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John McCain

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The Guerrilla.

“I knew he was proud of his reputation as the ‘Red Napoleon,’ and I presumed he would welcome an opportunity to indulge my curiosity about his triumphs…But he answered most of my questions briefly, adding little to what I already knew, and then waved his hand to indicate disinterest. That is all in the past now, he said. You and I should discuss a future where our countries are not enemies but friends. And so we did.”

The man in the black pajamas, Dude: Upon the latter’s death at the age of 102, Senator John McCain remembers General Vo Nguyen Giap, architect of Dien Bien Phu and Tet. “Countries, not just their armies, win wars. Giap understood that. We didn’t. Americans tired of the dying and the killing before the Vietnamese did. It’s hard to defend the morality of the strategy. But you can’t deny its success.

Straight Talk about Torture.

I don’t mourn the loss of any terrorist’s life. What I do mourn is what we lose when by official policy or official neglect we confuse or encourage those who fight this war for us to forget that best sense of ourselves. Through the violence, chaos and heartache of war, through deprivation and cruelty and loss, we are always Americans, and different, stronger and better than those who would destroy us.

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. :)

Bailout, or we all sink.

‘Today’s the decision day. I wish it weren’t the case,’ said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).” Despite the apparent attempt by divider-not-a-uniter John McCain to kill a compromise he hadn’t even read last week, the Dubya White House and Congress hold their respective noses and come to agreement on Paulson’s $700 billion bailout plan, with debate in the House starting today. “The proposed legislation would authorize Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. to initiate what is likely to become the biggest government bailout in U.S. history, allowing him to spend up to $700 billion to relieve faltering banks and other firms of bad assets backed by home mortgages, which are falling into foreclosure at record rates. The plan would give Paulson broad latitude to purchase any assets from any firms at any price and to assemble a team of individuals and institutions to manage them.

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.

Suspension of Disbelief.

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.

“New Dominion” | Under the Big Tent.

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.)

Obama and McCain’s Sinister Inclinations.

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.

Our Five-Year Mission…

“Thank you all very much. Admiral Kelly, Captain Card, officers and sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln, my fellow Americans: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”

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:

  • Sen. Barack Obama: “Five years after George Bush declared ‘mission accomplished’ and John McCain told the American people that ‘the end is very much in sight’ in Iraq, we have lost thousands of lives, spent half a trillion dollars, and we’re no safer. It’s time to turn the page on Washington’s false promises and failed judgments on foreign policy, so that we can finally ease the enormous burdens on our troops and their families, and end a war that should’ve never been authorized.

  • Sen. Hillary Clinton: “The fifth anniversary of President Bush’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ speech comes the same week as a chief architect of the Bush administration’s war in Iraq conceded ‘We were clueless on counterinsurgency.‘ That statement confirms what we have all known: the planning and strategy was flawed. Our troops deserved and deserve better.

  • DNC head Howard Dean: “The real mission George Bush is trying to accomplish is passing the torch of his failed Iraq policy to John McCain, who has made it clear he’s willing to keep our troops in Iraq for 100 years against the wishes of the American people. This November the choice will be very clear: if you want to get out of Iraq responsibly, save lives and invest in America, vote for a Democrat.

  • Sen. John McCain: “To state the obvious, I thought it was wrong at the time [SIC]…all of those comments contributed over time to the frustration and sorrow of Americans because those statements and comments did not comport with the facts on the ground. In hearing after hearing in the Armed Services Committee and forums around America I complained loud and long that the strategy was failing and we couldn’t succeed … Obviously the presidents bare the responsibility. We all do. But do I blame him for that specific banner? I have no knowledge of that. I can’t blame him for that.

  • The White House: “‘President Bush is well aware that the banner should have been much more specific and said `mission accomplished’ for these sailors who are on this ship on their mission,’ White House press secretary Dana Perino said Wednesday. ‘And we have certainly paid a price for not being more specific on that banner. And I recognize that the media is going to play this up again tomorrow, as they do every single year.’

  • The American people: “A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Thursday indicates that 71 percent of the American public disapprove of how Bush his handling his job as president. ‘No president has ever had a higher disapproval rating in any CNN or Gallup poll; in fact, this is the first time that any president’s disapproval rating has cracked the 70 percent mark,’ said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

  • 3925 American lives: …

  • Money Money Money.

    Yes, folks, this is how we choose a president in this country: Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash. The first primary is effectively over, and Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney lead the begging and scraping for loot at $26 and $21 million respectively. On the GOP side, Rudy came in second at $15 million, with McCain trailing at third with $12.5 million. Meanwhile, for the Dems: John Edwards has $14 million, Bill Richardson $6 million, Chris Dodd $4 million, and Joe Biden a clean, articulate $3 million. Still obviously missing, Barack Obama, who is rumored to be up around the 20 mark. While I hate to indulge this stupid financing system, I hope it’s something like that, as I’m still rooting for he or Edwards over Sen. Clinton in the primary, and the Clinton money machine is, without a doubt, a sleek, well-oiled contraption. Update: Make that $25 million for Obama.

