Mojo - October 2007

Obama and Edwards Oppose Mukasey; Where's Hillary Clinton?

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 10:15 AM PDT

For months, Barack Obama and John Edwards have been trying to find issues that separate them from Hillary Clinton. On the Iraq war, HRC's strategy has been to provide neither of her main challengers much maneuvering room. Like them, she wants out. There may be differences in rhetoric or positioning. Edwards calls for an immediate pullout of 40,000 or more troops; Obama has urged withdrawing one or two brigades a month; Clinton has not been so specific. But these distinctions have not yet allowed Obama or Edwards to turn the war into an issue of traction.

Now comes Michael Mukasey. This morning, both Edwards and Obama announced they oppose his nomination as attorney general. Mukasey was once a shoo-in for the job, (If you Google "shoo-in," the third item that appears is a New York Times story on Mukasey. Literally.) But the judge has run into problems by refusing to state whether he considers waterboarding torture. In doing so, he is joining the Bush administration's word game. George W. Bush declares he doesn't torture, but he and his crew refuse to define torture. Though much of the world considers waterboarding to be torture, the Bush aides won't state if it's included in their definition of torture. So it seems Bush might well be saying "we don't torture" while thinking "waterboarding ain't torture." Mukasey also got into trouble during his confirmation hearing for essentially endorsing the administration's view that Bush is above the law when Bush determines that the Constitution allows him to be above the law.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Blackwater Tosses Local Reporters From Town Meeting

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 8:37 AM PDT

Blackwater USA likes to think of itself as a good neighbor. Last Thursday evening, the company hosted a community meeting at its 7,000-acre compound in Moyock, North Carolina. The twice annual event, organized by Blackwater President Gary Jackson, is meant to update neighbors about the firm's activities and allow local citizens to air complaints about Blackwater's impact on the surrounding community.

Sounds great, right? Well, in typical Blackwater fashion, the meeting—which focused solely on hyper-local issues like noise pollution and traffic congestion—was closed to reporters. No national security-related topics were discussed, nor were the company's activities in Iraq, but nevertheless reporters from Norfolk television station WTKR were turned away at the compound's front gate. According to a report on WTKR's website, several local citizens were also given the boot "because they did not live in neighborhoods next door to Blackwater." Blackwater reportedly publicized the meeting with a small advertisement in several local newspapers. Responding to criticism that it did not do enough to encourage local turnout, the company has pledged to advertise future meetings more aggressively.

Pirates, Somali Territory, and Hijacked Benzene on the Golden Mori

| Mon Oct. 29, 2007 9:56 PM PDT

When will the presidential candidate stop dodging the issue of piracy on the high seas? We need to know how they will deal with situations like this.

Does Obama Need a New Issue to Catch Clinton?

| Mon Oct. 29, 2007 4:41 PM PDT

obama_clinton.jpg

Over at the Washington Monthly, Kevin Drum is arguing that the only thing that is going to pull Barack Obama even with Hillary Clinton is a brand new issue that catches Clinton off-guard. Obama's current plan of intensifying his attacks on Clinton, within the realm of commonly discussed issues, isn't going to work because, in Drum's words, there's "no there there." That is, the differences between Obama and Clinton aren't substantial enough to get anyone excited.

So what does Drum suggest? "Propose that the United States unilaterally offer to reopen its embassy in Tehran. Ditto for Cuba and North Korea." Or, "Propose a specific list of Bush administration executive orders that he would rescind." The first would get Obama killed by every Democratic contender, TV pundit, and foreign policy establishment wonk. The legitimacy of those three groups aside, the gain here is dubious and the price is simply too heavy. The second idea is a darn good one, and I wouldn't be surprised if all the Democratic candidates do something similar in time.

Rudy and Authoritarianism

| Mon Oct. 29, 2007 3:55 PM PDT

This New Republic article on the origins of Rudy Giuliani's authoritarian instincts (hint: it developed long before he met the near-fascists he calls his foreign policy advisers), has a passage that strongly suggests America's Mayor is really George Bush Lite. Check it out:

Giuliani's seemingly insatiable appetite for authority was evident, first and foremost, in the way he ran his administration. Obsessed, as always, with loyalty, he demanded that power be centralized in his hands and that he receive credit for any of the administration's achievements. Even the Department of Environmental Protection's daily reports on the water level in the reservoir had to be cleared through Giuliani's press office before being released. He also replaced Dinkins-era officials with loyalists, some of whom had little preparation for their jobs. Tony Carbonetti, the grandson of Harold Giuliani's friend, was put in charge of the Office of Appointments, even though his previous experience consisted mostly of running a bar in Boston. According to Kirtzman, "one agency estimated that, of patronage hires, 60 percent were qualified, 20 percent had no experience, and 20 percent were 'dirtbags.' "

Placing loyalty above merit? Check and check. Unqualified losers that lack qualifications in high-level positions? Check. Altering scientific reports for political ends? Check.

The Rise and Fall of Lyndon LaRouche

| Mon Oct. 29, 2007 3:05 PM PDT

larouche.jpg If you've always been confused by the Lyndon LaRouche supporters who hand you pamphlets when you coming out of the subway (anyway subway in America, it feels), you should check out Avi Klein's article in the Washington Monthly. Those pamphlets, for many decades, have been the lifeblood of a bizarre movement that has been as ineffective as it has been tenacious.

