2008 - %3, August

Hey PUMAs: McCain Wants to Overturn Roe. This Isn't a Joke

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 5:22 PM EDT

Debra Bartoshevich is a Hillary Clinton supporter (aka PUMA) who just cut an ad supporting John McCain. In a press conference launching the ad, she had this to say about John McCain's record on choice:

Going back to 1999, John McCain did an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle saying that overturning Roe v. Wade would not make any sense, because then women would have to have illegal abortions.

That's true, he did. John McCain has a history of making statements that would appear to put him on both sides of an issue. It's hard to make sense of his positions sometimes. Here, specifically, is McCain's quote from 1999: "I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations."

And here's Carly Fiorina, top McCain surrogate, furthering the confusion earlier this year: "[McCain] has never signed on to efforts to overturn Roe vs. Wade."

But the 1999 quote is outdated and Fiorina is just plain wrong. McCain is an uncompromising pro-lifer. Why not take a look at what the McCain website has to say? It's pretty explicit. Here's a screenshot:

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Voting Machine Humor!

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 5:10 PM EDT

If aren't familiar with xkcd, you're missing out.

voting_machines_comic.gif

"I Am Hillary Clinton and I Do Not Approve That Message"

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 4:40 PM EDT

Hillary Clinton has responded to the McCain ad that uses her image and words:

Every one of us could stand up and recite all the reasons why we must elect Barack. The Supreme Court is at stake; our educational system needs the right kind of change. We've got to become energy independent; we have to create millions of new green collar jobs. We've got so much work to do around the world.
None of that will happen if John McCain is in the White House. I just want to make it absolutely clear we cannot afford four more years of George W. Bush's failed policies in America and that's what we would get with John McCain.
Now I understand that the McCain campaign is running ads trying to divide us and let me state what I think about their tactics and these ads: I am Hillary Clinton and I do not approve that message.

So let there be the no mistake about it, we are united. We are united for change.

Will that be enough to convince these folks? Probably not. It doesn't help that every sign of reconciliation (Bill and Hillary slated to speak at the convention, for example), seems to come with another report that the Clintons feel, rightly or wrongly, disrespected by the Obama campaign.

Mining for Gold

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 2:50 PM EDT

After more than two weeks of shot putting, somersaulting, sprinting, and spiking, the Beijing Olympics have come to a close. And for the first time in 72 years, the United States isn't standing atop the podium.

China has come away with the most gold medals, walloping the US 51-36. And while home countries often claim more victories in the year they host—Greece procured an impressive 16 medals in the 2004 Athens Olympics—few countries have seemed as driven as China and none have toppled the dominant USA in a quarter of a century. And the US is having trouble dealing with it. The UK edition of the Times Online noted that the United States is defying the traditional system by keeping tabs of the most overall medals instead of golds (The US scored 110 overalls to China's 100)—a move summed up in the headline "America Refuses to Accept Defeat in the Olympic Medal Count."

Most Americans will gauge this Olympics, as they always do (ok, maybe a little moreso this year), by its heroes: Michael Phelps with his record-breaking dominance and supportive single mother; Shawn Johnson and the Chinese coach who guided her to gold in his hometown. Don't forget your Michael Phelps gold medal tribute to remember! But fluffing Phelps' feathers aside, the medal tally matters. When billions of people around the world see that you're the top dog, it's an unbeatable global PR push.

And Speaking of Georgia....

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 1:35 PM EDT

AND SPEAKING OF GEORGIA....Matt Yglesias makes sport today of the fact that within minutes of giving his warmup speech at the GOP convention next week, Dick Cheney will be hustled far, far out of town to visit lovely Azerbaijan. And sure, that's kind of amusing. On the other hand, here's the full itinerary:

Vice President Cheney will travel abroad beginning September 2, 2008. President Bush has asked the Vice President to travel to Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine and Italy for discussions with these key partners on issues of mutual interest.

Looks to me like Bush thinks Cheney is the perfect guy to get the Cold War started back up. Unless, that is, you can think of any other issue that's of "mutual interest" to those three particular countries. Stay tuned.

Focus Group: "Change" is Tired, Hello "Accountability?"

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 1:24 PM EDT

Time's Joe Klein sat in on a focus group of undecided voters yesterday. The results were sobering for both candidates, he writes: for McCain, because he is seen as "more of the same," and for Obama, because his "change" message no longer resonates. What do these people seem to want? Accountability.

What do they want? Given a list of 31 personal attributes the next President might have and asked to pick the eight most important, "Accountability" finished highest with 13 votes, next was "Someone I can trust" with 12, "honest and ethical" was third with 11. "Agrees with me on the issues" got one vote. They didn't care if the candidate was a Washington insider or outsider. "A dynamic and charismatic leader" got two votes...

Worth a read.

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The Hillary Hold-ons: Causing Trouble in Denver and Beyond?

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 1:23 PM EDT

Former Congressman Harold Ford Jr., the chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, was standing outside a Walgreen's on 16th Street in downtown Denver yesterday. It was a beautiful afternoon, and scores of his fellow Democrats who had arrived for their party's conventions were strolling up and down the 16th Street Mall, past high-end chain stores and restaurants. It felt like something of a block party. Ford, an African-American who lost a 2006 Senate bid after his foes ran an ad featuring a young white woman noting that Ford had attended a Playboy mansion party and asking him for a date, joyously greeted members of Congress, political operatives, and reporters who happened to pass by. But he did have a worry. A worry regarding Hillary Clinton. Not the Senator herself. But her die-hard supporters. Ford said that he feared that Clinton supporters who had come to Denver to demand Clinton receive the party's presidential nomination--and who were planning demonstrations and events during the week--could cause trouble.

