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GOP: McCain is Chilling, But We'll Vote For Him

| Sat Feb. 9, 2008 11:36 AM EST

Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran (R) speaking about John McCain on January 27:

"The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine," Cochran said about McCain by phone. "He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me."

Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran (R) endorsing John McCain on February 8:

"I am supporting John McCain for the Republican nomination for president," Cochran, R-Miss., said in a statement released Thursday.

Mad props to Steve Benen, for catching this and other examples of GOP bandwagoning. We'll see if McCain can win over these folks.

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What a Super Week!

| Fri Feb. 8, 2008 9:48 PM EST

Can you recall a more super set of seven days? Sunday gave us the Super Bowl, which lived up to its name for pretty much everyone in the world outside of New England. I mean, everyone loves an underdog, and how great was it that the biggest news of the day wasn't Tom Petty?

And arguably more super than the Super Bowl—a game which is manufactured expressly for entertainment—came just two days later, thanks to boring-old politics! There were no Victoria's Secret ads to lure people to the polls, no Doritos, no promises of perfection.

And yet they came. In droves. Droves so multitudinous that some places clean ran out of ballots. And what drew them? Good old-fashioned Patriotism. The real kind.

Super Tuesday Video: David Corn

| Fri Feb. 8, 2008 9:39 PM EST

David Corn gave San Francisco a special treat on Wednesday with his thoughts on the Democrats' less than decisive Super Tuesday results. Highlights include his music vs. math metaphor, a return to the campaign style of the 70's and the inevitable fatigue that'll likely meet the citizens of Pennsylvania.

Luckily we got the whole show on video:

Waterboarding: Not So Illegal After All?

| Fri Feb. 8, 2008 9:28 PM EST

Yesterday I wrote about the minor firestorm that reignited over waterboarding in recent days, thanks to CIA director Michael Hayden's Tuesday testimony that his agency waterboarded three al Qaeda members in 2002 and 2003. The White House authorized that particular disclosure; I wonder if they authorized this? Speaking to the House Intelligence Committee yesterday, Hayden said the people who performed the torture were not necessarily trained CIA operatives, but instead unspecified outside contractors:

REP. SCHAKOWSKY (D-IL): Are contractors involved in CIA detention interrogation programs?

GEN. HAYDEN: Absolutely.

REP. SCHAKOWSKY: Were contractors involved in the waterboarding of al Qaeda detainees?

GEN. HAYDEN: I'm not sure of the specifics. I'll give you a tentative answer: I believe so.

This new wrinkle might explain the apparent confusion among the relevant government agencies over whether or not waterboarding is legal. (By today's tally, White House says yes, Hayden says no, and Mukasey remains noncommittal.) After all, what's illegal for the government isn't necessarily illegal for contractors. We already contract out a good deal of the war, so why not add torture to the mix and save ourselves the legal headache? Maybe this was what White House spokesman Tony Fratto meant when he said that we might still use waterboarding "under certain circumstances." Then again, maybe it's simply anybody's guess.

—Casey Miner

Why a Superdelegate Pledge May Not Be So Super

| Fri Feb. 8, 2008 9:03 PM EST

Let me humbly suggest that Nick's pledge idea has a flaw. Sure, you can try to compel Democratic superdelegates to vote for whichever candidate arrives at the convention with the most delegates. But few will sign such a pledge, whether or not the Obama and Clinton campaign ask them to do so. Why give up a privilege? Especially when--here's the real issue--outside events might change the landscape.

The last big-state primary (Pennsylvania) occurs on April 22 and the primaries altogether end on June 3. What if in between those dates and the Democratic convention, which opens on August 25, something happens? Maybe Barack Obama is in the lead, and a news report discloses he once sold dope to lobbyists for a health insurance industry. Maybe Hillary Clinton is ahead, and it turns out she did hide legal records during the Whitewater investigation and plotted with her husband to kill their political enemies. In such instances, superdelegates might want to mount a course correction.

Admittedly, these are extreme examples. But there could be other less extreme circumstances in which it would make sense for the superdelegates to reconsider the popular will. As I noted, my hunch is that superdelegates will not willy-nilly vote to hand the nomination to the second-place finisher just out of personal preference. They will be under much scrutiny. And blowing up the party to save a nominee will not be undertaken lightly.

