Mojo - September 2008

The Tippin Point: A Big Oil Anthem

| Thu Sep. 25, 2008 2:08 PM EDT

All the energy-policy watchers who are shaking their heads in disbelief over Congress' capitulation on offshore drilling can blame Newt Gingrich, John McCain, and Aaron Tippin.

Aaron who?

Ah. Well, remember Willie Nelson's character from Wag the Dog, the 1997 film wherein a presidential administration concocts a phony war to distract the public from its domestic scandals? Nelson plays a political operative who creates and circulates a stirring song to rally public emotion behind the president's stage-managed war effort.

In "realityville," that songwriter is Aaron Tippin, a country & western singer who is contributing his talents to the public relations cause of American Solutions for Winning the Future, Gingrich's new 527 organization.

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Mission Creep Dispatch: John Lindsay-Poland

| Thu Sep. 25, 2008 2:00 PM EDT

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As part of our special investigation "Mission Creep: US Military Presence Worldwide," we asked a host of military thinkers to contribute their two cents on topics relating to global Pentagon strategy. (You can access the archive here.)

The following dispatch comes from John Lindsay-Poland, author of Emperors in the Jungle: The Hidden History of the US in Panama and the Latin America program director for the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Oakland, California.

Transforming Unaccountable Force

What impresses about the sprawl of US bases and its reconstitution since 2001 is the lack of accountability. The US military presence overseas serves as an implicit threat of intervention to host countries and neighbors, and so enables the United States to defy international law and other obligations to the global community. The bases are also themselves unaccountable, especially as polluters, purveyors of sexual violence, and sites for torture. For most nations, it is an exercise in frustration to use political, diplomatic, or judicial channels to address the United States' abuses or extralegal demands, because Washington's military stands ready for aggression.

Another Obama Ad Takes Very Serious Tone

| Thu Sep. 25, 2008 1:01 PM EDT

The Obama campaign has released another long-form ad in which Obama speaks directly to the camera for the entire duration. It's below. As you probably know, they released a rare two-minute ad a little over a week ago; some said the serious tone was appropriate for the grave economic subject matter covered within, others said it was unwatchably boring. Two observations on the new ad:

(1) The Obama campaign obviously believes that the first ad worked. Their internal polling must show that, at the moment, Americans see Obama as the more steady and presidential of the two candidates. Don't expect any fireworks from Obama at the debate on Friday.

(2) This is what having $77.5 million on hand will do for you. You can move beyond the standard 30-second format in your advertising.

Americans Search for Wizards, Cupcakes, and Sex Toys More Often Than "Financial Crisis"

| Thu Sep. 25, 2008 11:10 AM EDT

This is a fun game you can play at home. Go to Google Trends and see what Americans are searching for online more frequently than the term "financial crisis." I have an example below, in which I set the time period to September 2008. Turns out "wizards," "cupcakes," and "sex toys" retain their popularity in times of national emergency.

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Several search terms dwarfed "financial crisis" so thoroughly that they made the chart unusable. They included:

"Bristol Palin": searched for 17.5 times more often than "financial crisis" in September
"Puppies": 24.4 times
"Vacation": 28.6 times
"Fashion": 44 times
"Fantasy Football": 44 times
"Baseball": 50.5 times
"Sex": 292 times

The Financial Wizardy of the Treasury Department

| Thu Sep. 25, 2008 10:49 AM EDT

Halfway through a Forbes article about how doomed the Paulson bailout plan is, Think Progress found this little gem from Treasury:

...some of the most basic details, including the $700 billion figure Treasury would use to buy up bad debt, are fuzzy.
"It's not based on any particular data point," a Treasury spokeswoman told Forbes.com Tuesday. "We just wanted to choose a really large number."

Awesome, guys. Way to inspire confidence.

Two NRA Lobbyists Violating the McCain Campaign's Conflict Rules?

| Thu Sep. 25, 2008 9:27 AM EDT

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Have two lobbyists who work for John McCain's campaign—one as national finance co-chairman, the other as co-chairman of the campaign's Sportsmen for McCain committee—violated the campaign's conflict of interest policy?

