Showing a flash of his 2000 self in today’s WaPo op-ed page, John McCain argues anew that torture is un-American — and that Bush water-carriers like Michael Mukasey are lying about its efficacy in the Bin Laden hunt. He then followed up with a Senate speech to the same effect:
““In fact, not only did the use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed not provide us with key leads on bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmed; it actually produced false and misleading information…In short, it was not torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees that got us the major leads that ultimately enabled our intelligence community to find Osama bin Laden.”
Sen. Barack Obama (and family), the 44th President of these United States.
More soon. For now, woot! Goodbye to all that, and welcome to the new.
As I said here, I’m not all that happy about the nation having to subsume the risk, and ride to the rescue of, the many banks and Wall Street types that profited massively from these obviously suspect mortgage deals. But, what else is there to do? As with so much else occurring over the past eight years, it befalls us now to clean up the mess left by the free market fundies of late. I just hope we learn something from the economic consequences of this latest binge of free-market fraudulence, before they grow too dire. To wit, whatever the corporate-funded right tells you about self-regulating markets, we need, and will continue to need, real refs on the field.
Update: Uh oh. The bailout compromise dies in the House, prompting the Dow Jones to swiftly tank 700 points. “The measure needs 218 votes for passage. Democrats voted 141 to 94 in favor of the plan, while Republicans voted 65 to 133 against. That left the measure with 206 votes for and 227 against.“
As the TIME article linked above noted before the vote, “the candidate with the most riding on Monday’s vote is McCain, who backed the concerns of conservatives in the House over the initial agreement…[I]f a majority of the House Republicans don’t vote for the measure, McCain could lose political face. ‘If McCain cannot persuade them, it is hard to portray him as a leader,’ said Clyde Wilcox, a political science professor at Georgetown University.” So, that’s the silver lining, I guess. But the bad news now, alas, is considerably worse.
“I am confident that before the markets open on Monday we can achieve consensus on legislation that will stabilize our financial markets, protect taxpayers and homeowners, and earn the confidence of the American people. All we must do to achieve this is temporarily set politics aside, and I am committed to doing so.” Uh, but I thought the fundamentals of our economy were strong! Apparently now cognizant of our recent economic travails, John McCain announces he’s temporarily suspending his campaign to focus on the Wall Street bailout, and has asked for Friday’s foreign policy debate to be delayed.
If we learned anything from the Palin debacle, it’s that the mythical maverick isn’t above pulling a ridiculous and transparent stunt when he’s starting to sweat the polls. Well, here we go again. Update: Sez Obama, the debate is on. Damn right.
“The Old Dominion is now the New Dominion, particularly in the suburban and exurban counties north of the Rappahannock River. Barack Obama could not have carried Virginia as it once was. But he is running even with John McCain in a paradoxical state that was home to the Confederacy’s capital but also gave the nation its first elected African American governor, Doug Wilder, in 1989.” E.J. Dionne takes a look at Obama’s prospects in Virginia. I must say, assuming I’m still here and/or around DC by November, it’ll be nice to vote in an honest-to-goodness swing state for once in my life.
Also, a programming note: I managed to secure a “new media” press pass for the DNC’s “Big Tent” in Denver. (Whether it was due to GitM’s longevity, some Dem name-dropping by yours truly, or they just let everyone who signed up through the gates, I know not.) In any case, I bought a (pricey) flight yesterday and will be on the ground and reporting in from the Mile High City during the Democratic National Convention next month. Should be grand. (And if you’ll be there too, drop me a line.)
“In the race for the White House, lefties seem to have the upper hand. No matter who wins in November, six of the 12 chief executives since the end of World War II will have been left-handed: Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, the elder Bush, Clinton and either Obama or McCain. That’s a disproportionate number, considering that only one in 10 people in the general population is left-handed.” In the WP, authors Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt explain why all your Oval Offices are belong to us, the lefties. We also swelled the ranks of both my undergraduate and graduate cohorts, whatever that’s worth.
