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Randy Scheunemann Needs to Go Anyway

| Wed May 21, 2008 2:07 PM EDT

randy-scheunemann.jpg Forget the almost comically obvious conflict-of-interest lobbying ties. Randy Scheunemann needs to get the boot from the McCain campaign for much more serious reasons.

Scheunemann served as president of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a neoconservative front group created in 2002. CLI coordinated with the Bush White House to gin up public support for the Iraq war by buttressing and echoing the administration's various dubious claims about the threat posed by Saddam, and the quickness and ease of a war to remove him.
Part of Scheunemann's work for the CLI was promoting convicted embezzler and WMD fantasist Ahmad Chalabi as the "new Iraqi Ataturk," and Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress as a "government in exile." In a 2003 NewsHour interview, Scheunemann defended Chalabi's "vision" for Iraq, claiming that Chalabi was opposed for "ideological reasons" by the State Department and the CIA, who, it turns out, were precisely correct about Chalabi's untrustworthiness.
Scheunemann also managed to convince John McCain that Chalabi was "a patriot with the interest of Iraq at heart."

That doesn't sound like the guy you want as the No. 1 foreign policy adviser to a presidential candidate. Not a lot of good judgment being shown...

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Buh Bye Randy Scheunemann

| Wed May 21, 2008 1:57 PM EDT

This USA Today report has to be grounds for firing under McCain's new lobbying policy.

John McCain's top foreign policy adviser lobbied the Arizona senator's staff on behalf of the republic of Georgia while he was working for the campaign, public records show.
Randy Scheunemann, founder of Orion Strategies, represented the governments of Macedonia, Georgia and Taiwan between 2003 and March 1, according to the firm's filings with the Justice Department. In its latest semiannual report, the firm disclosed that Scheunemann had a phone conversation in November about Georgia with Richard Fontaine, an aide in McCain's Senate office.
Orion Strategies earned $540,000 from its foreign clients over the year ending on Dec. 1, reports show. Scheunemann also received $56,250 last year from March to July from McCain, according to campaign finance records.

The McCain campaign wouldn't answer questions about Scheunemann, except to say that McCain's new lobbying policy, which prohibits any staffer from serving on the McCain campaign while an active lobbyist, is "not retroactive."

Hagel: I Can Haz Vice Presidency?

| Wed May 21, 2008 1:30 PM EDT

Try to be a little more subtle about it, Chuck.

James Baker: Negotiation Is Not Appeasement

| Wed May 21, 2008 10:23 AM EDT

John McCain has called James Baker, former chief of staff to Reagan and former Secretary of State to George H. W. Bush, "the smartest guy I know."

I wonder how smart McCain thinks these comments from Baker are. Baker said them in October 2006, but they're increasingly relevant today.

By the way, McCain also called Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Adviser to Gerald Ford and H. W. Bush, "the smartest guy I know." Scowcroft recently took apart McCain's Cuba policy.

Carving Black Defiance in Stone

| Wed May 21, 2008 9:27 AM EDT

How ironic that just as the Jeremiah Wright flap is dying down, we find yet another instance of America insisting that its black folk be happy. Or, failing that, demonized and rejected.

The long awaited, hotly fought for Mall memorial to Dr. King has encountered a hitch: the Chinese sculptor commissioned for the project (and didn't that piss Negroes off!) has submitted plans for a statue which is "too confrontational" and makes King look more like "the head of a socialist state than a civil rights leader". King's not smiling (weird, since that's how we all remember him.) so King is Stalin. Please.

You see, folks, as planned, King looks like a judge, intense and determined, when he 'should' be looking all delighted, like most of those who were assassinated for being a harsh critic of a country which abused him and his people. That's why all our renderings of Washington and Jefferson show them playing hopscotch and break dancing to harpsichord music, right?

Murat Kurnaz Details His Plight Before House Subcommittee

| Wed May 21, 2008 9:05 AM EDT

murat-kurnaz250x200.jpgMurat Kurnaz, a young Turkish citizen born and raised in Germany, traveled to Pakistan to learn more about Islam in October 2001, weeks after the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States. In short order, arrested and held by US forces in Kandahar, and then shipped off to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Bad timing was his only crime. (See here for MoJo's coverage of Kurnaz's plight, based on interviews with German intelligence officials and exclusive documents. See here for a timeline of Kurnaz's Kafkaesque odyssey.)

By 2002, according to documents obtained by his attorneys, both the US and German governments had determined conclusively that Kurnaz was neither a terrorist, nor a terrorist sympathizer or supporter, but American military officials nonetheless refused to release him and instead held him in solitary confinement for five years. For much of that time, he was unaware that anybody in his family knew where he was or if he was alive. And for the entire stretch he was subjected to torture.

In his account before the House Foreign Affairs' Oversight Subcommittee on Tuesday, Kurnaz detailed a technique visited upon him in Kandahar called "water treatment"—a perverse twist on a more widely known technique called waterboarding—wherein the victim's head is forced into a bucket of water while he's punched repeatedly in the stomach, causing him to inhale water.

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Obama in Iowa: On His Way, But Not Without Hurdles

| Tue May 20, 2008 11:41 PM EDT

barack-obama-indianapolis-250x200.jpgReflect for a moment on how serendipitous it is that Barack Obama is where he is today. As a 46-year-old half-black presidential candidate who was a newcomer to Washington and a believer in transparency and government reform, Obama's only natural message was one of change. He and his advisers decided not to modulate or moderate that message: every sign at every stop had a single word in bold type: "Change." The full sentence may have been "Change you can believe in," but there was one key word that was branded on everything the campaign said, did, and produced.