In May, when the campaign was being hit by one news story after another about lobbyists working on its staff, campaign manager Rick Davis (who is now on leave from his own influential lobbying firm, Davis Manafort, and under fire for his past connections to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae) issued conflict rules that banned any active lobbyist or foreign agent from being a paid employee of the campaign. Lobbyists and foreign agents, though, could work for the campaign as part-time volunteers, as long as they did not participate in policy-making regarding the matters on which they lobby. Another provision declared that "no person with a McCain Campaign title or position may participate in a 527 [campaign committee] or other independent entity that makes public communications that support or oppose any presidential candidate."

That rule that may cause trouble for the campaign and two of its prominent supporters, Wayne Berman and James Jay Baker, who are lobbyists for the National Rifle Association, for the NRA recently began airing harsh attack-ads against Barack Obama.

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Ambinder on the Money

| Wed Sep. 24, 2008 7:44 PM EDT

I have to say, I think Marc Ambinder has the best response to John McCain's call to suspend the campaign due to his falling poll numbers the economic crisis. This is exactly when the public needs to see the candidates express and defend the policies they would use to get us out of this mess. This is exactly when we need to see who has the knowledge, intelligence, and fortitude to handle tough problems. In short, this is exactly when we need a debate.

Here's Marc:

This is the time when politics matters the most, not the least. When the philosophical differences that each party organizes around are put to the test of reality. When conflict builds consensus, not by ignoring conflict. When the public craves answers and debate from their politicians. When the stakes of the presidential election could not be more acute. Comparative advantage: the best thing the presidential candidates can do now is to practice their politics honestly, not to abandon politics altogether -- itself, of course, a political move. Suspending your campaign basically says: all that over the past sixteen months? It wasn't important. Ignore what I said or did. Too late. The tough thing here for McCain is that nobody in Washington asked him to come back; nobody seems to need him to come back; and that Democrats simply do not trust John McCain's motives.

This whole thing thing did get Rick Davis off the front pages though, didn't it?

McCain Proposes Suspending Campaign to Deal With Economic Crisis

| Wed Sep. 24, 2008 3:59 PM EDT

It's true. He even wants to delay the debate.

For the record, this is a bit surprising coming from the guy who cares so little about the actual business of the country that he has missed more Senate votes than anyone else in the chamber.

Anyway, I'll be taking some paid time off. Thanks, John McCain!

"It's a Question! Run!"

| Wed Sep. 24, 2008 3:56 PM EDT

The McCain campaign is protecting Sarah Palin from questions the way the Secret Service protects the president from bullets.

From the pool report account of what happened after McCain and Palin's meeting with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvilli and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko:

McCain then looked around the room and gestured as if to welcome questions. The AP reporter shouted a question at Gov. Palin ("Governor, what have you learned from your meetings?") but McCain aide Brooke Buchanan intervened and shepherded everybody out of the room.
Palin looked surprised, leaned over to McCain and asked him a question, to which your pooler thinks he shook his head as if to say "No."

No, sweetie. No questions for you.

Mission Creep Dispatch: William Hartung

| Wed Sep. 24, 2008 2:14 PM EDT

hartung.jpgAs part of our special investigation "Mission Creep: US Military Presence Worldwide," we asked a host of military thinkers to contribute their two cents on topics relating to global Pentagon strategy. (You can access the archive here.)

The following dispatch comes from William D. Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation and coeditor (with Miriam Pemberton) of the recent book Lessons from Iraq: Avoiding the Next War.

How Can We Reduce the US Military Footprint?

Mother Jones' map and articles on the US global military footprint are mind-boggling, but rather than be intimidated by these facts on the ground, we need to think about what can be done about them. Chalmers Johnson suggests that the US empire may be the last of its kind, with the main political issue soon becoming "empire liquidation—peaceful or otherwise." As he rightly notes, maintaining 761 military facilities in 192 UN member states is "a remarkable example of imperial overstretch." The question of whether US imperial decline will be peaceful or violent hinges on two key questions, one culturally and psychologically driven, and one militarily driven.