Mojo - May 2008

Why the John Edwards Endorsement Doesn't Matter That Much

| Thu May 15, 2008 11:53 AM EDT

edwards-obama-endorsement-250x200.jpg

There is a lot of talk among political observers that John Edwards' better-late-than-never endorsement of Barack Obama will help Obama among working-class (read: white) voters, as Edwards extends his populist mantle to the near-presumptive Democratic nominee. Such talk is overstated, for Obama won't need Edwards in the fall to prove he's the populist in the race. With John McCain as the Republican nominee, Obama will have little competition in the most-populist category.

Too many commentators are, for the moment, still stuck in an Obama-versus-Clinton framework. That is so three-days-ago. The race is essentially over. Obama no longer needs to do better than Hillary Clinton among Democratic working-class voters in Democratic primaries. Clinton cannot overcome his lead in pledged delegates, and Obama has surpassed her in superdelegate commitments. (Edwards' endorsement is indeed one more signal that it's curtains for Clinton, and the handful of delegates pledged to him presumably will trot over to Obama's column.) So baring any unforeseen calamities or drama, Obama is it.

That means he no longer has to worry about having more populist appeal to Democratic voters than Clinton. His concern is McCain and attracting blue-collar and white voters in the general election against the Republican nominee. Sure, Edwards can help in that mission. But in some ways, this task is easier.

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Sudan: An Example of Why Cindy McCain Must Release Her Tax Returns

| Thu May 15, 2008 10:49 AM EDT

John McCain has been critical of China for its willingness to do business in Sudan. "China needs Sudan's oil," he has said. "The politics of oil impede the global progress of our values, and restrains governments from acting on the most basic impulses of human decency."

Turns out it's not just China that ignores Sudan's humanitarian atrocities in order to make a profit.

Cindy McCain, whose husband has been a critic of the violence in Sudan, sold off more than $2 million in mutual funds whose holdings include companies that do business in the African nation.
The sale on Wednesday came after The Associated Press questioned the investments in light of calls by John McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, for international financial sanctions against the Sudanese leadership.

Bush in Israel

| Thu May 15, 2008 1:32 AM EDT

President and Laura Bush attended an event in Jerusalem last night to celebrate sixty years of friendship between the US and Israel. The event was hosted by Israeli president Shimon Peres and honorary conference co-chairs Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, the Las Vegas casino mogul and conservative philanthropist and his Israeli physician wife. Among the evening's festivities, an interpretative dance number to "You've Got a Friend," Cold War style video interludes documenting US support to Israel at key moments since its creation, Israeli and Maryland children's choirs singing "Let It Be," and speeches by among others Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, who is the target of a current corruption probe.

If Bush was looking for support in his belief that public opinion is fleeting but that history will be the ultimate judge of his presidency, he found it in spades last night here, where he is widely viewed as a determined leader who understood the terror threat and was willing to act to meet its challenge. Applause interrupted his speech -- replete with famliiar references to remaining steadfast against terror and advancing human liberty -- as well as the speeches of those paying tribute to him. Among others in attendance at the conference, Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, former Clinton Middle East hand Dennis Ross, former Clinton era US ambassadors to Israel Martin Indyk and Daniel Kurtzer, an Obama advisor, former Czech president Vaclav Havel, former British prime minister and Quartet leader Tony Blair, Google's Sergei Brin and media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Though Bush was described as among the most supportive US presidents of Israel, some Israeli security officials have questioned not his good intentions toward their nation but the pragmatic outcomes of his policies, particularly as Hezbollah demonstrates its growing strength in Lebanon over the US-backed Siniora government and Hamas continues to launch rockets from Gaza into the town of Sderot and the city of Ashkelon. The Bush administration pushed Israel and Palestinian moderates to allow Hamas to run in 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections which Hamas then won, and it took over the Gaza strip last year.

John McCain and the Dictator Money Trail

| Thu May 15, 2008 12:16 AM EDT

mccain_closeup_250x200.jpg John McCain will fire you for lobbying for Burma, but he'll still take your money.

Republican operatives Doug Davenport and Doug Goodyear were both quietly released from their duties with the McCain campaign this week when it was revealed that their Washington lobbying firm, DCI Group, had been paid $348,000 to represent Burma's repressive military junta in 2002. McCain's critics noted that top McCain aide Charlie Black has lobbied for authoritarian regimes as nasty or worse than Burma's, raising the question of whether McCain will cut ties with tainted figures only when it is politically expedient for him to do so.

There are other facts in the situation that may prove controversial. The two lobbyists for Burma were also donors to McCain. Doug Goodyear, DCI Group's chief executive and the man McCain had selected to run the GOP national convention, and his wife Carla donated $4,600 to McCain's presidential campaign and $2,500 to McCain's Straight Talk America PAC. Carla Goodyear also donated $1,000 to McCain's 2004 Senate reelection bid. Doug Davenport, the head of DCI Group's lobbying arm and a former regional campaign manager for McCain, and his wife Kelley contributed $6,900 to McCain's presidential campaign and $3,500 to his PAC.

