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Next Time McCain Says Palin Commanded the Alaska Guard, Laugh

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 10:18 PM EDT

On Wednesday, ABC News' Charlie Gibson interviewed John McCain. An excerpt:

GIBSON: Senator, since I've been following politics, every single presidential nominee has said that the first quality they look for in a vice presidential pick is the capability and the readiness to take over as president. Can you look the country straight in the eye and say Sarah Palin has the qualities and has enough experience to be commander in chief?
MCCAIN: Oh, absolutely. Having been the governor of our largest state, the commander of their National Guard.

Later in the interview, McCain said, "Governor Palin knows the surge has succeeded. She's the commander of the Alaskan National Guard."

We now interrupt the spin for some facts. After interviewing the service commander of the Alaska National Guard, McClatchy newspapers reports, "Palin has never personally ordered the state guard to do anything." Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It appears she has no command experience whatsoever. The news service notes, "The governor has granted [the service commander] the authority to act on his own in most cases, including life-or-death emergencies -- when a quick response is required -- and minor day-to-day operations."

So it's clear: when McCain and his surrogates talk about Palin's experience, the only honorable course is to not mention the Alaska National Guard.

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Looking to the GOP's Finale: Too Much McCain?

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 9:50 PM EDT

The McCain campaign has informed broadcast media that they should block off an hour for McCain's acceptance speech on Thursday night. An hour? That's a lot of McCain. Or any politician. Is the campaign expecting his speech to be interrupted by numerous ovations? Does it want to prove to voters that McCain can pull off such a strenuous action?

McCain has never been accused of being a stem-winder. So even when it's time for the most important speech of his long political career, less may be more.

Hello Sarah Palin, Goodbye ANWR

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 9:43 PM EDT

Doublemountain.jpg Republican delegates in St. Paul this week believe Sarah Palin could provide the tipping point on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Washington Wire blog points out that Palin fiercely advocates drilling in ANWR. All the while McCain's been running scared on the issue and the Republican platform has been treating it with caribou-kid gloves.

Palin, talking to CNBC in July about John McCain said: "He's right on war, he's right on with energy independence measures that need to be taken. Wrong on ANWR, but we're still working on that one." Palin's place on the ticket "gives us the opportunity to have a live, walking platform to advocate for the development of our oil and gas resources," said Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich, according to the Wall Street Journal's Henry J. Pulizzi and Siobhan Hughes.

So, Hurricane Bristol aside, Troopergate aside, Policegate aside, this global-warming-doubter-soccer-mom is a menace to the future of life on this planet. McCain's VP choice is 100-proof evidence that he's a really bad decider.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

Elephants & Tigers Get Room To Breathe

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 9:10 PM EDT

487px-Sumatratiger-004.jpg The Indonesian government is set to double the size of Tesso Nilo National Park—one of the last havens for endangered Sumatran elephants and tigers. The park was created in 2004 with about 150 square miles. By year's end that will increase to more than 330 square miles, reports WWF.

Tesso Nilo is the last block of lowland forest in central Sumatra large enough to support a viable elephant population. About 60 to 80 elephants live there, along with 50 tigers. The park also harbors more than 4,000 known plant species—the highest lowland forest plant biodiversity known anywhere on Earth, with many more plants yet to be discovered. Tesso Nilo forest is also a vital watershed for more than 40,000 people living in 22 surrounding villages.

These villages comprise the Tesso Nilo Community Forum, which protects for the forest and acts as a unified community voice in park management. To minimize conflicts between villagers and wildlife, an Elephant Flying Squad of domesticated elephants and mahouts patrols to keep wild elephants inside the park from raiding village crops outside the park. Locals have also planted a perimeter of buffer crops that elephants don't like around the park.

Cynical

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 6:51 PM EDT

CYNICAL....Via TPM, an off-mic conversation about Sarah Palin between NBC's Chuck Todd and conservative guests Peggy Noonan and Mike Murphy:

Todd: Yeah, I mean is she really the most qualified woman they could have turned to?

Noonan: The most qualified? No! I think they went for this — excuse me — political bullshit about narratives —

Todd: Yeah they went to a narrative.

Murphy: I totally agree.

Noonan: Every time the Republicans do that, because that's not where they live and it's not what they're good at, they blow it.

Murphy: You know what's really the worst thing about it? The greatness of McCain is no cynicism, and this is cynical.

Now you know what they're saying in private. What they're saying in public is a whole different thing, of course. Why? Todd and his colleagues get to the heart of things here:

Last night had the feel of a party that was still trying to find its groove. Tonight, that will change when the GOP rock star of St. Paul — Palin — takes the stage. And judging by the reception she gets, there could be a very real debate on the following question: Whose Republican Party is this — John McCain's or Sarah Palin's? Talk to the GOP delegates here and it's no contest. This is Palin's party; McCain's just the surprisingly cool guy who "got it" more than these folks thought.

The social conservative base is giddily in love with Palin. They want her to be the future of the party. And you cross the base in public at your peril.

Why the American Dream Is Bigger than Palin or McCain

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 5:59 PM EDT

Below is a guest blog entry by economist and MoJo author Nomi Prins:

At some point today, (around the time I noticed Lindsay Lohan weighing in), I got hit with Sarah Palin overload.

Then, I realized that Palin's omnipresence isn't about John McCain or Barack Obama, or even this week's RNC. It's not about her experience or stance on issues. It's about the "Pop" American Dream.

