Mojo - May 2008

In Case You Forgot John Bolton Is Crazy

| Mon May 5, 2008 4:02 PM EDT

bolton130.jpg He went on Fox News and had this to say about Iran arming militants in Iraq:

"I think this is a case where the use of military force against a training camp to show the Iranians we're not going to tolerate this is really the most prudent thing to do."

More on Bolton, plus video of the quote with the obligatory braindead+militaristic Fox News anchor at, Think Progress.

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Politics, Pandering, and Policy at the Pump: Who Wins?

| Mon May 5, 2008 1:53 PM EDT

hillary-clinton-at-gas-station-250x200.jpg We've made it clear how we feel about the gas tax holiday being proposed by Sens. McCain and Clinton: It's a boondoggle.

Seemingly every economist in America agrees. But the economists are in the wrong subfield of punditry: they look at the relevant numbers, come to a conclusion, and violavoilà — their moment in the spotlight is over. On the other hand, political analysts and campaign correspondents, unburdened by facts, can and have speculated for weeks about a question like which candidate the gas tax kerfuffle helps more. I've avoided entering this discussion, because the only way to comment seriously is to go to Indiana and North Carolina and conduct in-depth conversations with dozens of voters.

But what the hell.

Clinton on Iraq: Got Some Explaining to Do?

| Mon May 5, 2008 1:17 PM EDT

There's a 2005 Face the Nation excerpt floating around the web that makes it look like Hillary Clinton was once sympathetic to John McCain's argument that a long-term occupation of Iraq isn't objectionable as long as American casualties are down.

Senator McCain made the point earlier today, which I agree with, and that is, it's not so much a question of time when it comes to American military presence for the average American; I include myself in this. But it is a question of casualties.
We don't want to see our young men and women dying and suffering these grievous injuries that so many of them have. We've been in South Korea for 50-plus years. We've been in Europe for 50-plus. We're still in Okinawa with respect to protection there coming out of World War II.
You know, we have been in places for very long periods of time. And in recent history, we've made a commitment to Bosnia and Kosovo, and I think what is different is the feeling that we're on a track that is getting better and that we can see how the Iraqi government will begin to assume greater and greater responsibility. The elections were key to that. The training, equipment, equipping and motivating of the Iraqi security forces is key to that. But so is our understanding that if we were to artificially set a deadline of some sort, that would be like a green light to the terrorists, and we can't afford to do that.

Clinton says we've been in South Korea "for 50-plus years," but doesn't explicitly say that she approves of a similar situation in Iraq. She might just be counseling caution to those who, in 2005, had already seen enough of the war. Her argument might be, in other words, "Look, other conflicts have taken decades. Let's be patient."

But this situation does raise new questions Clinton should answer. Did she ever support a 50-year occupation, or think of it as one of many acceptable outcomes? When and why did she switch to her current position?

The Weekly Standard Does Not Have the Democrats' Best Interests At Heart

| Mon May 5, 2008 10:55 AM EDT

Over at the Plank, Chris Orr approvingly excerpts a Weekly Standard article that claims Hillary Clinton is "running a right-wing campaign."

Bad idea. Clinton does attack Obama from the right and does use classic right-wing frames, so I can understand why Orr might see the Standard's point. In fact, he's welcome to try to make the point on his own. But progressives shouldn't use conservatives' arguments as evidence or confirmation. The mouthpieces of the far Right don't make their arguments about internal Democratic politics in good faith. They seek to divide progressives and fuel whatever media meme is most damaging to the Democratic Party at the moment.

As evidence, take a look at what the Standard piece accomplishes. First, it tars Hillary as a do-anything-to-win politician who is willing to change her core identity in a quest for power:

Oh, I Forgot to Mention

| Mon May 5, 2008 10:15 AM EDT

Obama won Guam. It was close. He and Clinton will split the territory's four delegates evenly.

Lawmakers Continue to Push for Investigation of Pentagon Puppets

| Mon May 5, 2008 9:35 AM EDT

Building on the early efforts of Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), forty members of Congress have sent a letter to the Inspector General of the Department of Defense, demanding an investigation of the now-suspended Pentagon puppets scandal. Can't be long before the Waxman gets involved, I suspect.

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RumInt: New Bush Iran Finding?

| Fri May 2, 2008 4:58 PM EDT

Counterpunch's Andrew Cockburn reports today that six weeks ago, Bush signed a new Iran "finding" that expands US aid to opposition groups to the Tehran regime:

Bush's secret directive covers actions across a huge geographic area – from Lebanon to Afghanistan – but is also far more sweeping in the type of actions permitted under its guidelines – up to and including the assassination of targeted officials. This widened scope clears the way, for example, for full support for the military arm of Mujahedin-e Khalq, the cultish Iranian opposition group, despite its enduring position on the State Department's list of terrorist groups.

Chasing down such a potentially explosive report on one of Washington's first balmy Friday afternoons is a challenge. Asked if the report sounded plausible, one Hill source contacted indicated, no, it does not. A second responded, "I have no information to support or refute this article. However, [the report's] credibility is undermined by the notion that a ship commander, during a moment of crisis that only is of several minutes duration, would have the time and luck to reach the CENTCOM head to solicit his advice and feedback during this short window of time."

