Blogs

How Disingenuous Can You Be Before You're Actually Lying?

| Tue Sep. 9, 2008 2:35 PM EDT

John McCain criticized Barack Obama for being soft on military matters on Monday, telling an audience in Lee's Summit, Missouri:

"Of course, now [Obama] wants to increase [the size of the military]. But during the primary he told a liberal advocacy group that he'd cut defense spending by tens of billions of dollars. He promised them he would, quote, 'slow our development of future combat systems.'"

Before I explain why that's stunningly disingenuous, let me point you to the Obama statement that gives rise to John McCain's opprobrium.

"I will cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending. I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of Future Combat Systems."

Here's the deal. The "future combat systems" that McCain says Obama will jeopardize is actually Future Combat Systems, a specific, controversial program within the DOD that John McCain himself has suggested eliminating. Here's McCain's top policy man explaining to the Washington Post what spending cuts McCain will use to balance the budget:

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Palin's Comments on Mining Measure Pushed the Limits of Executive Power

| Tue Sep. 9, 2008 1:55 PM EDT

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In Alaska, it's against the law for a governor to advocate for or against a ballot measure. But that didn't matter much to Sarah Palin. At an August 20th press conference a reporter asked Palin her opinion of Measure 4, known as the Clean Water Initiative, which would have imposed new restrictions on mining companies. Fishermen worried that a proposal to build one of the world's largest open-pit gold mines at the headwaters of one of the Alaska's most productive salmon streams could wreck the famed Bristol Bay (which is also the namesake of Palin's pregnant daughter). With the measure to restrict the mine coming down to a squeaker at the polls, this is what Palin said: "Let me take my governor's hat off just for a minute here and tell you, personally, Prop 4 -- I vote no on that."

Her nod-and-wink endorsement was immediately seized by mining companies to create this ad, which ran in papers around the state as part of an $8 million media campaign--one of the most expensive ballot measure ad blitzes in Alaska history. Six days later, the Clean Water Initiative was voted down.

Clearly, Palin's comments violated the spirit of Alaska's law. And this wasn't the only way she pushed legal boundaries to support her friends in the mining industry. Palin's Department of Natural Resources had published a primer on Measure 4 on its website that environmentalists complained was entirely negative and improperly echoed the mining industry's concerns. On August 24th, just three days before voters weighed in on the initiative, the state's Public Offices Commission finally ruled that the enviros were right and ordered the website to undergo changes.

There are weird echoes of the Bush/Cheney war over executive power here.

Arnie and the Guards

| Tue Sep. 9, 2008 1:09 PM EDT

ARNIE AND THE GUARDS....You may be wondering what I think of yesterday's announcement by the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. (i.e., the prison guards union) that it plans to launch a recall effort against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Answer: I laughed. Yes, Arnold's approval rating has been steadily shrinking because of our ongoing budget crisis, but there's still one group in California that has him beat on every possible metric of unpopularity: the prison guards union. They may have a lot of money, but the idea that the public will follow their lead on much of anything is risible.

Or so it seems to me, anyway — but I've been wrong before. And maybe I am again. Still, this seems more like a negotiating stunt than a serious recall effort. Schwarzenegger deserves eternal opprobrium for his cynical (and vastly underappreciated) role in causing the exact budget crisis he's now trying to dig himself out of, but I still won't take the guards seriously on this until I see platoons of signature gatherers deployed to every supermarket within a ten mile radius. I'll let you know when that happens.

Can Palin Comment on Abstinence-Only Education?

| Tue Sep. 9, 2008 1:06 PM EDT

I won't wade into the debate we're having about whether or not it's sexist to discuss Sarah Palin's family (It's not! It kinda is.), but I will say that her daughter's pregnancy does raise an interesting public policy question. Palin is a hardcore advocate of one of the religious right's favorite hobbyhorses: abstinence-only education. Can she legitimately travel the country touting the idea of starving America's teens of information about safe sex when she has an example of abstinence-only education's failure living under her roof?

