Mojo - June 2008

McCain Campaign Responds to the Obama/Clinton Unity Event. Kind Of

| Fri Jun. 27, 2008 4:11 PM EDT

When a presidential campaign wants to counter a big media push from its opponent, it tends to trot out surrogates with relevant experience or connections. When John McCain toured the everglades, for example, the Obama campaign put Florida's Democratic senator, Bill Nelson, on a conference call with reporters. The national press cared little that Nelson was the particular person voicing the Obama campaign's talking points. But the local papers were sure to give Nelson's anti-McCain arguments a more prominent place in their stories about McCain's visit because of Nelson's importance.

So it was real head-scratcher when, after Senators Clinton and Obama spoke Friday afternoon in Unity, New Hampshire, the McCain campaign held a conference call with former Acting Governor of Massachusetts Jane Swift.

New Hampshire has two Republican Senators, Judd Gregg and John Sununu. Either one could have devoted twenty minutes to a call. After all, a talented politician could have done this call in his or her sleep — Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton may have hosted a "unity" event in New Hampshire today, but it is John McCain who has a real history of working across party lines to deliver real results for Americans. Any questions?

It is particularly confusing because Jane Swift was wildly unpopular as governor. She was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1998 and took over the top spot when the Governor was made an ambassador in 2001. Swift basically spent two years alienating people and making ill-advised decisions. She used a State Police helicopter to fly home to Western Massachusetts. She asked staffers to take vacation days to help her move. She had staffers spend unpaid time babysitting her kids and running errands for her. At a certain point, college newspapers were calling for her to resign. When Mitt Romney returned to Massachusetts with national ambitions, the Republican Party cleared Swift out and gave Romney the chance to win the governor's seat, which he did.

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Where's Your Economic Stimulus Check?

| Fri Jun. 27, 2008 3:02 PM EDT

However my liberal friends and I may have tsk'd the Bush administration for claiming that $600 checks would save America, we broke liberals sure were excited to get our hands on that money. Congress passed the Economic Stimulus Act in February, giving the IRS a couple months to get payments to some 130 million taxpayers when it was already in the middle of filing season, and giving some 130 millions taxpayers reason to start freaking out about when—when?!—they were going to get their supplement. Thus, I wasn't shocked when I called to do just that and a recording told me that the IRS is currently experiencing heavy call volume and led me though an automated menu that ultimately told me to keep my pants on for three more weeks, and hung up. I had to wonder: How bad must the ESA suck for the IRS?

Pretty bad, according to testimony of national taxpayer advocate Nina E. Olson before the House last week. The IRS hauled ass to develop new programming code, create new pages and a stimulus calculator on its website, mail notices to more than 100 million taxpayers, mail information packages to 20 million more, develop outreach initiatives for seniors, and staff 700 walk-in sites in a "Super Saturday" assistance bonanza. By the first week of June, the IRS had received 27.7 million calls concerning economic stimulus payments. For that same week, call attempts were up 279 percent versus the same period last year. The level of service on the economic stimulus hotline was 30 percent. To deal, the IRS has shifted so many employees from account management and collections that collections will be reduced by $565 million.

Olson worried about the effects of delays and exceptions on taxpayers in her testimony, but admitted that, overall, the IRS is doing a pretty amazing job. Only 1,500 economic stimulus checks have been transmitted in the wrong bank account. About 350,000 people didn't get the additional funds for their dependents. About 20 million taxpayers who purchased refund anticipation loans or checks will get their checks tardily. Even those errors, the IRS says, will be rectified by mid-July. According to the IRS Web schedule, my check would be "mailed no later than (and received a few days after)" May 16. The agency sent me a letter on June 9 saying that I could expect to receive it by June 13. I called fruitlessly a few days after that, and my check came shortly after. So where's your check? It's probably coming. Keep your pants on for three more weeks.

Hypocrisy Meter Explodes

| Fri Jun. 27, 2008 2:46 PM EDT

If you were to identify the two senators least qualified to take bold action in defense of marriage, who would they be? Well, no matter what side of the aisle you're on, you'd probably point to the guy who was caught trying to have gay sex in an airport bathroom and the guy accused of being a serial john, right? It's hard to deny that they are the two members of the Senate who have done the most to wreck their own marriages.

Well, it's funny how things work. Ten senators have introduced what they call the "Marriage Protection Amendment." It would, if passed, change the federal constitution to define marriage as a "union of a man and a woman." And lo and behold, Larry Craig and David Vitter are two of the ten sponsoring senators. No one in the Republican leadership pulled them aside and said, "Hey guys, why don't you sit this one out? You know, for the sake of our credibility."

If conservatism isn't dead by 2009, irony will finish it off.

Hey, Just FYI - Afghanistan Is Going Really Poorly

| Fri Jun. 27, 2008 11:58 AM EDT

According to CNN, the number of foreign forces killed in Afghanistan in the month of June has reached 39. That's the highest monthly toll since our 2001 invasion of that country.

Obama, Clinton Slowly Coming Together, or Cash Heals All Wounds

| Fri Jun. 27, 2008 11:13 AM EDT

Is anyone surprised? This is how you make friends in Washington.

Senators Obama and Clinton met yesterday and came away with clear messages for their respective supporters. Obama said: Dear donors, please help Sen. Clinton retire her campaign debt. I will lead the way by writing a $2,300 check to her, and will have my wife do the same.

