Mojo - August 2008

Obama Explains What He Wants in a VP

| Tue Aug. 19, 2008 11:09 PM EDT

Via Ambinder:

Let me tell you first what I won't do. I won't hand over my energy policy to my vice president, without knowing necessarily what he's doing. I wont have my vice president engineering my foreign policy for me. The buck will stop with me, because I will be the president. My vice president, also by the way my vice president also will be a member of the executive branch, he won't be one of these 4th branches of government where he thinks he's above the law. But here's what I do want from my vice president, I want somebody who has integrity, who's in politics for the right reasons, I want somebody who is independent. Somebody who is able to say to me, 'you know what, Mr. President, I think you're wrong on this and here's why' and will give me (applause) who will help me think through major issues and consult with me, would be a key advisor. I want somebody who is capable of being president and who I would trust to be president. That's the first criteria for vice president. And the final thing is I want a [vice] president who shares with me a passion to make the lives of the American people better than they are right now. I want someone who is not in it just because they want to have their name up in lights or end up being president. I want somebody who is mad right now, that people are losing their jobs. And is mad right now that people have seen their incomes decline, and want to rebuild the middle class in this country. That's the kind of person that I want; somebody who in their gut knows where they came from and believes that we have to grow this country from the bottom up.

Begin speculating... NOW!

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Welcome Inkblot, Domino, and Kevin Drum

| Tue Aug. 19, 2008 3:42 PM EDT

Remember 2002? There was no war, house prices could never go down, and the Olsen twins had a kids' show. That's when a recovering marketing executive in Orange County opened a Blogspot account, dubbed himself Calpundit, and began posting daily political commentary, often interspersed with his own data-crunching and graphs. He soon drew a following, and within a couple of years was widely known as one of the pioneers of the political blogosphere (and also the inventor of Friday catblogging). That guy, of course, was Kevin Drum, and this Friday, August 22, marks both his sixth anniversary as a blogger and his first day at motherjones.com. For almost as long as he's been blogging, Clara and I have been fans of Kevin's; since we took the helm of Mother Jones, we've been fortunate to have him contribute to the magazine fairly regularly, and we always thought that he'd be a great complement to our growing investigative reporting team. So we're thrilled to welcome him.

Kevin's coming over from Washington Monthly, where he'll be replaced by Steve Benen of the Carpetbagger Report and Hilzoy of Obsidian Wings. He'll have his own blog at motherjones.com while MoJoBlog will remain a group effort powered by the entire MoJo team, including Washington bureau chief David Corn and the prolific Jonathan Stein.

Kevin comes on board as our web team is busy completely overhauling the site. Before the election, you'll see a whole new motherjones.com—a new look, a much improved community commenting system. Kevin's gotten a sneak peek at the design-in-progress and says it "should look great"—which, coming from a guy not known for hyperbole, is pretty close to unbridled enthusiasm.

Click below to hear Kevin talk about his cats, blog trends, and why he's not going to the conventions:

I Have Faith This Number Is Higher for MoJoBlog Readers

| Tue Aug. 19, 2008 11:50 AM EDT

I'm less worried about those news reports of congressional approval ratings being at an all-time low. Apparently, only half of Americans know Democrats control the Congress.

The Emboldening of the American Media

| Tue Aug. 19, 2008 11:41 AM EDT

This AP article is already earning plaudits all over:

His top contenders are said to include Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Less traditional choices mentioned include former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, an abortion-rights supporter, and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential prick in 2000 who now is an independent.

Placing John McCain's "Rich" In Context

| Tue Aug. 19, 2008 11:10 AM EDT

I love a well-made chart. And Ezra Klein just so happens to have one.

incomedistribution-thumb-480x320.jpg

As you can see, the chart reflects the answers McCain and Obama gave when asked to define "rich" at the Saddleback forum over the weekend. Obama said $150,000, an income which would put someone in the 94th percentile of American earners, and McCain said $5 million, which is just completely preposterous. As Ezra points out, this is dangerous:

Asking the world's tallest man to set cabinet heights, or the world's strongest man to decide the tension of jar lids, is going to leave you with some pretty tall cabinets and some pretty tightly closed jars. Similarly, asking one of the world's richest men to set your tax policy will end up with a pretty skewed set of policies: Say, a tax plan that gives his wife $370,000 in breaks. Again, nothing weird or malign: Just the naturally skewed perspective of someone who lives on a particular extreme, in this case, the extreme edge of the wealth distribution.