Do you remember the Iraq War of 2003? Remember those heady days of euphoria when it ended two months later, with only 139 American lives lost? Journey back with me — TIME-LIFE style, if you will — to the scene of our triumph: “Chris Matthews on MSNBC called Bush a ‘hero’ and boomed, ‘He won the war. He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics.’ PBS’ Gwen Ifill said Bush was ‘part Tom Cruise, part Ronald Reagan.’ On NBC, Brian Williams gushed, ‘The pictures were beautiful. It was quite something to see the first-ever American president on a — on a carrier landing. This must be very meaningful to the United States military.’“
Well, today marks the five-year anniversary of our glorious victory, the day that “splendid little war” came to a close. Among those honoring the day, and the remarkable achievement of our Commander-in-Chief:
My, what a coincidence. New majority leader John A. Boehner is “renting his Capitol Hill apartment from a veteran lobbyist whose clients have direct stakes in legislation Boehner has co-written and that he has overseen as chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee.” That’s Strike 3: Coupled with his stonewalling on lobbying reform and his passing out Big Tobacco checks on the House floor in 1995, it’s becoming abundantly clear that Boehner is just another corrupt GOP party boss in the DeLay mold. I wonder, will that sword of righteousness, John McCain, have anything to say about Boehner’s behavior?
Bucking the Dubya trend, Bill Frist comes out for expanded federal stem cell research. Evidently, Catkiller‘s 2008 gurus decided he should hype his M.D. and/or tack moderate — which is probably a mistake…the GOP moderates will likely stick with McCain, while the fundies may now look to Sam Brownback or some other winger freakshow as their primary hopeful. But, hey, the right thing is the right thing, even if it’s for the wrong reasons.
Much to the consternation of the Dubya White House, a handful of GOP Senators, including Gang of 14′ers John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), are trying to establish congressional oversight over prisoner treatment at Guantanamo and elsewhere. McCain’s proposed amendments include restricting interrogation techniques to what’s in the Army field manual, stopping the practice of “extraordinary rendition,” forcing the government to register all detainees with the Red Cross, and prohibiting “cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody no matter where they are held.” For his part, Graham’s amendment appears just to rubber-stamp the current Dubya policies…but apparently even that’s too much legislative oversight for Cheney, Rummy, and the rest of the admin whip-hands, who are trying to enlist their Senate allies to offer up a watered-down, smoke-and-mirrors version instead. For shame.
“‘Things aren’t getting better; they’re getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality,’ said Hagel, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. ‘It’s like they’re just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we’re losing in Iraq.’” Two quality links via the consistently splendid Follow Me Here: First, Republican Senators McCain and Hagel call out Dubya on the war. Between this and “Freedom Fries” Jones, are the floodgates opening in GOP-land?
And, on an altogether different note, physicists cast doubt on the possibility of time travel paradoxes “When Greenberger and Svozil analysed what happens when…component waves flow into the past, they found that the paradoxes implied by Einstein’s equations never arise. Waves that travel back in time interfere destructively, thus preventing anything from happening differently from that which has already taken place.” (Well, looks like time-traveling historians won’t need to worry about any Primeresque recursions, then.)
“Frist had only eight years of Senate experience when he succeeded Lott, and some colleagues felt he was more Bush’s choice than the GOP caucus’s. He was bound to need more White House help than did up-through-the-ranks predecessors such as Lott and Dole, they said, but sometimes Bush seemed to dump tough problems at his door and walk away.” As right-wing Republicans hammers the GOP moderates who crafted the nuclear compromise, Charles Babington examines the political import of Catkiller’s lousy week. Meanwhile, Frist’s possible primary nemesis John McCain calls for a compromise on Bolton, in which the White House would release the info they’ve been holding in exchange for a vote.
In very primary-friendly fashion, John McCain announces a federal anti-steroids bill for all professional sports, to be administered by the US Anti-Doping Agency.
I already posted one of these in the comments yesterday, but in case you missed it: Salon and the major papers break down the impact of nuclear detente on the 2008 GOP primaries. I’m dismayed to hear purported maverick Chuck Hagel attack the compromise — between this transparent kowtowing to primary-voting fundies and his Yes vote for John Bolton, the Senator of Nebraska is seeming less and less worthy of moderate support.
Nuclear negotiations break down between Reid and Frist, setting the stage for a cataclysmic Senate meltdown this week over Karl Rove’s pet judge, Priscilla Owen. (That is, unless the Ben Nelson-John McCain compromise — which seems a considerable capitulation by the Dems — gains currency with the GOP.) Can Catkiller really have the votes? Surely, there are more than three so-called “conservatives” in the Senate who would vote against this type of radical rule change. Or has the GOP sunk so low? Update: A few days old now, but ah well: Salon offers a handy nuclear primer.
With Catkiller’s nuclear primary gambit waiting in the wings, the GOP and Dems try to rally Republican moderates to their side on the judicial filibuster question. With John McCain (R-AZ) and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) already against the proposition and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) also doubtful, the swing votes include John Warner (R-VA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Gordon Smith (R-OR), and Arlen Specter (R-PA).
“‘I think Senator Frist has backed himself into a corner where I don’t see how he can avoid pulling the nuclear trigger,’ said Charlie Cook, editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.” According to the WP and various lookers-on, the Senate Majority Leader is “all but certain” to go nuclear on the question of judicial filibusters in the next few weeks, mainly so he can shore up his possible presidential candidacy with freak-show conservatives. In addition, his nascent 2008 bid also explains why Catkiller has chosen to appear on a forthcoming fundie telecast that claims Democrats are “against people of faith.” That’s a low blow even from you, Senator…How dare you? Update: Election 2008 maneuvering heats up among the GOP as Frist’s allies go after John McCain for his apostasy on the nuclear option.
John McCain, to many the face of campaign finance reform in Washington, struggles to avoid the appearance of impropriety regarding recent donations by Cablevision to the Reform Institute, an independent group with ambiguous ties to the Senator. After his awful performance prostrating himself before Dubya in 2004, I’ve run sour on the mythical maverick — to paraphrase Progressive era Senator George Norris (R-NB) speaking of his colleague William Borah (R-ID), McCain “shoots until he sees the whites of their eyes.” But, still, he’s campaign finance reform’s biggest blue chip, and he should know better than to endanger the cause with this type of shadiness…particularly with anti-reform forces gunning for him. What would be plausible deniability for anyone else seems rather implausible coming from McCain, given his place at the head of the movement.
It’s a pile-on. GOP Senators Trent Lott (who knows how these things work) and Susan Collins join John McCain, Evan Bayh, Bill Kristol, and Chuck Hagel in calling for Rumsfeld’s removal. (Naturally, this White House is responding by hugging him ever closer.) Update: Dubya praises Rummy’s ‘really fine job.’ In comparison to yours, perhaps…)
Speaking to the Associated Press yesterday, fair-weather maverick John McCain gives Donald Rumsfeld a vote of “no confidence.” As usual, this seems like the type of key reservation McCain should have expressed before last month’s election.
Content to play the iconoclast again now that election 2004 is over, John McCain calls out the Bush administration on global warming. Too little, too late, Mr. Senator…given the water you carried for the Bushies this last cycle, your free-fall on the Murphometer at this point looks permanent.
Looking to recess in time for some electioneering, the House and Senate both pass a pork-swollen corporate tax measure by comfortable margins. “[C]ritics — including budget watchdogs, liberal activists and Treasury Secretary John W. Snow — decried what they saw as a cornucopia of special-interest tax cuts that would complicate the tax code, favor companies doing business overseas and ultimately worsen the budget deficit. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) pronounced it ‘disgraceful’ and ‘a classic example of the special interests prevailing over the people’s interest.’”
At the behest of McCain-Feingold’s backers, a federal judge eliminates 15 of 19 FEC rules designed to gut the 2002 campaign finance law. “‘We began to wonder what law they were implementing,’ [Congressman Chris] Shays said. “They were simply trying to rewrite the law to weaken it and put in loopholes.’ Obviously, this decision is coming too late to affect this election cycle much, but perhaps we’ll be able to get a honest sense of McCain-Feingold’s impact in stemming corruption during the 2006 midterms. Update: As you might expect, the FEC will appeal the decision.