Will keep chasing. Stay tuned.

McCain Defends Gas Tax Holiday With More Hackery

| Fri May 2, 2008 2:40 PM EDT

john-mccain-pillar.jpg John McCain is apparently getting frustrated trying to defend the base political pander he calls the gas tax holiday. (Typical appraisal from those in the know: "It's about the dumbest thing I've heard in an awful long time from an economic point of view." — Michael Bloomberg) Here's McCain responding to a voter's question:

"You'd think that I was attacking Western civilization as we know it. The special interests [say], 'Oh, my God. This will destroy our transportation system in America. This will have disastrous consequences.' Look, all I think is we ought to give low-income Americans, in particular, a little relief."

Okay, first of all, to suggest that opponents of the gas tax holiday are "special interests" is preposterous. Experts and economists of all ideological types have criticized the gas tax holiday as braindead. Second, the special interests, specifically the oil companies, are cheering the idea. If you take an 18-cent tax off the price of a gallon of gas, you allow the oil companies to add 18 cents per gallon in additional profits. That's why the original criticisms of the McCain version of the gas tax called it a giveaway to the oil companies!

And one other note. John McCain seems to think that the gas tax holiday helps low-income Americans the most because they drive the farthest. In fact, the opposite is true.

Republican Attack Dog Burton to Finally Get Ousted?

| Fri May 2, 2008 1:17 PM EDT

dan_burton.jpg Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana is a different kind of hard core right-winger. Like any loyal Republican, he has the consistent record against abortion and for guns. But Burton takes things a step further, into crazy-land. In 1990, Burton introduced legislation that would impose the death penalty on drug dealers. (He's lucky it didn't pass, because Burton's son would later be arrested for transporting multiple pounds of marijuana across state lines.) When the House passed a measure prohibiting members from accepting gifts and free trips from lobbyists, the vote was 430-1. Burton was the one. Time once reported that Burton thought the Clinton White House bugged his phones, and that he was "so afraid of catching AIDS that he brings his own scissors to the House barbershop and refuses to eat soup at public restaurants."

But his conservativism and his nuttiness aren't what he's known for. Burton is best known as one of the most vicious attack dogs in Congress when Bill Clinton was president. He led the investigation into Democratic fundraising abuse, even though he has his own questions about fundraising ethics. He called the president a "scumbag" and said "no one, regardless of what branch of government they serve, should be allowed to get away with these alleged sexual improprieties," even though he has fathered a child out of wedlock. In 1998, he released edited transcripts of prison audiotape from Webster Hubbell, an act so partisan and sloppy that it brought rebuke from even Newt Gingrich. And the coup de grâce: Burton was so dogged in his pursuit of the Vince Foster allegations that he shot a pumpkin in his backyard with a pistol, to mimic the alleged murder.

And now, finally, it appears Burton may get the boot. The 13-term Congressman, who routinely wins reelection by wide margins, is facing a Republican primary challenger named John McGoff, who, as a member of the National Guard, flew missions into Iraq and Afghanistan as a flight surgeon. McGoff says that he was once an active Burton supporter, but now he's simply had enough. According to the Indianopolis Star, McGoff's plan to put ethics at the center of his campaign is making serious headway among Indiana voters. It helps that Burton, who has drastically outspent his opponent, has more less validated the strategy by spending $190,000 in taxpayers' dollars on constituent mailings that look suspiciously like campaign advertisements.

Perhaps instead of running a pro-ethics campaign, McGoff can run an anti-blockhead campaign.

Perspective, Please

| Fri May 2, 2008 12:47 PM EDT

Can we get a little perspective here? Yes, Jeremiah Wright's statements (and especially his National Press Club performance) damaged Barack Obama. Yes, Obama is a flawed candidate, and he's connected to some sketchy people. But let's be real: the media's portrayal of Obama as the only candidate with questionable associations is ridiculous.

The GOP knows that Obama is still the favorite to win the Democratic nomination. That's why he's being hit so hard right now while Hillary Clinton is getting relatively fair, issue-based questions and other softballs tossed at her — by Bill O'Reilly of all people. But remember when Clinton was the frontrunner? There wasn't so much of a focus on the skeletons in Obama's closet back then. It was all about Hillary. All the old Right-wing smears were flying: Vince Foster. Whitewater. Cattle Futures. They even made a movie about the Democrat's presumptive nominee. It was named after her, but it wasn't flattering.

It is good and generally-followed rule in American politics that we ignore what our enemies abroad say about our foreign policy — it can be safely assumed that they are operating in bad faith. Democrats would also be wise to ignore their rivals' advice about choosing their leaders. Bill Kristol and Karl Rove are many things, but they are not stupid. They will write and say whatever they think serves their party best. Right now that's attacking Obama, who will almost certainly be the Democrats' nominee. But rest assured that you'd be hearing a totally different tune from the Right and its allies in the media if Hillary Clinton was winning.