as The Huffington Post wonders, if Senator McCain’s links to Khalidi--or his work-- came under investigation as well:
During the 1990s, while [John McCain] served as chairman of the International Republican Institute (IRI), McCain distributed several grants to the Palestinian research center co-founded by Khalidi, including one worth half a million dollars.

A 1998 tax filing for the McCain-led group shows a $448,873 grant to Khalidi's Center for Palestine Research and Studies for work in the West Bank. (See grant number 5180, "West Bank: CPRS" on page 14 of this PDF.)

The relationship extends back as far as 1993, when John McCain joined IRI as chairman in January. Foreign Affairs noted in September of that year that IRI had helped fund several extensive studies in Palestine run by Khalidi's group, including over 30 public opinion polls and a study of "sociopolitical attitudes."

If Khalidi is radical, and if his work is radical, why did the International Republican Institute fund it for five years--beginning when Senator McCain joined the group in 1993?

Forgive me if I look askance at the new line of attack. After all of the questionable allegations that have been tossed about this election cycle--from the "Whitey" tape, to the birth certificate, to the "Muslim" claims, the Sinclair claims, etc.--I'm a bit skeptical.

Anyway, more later.

It’s later; here are a few updates.

From ABC’s Jake Tapper:

The IRI has now issued a statement, confirming that it gave money to Khalidi's group (though IRI officials are going through their records trying to determine how much, exactly) and also trying to distance the organization from Khalidi himself.

The IRI’s statement, by the way, notes that:

“Other organizations that reportedly gave funding to CPRS include the National Endowment for Democracy, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Center for International Private Enterprise, the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, the Japanese Embassy, and Germany’s Friedrich Naumann Stiftung. IRI’s relationship with CPRS ended in 2000, and we understand that it no longer exists.”

In acknowledging other respected organizations' contributions to the CPRS, isn't the IRI effectively legitimizing Khalidi's group?

On tonight’s episode of Larry King Live, Senator McCain said the reason the L A Times should release the tape is because William Ayers might have been at the Khalidi event (there's no actual guest list from the event) :

Of course we have run ads that point out his record and also point out his associations. And I still think, you know, we're watching now, a major newspaper has a tape that apparently has Mr. William Ayers in it. I don't know if it does or not. That's the allegation. But that newspaper and their parent, the Tribune Company, and the Obama campaign refuse to release that. Shouldn't the American people know about that? At least they should have full information.(qtd. in Tapper)

But if the focus is on Ayers, what might the tape prove? Is this a fishing trip? Is the McCain camp have some idea of what might be on the tape, or is it merely hoping for something incriminatory? What if the LA Times discloses the tape and we see. . .nothing?

Personally, I would like to see the LA Times release the tape. Although their claims to maintaining a promise to the anonymous source of the tape is both admirable and justifiable (see this from Fox News' Bill Sammon), keeping it hidden could be more trouble than it’s worth.

28 October 2008

The GOP: Moderates and Social Conservatives Battle it Out

Quite a story in today's L A Times. Regardless of whether Senator McCain wins the White House, the Social Conservatives are bent on controlling the party and even "vowing to limit John McCain's influence, even if he wins the presidency." On the other hand,
Some moderates argue that the party's top priority must be to broaden its outreach, a caution laid down by retired Gen. Colin L. Powell on national television this month when he broke from the party and endorsed Obama. Surveys show McCain beating Obama among white men but losing with almost every other demographic group. (L A Times)
Common sense suggests the moderates are on the right track, and that the party needs a tent big enough to hold white men as well as other demographic groups. But it seems the Social Conservatives, with their focus on abortion, gay rights, immigration, etc., are convinced that approach--"going moderate"--resulted GOP's Congressional upheaval in 2006 (Times). This seems odd, as one might consider other items--such as Jack Abramoff and the response to Hurricane Katrina--as more significant factors in voters' decisions. Seriously--people didn't like the moderate Republicans, so they opted for the Democrats? Something wonky there.

Reason's Ryan Sager on “The Rove Realignment: Have Libertarians Been Driven Out of the GOP?

A Question About Early Voters & Exit Polls

Should the media be releasing polls of people who've already cast their ballots? 

This could damage efforts to GOTV for either side, couldn't it? If polls, like this one, suggest that Obama is ahead, it could discourage McCain or third party supporters, and it could depress turnout of Obama voters who figure he's got it in the bag.

Sure, on election night we start getting results from exit polls before the voting on the west coast concludes. In that situation, however, exit polling might impact only about three hours' worth of voting. We've still got seven days to go. 

On Feuding Within the McCain Campaign

The feuding within the McCain-Palin campaign grow ever more public and disturbing.

Senator McCain has negated any conflicts within the campaign, but McCain advisors, speaking anonymously, continue to strike at Governor Palin as a "diva,"a "whackjob," and someone incredibly difficult "get up to speed" about current issues. Again, these comments aren't emerging from moonbat libs, but from McCain aides.

Governor Palin's supporters aren't taking this sitting down. They feel that she's been "mishandled" by the McCain camp, and they're giving as good as they're getting. . . and she's "going rogue."

Should the ticket win, how would this infighting impact Senator McCain's ability to govern effectively? Not only would he be forced to deal with (what looks to be) a Democratic majority in Congress and Senate, but he'd have to work with a resentful Vice Presidential camp that, it's claimed, began setting its figurehead up for a 2012 presidential run before election day 2008.

Added: Robert Draper, the reporter behind the New York Times Magazine's article, "The Making (and Remaking and Remaking) of John McCain," offers fresh insight into the campaign's tensions at his GQ blog.

Wait! There's more. From Jake Tapper at ABC News’ Political Punch: "Ooooooh--Barracuda!"

You have to feel badly for Senator McCain. It's getting beyond tense.

Recommended Read: On McCain & Media Bias

For "Why McCain is Getting Hosed in the Press" at Politico, go here.

Added: Readers' responses to the story. Pretty impassioned.

27 October 2008

Richard Trumka: "Are You Out of Your Ever Lovin' Mind?"

Yeah, okay. This video has been around for a while, but now's a good time to highlight it (what with all those "Obama's gonna redistribute the wealth by taking your money away and giving it to people who don't deserve it" claims).

Richard Trumka
is the Secretary Treasurer of the AFL-CIO. He delivered this address in July, 2008. Watch it here.

The transcript of the entire speech is online at the United SteelWorkers website, but here's a snippet:

I want to take a little opinion poll.

If you think America ought to keep going in the same direction George Bush and Dick Cheney have been taking us in stand up.

