Mojo - March 2008

Mike Huckabee Seems Like a Reasonable Dude

| Thu Mar. 20, 2008 2:22 PM PDT

huckabee-hands.jpg No, not on AIDS patients or environmentalism. He's pretty nutty on that. I mean on the importance of race, pastors, and surrogates in a campaign:

HUCKABEE: [Obama] made the point, and I think it's a valid one, that you can't hold the candidate responsible for everything that people around him may say or do. You just can't. Whether it's me, whether it's Obama...anybody else. But he did distance himself from the very vitriolic statements.
Now, the second story. It's interesting to me that there are some people on the left who are having to be very uncomfortable with what Louis Wright said, when they all were all over a Jerry Falwell, or anyone on the right who said things that they found very awkward and uncomfortable years ago. Many times those were statements lifted out of the context of a larger sermon. Sermons, after all, are rarely written word for word by pastors like Reverend Wright, who are delivering them extemporaneously, and caught up in the emotion of the moment. There are things that sometimes get said, that if you put them on paper and looked at them in print, you'd say "Well, I didn't mean to say it quite like that."

That explains why he wouldn't release his sermons to us. More Huck after the jump. Plus video.

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Lessig Launches "Change Congress" Reform Effort

| Thu Mar. 20, 2008 1:13 PM PDT

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"Just because there's no personal corruption does not mean that this institution is independent. It doesn't mean that there's no institutional corruption."

That's how Stanford Law Professor and Creative Commons founder Larry Lessig described the U.S. Congress at an event at the National Press Club today where he alleged that Congress "is driven by interests that ought not to be driving it." Lessig is far from the first person to bemoan the influence of money in Washington politics, and he acknowledged as much in his lecture. But he is offering a new, well-thought-out way of tackling a problem that he says causes government to consistently make the wrong decision in "easy cases," where the proper course of action is obvious. (Lessig pointed to copyright terms, nutrition guidelines, and global warming as three examples of "easy cases" Congress gets wrong).

Lessig's new group, "Change Congress", will try to "leverage and amplify" the work of the existing government reform movement. Run by Lessig and Howard Dean/John Edwards campaign manager Joe Trippi, Change Congress will use an internet-centered model similar to that of the incredibly successful Creative Commons project Lessig founded in 2001. (Creative Commons uses the internet to give artists and content creators an easy way to clarify how they want copyright to apply to their works. And it's how MotherJones.com and websites can license so many great flickr.com photos for free.)

Day Nine: No Straight Talk from McCain on Parsley's Call for Destroying Islam

| Thu Mar. 20, 2008 1:12 PM PDT

Still nothing.

It's been over a week since this site broke the news that John McCain campaigned with (and accepted the endorsement of) a televangelist who has called for eradicating Islam, and McCain has not publicly renounced, rejected, denounced or disavowed the Reverend Rod Parsley, who is an important player in Ohio politics. McCain's campaign did tell Fox News that McCain does not agree with all of Parsley's views. But that's not much of a response to Parsley's call for a holy war to destroy the "false religion" of Islam. One could argue that Jeremiah Wright never went that far—and look what Barack Obama had to go through (justifiably).

McCain's campaign press office refuses to respond to a request for comment on this. He is trying to duck and cover. Not much courage there.

McCain May Actually Not Know Sunnis from Shiites

| Thu Mar. 20, 2008 12:39 PM PDT

mccain_closeup_250x200.jpg The blogosphere poked some fun a couple days ago when McCain said dominantly Shiite Iran was aiding dominantly Sunni al Qaeda and had to be corrected by his traveling buddy Joe Lieberman.

But I'm starting to wonder if McCain simply doesn't have a strong grasp of the subject matter. He said it twice at the March 18 press conference where he was corrected by Lieberman. He made the same assertion last month, and said it on the radio on March 17. And to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the war, he sent out a statement (likely written by his staff) that appears to repeat the claim.

The McCain campaign's explanation is that McCain "misspoke" at the press conference with Lieberman. I'm starting to seriously doubt that. But what's the actual explanation? McCain can't possibly be so ignorant of foreign affairs that he thinks Iran and al Qaeda are in bed together, can he? After this many years in the Senate? Perhaps he was having a series of what my parents call "senior moments."

For a man who has staked his entire campaign on Iraq and his understanding of foreign policy, this is bizarre.

Pennsylvania Voters: Not So Comfortable With Obama Anymore

| Thu Mar. 20, 2008 9:08 AM PDT

The media elites loved Barack Obama's "Black and More Than Black" speech. They went bananas. They thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Pennsylvania voters? Not so convinced.

More than a dozen interviews Wednesday found voters unmoved by Obama's plea to move beyond racial divisions of the past. Despite baring himself with extraordinarily personal reflections on one of the most toxic issues of the day, a highly unusual move for a politician running for national office, the debate inside taverns and beauty shops here had barely moved beyond outrage aimed at the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Obama's refusal to "disown" his longtime pastor.
A day after the speech, local residents were left wondering whether Obama was candid in the last week when he said he hadn't heard any of Wright's most objectionable remarks, but then said Tuesday that he had heard "controversial" remarks while sitting in the pews.

Much more after the jump...

John and Joe Travel the Middle East

| Thu Mar. 20, 2008 8:18 AM PDT

Good times! John McCain and Joe Lieberman are on a road trip through the Middle East and are continuing their pattern of gaffes. This one is not as serious as the Sunni/Shia mix up, but it is awfully amusing.

