Mojo - October 2008

George W. Bush: Helping Candidates Lose Election in Other Countries, Too

| Fri Oct. 10, 2008 1:53 PM EDT

Canada's parliamentary elections are coming up shortly, and the majority Conservative party is having a tough time maintaining its lead over the opposition Liberals.

How is the Liberal party making its gains? In part, by tying the prime minister to George W. Bush. Look familiar?

(Via Yglesias)

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Old McCain Aides Regret New McCain

| Fri Oct. 10, 2008 1:02 PM EDT

John McCain has had a coterie of advisers that has worked with him, off and on, for his entire political career. John Weaver and Mike Murphy are two such men. Despite the fact that they are not working for McCain's current presidential campaign, they are devoted McCainiacs. And both have become disheartened with the direction the McCain campaign has taken these past few weeks.

Weaver, a man the Washington Post once called McCain's Karl Rove, is quoted in the Politico:

Fear-Mongering and Fox

| Fri Oct. 10, 2008 11:59 AM EDT

Various outlets are growing concerned with the anti-Obama anger that seems to have taken over McCain/Palin rallies of late. I'd like to point out that Fox News is doing far, far more to entice hatred and possibly violence than the McCain campaign is. If you take your cues from Fox News, you're likely to think America is under attack by a foreign terrorist agent who holds both a Islamic faith and a communist agenda. Further, you likely believe that this secret Stalinist Muslim will steal the election from god-fearing Americans through his connections to ACORN, the single sleaziest organization on the planet.

Yes, McCain and Palin have drifted into seriously shady territory by implying that Obama is an unamerican terrorist sympathizer. But Fox is way more explicit in its race-baiting and fear-mongering than the McCain campaign is.

As just a bit of evidence, see this Daily Show clip:

McCain's Foreign Policy Advisor and Ahmad Chalabi: How Close?

| Fri Oct. 10, 2008 11:50 AM EDT

Back in the fall of 2002, long before president Bush had told the public of his plans, the man who would become the John McCain campaign's top foreign policy advisor was tasked with a sensitive mission that had come from the White House: to set up a group to lobby for war with Iraq. The group that Randy Scheunemann subsequently set up and became president of, the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, argued, as did Iraqi exile politician Ahmad Chalabi, that the problem with Saddam Hussein was not just his (alleged) weapons, but the nature of the regime: "We believe it is time to confront the clear and present danger posed by Saddam Hussein's regime by liberating the Iraqi people," Scheunemann said in a press release announcing the creation of the Committee on the Liberation of Iraq, which was celebrated by a party at Chalabi's Georgetown home, according to Chalabi's biographer Aram Roston.

So how close really were Scheunemann and Ahmad Chalabi? In this piece, I asked long-time Chalabi advisor Francis Brooke, among others:

Brooke says he met Scheunemann in 1996 when he and Chalabi were hitting Capitol Hill to try to drum up increased US government support for the Iraqi opposition. Brooke's pitch then was that putting pressure on Saddam Hussein was not just the right policy; it was also a vehicle for attacking Bill Clinton, then running for reelection. "I thought it was a good time to educate the Republican Congress…and give them the ammunition they needed to beat the president up." In Scheunemann and other hardliners on the Hill, Brooke says he found kindred spirits—a clique of Republicans deeply disillusioned with how George H.W. Bush had let both the Cold War and the first Iraq War end without meting out sufficient punishment to America's adversaries. "These people had a great sense of psychic loss that we had not finished the first Iraq War in the most comprehensive way. They hated George Bush the first."
Still, Scheunemann, who then worked for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, was initially skeptical. After he and Chalabi made their pitch, Brooke said, "Randy said, 'This is all fine but on the other hand, the CIA and other parts of the US government tell me that the Iraqi opposition is a feckless bunch of people, that can't do anything, have no support inside the country, and have probably been up to no good all over the place.'" Brooke says he encouraged Scheunemann to do his own research, and eventually convinced him.

Go read the whole piece.

Tough Times for Conservative Philanthropist

| Fri Oct. 10, 2008 11:31 AM EDT

After taking a hit of $4 billion in the recent financial turmoil, conservative philanthropist and Freedom's Watch-backer Sheldon Adelson is no longer the third wealthiest person in the United States, according to a revised Forbes' list. Bloomberg:

Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chief Executive Officer Sheldon Adelson's net worth declined by $4 billion between Aug. 29 and Oct. 1, the steepest drop among Americans who lost $1 billion or more during the credit crisis, according to Forbes magazine.
The magazine, in its Oct. 27 issue, recalculates the effect of September's financial news on the wealthiest Americans, those who make up its Forbes 400 list. That list was published on Sept. 17.
Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chairman Warren Buffett overtook Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates as the richest American by posting an $8 billion gain to $58 billion during the period, the magazine said. Gates's net worth declined $1.5 billion to $55.5 billion during the 33-day period. He had been first for 15 straight years.