(Well, I’m going to cut some of you guys in the aisle a break and assume you didn’t understand the question.)

Now, stand up if you think it’s time we had a president who’s going to fight for national health care, sign the Employee Free Choice Act, strengthen OSHA, defend Social Security, end the war, and protect American jobs?

Well, congratulations -- you just answered the question that’s stumped all the commentators and columnists and consultants in Washington, D.C. who are asking how Barack Obama is going to win the votes of workers in states like Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

How can he do it? You’ve just said how: by speaking out about the issues that matter to working people.
Of course, some folks have said that he needs a special strategy to reach out to blue collar workers.

That he’s got to talk more about God because a lot of us care about religion -- and more about hunting because, for some of us, hunting is a religion.

And there’s something to that: it shouldn’t be any secret that he’s a Christian and that he’s for the 2nd Amendment.

But, at the end of the day, what people are going to need to hear is that when it comes to protecting jobs,

when it comes to protecting pensions,

when it comes to health care, child care, pay equity for women, Social Security, Medicare, seeing to it that people can afford to go to college and buy a home -- and restoring the right to collective bargaining -- Barack Obama has always, always been on our side.

This is a guy who's voted with labor 98 percent of the time!

Now, contrast that with John McCain.

On one side you have Barack: a man who worked full-time helping laid off steelworkers in Chicago.

On the other side you have John McCain who helped pass the trade laws that resulted in laid-off steelworkers in Chicago.

What kind of man is John McCain?

Let me read you a quote. Listen to what he said. This was on April 23rd in Youngstown, Ohio:

“The biggest problem is not so much what’s happened with free trade, but our inability to adjust to a new world economy.”

In other words, it’s not free trade’s fault your plant shut down and moved to Mexico or China.

It’s your fault.

If you can’t adjust to free trade, well, suck it up: that’s your problem!

Now, imagine for a second, if he’s going to Youngstown -- of all places — and says that in an election year, what’s he going to do if he ever makes it to the White House?

You see brothers and sisters, there’s not a single good reason for any worker -- especially any union member -- to vote against Barack Obama.

There’s only one really bad reason to vote against him: because he’s not white.

And I want to talk about that because I saw that for myself during the Pennsylvania primary.

I went back home to vote in Nemacolin and I ran into a woman I’d known for years.

She was active in Democratic politics when I was still in grade school.

We got to talking and I asked if she’d made up her mind who she was supporting and she said: “Oh absolutely, I’m voting for Hillary, there’s no way I’d ever vote for Obama.” Well, why’s that?

“Because he’s a Muslim.”

I told her, “That’s not true -- he’s as much a Christian as you and me, so what if he’s muslim.”

Then she shook her head and said, “He won’t wear an American flag pin.”

I don’t have one on and neither do you.

But, “C’mon, he wears one plenty of times. He just says it takes more than wearing a flag pin to be patriotic.”

“Well, I just don’t trust him.”

Why is that?

Her voice dropped just a bit: “Because he’s black.” I said, “Look around. Nemacolin’s a dying town. There’re no jobs here. Kids are moving away because there’s no future here. And here’s a man, Barack Obama, who’s going to fight for people like us and you won’t vote for him because of the color of his skin ?[ Are you out of your ever-loving mind?]*

Brothers and sisters, we can't tap dance around the fact that there are a lot of folks out there just like that woman.

A lot of them are good union people; they just can’t get past this idea that there’s something wrong with voting for a black man.

Well, those of us who know better can’t afford to look the other way.

I’m not one for quoting dead philosophers, but back in the 1700s, Edmund Burke said: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.”

Well, there’s no evil that’s inflicted more pain and more suffering than racism -- and it’s something we in the labor movement have a special responsibility to challenge.

It’s our special responsibility because we know, better than anyone else, how racism is used to divide working people.

We’ve seen how companies set worker against worker -- how they throw whites a few extra crumbs off the table – and how we all end up losing.

But we’ve seen something else, too.

We’ve seen that when we cross that color line and stand together no one can keep us down.

That’s why the CIO was created.

That’s why industrial unions were the first to stand up against lynching and segregation.

People need to know that it was the Steel Workers Organizing Committee -- this union -- that was founded on the principal of organizing all workers without regard to race.

That’s why the labor movement -- imperfect as we are -- is the most integrated institution in American life.

I don’t think we should be out there pointing fingers in peoples’ faces and calling them racist; instead we need to educate them that if they care about holding on to their jobs, their health care, their pensions, and their homes

-- if they care about creating good jobs with clean energy, child care, pay equity for women workers --

there’s only going to be one candidate on the ballot this fall who’s on their side...

only one candidate who’s going to stand up for their families...

only one candidate who’s earned their votes...

and his name is Barack Obama!

And come Novembet we are going to elect him President.

And after he’s elected we are going to hit the ground running so that, years from now, we’re going to be able to tell our grandchildren that 2008 was the year this country finally turned its back on men like George Bush and Dick Cheney and John McCain…

We're going to be able to say that 2008 was the year we started ending the war in Iraq so we could use that money to create new jobs building wind generators, solar collectors, clean coal technology and retrofitting millions of buildings all across this country…

We're going to be able to look back and say that 2008 was the year the tide began to turn against the Rush Limbaughs, the Bill O’Reillys, the Ann Coulters and the right wing hate machine…

Brothers and sisters, we’ll be able to say that 2008 was the year we took our country back from the corporations and had a government that believed in unions again!

* Not in the USW transcript, but included in an NPR transcript of Trumka's speech.

Rumor Central: Andy Martin's New Theory Undermines Old Theories

Andy Martin, who initiated the "Barack Obama is a closet Muslim" campaign, and who contributed to the "Barack Obama is not a U. S. citizen" campaign, has completely undermined both theories by claiming the following:
Obama is not in fact a Muslim. But that's because [. . . ] he believes Obama's real father is not Barack Obama Sr [who was a non-practiciing Muslim] but civil rights leader Frank Marshall Davis [see here for FMD material]. (The Plank)
Got that?
All that work, Mr. Martin, all those rumors. . .only to wipe them out with one fresh conspiracy. You have to wonder how all of Martin's followers are taking the news. Especially Sean Hannity, who based an entire episode of Hannity's America on Martin's "expose" of Obama.

Does Martin have evidence, by the way, supporting the claim that Frank Marshall Davis fathered Obama?

Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska): Guilty on Seven Counts

From Politico's breaking story:
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) was convicted today on seven counts of failing to report more than $250,000 in improper gifts he received from 1999 to 2006, a stunning blow to a political career that has lasted more than 40 years and marked Alaska’s entire history as a part of the United States.
He's scheduled to be sentenced on 25 February.

