Brent Scowcroft, the dean of George H. W. Bush's foreign policy brain trust, was, as you likely know by now, in favor of the first Gulf War and the war in Afganistan but was opposed to the Iraq War from before it began. Though a Republican, he has shown the flexibility and disdain for ideology that comes from being a true adherent of the realist approach to foreign policy.

That doesn't just apply to the Middle East. Here he is talking to Steve Clemons about the long-standing Cuba embargo:

If you couldn't hear the soft-spoken Mr. Scowcroft, here's what he said: "My answer on Cuba is Cuba is not a foreign policy question. Cuba is a domestic issue. In foreign policy, the embargo makes no sense. It doesn't do anything. It's quite clear we can not starve Cuba to death. We learned that when the Soviet stopped subsidizing Cuba and they didn't collapse. It's a domestic issue."

What he's saying is that domestic politics, embodied in this case by the powerful and hard-line Cuban exile lobby in Florida that no politician with national ambitions can alienate, is keeping the embargo in place. Common sense, on the other hand, suggests that decades of the embargo have not produced any results in the island nation, other than a less prosperous and less healthy Cuban people. After all, Castro is leaving on his own terms and has hand-picked his successor.

You never know. With Scowcroft and Obama on board for reform, common sense may pull off a come from behind victory.

We blogged the other day about how two McCain staffers, including one who was supposed to run the Republican convention in Minneapolis, were booted from the campaign because they had lobbied for the repressive military junta in Burma.

Turns out, the staffer who was supposed to run the convention, Doug Goodyear, was actually McCain's second choice. His first choice was Paul Manafort (naturally, a lobbyist), who had to be removed from consideration because he too had lobbied for authoritarian figures, specifically Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos and former Ukrainian prime minister Viktor Yanukovich.

Okay, it's a bit odd that McCain can only seem to find shills for dictators to run his campaign. But what's even more odd is that Charlie Black, one of McCain's most senior and most loyal aides, also worked for Ferdinand Marcos, as we reported yesterday. In fact, he's worked for Marcos, Zaire dictator Mobuto Sese Seko, Somalia's Mohamed Siad Barre, and Nigeria's Ibrahim Babangida.

Either there is something particularly objectionable about Viktor Yanukovich, or John McCain is willing to selectively punish moral outrage. If you lobby for dictators and are easily replaceable, you're out the door. If you lobby for dictators but you are McCain's right hand man, you get to stay.

harvey-wasserman.jpgHarvey Wasserman, author of Solartopia! Our Green Powered Earth, is an anti-nuclear activist. Wasserman feels that nuclear is a "costly and dangerous curse from previous bad decision-making." Nuclear is costly, he says, not only fiscally but environmentally. "The radioactive fuel chain is a major cause of global warming," Wasserman says. Instead, he suggests we embrace wind and solar power, which are "already proven and cheaper."

Below are highlights from Wasserman from MoJo's recent expert-led online reader conversation:

"Since you have quoted a Rockefeller study, how about we quote Al Gore, in a letter (to me) dated November 3, 2000:

'Thank you for your recent inquiry regarding nuclear energy and the Kyoto Protocol. Let me restate for you my long held policy with regard to nuclear energy. I do not support any increased reliance on nuclear energy. Moreover, I have disagreed with those who would classify nuclear energy as clean or renewable. In fact, you will note that the electricity restructuring legislation proposed by the [Clinton] Administration specifically excluded both nuclear and large scale hydro-energy, and instead promoted increased investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy. It is my view that climate change policies should do the same....Al Gore'

This letter is posted at the www.nirs.org web site, where answers to many of the other questions raised in this dialog can be found."

"There is more nuke than solar/wind capacity in the US not because of market forces favoring nukes, but because the US government, initally at the behest of the nuke weapons industry, has poured hundreds of billions into the technology."

"I have seen far too many containment domes to have any faith in any of them. No other kind of industrial facility can inflict the kind of damage that can come from a nuke."

"There is a reason there seems to be little middle ground in these nukes versus renewables debates, which is that there really isn't any."

"The critique of corporations is simple: corporations in the country have human rights, but no human responsibilities."

And here are what a few readers had to say about Wasserman:
"Harvey, I try to approach issues with an open mind. Keeping an open mind means maintaining a healthy disinterestedness, [but] I have run out of tolerance for your emotionally-laden sloganeering. Who are you to define what gets to be harmonious and what must be war? Sun and wind as love from the earth? The sun causes cancer. Wind becomes hurricanes that destroy cities."—Jonathan Severdia

"The problem with your perspective is that it's not being implemented, not by SMUD, not by anyone. If you look at who IS building wind-farms and solar (CPS) it's all the same utilities you've been screaming about for decades:FPL, PG&E, etc."—David Walters

"If you read Henry Wasserman's comments in his profile, it is OBVIOUS he knows what he's talking about, and is CORRECT in his assessment. An to anyone oblivious to the dangers that are posed merely from design flaws and human error...read about Chernobyl and gain an understanding of the loss that will impact literally generations and generations and generations."—Mike

"I gather that you are not enthusiastic about coal, so, without nuclear, how can we produce baseload power to meet projected demand? Massive solar thermal may do the trick for the Southwest, but how do we provide for Buffalo, Minneapolis & Flint?" —Douglas Price

In every interview he does, Barack Obama insists that the primary is not over and that Senator Clinton is still a formidable opponent.

But his actions suggest he is moving on to the general election. He's already launched a 50-state voter registration drive. Today he's campaigning in the general election battleground of Missouri. Tomorrow, Michigan. Next week, Florida. His general election tour effectively starts this week.