In this Newsweek video, McCain campaign chief Steve Schmidt struggles to answer that very question, thus giving us some sense of the correct answer.

Reporter: Will she be able to make speeches on abstinence? And will she be able to make speeches on premarital sex? I mean, this is an issue that comes up continually in the Republican Party. Will she be able to do that with her daughter pregnant and having had this situation?
Schmidt: I think that, um, she's going to be a very compelling figure out on the campaign trail. She's going to do a great job. She's going to deliver a great message and, um, the reality is that, um, she's gonna, you know, talk about her life and her experiences, and she's proud of her family and she loves her daughter.

Isn't spin grand?

Troop Shift From Iraq to Afghanistan: Just Window Dressing?

| Tue Sep. 9, 2008 12:41 PM EDT

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We've known for a while now that President Bush has every intention of leaving the Iraq mess for his successor to clean up, but today he made it official. At a speech this morning at the National Defense University in Washington, Bush announced the withdrawal of 8,000 U.S. troops from Iraq by January 2009, leaving 138,000 troops still in-country. Specifically, 3,400 combat support personnel will leave Iraq after their tours conclude over the next couple months; a Marine battalion will return to the States in November; and an Army brigade will come home in January. The reductions, says Bush, have been made possible by the success of the "surge."

The troop reduction in Iraq will occur amidst a build-up of forces in Afghanistan, where a resurgent Taliban has gained continued strength in recent years. According to Bush's plan, an additional 4,500 troops will head for Afghanistan in the next few months, including some units that had been scheduled for Iraq deployments. The war in Afghanistan is more popular among Americans than the Iraq conflict, and Bush stands to gain from focusing more of his efforts there in the twilight of his presidency. But since U.S. commanders have said that a "surge" in Afghanistan would likely require at least 12,000 more boots on the ground, Bush's offering seems as slim as it does late.

So agrees the National Security Network, which observed today in a press release that "the redeployment is so modest and will take so long to arrive that, effectively, the President remains fixated on Iraq—regardless of the larger implications for U.S. national security." Military expert Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress called Bush's announcement "much ado about nothing," adding that the Iraq surge that Bush hailed this morning "has produced an oil revenue-fueled, Shia-dominated central government with close ties to Iran, and these ruling parties in Iraq have shown few signs of seeking to compromise and share meaningful power with other Iraqis."

The Spin Within

| Tue Sep. 9, 2008 12:32 PM EDT

THE SPIN WITHIN....I haven't yet read The War Within, Bob Woodward's "secret White House history," but I've read the excerpts in the Washington Post and my reaction so far is pretty similar to Derek Chollet's. Far from being a critical account of George Bush's management of the war, it reinforces exactly the narrative of himself that Bush himself is so fond of:

Beneath the surface, the core of Woodward's account actually seems to reinforce the narrative that Bush is trying to spin about Iraq — that against mighty resistance inside and outside the government, a small group made the gutsy decision to double-down with the surge. As with every Woodward book, there's a story within the story. His sources share their tales (or in some cases, secret papers) to settle a score or shape the historical narrative. And here we see National Security Adviser Steve Hadley taking over Iraq decision-making and guiding Bush as he stared down leery Generals and worried political advisers to push the 2007 surge.

....Now, former White House aides and loyal Bush defenders like Peter Wehner are using Woodward as Exhibit A to support their depiction of a heroic President. But perhaps the happiest reader will be John McCain. After all, he has as much at stake as Bush in having this "surge victory" narrative take hold. Woodward's story also enables McCain to have it both ways, distancing himself from the chaos of the Bush Administration's internal battles, while associating with the core message of defying conventional wisdom to support the surge. Woodward's account of McCain is exactly as McCain's campaign wants it to be.

That seems about right. Woodward has a pretty standard m.o. on these books, and it looks to me like the White House has finally figured out how to make that work for them instead of against them. Hadley looks good because he drove the planning of the surge, Bush looks good because he stayed out of the muck but nonetheless stood by his principles, and in the end, the mythology of the surge being solely responsible for the security improvements in Iraq gets a big boost. The White House must be pretty happy with Woodward right about now.