    The Hagelian Dialectic?

    Is Nebraska Senator and GOP maverick Chuck Hagel poised to join the 2008 field next week? Signs point to yes (although others see solely a Senate retirement in the offing.) “‘Perception has always been that he wasn’t viable because he couldn’t ‘out McCain John McCain,’” said Alex Vogel a Republican lobbyist not affiliated with any of the 2008 candidates. ‘Now that [Hagel] and McCain have split over the war, he’s betting there’s a road from Omaha to Des Moines.‘”

    Late Night with John McCain.

    “I am announcing that I will be a candidate for president of the United States.” With Rudy Giuliani pulling ahead in the still-relatively-useless name game polls, the former captain of the Straight-Talk Express, John McCain, tells David Letterman he’s in for 2008. So…Clinton, Obama, Giuliani and now McCain: With a little less than a year before the first primary, the field of major contenders now seems to be set. Gentlemen (and gentlewoman), start your begging.

    Whither the Reformer?

    True colors, or just a victim of the money madness that afflicts our political process? As he gallops off to all-important Iowa (and tries to ignore the furor over Iraq that’s gotten him linked inexorably with Dubya’s failures), John McCain also appears to be neglecting his campaign finance bona fides in his attempt to gather loot for his presidential bid. “McCain’s allies in the campaign finance reform movement seem resigned to the fact that he will not abide by many of the principles he advocated for a decade as a reformer, including public financing and its associated spending and fundraising limits.

    Iraq is a Hard Place.

    Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.” I’m still furiously playing catch-up, so I’m obviously a day or two behind on blogging this…Then again, Dubya’s just as obviously three or four years behind in announcing it, so I’ll call it a wash. Nonetheless, after finally admitting that his administration has seriously screwed up in Iraq, Bush — sidestepping the suggestions of the Baker-Hamilton commissioncalls for sending 21,500 more troops to the region, in what’s being billed as a “surge.” (Re: “escalation.”) When you get right down to it, Dubya’s basic argument in his televised address on Wednesday was this: “Through wishful thinking and outright incompetence, I’ve dug two nations into a huge hole. Please, please, please let me keep digging…

    Here’s the thing — A massive troop increase would’ve made a good deal of sense in 2003, during those crucial days just after the fall of the Hussein regime. A show of power then — and a quicker restoration of order and basic services — would have paid huge dividends down the road. But, now, all these years later, after so much infrastructure has been destroyed and so many sectarian schisms have been allowed to fester? 21,500 troops — many of them not fresh recruits but wearied soldiers returning to the region or having their tours extended — isn’t going to make a dent in the Whack-a-Mole game we’ve been playing against insurgents since 2003. At best, this escalation is a show of good faith to the al-Maliki government, which seems to be not much more than a brittle political arm of Shiite extremists (Exhibit A: the manner of Saddam’s hanging; Exhibit B: the refusal to do anything — until now — to rein in Al Sadr’s Mahdi Army.) Yes, folks, throwing more troops at a losing situation, backing a shaky government that can’t handle its own security issues, rattling the saber at Cambodia/Iran…who says Dubya isn’t a student of history?

    Fortunately, for the first time since the beginning of the war, Congress isn’t having it, with even some Republicans joining Dems in rallying against the proposed troop increase and today venting their wrath at Condi Rice before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (No doubt the poll numbers against Dubya’s plan is helping to stiffen some GOP spines.) Still, Dubya has some allies in this fight — While the Dems are universally opposed to the escalation gamble [Dem Response by Durbin | Biden | Clinton | Dodd | Edwards | Feingold | Obama | Pelosi] and a not-insubstantial number of Republicans are balking, some key GOP pols are still supporting Dubya’s move (most notably John McCain, who’s been calling for a troop increase since day one, and Rudy Giuliani, likely trying to right the 2008 ship after his recent devastating document dump.)

    Formerly Known as the Straight-Talk Express.

    Is the McCain Train leaving the station? ABC News seems to think so, although they may be jumping the gun a bit here.

    November Reign?

    “Lame Duck” Dubya and his man behind the curtain, Karl Rove, may be “inexplicably upbeat,” but John McCain is apparently contemplating suicide. Meanwhile, Dems Carville and Greenberg suggest breaking out the party credit cards, while the bellwether state of Ohio sours on the GOP completely. Only 20 days left until Election 2006…

    McCain’s Chicanery.