The GOP can't be thrilled with the conviction coming eight days before 04 November--it's going to dominate the news cycle for a while, but Senator Stevens himself actually requested that the trial occur before election day.

What might make folks queasy is that the Stevens verdict could further poison the current toxic atmosphere (what with its echoes of the Abramoff-fueled 2006). Even so, any large-scale political fallout is unlikely; people won't run away from Senator McCain or their local Republican candidates because of Stevens's guilt.

But do prepare for a barrage of blog posts detailing Governor Palin's relationship with Ted Stevens--you know it's going to happen.

Rumor Central: The Courts & Redistribution of Wealth

This morning (10/27), The Drudge Report features the headline: 2001 OBAMA: TRAGEDY THAT 'REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH' NOT PURSUED BY SUPREME COURT.”

The story refers to a 2001 interview on a radio show, Odyssey on WBEZ, in which Obama said:

If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement, and its litigation strategy in the court, I think where it succeeded was to vest formal rights in previously dispossessed peoples, so that I would now have the right to vote, I would now be able to sit at a lunch counter and order and as long as I could pay for it I’d be okay.

But," [. . .] "The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. And to that extent as radical as I think people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, as least as it's been interpreted, and Warren Court interpreted in the same way that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties, says what the states can't do to you, says what the federal government can't do to you, but it doesn't say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf. And that hasn’t shifted.

One of the, I think, the tragedies of the civil rights movement, was because the civil rights movement became so court focused, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change, and in some ways we still stuffer from that." (qtd. in Tapper)

Naturally, Senator Obama’s political opposition has seized on this interview to confirm what they’ve accused him of: his “socialism.” Unfortunately, the entirety of the interview—its context—clarifies that the Senator was discussing the Civil Rights movement’s focus on legislating change—relying on the courts rather than on community action—effecting change from within, if you will.

As Andrew Sullivan writes,

So Obama was arguing that the Constitution protects negative liberties and that the civil rights movement was too court-focused to make any difference in addressing income inequality, as opposed to formal constitutional rights. So it seems to me that this statement is actually a conservative one about the limits of judicial activism.

Interesting, no? A statement from the Obama campaign provides further clarification:

In this interview back in 2001, Obama was talking about the civil rights movement – and the kind of work that has to be done on the ground to make sure that everyone can live out the promise of equality" [. . . .] In the interview, Obama went into extensive detail to explain why the courts should not get into that business of 'redistributing' wealth. Obama’s point – and what he called a tragedy – was that legal victories in the Civil Rights led too many people to rely on the courts to change society for the better. That view is shared by conservative judges and legal scholars across the country.

As Obama has said before and written about, he believes that change comes from the bottom up – not from the corridors of Washington," Burton says. (Burton qtd. in Tapper).

That is the conservative position, isn’t it? Activist judges and all? However, the media is focusing on the interview for this one phrase, “the issues of redistribution of wealth.” An explication of the rest of Obama's comments might prove useful, and chances are that FactCheck and Politifact will jump on this one shortly.

More detailed arguments found at an always fascinating site, The Volokh Conspiracy. There you can find a detailed examination of the Obama radio interview, followed by some intriguing comments. The consensus seems to be that Drudge's headline and the subsequent cries that the interview "proves" that Obama wishes to give hard working people's money to others is little more than "political theater." And this from a site that tends towards Libertarian/Conservative

Update: The analysts have chimed in, and there’s a consensus: the charges of "Socialism" are inaccurate at best.

AP Fact Check: “McCain Misreads 2001 Obama Interview

The Washington Post’s The Fact Checker: "Obama's 'Redistribution' Bombshell"

Politifact discusses the McCain campaign’s claims of socialism, and note the following:

Progressive taxes do indeed spread the wealth a bit. But they do so much more modestly than government owning the means of production.

Few serious policy makers — including McCain — consider progressive taxation socialist. In fact, on the Oct. 26, 2008 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, McCain stood by a comment he made in 2000 that "there's nothing wrong with paying somewhat more" in taxes when you "reach a certain level of comfort."

"You put into different, different categories of wealthier people paying, paying higher taxes into different brackets," McCain told host Tom Brokaw, as if to say progressive taxes are a no-brainer.

Indeed, progressive taxation has been a cornerstone of American tax policy since the federal government first collected an income tax in 1863. It was based on the Tax Act of 1862, which President Abraham Lincoln signed, and which imposed a "duty of three per centum" on all income over $600, and five percent on income over $10,000.

Two days ago John McCain agreed with his 2000 statement that "there's nothing wrong with paying somewhat more" in taxes when you "reach a certain level of comfort." But when his Democratic opposition suggests the equivalent, it’s the Democrat who is socialist? (Aside: worth a read: “Since When Is McCain Against the Redistribution of Wealth?” by Jacob Sullum at Reason).

Annenberg’s FactCheck.org hasn’t commented on the radio interview (yet), but it does feature analysis of recent McCain-Palin ads that are off the mark. One radio aid “recycle[s] old, debunked claims about Obama’s tax plan.” Another, released by the McCain-Palin campaign and the RNC, claims that Obama rewards his pals by handing our taxes over to them. The ad, titled "Unethical," contains some misleading statements and some outright fibs. If you're interested, take a look.

26 October 2008

Rumor Central: The New Party

An item floating about the internet (and a current focus at NRO), claims that Senator Obama was once a member of a now-defunct political organization called "The New Party." The group defined itself as "progressive-left/social democratic." However, the recent rush of allegations against Obama's involvement in the New Party attempt to paint the group as a "socialist" organization, a characterization that Ben Smith and Ann Althouse, among others, take issue with.

The assertions about Obama's "membership" in the group stem from his name appearing in a 1996 New Party newsletter. According to the New Party's founder, Joel Rogers, "the line in the party newsletter appeared to refer to the fact that the party had endorsed him" (Smith).

Senator Obama has denied membership in the New Party via spokesman Ben LeBolt (Smith).

Added: Stanley Kurtz at The National Review objects to Smith's discussion of The New Party. Smith's reponse is here. Essentially, Smith argues that commentators have had the option of attacking Obama based on tenuous associations, "which relies on a mixture of inflation and outright error," or attacking Obama for his verifiable political history, as "the most liberal modern Democratic nominee and as the ally of an unappealing city machine." In Smith's view, too many have opted for the former.

It's a good point, and one that deserves closer attention. It seems that from the moment Obama won Iowa's caucus, his critics have chosen to pursue conspiracy theories (birth certificate, ACORN, homosexual sex, drugs, and murder, Ayers, radical Islam, the "whitey tape"/ "API tapes," and so on) rather than scrutinize the Senator's actual political history.
What's up with that?

