If you've been paying attention, you know that John McCain has a lobbyist problem. A longtime critic of special interests and Washington's lobbying culture, John McCain has built a campaign with lobbyists in dozens of key positions. Under pressure to clean up his shop last week, McCain forced all of his staffers to fill out a disclosure form that detailed lobbying contracts and possible conflicts of interests. The first to leave this week, and the fourth to leave in the last two weeks due to lobbying connections, is one of McCain's national finance chairman, Tom Loeffler. Loeffler's lobbying for Saudi Arabia and other foreign governments was revealed by Newsweek over the weekend.
McCain's critics are pushing hard for the resignation of Charlie Black, the man who reportedly plays the role of McCain's Rove. McCain told the media that "Charlie Black and Rick Davis are not in the lobbying business; they've been out of that business." (Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager, is also a former lobbyist.) But according to the Washington Post, Black was the chairman of the super-powerful lobbying shop he helped found, BKSH and Associates, until March 2008. So Black has been "out of that business" for all of two months. And don't forget that Black doesn't mind mixing his lobbying work with his campaign work; in February, he admitted that he makes lobbying calls from on board the Straight Talk Express.
In February, we posted all the lobbying clients of BKSH and Associates that we could find since 1998. They are below.
Shmuel Rosner, chief Washington correspondent for Israel's leading newspaper Ha'aretz, has been a critical observer of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. But in an analysis of Bush's Iran comments in Israel this past week, he points out that while Bush has talked tough on Iran, his Iran policy has thus far been a failure:
Bush should be measured by the same yardstick. Meetings will not stop Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but neither will speeches in Knesset.
Bush may not be as naive as Obama, but U.S. foreign policy under his leadership has failed time after time on the Iranian issue. International sanctions are too skimpy to mount any real pressure against Iran's uranium enrichment program, and Tehran is gaining.
These were the remarks of Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the American Academy of Diplomacy on May 14 -- a day before his boss President Bush likened those who would advocate negotiating with the Tehran regime to Nazi appeasers in an address to Israel's parliament, the Knesset:
. . . I think that the one area where the Iraq Study Group recommendations have not been followed up is in terms of reaching out the Iranians. And I would just tell you I've gone through kind of an evolution on this myself. I co-chaired with Zbig a Council on Foreign Relations study on U.S. policy toward Iran, in 2004. But we were looking at a different Iran in many respects. We were looking at an Iran where Khatami was the president. We were looking at an Iran where their behavior in Iraq actually was fairly ambivalent in 2004. They were doing some things that were not helpful, but they were also doing some things that were helpful.
And one of the questions that I think historians will have to take a look at is whether there was a missed opportunity at that time. But with the election of Ahmadinejad and the very unambiguous role that Iran is playing in a negative sense in Iraq today, you know, I sort of sign up with Tom Friedman's column today. We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage with respect to the Iranians and then sit down and talk with them. If there's going to be a discussion, then they need something, too. We can't go to a discussion and be completely the demander with them not feeling that they need anything from us.
President Bush's contentious nominee for the Federal Election Commission removed his name from consideration Friday, potentially ending a lengthy stalemate that had paralyzed the work of the agency.
Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department official who never had Democratic support to win confirmation, withdrew his nomination, saying it was time for the protracted deadlock to end....
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., welcomed von Spakovsky's withdrawal. Democrats have charged that von Spakovsky tried to suppress voter participation through new restrictions such as voter identification laws and voter roll purges.
"Democrats stood united in their opposition to von Spakovsky because of his long and well-documented history of working to suppress the rights of minorities and the elderly to vote," Reid said. "He was not qualified to hold any position of trust in our government."
The 540 Club, in an old bank building at 540 Clement Street in San Francisco, is the only bar in town to call an elephant its mascot. A 300-pound stuffed pachyderm blobs on a ledge above the front door, a cast-off inherited after the San Francisco zoo shuttered its elephant exhibit. The bar's logo, a pink elephant found on its tables, its business cards and the forearm of its soda jerk, is described by the staff as "the universal symbol of alcoholism and sloth etc," and not as any sort of inducement to Republicans. In fact, the threat, in liberal San Francisco, of being labeled a GOP sympathizer never really occurred to the owner of the bar, Jamie Brownuntil this week, that is, when he found himself debating whether to supplement the elephant with a stuffed donkey. The bar was set to hold a fundraiser for none other than the Great Spoiler, Ralph Nader. "What the hell?" Brown said Sunday morning, apropos of nothing, as he dragged on a Camel and waited for Nader's entourage to arrive. "Just in general, what the hell?"
Brown had sent two emails announcing the event. One said Nader would be coming. The other said this wasn't a joke. The local media had called to ask if the fundraiser was a ploy to sell drinks. Patrons hadn't known what to think. A few days after the email went out, during the bar's "Uptown 20s Jazz and Big Band" night, one drinker had supposed Nader would read from Don Quixote; another wondered of the man: "What did he do? Was it a car dealership?"
"I still think people think it's a joke," Brown said that morning before the Pabst Blue Ribbon clock struck noon. Nader was running late. A small crowd at the bar nursed pint-sized bloody marys. Brown, who sported several days stubble and a severe bed head, excused himself for a moment. "I need a shot, sunglasses, and a pack of cigarettes," he said.
A friend just alerted me to the fact that the popular vote section at Real Clear Politics has myriad different totals for the Democratic primary race. Enough to make the notion of a "popular vote" useless, in fact.
Here are the different ways you could calculate the popular vote. If there's something I'm not thinking of, tell me in the comments.
1. Just the primaries.
2. The primaries with Florida.
3. The primaries with Florida and Michigan with Michigan's "uncommitted" going to Obama.
4. The primaries with Florida and Michigan with Michigan's "uncommitted" going to no one.
5. The primaries, plus caucuses.
6. The primaries with Florida, plus caucuses.
7. The primaries with Florida and Michigan with Michigan's "uncommitted" going to Obama, plus caucuses.
8. The primaries with Florida and Michigan with Michigan's "uncommitted" going to no one, plus caucuses.
You can see why people are so confused. Further complicating the picture: Iowa, Nevada, Maine, and Washington state are caucus states that have not released public figures on caucus attendance. Estimates are needed in those instances.
I think in scenario 4, Clinton might be winning the popular vote. Maybe. Or something.
McCain is speaking at the NRA today, as part of his quest to woo traditional parts of the Republican base. Like with so many other situations, McCain has a history opposing the group he now seeks to cozy up with. Here's McCain in 2000:
For its part, the NRA called McCain "one of the premier flag-carriers for enemies of the Second Amendment." Nowadays, though, the organization is ready to play ball. Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's executive vice president told the press that there are "vast numbers of areas" where McCain and the gun lobby agree. And McCain showed last year that he can parrot the right talking points when necessary: "I strongly support the Second Amendment and I believe the Second Amendment ought to be preserved — which means no gun control."
Welcome back to the "staff picks" shelf at The Riff. Fresh off production of our July/August issue, we're happy to be playing some music.
1. You've heard it before, but not like this. "Cotton Eyed Joe" in its true Appalachian splendor—one fiddle, one voice. A New Yorker by origin, Bruce Molsky travels deep in the backwoods of America collecting tunes and learning technique from porch-sittin' old-timers. An immaculate musician, in this track, Molsky nails the true scratchin' style of old-timey music—complete with quarter tones and double stops, he fiddles and sings at the same time.
2. Has the Democratic race been divisive? Is it threatening to tear apart the party? My grandfather thinks so, and it's certainly a lively topic in political America these days. So I thought I'd add a little music to the discussion by one of my favorite new LA bands, Division Day. Next time you're caught in an argument between BHO and HRC, you may just find yourself hoping the damage is "Reversible." (Click here to listen to the full song played to a picture of the band.)
3. I was first introduced to Oliver Rajamani a couple years back while working in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. I was immediately intrigued by his seemingly effortless success in blending diametrically different musical traditions. His songs, like "Unnai Marenthal," are mostly sung in Tamil, an ancient Dravidian language, but are mixed with Hindi, Urdu and Spanish. His music similarly pulls motifs from various cultures—Brazilian rhythms, flamenco guitar, Indian drums, and gypsy spice. Makes for daringly good party music.
4. I'm not the first to point out that when under incredible pressure, consumed by guilt, or facing impending doom, we humans tend to exhibit a curious response—the nervous tic. The calmly capable Andrew Bird, master of live-looping, has noticed as well. If you ever find yourself with a slight "Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left," you may want to tune in, strap on the sumo suit, and relieve some stress.
Encore. She told me, to my face, there's a good man's in my place. This is the crux of "Fare Thee Well Blues," as played by Big Apple old-timer Bruce Molsky (because I know you wanted more). This is a satisfying blend of grit and talent with enough blue notes to catch the attention of even the mildest blues fan. The song is derived from a 1920's rendition by Mississippi bluesman Joe Callicott, which Molsky found on an LP in the back of a record store as a teenager.
On Friday Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the chair of the House oversight committee, sent a letter to Stephen L. Johnson, the EPA administrator. It wasn't a friendly note. Waxman is frustrated that the EPA has failed to comply with his May 5 subpoena for "more than 30 documents relating to communications with offices in the White House." (The committee is investigating political interference with the work of EPA scientists.) Waxman explains that Johnson has "two basic options for each of the documents: provide the document to the Committee or assert executive privilege with respect to the document."
So far, the White House hasn't asserted executive privilege with regards to the documents Waxman wants. That means that if he doesn't bring the requested documents to a May 20 hearing where he is expected to appear, Johnson will be in defiance of the subpoena. The Chairman didn't mince words, either. The first sentence of the letter reads: "I am writing to advise you that when you appear before the Committee on May 20, 2008, you should appear with documents."
Waxman's not known for bluffing, so it should be quite a scene if Mr. Johnson shows up next Tuesday without his homework. I'll keep you posted.