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The Bridge to Somewhere

| Tue Sep. 9, 2008 12:18 PM EDT

THE BRIDGE TO SOMEWHERE....ThinkProgress reports that the McCain campaign has now repeated the lie about Sarah Palin opposing the Bridge to Nowhere 23 times since Friday last. That's as of an hour ago, though, so the total might be higher by now.

And not to get too sanctimonious about this, but this really is a test of some kind for the press. This lie is unusually egregious given the plain facts of the situation (Palin was eagerly supportive of the bridge until after Congress pulled the earmark, at which point she reluctantly decided to take the money but use it for other projects), and if the media allows the McCain campaign to get away with this — if they relegate it to occasional closing paragraphs and page A9 fact checks — well, that means McCain knows he can pretty much get away with anything. The press will be writing its own declaration of irrelevance. Interesting times indeed.

Wasilla Paper: Under Mayor Palin, Rape Victims Charged for Own Forensic Tests

| Tue Sep. 9, 2008 11:27 AM EDT

An interesting catch by the folks over at AMERICAblog. They found an article from the Wasilla newspaper dated May 23, 2000, that notes the city of Wasilla was one of a few Alaskan municipalities that charged women claiming to have been raped for their own forensic tests. As you probably know by now, Sarah Palin was mayor of Wasilla from 1996-2002.

[Governor Tony Knowles] signed House Bill 270... The new law makes it illegal for any law enforcement agency to bill victims or victims insurance companies for the costs of examinations that take place to collect evidence of a sexual assault or determine if a sexual assault did occur...
While the Alaska State Troopers and most municipal police agencies have covered the cost of exams, which cost between $300 to $1,200 apiece, the Wasilla police department does charge the victims of sexual assault for the tests.
Wasilla Police Chief Charlie Fannon does not agree with the new legislation, saying the law will require the city and communities to come up with more funds to cover the costs of the forensic exams.
"In the past we've charged the cost of exams to the victims insurance company when possible. I just don't want to see any more burden put on the taxpayer," Fannon said.

In the article, Fannon admits that halting the practice of charging alleged rape victims for their own tests would cost the city... wait for it... $5,000 to $14,000 a year.

Does Sarah Palin Not Read the Newspaper?

| Tue Sep. 9, 2008 10:49 AM EDT

cartoon_pork.gif Over the last couple days, every newspaper and network in America has disproven Sarah Palin's claim that she opposed the Bridge to Nowhere. Yet just moments ago at a campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio, she repeated her familiar refrain on the bridge, claiming she told the federal government, "Thanks, but no thanks."

There appears to be no accountability here; the McCain campaign will trot out Palin to repeat her talking points no matter how many times the press reports that Palin campaigned for governor as a supporter of the bridge and only opposed it when it became obvious the federal government was going to cancel its funding.

Today she went on to say, "If our state wanted a bridge we would build it ourselves." Palin seemed to be suggesting that she had no interest in federal support for infrastructure projects. That, too, is not true. As Kevin has noted, small towns in Alaska never sought federal earmarks until Palin pioneered the tactic, even using an Abramoff-connected lobbyist to get them.

And as governor, Palin continued the trend. Today, states receive roughly $50 per person in earmark funds from the federal government. Alaska gets a stunning $506 per person. For fiscal year 2009, Palin has submitted 31 earmark requests totaling $197 million. According to the Seattle Times, that is "more, per person, than any other state." And, for what it's worth, there are a "road to nowhere" and a second bridge to nowhere that Palin is decidedly less upset about.

Let's be real. The fact that Sarah Palin is not an anti-pork crusader has been reported. Repeatedly. Sarah Palin just seems to be the last to hear the news.

Quote of the Day

| Tue Sep. 9, 2008 12:39 AM EDT

QUOTE OF THE DAY....From David Brooks, commenting on our current political environment:

"The Republicans are intellectually unfit to govern right now...."

OK, I'll buy that. But how about expanding on this theme a bit, David? I'd like to hear more — much, much more — about it.