Mojo - July 2008

As McCain Disavows Gramm, a Top Aide Implies Gramm Partly To Blame for the Economy

| Thu Jul. 10, 2008 3:55 PM EDT

Phil Gramm is in the headlines today--being slammed by Democrats and disavowed by the McCain campaign--for complaining to The Washington Times that "we have sort of become a nation of whiners." Gramm, who chairs John McCain's campaign and who advises the presumptive Republican nominee on economic matters, pooh-poohed talk of a recession: "You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession." The former Republican Senator and current vice president of Swiss bank UBS dismissed talk of US economic woes and declared, "We've never been more dominant; we've never had more natural advantages than we have today. We have benefited greatly" from globalization.

Predictably, liberal bloggers and Democrats blasted Gramm for being out of touch with the real world. The McCain camp initially stood by their man but then distanced itself from Gramm's remarks, with a McCain spokesman saying, "Gramm's comments are not representative of John McCain's views."

But as this tempest was under way, another Gramm story went little noticed: a top McCain aide indirectly implicated Gramm in the current economic mess.

On Thursday, Portfolio magazine released an interview with Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO who is now a top adviser and surrogate for McCain. In that article interviewer Lloyd Grove asked Fiorina "who and/or what is to blame for the souring economy?" Her answer:

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Raleigh Man Chooses To Retire Instead of Honoring Helms

| Thu Jul. 10, 2008 3:40 PM EDT

A 51-year-old employee of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture chose to retire rather than lower a flag to half mast in honor of the late former senator Jesse Helms, reports the Charlotte Observer.

And it wasn't like L.F. Eason III, a registered Democrat, hadn't lowered other flags during his 29-year tenure at the lab where he worked:

...Eason said he had no problems lowering the flag for former Sen. Terry Sanford or President Ronald Reagan. But he remembers wondering whether he would be able to lower the flag after President Richard Nixon's funeral.

Wonder whether Eason had mulled this protest over beforehand, or if it was a game-time decision. Given the fact that Helms was in the senate even before Eason got his job at the lab, he certainly had time to think about it.

Heather Mac Donald: The Thinking Bigot's Ann Coulter

| Thu Jul. 10, 2008 3:20 PM EDT

I warned y'all to watch Heather Mac Donald.

The rest of us bloviators may have slowed down for the summer, but not Ms. Mac Donald. While the anti-Negro crusade remains her lode star, she takes a break now and then to dog women. I mean, feminism. Thank god that all those poor, oppressed white men have her to champion the sorry state to which they have been reduced.

I certainly understand the rigors of producing columns when nothing newsworthy strikes your fancy, but she spends a whole lotta words bemoaning the whole lotta words that the Times spent on a campaign at the no doubt ritzy Phoenix Country Club to equalize the sex-segregated facilities for which members pay bazillions each year:

Rove Is a No-Show

| Thu Jul. 10, 2008 9:52 AM EDT

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Members of the House Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law didn't even wait until the 10 a.m. mark to declare former presidential adviser Karl Rove a no-show this morning. The committee had subpoenaed Rove to appear to discuss the politicization of the Justice Department and allegations of selective prosecution of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman. But Rove, through his lawyer, asserted that "as a close advisor to the President," he is "immune from compelled Congressional testimony."

Committee Chairwoman Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) was having none of that, saying, "I hereby rule that Mr. Rove's claims of immunity are not legally valid, and his refusal to comply with the subpoena and appear at this hearing to answer questions cannot be properly justified." In her official statement, she pointed out that if Rove wants to assert executive privilege, he still has to show up and do it before the committee, not in some lame letter from his lawyer. Sanchez observed that the Judiciary Committee has already seen a parade of witnesses from the White House who have not made this argument, most notably, David Addington, Dick Cheney's chief of staff, who, while clearly hostile, did actually make the trip up the Hill to testify recently on the administration's torture and interrogation policies. Scott McClellan, the former press secretary, even testified without a subpoena!

Rove's arrogance has clearly irked Sanchez, who disparaged him for failing to cite a single court precedent that would back up his claim to absolute immunity from testifying. Quoting the Supreme Court, Sanchez said, "[n]o man in this country is so high that he is above the law," and "[a]ll the officers of the government, from the highest to the lowest, are creatures of the law and are bound to obey it."

Dems Ready to Cave on Offshore Drilling... In Face of What Pressure?

| Thu Jul. 10, 2008 9:43 AM EDT

This feels like a compromise in search of a conflict. The Democrats in Congress are ready to pass an energy bill that, in exchange for "investments in clean and renewable energies, a crackdown on oil speculators, and proof that the oil and gas companies are fully utilizing land that is already leased for exploration," will legalize additional offshore drilling.

Really? Am I just out of touch? Has there been a public outcry in support of offshore drilling? There was a media war on the subject a while back, and I thought we were able to prove the idea is a useless pander — it won't lower gas prices substantially, it won't put any additional oil on the market for seven to 10 years, it distracts us from serious and long-term energy solutions, etc. And after all that, congressional Dems are just going to cede the issue? Maybe they need to include offshore drilling as a sop to the Republicans in order to get renewable energy provisions in this upcoming bill. Those better be some pretty substantial provisions...

McCain Camp Tries To Spin Away "Disgrace" Comment

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 4:32 PM EDT

On Monday, at a town hall meeting in Denver, John McCain said this:

Americans have got to understand that we are paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America today. And that's a disgrace. It's an absolute disgrace, and it's got to be fixed.