You've Got to Be Kidding

John McCain campaigned in Waterloo, Iowa today.

(What the heck is he doing in Iowa anyway?)

Rumor Central: Obama's Inaugural Address

Granted, Senator McCain is trying to inject a little humor into his stump speeches. In doing so, he's employing a new weapon against Senator Obama: he's claiming that Obama's arrogance is so unbounding that he's already written his speech for 20 January:
"We just learned from a newspaper today that Sen. Obama's inaugural address is already written," McCain declared, as a crowd of about 1,200 responded with jeers. "I'm not making it up.

"My friends, when I pull this off, I have a request for my opponent," McCain continued, a broad grin etched on his face. "I want him to save that manuscript of his inaugural address and donate it to the Smithsonian. And they can put it right next to the Chicago paper that says 'Dewey defeats Truman.' " (L A Times)
The paper the Senator refers to is the New York Times. The article, written by Peter Baker and Jackie Calmes, discussed the Obama camp's transition plans (not a presumptuous move --presidential candidates typically make such plans prior to election day). John Podesta, former chief of staff for Bill Clinton, leads Obama's transition team, and, according to the article,
Mr. Podesta has been mapping out the transition so systematically that he has already written a draft Inaugural Address for Mr. Obama, which he published this summer in a book called “The Power of Progress.” The speech calls for rebuilding a “grand alliance” with the rest of the world, bringing troops home from Iraq, recommitting to the war in Afghanistan, cutting poverty in half in 10 years and reducing greenhouse gases 80 percent by 2050. (New York Times)
In his eagerness to poke fun at his opponent, Senator McCain failed to note the article's detail that Podesta published the "draft" in a book. Podesta claims that the "draft,"
was a literary device used to close his book about “the history and successes of progressive politics in the 20th century.”

Podesta says he wrote the speech in March, when he was working for Hillary Clinton's campaign for the Democratic nomination, and it wasn't clear who the party's candidate would be.

Obama's campaign says Podesta wrote the speech on his own, unsolicited, for his book, and not for Obama. (ABC)

Granted, it is a funny little poke. But it seems rather reminiscent of the Clinton campaign's bringing up a theme Obama wrote in Kindergarten top "prove" the senator's ambition: that was supposed to be a joke too. It didn't play out that way.

Seriously--the McCain campaign's resemblance to the Clinton campaign seems to be growing stronger each day.

On Confidence and Gargoyles

Yes, I've already posted this photo once, but I had to do it against as Mayor of London Boris Johnson has provided a notable caption for it.

The defining image of the battle so far is of the two candidates leaving the stage after the last TV debate - Obama moving confidently off, after another grave and measured performance, and McCain gagging like a gargoyle, tongue out, as he realised he was about to walk over the edge. (Johnson, 10/21/08)

25 October 2008

David Frum: "Save the Senators"

David Frum's dissatisfaction with the McCain-Palin campaign has been well noted in conservative, liberal, and neutral media alike. In his latest column, "Sorry, Senator. Let's Salvage What We Can,"Frum argues that, because NRCC and RNC fundraising has been lacking, and the discrepancy between Republican and Democratic warchests is impossibly vast, the RNC should lessen its contribution to the presidential contest and focus, instead, on senatorial races:
In these last days before the vote, Republicans need to face some strategic realities. Our resources are limited, and our message is failing. We cannot fight on all fronts. We are cannibalizing races that we must win and probably can win in order to help a national campaign that is almost certainly lost. In these final 10 days, our goal should be: senators first.
There's been similar mumbling amongst Republican commentators for a week or two now, but I'm unsure if anyone has been so direct in their assessment of, and recommendations for, the remaining days of the election. My guess? The RNC won't--can't--heed Frum's advice. To do so would be to "wave the white flag of surrender."

Dirty Tricks in Wisconsin?

Rachel Hulin at The Daily Beast has some questions about a flyer found taped to people's mailboxes.

Boris Johnson on Obama

No, Boris Johnson can't vote in the US elections. He's British (but born in New York). However, if you're unfamiliar with Johnson, he's a quirky, colorful fellow who just happens to be the mayor of London. He's also one of the United Kingdom's most famous Conservatives, and he happens to be pro-American (unlike his predecessor, "Red"Ken Livingstone).

Johnson wrote an editorial for The Daily Telegraph (a conservative broadsheet) the other day that reviewed both presidential candidates. Johnson's article revolves about the issue of change, of "repair[ing] those American ideals" damaged during the Bush administration (he touches on a variety of issues, from the Iraq war to the economic meltdown).

Johnson celebrates John McCain's nobility, asserting that the Senator is a "brave and principled man," but adds, "McCain seems to stand for perpetual sabre-rattling against the terrors of abroad [. . . .] it is not clear how America under McCain would recover her standing in the eyes of the world." In Johnson's view, a McCain administration would extend the Bush administration.

On the other hand,

There are all sorts of reasons for hoping that Barack Hussein Obama will be the next president of the United States. He seems highly intelligent. He has an air of courtesy and sincerity. Unlike the current occupant of the White House, he has no difficulty in orally extemporising a series of grammatical English sentences, each containing a main verb.

Unlike his opponent, he visibly incarnates change and hope, at a time when America desperately needs both.

[. . . .]
Obama deserves to win because he seems talented, compassionate, and because he offers the hope of rejuvenating the greatest country on earth in the eyes of the rest of us. All those are sufficient reasons for desiring his victory.
Moreover, there's the issue of race:
If Obama wins, he will have established that being black is as relevant to your ability to do a hard job as being left-handed or ginger-haired, and he will have re-established America's claim to be the last, best hope of Earth.
Admittedly, Johnson's support for Obama came as a surprise. And it's certainly been criticized by his fellow Conservatives, but his editorial is, if nothing else, thoughtful. And it reflects the kind of esteem with which so many countries have held America--at least, until recently.

On the Berg Suit and Other Bits

Well, sources followed by a ramble.

Rather than explore the various intrigues and updates involving the (now-dismissed) lawsuit Phillip J. Berg has brought against Barack Obama, I'll just direct you to some sources. (in case you're unfamiliar with Berg, he's brought a lawsuit demanding all kinds of personal information from Obama and the DNC in an effort to "prove" that Obama doesn't fulfill the presidential citizenship requirement).

What's Your Evidence discusses Berg's lawsuit in some detail.

