Mojo - March 2008

John McCain Needs to Chat With Tommy Franks

| Tue Mar. 25, 2008 11:53 AM EDT

The LA Times catches John McCain dismissing a key criticism of the Iraq war:

"I know of no one who believes attention to Iraq at that point diverted our attention from Tora Bora," McCain said....
"We should have put more boots on the ground there to apprehend [Osama bin Laden]. Everyone agrees. But I have no reason to believe that because we urged attention to Iraq, it had any tactical effect on the battleground."

Tora Bora was where the American military had bin Laden pinned down in late 2001, only to have him escape from its grasp (you can read more here). As Think Progress helpfully points out, then-CENTCOM Commander Tommy Franks, who oversaw the Middle East, had the following reaction to the Bush Administration's instructions in November and December of 2001 to start planning for war in Iraq: "They were in the midst of one war in Afghanistan, and now they wanted detailed planning for another? Goddamn. What the f--k are they talking about?"

Want to know more? Read Plan of Attack. Or The One-Percent Doctrine. Or Cobra II. Planning for a second war while trying to fight the first compromised our effectiveness in both. That's indisputable, no matter what John McCain says.

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Harry Reid, Rainmaker?

| Tue Mar. 25, 2008 11:06 AM EDT

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid insists he's got the whole Democratic race under control. Here's a conversation he had with the Las Vegas Review-Journal last week:

Question: Do you still think the Democratic race can be resolved before the convention?
Reid: Easy.
Q: How is that?
Reid: It will be done.
Q: It just will?
Reid: Yep.
Q: Magically?
Reid: No, it will be done. I had a conversation with Governor Dean (Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean) today. Things are being done.

What? "Things are being done"?

For the record, I asked the Clinton campaign if it knew what Reid was talking about. It didn't. Its response, from top Clinton aide Harold Ickes: "This process needs to play out. There are a number states left to vote." I'll call Reid's office next.

The Clinton Campaign's New Math

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 6:35 PM EDT

clinton.jpg Unless something truly monumental produces lopsided victories for Hillary Clinton in the upcoming primaries, her chances for the Democratic nomination rely on superdelegates overturning the will of Democratic voters. Knowing this, her campaign has regularly identified criteria upon which the superdelegates might choose Clinton over Obama, some of which directly reflect the voters' intent (pledged delegate count, popular vote) and some of which are essentially judgment calls (electability, readiness). The campaign's problem is that the former criteria currently favor Obama and the latter don't lend themselves to a slam dunk consensus. In fact, they have so far been rejected by the majority of Democratic voters, who think electability and readiness are either better found in Obama or are trumped by Obama's ability to usher in change. If superdelegates were to cite Clinton's electability and readiness in order to coronate a nominee, it could drive voters out of the party.

But the Clinton campaign has found a new angle: imaginary electoral college votes. It is sending surrogates out to push the idea that superdelegates should vote for the candidate who would have come out ahead if the primaries were awarding electoral college votes instead of delegates.

White House Destroyed Hard Drives That May Have Contained Missing Emails

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 5:32 PM EDT

The White House has responded to a judge's order asking it to explain why it shouldn't be required to make copies of all of its hard drives to ensure the recovery of missing emails by claiming that many of the relevant hard drives have been destroyed. You read that correctly: the White House position is "We don't have to preserve hard drives containing missing email because we already destroyed them."

Is it Possible to Take Back an Endorsement?

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 4:31 PM EDT

lieberman200.jpg The Day of New London, Connecticut, has an ass-kicking editorial about John McCain's traveling buddy. It's titled, "We Don't Know This Sen. Joe: Sen. Lieberman has been too busy burning bridges to build any."

When The Day endorsed Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman for re-election in November 2006 it was supporting a candidate who demonstrated a history of pragmatic leadership and a willingness to seek bipartisan solutions.
We wonder what happened to that senator....

John McCain Doesn't Know How to Use a Computer (Video)

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 3:56 PM EDT

This video appears to be from at least six weeks ago, but no one has really commented on it. Do we want a commander-in-chief who can't use a computer without assistance?

Washington is full of these guys, and it's so depressing. Larry Craig once said "I've never used the internet" (though we know he was lying). Ted Stevens thinks the internet is a series of tubes. Bush uses "the Google." I can't wait until we have a computer-literate generation of leaders in our Capitol.

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It's Not Just Wall Street That's Happy To See Spitzer Go

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 2:58 PM EDT

Last fall, former New York governor Eliot Spitzer appointed a task force to address the state's high rates of malpractice by hospitals and doctors. The task force was also charged with making recommendations for lowering doctors' med mal premiums, which soared 14 percent last year. The insurance industry and doctors' groups seized the opportunity to press for new restrictions on medical malpractice lawsuits, which they claim would reduce the premiums. As other states have learned, though, such limits usually only result in windfall profits for insurance companies while leaving injured patients with no recourse should their doctor, say, amputate the wrong leg.

