Mojo - September 2008

McCain's Fannie and Freddie Connections

| Wed Sep. 10, 2008 4:01 PM EDT

mccain-microphone-250x200.jpg John McCain railed against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on the campaign trail today, saying that the CEOs that led the lenders to ruin "deserve nothing" and should have to pay back their severance packages. In an Wall Street Journal op-ed co-bylined by his vice presidential pick, Sarah Palin, McCain suggested bold reforms for Fannie and Freddie that would "terminate future lobbying, which was one of the primary contributors to this great debacle."

If that's the case, McCain should look first to his campaign staffers as the cause of that debacle. One of them was Fannie Mae's head of lobbying, and spread tens of millions of dollars around Washington in the form of lobbying contracts. A number of McCain staffers were on the receiving end of those contracts, collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars each from the lenders to rep their interests. And McCain's campaign manager served as president of a lobbying association that fought to protect Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae from the sort of regulation that McCain is now proposing.

In McCain's op-ed in the Journal, he and Palin wrote:

For years, Congress failed to act and it is deeply troubling that what we are seeing is an exercise in crisis management rather than sound planning, and at great cost to taxpayers.
We promise the American people that our administration will be different. We have long records of standing up to special interests…

But McCain's own campaign staffers are those special interests, a fact that casts doubt on both McCain's hiring judgment and his ability to pursue tough reforms of Fannie and Freddie.

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Palin Says McCain Doesn't "Run with the Washington Herd." Is It Jogging?

| Wed Sep. 10, 2008 12:05 PM EDT

At a campaign rally this morning in Fairfax, Virginia, Sarah Palin declared of John McCain, "He doesn't run with the Washington herd."

That's sure not true, given that his campaign is managed (or stage-managed) by the old bulls of the Washington lobbying herd. And within what seemed seconds of Palin making this false statement, the Obama campaign sent me (and other reporters) a list of McCain's top aides who are former DC lobbyists:

This Is How They Win

| Wed Sep. 10, 2008 11:13 AM EDT

I just want to add a note to the blog post below, which points out that Republicans demonstrate a phony respect for the middle class during election season while, at all other times, supporting legislation works that works against the middle class's interest.

This is how they win elections. The Republican Party has, for years, pushed policies that support the very few. That's why they try to frame elections as questions of patriotism, of who respects and identifies with heartland Americans, of who called who a "pig." Because if elections were about whether voters got the most benefit from Democrats or Republican being in power, Democrats would win every time.

Dep't of Debunking: Democrats and Disrespect for the Working Class

| Wed Sep. 10, 2008 10:37 AM EDT

Clive Crook over at the Atlantic is making a familiar point: Democrats don't win heartland votes because, despite advocating policies that would help middle-class voters in the middle of the country, they fundamentally do not respect the people in this demographic.

Every time a conservative makes this argument, there are two mandatory responses. First, Republicans kowtow to this demographic every four years only to win elections. When in office, they push policies that beat the daylights out of the middle class: tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations, anti-labor measures, free trade agreements, etc. And they oppose ideas that would benefit the middle class: expanded health care, more affordable higher education, green jobs programs, etc.

Using the middle class to gain power and then governing at the behest of the rich and powerful. Does that sound like respect to you?

Somebody Explain Feminism to Rick Santorum

| Wed Sep. 10, 2008 10:16 AM EDT

It's about advancing the rights of all women, not the career of a single one. Especially not the career of one who would set all the others back.

Clearly, Ricky has never heard of the vagina litmus test.

The Hack Gap Revisited: "Lipstick on a Pig" Edition

| Wed Sep. 10, 2008 9:14 AM EDT

When I saw the video clip of Meghan McCain saying, "No one knows what war is like other than my family" I knew that she meant to say "No one knows what war is like BETTER than my family." So I didn't write about it on our blog.

Then I saw that conservatives are actually acting outraged over this "lipstick on a pig" nonsense. And it smacked me in the face: the hack gap had struck again.

The hack gap is the difference between political observers and writers on the left and on the right. Those on the left (most, anyway) give the benefit of the doubt. They have a sense of shame. They are willing to consider the validity of something before running with it. And they don't try to disguise obviously phony outrage as genuine outrage.

As this "lipstick" thing illustrates (as well as any example you can find with five seconds of searching), the right doesn't operate the same way. And that's one of the reasons why it wins.

And let me add that I'm aware I occasionally complain in this space that the left doesn't play tough enough. And I'm aware that by not writing about the Meghan McCain clip, I would appear to be committing the sin for which I criticize others. But I'd like to believe you can get tough without being disingenuous. And besides, our readers would revolt if I treated an obvious verbal slip by a candidate's child as indicative of something more serious. The fact that Limbaugh's audience eats that sort of thing up doesn't necessarily mean ours does.

