2008 - %3, September

Palin Will Indeed Bring The Breast Pump

| Tue Sep. 2, 2008 3:20 PM EDT

Lots of our commenters seem incensed that I questioned whether Sarah Palin will be campaigning with a breast pump in tow. But clearly she doesn't think that's a taboo subject herself. In an interview with People magazine last week, Palin said:

We don't sleep much. Too much to do. What I've had to do, though, is in the middle of the night, put down the BlackBerries and pick up the breast pump.

If Palin really wants to be a trailblazer she should truck that thing out in public, so that at least all TSA screeners will finally be able to distinguish them from bombs. And for those who think pumping breast milk is solely a private matter, you couldn't be more wrong. Legislation is pending in several states (as is litigation), to give women the right to pump on the job. Last year, New Mexico passed a bill that requires employers to give women breaks and a clean, private space in which they can pump breast milk. That bill was signed by Gov. Bill Richardson, a man who happens to be a Democrat, but who in one stroke of a pen seems to have done a lot more for the women and children in his state than Palin has done for hers.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Camouflaged Putin Shoots Tiger, Saves Companions

| Tue Sep. 2, 2008 3:01 PM EDT

If pictures of a shirtless and muscled Vladimir Putin have you hungering for more, wait no longer. While having a gander at conservation efforts in Russia's Far East this week, the Russian president pulled the trigger on an escaped tiger with a tranquilizer gun, "saving" the frightened group of Russian scientists who'd accompanied him. Best of all, Putin's heroism was caught on film. Imagine that.... See Der Spiegel.

Iraq Update

| Tue Sep. 2, 2008 12:58 PM EDT

IRAQ UPDATE....McClatchy's Leila Fadel has good piece today about the state of play in negotiations between Nouri al-Maliki and the Bush administration regarding withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. You really should read the whole thing, but here's the conclusion:

Maliki is now demanding a firm timetable for withdrawal and jurisdiction over American soldiers outside their bases. The second demand has stalled the process and does not seem amenable to compromise.

For now, Maliki has achieved none of his demands, said Ali al Adeeb, a leading legislator in Maliki's party. The current wording in the agreement is that U.S. soldiers will withdraw to their bases by June 30, 2009, and leave by the summer of 2011 if conditions allow.

"What the Iraqis want is a firm date, and with all the insistence and persistence on our side, all we have is a firm date for restricting the American military to their bases," he said. "There is no overconfidence or arrogance in Maliki's insistence on his position. ... There is a clear indication that the Iraqi forces are now capable of providing the security services required. I think it's enough time, three years is more than enough time."

It really is hard to figure out what's going on here. My guess is that Bush is willing to compromise on the withdrawal language since, as a practical matter, (a) it's going to be conditions-based no matter what the text says, and (b) he's not going to be president when it happens anyway. But surely Maliki must know that Iraqi jurisdiction over U.S. troops is just a flat nonstarter. No American president in his right mind would agree to that, or even to anything close to it. Can he seriously be holding out for something more than language that guarantees "consultation" and "continuing progress toward full command integration"? If he is, he's deluded.

Quote of the Day

| Tue Sep. 2, 2008 12:30 PM EDT

QUOTE OF THE DAY....From David Brooks, commenting on the makeup of a possible John McCain administration:

"There simply aren't enough Republican experts left to staff an administration, so he will have to throw together a hodgepodge with independents and Democrats."

Do I dare ask what's happened to all our Republican experts over the past eight years?

Forget the Baby. There's Too Much Else!

| Tue Sep. 2, 2008 12:27 PM EDT

Look, let's put Bristol and the baby behind us. There are two new story lines about Sarah Palin currently gaining momentum that are more substantive and potentially more damaging. There is Palin as a ordinary, slimy politician, as articulated by First Read:

On Monday, the papers were full of stories about how Palin was for the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it. Also yesterday, we found out that Palin worked for a 527 group organized by Ted Stevens, who is now facing trial on corruption charges. Then came the news that she has retained an attorney for that Troopergate ethics investigation. And finally is today'sWashington Post story noting that Palin employed a lobbying firm to secure earmarks -- which are taboo in McCain World -- for Wasilla while she was its mayor. More than any new revelations about her daughter, the bigger drip-drip danger for the McCain campaign could be more signs that Palin begins to look like your average politician.

And then there's this insane secessionist story, which I hope you're familiar with. Reportedly, Sarah Palin and her husband were members of the Alaska Independence Party, which seeks a vote on making Alaska an independent nation, in the mid-1990s. Here's ABC:

And while John MCCain's motto -- as seen in a new TV add -- is "Country First," the AIP's motto is the exact opposite -- "Alaska First -- Alaska Always."

For the record, the McCain campaign denies Palin was ever a member of the AIP, though multiple AIP members say she was and she attended their 1994 convention.

I'm no high-priced political consultant, but I do have a guess as to how to avoid situations like this. Send your vetting team to the VP's home state more than one day before you announce him or her to the nation!