Consumer groups in New York had long suspected Spitzer of siding with the doctors on this issue, largely because his brother is a downstate neurosurgeon. Their suspicions were confirmed when Spitzer stacked his medical liability task force with more than 20 representatives from the hospital, medical and insurance industries, while consumer protection and patient safety groups got just three spots. The consumer reps have largely been shut out of the task force deliberations, and despite repeated demands, they've been denied access to the insurance industry data, which supposedly justified the limits on lawsuits. Recently, the consumer members learned from local newspapers that the task force had drafted a major reform proposal that would be released soon. None of them had ever seen it.

Now that Spitzer has resigned, the groups are hoping his replacement, Governor David Patterson, will open up the process. In a letter today, representatives from NYPIRG, the Center for Justice and Democracy, the Center for Medical Consumers and others wrote Patterson, "We refuse to be mere window dressing, to be used as stage props to create the illusion of inclusion, while proposals that affect the life and safety of every health care consumer in our state are drafted in secret. We hope you will redirect the state's efforts towards reducing the deaths and injuries caused by a tiny fraction of the state's physicians, rather than enabling error, negligence, and malpractice to be subsidized by taxpayers."

Presidential Candidates Want Foxes Guarding the Henhouse

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 12:11 PM EDT

In his column today, Paul Krugman notes that former Sen. Phil Gramm, a major advocate for de-regulation of the financial services industry and thus one of the two men perhaps most responsible for the current economic crisis, is John McCain's chief economic adviser.

Aside from Gramm, Krugman's main scapegoat is Alan Greenspan, who Sen. Hillary Clinton now wants to appoint to a "an emergency working group on foreclosures" to "recommend new ways to confront the nation's housing finance troubles," according to the Associated Press. Barack Obama, like Clinton, has received oodles of money from Wall Street. Krugman says those donors "surely believe that they're buying something in return." Let's hope all three candidates are not as beholden to the financial services industry as they seem.

Kristol: Giving McCain a Pass for Campaigning with an Anti-Islam Bigot

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 11:31 AM EDT

If Barack Obama accepted the endorsement of a minister who called for eradicating Judaism, praised that minister, and campaigned with that minister, what would the media reaction be? Would Fox News not go nuts over that--especially if there were video? Would CNN and MSNBC not provide plenty of air time to outraged commentators demanding that Obama denounce this minister and reject his support? Would The New York Times and The Washington Post not devote inches of columns to news stories and columns dissecting the relationship between Obama and the minister and use the occasion for big-think articles probing the relationship between blacks and Jews?

With that in mind, let's turn to an exchange between Chris Wallace and Bill Kristol from this Sunday on Fox News:

WALLACE: With all the talk about Obama and Reverend Wright, I got a bunch of email this past week from viewers who said: "Why don't you ever talk about McCain and the evangelical -- some of the evangelical ministers who have endorsed him?" And let's put up a couple of these: Reverend John Hagee, who has called the Catholic Church a "false cult," and Reverend Rod Parsley, who has attacked Islam and said that Allah was a "demon spirit." Do you think it's fair, Bill, to compare McCain's, quote, "ministers" to Obama's pastor?
KRISTOL: No, because these are just individuals who've endorsed Senator McCain. I think, actually, some of the attacks, especially on Reverend Hagee, are unfair. But leaving that aside, no. This would be like attacking Obama because random individuals in the Democratic Party have endorsed him. Obama and Wright have a close relationship. Obama chose, not just to join Reverend Wright's church, but to stay there over 20 years. And that's what hurts him.

Talk about intellectual honesty--or the lack thereof. Kristol is right (to a degree) that the Obama case and the McCain case are different. Obama had a long and personal relationship with Wright (which, depending on your view, might make the matter better or worse). But McCain, out of political expedience, made common cause with Hagee (a well-known anti-Catholic, who called Catholicism the "great whore" and a "false cult system") and with Parsley, who has called for western Christian nations, in particular the United States, to destroy (literally) the "false religion" of Islam. McCain sought and accepted the endorsement of each of these fundamentalist pastors. He campaigned with Parsley before the Ohio primary and called him a "spiritual guide."

Rising Health Care Costs Killing Wages for Working Americans

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 10:30 AM EDT

doctor-with-patient250x200.jpg The Washington Post has been front-paging some great reporting recently on the economic trials of everyday Americans. Here's another example today, about the impact of rising health care costs:

Employees and employers are getting squeezed by the price of health care. The struggle to control health costs is viewed as crucial to improving wages and living standards for working Americans. Employers are paying more for health care and other benefits, leaving less money for pay increases. Benefits now devour 30.2 percent of employers' compensation costs, with the remaining money going to wages, the Labor Department reported this month. That is up from 27.4 percent in 2000.
"The way health-care costs have soared is unbelievable," said Katherine Taylor, a vice president for Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union. "There are people out here making decisions about whether to keep their lights on or buy a prescription."
Since 2001, premiums for family health coverage have increased 78 percent, according to a 2007 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Premiums averaged $12,106, of which workers paid $3,281, according to the report.

That massive jump in premiums is one reason why, according the Post, "inflation-adjusted median family income has dipped 2.6 percent -- or nearly $1,000 annually since 2000."