In this quote, McCain was essentially saying that the problem with Social Security is that Social Security is Social Security, instead of something else. He is attacking the basic funding mechanism for the 75-year-old program. But now, with the McCain "disgrace" comment being picked up all over the web, the McCain campaign is trying to backtrack. ABC's Jake Tapper spoke with a McCain spokesman, Brian Rogers, who said this:

[T]he disgrace is our failure to fix the long-run imbalance in Social Security—a failure of leadership evidenced by our willingness to kick to problem to the next generation of leaders. He's also describing the looming and increasing demographic pressures confronting the Social Security system and Washington's utter failure to address it.

In essence, Rogers is claiming that McCain's "disgrace" comment was taken out of context—that he was not applying the word "disgrace" to Social Security's funding mechanism, but rather to the "demographic pressures confronting the Social Security system and Washington's utter failure to address it."

Unfortunately for the McCain campaign, which is beginning to realize the mistake it made by attacking Social Security, Rogers' argument doesn't hold up under scrutiny. The Denver town hall wasn't the only place McCain attacked Social Security this week. From yesterday's post:

Now, before you think, "Wow, that must be a slip of the tongue, he can't possibly mean that," please note that McCain said essentially the same thing to John Roberts on CNN this morning. From the transcript:
On the privatization of accounts, which you just mentioned, I would like to respond to that. I want young workers to be able to, if they choose, to take part of their own money which is their taxes and put it in an account which has their name on it. Now, that's a voluntary thing, it's for younger people, it would not affect any present-day retirees or the system as necessary. So let's describe it for what it is. They pay their taxes and right now their taxes are going to pay the retirement of present-day retirees. That's why it's broken, that's why we can fix it. [Emphasis added.]

McCain said the same thing on CNN that he did in the town hall: the problem with Social Security—"why it's broken"—is that young people, "pay their taxes and right now their taxes are going to pay the retirement of present-day retirees." That's not out of context. It's what he said. McCain's problem with Social Security is with its basic structure.

The DNC held a conference call today about McCain's comment. It seems smart to pick up on this—it's the real thing. With this comment showing his antipathy toward the fundamentals of Social Security, McCain has indeed touched the "third rail" of American politics. On the DNC call, Ed Coyle, the president of the Alliance for Retired Americans, referred to McCain's comment as "anti-senior" and said he hopes the press will ask McCain to elaborate on what he could have meant. That's a reasonable request.

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Will Rove Show?

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 3:57 PM EDT

Karl Rove has already gone on TV to blab about the Justice Department's prosecution of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman. Now, the House Judiciary Committee just wants him to come up the Hill to talk to Congress. The committee was nice enough to include a subpoena with its invitation. Tomorrow, the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law will assemble in the Dirksen Office Building at 10 a.m. to see of Rove actually shows up. His lawyer has basically told Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers to fuck off, Rove's not coming. The legendary political consultant has already dissed the Senate Judiciary Committee, looking into similar matters, so the odds of anything exciting happening tomorrow aren't worth the trip up Independence Avenue for the live show. But Conyers has shown a little more moxie than his colleagues in the Senate. He's already suggested that if Rove isn't sitting in front of him tomorrow morning, he will take further legal action to compel his testimony, which he's done for other recalcitrant White House witnesses. It's entirely possible that Rove will one day, years from now, have to sit in the congressional hot seat. The question, of course, is whether anyone will still care what he has to say?

Embattled Judicial Nominee Also Landlord To Sketchy Methadone Clinic

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 12:59 PM EDT

No doubt Gustavus Adolphus Puryear IV rues the day that he dissed jail-house lawyers in print. The patrician Tennessee Republican who once prepped Dick Cheney for his campaign debates should have been a shoe-in for an appointment to the federal bench.. But as the general counsel of the country's largest private prison company, the Corrections Corporation of America, Puryear has drawn fire from a relentless adversary in his quest for confirmation: Alex Friedmann, a former CCA inmate and one of those jail-house lawyers Puryear once bashed in an interview for allegedly filing frivolous lawsuits.

Friedmann has gotten revenge by flooding the press and the Senate Judiciary Committee with a host of negative information about Puryear, reminding the Senators of Puryear's membership in an exclusive all white country club that doesn't allow women to become members, among other things. The latest installment comes via the Tennessean, which reports on Friedmann's discovery that Puryear is landlord to Nashville's only methadone clinic, which was recently caught throwing out patient records without shredding them first, leaving all their pertinent digits in the trash for anyone to find. Puryear is only the landlord, and he's not implicated in any misdeeds, but clearly the story can't help his fight for confirmation, which looks dimmer and dimmer by the day.

Viral Videographers Finding Endless Bush-McCain Connections

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 11:23 AM EDT

I think the intention of this video is to point out that John McCain and George Bush are so similar that they use the same examples of business success in their speeches. In reality, all it does it illustrate the President's old-man fashion sense (black socks with presidential seal + rubber sandals) and cause the execs at Crocs to reach for the Tums. Another popular thing ruined by George "Anti-Midas" Bush.

I get to blog about presidential footwear. It really is a ridiculous thing.

Oh, and PS — Bush isn't the only one who needs new shoes. Maybe BHO could get a pair of these.

Obama: Aprende Espanol!

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 10:49 AM EDT

Jonathan Martin is calling this clip "tomorrow's anti-Obama email today."