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McCain Aides Screening Reporters? The Campaign Replies

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 4:54 PM EDT

Following up on my piece suggesting that the McCain campaign screens the reporters it allows to ask questions during the conference calls it holds for the media, Talking Points Memo pressed the McCain camp to respond. (The campaign refused to reply to my queries.) The McCain campaign reply, as TPM reports, is hardly a slam dunk.

First, Brian Rogers, a McCain spokesperson, told TPM that the McCain aides and surrogates on the conference calls never know "the questions before they're asked." That, of course, is not the issue. The question is whether the campaign blocks certain reporters from asking questions. Rogers, according to TPM, offered no straightforward, we-do-not-screen declaration. Nor did he explain why there is always a very long pause during the calls after the speakers have finished and before the campaign begins to field questions from the reporters listening in.

"You've been on calls," Rogers told TPM. "We take on all comers." But as TPM notes--backing up the initial story--"more of the questions that do end up getting asked come from friendly news outlets." And TPM adds that its own reporter-blogger, Eric Kleefeld, "has frequently tried to ask a question [on the conference calls] and has never gotten through."

All in all, not a very convincing denial from the McCain campaign.

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Hancock: Racist, a Metaphor for Racism, or Just Dumb?

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 4:52 PM EDT

mojo-photo-hancock.jpgWill Smith's new movie Hancock may have knocked little Wall-E off the box office top spot, pulling in $62 million in its first weekend, but some are finding evidence of an unsettling subtext behind the drunk-superhero shtick. Hip-hop web site SOHH.com recently posted a blog entry calling the film, well, racist:

It's just a coincidence that the first "superhero" depicted on the silver screen as a criminal, alcoholic, lazy, foul mouthed, not giving a you know what bum, living in a broken down trailer, who everybody hates including the people he saves, *just happens* to *be black.* Right? And, it's just a coincidence the one man who loves Hancock, has faith in him and truly cares about him as a person, is an idealistic white man who wants to save the entire planet. Let's call him the Anti-Bush. Oh and I can't forget his adorable little son is the only character, besides his loving father, that doesn't refer to Hancock as an a**hole… And, is it just a coincidence that Hancock only maintains his super powers if he stays away from a "beautiful" white woman who is *technically* his wife …

McCain Scores New Support Among Hispanics

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 4:06 PM EDT

The League of United Latin American Citizens is not necessarily an audience that you would think would receive John McCain well. Its published political platform is a collection of progressive goals: affirmative action, prison reform and abolition of the death penalty, universal health care, a strong and un-privatized Social Security, and so on. The president of the organization is the founder and director of a San Antonio union. And perhaps most of all, it is an organization that, though it has long-standing ties to McCain and his Senate office because of McCain's willingness to treat immigration issues compassionately, watched its ally bail on their shared commitment to comprehensive immigration reform when his support proved too politically volatile in the Republican primary.

It is no surprise then that McCain didn't bother tailoring his speech to LULAC, delivered Tuesday afternoon at the Washington Hilton. He made vague reference to his ties to the Hispanic community as he opened ("so many friends, so many allies, so many partners") but then moved immediately into his theme for the week: the economy, and his superior ability to deal with its current weaknesses.

CD Boxed Sets Headed for Extinction?

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 3:53 PM EDT

mojo-photo-boxedset.jpgWhile current releases by notable artists can still move some units, the CD boxed set may turn out to be a kind of global warming polar bear, feeling the pain of slipping physical music sales before the rest of the world. Reuters reports that fewer and fewer collections are being released, and quotes a music purchaser as saying "boxed-set sales have fallen off the cliff." While SoundScan doesn't have data specific to boxed sets, the last collection to be a hit was Nirvana's With the Lights Out, which sold 504,000 copies. While a record exec quoted in the article downplays the sales slide with a Zen-like "everything is relative," I can actually see a couple possible reasons for the downturn right there in paragraph two:

NYT Plays Fact-Checker

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 3:03 PM EDT

And does it well. Robert Pear's article absolutely shreds John McCain's plan to balance the budget with tax cuts and pixie dust.

Denver's Black National Anthem Mistake

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 2:40 PM EDT

Apparently, some jazz singer decided to hijack a political event in Denver and sing the Negro National Anthem instead of, you know, the American one. The one she'd been asked (though for no pay) to sing.

Rene Marie specifically tied her act of supposed civil disobedience to Obama's upcoming August visit. If she thought he'd be pleased, she was just as wrong as when her tiny brain suggested she 'go there' in the first place. What is up with folks like her and Rev. Wright?

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A Great Observation About Washington from (Duh) Henry Waxman

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 10:59 AM EDT

Henry Waxman may try to eliminate Karl Roves from future White Houses. Why, he observes, should the presidential administration be able to use federal funds to pay a nakedly political staffer whose only job is to position the president for reelection? Congress isn't allowed such luxuries. Waxman put it this way to The Hill:

"Why should we be using taxpayer dollars to have a person solely in charge of politics in the White House? Can you imagine the reaction if each member of Congress had a campaign person paid for with taxpayer dollars?"

Right on, brother.


Diplomacy at Its Finest

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 10:52 AM EDT

Heckuva job:

An embarrassed White House apologized on Tuesday for an "unfortunate mistake" -- the distribution of less-than-flattering biography of Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi at the Group of Eight summit. Still, the gaffe led to headlines in Italy.
The summary of Berlusconi was buried in a nearly inch-thick tome of background that the White House distributed at the summit of major economic powers. The press kit was handed out to the White House traveling press corps.
The biography described Berlusconi as one of the "most controversial leaders in the history of a country known for government corruption and vice."

The bio went on to say that after Berlusconi took office, "he and his fellow Forza Italia Party leaders soon found themselves accused of the very corruption he had vowed to eradicate." Who wants to bet George gets an extra thorough security check on his first post-presidency trip to Rome?

Idiocy or Intentional Media Manipulation: Jonah Goldberg Edition

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 10:43 AM EDT

If you heard Barack Obama say that he wants to "set a goal for all American middle and high school students to perform 50 hours of service a year, and for all college students to perform 100 hours of service a year," would this be your response?

There's a weird irony at work when Sen. Barack Obama, the black presidential candidate who will allegedly scrub the stain of racism from the nation, vows to run afoul of the constitutional amendment that abolished slavery.
For those who don't remember, the 13th Amendment says: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime … shall exist within the United States."
I guess in Obama's mind it must be a crime to be born or to go to college.

You would if you were the author of this book.

Iraqi PM: I Want a Timetable

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 10:09 AM EDT

What degree of agency do we give the Iraqi government? The AP:

Iraq's prime minister said Monday his country wants some type of timetable for a withdrawal of American troops included in the deal the two countries are negotiating.
It was the first time that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has explicitly and publicly called for a withdrawal timetable — an idea opposed by President Bush.
He offered no details. But his national security adviser, Mouwaffak al-Rubaie, told The Associated Press that the government is proposing a timetable conditioned on the ability of Iraqi forces to provide security.

This is more a change in rhetoric than a change in substance. A timetable for withdrawal tied to unspecified benchmarks of Iraqi troop readiness is a recipe for staying in the country indefinitely. But it does represent a break from the Bush Administration, and if Maliki backs up this new language with specifics, we'll have a situation on our hands.

Obama, for the record, wants combat troops out in 16 months. I wonder if in his upcoming trip to Iraq, he'll meet with Maliki.

Update: Bush's statement on the sovereignty of the Iraqi government after the jump.