Teh Google

| Tue Sep. 2, 2008 12:13 PM EDT

TEH GOOGLE....Peter Wallsten of the LA Times talks to a GOP strategist about how deeply the McCain campaign vetted Sarah Palin before announcing her to the world last Friday:

According to this Republican, who would discuss internal campaign strategizing only on condition of anonymity, the McCain team used little more than a Google Internet search as part of a rushed effort to review Palin's potential pitfalls. Just over a week ago, Palin was not on McCain's short list of potential running mates, the Republican said.

Noted without comment, because I'm just commented out. This stuff isn't even coming from the gamma quadrant anymore. It's from another galaxy entirely. At this point, I don't think I'd trust McCain to help me shop for a used car, let alone run the country.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Meeting the Press

| Tue Sep. 2, 2008 11:45 AM EDT

MEETING THE PRESS....Yesterday I wondered how long it would be until the McCain campaign was willing to let Sarah Palin out in public to meet with the national press. David Corn doesn't have an answer for us yet on this vital question, but today he moves the ball a few yards down the field:

On Monday night, I encountered Mark Salter, a top McCain adviser, outside the St. Paul Hotel, and I asked him when Palin's first press conference would be. Her did not seem eager to talk about it. "After the convention," he said. Soon after the convention? "After," he repeated. Whenever it occurs, it will be some session.

They definitely don't seem eager to find out what will happen when she sits down with reporters without a briefer present. No surprise there, especially since even McCain himself is none too eager to sit down with the press these days either. Considering the bloodbath that's just waiting to happen when they do, I guess I can't blame him.

The Earmark Queen

| Tue Sep. 2, 2008 11:34 AM EDT

THE EARMARK QUEEN....Dean Baker puts Sarah Palin's prowess in trawling for federal pork into perspective:

As the Washington Post reports this morning, Governor Pallin managed to secure $27 million (as in 27 Woodstock museums) in earmarks for her little town of 6,700 back when she was mayor. That comes to more than $4000 per person.

....If every mayor was as successful at taking in federal largess as Governor Palin was for her little town, the tab would be $1.2 trillion, well over one-third of the federal budget. That is serious cash. (In fairness, Governor Palin collected her haul over several years, so the comparison to single year's budget is not entirely appropriate.)

Well then, let's be appropriate. The lobbying firm Palin hired scored this money over the course of four years, so the appropriate comparison is that if everyone were as dedicated as Palin to collecting pork, the tab would be $300 billion per year. That's about 10% of the entire budget and about one-third of the discretionary budget.

In other words, impressive! Perhaps somebody could do a parody of John McCain's favorite song, ABBA's "Dancing Queen," on this meaty subject?

Investigative Reporters Head to Alaska...And When Will Sarah Palin Meet the Press?

| Tue Sep. 2, 2008 10:42 AM EDT

sarah-palin-vikings.jpg

Alaska's getting pretty crowded...with investigative reporters and scandal-chasers. Last night, at receptions, hotel bars, and restaurants, journalists covering the Gustav-delayed Republican convention were chewing on nothing but the Sarah Palin soap opera and discussing which reporters had been deployed to the northernmost state to dig for more dirt on John McCain's not-so-vetted running-mate. What might be most frightening for the McCain camp is that the National Enquirer reportedly has dispatched a scandal SWAT team to Alaska. Given the tabloid's success with the John Edwards scoop (and its ability to pay cash for tips and information), should Palin fans be biting their nails?

It is, of course, possible for Palin to rise above all the recent unpleasantness by wowing the convention--and the viewing public--with a heckuva speech on Wednesday night. It will probably be the most anticipated vice presidential acceptance speech in decades. But there will still be another ritual for Palin to go through: her first press conference with the national media.

In past elections, controversial veep picks have not fared well during these coming-out sessions. In 1992, Dan Quayle raised more doubts about himself after his first grilling by the national press. In 1984, Geraldine Ferraro flopped during a press conference that focused on her husband's controversial business dealings.

Might Palin Pull a Harriet Miers?

| Tue Sep. 2, 2008 1:34 AM EDT

So it's only been a few days that Sarah Palin's been on the ticket. But for chrissakes, it's only been a few days that she's been on the ticket! This much drama, this soon? At this rate, I half-expect Maury Povich to nab her first interview. And I actually felt kinda dirty watching the networks tonight, they went all Inside Edition on us, like CBS interviewing teens on a New York City stoop, asking what they think of Palin's daughter being a mama (they were teenagers, blunt and unforgiving). With only a Category 1 storm to cover and no Bush/Cheney duo-of-evil to broadcast, the nets needed the drama to fill that gaping news vacuum. But, did they, really?

Weirdly, this confluence of events, the surprise out-of-nowhere pick of Palin, the stall of the convention, Gustav being less than a catastrophe, and Palin's family drama, all of these factors have come together to magnify the absurdity of a) the VP pick, and b) the saturation of punditry (of which I am a part, I know). It's like the entire world started to care about one woman four days ago and now her life is laid bare, boom.

Which of course, is your fault, McLame. We care, and we go on and on because there's a chance she'll be our president in a matter of months. Of course everyone is on the detail hunt, that's why candidates are "thoroughly vetted." The ol' straight talker has got to know this isn't going well. So does he back up slowly and flip on the hazards? Does Palin resign a la Miers and take one for the team? Joe Lieberman, Tom Ridge, Mitt, any of you guys game for a do-over?