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Publisher Softens McClellan Excerpt, But Doesn't Help Bush

| Wed Nov. 21, 2007 5:30 PM EST

whathappened.gifThe news of former White House spokesman Scott McClellan's tell-all memoir, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and What's Wrong With Washington, hit the blogosphere full force this week, with a two-paragraph excerpt generating most of the excitement. This publicity play on the part of PublicAffairs Books may have worked too well, however, and the publisher's founder and editor-in-chief, Peter Osnos, is now trying to contain the storm he helped create.

On the PublicAffairs website Monday, McClellan wrote about the Scooter Libby-Valerie Plame scandal, saying in 2003 that while exonerating Libby and Karl Rove, he had "unknowingly passed along false information." He then goes on to specifically implicate President Bush and Vice President Cheney, saying they, along with White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and Libby and Rove, were involved in the spreading of this false information.

Osnos has told NBC, however, that McClellan isn't saying that Bush lied and intentionally misled the public. Apparently those remarks were part of an unfinished manuscript, and McClellan is working under an April deadline. According to Osnos, Bush didn't lie to McClellan; in fact, Bush was himself unaware that the information that he was giving McClellan, mainly that Rove and Libby had nothing to do with the Plame leak, was false.

While Osnos' clarifications may be intended to smooth things over and say that Bush didn't lie, the unintended consequences are questions regarding who actually has the power in the White House. If Bush was giving false information to McClellan, then he must have been given false information, by Cheney, Rove, Card, or all three. So even if Bush comes out of this safe from investigation, he still ends up looking like a clueless puppet.

—Andre Sternberg

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Falwell's FBI File

| Wed Nov. 21, 2007 5:16 PM EST

The Washington Post has gotten a copy of the late Jerry Falwell's FBI file. It's mostly filled with threats made against the Moral Majority founder, but it has some humorous moments, including the part where the FBI dispatches investigators to infiltrate Cincinnati's gay bars in search of one of the alleged threat-makers. Read more here.

Meet the New, Old Newt Gingrich

| Wed Nov. 21, 2007 5:13 PM EST

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What to make of the former gentleman from Georgia? Newt Gingrich devolved from being an outspoken member of the Sierra Club to helming a House of Representatives renowned for its hostility toward the environment. Now Gingrich has coauthored, with conservation professor and former zoo CEO Terry Maple, A Contract with the Earth, a tome released this month that calls for an era of environmental stewardship, albeit one driven by markets, science and technology. The chapter headings quote Emerson, Jacques Cousteau, John Muir and others, including revered Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson, who wrote the book's foreward.

Is Gingrich jumping on the hottest (no pun intended) national trend to keep himself in the game? Or is he merely bouncing back to his old views now that he's unencumbered by intense political pressures? To wit, Gingrich's voting record on conservation and pro-environment measures deteriorated fairly steadily during his years in Congress, according to the annual voting scorecards of the League of Conservation Voters. When he was a newbie in 1979-80 (tail end of the Carter era), the League gave him a 44.5 percent score--pretty darn good for a Republican. Gingrich fared nearly as well during the Reagan years (1981-1988), with an average score of 39 percent.

But then something happened: His LCV scores from 1988 (Bush I) through 1994 (Clinton mid-term) fell to a dismal 11 percent on average. In '94, the year Gingrich rode his Contract with America to the speakership of the House, he was awarded a big fat zero. ...

The Gays Have Won Republican Minds; Hearts to Follow?

| Wed Nov. 21, 2007 4:26 PM EST

The users of Conservapedia care about one thing, and one thing only.

Republicans Candidates Who Beat Cancer Would Be Terrible for Fellow Cancer Survivors

| Wed Nov. 21, 2007 3:55 PM EST

Fact of the day: Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, and John McCain are all cancer survivors, but all are putting forward health care plans that would likely deny coverage to other cancer survivors who are not seeking insurance through government or job-related plans. Cancer survivors, even if they have been cancer-free for years, are regularly denied health insurance when they try to purchase it as individuals. Fact of the day 2: Republicans are jerks.

(H/T Think Progress)

Examining Mike Huckabee's Fiscal Record: It's Very Un-Republican

| Wed Nov. 21, 2007 3:11 PM EST

huckabee_mouth_open.jpg Mike Huckabee is the Republican in the presidential race who spends the most time talking about middle Americans—their health care needs, their lack of job security, the crumminess of the schools that educate their children, etc. His attention to these seemingly left-of-center issues—and the lengths to which he went to act on them as governor of Arkansas—has gotten him branded as an irresponsible tax-and-spender by some parts of the GOP establishment. Bob Novak, for example, called him a member of the "Christian left."

So with the help of the magnificent FactCheck.org, let's take a look at Huckabee's financial record.

Huckabee claims to have cut taxes "almost 94 times" while Governor. (An odd construction, but whatever.) He adds that he saved "the people of Arkansas almost $380 million." That's true. Huckabee cut taxes 90 times from 1997 to 2005, reducing state revenues by $378 million.

But Huckabee also presided over 21 tax increases, none of which he mentions on the stump. And those tax increases totaled much more than $378 million. According to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, the "net tax increase under Huckabee's tenure was an estimated $505.1 million," adjusted for inflation.