In the almost forty years since its inception, despite spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a week in operations and annually printing millions of books and magazines, the LaRouche operation has had no significant effect on American politics. It is remarkable in its impotence.
Despite the unrelenting loyalty of his followers, LaRouche has never come remotely close to being elected president. In fact, no LaRouche cadre has been elected to office at any level higher than school board. Nor have his economic theories attained any kind of recognition. The LaRouche-Riemann Method, an economic model that LaRouche calls "the most accurate method of economic forecasting in existence," has gone unnoticed by the social science indexes. Many former members admit to not understanding it.
In one perverse way, of course, the movement did work. For thirty years, Ken Kronberg printed, and all the other members edited and distributed, everything that LaRouche wrote, whether anybody understood it or not. If, in the late hours of the night, LaRouche determined that 50,000 copies of his latest essay on the Treaty of Westphalia needed to be distributed around the country, his followers did their best to oblige.

But no longer. The LaRouche movement is on its last legs. The 2008 election will be the first in 32 years in which LaRouche does not run for president. Share your LaRouche stories in the comments.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

A New Twist on "Sleeping It Off"?

| Mon Oct. 29, 2007 11:34 AM PDT

Late last night, a fatal car accident forced the closure of the Capital Beltway, the major highway that loops around Washington D.C. According to the Washington Post, when police reopened the roadway a few hours later, they discovered several cars occupied by drunk people who had passed out while waiting for police to clear the accident scene. They were hauled off to jail for driving while intoxicated. Clearly all those "Who's Your Bud?" ads aren't doing the job...

Bush White House Outdoes Rose Mary Woods

| Mon Oct. 29, 2007 10:25 AM PDT

Rose Mary Woods, Richard Nixon's White House secretary, only managed to hide eighteen and a half minutes of her boss's secretly tape-recorded conversations. The National Security Archive, a nonprofit outfit, says that the Bush White House deleted at least 5 million email records it should have kept. The Archive and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington have filed lawsuits that aim to recover the missing emails. (See Dan Schulman's piece on "The Emails the White House Doesn't Want You to See.")

Might this mass of data be a treasure trove of the administration's dark secrets? No one will know unless these lawsuits uncover the missing emails. On Friday, the Archive filed a motion requesting expedited discovery against the Executive Office of the President to determine what emails are missing from the White House email system and backup tapes. In a press release put out today, Archive General Counsel Meredith Fuchs says, "The pressing need for the information arises out of troubling representations by the EOP and its components about its document preservation obligations and the location of its backup tapes. We need information so we can take steps to preserve all possible sources of e-mails deleted from the White House servers."

Here's how the Archive recaps the legal case:

The Archive filed this case on September 5, 2007, against the Executive Office of the President (EOP) and its components seeking to recover at least 5 million federal e-mail records improperly deleted by the EOP. After the government failed to provide adequate assurances that backups and copies of the missing e-mail would be preserved throughout this litigation, on October 11, 2007, CREW filed a motion for a temporary restraining order against the White House defendants in its case. A hearing in CREW's case was held before Magistrate Judge Facciola on October 17, 2007. Magistrate Judge Facciola issued a Report and Recommendation on October 19, 2007, advising the Court to grant a temporary restraining order. The government has filed objections to Magistrate Judge Facciola's Report and Recommendation.

In other words, the Bush administration is doing what it can to dodge its pursuers. CREW notes,

The White House objected to the entry of any order [to preserve email records during the litigation], despite its refusal to give adequate assurances that all necessary back-up copies of the millions of deleted emails are being preserved, and objected to that part of the order that requires the White House to maintain back-up copies in a manner that makes them usable.

Bottom line: the White House is refusing to state what was lost and is refusing to vow it will preserve records that might be needed to recover what was lost. Rose Mary Woods would be impressed.

Check In on the Iowa Polling: Huckabee Up, Edwards Down

| Mon Oct. 29, 2007 8:29 AM PDT

With both Iowa caucuses (the Republican and the Democratic) now firmly entrenched on January 3rd, let's take a look at some poll numbers.

According to a University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll, Mike Huckabee is a legitimate top-tier candidate in Iowa. He is now in third place (actually a statistical tie for second) with 12.8 percent. Rudy Giuliani has 13.1 percent, and the frontrunner, Mitt Romney aka Mr. Fantastic, has 36.2 percent. Romney has similarly huge leads in all the early states. Worth noting: (1) In August, Huckabee polled at two percent in the same poll. (2) Huckabee has spent $1.7 million on his campaign while Mr. Fantastic has spent $53.6 million, an object lesson in the limited power of money in politics. Who knew?

On the Democratic side, John Edwards has slipped a bit. His 20 percent support in Iowa represents a six point drop since August. Hillary Clinton tops the field with 28.9 percent and Obama places second with 26.6 percent. It's too bad John Edwards doesn't have this hilarious/awesome South Carolina mojo going for him in Iowa. I think that would win over a lot of caucus-goers.

Update: Here's an even more remarkable fact, considering the money disparity between Huckabee and Romney: Huckabee is actually beating Romney, though just barely, in a national Rasmussen poll. Maybe the Log Cabin Republicans are more effective that we know.

First Lady Elected President

| Mon Oct. 29, 2007 7:52 AM PDT

fernandez_clinton.jpg

The one on the left, not the one on the right. Early results from yesterday's Argentinian presidential election show that current first lady Cristina Fernandez will be the next president. Fernandez will be Argentina's first elected female head of state.

Fernandez is married to President Nestor Kirchner, who oversaw Argentina's emergence from financial crisis. The challenge of her presidency will be to capitalize on the stability her husband's term brought to the country.

Some are worried that a political dynasty, obviously already in place, could get out of control: Kirchner is eligible to take over at the end of his wife's term in 2011. Argentina has a history of spousal politics. Juan Perón was president from 1946-1955 and 1973-1974. His second wife, the famous Eva Perón, almost ran for vice president in 1951, and his third wife, Isabel Perón, took over the presidency after her husband's death. She was ousted in a military coup less that two years later.