While the Senate (led by Senators Lieberman, McCain, Bayh, and Specter) has crafted a bipartisan security bill that encompasses all of the 9/11 commission’s suggestions, Tom DeLay and the House GOP are, as per usual, off the reservation. “DeLay said the House will rely largely on its own expertise and insights, adding that ‘we have plenty of experts on our committees.’” Well, what was the point of having a commission, then? And, I don’t care how big the roaches are in Sugarland, Texas, Tom. Your “expertise” as a bug exterminator just isn’t going to cut it.
I often run cold on Will Saletan, but I thought his summary of last night’s GOP speeches was dead on. On the subtext of John McCain’s remarks: “Forget the tax cuts. Forget the outsourcing. Forget the dividend tax breaks and the estate tax repeal. Pay no attention to the hand in your pocket. Close your eyes and think of America.” On Giuliani’s fib-filled suck-up to Dubya: “[T]he most important characteristic of a great speaker — contrary to the view of my colleagues who are raving about Giuliani’s speech — is being honest. Bush wasn’t right, and Giuliani isn’t honest, and no amount of bullheadedness can make up for that.”
Whatsmore, Saletan has kept his current streak going with today’s piece on the problem with Dubya’s so-called courage: “Pardon me for asking, but where exactly is the heroism in this story? Where, indeed, is the heroism in anything Bush has done before 9/11 or since?…This is Bush’s heroism? Showing up three days later, ‘remaining in the area,’ and enduring a hug?”
Say what you will about the Dem ticket, but at least they understand the importance of protecting our precious bodily fluids from terrorist and Communist impurifications. This October, John Edwards will introduce Dr. Strangelove for Turner Classic Movies. (By way of Quiddity.) For the rest of the “Party Politics and the Movies” series, John McCain chose Paths of Glory, Joe Biden picked Dead Poets Society, and Orrin Hatch took To Kill a Mockingbird.
Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns joins with civil rights leaders, John McCain, and – oddly enough – Orrin Hatch to obtain a retroactive pardon for Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion in history. A hero to black America during the Progressive Era, Johnson was convicted under the 1913 Mann Act for the then-heinous crime of dating a white woman. You’d think Jackson’s story might cause Senator Hatch to reflect on the appropriate role of the State in private relations and persuade him to rethink his support of the pathetic Marriage Amendment. Baby steps, I guess.
At least McCain gets the message. The Senator from Arizona came out forcefully against the doomed and ridiculous amendment yesterday, arguing: “The constitutional amendment we’re debating today strikes me as antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans.” Um, have you looked around your own party lately? It’s not the Dems pushing this garbage.
For their part, the Bushies try to counteract the Edwards pick with a new ad featuring John McCain, which you can watch over at Dubya’s campaign site. Um, is this really the best they could do with a blue chip like McCain? Giving a thousand-yard stare off-camera into the distance, reading from a prepared speech, looking away as Bush simpers on stage, McCain’s tone and body language hardly seems that effusive an endorsement. In fact, I’m surprised he didn’t rattle off his serial number or blink S.O.S during his remarks.
As Dubya tries to rally the worried Republican troops, Speaker Hastert questions John McCain’s GOP cred. Hey, if you don’t want him, we’ll take him. Didn’t you guys learn anything from the Jim Jeffords defection?
Earth to Inhofe? Earth to Inhofe? Nope, no answer. While several GOP leaders are turning on Dubya (and Rumsfeld) after recent events, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) is not among them. To the contrary, he lost it in committee today, proclaiming that he is “probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment” of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. (For their part, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) disavowed Inhofe immediately.) One would be tempted to write Inhofe off as simply a crank, until you peruse the many similar responses emanating from the Right about the relative newsworthiness of US soldiers engaging in torture and assorted other depravities. Mind you, these are the exact same Defenders of American Values who wore moral outrage like a cheap cologne all through l’affaire Lewinsky…some people have no shame. Update: Sure enough, the Right rallies around Inhofe.