Neato Viddy on the Intertubes: Dance Lessons With Khris Khaos

| Fri Feb. 8, 2008 6:49 PM EST

Okay, lately the Riff's been all super-serious, and commenters are starting to get mean. So in an effort to lighten the mood, and perhaps also help out those of you planning to hit the clubs this weekend, I present: Learn How to Dance for Women with King Khris Khaos, the King of Style!

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Obama Musician Endorsement Update!

| Fri Feb. 8, 2008 6:04 PM EST

It's Obama-rocker-mania!Just when you thought it might end with the Grateful Dead, more musicians are coming out for Obama. First up, Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst spoke at an Obama rally in Omaha on Thursday (hmm: Obama, Omaha; Obama, Omaha), telling the crowd of 11,000 Nebraskans (and maybe Iowans) that he predicts Nebraska Democrats will caucus for the Illinois senator. He later apparently performed that annoying "When the President Talks to God" song at an event downtown.

Moving on to less whiny (and less youthful) musicians, Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon tells Wonkette that she's supporting Obama, even though she admits that it's hard to distinguish him from Hillary, policy-wise. Wonkette points out that Obama is eight years younger than Sonic Youth's bassist.

And in "anti-endorsement" news, John Mellencamp has been asking the McCain campaign to stop using his songs, and they finally agreed, reports the AP. Mellencamp was an Edwards supporter, naturally; perhaps he can come along when Howard Dean tries to broker that deal. Ain't that America?

Music News: Winehouse Sings Via Satellite, Neil Young Gives Up, Timbaland's On the Phone, Beck Admits to Nonsense

| Fri Feb. 8, 2008 4:39 PM EST

News - Feb 8


  • Amy Winehouse, denied a visa to come to the States for the Grammys on Sunday, will appear on the broadcast via satellite from London. Winehouse actually used the phrase "raring to go" in a statement.

  • Neil Young either got up on the wrong side of the bed, or has given up all hope for the future of mankind. Introducing a film in Berlin on Friday, he told the audience that "the time when music could change the world is past." Some of us are so cynical we'd make a joke about that time not existing ever, but we got up on the wrong side of the bed, so we don't really care.
  • Hello, Timbaland calling: the super-producer has announced a deal with Verizon Wireless to create a "mobile album," available only on the carrier's service. And you thought mp3s sounded bad! A Verizon spokesman managed to keep a straight face while calling the deal "a marriage of promotional opportunity and a large distribution platform," but I bet he was doing something funny with his fingers behind his back.
  • Beck has confirmed that some of the lyrics on his seminal 1995 album Odelay were "scratch" lyrics, i.e., nonsense meant as a placeholder during the recording process. "We just grew attached to them," said the singer. So you're telling me those years I spent on my dissertation trying to parse "mouthwash jukebox gasoline" were a waste?
  • Time for A Superdelegate Pledge

    | Fri Feb. 8, 2008 1:46 PM EST

    As David notes here, the Washington Post's Paul Kane did the math and figured out that it will be basically impossible for either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama to win enough pledged delegates to take the nomination outright. This is a big problem for the Democrats. Thankfully for them, I have a solution (after the jump).

    Is it Time To Worry about Superdelegates in the Clinton-Obama Contest?

    | Fri Feb. 8, 2008 1:25 PM EST

    Omigod! Here come the superdelegates! The Washington Post's Paul Kane has done the math and reached the conclusion that the Democratic presidential race will be decided by superdelegates--those 800 or so party officials and officeholders who are automatically awarded delegate status and who can vote any which way they please at the convention. Kane explains:

    There are 3,253 pledged delegates, those doled out based on actual voting in primaries and caucuses. And you need 2,025 to win the nomination.
    To date, about 52 percent of those 3,253 delegates have been pledged in the voting process -- with Clinton and Obama roughly splitting them at 832 and 821 delegates a piece, according to the AP.
    That means there are now only about 1,600 delegates left up for grabs in the remaining states and territories voting.
    So, do the math. If they both have 820 plus pledged delegates so far, they'll need to win roughly 1,200 -- 75 percent -- of the remaining 1,600 delegates to win the nomination through actual voting.
    In other words: Ain't gonna happen...And then the super delegates decide this thing.

    Does this mean the contest will be settled in some smoke-free backroom by machine hacks who don't give a fig about the Democratic vox populi?