Mojo - July 2008

Dep't of Surrogate Follies: Oops, McCain = Bush

| Sun Jul. 13, 2008 3:50 PM EDT

When one of your surrogates can't think of a single difference between you and the President on economic issues, you're in serious trouble.

Did Sanford have a momentary lapse? Sure. But if Blitzer had given Sanford 20 minutes, he wouldn't have found a substantive difference between McCain and Bush other than McCain's lower tolerance for pork, which, because earmark spending is a relatively small portion of the federal budget, is more a good government issue than an economic one. On taxes, trade, CEO salaries, and so on, McCain and Bush are nearly identical. Other McCain surrogates have admitted as much.

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McCain's NYT Interview: Federalism, Live and In the Flesh

| Sat Jul. 12, 2008 8:01 PM EDT

John McCain is famous for chatting with reporters for hours on end, but everyday folks (and even reporters from small magazines, ahem) are rarely privy to those conversations. Two reporters from the New York Times sat down with McCain and put his answers to their questions up online. They are basically unedited, and it's actually rather nice to get an unvarnished look at a candidate's thoughts.

Now, the blogosphere will almost certainly focus on McCain's further admissions of technological incompetence. In the interview, McCain says, "I am learning to get online myself" and "I've never felt the particular need to e-mail."

But what I want to focus on is a moment of principle. McCain is asked about gay marriage and about teaching evolution in schools — he gets the first question "right" (that is, right from a progressive perspective) and gets the second question "wrong." The reason? He takes a federalist approach to both. Here's the transcript:

Comrade Obama? The Right's "Wealth Redistribution" Straw Man

| Fri Jul. 11, 2008 8:44 PM EDT

2235654836_b6af984889.jpg In attempting to persuade voters that Obama is not American enough to be president, the right has renewed charges that he is a socialist in sheep's clothing. Their newest claim that an Obama presidency would usher in an era of "wealth redistribution" seems a thinly veiled attempt to associate Obama with history's socialist revolutionaries and communist dictators.

But before you start worrying that Obama will take your money and impose socialist redistribution mandates, it's worth taking a moment to scrutinize the basis for the right's hackneyed accusations.

US Strike Killed 47 in Afghan Wedding Party, Investigation Says

| Fri Jul. 11, 2008 5:26 PM EDT

An investigation released today by the Afghanistan goverment concludes that US forces killed 47 civilians attending a wedding on July 6 near Deh Bala in Nangarhar province. Thirty-nine of the deceased were women and children, who were walking the bride to the groom's village, as is traditional. The bride was among those killed, said the nine-man investigative team, who relied on eye-witness and relatives' accounts. "They were all civilians and had no links with Taliban or al Qaeda," the head of the investigation told Agence France Presse.

Subprime: The Miami Case Study

| Fri Jul. 11, 2008 4:44 PM EDT

According to RealtyTrac, a California-based firm that monitors foreclosures for
investors, a foreclosure notice was delivered last month to one in every 501 U.S. households.

Yet the housing crisis goes even deeper than those numbers suggest. While the burst of the housing-market bubble is nearly always pegged to the surge in risky subprime mortgages made to under-resourced borrowers over the course of the last decade, the bust is also affecting people who never borrowed a dime.

In Miami, the foreclosure epidemic encompasses not only single-family homes, but apartment buildings as well. And with a flood of people losing their homes now entering the rental market, rents are climbing.

Tomorrow, Floridians can join Laura Flanders and the Media Consortium to talk more about these issues at Live From Main Street in Miami's Lyric Theater: "Magic City, Hard Times: How is Miami Facing the Economic Crisis and Working
Toward a Sustainable Future?"

—Adele M. Stan

Adele M. Stan is executive
editor for The Media Consortium, a network of progressive media
organizations, including Mother Jones.

Bush's Own Version of the Bush Joke

| Fri Jul. 11, 2008 3:54 PM EDT

This week at the G8 summit in Japan, George W. Bush wrapped up a meeting on climate change with the words: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."

"He then punched the air while grinning widely," the Telegraph reports, "as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicholas Sarkozy looked on in shock."

Bush's Napoleon Dynamite moment might have been an effort to laugh off an earlier gaffe: A White House press packet at the G8 had described Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as one of "the most controversial leaders in the history of a country known for government corruption and vice." After furor erupted in Rome (Corriere Della Sera called it "a faux pas of unprecedented proportions"), the White House explained, candidly, that an official had simply lifted the passage from the Internet without reading it.

What to make of Bush's humor? Separating out the gaffes and the Bush Jokes, it seems divided between an ascendant strain of ironic-self-mockery and a still-going-strong Wayne & Garth aesthetic. From a recent event with German Chancellor Angela Merkel:

So Bush is a doofus, but why?

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What's Less Popular Than Airport Security and Alarm Clocks?

| Fri Jul. 11, 2008 2:45 PM EDT

clocky.jpg

This week, Rasmussen Reports announced that for the first time in the poll's history, Congress' approval rating has sunk into the single digits. As of Tuesday, just 9 percent of Americans thought that Congress was doing an excellent or even a good job. That makes Congress less popular than airport security, the phrase "happy holidays," and alarm clocks.

These dismal numbers did not, of course, stop the legislative body from passing the FISA bill that immunizes telecommunications companies from prosecution for their complicity in the Bush administration's lawbreaking. We've covered the nuts and bolts of this legislation extensively, so I'll stick to the big question: Who exactly are the Democrats trying to impress?

John McCain's Very Bad Week: A Cheat Sheet

| Fri Jul. 11, 2008 12:55 PM EDT

I was asked to appear on Hardball on Friday to discuss John McCain's week--that is, his very bad week. It's been tough to keep track of all that's gone wrong for him--all the self-inflicted wounds--in recent days. So I made a cheat sheet. Here it is.

* McCain adviser Phil Gramm remark: Americans who worry about the economy are "whiners" and there's no problem with the economy, just a "mental recession." McCain response: Gramm doesn't speak for me. But, um, that day Gramm was speaking for McCain, explaining McCain's economic policies to the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

* Called the fundamental funding mechanism of Social Security a "disgrace," essentially attacking the whole program.

* Released list of 300 economists who supposedly support his economic plan. Guess what? Not all of them do.

* Became visibly uncomfortable when asked whether health plans that cover Viagara should also cover birth control for women (after McCain surrogate/adviser Carly Fiorina raised this issue).

* Joked about killing Iranians with cigarette imports.

Bloggers on Blogging: Meh

| Fri Jul. 11, 2008 11:34 AM EDT

You can read David Appell's takedown of blogging here; I'm not going to comment on the merits of his arguments because the virtues and sins of blogging have been debated ad nauseum and because frankly I wouldn't get anything else done today. (Buy me a beer, though, and I won't shut up about it.) I will say that in the reactions to his post, you can see the ambivalence bloggers you probably know well often have about their own craft. See Yglesias ("I started writing this blog as a hobby; I thought it would be a fun thing to do. And I not only continue to enjoy writing it, but people pay me to write it. But the mere fact that I'm writing it doesn't make it a worthwhile thing to read, which is why the overwhelming majority of Americans have never read this blog and never will.") and Zengerle. Other bloggers I've talked to in my personal life have confessed the same thing.

I think readers can see this come through in my blogging from time to time as well. Recent quotes from me:

At the end of a post about Bush and McCain both wearing crocs: "I get to blog about presidential footwear. It really is a ridiculous thing."

At the end of a long post about whether Mitt Romney's fundraising prowess makes him worthy of consideration as McCain's VP: "Listen, if you made it through this much horse race speculation, I hope you at least took a moment to check out our debate on the future of America's Iran policy."

Which is to say, I hope if you've read me, you've also read something substantive today.

Stupid but probably necessary disclaimer: The blogosphere is filled with wonderful people and wonderful outlets that combine to do wonderful things. Don't get me wrong. But you can applaud the macro while lamenting the micro.

FEC Back to Work

| Fri Jul. 11, 2008 11:28 AM EDT

It ain't perfect, but it's better than nothing.