Clinton had the natural response: Dear donors, we must elect Barack Obama. Please donate to him.

And with that, everything is peachy. Conversations about Clinton as VP, or a Clinton surrogate as VP, have been tabled for a later date, or perhaps forever. The pair will campaign together today in the town of Unity, New Hampshire. Both the candidate and the ex-candidate are insisting they expect to have a wonderful time. It was that simple.

Arnold Has Had Enough of Your Offshore Drilling Nonsense

| Thu Jun. 26, 2008 6:00 PM EDT

Not all environmentally friendly Republicans get along. Here's California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) at the Florida Climate Change Summit in Miami, hosted by Governor Charlie Crist (also R), who recently made a strong bid to save the everglades:

"Politicians have been throwing around all kinds of ideas in response to the skyrocketing energy prices, from the rethinking of nuclear power to pushing biofuels and more renewables and ending the ban on offshore drilling, it goes on and on the list. But, anyone who tells you this will lower our gas prices anytime soon is blowing smoke."

Haha, whoops. John McCain supports offshore drilling because it will help Americans psychologically with high gas prices, and Gov. Schwarzenegger's host, Gov. Crist, recently switched his position to match the party's nominee. For more on offshore drilling, uh, read MoJoBlog.

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House Judiciary Committee To Subpoena Mukasey

| Thu Jun. 26, 2008 3:43 PM EDT

Rep. John Conyers is the quintessential congressional Democrat. He's polite and gracious and knows how things work on the Hill. For the past year, he's been patiently sending off a variety of polite and gracious letters to Attorney General Michael Mukasey asking if, please, he wouldn't mind handing over to the House Judiciary Committee a bunch of documents related to various investigations it's conducting on such topics as the New Hampshire phone jamming case or the enforcement record of the Justice Department's civil rights division. Not so graciously, Mukasey has all but told the elder statesman to blow away.

So in May, Conyers got serious and told Mukasey that if he didn't respond to some of these document requests by the 16th, Conyers was going to have to issue a subpoena. The 16th came and went and still no documents. Conyers sent one last letter on June 18 making basically the same request, and once again, Mukasey ignored him. So now Conyers, it seems, is going to make good on his threat. The subcommittee on commercial and administrative law, chaired by Rep. Linda Sanchez, voted today to authorize the full Judiciary Committee to issue the subpoenas, the first step in forcing Justice to be overseen by Congress. Sanchez said in a statement, "The Department of Justice is trying to run out the clock on congressional investigations of possible misconduct. We have taken this step because the Department has indicated that it will not voluntarily comply with Congress' constitutionally mandated oversight role. There are questions in various investigations that the American people deserve to have answered."

Yoo and Addington Visit Congress, Say Nothing

| Thu Jun. 26, 2008 3:29 PM EDT

Today's House Judiciary Committee questioning of John Yoo and David Addington, architects of the Bush Administration's interrogation policies, was not impressive.

Yoo was a deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel and Addington was and is Dick Cheney's consigliere. They were present at the formation of the administration's policies on which interrogation tactics are permissible and which are not, and they have spent the six or seven years since revisiting, studying, and defending those policies. Some of the congressmen questioning them weren't even in Congress when the policies were formed, and none of them have focused on these issues full-time.

As a result, the questioning was at times laughably one-sided. Addington often showed his questioners little respect, and deliberately provided long and unnecessary citations to chew up their allotted time. Despite his reputation as a whip smart lawyer, he repeatedly claimed to not remember certain key meetings or events. Yoo, either because he has a greater sense of shame or because he is simply a less artful participant in the hearings dance, would admit that he did know certain things but that he couldn't specify them because the Department of Justice had prohibited him in advance for doing so.

White House Won't Read Emails About Global Warming

| Thu Jun. 26, 2008 1:55 PM EDT

What does the White House do when you send it an email about the need to control CO2 emissions? Refuse to read the email, of course. If you still need convincing that our country is run by toddlers, head on over to The Blue Marble and read all about it.

Supreme Court Overturns DC Handgun Ban

| Thu Jun. 26, 2008 12:28 PM EDT

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So much for that vaunted era of good will on the Roberts court. The media have been suggesting all year that after all its splintered, contentious decisions in 2007, the Supreme Court's conservative majority has been working hard to find some common ground with the liberals and to just get along better for the good of the country. The story line seemed to hold up all term, as the court issued one 6-3 or 7-1 decision after another. But today, the court issued a whopper of a 5-4 decision that split entirely on ideological grounds. Saving the biggest case for last, the court ended the term by releasing its opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the court upheld a lower court ruling invalidating the District's strict ban on handgun ownership.

The case was unusual in large part because the court hasn't ruled on a Second Amendment case in 70 years, but also because the Solicitor General—the legal arm of the Bush administration at the court—supported the District, while the Vice President entered into the case on his own to recommend overturning the city's gun ban. During the oral arguments in the spring, the justices spent a great deal of time mulling over whether early settlers in this country would have needed guns to protect themselves from grizzly bears or for hunting, a sign that the right to bear arms extended beyond the well-regulated militia identified in the language of the Second Amendment. So it's no surprise that hunting figures prominently in the majority opinion, written by Justice Scalia, who has, of course, spent a great deal of time hunting with the vice president.