By a vote of 5-4 (Justice O’Connor the swing vote as expected), the Supreme Court upheld the McCain-Feingold soft-money ban today in McConnell v. FEC. Well, Scalia may call this a “sad day for the freedom of speech,” but I for one think this is great, great news. “Money, like water, will always find an outlet,” as the majority put it, but at least the highest Court in the land has now recognized the corrosive impact of unregulated loot on the political process. This decision will hopefully do much to disentangle the pernicious conflation of speech and money in Buckley v. Valeo, and set the stage for continued meaningful campaign finance reform in the years to come. While McConnell v. FEC doesn’t eliminate the bad taste of Bush v. Gore, it is a huge step in the right direction by this Court.
Oh, there’s nothing halfway about the Iowa way to treat you when they treat you which they may not do at all. Wesley Clark and Joe Lieberman plan to skip the Iowa caucus in 2004…I’d say that’s a smart call for Clark (my thoughts on Lieberman are below), given how Iowa treated Bradley and McCain respectively last time around — Bradley came in second after Gore’s debate lie (actually penned by my roommate at the time), while McCain had the sense to stay out in the first place.
John McCain handicaps the Democratic field, and balks at comparisons to Dean. I dunno…a real “straight-talker” would call out Dubya a little more, I should think, particularly given the President’s recent lapses in foreign affairs. Elsewhere, Wesley Clark gets in hot water for giving paid campaign speeches. What with yesterday’s resignation, this is another indicator of a troubling lack of oversight over in Camp Clark. While he’s still getting good press for the moment, I’d think that eventually these types of avoidable gaffes are going to add up to trouble for the General.
Campaign finance reformers, among them McCain, Feingold, Shays, and Meehan, set their sights on the FEC. If nothing else, a commission with an even-number of members seems designed to benefit the status quo.
The Washington Post surveys the revival of the Left. No new ground is broken in this article, and as I’ve said numerous times before, progressives and liberals are not the same creature (Pt. II), but it’s nice to see lefties back in the Democratic equation for the time being…let’s hope it lasts beyond the primaries. The protective camouflage Republican-lite strategy of the DLC may seem like a good battle plan at first, until one realizes that, by embracing the tenets of the right — even as diluted Third Way “centrism” — the Democratic party will be forever fighting on the GOP’s turf.
Moreover, what the DLC consistently fails to understand is that swing voters care more about vision and integrity than they do about the left-right axis…hence McCain’s “Straight Talk” popularity last Presidential cycle. Many voters perceived in 2000 that Gore didn’t stand for much of anything (particularly after his schizophrenic debate performances), and soured on him – Thus, what should have been a Democratic cakewalk instead became close enough to create the conditions for the Bush-Harris-Scalia junta’s coup.
Many people aren’t flocking to Howard Dean right now because he’s a hardcore lefty, because by his own admission, he’s not. They’re flocking to him because, unlike most other Dems right now, he has a clear, consistent vision, and without vision, the people – and the Democratic Party – perish. Whether it be progressive, liberal, libertarian, communitarian, what have you — the vision animating the Democratic party should come from the left, not from the poisoned well of the bigoted, money-gluttonous right.
In sum, the left should not be browbeaten into right-lite submission by pandering DLC political careerists constantly invoking the spectre of George McGovern and 1972 – it’s time to be the party of Franklin Roosevelt and Robert Kennedy again.
Update: Not two hours after I wrote this post, John Judis compares Dean to McGovern in Salon. I agree that Dean’s got some serious problems in the South, but, c’mon, y’all. It’s getting so that George McGovern has become the new Godwin’s Law among Democratic circles.
As the Republican rift over the Dubya tax cut widens, conservatives prepare to oust anti-cut GOP moderates like Olympia Snowe, John McCain, and Arlen Specter. As a result, Specter tries to shore up his freak-show-right creds by joining Majority Leader Bill Frist in defending Rick Santorum’s outbreak of gaybashing (calling Santorum a “voice for inclusion and compassion” is a bit much, isn’t it?). Snowe and Chafee, for their part, have condemned Santorum’s remarks (Via Medley.) While I’m all for the GOP imploding, isnt it about time for the Dems to pile on the heat? To paraphrase Carville, when your opponent is drowning, throw him an anvil.