Mojo - September 2008

Top Alaskan GOPer Decries McCain Camp's Interference in Palin-Troopergate Probe

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 4:25 PM EDT

Republican State Senator Lyda Green, the president of the Alaska Senate, has been no fan of Governor Sarah Palin. After John McCain tapped Palin to be his running mate, Green told the Anchorage Daily News, "She's not prepared to be governor. How can she be prepared to be vice president or president? Look at what she's done to this state. What would she do to the nation?"

For two years, Green feuded with Palin over key policy matters. But in recent days, Green has become even more dismayed with the Palin pick, for she believes the McCain-Palin campaign has undermined the rule of law in the Last Frontier. She says she has watched with outrage as McCain-Palin operatives have flown into her state and interfered with the so-called Troopergate investigation--the official, approved-by-the-legislature inquiry into whether Palin dismissed her public safety commissioner because he refused to fire her ex-brother-in-law, a state trooper who went through a messy divorce with Palin's sister.

Calling herself a "raging Republican," Green says, she is "absolutely disgusted, embarrassed, and ashamed" by the McCain-Palin campaign's intervention in the Troopergate probe. Over a week ago, McCain campaign aides began handling the investigation for Palin. The campaign dispatched Edward O'Callaghan, who recently had been a terrorism prosecutor in the Justice Department, to Alaska to oversee Palin's legal strategy. O'Callaghan then declared she would not cooperate with the inquiry. (Before becoming the GOP vice presidential nominee, Palin had repeatedly vowed to cooperate. At one point, she said, "I'm happy to comply, to cooperate. I have absolutely nothing to hide.") And last Thursday, O'Callaghan announced that Palin's husband, Todd, would not heed a subpoena to appear before a state legislative committee to testify about his role in Troopergate.

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Mission Creep Dispatch: Douglas Macgregor

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 2:31 PM EDT

macgregor.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 military strategist Douglas Macgregor, a retired Army colonel and author of Breaking the Phalanx: A New Design for Landpower in the 21st Century.

Lessons from the Terror War, and Wrestling

America's experience since 2001 teaches the strategic lesson that the use of modern military power, even against Arab and Afghan opponents with no armed forces to speak of, can have costly, unintended consequences. In Iraq and Afghanistan, US military action has produced serious problems for America's overall security. It has helped Iran expand its power throughout the Middle East, alienated Turkey—the region's most powerful Muslim military force—and eroded Pakistan's fragile cohesion, all of which have dangerous implications for Central and Southwest Asia, and have created a global backlash and serious economic vulnerability at home.

Obama Bails on North Dakota

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 2:18 PM EDT

Another state drifts out of reach and Obama pulls the plug. This time it's North Dakota; over 50 Obama staffers stationed there are heading to Minnesota and Wisconsin. Reportedly, the Obama campaign opened 11 offices in North Dakota while McCain opened zero. Yet, Obama finds himself down by double digits. Time to call it quits.

Look, I know Obama is playing effective and aggressive offense in traditionally red states like Colorado, Virginia, Nevada, and Montana. But Georgia, North Dakota, and Alaska were basically money pits that ate up campaign resources that could have been used in states where Obama is down by low single digits. I'm sure that David Plouffe wishes from time to time that he or his candidate had been a little less heady and ambitious when outlining the Obama campaign's fifty-state strategy.

McCain's New Target: The New York Times

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 1:00 PM EDT

new-york-times-building-250x200.jpg

On a conference call with reporters on Monday morning, Rick Davis, John McCain's campaign manager, and Steve Schmidt, a top McCain strategist, were asked about a New York Times article reporting that Davis had been paid nearly $2 million for running a Washington outfit set up by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to stop stricter regulation of these two entities. Davis said he had never engaged in any lobbying for that group and downplayed Fannie and Freddie's role in the organization. He joked that he appreciated "all the exposure I get" in The New York Times. He added that the newspaper must have "Davis envy."

Schmidt then went bad-cop. "We're First Amendment absolutists," he said, noting journalists are free to "write whatever they want to write." But, he continued, "whatever the New York Times once was," it is no longer a journalistic entity. Schmidt called it a "pro-Obama advocacy organization" and claimed the paper "attacks" McCain every day. Schmidt went on: the Times is "an organization completely, totally 150-percent in the tank for the Democratic candidate" and has "cast aside its journalistic integrity and tradition" to get McCain.

It was a blistering slam. And several times throughout the call, Schmidt chided the media for treating Obama more kindly than McCain. (In recent weeks, many news outlets have scored McCain's ads as being full of falsehoods.) Clearly, the candidate who once was beloved by the national media (and who joked the press was his base) has calculated that the old Republican play of bashing the media, especially The New York Times, will help him get elected. Also, Schmidt might also have been trying to establish a context for judging any future Times investigations that might pose a problem for McCain. ("See? I told you they were out to destroy Senator McCain.")

By the way, neither Davis nor Schmidt pointed out one error in the Times' story about Davis.

Photo by flickr user Joe Shlabotnik used under a Creative Commons license.

Study: Chauvinists Make More Than Other Men

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 12:48 PM EDT

Are you a jerk? Awesome! Here's a bigger paycheck.