    “Sen. John McCain has skidded his Straight Talk Express off the highway into a gopher’s ditch of slime.” As Dubya rejects bilateral talks with N. Korea, Slate‘s Fred Kaplan puts the lie to John McCain’s recent attempt to carry water for the Bushies on the Korean nuclear issue. “McCain’s version of history goes beyond ‘revisionism’ to outright falsification. It is the exact opposite of what really happened.

    Tribunes v. Tribunals.

    “Purely from a strategic point of view, this is another mess…Every time Republicans think they have an issue to unite them and divide the Democrats, the Republicans end up spending most of the time fighting among themselves.” As fear-mongering and falling oil prices perhaps help the GOP get back in the race this November, the WP surveys the political implications of the recent stand of principle by Senators Warner, McCain, Graham, and Snowe against Dubya’s grotesque tribunal plan. Politics or no, Dubya’s proposed gutting of the Geneva Conventions must be stopped: “‘What is being billed as “clarifying” our treaty obligations will be seen as “withdrawing” from the treaty obligations,’ Graham said. ‘It will set precedent which could come back to haunt us.’”


    “He’s no longer offering himself as the alternative to Bush. Now he’s positioned himself as Bush’s heir, a turnaround that makes some people, including McCain sometimes, more than a little uncomfortable.” In their Sunday magazine, the WP surveys the sad primary-induced transformation of John McCain from mythical maverick to Dubya stalwart.

    Banking on the Bigot Brigade.

    “‘He couldn’t not do it,’ explained Richard Viguerie, a prominent conservative activist who believes that gay marriage will not have much of an impact in 2006. ‘He’s got an election coming up and he is 30 percent in the polls. Nothing, Dr. Samuel Johnson told us, focuses the mind like an impending hanging.’” The conservative coalition collapsing in historic fashion around their ears, Dubya and Rove invoke an old standby and attempt to shore up the bigot vote in November by publicly coming out for the anti-gay marriage amendment. Unfortunately for them and the GOP, the same old freak-baiting trick — however carefully worded — doesn’t seem likely to catch fire amid all the war and scandal, and the Senate, as well as GOP moderates, want none of it. Update: As expected, the Senate spike the amendment, with 2 Dems (Byrd, Ben Nelson) backing the bigots and 7 Republicans (Chafee, Collins, Gregg, McCain, Snowe, Specter, Sununu) joining the rest of the Dems in voting against the measure.

    Wishful thinking dept.?

    The Bull Moose has temporarily turned into a performing elephant. But the Moose will be back — around March 2008, if everything goes according to plan.” As much of the press hammers John McCain for his blatant re-positioning maneuvers of late, Slate throws a lovefest of sorts for the mythical maverick today, with Jacob Weisberg arguing he’s really a TR progressive and John Dickerson promoting him as the happy crusader. I’ve used this line before, but it fits to a tee. Given McCain’s frequent bouts of water-carrying for the Dubya administration, my view of the Senator’s vaunted independence — until proven wrong — is the same as Sen. George Norris’ take on his progressive colleague William Borah, who indulged a similar maverick reputation back in the teens, twenties, and thirties: He only “shoots until he sees the whites of their eyes.”

    The 527 Scramble.

    By a virtual party-line vote, the House Republicans pass a campaign finance reform bill that caps “527″ contributions while raising the limit on coordinated party spending — both measures that greatly advantage the GOP over the Dems in the current campaign finance climate. “Organizations such as Common Cause, Democracy 21 and Public Citizen, past legislative adversaries of the GOP, were allied with Republicans in yesterday’s floor fight. Democrats had the backing of a long list of conservative leaders opposed to regulation, including Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and Paul M. Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation.” Well, they may have been right for the wrong reasons…still, I gotta say, the party spending aside, I’m actually with the GOP on this one. 527 organizations represent a blatant loophole in the McCain-Feingold act, and some 527 reform is clearly necessary if we’re going to be serious about restricting the influence of money on the electoral system. That so few House Dems voted for principle over their party pocketbooks is, to my mind, deeply troubling (but, so, for that matter, is McCain’s possible side deal to buttress his 2008 war chest.)

    Five and In.

    The Senate reaches a compromise on immigration reform that splits the middle between the Frist-Tancredo hardliners and the Kennedy-McCain moderates. “Under the agreement, the Senate would allow undocumented workers a path to lawful employment and citizenship if they could prove — through work stubs, utility bills or other documents — that they have been in the country for five years. To attain citizenship, those immigrants would have to pay a $2,000 penalty, back taxes, learn English, undergo a criminal background check and remain working for 11 years.” But critics argue that the five-year distinction is a hard one to determine or enforce, and has been since it was first put into law in 1986. Update: Things fall apart.

    Same Old Senate for Sale.

