Blogs

GOP Can't Win Down Ticket by Tying Dems to Obama

| Thu May 15, 2008 2:18 PM EDT

Not in the South, anyway. As you probably know, Democrat Travis Childers won a special election on Tuesday in a conservative Mississippi congressional district, scoring a big upset for the Dems that many political observers say is a sign of Democratic victories to come. The Republicans botched one part of the strategy, apparently (from the Times, via the Stump):

But the Republican strategy of trying to link Mr. Childers to more liberal national Democratic figures fell short, as it did in Louisiana. Indeed, voters here were bombarded by advertisements equating Mr. Childers with Senator Barack Obama, a tactic intended to turn conservative whites away from Mr. Childers.... [It] may have helped Mr. Childers more than it hurt him, as campaign aides reported heavy black turnout, heavier than in a vote three weeks ago when he came within 400 votes of winning.

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Obama Attack Vid: Flag Flag Flllaaaaag

| Thu May 15, 2008 11:57 AM EDT

I guess when you don't have any actual arguments for why you should be in charge, you rely on symbolism instead.

Here's my solution. Obama changes his name to Barack Flag Pin Obama. He automatically convinces everyone of his patriotism, and eliminates the most problematic part of his name. From then on, whenever someone says, "Why don't you wear a flag pin?" Obama can respond, "I am Flag Pin!"

Why the John Edwards Endorsement Doesn't Matter That Much

| Thu May 15, 2008 11:53 AM EDT

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There is a lot of talk among political observers that John Edwards' better-late-than-never endorsement of Barack Obama will help Obama among working-class (read: white) voters, as Edwards extends his populist mantle to the near-presumptive Democratic nominee. Such talk is overstated, for Obama won't need Edwards in the fall to prove he's the populist in the race. With John McCain as the Republican nominee, Obama will have little competition in the most-populist category.

Too many commentators are, for the moment, still stuck in an Obama-versus-Clinton framework. That is so three-days-ago. The race is essentially over. Obama no longer needs to do better than Hillary Clinton among Democratic working-class voters in Democratic primaries. Clinton cannot overcome his lead in pledged delegates, and Obama has surpassed her in superdelegate commitments. (Edwards' endorsement is indeed one more signal that it's curtains for Clinton, and the handful of delegates pledged to him presumably will trot over to Obama's column.) So baring any unforeseen calamities or drama, Obama is it.

That means he no longer has to worry about having more populist appeal to Democratic voters than Clinton. His concern is McCain and attracting blue-collar and white voters in the general election against the Republican nominee. Sure, Edwards can help in that mission. But in some ways, this task is easier.

Sudan: An Example of Why Cindy McCain Must Release Her Tax Returns

| Thu May 15, 2008 10:49 AM EDT

John McCain has been critical of China for its willingness to do business in Sudan. "China needs Sudan's oil," he has said. "The politics of oil impede the global progress of our values, and restrains governments from acting on the most basic impulses of human decency."

Turns out it's not just China that ignores Sudan's humanitarian atrocities in order to make a profit.

Cindy McCain, whose husband has been a critic of the violence in Sudan, sold off more than $2 million in mutual funds whose holdings include companies that do business in the African nation.
The sale on Wednesday came after The Associated Press questioned the investments in light of calls by John McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, for international financial sanctions against the Sudanese leadership.

Bush in Israel

| Thu May 15, 2008 1:32 AM EDT

President and Laura Bush attended an event in Jerusalem last night to celebrate sixty years of friendship between the US and Israel. The event was hosted by Israeli president Shimon Peres and honorary conference co-chairs Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, the Las Vegas casino mogul and conservative philanthropist and his Israeli physician wife. Among the evening's festivities, an interpretative dance number to "You've Got a Friend," Cold War style video interludes documenting US support to Israel at key moments since its creation, Israeli and Maryland children's choirs singing "Let It Be," and speeches by among others Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, who is the target of a current corruption probe.

If Bush was looking for support in his belief that public opinion is fleeting but that history will be the ultimate judge of his presidency, he found it in spades last night here, where he is widely viewed as a determined leader who understood the terror threat and was willing to act to meet its challenge. Applause interrupted his speech -- replete with famliiar references to remaining steadfast against terror and advancing human liberty -- as well as the speeches of those paying tribute to him. Among others in attendance at the conference, Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, former Clinton Middle East hand Dennis Ross, former Clinton era US ambassadors to Israel Martin Indyk and Daniel Kurtzer, an Obama advisor, former Czech president Vaclav Havel, former British prime minister and Quartet leader Tony Blair, Google's Sergei Brin and media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Though Bush was described as among the most supportive US presidents of Israel, some Israeli security officials have questioned not his good intentions toward their nation but the pragmatic outcomes of his policies, particularly as Hezbollah demonstrates its growing strength in Lebanon over the US-backed Siniora government and Hamas continues to launch rockets from Gaza into the town of Sderot and the city of Ashkelon. The Bush administration pushed Israel and Palestinian moderates to allow Hamas to run in 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections which Hamas then won, and it took over the Gaza strip last year.

