The VP Frustrations of John McCain

| Mon Jun. 23, 2008 12:09 PM EDT

Joe Klein reports over at Swampland that McCain's top three choices for VP, according to a source Klein trusts, are all automatic non-starters.

1. Former Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania--McCain loves the guy, I'm told, and Ridge might bring Pa. into the Republican fold...but he's pro-choice. Fuggedaboutit.
2. Former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida--Ahhh, Florida. But, oy, that last name.
3. Senator Mel Martinez of Florida---Ahh, Florida....and brings Latinos, too! But born in Cuba, so ineligible for the office.

The same goes for McCain's top sidekicks, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham. The first is technically an Independent Democrat and thus a big believer in choice and the second is dogged by persistent rumors about his sexuality.

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War Disappearing From Television News

| Mon Jun. 23, 2008 11:31 AM EDT

Good grab by hilzoy, who points to a NY Times article about the dwindling coverage of the Iraq War on network television:

According to data compiled by Andrew Tyndall, a television consultant who monitors the three network evening newscasts, coverage of Iraq has been "massively scaled back this year." Almost halfway into 2008, the three newscasts have shown 181 weekday minutes of Iraq coverage, compared with 1,157 minutes for all of 2007. The "CBS Evening News" has devoted the fewest minutes to Iraq, 51, versus 55 minutes on ABC's "World News" and 74 minutes on "NBC Nightly News." (The average evening newscast is 22 minutes long.)
CBS News no longer stations a single full-time correspondent in Iraq, where some 150,000 United States troops are deployed.
Paul Friedman, a senior vice president at CBS News, said the news division does not get reports from Iraq on television "with enough frequency to justify keeping a very, very large bureau in Baghdad." He said CBS correspondents can "get in there very quickly when a story merits it."

Hilzoy notes that 181 weekday minutes of Iraq coverage equals two minutes per network, per week.

Good Day for Ombudsmen

| Mon Jun. 23, 2008 11:23 AM EDT

Taking care of business at the WaPo and the NYT.

Sad Update to NY13

| Mon Jun. 23, 2008 11:15 AM EDT

Just FYI. Remember that post about the New York congressional seat that is being vacated by the super-disgraced Republican congressman Vito Fossella? The one where the Republican candidate was being challenged by his son, a carpenter, punk rocker, and libertarian, who admitted he was in the race because he didn't want his dad to win?

Well, the father, a guy named Frank Powers, died of a heart attack on Sunday morning. Sad for the Powers family, and yet another bizarre turn for the district. Powers was settled upon by the Republican Party after other, more attractive candidates all declined to run.

Minnesota Senate Race Hits an Embarrassing Low

| Mon Jun. 23, 2008 10:51 AM EDT

Maybe you've been following the latest developments in the Franken-Coleman Senate race in Minnesota. Liberal bloggers got worked up last week at the possibility that Coleman's wife Laurie had been green-screened into a odd-looking TV ad. It was further evidence, they said, that the Colemans, who reportedly live apart while Laurie pursues a career in LA as a model and actress, have an unconventional or strained relationship. The video is at right.

But instead of just releasing video clips that make it evident no green-screening was used, the Coleman campaign decided instead to mock the whole situation and Franken himself with a second video, one that looks like it was made by a high-schooler. Is the second Coleman video supposed to be amateurish? Of course. Does it lower the state of the debate and embarrass the campaign anyway? No doubt.

Let's leave the jokes to the professionals, okay Norm?

"Sons of Iran-Contra": Some Clues in Former CIA Director Tenet's Memoir

| Sun Jun. 22, 2008 1:50 PM EDT

It's instructive to read the recent Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the 2001-2003 meetings between Pentagon officials and Iran contra figures Michael Ledeen and Manucher Ghorbanifar, side by side with the 2007 memoir of former CIA director George Tenet, At the Center of the Storm (Harper Collins, 2007, pp. 311-313). Indeed, doing so fills in a few details that were redacted in the Senate report, and amplifies others.

A couple points jump out in Tenet's account of what he dubs "the Sons of Iran-contra" episode. Chiefly, related to my latest article on signs of a possible federal investigation reviewing the matter, that Tenet writes that CIA lawyers threatened in 2002 to file a crimes report with the Justice Department if the channel to Ghorbanifar persisted. And persisted the channel of course did, for more than a year. Tenet:

On July 11, 2002, a senior CIA officer was told by the ambassador to Italy that Ledeen had called him to say he would be returning to Rome the next month to "continue what he had started." Our Rome representative met with his Italian counterparts and asked them not to provide any assistance to Ledeen unless the ambassador or CIA requested that they do so. A senior CIA lawyer contacted his NSC opposite number and asked whether anyone at the NSC had authorized Ledeen's visit. If not, he suggested, CIA might have to file a "crimes report" with the Justice Department., a requirement when we learn of a possible violation of the law.
About two weeks later, the NSC lawyer contacted CIA to say that Steve Hadley had called Ledeen in and "read him the riot act," telling him to "knock it off." In light of that, he said, they didn't see any need for a crimes report.