Spending did go up under the Huckabee regime—the state budget was $10.4 billion in his first year as Governor (again, adjusted for inflation), while it was $15.6 billion in 2006. So he is, technically, a tax-and-spender. But Huckabee balanced the Arkansas state budget every year he was governor (balancing the budget is a requirement under Arkansas state law) and in the end, Huckabee had a positive effect on the state ledger: He faced a $200 million deficit in 2002, but ended his term with a $844.5 million surplus. That's a billion dollar turnaround, taxing-and-spending be damned.

A bit more, after the jump.

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Fred Thompson's DIY Phone Bank

| Wed Nov. 21, 2007 2:20 PM EST

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It's either a sign of severe desperation or a novel campaign innovation, but GOP candidate Fred Thompson has just debuted a do-it-yourself phone bank. "Phone for Fred" allows volunteers to download voters' phone numbers off his website, and encourages them to get the word out about their candidate. Oh, but they should be nice about it and only call in the evening. The campaign seems like a formula for disaster, but hey, at least it's cheap!

Mulling Over the Case for Hillary Clinton

| Wed Nov. 21, 2007 2:09 PM EST

clinton.jpg If you read MoJoBlog regularly, you know I have my reservations about Hillary Clinton. But I find Princeton professor Sean Wilentz's endorsement of her compelling.

[Clinton] understands how American politics works. She understands the trajectory of American political history for the last 40 years because she's lived it in a way that the others haven't, really.

Okay, fair enough. She's most able to win the game of politics as it is currently constituted. She makes this argument on the stump. But I happen to think that game chews up good people (like Al Gore, for example) and no longer works for the benefit of everyday Americans (if it ever did). As naive as it sounds, I'd like a candidate who can think beyond that game. What do you think of Obama, Mr. Wilentz?

You cannot have a president who doesn't like politics. You will not get anything done. Period. I happen to love American politics. I think American politics is wonderful. I can understand why people don't. But one of the problems in America is that politics has been so soured, people try to be above it all. It's like Adlai Stevenson. In some ways, Barack reminds me of Stevenson.... There's always a Stevenson candidate. Bradley was one of them. Tsongas was one of them. They're the people who are kind of ambivalent about power. "Should I be in this or not... well, yes, because I'm going to represent something new." It's beautiful loserdom.

Okay, interesting...

The fact is, you can't govern without politics.

Now wait a minute. How do we know that for sure? We do know that it is very, very hard to get elected when you don't like politics, but we don't know for a fact that it is very, very hard to govern when you don't like politics. We don't have an example in recent American history of a president who tried to change Washington instead of working within it.

Keep reading, after the jump...

How Our "Friends" Support Law and Order

| Wed Nov. 21, 2007 1:49 PM EST

The Saudi judiciary is defending its punishment of a 19-year-old rape victim--that's right, a victim--because she was in a car with a man not related to her when the crime occurred. The woman's original punishment was 90 lashes, but she has since committed another crime: She spoke with the news media. Now, her sentence is six months in prison and 200 lashes.

Islamic law forbids a woman to associate with males who are not part of her family. As for speaking with reporters, the official Saudi press agency explains that "whoever has an objection on verdicts issued, the system allows an appeal without resorting to the media." Add 110 lashes and six months in what I feel certain is not a "rehab" prison.

In the meantime, the court also doubled the sentences of the seven men who committed the rape.

It is horrific enough that rape victims are punished in Saudi Arabia, but there are other problems with the system that are just as disturbing. Individuals on trial are often not permitted to have defense attorneys present, and there are no sentencing guidelines other than the judges' discretion.

Women in Saudi Arabia have no freedom of movement and may not even drive a car. First Lady Laura Bush recently wore an abaya in Saudi Arabia and declared--to the astonishment of millions--that the garb was "traditional" and "a religious choice," without addressing the social roots of how that "choice" came to be. It is estimated that the Saudis have invested over $750 billion in the U.S., and--as we know--at least several thousand directly into the hands of George W. Bush. There has never been much enthusiasm among Western nations to support women's rights in their own countries, much less in very oppressive countries. Now the relationship between the Bush administration and Saudi Arabia--not to mention the relationship between the Bush administration and U.S. women's rights goals--makes it impossible to do anything but look the other way when a young gang-rape victim is tortured by her own government.

Introducing the Polling Project: Getting to the Bottom of the Polling Industry

| Wed Nov. 21, 2007 1:29 PM EST

Arianna Huffington has a simple question: "Are polls measuring the 2008 election or are they driving it?"

With that in mind, she's launched the Polling Project, a attempt to shine a bright light on the polling industry and its effects on the American political discourse. "We want to get to the bottom of how pollsters conduct their surveys, how they gather and build their stats, how they target who they contact, and, ultimately, how they reach their conclusions," says Arianna.

It's a worthy endeavor in part because it gets beyond what you would find in a well-researched book on the subject, through the magic of citizen participation. If you've been contacted by a pollster, the Polling Project wants to hear about your experiences. All of the project's cosponsors, which includes, in addition to Mother Jones, Talking Points Memo, Instapundit, Politico, and the Nation, are putting a button on their websites that direct you to this form.

If enough people participate, the project will be able to determine if midwesterners are being asked different questions than their coastal counterparts, if blacks and Hispanics hear questions no one else does, and if push polls are popping up around the country. Perhaps most importantly, we'll find out if polls are creating buzz instead of just reporting it.

So if you get a call from a pollster, click the link on our left sidebar the next time you visit motherjones.com. Your name and contact info won't be revealed. So help out if you can!