Hillary Clinton is going to win West Virginia today by 25-35 points. She'll likely win Kentucky one week from today by the same margin. In his speech tonight and his speech next Tuesday, look for Barack Obama to make only a perfunctory recognition of the results and then use the spotlight to make his general election pitch.

He won't say that the primary is over. The media will say that for him.

Update: Oh, and they're staffing up.

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DC Comics has just announced that it's sending its characters into the most terrifying parallel universe yet: the American political system. At a comic-con last week, the publisher's executive editor talked about its upcoming "DC Decisions" series, in which members of the DC universe will declare their partisan affiliations. "Everyone's talking politics; it's an elections year, and we're going to try to see how the characters of our universe react to that," he said, which I think means that his writers have completely run out of material. So now that superheroes are going to start meddling in domestic politics, which way will they swing politically? A few guesses at some of the exciting partisan plot twists to come, after the jump.

On Fox News Sunday, Howard Wolfson, the communications director for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, dismissed talk of Clinton quitting the race and declared, "The voters are going to decide this."

But that's not the true stance of the Clinton campaign. Its plan, as the campaign acknowledged last week, is to persuade the superdelegates that Clinton would be the best candidate in the fall against John McCain. That is, its position is that the superdelegates ought to vote for Clinton no matter what the voters in the Democratic primaries and caucuses decide. And given that it's essentially a mathematical certainty that Obama will end up with more voter-determined delegates, this means that the Clinton camp is actually insisting that superdelegates, not voters, determine the winner.

With Clinton campaigning fiercely in West Virginia, which holds a primary on Tuesday, she has not yet given up. That may happen in the coming weeks or when the primaries end on June 3. But while she remains in the race, she has only one path to the nomination: superdelegates voting against the results of the primaries and caucuses. And her odds are diminishing. Each day, Obama picks up one or more superdelegates, and he now leads among these delegates. So it seems Clinton really has one hope: something happens. (Divine intervention?) All this--staying in the race, targeting superdelegates, waiting for Obama to crash--is within Democratic Party rules. But let's not confuse such a strategy with empowering voters. The Clinton campaign is hoping to draw enough voter support in the final primaries so it can have the opportunity to overturn the will of the voters.

We've already used McCain's record to throw some cold water on his big climate change speech in Oregon. Visit the Wonk Room to see why the location, the North American headquarters of the Danish wind-turbine company Vestas, is so hypocritical. The short version: Republicans in Congress, McCain included, have slashed the United States budget for wind energy since Carter was president, which is why McCain has to speak at a Danish turbine manufacturer instead of an American one.

China has banned the import of several food products citing poison and bugs as contaminants. The list includes Coca-Cola's berry-flavored Fanta soda, which apparently contains levels of benzoic acid dangerous to the liver and kidneys (so I guess stick with the bright orange stuff if you want to be kind to your kidneys). Also listed are two varieties of Proctor & Gamble's Pringles, banned for carcinogens, and one Nestle's coffee flavor found to be infested with beetles. All in all, China's quality control found 593 products unfit for consumption.

These bans follow last year's recalls of Chinese-produced toxic toothpaste and lead paint-coated toys, as well as the FDA's ban on Chinese seafood contaminated with traces of illegal veterinary drugs.

—Caroline Winter

mccain_closeup_250x200.jpg When you have advisers who are interested in international conflict resolution, you get into one kind of trouble. When you have advisers who are lobbyists, you get into another.

John McCain has been forced to cut ties with two campaign staffers recently because of their ties to the military junta in Burma. The first, Doug Goodyear, was the man McCain had selected to run the 2008 Republican convention. Goodyear is the chief executive of DCI Group, a lobbying firm that was paid $348,000 in 2002 to improve the junta's image in America and to push the federal government to improve relations with the notorious human rights abusers. The second, Doug Davenport, was a regional campaign manager for McCain who helped found DCI Group and served as head of its lobbying practice, where he also worked for the junta.

This is a great example of (1) why lobbying is so freaking toxic, and (2) how, if you build your campaign machinery with lobbyists in dozens of key positions, you run into problems.

But the problem isn't just Dougs Goodyear and Davenport. The watchdog group Campaign Money Watch is now calling for three more McCain staffers to resign because of connections to distasteful foreign regimes:

bob-barr.jpg Former Republican Congressman Bob Barr is declaring his bid for the Libertarian Party's nomination for president today. Barr, who is perhaps most well-known for his high-profile role in the Clinton impeachment proceedings, left the Republican Party in 2006 and says that his run for the presidency will provide voters with a "genuinely conservative" alternative to John McCain. A recent Zogby poll had Barr taking three percent of the vote in a general election match-up between Obama and McCain. As you might expect, Republicans are trying to convince Barr not to run.

This creates an interesting drama on the libertarian right. While Ron Paul is the country's preeminent libertarian, he has repeatedly declined to run for president as anything other than a Republican. But he has refused to endorse John McCain (and even gone so far as to praise Barack Obama's approach to foreign policy), leaving the door open for a run as a third-party candidate.

So here are the key questions. Will Ron Paul run as a candidate in the Libertarian Party? (I know it's unlikely, but he did run for president as the Libertarian Party's nominee in 1988 while maintaining his Republican affiliation.) If he doesn't run, will he endorse Bob Barr and cede his status as America's big dog libertarian? After John McCain secures the Republican nomination in early September and Ron Paul drops out, will his supporters shift their support to Barr, Obama, or no one? We considered this question before here; what say you?