In Israel yesterday, NBC's Lauren Appelbaum reports, Lieberman once again intervened when McCain made an incorrect reference about the Jewish holiday Purim -- by calling the holiday "their version of Halloween here."
McCain made the incorrect statement during a press conference with Defense Minister Ehud Barak after touring the Israeli city of Sderot to view building damaged by Hamas rocket fire. McCain was discussing the numerous rock attacks on the city. "Nine hundred rocket attacks in less than three months, an average of one every one to two hours. Obviously this puts an enormous and hard to understand strain on the people here, especially the children. As they celebrate their version of Halloween here, they are somewhere close to a 15-second warning, which is the amount of time they have from the time the rocket is launched to get to safety. That's not a way for people to live obviously."
Purim is not the equivalent of an Israeli Halloween, Appelbaum notes. The holiday -- although a joyous one -- commemorates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from mass execution. When Sen. Lieberman had a chance to speak at the press conference, he placed the blame of the mistake on himself. "I had a brief exchange with one of the mothers whose children was in there in a costume for Purim," Lieberman, who is Jewish and celebrates the holiday, said. "And it's my fault that I said to Senator McCain that this is the Israeli version of Halloween. It is in the sense because the kids dress up and it's a very happy holiday and actually it is in the sense that the sweets are very important of both holidays."

I hope someone makes a movie out of these two. The very underrated mid-90s goofball comedy My Fellow Americans could be the inspiration. Except instead of the hilarious misadventures of two old, curmudgeony ex-presidents, it would be two old, curmudgeony wanna-be presidents.

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Obama Spokesman Jabs McCain on Al Qaeda-Iran Gaffe

| Wed Mar. 19, 2008 5:46 PM PDT

By now you're sick of hearing about John McCain's gaffe in Jordan—although definitely worth the attention, I'd argue—but this quote from the Obama campaign is worth passing along. From campaign spokesman, Bill Burton: "We wish the McCain campaign well as they try to figure out the difference between Iran and Al Qaeda." That's pretty funny right? Only it's not so much funny as it is scary that a man, who may very well not have more of a clue than our current commander in chief, might one day replace him. So, definitely not funny ha-ha.

Cheney on America's Opposition to the War: "So?"

| Wed Mar. 19, 2008 11:51 AM PDT

Vice President Cheney took to ABC to call the war a "major success" and to dismiss the will of the American public:

CHENEY: On the security front, I think there's a general consensus that we've made major progress, that the surge has worked. That's been a major success.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Two-third of Americans say it's not worth fighting.
CHENEY: So?
RADDATZ So? You don't care what the American people think?
CHENEY: No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.

While we're contemplating whether we still live in a representative democracy, let's take a look at some long-term Pew polls that illustrate exactly what the American people think.

The Peace Movement and Darcy Burner

| Wed Mar. 19, 2008 10:49 AM PDT

iraq-evacuation250x200.jpg This week, as anti-war activists descended on Washington to mark the 5th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, key members of the peace movement gathered at Take Back America, the annual progressive convention, to discuss their next moves in their ongoing mission to end the war. Up until now, the peace movement has relied on fiery rhetoric and tactics, including large-scale protests and congressional pressure campaigns, that have so far failed to produce the desired results. In part, this may be because the peace movement has always known when it wants to get out of Iraq ("Now!"), but not how it intends to do so.

Speaking at a Take Back America panel on Monday, Leslie Cagan, co-chair of United for Peace and Justice, stressed the need to "mount serious opposition" to Congress' next authorization of funding for the war. "Constant public protest activities," Cagan said, are needed to build pressure on the new president and Congress. She also said that continued counter-recruiting efforts are needed to curb the military's ability to wage war.

But these time-worn protest strategies haven't worked. Congress has never seriously considered denying any of the president's many war funding requests, and troops levels in Iraq today are near their highest point.

Nita Chaudhury of MoveOn.org said that the peace movement needs make it clear to Republicans that voting to continue the war won't just imperil their jobs, but send their political movement into a "death spiral" that would "doom it for a decade." Evidence of the death spiral's imminence is hard to find: The economy is outpacing the war as the most important issue in every primary, and the vehemently pro-war John McCain is polling evenly with Democrats in the presidential race.

Tom Swan, the national coordinator of the Iraq/Recession Campaign, explained that his coalition will try to convince the public that the war is causing America's economic ills. What Swan was missing was persuasive data showing that the link between the war and the recession was real, and not just an opportunistic PR tactic by the peace movement. Swan is supported by a Nobel-winning economist, but serious questions remain.

In all, five anti-war leaders spoke during the Take Back America panel discussion and not one of them devoted more than a half-sentence to the surge, which any reality-based observer would admit seriously complicates the anti-war movement's efforts to generate popular opposition to the war. And none made any mention of how America ought to withdraw.

But then Darcy Burner spoke.

Replaying the Iraq War's Greatest Hits, Five Years On

| Wed Mar. 19, 2008 4:01 AM PDT
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It's been five years since we headed down the rabbit hole to Iraq. Reflecting on this milestone while visiting Baghdad a couple of days ago, Dick Cheney declared that "we've come a long way" since the days of "Mission Accomplished," describing the war as "a difficult, challenging, but nonetheless successful endeavor." Which in the topsy-turvy, up-is-down world of Iraqspeak means that we are still horribly, gut-wrenchingly screwed.

To commemorate the war's fifth birthday, here's a brief collection of some of Mother Jones' coverage of the challenges and difficulties of the past few years. Or, as the vice president might put it, the Iraq War's greatest hits: