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John Yoo's Attempt to Discredit a Critic

| Mon Jun. 30, 2008 2:40 PM EDT

Last week's House Judiciary subcommittee hearing, which featured special guests John Yoo and David Addington, drew a lot of attention for its rhetorical bombshells (Chairman Conyers: Could the president order a suspect buried alive?) and the tense back and forth between the witnesses and Democrats on the bench. But Addington and Yoo are both long-time lawyers--lawyers for politicians, no less--and as such their testimony revealed much, much less about the Bush administration's torture regime than many hoped it would.

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In a Speech on Patriotism, Obama Tries To Get Past the '60s

| Mon Jun. 30, 2008 2:28 PM EDT

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Can Barack Obama walk a political/cultural tightrope to success on Election Day?

On Monday, he gave a well-written speech on patriotism. He noted that "at certain times over the last sixteen months, I have found, for the first time, my patriotism challenged--at times as a result of my own carelessness, more often as a result of the desire by some to score political points and raise fears about who I am and what I stand for." And unlike Democrats of the past--Michael Dukakis comes to mind--Obama is not going to give an inch in any battle over who is really a patriot. In the speech, he described the wellsprings of his own patriotism:

One of my earliest memories is of sitting on my grandfather's shoulders and watching the astronauts come to shore in Hawaii. I remember the cheers and small flags that people waved, and my grandfather explaining how we Americans could do anything we set our minds to do. That's my idea of America.
I remember listening to my grandmother telling stories about her work on a bomber assembly-line during World War II. I remember my grandfather handing me his dog-tags from his time in Patton's Army, and understanding that his defense of this country marked one of his greatest sources of pride. That's my idea of America.
I remember, when living for four years in Indonesia as a child, listening to my mother reading me the first lines of the Declaration of Independence--"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." I remember her explaining how this declaration applied to every American, black and white and brown alike; how those words, and words of the United States Constitution, protected us from the injustices that we witnessed other people suffering during those years abroad. That's my idea of America.

Obama declared, "I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign." Which is not such a big promise to make. (He's going to call McCain unpatriotic?) And he defined patriotism to include dissent (such as the whistleblowing of the soldier who first revealed the abuses at Abu Ghraib) and sacrifice. But what was intriguing was how Obama blended a championship of dissent with a belief in American exceptionalism. In fact, he noted that in order for the former to be legitimate if must be cloaked with the latter:

What Advantages Come With Vice President Romney?

| Mon Jun. 30, 2008 1:32 PM EDT

RomneyMcCain.jpg So Mitt Romney is apparently at the top of McCain's VP list. Reasons, according to Republican insiders who spoke to the Politico:

(1) Romney's ability to raise money from former business associates and the Mormon community. McCain's camp apparently believes Romney can raise $50 million in 60 days.

(2) He's been vetted.

(3) He is an established campaigner who can be trusted to stay on message.

(4) His roots in Michigan, where his father was a governor, may help deliver a crucial swing state.

Okay, basically this comes down to money. Reasons 2 through 4 are silly. He was vetted, yes, and the media found nothing but flip-flops and inconsistencies. He is a experienced campaigner, but he wasn't very good in the role. I saw Romney speak a bunch of times, and his speaking skills and small-group skills don't match his presidential looks. There's a reason why he only won a handful of states.

And speaking of winning states, it isn't very likely that Michigan, a state that prefers Obama by seven points, is going to vote for McCain just because his VP's dad was governor 40 years ago.

Hey, Wes Clark...

| Mon Jun. 30, 2008 11:41 AM EDT

wesleyclark.jpg ...let's think about your comments over the weekend, shall we?

"I don't think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president..."
"[McCain] has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded — that wasn't a wartime squadron."

This echoes a statement Clark made several weeks back: "The truth is that, in national security terms, [McCain is] largely untested and untried. He's never been responsible for policy formulation. He's never had leadership in crisis, or in anything larger than his own element on an aircraft carrier or [in managing] his own congressional staff."

Clark, when pressed on whether the candidate he supports, Barack Obama, is "tested" or "tried" on national security, says that it isn't relevant because Obama isn't basing his campaign on national security expertise the way McCain is. Here's video.

This is right out of the Karl Rove school of political strategy: attack your opponent's strengths. But Clark's actions create two serious problems for Obama.

McCain's New Plan - Attack Obama's Character. Will it Work?

| Mon Jun. 30, 2008 10:17 AM EDT

You knew John McCain's promise that he was going to "reject the type of politics that degrade our civics" and emphasize respect in his campaign against Barack Obama was kind of window dressing when McCain and his top surrogates claimed Obama was the candidate of Hamas.

But now the claim has officially been put to bed. Today's Washington Post:

McCain typically leaves the sharpened criticism to others, in the hope of being able to claim the high ground of conducting a "respectful" campaign. But the abrupt shift in tone among his paid staff members, volunteer surrogates and other Republican staples of the cable news circuit is unmistakable...

MoJo Convo: Iran Panic? Talk About It With the Experts

| Sat Jun. 28, 2008 9:53 PM EDT

MoJo writer Laura Rozen asked an Israeli intel correspondent, an Iranian American activist, an arms expert, a former peace negotiator, and an anti-war intellectual:

How likely is a scenario in which the US or Israel strikes Iran before Bush leaves office? (Or is the Left falling for the hawks' propaganda?)

They'll be checking in on this MoJo Blog entry starting Monday to discuss their answers with readers—and each other. Want to talk to Daniel Levy, Yossi Melman, Trita Parsi, Danny Postel, and Jacqueline Shire about their take on Iran? Now's your chance. Leave a comment below for one of the five guest MoJo Blog moderators and they'll respond.

(Thursday Update: You can read some final thoughts from the forum participants at a follow up thread here.)

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Newspaper Lays Off Designer Behind "Dying Newsroom"

| Fri Jun. 27, 2008 9:29 PM EDT

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What does it say about the state of the newspaper industry if it can't even chronicle its own demise?

That's the question prompted by this sad piece of news from Editor & Publisher today: Martin Gee, the longtime designer and illustrator who was behind Mother Jones' recent online photo essay, The Dying Newsroom, has been laid off from his job at the San Jose Mercury News. E&P quotes the Mercury News' publisher's explanation for this most recent round of layoffs: "We have had a very challenging 2008."

Gee's photos document the cumulative effect of layoffs in which the paper lost close to half its staff. They are surprisingly touching photos of ordinary office gear, receiverless phones, and the like, left behind by hastily departing colleagues. Gee wrote with one of the images: "I still believe in this place. I grew up with this paper, and this is the paper I always wanted to be at."

See the photo essay here.

Do You Forgive Scott McClellan?

| Fri Jun. 27, 2008 9:04 PM EDT

ScottMcClellan.jpg As you are undoubtedly aware, Scott McClellan is traveling throughout the country promoting his book What Happened—and his conscience—to those willing to listen. Earlier this week, I joined an audience for a McClellan book event here in San Francisco, where not long ago McClellan was routinely castigated as Bush's chief apologist. Here, in the heart of the progressive movement, McClellan would finally learn whether he's gained a comfortable landing pad among liberals.

As the event kicked off, it was unclear how the audience would respond to McClellan—one woman explained that she didn't approve of "spilling the beans" to redeem oneself. But what McClellan's true motivations for the book are, we cannot know. Possibilities range from money to spite to remorse to a genuine belief in the need to advance openness in government.

Yet after sitting through his hour-long presentation, in the same hot event room where I celebrated my high school senior formal, I left with the strong sense that McClellan is fighting hard to steer clear of Bush's doomed legacy. And one thing seemed clear: McClellan garners much of his recent support, moral and monetary, from many of his former detractors on the left.

Everybody Going Wacky for Wall-E

| Fri Jun. 27, 2008 6:32 PM EDT

mojo-photo-walle.jpgI posted about the viral web site accompanying the new Pixar project Wall-E back in October; the site, a parody of corporate propaganda, was amusing, but even back then I said the movie looked like it would be "another cutesy romp with big-eyed creatures on some sort of quest." (Yes, I just quoted myself). By now we've seen actual clips and trailers, which have only confirmed my suspicions that this is Short Circuit 3: cute bleepy robots with big googly eyes! But shut my mouth: word around the intertubes is that Wall-E is the greatest thing to get projected onto a screen since Citizen Kane. A.O. Scott in the NY Times says the film is "a cinematic poem of such wit and beauty that its darker implications may take a while to sink in," and that's just the first sentence, while Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune calls it "the best American studio film so far this year." New York Magazine's Vulture blog has even started a campaign to get the film nominated for "Best Picture" (although they did also champion that Cavemen TV show). Sure, it turns out that Wall-E's cute little robots mask what is apparently a horrifying vision of humanity's future, with Earth abandoned to garbage and humans devolved into moronic blobs. Serious stuff. But we've seen dystopian visions before, even ones with mountains of garbage, and that doesn't necessarily a good movie make, Mike Judge. Little robot Wall-E even has a love interest called, um, EVE; this whole thing sure seems like a compendium of movie clichés.

Party Ben's Gay Pride Playlist

| Fri Jun. 27, 2008 5:46 PM EDT

mojo-photo-gaymusic.jpgAs we approach LGBT pride celebrations around the country this weekend, I'm reminded of the hardships we queers face. Sure, discrimination's bad; being used as a wedge issue in political campaigns kind of sucks; friends' well-intentioned attempts to set you up with their other gay friend can be a little awkward. But honestly, you know the worst part about being gay? The music. Seriously. Say you feel like gathering with your fellow queers for an adult beverage, or maybe celebrating the political accomplishments of the past year at a parade, or something. You'll be forced to endure 10,000 spins of "It's Raining Men," endless ABBA, and an insufferable genre of music I call "Self-Help House": big piano chords accompanied by a wailing diva assuring you that "You can do it/if you believe it," or whatever. It's enough to make you swear off identity politics.

But before you switch teams, rest assured that there's good queer music out there. Here's an alternate playlist for your Pride weekend parties, complete with videos.