Yes to Democracy offers regular updates on the suit's status, the most recent being from 10/23/08. Another YTD post worth reviewing is "Seeing What Sticks," from 10/13.

The Washington Times's collection of Berg-related issues.

FactCheck and PolitiFact on the Obama/citizenship matter. Factcheck's writers, by the way, have seen and handled Obama's Certificate of Live Birth (COLB).

If you're interested in aspects of similar claims about Obama's citizenship, The Huffington Post offers this piece by Elizabeth Rauber. Clintons4McCainer and media figure Cristi Adkins gave Rauber a copy of a report by "Judah Benjamin," a pseudonym for someone who tries to substitute Canadian law for that of the USA in arguing that Obama fails to meet the citizenship requirement for the presidency. Rauber went over the report with legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky (a man held in high esteem by his colleagues--liberal and conservative alike), and Cherminsky concluded that, overall, it was bunkum. Additionally, Rauber spoke to attorneys whom Clintons4McCain's Evelyn Adams claimed to have cleared the report with. Not only do the attorneys, affiliated with the firm of Walston Cross, deny working with Clintons4McCain, but their representative offered this:
[the attorney] told me he had never spoken to anyone from Clintons4McCain, and added, "I have seen nothing that would make me believe that Senator Obama was not eligible to be a candidate for president in the United States of America. Chemerinsky is correct -- it's absolute nonsense."
I should make it clear that Berg and "Benjamin" aren't in cahoots; they simply mirror each other in the strange echo chamber provided by people suffering from Obama Derangement. I never "got" the sheer, unthinking hatred that people targeted at Bill Clinton and George W Bush, and I certainly don't get this. What sets off this kind of dehumanizing, demonizing behavior--who knows. Is there any reasonable explanation for it?

Update: Judge R. Barclay Surrick dismissed Berg's suit on Friday night. Will this stop the "he's not a citizen" conspiracy theories, or will those theories expand?

24 October 2008

Woman Mugged/Assaulted by Obama Supporter? Not. So. Fast.

A McCain-Palin campaign volunteer, Ashley Todd, claims to have been mugged and beaten by someone who objected to her "McCain for President" bumper stickers, and who then scratched a backwards "B" onto her cheek. Drudge broke the story. Bloggers, conservative and liberal alike, have expressed a good deal of skepticism about the woman's claims. It looks like they were spot on.

You see, the police aren't so sure about the young woman's claims. And Salon has discovered some additional information that casts a shadow over her story; for example, a webpage on which she asserts that "lying is the most fun a girl can have [. . . .]." She's also changed her story a number of times. See Salon for the updates.

As Kevin K has pointed out in his excellent post on the "mugging"(which he's been updating regularly), this case seems strikingly familiar to that of Francisco Nava. In 2007, Nava, a conservative Princeton student claimed, to have been sent threatening emails and then physically assaulted due to his socially conservative views and his participation in on-campus conservative groups. He made it up.

Update: Confirmed: Todd made it up. But why? A craving for 15 minutes? Attention from McCain-Palin? Some insane political motivation? Who knows. The police aren't saying much. It is clear, however, that this young woman needs help.

A larger question is whether or not this will affect, in some way, the McCain campaign. John Moody, an executive Vice President at Fox News, certainly thinks so. In a blog post written yesterday, Moody mulls over Todd's claim in light of the overall political context, and he concludes: "[i]f the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting." Here's the entire post. It's worth your time.

Update Two: Greg Sargent at Talking Points Memo reveals that the McCain campaign's communications director for Pennsylvania told the PA press "an incendiary version of the hoax story about the attack on a McCain volunteer well before the facts in the case were known of established." That is, before the police issued any information.

The communication director's version of events were published by KDKA and WPXI; both sites have removed the director's comments. TPM, however, captured them before they were scrubbed. Opus Hussein X at TPM writes that the McCain campaign, "denied the campaign gave out those quotes." It looks like the communications director took it upon himself to make some political hay out of Todd's story.

One interesting point: according to Sargent, the reporters contacted the communications director after "seeing the story--sans details--teased on Drudge" (Sargent). Where did Drudge get the story?

Collecting the Conspiracies for Posterity

Excellent reading: "Great Moments in Election-Year Blogging," by Jon Swift, runs down some of the more inflammatory Obama-centric conspiracy theories propelled via the web. Yup, the "Whitey tape", the Berg nonsense, and Larry Sinclair make an appearance.

We Miss You, Bill Buckley

If William F. Buckley, Jr. is spinning in his grave, it's not because his son, Christopher, endorsed Barack Obama, but because the movement he dedicated himself to--American Conservatism--seems to be dissolving. And this collapse is most pronounced in the journal Buckley founded, The National Review, which Wikipedia defines as "the center of intellectual activity for the American Conservative movement in the twentieth century." Buckley's periodical has recently taken a turn into train wreck territory. Columnists are turning on each other (e.g., Frum facing attacks from his pro-Palin colleagues), they're entertaining wacky suggestions (e.g., donating to the Obama campaign under the names of Wright and Ayers and publicizing said donations), carrying forth on tired accusations (e.g., Wright/ Ayers/ Socialism /etc), and trying to present crackpot theories as credible allegations (I refer here to the Berg suit, which claims that Obama isn't a US citizen. NRO is now pushing it). They're also descending nto high school territory: Mona Charon claims that people who question or critique the $150,000 Palin wardrobe are just jealous.

I didn't always agree with Mr. Buckley, but I always appreciated his contributions to our political discourse. If ever we were in need of the sagacious Mr. Buckley, that time is now.

Aside: The New Yorker's George Packer has a shortish piece on what looks to be the end of the Conservative era is well worth a read. Here it is.

23 October 2008

Scott McLellen Voting for Senator Obama

According to CNN:
"From the very beginning I have said I am going to support the candidate that has the best chance for changing the way Washington works and getting things done and I will be voting for Barack Obama and clapping."
Not really a shock, but it's notable nonetheless. The enthusiasm (he'll be "clapping") is a nice touch.

McCain Attacks GOP; GOP Attacks McCain

In this morning's Washington Times, Senator McCain gave an interview to intensify the distance between himself and President Bush. Unfortunately, he painted the Bush years as a disaster in which all Republican politicians were complicit.

Sen. John McCain on Wednesday blasted President Bush for building a mountain of debt for future generations, failing to pay for expanding Medicare and abusing executive powers, leveling his strongest criticism to date of an administration whose unpopularity may be dragging the Republican Party to the brink of a massive electoral defeat.

"We just let things get completely out of hand," he said of his own party's rule in the past eight years.

[. . . .]