The old American Dream is dying. Rampant economic inequality makes the cost of working hard to achieve prohibitive. In a culture where more people vote for the next American Idol than for the next president, no wonder Sarah Palin is the top story: She defines the new American Dream, where leaping to the top against all odds is the end goal in itself. Of course there are voters appalled that someone 'like her' can be a 'heartbeat away from the presidency.' But there are also plenty of voters delighted that someone 'like her' has a shot at the ultimate American Dream—a spot in the White House.

Beneath the Palin hue and cry lie issues that will determine the next American Dream for 99 percent of America.

Those issues include the housing foreclosure and default crisis and the exponential growth in credit card debt. And they include a need to shift the tax burden, health care costs, and retirement risk away from the middle and poorer classes—so that they can afford an American Dream built on dedicated hard work.

That's why it's so important we get back to debating the issues, rather than Sarah Palin's personal life.

—Nomi Prins

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Peggy Noonan: "It's Over"

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 5:20 PM EDT

Love those hot mics! Here's video of Mike Murphy, an old McCain hand from 2000, and Peggy Noonan, a former Reagan speechwriter, talking off camera about John McCain's vice presidential pick. They are, shall we say, less than sanguine about the choice.

Eating Your Own Dog Food

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 2:57 PM EDT

EATING YOUR OWN DOG FOOD....Question: who's the better actor? McCain strategist Steve Schmidt or all those soccer players who flop to the ground and pretend to be near death whenever a defender comes anywhere within a yard of their shins? You make the call:

In an extraordinary and emotional interview, Steve Schmidt said his campaign feels "under siege" by wave after wave of news inquiries that have questioned whether Palin is really the mother of a 4-month-old baby, whether her amniotic fluid had been tested and whether she would submit to a DNA test to establish the child's parentage.

Arguing that the media queries are being fueled by "every rumor and smear" posted on left-wing Web sites, Schmidt said mainstream journalists are giving "closer scrutiny" to McCain's little-known running mate than to Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

I can't speak for the National Enquirer, but I've seen virtually no questions about Trig Palin's parentage in the mainstream press — and for that matter, almost nothing in the blogosphere either. There was a shouted-down diary on the subject at Kos, and a weekend of insanity from (non-liberal) Andrew Sullivan, but that was about it.

On the other hand, the mainstream press has been full of legitimate questions about Palin's experience, her lies about earmarks, how she ran Wasilla as mayor, whether she sympathizes with the Alaska Independence Party, her role in Troopergate, her daughter's unwed pregnancy (announced by Palin herself), her social conservatism, her fondness for raising taxes, and plenty of other perfectly legitimate questions about a vice presidential candidate who until a few days ago was a complete unknown to virtually the entire country.

So please. Spare us the tears. The McCain campaign, after months of counting on the media to report the most egregious BS with a straight face, has finally pushed them beyond the limits of their endurance. Steve Schmidt has been the driving force behind this strategy, and he has nothing to complain about now. It turns out there are limits to what Saint John can get away with after all.

My Sarah Palin Nightmare - And Yours

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 1:53 PM EDT

MY SARAH PALIN NIGHTMARE — AND YOURS....OK, it's time to tell you my Sarah Palin nightmare. It's not a real nightmare, mind you. It's more a nightmare scenario. Here it is.

The press keeps digging up fresh dirt on Palin. Pressure builds up from the Troopergate scandal. The tabloids and talk shows continue to go nuts over Bristol Palin's baby. Then something new and even more damaging pops up. Finally, after resisting as long as he can, McCain gives in and dumps Palin from the ticket. But when he does, he delivers a stemwinding screed about how the intolerant hordes of liberalism have forced a good woman off the national stage, aided and abetted by their sanctimonious friends in the liberal media — all because coastal pointy-headed elites loathe traditional heartland values and were determined to destroy Sarah Palin no matter what it took. The Christian right goes absolutely ballistic. There are torches and pitchforks in the streets. McCain replaces Palin with another social conservative and rides the bloody shirt of the culture wars to a thin victory in November. Pat Buchanan finally has his revenge.

Erk.

The good news is that I don't think this will happen. What I really think will happen is that McCain will keep Palin on the ticket no matter what and will go down to defeat in November. He will then write yet another book in which he admits that his conduct was less than honorable and he feels deeply ashamed about it. He seems to be pretty good at that after the fact. He will appear on a couple of Sunday chat shows to talk about it and will then be promptly forgotten.

So what's your current nightmare? Feel free to share in comments.

Palin's Instant Foreign Policy Brain Trust Is Assembled

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 1:40 PM EDT

Republican presumptive vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin is being prepped for her Republican convention debut tonight, and a team of policy advisors has descended on the Alaskan governor's Hilton hotel room to educate her on John McCain's national security positions, soon presumably to become her own. Among her new advisory brain trust, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff notes, Randy Scheunemann, the McCain campaign's top national security advisor and Steve Beigun, a former Jesse Helms and Condi Rice aide, as well as a striking number of Bushies:

Matt Scully, a former Bush White House speechwriter who helped draft some of the major foreign-policy addresses during the president's first term, is working on Palin's acceptance speech to the convention Wednesday night.
Mark Wallace, a former lawyer for the Bush 2000 campaign who served in a variety of administration jobs including chief counsel at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and deputy ambassador to the United Nations, has been put in charge of "prep" for the debate against Biden.