And wouldn't you know it, after eight years of disastrous leadership abroad, a lack of serious solutions to health care and economic challenges at home, and a thorough politicization and perversion of the federal government, voters were looking for exactly one thing. The same thing Obama was offering.

And now that he's got the primary wrapped up, Obama is smart enough not to change. In what could reasonably be seen as his first speech of the general campaign, Obama used the word "change" over twenty times Tuesday night in Des Moines, Iowa. Instead of fine-tuning his message to appeal to a general election audience, Obama is pulling John McCain and George Bush into his preexisting frame. As Obama tells it, McCain, with his long career in Washington and his willingness to embrace Bush Administration policies on taxes, health care, and the war in Iraq, is part of what the American people are so desperately seeking change from. The political gods would have a hard time deliberately crafting a political climate better suited to Obama's unique persona and message.

And so in the state where his unlikely but strangely inevitable presidential campaign began, Barack Obama moved to the next phase. He had kind words for Senator Clinton, calling her "one of the most formidable candidates to ever run for this office" and a woman who "has shattered myths and broken barriers and changed the America in which my daughters and yours will come of age." He congratulated her on her victory in Kentucky but he made it clear that the time for a transition had come. He reminisced about the wintertime Iowa caucuses that legitimized him as a candidate and said, "tonight in the fullness of spring… we have returned to Iowa with a majority of delegates elected by the American people, and you have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination for President of the United States."

John McCain was not treated as well as Senator Clinton.

Clinton Speaks in Kentucky

| Tue May 20, 2008 8:08 PM EDT

Clinton opened very graciously in Louisville tonight, offering many stirring words of support to Ted Kennedy. Kennedy's "five extraordinary decades dedicated to America," she said, were filled with passion for all the right progressive causes and paved the way for Senator Obama and herself. Remember, Ted Kennedy was a surprise endorsement for her opponent.

The portion of the remarks that pertained to the Democratic race were typical of Clinton's new and seemingly contradictory campaign trail mix: positive messages that don't tarnish the presumptive Democratic nominee plus an almost obstinant belief in herself and her chances. She thanked Kentuckians for handing her a huge victory despite the fact that "some have said your votes didn't matter, that this campaign is over." (She may have been referring to my last blog post.) She also restated her belief that she is winning the popular vote, which is true only if you do some very tricky and very selective math. "I have fought [this race] the only way I know how," she added. "With determination, by never giving up and never giving in."

But Clinton likely understands her chances. All negative attacks on Obama have been erased from her speech. The only people she attacks nowadays are John McCain and George W. Bush. In her speech today she even said that she and Obama "see eye to eye when it comes to electing a Democratic president in the fall." It was in some ways a preview of the general election speeches Hillary Clinton may give as a campaign surrogate for Barack Obama.

Kentucky, Oregon: Measuring Sticks for Obama?

| Tue May 20, 2008 7:45 PM EDT

Okay, let's get down to business. Kentucky's 51 delegates and Oregon's 52 delegates are at stake tonight. If you follow politics at all you know that the polls predict a 30+ point win for Hillary Clinton in Kentucky and a 5-15 point win for Barack Obama in Oregon.

It's right around 8:00 pm and Clinton has already been declared the winner in Kentucky. With half the votes in, she's up by 20. Clinton will be speaking soon, for two reasons: (1) Obama will be sucking up all the oxygen later in the evening with a speech that isn't-but-kinda-is a victory speech for the race as a whole; and (2) Oregon's innovative vote-by-mail system means that results from that state may not be in until 11 pm eastern. Might as well strike while the iron is hot.

In this junior pundit's brain, these elections are a measuring stick for Obama. That's the important part of the night. Yes, he'll reach the magic number for a majority of the pledged delegates (3,253), and yes, that entitles him to claim, as his campaign did earlier, that the voters of the country have sent him an "unmistakable message" of support akin to, well, victory. But he's had this thing sown up for a while now. That's not new news.

Tonight's two elections, and the two remaining on June 3rd, and more valuable as a gauge for Obama's momentum. In Kentucky, we can see if his impending victory in the primary convinced a larger portion of those fabled working class whites to vote for him (I'm guessing no, for the record). In Oregon, we can see if he is finishing Clinton off among the coastal liberals he supposedly owns as a demographic. It may be tough to get an accurate picture out of Oregon, however, because the vote-by-mail system means many ballots were filled out earlier this month.

Nevertheless, these races are more about learning about Obama than they are about changing the race.

Apple Ready to Bow Down to Record Labels?

| Tue May 20, 2008 5:12 PM EDT

mojo-photo-applecrushed.jpgWith a 3G iPhone apparently around the corner, the NY Times is reporting that Apple may be more willing than ever to negotiate with record labels in exchange for, well, more stuff you can buy on your iPhone. Apple wants more ringtones and "ringback" songs (music you hear when you call somebody, which by the way is really annoying), as well as the ability to sell songs from iTunes right over the phone network. Currently, you can shop at iTunes on an iPhone only via WiFi or connecting to a computer.

After the jump: how much would you pay for Colbie Caillat?