The Republican also targeted his own party, saying they got drunk with power and lacked the resolve of President Reagan.

"I think, frankly, the problem was, with a Republican Congress, that the president was told by the speaker and majority leaders and others, 'Don't veto these bills, we need this pork, we need this excess spending, we need to grow these bureaucracies.' They all sponsor certain ones. And he didn't do what Ronald Reagan used to and say, 'No'; say, 'No. We're not going to do this." (WA Times)

The problem here is that Senator McCain supported President Bush's policies. It's become a cliche, but, according to records, he did vote with the President the vast majority of the time:
According to an analysis by Congressional Quarterly, McCain has voted for bills favored by President Bush 90 percent of the time. The nonpartisan publication, which has analyzed voting by members of Congress since 1953, said the report took into account all legislation that Bush had taken a clear position on. It spans from the beginning of Bush's term to Congress's recess in August [2008]. (CNN)
And then there's Senator McCain's proud announcement of his history of supporting the president with his votes. Did he really vote for projects hoping that President Bush would veto them?

As you might expect, the GOP aren't going to let McCain's statements slip by. Case in point: this Politico exclusive came in response:
The Republican establishment is beginning to express long-suppressed exasperation with the McCain pirate ship. In an early-morning phone call to Playbook, one of the most senior Republican strategists in the land warns the McCain campaign after reading the WashTimes interview: “Lashing out at past Republican Congresses instead of Pelosi and Reid, and echoing your opponent's attacks on you instead of attacking your opponent, and spending 150,000 hard dollars on designer clothes when congressional Republicans are struggling for money, and when your senior campaign staff are blaming each other for the loss in The New York Times [Magazine] 10 days before the election, you’re not doing much to energize your supporters. The fact is, when you’re the party standard-bearer, you have an obligation to fight to the finish. I think they can still win. But if they don’t think that, they need to look at how Bob Dole finished out his campaign in 1996 and not try to take down as many Republicans with them as they can. Instead of campaigning in Electoral College states, Dole was campaigning in places he knew he didn’t have a chance to beat Clinton, but where he could energize key House and Senate races. I think you’ll find these sentiments shared by MANY of my fellow Republican strategists.”
If Senator McCain does win, will he be able to unite his own party (much less the nation)?

Who Really Gets the Jihadist Endorsement ?

News has broken that messages celebrating the USA's economic worries have appeared on a Jihadist website. Said website also features posts that endorse Senator John McCain's candidacy:
"Al-Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming election," said a commentary posted Monday on the extremist Web site al-Hesbah, which is closely linked to the terrorist group. It said the Arizona Republican would continue the "failing march of his predecessor," President Bush. [. . . .] In language that was by turns mocking and ominous, the newest posting credited al-Qaeda with having lured Washington into a trap that had "exhausted its resources and bankrupted its economy." It further suggested that a terrorist strike might swing the election to McCain and guarantee an expansion of U.S. military commitments in the Islamic world. "It will push the Americans deliberately to vote for McCain so that he takes revenge for them against al-Qaeda" (Washington Post)
So is there a terrorist plan in the works? First, we need to be clear that the people posting on the Jihadist website aren't plotting something--they're just speculating. ABC news reinforces this point in noting that "experts" have been all over the website. Moreover, there's been a "lack of chatter" elsewhere about the presidential elections (AP). It looks like someone is simply trying to stir up Americans' fear and anxiety.

As far as al-Qaeda wanting John McCainelected--recall al-Qaeda's previous attempt to influence US elections. Bin Laden issued a tape "endorsing" John Kerry, which effectively ended Kerry's presidential hopes. One theory explaining bin Laden's motivation, as expressed in Ron Suskind's book about the War on Terror, The One Percent Doctrine, has become something akin to conventional wisdom:
According to the book, Osama bin Laden apparently wanted Bush reelected in 2004, and therefore issued a video message which, in the US media, was described as “Osama’s endorsement of John Kerry.” Why he wanted Bush in office remains unknown. In the book, unnamed CIA analysts speculate that this can be attributed to the view that the controversial policies Bush advocated would help recruit Jihadists and would cause the image of USA decline globally due to aggressive foreign policy. [Also see here].
So if al-Qaeda produces a new videotape, an "official" message, which expresses support for Obama, we'll understand why. However, as Jonathan Alter argues, such an event would be an opportunity for Obama to "seem muscular on national security."

22 October 2008

On Wardrobes, Pizzas, and Candidates

So the RNC spent $150,000 on Governor Palin’s wardrobe (as well as some items for husband and baby Trig, apparently).

It’s an interesting story, but not because, as some folks are surmising, such fancy-schmancy outfitting conflicts with Palin’s “Joe Six Pack” image. It’s interesting because it's such a questionable priority--did the RNC really consider this particular investment? Sure, she looks great (fantastic even), but how could that money have been spent to actually help the McCain-Palin campaign? How much air time in Colorado, Maine, or Pennsylvania could that $150,000 purchase?

Such a use of (now) much needed funds seems strikingly similar to Hillary Clinton's campaign spending habits. Remember the media reports about how her campaign misspent its warchest for incidental items—like pizza?

No, pizza and a Vice-Presidential nominee’s apparel aren’t exactly equivalent, but that both campaigns chose to spend money in on such non-essentials signifies either absolute ineptness or a belief in the campaign’s win as utterly inevitable.

We know how it turned out for Hillary. How will it turn out for the Republicans?

No wonder the GOP's donors are cheesed off.

21 October 2008

Brain dead from poll watching?

Okay, I'm catching waaaaay late, but How Insane Is John McCain? is awesome.

Bachmann, Hayes, & the Culture War Backfire

Suddenly we return to the liberals=anti-American meme. Not so sure it will work this time, however, as the people responsible for such utterances distance themselves from their statements almost immediately. I won't go into Governor Palin's comments on "the real America" (for which she has now apologized); instead, let's look at Representatives Bachmann and Hayes.

Last week, Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is up for re-election in her Minnesota district, went on Chris Matthews's show, Hardball, and "said of Barack Obama, "I'm very concerned that he may have anti-American views." She then went on to call for a "penetrating expose" by the media into the levels of patriotism among her colleagues on Capitol Hill" (L A Times).

Facing a backlash, Bachmann is claiming media victimization. Per Politico:
MICHELE BACHMANN says that, when she said that BARACK OBAMA may have “anti-American views” and that the media should investigate members of Congress to determine who’s “pro-America” and who’s “anti-America,” she was really just asking: “What does Barack Obama mean by change?”

Bachmann says she’s been the victim of lies from liberal bloggers, distortions from CHRIS MATTHEWS and “a spin machine in overdrive.”

“I never called all liberals anti-American, I never questioned Barack Obama’s patriotism, and I never asked for some House Un-American Activities Committee witch hunt into my colleagues in Congress.”
While it's true that Bachmann never called for a commencement of some HUAC-type panel, her suggestion about the media investigating "unAmerican" politicians certainly evoked the spirit of McCarthyism. But in saying "I’m very concerned that he may have anti-American views,” she certainly does seem to be questioning Obama's patriotism. Semantics?

Regardless, she's regretting it all now. Not only has her opponent received a significant increase in donations since her Hardball appearance (about $800,000), but now she's facing a Republican challenger to her re-election hopes:
Aubrey Immelman, 52, is a psychology professor at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., who ran against Bachmann in the Republican primary. He finished second, with just 14 percent of the vote, but he got his campaign off the ground again Saturday by announcing he will run as a write-in candidate on Nov. 4 in the hope of knocking Bachmann out. (Star Tribune)
Uh oh.
[Update 10/22: the NRCC has now pulled funds from Bachmann's re-election bid].
A Bachmann aside: this is the same woman who "blamed the recent financial crisis on loans 'being made on the basis of race, and little else'" (MPR). She had to do some backpedalling after that one, too.

Now we get this.

On Saturday, Republican Rep. Robin Hayes warmed up the crowd at a North Carolina McCain rally. According to several reporters and witnesses, Rep. Hayes told the crowd "that "liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God" (Politico).

After reporters publicized those comments, Hayes denied and denied that he ever said such a thing. . . at least, until a tape surfaced to prove that he made those remarks. Hayes claims that he doesn't remember making those statements.
As The Plank writes,
Hayes is in a tight reelection race with Democratic challenger Larry Kissell, who lost to Hayes in 2006 by a mere 329 votes. If Bachmann is any precedent, Kissel may find fundraising a little easier over the next few days.
Yup. Uh oh, again. (already, bloggers are calling for folks to donate to Kissel. Here's one examples). [Update: according to Politico, the RNCC is worried about Hayes's re-election hopes as well].

Although the general GOP poll slide seems to have prompted such rhetoric by Bachmann, Hayes, et. al., and while the Republican base loves it, what are the chances that it will play well with the Independents? These voters are crucial to the McCain campaign, but will they find this particular re-ignition of the culture wars appealing? No. They seem pretty fed up with it all, hence the Ayers/terrorism flop and the Socialism bust. Those keywords ain't so hot anymore.

Aside: For more on the Hayes/McCain rally, and some indications of the audience's anxious, and at times tepid, response to McCain's White House effort, do read this piece at the New York Observer. Also, a fine article responding to the flurry of "anti-American" claims, "The Republicans Have Lifted the Lid Off Their Rightwing Id" at The Guardian is worth your reading time.

Added:Here's Glenn Greenwald's excellent discussion of the Republican party and how the "Libs hate America" meme has lost its power.

Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan

In the same interview during which Colin Powell endorsed Senator Obama, the former Secretary of State spoke powerfully of American Islamaphobia--of suggestions that Islam equates with terrorism, with anti-Americanism:
"I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say, and it is permitted to be said. Such things as 'Well you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.' Well the correct answer is 'He is not a Muslim, he's a Christian, he's always been a Christian.' But the really right answer is 'What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?' The answer is 'No. That's not America.' Is there something wrong with some 7-year old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she can be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion he's a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

"I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo-essay about troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in you can see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have a Star of David. It had a crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Karim Rashad Sultan Khan. And he was an American, he was born in New Jersey, he was 14 at the time of 9/11 and he waited until he can go serve his country and he gave his life." (qtd. in Newsweek)

An evocative, heartfelt statement. Let's hope that it paves the way to some serious rethinking on the part of politicians and pundits who perpetuate the Muslim=America hating bigotry.

The photograph Powell alludes to appeared in The New Yorker. The black and white picture of the soldier's mother, Elsheba Khan, with her son's gravestone is here.

You can read numerous moving tributes at the young soldier's online guest book. You can sign it as well.

Guest book link: h/t to Rumproast

McCain Campaign Solicits Funds from Russian Diplomat

We know that Senator McCain objects to foreign sources donating to presidential campaigns--after all, such a practice is illegal. We also know that Senator McCain is no fan of Russia; in fact, he seems to take a rather aggressive stance when talking about Russia:

McCain has proposed expelling Russia from the Group of Eight world's major industrial nations and says Russia deserves international condemnation for its August war with Georgia,

He also has derided President Bush for once saying he got a sense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin's soul the first time they met and locked eyes in 2001. "I looked in Putin's eyes. I saw three letters: a K, a G and a B," McCain said last year, referring to Putin's time in the Soviet Union's KGB security agency. (AP)

So why did his campaign send a letter (dated 29 September) to the Russian Ambassador to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin, to request a a contribution? From the Washington Post:
The Russian mission to the United Nations furnished a copy of a Sept. 29 campaign letter it received urging Churkin to contribute up to $5,000 to "stop the Obama Democrats from seizing control of the entire federal government."

"Please know this -- we will not concede any region to the Democrats," the letter states.
The letter also noted that a contribution would "help McCain 'promote freedom and democracy throughout the world'" (AP).

It should come as no surprise to learn that the Russians declined the McCain campaign's invitation, and, of course, the Russians received the letter only due to some terrible mix-up:

Brian Rogers, a spokesman for the[McCain] campaign, said he was unable to pinpoint what caused the blunder.

"It sounds like they might have been sent to the wrong place. We obviously don't solicit campaign contributions from people who aren't able to contribute," he said. (AP)

But embarrassing nonetheless. Especially since the RNC today raised the question of whether Obama has received foreign-based contributions.

And here's a curiosity: according to this source, in 2007, John McCain accepted about $10,000 from members of the Bonanno family. Here's another take on the story (from February 2008), which includes this bit of information:
a quick search on OpenSecrets.org revealed that at least five members of the Bonanno family made generous donations ($2,100 each) to the McCain campaign. Each member made a donation that was $200 less than the federal maximum on the same day.
Interesting, no? Of course, maybe these Bonannos weren't the Bonannos. But in a curious bit of related news, we learn that in 1995, the Bonannos invited Senator McCain to a birthday fete for former godfather Joseph Bonanno. The invitation made the New York Times:
Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, had sent birthday greetings [. . . .] the note from Senator McCain's office, his press secretary said, was written by a staff member declining an invitation for the Senator to attend).
Of course, many are questioning why Senator McCain was invited to the shindig, and how long the Bonannos have been contributing to his political campaigns (hit the Google for "Bonanno McCain" and you'll see). But that simply leads to arguments based on the guilt-by-association fallacy, and haven't we had enough of those?

20 October 2008

Right-Leaning Newspapers Endorsing Obama

Just wanted to point out that Andrew Sullivan is keeping a running list of right-leaning papers opting for the Senator from Illinois; he notes that one particular factor mentioned in such endorsements is Senator McCain's selection of Governor Palin as running mate. Among the newspapers: the Idaho Statesman, which is turning away from the state's native daughter, Palin, and supporting the democratic ticket.

Sarah Palin on SNL

So Chevy Chase didn't like it?
It was only fair for SNL to include Governor Palin, and she proved to be a good sport. And Amy Poehler's Palin rap was hysterical.

Mike the Carpenter: "Joe the Plumber is Wrong"

When interviewed by local press, "Mike the carpenter," "Jean the store owner," and other owners of small businesses in the heartland disagree with "Joe the plumber." See why here.

19 October 2008

Powell, Contributions, and a Cold Shoulder

Between former Secretary of State Colin Powell's eloquent endorsement of Barack Obama and the impressive achievement of $150 million in recent campaign donations, the Senator from Illinois is overloading the news cycle.

Putting a slight damper on these results, Obama ran into a somewhat, shall we say inelegant, female diner at a North Carolina eatery who told him "get out of here" after flinging the word "socialist" at him three times. It's unknown whether he actually heard her or not. While he was making the rounds and chatting to the restaurant's customers, he offered his hand to the woman. She refused to take it. Apparently her fellow diners were moderately shocked: the man sitting beside her gave her a fierce look and said "be civil. Be courteous." Folks, this is the new "he's an Arab" lady.

Anyway, chances are that his feelings weren't too hurt: the Senator later spoke to a 10,000-strong, overflow crowd in a "conservative-leaning" part of North Carolina. That would be Cumberland County, home to Fort Bragg and other military institutions.

On another note, I've realized that Nate Silver's site, fivethirtyeight, is incredibly addictive. And illuminating. If polls compel, head over there now.

Aside: Marc Ambinder's summation of how Powell's support for Obama affects McCain and his campaign is noteworthy. Read it here.

18 October 2008

Rumor Central: ACORN & Voter, Mortgage Fraud

If you can't wrap your head around all those accusations being flung at ACORN (Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now), which include allegations of propelling voter fraud on a scale that threatens to destroy "the fabric of our democracy" and of exacerbating the mortgage meltdown, take a look at FactCheck's rundown of both the accusations and the reality.

And yes, FactCheck is associated with the Annenberg Foundation, which is also linked to the Annenberg Challenge, and, yes, Obama sat on the Annenberg Challenge board. But is the Annenberg Foundation a liberal organization? It doesn't look that way; it's a charitable group that has extensive ties with the Republican Party, beginning with its founder, Walter Annenberg.

Aside: The ACORN brouhaha is another example of a "scandal" with Internet origins working its way into the MSM. Like the "Whitey" tape and the allegations that made their way into a "17 page Congressional report" on the Senator, it began with people intent on stimulating anti-Obama sentiment, and who relied on falsehoods and distortions in doing so.

16 October 2008

The Third Presidential Debate

Excepting Senator McCain's long-awaited retort: "I'm not President Bush. If you wanted to run against George Bush, you should have run four years ago," the event seemed fairly stale. At least, that's the way it seemed as I listened to it over the wireless. Having gone the all audio, no video route, I didn't catch John McCain's facial mannerisms until I switched on CNN following the debate; according to their pundits, McCain's all-too-obvious exasperation probably won't serve him well with the public.

It's doubtful that this final (thank G*d) debate will turn the race all kinds of topsy turvy, and it will be Monday or so before we really begin to see if the debate effectively helped either candidate. Until then, things will carry on as they are.

13 October 2008

The ADL (finally) Chastizes Sean Hannity

A recent episode of Sean Hannity's Fox News program, Hannity's America, dedicated itself to presenting a series of questionable allegations about Senator Obama. The episode, a guilt-by-association-fest titled "Obama and Friends: The History of Radicalism," prompted this response from James Rainey of the LA Times:
Even by the low standards of this election's advocacy journalism, the program plumbed new depths -- relying on innuendo and guilt by association to paint the Illinois senator as a dupe of the shadowy forces of the left.

Much of Hannity's report was based on interviews with half a dozen partisan commentators, whose main qualification seems to have been a previously expressed disdain for Obama.

Near the top of the program, the host introduced one of them, Andy Martin, as an "author and journalist." But reporters in his Chicago hometown know Martin better as a perennial political candidate and serial litigant.
Martin also has the reputation of being an unrepentant anti-Semite:

A motion [Martin] filed in a 1983 bankruptcy case called the judge “a crooked, slimy Jew who has a history of lying and thieving common to members of his race.”

In another motion, filed in 1983, Mr. Martin wrote, “I am able to understand how the Holocaust took place, and with every passing day feel less and less sorry that it did.”

In an interview, Mr. Martin denied some statements against Jews attributed to him in court papers, blaming malicious judges for inserting them.

But in [a] “48 Hours” interview in 1993, he affirmed a different anti-Semitic part of the affidavit that included the line about the Holocaust, saying, “The record speaks for itself.”

When asked Friday about an assertion in his court papers that “Jews, historically and in daily living, act through clans and in wolf pack syndrome,” he said, “That one sort of rings a bell. (New York Times)
Following the first airing of "Obama and Friends," people, including Salon's Glenn Greenwald, began questioning why Sean Hannity would play host to someone like Andy Martin. That group now includes the Anti Defamation League. The ADL has sent Hannity a letter claiming that Hannity "ought not" have given Martin "the opportunity to enhance his credentials or his standing by appearing on Hannity's America."

It might be useful to bear in mind that Hannity, himself faithful to assuming others are guilty by their associations with shadowy figures, has been similarly critiqued for his past association with the notorious white supremacist Hal Turner.

Aside: One of Martin's claims is that as a community organizer, Obama "was in training for a radical overthrow of the [U.S.] government" (Greenwald). Apparently, he is the man behind the "Obama is a secret Muslim" meme, which originated in 2004, and he is one of Jerome Corsi's sources for The Obama Nation, a work that has been roundly refuted by numerous organizations (see here, here, and here for examples).

Andy Martin is also a favored figure amongst other anti-Obama groups: he was a featured speaker at the PUMA Conference '08 a few months back, and he's been a guest on Clintons4McCain broadcasts.