Other DCI Group employees have donated $2,000 to McCain. All told, DCI Group employees and their spouses have sent $20,500 to McCain. McCain fired the two DCI Group executives from his campaign, but will he return their contributions? We called McCain's press office to ask and have not yet received a response. Can it be that McCain is willing to separate himself from lobbyists working for Burma but will cling to their cash?

ACLU Releases New Detainee Docs

| Wed May 14, 2008 5:15 PM EDT

The ACLU got its hands on a bunch of previously withheld documents from the State Department, DoJ, and military officials regarding the treatment of detainees. Of note are a summary (.pdf) of investigations into four detainee deaths (including one where an interrogator bashed in a detainee's head with a stove) and a detailed memorandum (.pdf) from Brittain Mallow, the head of Gitmo's Criminal Investigation Task Force, that spells out in minute detail exactly which interrogation techniques are legal—something the Bush Administration has generally found itself unable to do. According to Mallow, acceptable methods include prolonged interviews, interrupted sleep (as opposed to deprivation), deception, incentives, and props (think photos, not stoves). Unacceptable methods include threats, promises that cannot be kept, unnecessary discomfort, and sensory deprivation.

There's still some gray area—although the prohibition on "discomfort" includes "any form of physical contact designed to cause physical discomfort," it's not clear whether it extends to physical abuse. Nonetheless, Mallow's specificity is a welcome respite from the legal bobbing and weaving we've come to expect from administration lackeys.

(h/t Glenn Greenwald)

—Casey Miner

Not Quite Ringing

| Wed May 14, 2008 4:08 PM EDT

NARAL's endorsement of Barack Obama sounds less than enthused:

"Today, we are proud to put our organization's grassroots and political support behind the pro-choice candidate whom we believe will secure the Democratic nomination and advance to the general election. That candidate is Sen. Obama." — Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America

With NARAL this afternoon and Edwards possibly coming this evening... oh wait, I forgot. The race is already over.

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Contempt in Court

| Wed May 14, 2008 3:18 PM EDT

On Friday, White House lawyers filed a motion in civil court, arguing against the House's own filing last month in its attempt to enforce subpoenas against Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers. As I reported at the time, the White House appears to be arguing that the courts ought to stay out of the fight and let the House use other means of leverage to get the information it seeks from the executive branch.

the Legislative Branch may vindicate its interests without enlisting judicial support: Congress has a variety of other means by which it can exert pressure on the Executive Branch, such as the withholding of consent for Presidential nominations, reducing Executive Branch appropriations, and the exercise of other powers Congress has under the Constitution.

The entire document runs 83 pages. I'll try to get my hands on a copy, to see what other dubious arguments the administration is making.

Compromise in Michigan Draws Closer

| Wed May 14, 2008 2:23 PM EDT

The Obama campaign is now praising a compromise plan created by Michigan's Democratic leaders that would seat the Michigan delegation with 69 delegates for Clinton and 59 delegates for Obama. The Clinton team objects, seeking a full recognition of the January vote (Clinton took 55 percent of the vote in Michigan, "uncommitted" took 40 percent), but if Obama gets the delegates he needs to become the nominee through the superdelegates and the pledged delegates of the other 48 states, he can seat the delegations however he pleases.

What say you, Florida?

24-Hour Prayer: Good Times in Montana

| Wed May 14, 2008 2:15 PM EDT

From the Billings Gazette:

Rather than putting up posters and distributing bumper stickers, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Fischer said he is focusing on prayer.
Fischer, a Lakeside logger and excavator, acknowledged that he and running mate Steve White of Kalispell are running an unconventional campaign.
"We are basically asking people to pray for our state and for our government and that whichever candidates will bring the greatest blessing to Montana and the greatest blessing to God will be the ones that will be elected," Fischer said. "I obviously believe I fit that role, or I wouldn't have run."
...Fischer said he would establish a continuous prayer schedule for Montanans 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People would sign up for time slots and pray for the state regularly.

You can meet the candidate here (he seems like a really, really nice dude!) and learn more about his call to prayer here. Note that this isn't the strangest thing to happen in recent Montanan politics. This is.

Why Clinton Says She's In

| Wed May 14, 2008 12:20 PM EDT

We're running a long blog post today titled "Is Clinton Staying In To Say, 'I Told You So'?" None other than Hillary Clinton has taken a stab at answering. Not surprisingly, her answer is no.

In an email to supporters titled "Why I'm In," Clinton says:

...let me tell you why I'm still running.
I'm in this race for everyone who needs a champion. For the hardworking families who are losing sleep over gas prices and grocery costs and mortgage payments and medical bills -- but who never lose that American can-do spirit and optimism.
I'm in this race for the more than 16 million people like you who have supported me -- for the people who have put their hearts into winning this race. You never gave up on me, and I'll never give up on you.

Then there's a fundraising pitch, then...