John McCain and the Dictator Money Trail

| Thu May 15, 2008 12:16 AM EDT

mccain_closeup_250x200.jpg John McCain will fire you for lobbying for Burma, but he'll still take your money.

Republican operatives Doug Davenport and Doug Goodyear were both quietly released from their duties with the McCain campaign this week when it was revealed that their Washington lobbying firm, DCI Group, had been paid $348,000 to represent Burma's repressive military junta in 2002. McCain's critics noted that top McCain aide Charlie Black has lobbied for authoritarian regimes as nasty or worse than Burma's, raising the question of whether McCain will cut ties with tainted figures only when it is politically expedient for him to do so.

There are other facts in the situation that may prove controversial. The two lobbyists for Burma were also donors to McCain. Doug Goodyear, DCI Group's chief executive and the man McCain had selected to run the GOP national convention, and his wife Carla donated $4,600 to McCain's presidential campaign and $2,500 to McCain's Straight Talk America PAC. Carla Goodyear also donated $1,000 to McCain's 2004 Senate reelection bid. Doug Davenport, the head of DCI Group's lobbying arm and a former regional campaign manager for McCain, and his wife Kelley contributed $6,900 to McCain's presidential campaign and $3,500 to his PAC.

Other DCI Group employees have donated $2,000 to McCain. All told, DCI Group employees and their spouses have sent $20,500 to McCain. McCain fired the two DCI Group executives from his campaign, but will he return their contributions? We called McCain's press office to ask and have not yet received a response. Can it be that McCain is willing to separate himself from lobbyists working for Burma but will cling to their cash?

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ACLU Releases New Detainee Docs

| Wed May 14, 2008 5:15 PM EDT

The ACLU got its hands on a bunch of previously withheld documents from the State Department, DoJ, and military officials regarding the treatment of detainees. Of note are a summary (.pdf) of investigations into four detainee deaths (including one where an interrogator bashed in a detainee's head with a stove) and a detailed memorandum (.pdf) from Brittain Mallow, the head of Gitmo's Criminal Investigation Task Force, that spells out in minute detail exactly which interrogation techniques are legal—something the Bush Administration has generally found itself unable to do. According to Mallow, acceptable methods include prolonged interviews, interrupted sleep (as opposed to deprivation), deception, incentives, and props (think photos, not stoves). Unacceptable methods include threats, promises that cannot be kept, unnecessary discomfort, and sensory deprivation.

There's still some gray area—although the prohibition on "discomfort" includes "any form of physical contact designed to cause physical discomfort," it's not clear whether it extends to physical abuse. Nonetheless, Mallow's specificity is a welcome respite from the legal bobbing and weaving we've come to expect from administration lackeys.

(h/t Glenn Greenwald)

—Casey Miner

Not Quite Ringing

| Wed May 14, 2008 4:08 PM EDT

NARAL's endorsement of Barack Obama sounds less than enthused:

"Today, we are proud to put our organization's grassroots and political support behind the pro-choice candidate whom we believe will secure the Democratic nomination and advance to the general election. That candidate is Sen. Obama." — Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America

With NARAL this afternoon and Edwards possibly coming this evening... oh wait, I forgot. The race is already over.

Polar Bears Win Protection

| Wed May 14, 2008 4:01 PM EDT

baby-polar-bear.jpgAfter several months of delays, the polar bear has been declared protected under the Endangered Species Act due to global warming. This is the first time in history that global warming has officially "endangered" an animal, and the great white bear is the first species the Bush administration has put on the endangered list in two years. This is the longest gap between new animals added to the list since the Endangered Species Act was signed into law in 1973 under the Nixon administration.

McCain Recycles His Green Image...From MoJo?

| Wed May 14, 2008 3:25 PM EDT
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In the past few days, we've seen John McCain turn green faster than David Banner. Just in case this sudden transformation shreds his clothing, he can now suit up in his campaign's new line of "Go Green" merchandise. Items include 70% bamboo polo shirts, organic cotton baseball caps, and a travel mug made from recycled plastic. All feature a new twist on the militaristic McCain logo—the little star has been replaced with the recycling symbol. That's okay—the symbol is all about reuse, even if it's being used to woo voters who want their trash to biodegrade in less time than it takes to get US troops out of Iraq. But how to explain why the lead image on McCain's climate-change page (top) is oddly reminiscent of the logo from our latest cover (bottom)?

(Tip of the organic hat to Tim Dickinson.)