    I don’t know,’ said Senator Mike DeWine, Republican of Ohio…’People are not really talking to me directly about lobbying. I think they’re concerned about some of the, quote, scandal, but I don’t have anybody come up to me and say there’s a lobbying problem. It doesn’t get that specific.‘” As such, one day after voting down an independent ethics office 67-30, the Senate passes a watered-down “lobbying reform” bill 90-8 that, for all intent and purposes. seems to be merely cosmetic. “The Senate measure toughens disclosure requirements for lobbyists and requires lawmakers to obtain advance approval for the private trips that were a central feature of the Abramoff scandal. But it does not rein in lawmakers’ use of corporate jets, and it fell far short of the sweeping changes, including a ban on privately financed travel, that some lawmakers advocated in January…’It’s very, very weak,’ said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona.

    Five Republicans and only three measly Democrats voted against the phantom reform bill: McCain, Feingold, Kerry, Graham, DeMint, Inhofe, and the “unlikely duo” of Obama and Coburn. (The West Virginia Dem delegation — Byrd and Rockefeller — abstained.) Still, “Mr. McCain predicted that there would be more indictments growing out of the investigation into political corruption, and said that such a development would lead Congress to revisit the issue again.

    The Senate Uprooted.

    There is no issue outside of civil rights that brings out the kind of emotions we have seen.” After a weekend of significant grass-roots protest further suggests the political perils of immigration reform for both parties, the Senate Judiciary Committee votes 12-6 to support a bill by Senators Kennedy and McCain that promotes the more moderate Dubya-backed vision of reform, such as a guest-worker program, over that of the hardline GOP border-security crowd such as Frist and Tancredo. “A confrontation between the Senate and House Republicans now appears inevitable.

    McCain-Feingold on the Road.

    “‘There seems to be a disconnect between the rhetoric in Washington about what this is all about and what we hear here,’ Feingold said. McCain responded that he did ‘not want to get into a back-and-forth with one of my best friends.’” While visiting Baghdad, Senators McCain and Feingold argue “cordially and pointedly” over Iraq. “Feingold…said he was dismayed not to hear any of the military commanders he met with mention al-Qaeda as a source of the problems in Iraq. The Bush administration and U.S. officials here often point to the radical group as a major source of instability in the country.

    Yearning to breathe free.

    “‘The short-term politics of this are pretty clear. The long-term politics are pretty clear. And they’re both at odds,’ said Mike Buttry, a spokesman for Sen. Chuck Hagel.” With Republican unity already shattered by Dubaigate, the contentious question of immigration reform threatens to divide Dubya and the GOP anew, as 2008 hopefuls Frist and Tancredo attempt to outflank Dubya on the right on the issue of border security, while McCain tries to shore up his standing with the Bushies. “For Republican presidential candidates, immigration offers up a difficult choice: Appeal to conservatives eager to clamp down on illegal immigration who could buoy your position in the primaries, or take a moderate stand to win independents and the growing Latino vote, which could be vital to winning the general election.

    Straight Talk Express?

    “For the past two years, the Arizona senator has seen his institutional adversaries in the Republican establishment brought low, one by one, clearing away the obstacles to his likely presidential bid in 2008. In some cases, their well-earned misfortune can be attributed directly to him; in others, he has merely observed their fortuitous ruin. What matters is that his worst, most effective enemies are distracted, disgraced or endangered by criminal investigations, and will be in no condition to threaten him in the foreseeable future.” Salon‘s Joe Conason thinks John McCain has his party’s green light for 2008 (and sounds more excited about the prospect than I am.)

    Not exactly the comfy chair.

    “‘These allegations…describe disgusting treatment, that if proven, is treatment that is cruel, profoundly disturbing and violative of’ U.S. and foreign treaties banning torture, [U.S. District Judge Gladys] Kessler told the government’s lawyers.” So what happened to “we don’t torture?” Lawyers for the administration fight allegations of abuse at Gitmo (involving force-feeding and a restraint chair) — not by saying it didn’t happen — but by arguing instead that the recent McCain bill doesn’t apply there. “‘Unfortunately, I think the government’s right; it’s a correct reading of the law,’ said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. ‘The law says you can’t torture detainees at Guantanamo, but it also says you can’t enforce that law in the courts.’”

    McCain’s Rangers.

    “‘For people who were really strong for Bush, I feel like this was a dating meeting…He’s not quite ready to ask us to go steady. But I was a little surprised at the reaction, including my own reaction. I was much more positive than I thought I’d be going to the meeting.’” Anyone wondering why McCain has been spending recent days badmouthing Obama (and showing up on 24), look no further. Now he’s courting the Bush financiers for his own 2008 bid. Well, McCain had best be careful playing the insider, or Chuck Hagel just might steal his maverick crown come the primaries. Then again, the GOP likely prefers mythical mavericks anyway.

    A Deluxe Apartment in the Sky.

    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?

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