Poorly Timed McCain Ad Hits Obama on Corruption

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 12:12 PM EDT

It's a case of really bad timing.

John McCain's campaign put out yet another slashing anti-Obama ad on Monday morning that accused Barack Obama of being part of "the corrupt Chicago machine." The evidence? William Daley, an Obama policy adviser, is a lobbyist and brother to the mayor of Chicago. (He also was commerce secretary during the Clinton years.) The ad goes on to note that Obama's "money man" is Tony Rezko, a convicted felon--making the disgraced developer sound like Obama's main fundraiser, which he was not. The ad also declares that "his governor, Rod Blagojevich" has "a legacy of federal and state investigations." His governor? Well, that's true, since Obama is a resident of Illinois. But this is guilt by association. Under such a standard, Obama could run an ad saying, "John McCain--part of a corrupt political machine. His fellow Republican legislator in Arizona--indicted for money laundering." (That would be Rick Renzi, who was cochairman of McCain's 2008 presidential campaign in Arizona.)

In response to this ad, Obama spokesman Bill Burton issued a statement: "Barack Obama was elected to the Illinois Senate as an independent Democrat. He took on the Chicago Democratic organization in a primary to win a seat in the US Senate. And in both Illinois and Washington, he has challenged the Old Guard for landmark ethics reforms."

But, more to the point, the ad came out the morning The New York Times reported that McCain's campaign manager was paid nearly $2 million for running a Washington outfit set up by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to stop stricter regulation of these two entities. Talk about the corrupt Washington machine. McCain's right hand was one of its major players. Yet McCain accuses Obama of being part of a corrupt system. No doubt, Davis approved that message.

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AP Poll: Obama Loses 6 Points Due to Race

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 12:03 PM EDT

If you haven't read about the AP poll on race and the election, go take a look.

To be frank, it's pretty disheartening. And not just in terms of Obama's electoral chances. It says some pretty awful things about America. Did you know that more than a quarter of white Democrats feel that "if blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites"? And that nearly four in 10 white independents feel the same way? When given an opportunity to label blacks, 22 percent of whites agreed with the word "boastful," 29 percent reach for "complaining," and 13 percent go with "lazy."

Why Should We Limit Executive Pay on Wall Street? Here's Why

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 10:57 AM EDT

From ABC News:

In 2007, Wall Street's five biggest firms — Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley — paid a record $39 billion in bonuses to themselves.
That's $10 billion more than the $29 billion loan taxpayers are making to J.P. Morgan to save Bear Stearns.
Those 2007 bonuses were paid even though the shareholders in those firms last year collectively lost about $74 billion in stock declines — their worst year since 2002.

The bonuses paid by these five firms averaged $201,500 per employee. ABC points out that the figure is more than four times the median household income in America.

Wall Street vs. The Democrats: Don't Hold Your Breath

| Sun Sep. 21, 2008 11:54 PM EDT

On Monday the House and Senate began considering the $700 billion gift to Wall Street otherwise known as the bailout package, presented to them in recent days by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. How will it fare on the floor of Congress? A clue to what we can expect can be found in the congressional response to the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which helped pave the way for the current economic crisis.

This now infamous piece of legislation repealed part of the Glass-Steagall Act, passed in 1933 in response to the banking collapse of the Great Depression. Glass-Steagall enforced a firewall between investment banks, commercial banks, and insurance companies, in order separate high-flying Wall Street risk-takers from the banks where Americans keep their money in checking and savings accounts.

Phil Gramm, then a Republican senator from Texas, and recently an economic advisor to the McCain campaign, took the lead in undoing Glass-Steagall, a move the financial services industry had been lobbying for since at least the 1980s. (James Leach, a former Republican congressman from Iowa, introduced the House version of the bill. He is now a leader of Republicans for Obama.) Bill Clinton was also an enthusiastic supporter of banking deregulation. And it was Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin who brokered the compromise that allowed the legislation to move forward in Congress—shortly before he left the administration to join Citigroup. (In November 1999, Mother Jones published a piece on the dangerous implications of Gramm-Leach-Bliley, under the headline "Robert Rubin Rewrites the Rules.")

Will Her VP Run Hurt Palin in Alaska?

| Sun Sep. 21, 2008 3:09 PM EDT

The fact that the McCain campaign essentially speaks for Sarah Palin — answering any question directed at her office by everyday Alaskans — is hurting her popularity in-state. And Democratic legislators, accustomed to partnering with Palin, have soured on the Governor. From the LA Times:

In stubbornly independent Alaska, the sudden intrusion of a political campaign into so many corners of state government -- not to mention Wasilla, where a dozen or more campaign researchers and lawyers have also begun overseeing the release of any information about Palin's years as mayor -- has touched a raw nerve. McCain staffers have even been assigned to answer calls for Palin's family members, who have been instructed not to talk.
"Why did the McCain campaign take over the governor's office?" the Anchorage Daily News demanded in an editorial Saturday. "Is it too much to ask that Alaska's governor speak for herself, directly to Alaskans, about her actions as Alaska's governor?"