This is inevitable, of course. The American political system demands wealth as a condition of entrance. You have to be able to take time off in order to run for office (or even plan/contemplate a run for office), and you usually have to have a network of wealthy friends you can tap as donors and contacts. As a result, most people who make it to national politics are wealthy, and have the "naturally skewed perspective" that Ezra mentions.

I should add that there was hope for John McCain once. In 2001, he was one of two Republicans who opposed Bush's tax cuts, saying, "I'd like to see much more of this tax cut shared by working Americans... I think it still devotes too much of it to the wealthiest Americans." If you've seen his tax policy today, you know he no longer has such qualms.

God Understands Irony

| Tue Aug. 19, 2008 11:04 AM EDT

A meeting of global warming deniers in Florida has been canceled due to a tropical storm.

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The World According to Obama, According to the RNC

| Tue Aug. 19, 2008 10:35 AM EDT

A recent email to supporters from Robert M. "Mike" Duncan, Chairman of the Republican National Committee begins like this:

Do you think the redistribution of wealth by the federal government is one of America's best traditions? How about free child care? Free college tuition? Wage insurance? Nationalizing oil refineries? A global tax paid to the United Nations?

A lot of this is plain made up. The global tax paid to the UN is a reference to the Global Poverty Act, which Obama sponsored. It makes reducing global poverty a goal of American policy, but does not institute a global tax paid to anyone. And Obama has never said anything about nationalizing oil refineries.

As for "free college tuition," here's what the Obama website says:

Obama will make college affordable for all Americans by creating a new American Opportunity Tax Credit. This universal and fully refundable credit will ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans, and will cover two-thirds the cost of tuition at the average public college or university and make community college tuition completely free for most students.

Not exactly what the GOP email would have you believe.

Basically, the GOP is using the most effective attacks, regardless of whether or not they are the most accurate. (Here's another example.) I know this isn't a startling revelation. But when was the last time you saw a Democrat play by the same rules? For example, considering this, a Democratic Party using the Republican playbook would call John McCain corrupt. Repeatedly.

Would it be accurate? Not exactly. The point is whether or not it would work.

John Lewis: John McCain's Wise Man?

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 6:08 PM EDT

johnlewis250x200.jpg John McCain says he plans to consult with Democratic Rep. John Lewis when he's president. That's news to Lewis.

During Saturday's presidential forum at Rick Warren's California megachurch, John McCain was asked to name the "three wisest people" he would "rely heavily on" if elected president. He didn't cite close confidantes Phil Gramm and Randy Scheunemann, possibly because they have gotten McCain into trouble politically. Instead McCain chose Gen. David Petraeus; former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, one of his economic advisers; and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a leading figure in the civil rights movement.

This is not the first time McCain has invoked Lewis' name on the campaign trail. Earlier this year, in Selma, Alabama, he told the story of civil rights marchers trying to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in a 1965 march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery. Waiting at the crest of the bridge were a brigade of police and state troopers who meted out an attacks so violent that the day is known today as Bloody Sunday.

Central in McCain's telling was John Lewis, a man of just 25 who was at the front of the march and absorbed the first blow. Millions of Americans, McCain noted, "watched brave John Lewis fall."

Oil and Coal Have Spent $427 Million To Influence Campaign in 2008

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 5:07 PM EDT

The Public Campaign Action Fund has figured out how much the oil and coal industries have spent to influence the public debate through their 527s, 501(c)4s, PACs, lobbying expenditures, paid advertising, and campaign contributions. Their final number? An astonishing $427.2 million dollars in the first half of 2008. You can see how the numbers break down here, but take a look at this chart for a summary. It is possible these industries will spend close to or more than $1 billion to influence the election and to protect their interests.

Amount in MillionsCoal/Electric UtilitiesOil/GasTotal
Political Contributions$16.5$20.9$37.4
Lobbying Expenditures73.755.3129.0
Paid Media7.4201.2208.6
Other Political Spending40.012.252.2
Total$137.6$289.6$427.2

Of the oil and gas industries' political contributions, 25% was given to Democrats and 75% was given to Republicans. For coal, it was 31% for Democrats and 69% for Republicans. Electric utilities were more even, with 48% going to Dems and 52% going to Republicans.

Obama VP Pick Expected This Week

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 1:39 PM EDT

Just FYI. Begin hyperventilating now.

Update: The Democratic convention starts next Monday. So, uh, duh.