Mojo - June 2008

Clinton Signaling Strong Interest in VP Slot?

| Tue Jun. 3, 2008 10:26 AM EDT

From CNN:

Sen. Hillary Clinton is poised to deliver a message Tuesday "that she will do whatever it takes" to put a Democrat in the White House — a message that Barack Obama insiders say indicates she would accept an offer to be Obama's running mate if asked.
"In her speech tomorrow night, she will convey the message that first and foremost she is committed to Democrats winning in November and will do whatever she's asked to do," a close friend and adviser of the former first lady, who speaks with her regularly and is privy to her deliberations, told CNN Monday.
"She will do whatever it takes to bring the party together to win and whatever is asked of her to make sure the Republicans are defeated."
That message has been conveyed to the Obama campaign via informal channels, according to Obama insiders who said the message is a signal that she would be willing to serve as his vice president.

What to make of this report from a week and a half ago? Was it completely erroneous?

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Myanmar Guilty of "Criminal Neglect," Says Gates

| Mon Jun. 2, 2008 5:14 PM EDT

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It's now been a month since Cyclone Nargis swamped the Burmese coast, inundating huge swaths of the low-lying Irrawaddy Delta and killing as many as 134,000 people. A further two million living amidst the flood damage are now at risk of disease, with tens of thousands facing the immediate threat of starvation, according to humanitarian NGOs.

Speaking at a security conference held in Singapore over the weekend, Defense Secretary Robert Gates accused Burma's military government of "criminal neglect" and warned that "unless the regime changes its approach, more people will die."

Some NGOs, frustrated with the pace of relief operations, are urging the U.S. military to launch a series of unilateral relief missions, with or without Burma's permission. (The moral dilemma at issue brings to mind a similar case, circa 2003, in which some humanitarians found themselves applauding the U.S. invasion of Iraq that toppled Saddam Hussein.)

But Gates, acknowledging that "it's becoming pretty clear that the regime there is not going to let us help," ruled out the possibility. "There is great sensitivity all over the world to violating a country's sovereignty, and particularly in the absence of some kind of U.N. umbrella," he said. Gates went on to deny that the American experience in Iraq had anything to do with its reluctance to go it alone.

Be that as it may, relief work is front and center in the Pentagon's emerging war on terrorism strategy. In my most recent piece for Mother Jones, I described a November 2005 policy statement, Directive 3000.05, which states clearly and for the first time that stability operations—Pentagon-speak for relief and humanitarian work—now rank of equal importance to combat missions. Already Burma has allowed 95 U.S. military relief sorties, carrying 1.5 million pounds of supplies, to land in the city of Yangon. But the far larger payload of humanitarian supplies now waiting aboard a fleet of U.S. naval ships (led by the USS Essex, pictured above, which alone carries 22 helicopters), has not been cleared for delivery. Helicopters could deliver supplies directly to where they are needed, but that, it seems, is the problem: the military regime fears any direct contact between its population and the U.S. military.

McClellan and Me, Part II: Did I Shift from Target to Influence?

| Mon Jun. 2, 2008 12:01 PM EDT

Did I help motivate Scott McClellan to write his book blasting the Bush White House as a den of disingenuousness?

Over the weekend, Politico published McClellan's original proposal for his book. (Hat tip to Ryan Grim, who's written for Mother Jones, for snatching this scoop.) In the proposal McClellan promised, "I will look at what is behind the media hostility toward the President and his Administration, and how much of it is rooted in a liberal bias."

Yes, that ol' "liberal bias." McClellan promised to skewer the media for being run by out-of-touch left-leaning journalists:

Fairness is defined by the establishment media within the left-of-center boundaries they set. They defend their reporting as fair because both sides are covered. But, how fair can it be when it is within the context of the liberal slant of the reporting? And, while the reporting of the establishment media may be based on true statements and facts, is it an accurate picture of what is really happening? And, how much influence do the New York Times and Washington Post have in shaping the coverage? And, why does the media do such a poor job of holding itself to account, or acknowledging their own mistakes?

But, McClellan said in the proposal he would go beyond an examination of the MSMers:

In addition to covering the above issues and questions, I will get into the influence of activist liberal reporters, like Keith Olbermann, Nation editor David Corn, and Washington Post blogger Dan Froomkin, and activist liberal media personalities, like Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore, Al Franken, Bill Maher, and Arianna Huffington.

Well, in the end, it seems that I might have had some influence on McClellan, whom I tangled with at the White House. In two books, The Lies of George W. Bush and Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War (the latter co-written with Michael Isikoff on Newsweek), I documented how the Bush administration wielded false information and half-truths (at best) as part of a PR campaign to win public support for the invasion of Iraq. That is exactly what McClellan describes and criticizes in his own book. By the way, the subtitle of my first Bush book was "Mastering the Politics of Deception." What's McClellan's subtitle? "Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception."

So what happened to that "liberal bias." Once outside of the White House bubble, McClellan seems to have discovered that--guess what?--it was closer to the truth than his own press briefings.

Even Utah Not Thrilled to See Bush

| Mon Jun. 2, 2008 11:33 AM EDT

Boy, did I get an earful from my mother this weekend! Not because I haven't come to visit lately, but because the president has. My parents live in Park City, Utah, which last week played host for a few hours to George W. Bush. When I spoke to my mom on Saturday, she was still fuming that Bush had some nerve coming to her town, mucking up traffic, forcing kids to stay out of school, scaring people with helicopters, and then sticking the local taxpayers with $30,000 in security costs, all so Bush can raise money for John McCain, who is afraid to be seen in public with him. What really irked my mom was that just two days after Memorial Day, not a second of Bush's visit involved paying a brief sympathy call to one of the many families in Utah who've lost loved ones in Iraq. Instead, Bush spent his time at the vacation manse of Mitt Romney, chatting up people who'd paid $35,000 a piece to get in the door.

My mom, admittedly a huge Hillary Clinton supporter, was practically spitting as she described how Bush and his enormous entourage that included no fewer than five military helicopters not only failed to meet a single non-donating peon during his visit, but also occupied 80 rooms at the exclusive Stein Erikson Lodge in Deer Valley, where suites even in the off-season will set you back $600 a night. The lodge is the most expensive, swanky resort in all of Park City, with twice-daily maid service, European spa offerings, four-star restaurants, and access to many mountain bike trails.

Prominent Clinton Backers Slowly Backing Off

| Mon Jun. 2, 2008 11:31 AM EDT

Despite Terry McAuliffe's insistence that the race is not over and may not even be over when Obama gets to the (new) magic number of 2,118 delegates, the Clinton campaign is facing a serious challenge from within. Key surrogates are weakening in their support.

Here's former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack:

"It does appear to be pretty clear that Senator Obama is going to be the nominee. After Tuesday's contests, she needs to acknowledge that he's going to be the nominee and quickly get behind him."

Florida Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz:

"It would be most beneficial if we resolved this nomination sooner rather than later... The more time we have to get through a general-election period and the more time we have to prepare in advance of the convention, the better."

Bush Pep Talk to Generals: "Stay Strong! Stay the Course! Kill Them!"

| Mon Jun. 2, 2008 11:10 AM EDT

Here's an example of the President's motivational and oratorical power, from the autobiography of retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez. Bush is speaking to his national security team and generals after the famous 2004 incident in which four contractors were killed in Fallujah:

"Kick ass!" he quotes the president as saying. "If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can't send that message. It's an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal."
"There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!"

Can you imagine what Bush's inevitable commencement speeches are going to be like in his post-presidency? "Take the road less traveled! Dare to be great! Follow your dreams! Be confident! At those times Jesus carried you! Kick ass!"