I wrote about the right's frustration with Adelson's tendency to take a hands-on role in projects he funded back in the spring. And Peter Stone profiled the casino mogul in the magazine.

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Jim Crow's Muslim America

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 7:01 PM EDT

Watch this video and join me in saying: Wow.

When Andrew Sullivan posted the video above, his Atlantic colleague, Ta-Nehisi Coates (who is black) piped up to say he thinks it's unfair. Coates likens it to the dreaded media's televising of the most ignorant Negroes they can find whenever something "black" happens, so America can assume we're all that stupid. I dunno.

I think it's valid to discuss, inasmuch as folks like these are just the unvarnished versions of those who think Obama's middle name—hiss! boo! Hussein—actually tells you something about him. It might be that hideous things like this, from true cretins, are most useful in getting white folks to take a good, hard look in the mirror at themselves: Do I, deep down and with better than a fourth grade education, really agree with these morons? If so, what does that make me? There are plenty of well-educated folks happy to tell a TV camera that having a president with "Hussein" in his name is a nightmare. What's the difference, really? Classy bigotry versus ignorant bigotry isn't much of a choice.

Speaking of videos, you cannot miss Donna Brazile's impassioned appeal to America not to be distracted by race. She reminds us that we need to be proud of how far we've come on race, and proud enough to remember that we're better than Jim Crow. Because Jim Crow is all it is when we politely, or impolitely, demand that our fear of "Muslims" be accorded respect and deference. Let's call inveighing against "Muslims" (we're at war with them, you know) and "A-rab" middle names what it is: just another way to keep blacks and non-Christians at the back of the bus.

Like Brazile, I'm afraid that I'll wake up in 31 days knowing that I'll have to tell my bi-racial children their mother grew up under Jim Crow and they will, too. Vote for whoever you want, but here's the bottom line: If you care whether or not Obama "really" is a Muslim, however expansive your vocabulary, that hideous video speaks for you.

Top McCain Aide Lobbied for Pro-Russian Foreign Politicians

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 6:42 PM EDT

I know, I know, its hard to keep John McCain's lobbyists-turned-top-advisers straight. There's chief campaign strategist Charlie Black, who lobbied for dictators in the '80s and just about everyone else since. There's campaign manager Rick Davis, who headed a lobbying organization for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for years and was still on Freddie's payroll as late as August 2008. There's top foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann, who has lobbied for Latvia, Macedonia, Georgia, and Taiwan. (And there's 83 others who lobbied for Wall Street before and during the financial crisis.)

But National Journal has a new one for you. Christian Ferry, McCain's deputy campaign manager and Rick Davis's #2 man, has worked for some nasty characters:

Palin's Secessionists Problem

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 4:47 PM EDT

Secessionists? Alaska wants to secede from the US (which its leadership "hates") and the Palins are hip deep in it?

She demands to see her Republican opponent's marriage license (how could he be married, as all decent people must be, if his "wife" had a different name?)—but won't release her mysterious fifth child's birth certificate?

All of this feels really smarmy, but that's because Palin feels really smarmy. We've been forced to lay down with that dog and now we're covered with fleas. How can someone so compromised stand on the threshold of the American presidency?

The National Debt Clock Ran Out of Digits

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 4:01 PM EDT

According to CNN:

The National Debt Clock in New York City has run out of digits to record the growing figure.

As a short-term fix, the digital dollar sign on the billboard-style clock near Times Square has been switched to a figure—the "1" in $10 trillion. It's marking the federal government's current debt at about $10.2 trillion.

The Durst Organization says it plans to update the sign next year by adding two digits. That will make it capable of tracking debt up to a quadrillion dollars.

The late Manhattan real estate developer Seymour Durst put the sign up in 1989 to call attention to what was then a $2.7 trillion debt.

I was in the former Yugoslavia in the late 80's/early 90s, just as they'd had to devalue their currency. My then-boyfriend and I were mystified whenever locals tried to explain to us that we needed to add three zeroes or subtract them, who knew which, from whatever was on the bill. Either our disgusting room cost us $10 or $100, we were never quite sure. Everywhere we went, guys with unibrows and "Natasha-and-Boris" accents were pssst-ing at us and going "change mon-ye? change mon-ye?"

You see, back in those long gone days, US currency was the bomb. Now it's just a bomb, I guess. Will we eventually become the slightly scary guys desperately trying to get foreigners to change their good money for our lousy stuff?

I'll have to check with the ex-boyfriend; maybe that was Hungary. Either way, we seem to be going the same way. Backwards.