But Ledeen, and a Pentagon official Harold Rhode, did not "knock it off." Indeed, Rhode went on to meet with Ghorbanifar in Paris in June 2003 - in a meeting Ghorbanifar, laughing at the absurdity of the claim, told me was not in any way accidental, and which the Senate report further documents was planned (Rhode flew from Turkey to Paris for the meeting), but was not apparently authorized by the White House. There may also have been further meetings between Rhode and Ghorbanifar associates in London, the Senate report documents. And possibly another meeting as well in the fall of 2003, on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Rome, that Ledeen definitely and Rhode possibly attended, according to the Senate report, which was never able to definitively determine if Rhode was there.

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Barack Obama for Graphic Designer In Chief

| Fri Jun. 20, 2008 8:23 PM EDT

mojo-photo-obamaseal.jpgI've written before about the artwork inspired by Barack Obama's run for the presidency, as well as his own campaign's choice of fonts, and it's all good, but their latest design choices are apparently causing some controversy. While the campaign's eschewing of the candidate's name on podium placards raised eyebrows, their current podium design has even the Drudge Report giving it an alarmist link: "Obama Changes Presidential Seal," he claims. It turns out the campaign debuted a new design (right) that appears to be "inspired" by the actual presidential seal, but with some important differences, as the Associated Press reports:

Instead of the Latin 'E pluribus unum' (Out of many, one), Obama's says 'Vero possumus', rough Latin for 'Yes, we can.' Instead of 'Seal of the President of the United States', Obama's Web site address is listed. And instead of a shield, Obama's eagle wears his 'O' campaign logo with a rising sun representing hope ahead.

After the jump: the dreaded "P" word, and I don't mean "public financing."

Does Investigation of the Pentagon's Channel to an Iran Contra Arms Dealer Continue?

| Fri Jun. 20, 2008 6:00 PM EDT

When Democratic members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence presented the final installments of the committee's long-awaited pre-war intelligence investigation to the press earlier this month in the Senate gallery, they demurred when reporters' asked them if they intended to pursue possible charges against Bush administration officials whom the Senators said had exaggerated the case for war based on the intelligence available to them. "Nothing else would get done, on Clean Air, FISA, anything," committee chairman Sen. John "Jay" Rockefeller (D-WV) explained why the committee would not pursue such charges. "If we pressed for that, it would be like impeachment."

But there are signs that further federal investigation of at least one aspect of the committee's inquiry may continue.

Mother Jones has learned that one subject of one of the recent Senate Intelligence committee reports has told associates that he has hired a defense attorney in connection to a federal investigation. Pentagon official Harold Rhode, a long-time civilian employee of the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessments, who participated in controversial meetings with Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar in Rome and Paris, did not respond to messages sent to his home and Pentagon emails inquiring about the Senate's report on the Ghorbanifar channel, and questions over a possible federal investigation involving him and the hiring of an attorney. Calls to his home went to a fax machine and he did not answer his Pentagon office phone over the past several days.

The MoveOn Decision: Don't Freak Out

| Fri Jun. 20, 2008 2:43 PM EDT

obama-crowd-denver.jpg Barack Obama is not unilaterally disarming.

You can be forgiven for thinking that he is. It's the most natural response when you see the report that is shutting down it's 527, and raising and spending money only through it's PAC.

In a letter to supporters, chief Eli Pariser explained the decision:

in light of the new politics offered by Barack Obama, I've come to believe it's time to close the 527 forever—and to challenge organizations on the right to do the same thing.
That means that we won't raise any money for our election work from foundations, unions, or even individuals who want to give over $5,000. It's an all-in commitment to the small-donor way of doing things. But the time is right to take the leap.

Obama got the DNC to give up fundraising from PACs and lobbyists, and now has one of the progressive movement's leading independent groups sacrificing its ability to raise funds through its 527, which can accept big money from labor unions, foundations, and rich donors with fat wallets. Instead, MoveOn will accept money exclusively through its PAC, which can only take money from individuals or groups donating less than $5,000. Are other independent groups next? Will the entire progressive movement neuter itself in a quest to raises its standards to match Obama's?

FISA Amendments Pass

| Fri Jun. 20, 2008 1:11 PM EDT

The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 passed moments ago in the House by a vote of 293-129.

Joining the significant majority were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and House Intelligence Committe Chairman Silveste Reyes. An angry John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, opposed it.

The bill will in practice provide legal immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the President Bush's Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP) through a provision that will result in the dismissal of lawsuits that might have shined some light on the particulars of the administration's warrantless wiretapping activities. It does mandate an Inspector General report on the particulars of TSP, but whether that mandate survives the president's signing statement pen remains to be seen.

During the floor debate, most of Democrats who supported the legislation pointed to a provision that makes FISA the exclusive arbiter of the nation's wiretapping activities--a provision which will allow the supporters of the bill to express their shock and disappointment when this or any future president decides to ignore the law anyhow.

Now the bill moves over to the Senate where all of these, and other provisions will be debated further.