Two blocks away, two of those Clinton supporters were hoping--and planning--exactly for that. Nancy Kirlen, a middle-aged woman from San Diego, and Kathy Skerl, also middle-aged and from Asheville, North Carolina, stood at the entrance to the Sheraton Hotel, where media credentials were being distributed, and enthusiastically told reporters of their intentions to derail the convention.

With Senator Barack Obama recognized by the vast majority of Democrats as the presumptive nominee, with Senator Joe Biden tapped as his running-mate, with no major debates under way about the party platform, the convention appears to be short on news, suspense and conflict. With the exception of one possible plot-line: the revenge of the Hillaryites. Reporters looking for a story have focused on the possible clash between this band of activists and the party.

Their goal--to get Clinton nominated by persuading superdelegates to ditch Obama for her--is certainly far-fetched. The question is, can they create enough sound and fury--amplified or not by the mainstream media--to make it appear that there is significant dissension within the ranks? Outside the Sheraton, Kirlen said she expected thousands of Hillary-backers to take to Denver's streets for a Tuesday march. Skerl lowered expectations, saying the crowd might number in the hundreds. In addition to the march, several other rallies for Hillary are planned before the roll call vote at the Pepsi Center on Wednesday night.

Georgia Update

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 1:17 PM EDT

GEORGIA UPDATE....Events are proceeding apace in the Russian parliament today:

Lawmakers in both houses of parliament voted unanimously for the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where a decades-old rebellion ballooned this month into a bitter, bloody struggle between Russia and U.S.-backed Georgia.

...."Currently, it is important for us that South Ossetia should gain independence legally from the point of view of the world community," South Ossetian Foreign Minister Murat Dzhioyev told the Interfax news agency. "After this, we shall be able to seek accession into the Russian Federation, but this issue will be postponed for the future."

Not too far in the future, would be my guess. For more, check out Megan Stack's report on how thrilled the Russian public is about giving the U.S. a poke in the eye.

One Last Shot

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 12:55 PM EDT

ONE LAST SHOT....I won't pretend to know why Newsweek chose to turn over 3,000 words (!) to professional liberal Obama hater Sean Wilentz in their current issue (his opening claim that "I would like to see him succeed in fulfilling his promise" is one of the more transparent howlers I've seen recently), but it really has to be seen to be believed. Be sure to especially check out the second-to-last paragraph:

Liberal intellectuals actually could have aided their candidate, while also doing their professional duty, by pressing him on his patently evasive accounts about various matters, such as his connections with the convicted wheeler-dealer Tony Rezko, or his more-than-informal ties to the unrepentant terrorist William Ayers, including their years of association overseeing an expensive, high-profile, but fruitless public-school reform effort in Chicago. Instead, the intellectuals have failed Obama as well as their readers by branding such questioning as irrelevant, malicious or heretical.

Um, sure. That would have been a great way to help out Obama. Should liberal intellectuals also have viciously attacked his wife just to toughen him up for November? Questioned whether he was really the father of his children? Dug more deeply into his Muslim heritage?

If Newsweek wants to publish stuff like this under Karl Rove's byline, whatever. At least everyone knows what axe is being ground. But how many of Newsweek's readers know that Wilentz was a one-man hurricane of pro-Hillary/anti-Obama agit-prop for months and months during the primary? Not many, I'd guess, and they might read this bitter diatribe a little differently if they did.

Biden's Worldview

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 12:19 PM EDT

Barack Obama's pick for his running mate Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has a more than three decade track record in the Senate on foreign policy and national security issues. I asked a former Senate Foreign Relations committee staff member of his about Biden's worldview and foreign policy sensibilities. "Liberal interventionist," says the former Biden staffer, who asked to speak on background, comfortable with the use of American miliary power, in some contrast perhaps to Obama's inner circle of foreign policy advisors. Here's more of the former staffer's response.

Joe Biden firmly fits into the liberal interventionist school of thought that dominated the Democratic Party during the latter half of the 1990s through 2003. At his core, he is a man comfortable with the use of American military power, as demonstrated by the key role he played in encouraging the Clinton Administration to launch air strikes in the former Yugoslavia, setting the stage for the successful Dayton peace talks and the NATO peacekeeping mission. Biden came of age politically in the 1970's, when he saw first hand what the "Vietnam syndrome" did to the Democratic Party for more than a generation. By no means is Biden a "Scoop Jackson" Democrat, as Joe Lieberman has become. He recognizes that military power is but only one tool in our nation's arsenal, and that soft power plays an equally critical role. However, he is not afraid to advocate for military power where appropriate, as he did correctly in the Balkans, to his regret in Iraq in 2002, and today when it comes to Darfur (the judgment remains out on that score).
Obama's worldview, by contrast, appears to be a work still in progress. In his speeches and writings, Obama has made clear that he is not afraid to exercise the ultimate powers of the Commander in Chief. Indeed, he drew criticism from all sides in the summer of 2007 when he advocated the unilateral use of American military force to go after Al Qaeda in Pakistan if Islamabad would not do the job itself. Yet the fact remains that Obama came of age politically this decade, when we all witnessed the disastrous results of a hasty and ill-thought U.S. military intervention. One cannot deny that this experience will have influenced Obama's thinking when he faces the decision on a future U.S. military intervention.