The takeaway? The left has two problems: a lack of hacks and a lack of a market for hacks.

Update: Mike Huckabee refuses to be a hack.

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Appeal Filed in the Case of Sarah Palin's Secret Emails

| Tue Sep. 9, 2008 11:33 PM EDT

Days ago, Mother Jones reported that Governor Sarah Palin's office withheld about 1100 emails in response to an open records act request filed in June and claimed that these emails to and from Palin aides and the governor herself covered confidential and official policy deliberations between Palin and her staffers. But the list (PDF) of the undisclosed emails indicates that many had subject lines suggesting they were not about policy matters. (A series of emails referred to one of Palin's political foes, another set to a well-known Alaskan journalist.) And many of the emails were CC'ed to Todd Palin, the governor's husband, who holds no official position in her administration. On Tuesday, Andrée McLeod, the independent watchdog who filed the original request, submitted an appeal (PDF), asking Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, to review the decision to keep these emails secret. Here is the statement McLeod issued afterward:

Budget Bloviating

| Tue Sep. 9, 2008 8:57 PM EDT

Lindsey Graham, the Republican Senator from South Carolina and one of John McCain's chief surrogates, told CNN today, "I do believe [John McCain] and Governor Palin bring the most hope of changing this place, not Senator Obama and Senator Biden, who have never met a budget they didn't like."

Really? Because we've had record deficits under the Bush Administration and it was John McCain who voted for the budgets that created them. Here are the facts. Of the five "Bush budgets" — budgets submitted by President Bush to a Republican-controlled Congress, which he could have reasonable faith would pass them intact — John McCain voted for four of them.

Bush submitted budgets to a Republican Congress in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. John McCain voted yes for all except 2003. Joe Biden voted no for all, and Barack Obama voted no for 2005 and 2006, the budgets in question submitted after he took office.

So, to correct Lindsey Graham, Barack Obama and Joe Biden have met nothing but budgets they don't like under the Bush Administration. The same cannot be said for John McCain.

"Flat Out Lies, Alex?": Here We Go Again

| Tue Sep. 9, 2008 5:25 PM EDT

A friend in the publishing world sent me this CNN excerpt today, subject line: "It's like beating your own head with a rock." The conversation, between Democratic CNN consultant Paul Begala, GOP strategist Alex Castellanos and CNN host John Roberts, concerns what it means that Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin continues to cheerfully repeat in speeches around the country the lie that she told Congress "thanks but no thanks" to the "Bridge to Nowhere" when in fact she originally campaigned for it, and then kept the money after Congress canceled the project.

[CNN HOST JOHN] ROBERTS: That would appear, Paul, to end any argument over whether or not she supported the bridge initially. But why can't Barack Obama make that point stick?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Because the press won't do its job, John. I criticized Barack Obama when he hasn't been tough enough. Barack's job is to run against John McCain, right. Don't shoot the monkey when you can shoot for the organ grinder. His job is not to focus on number two but number one. But it is the media's job when a politician flat out lies like she's doing on this bridge to nowhere so call her on it. Or this matter of earmarks where she's attacking Barack Obama for having earmarks, when she was the mayor of little Wasilla, Alaska, 6,000 people, she hired a lobbyist who was connected to Jack Abramoff, who is a criminal and they brought home $27 million in earmarks. She carried so much pork home she got trichinosis. But we in the media are letting her tell lies about her record.
ROBERTS: Hey, OK. We got to let Alex respond to that. Flat out lies, Alex?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Let's be a little gentle. Look, every elected official in this country works under the system we have, which is you try to get a little bit of your tax money back. You just don't want to leave it all in Washington. The amazing thing about Sarah Palin is when she became governor she actually stood up and said no. And she made it -

How Disingenuous Can You Be Before You're Actually Lying?

| Tue Sep. 9, 2008 2:35 PM EDT

John McCain criticized Barack Obama for being soft on military matters on Monday, telling an audience in Lee's Summit, Missouri:

"Of course, now [Obama] wants to increase [the size of the military]. But during the primary he told a liberal advocacy group that he'd cut defense spending by tens of billions of dollars. He promised them he would, quote, 'slow our development of future combat systems.'"

Before I explain why that's stunningly disingenuous, let me point you to the Obama statement that gives rise to John McCain's opprobrium.

"I will cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending. I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of Future Combat Systems."

Here's the deal. The "future combat systems" that McCain says Obama will jeopardize is actually Future Combat Systems, a specific, controversial program within the DOD that John McCain himself has suggested eliminating. Here's McCain's top policy man explaining to the Washington Post what spending cuts McCain will use to balance the budget: