Mojo - October 2008

Bailout Bill Passes; Leading Dem Skeptic Issues Statement

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 4:08 PM EDT

Republicans got most of the attention (or blame) for stopping the bailout bill when it was first brought up in the House on Monday. But many Democrats, including members of a bipartisan group that called itself the "skeptics caucus," also voted no. Unfortunately for the skeptics, the bill just passed, 263-171. Over 170 Democrats and 90 Republicans voted for the bill, with 108 Republicans and just 63 Democrats voting no (down from 95 on Monday). Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), a no vote who led the skeptics caucus, has issued a statement:

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Mission Creep Dispatch: Mark Selden

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 3:48 PM EDT

Selden.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 Mark Selden, coordinator of The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus and a research associate with the East Asia program at Cornell University. His books include War & State Terrorism: The United States, Japan, and the Asia Pacific in the Long Twentieth Century.

Guns Before Butter: Why America Is Losing Clout to Asia

America's domination of the Pacific after World War II hinged on the combination of direct control of Japan, Okinawa, Korea, and the Philippines—and Micronesia in the form of a US trust territory—and the associated network of US military bases. While the bombs had ceased pummeling European cities, Asia remained a critical zone of hot war. After Japan's defeat, the US intervened in the Chinese Civil War in 1947, followed by the Korean and Vietnam wars—both of which directly or indirectly pitted the US against China and the Soviet Union. It was in Asia that the US learned the limits of power, if not the limits of arrogance. Defeated in China and Indochina, it was fought to a standstill in Korea despite overwhelming technological and resource dominance.

GOP Kills Tougher Iran Sanctions Bill

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 3:10 PM EDT

This week, legislation that had passed overwhelmingly in the House, that would have broadened US Iran sanctions to ban US dealings with Iran through foreign subsidiaries, and trade with foreign entities that deal with Iran's energy industry, was set to come for a vote in the Senate. The legislation, supported by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, was opposed by business groups and the Bush administration, which feared it would lead to further fissures in the international coalition the U.S. has tried to assemble to pressure Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program.

But as JTA reports, the legislation was blocked by Senate Republicans. Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Co) "exercised his prerogative Thursday to object to consideration of legislation that had passed overwhelmingly last week in the U.S. House of Representatives," the news service writes.

"Both the White House and business groups were concerned with the extraterritorial aspects of the bill," Washington trade attorney Douglas Jacobson explained. "Business groups were also opposed to the divestment aspects. The White House has threatened to veto similar bills many times on grounds that it interferes with the executive branch's ability to conduct foreign policy."

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) criticized Republican efforts to derail the measure, which is now considered unlikely to come up for a vote again before Congress completes its session this weekend. "I am disappointed that the Republicans yesterday blocked the Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2008 from moving forward in the Senate," Reid said in a statement.


"Let's Cover This Nation in Prayer For Sarah Palin"

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 12:39 PM EDT

The Internet brings the world to your fingertips. You can buy books, read news, get directions, reserve a table at your favorite restaurant, listen to music, or any number of other things. But did you know that you can also engage in "a spiritual war in the heavenlies... where battles are won or lost?" So says Vicki Garza, a Dallas advertising executive, who launched a new website where you can direct your prayers—online, virtually—to Sarah Palin and her family.

Here's the idea, according to Garza:

Many people are excited about the thought of having a strong believer like Sarah Palin in office but how many of us can say that we pray for her daily? This website is dedicated to doing just that. Whoever would like to make a commitment to pray for Sarah Palin can go to www.prayforsarahpalin.com and enter their zip code. A marker will automatically be placed on the prayer coverage map, which can be viewed live in Google maps. There are approximately 43,000 zip codes in the United States. Our goal is to have people praying for Sarah Palin in every zip code. I believe prayer changes things.

Not a fan a Sarah Palin? No problem. Turns out the Internet is brimming with ways to channel your psychic energy to the politician of your choice. Would you prefer to include McCain in your prayers (I mean, the way things are going for him lately, he could use the help)? Well, visit prayformccainpalin.com. Is Obama more to your liking? Worry not. You can pray for him and his friend Joe here. Oh, and at the risk of "pointing backwards again," as Palin put it at last night's debate, you can also offer up your prayers for President Bush.

I can't speak for the one in the heavenlies, but the spiritual battle online is raging.

Heavens, Another Must-Watch Palin/Couric Clip

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 11:13 AM EDT

CBS continues its quest to destroy the McCain campaign by releasing another interview clip that makes Sarah Palin look utterly unprepared for the vice presidency. (I was wrong yesterday when I said the can't-name-a-Supreme-Court-decision clip was the final one.) Try to watch this one and not snicker.


Watch CBS Videos Online

Am I crazy or is this the sort of answer Jay Leno might get while questioning a random person in a Jaywalking bit? "Hey buddy, come over here. What's the worse thing Dick Cheney has done in the last eight years?" "Uh, I dunno Jay. I don't really follow the news. He shot that old guy, right? That was pretty bad!"

Post Debate Snap Polls from CNN Show Little Changes for Palin

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 10:58 AM EDT

Here are some poll numbers CNN aired directly after the debate. Check out the last two.

Who did the best job In the debate?
Biden - 51%
Palin - 36%

Biden did better or worse than expected?
64% - better
14% - worse
20% - same

Palin did better or worse than expected?
84% - better
7% - worse
8% - same

Palin qualified to serve as President?

Before debate:
42% - yes
54% - no

After debate
46% - yes
53% - no

Despite the fact that a vast majority of watchers thought Palin did better than expected in the debate, just 4 percent came away with their minds changed about her qualifications for the presidency. That suggests that the environment is just so poisoned for Palin, or her lack of experience is so thorough and so well-known, that there is simply nothing she can do to convince people she belongs in the game.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Veep Debate: An End to the Sarah Palin Reality TV Show

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 1:36 AM EDT

For the past few weeks, it's seemed as if Sarah Palin has been a contestant in the ultimate version of the reality show America's Toughest Jobs. She passed the first challenge: give a Big Speech. She did fine on the next one: hit the campaign trail. She royally screwed up the third challenge: give a Big Interview. Then came the most difficult one: hold your own in a Big Debate. And she did.

For 90 minutes Governor Palin, who had become a bleeding ulcer for the McCain campaign, stuck to well-crafted talking points, recited them with passion and conviction, and played the part of the spunky, down-home, up-North middle-class-mom-turned-governor well. She did not demonstrate much depth in policy knowledge, but she managed to display treading-water familiarity with the obvious issues of the day. (Media and advocacy group factcheckers will soon be producing the list of her factual misrepresentations.) It helped that moderator Gwen Ifill did not pose questions that might push her off her script. Palin repeated buzz phrases--"greed and corruption of Wall Street," for instance--over and over. (She was obviously coached to use the word maverick repeatedly, former Republican Senator Rick Santorum observed after the debate.) For some viewers, her autopilot replies might be a turnoff. But for conservatives and independents who want to like her, she probably performed well enough--and she probably performed well enough to stop the hemorrhaging she had caused the campaign.

Which means that perhaps John McCain will return to center stage, as Palin--and her uninformed responses to Katie Couric's questions--becomes less of an issue.

VP Debate: Working Moms For Palin? Not These 400

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 1:12 AM EDT

Many of the 400 working mothers who watched the VP debate in a San Francisco hotel ballroom live Thursday night grimaced as Sarah Palin leaned awkwardly into Joe Biden onstage, then sailed over to her podium. "After all, this is a historic night for working moms," noted the work/life conference wrangler. Not even the many liberals in attendance wanted her to fail outright. Thus, there was a collective groan at Palin's first response to Gwen Ifill: "You know, I think a good barometer here, as we try to figure out has this been a good time or a bad time in America's economy, is go to a kid's soccer game on Saturday, and turn to any parent there on the sideline and ask them, "How are you feeling about the economy?"

These parents know when they're being pandered to. The faint charms of Palin's mommy group charisma, her overuse of the word 'darn'? Oh, how the shine has worn off. There were catcalls at Palin's use of the phrase "respect for women's rights." Cheers when Biden finally took off the kid gloves.

"I'm a registered Democrat, and I have to admit, the first time I saw her speak I was nervous," said a redhead named Kacy, standing near the open bar and the cupcake table after the first hour of the debate. "She seemed witty and strong." Kacy adjusted the sleeping one-month-old on her shoulder. "But now that I've seen her speak more, I've lost my admiration for her," she said.

A blonde at the book table, by titles "Porn for New Moms" and "The Three-Martini Playdate," planned to watch the recorded debate at home with a Palin Bingo card in hand and another glass of wine. "Really, it's just like any other reality show, isn't it? Two people looking like idiots on TV?"

After an hour of Palin and Biden, star work/life speaker Lisa Belkin took a vote. Option one, "watching the rest of the debate," lost by a few cheers in favor of extended panels on blending life and work. They'd TiVoed it. They knew what they were missing in the Veep debate—and what they weren't.

Guest Liveblogging the Debate

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 9:35 PM EDT

I come away with a solid impression that as the dust settles, no one is going to be especially impressed simply because Palin held her own. That should be the very least we should expect of a candidate. Biden scored huge points on 1) actually answering questions, 2) calling lies lies, and changing the frame of the conversation, and 3) pure substance. It comes down to who of these two would be (god forbid) a better president, and the reality of that possibility was on display here. When it boils down to that, there really isn't much competition based on the gravitas shown in St. Louis tonight. Biden by two lengths.

7:35 - Biden going in for the after-debate niceties, perhaps trying to catch her off guard, and not let her decompress...

7:30 - I sadly call it far closer than it ought to have been, and I assume polls tomorrow will reflect a chasm between those who say one or the other won it. Biden wins on facts, Sarah on expectations-beating.

7:29 - Palin's argument that the media made her look bad can't possibly play. She actually argued today that she had been "censored." She must wish she HAD been.

7:27 - One Current watcher notes Biden is winning on substance, Palin on style. Not sure that's entirely true - she's still clearly a lightweight who falls back into beauty pageant tics. But does "Joe Sixpack" care?

7:24 - Watching Hack the Debate on Current. Interesting to see the Tweets pouring in.

7:21 - Will the Biden choke-up help or hurt? I bet the former. Women aren't allowed to cry (see Hillary), so he can make himself accessible with a trembling chin.

7:18 - Nice big target - Cheney - bulls-eyed by Biden.

7:13 - Palin is revving up. The folksy is working. The school shout-out was brilliant.

7:10 - Joe Biden is getting mad. Careful.

7:07 - "McCain knows how to win a war." Which wars has he won?

7:02 - Best 2008 coinage: "Bosniacs." Thanks, Joe!

6:57 - Palin flatly denied that the US has bombed civilians in Afghanistan.

6:55 - Look closely at Palin's lapel - Israeli flag just ABOVE her American flag pin.

6:52 - Apparently McCain-Palin believe Israel is our only ally.

6:49 - There's "NUCULAR," from Palin. Oh lordy.

6:44 - Palin - ohh, bad move putting your confidence in the leader of al Qaeda.

6:42 - Biden - be careful not to get too brainy and wonky.

6:40 - After all these years, I really expected GOP candidates to pronounce "Iraq" properly.

6:37 - Palin is doing remarkably well. Far above expectations from this vantage point.

6:34 - "Drill, baby drill" - but Biden just mentioned the fact that drilling solves nothing for at least 10 years!

6:31 - Alaska feels the effects of climate change more than any other state? Wow, tell that to Louisiana and Texas.

6:29 - Palin unabashedly refuses to answer questions.

6:23 - Palin is hitting her stride. Looking into the camera instead of at the moderator is a lovely touch.

6:21- Biden's strategy now clear - point out foreseeable fudges of the truth as they happen. Simple, elegant, effective.

6:19 - Paying taxes is not patriotic? OK then!

6:17 - Question for Palin - since when do Mayors raise or lower taxes?

6:15 - Wow, Palin is being maverick-y, telling Gwen and Joe, I'm doing it my way. Clever.

6:13 - Palin's argument is that saying we have a bad economy is too depressing, so it's better to lie to the American people for their own good. In fairness, Bush proved that repeated lies become truths, so maybe the magic will work in this fairytale administration too.

6:11 - Clearly Biden's mission is to use McCain against McCain.

6:08 - Biden is holding back, leading with gravitas and substance.

6:06 - Palin is definitely going folksy. I'm going to guess this isn't going to be as charming this time around.

6:00 - "Can I call you Joe?" Clever. He can't call her Sarah without looking sexist.

Greetings, MoJo people! I'm honored to be here to liveblog the vice presidential debate. As a former editor and producer of MotherJones.com, I'm happy to be back where I once wrote a proto-blog called The Bush Files in 2000.

So put your political pants on, friends. If you're playing bingo, may I suggest an extra credit space for every time Biden says "literally"? You will not be sorry.

My expectations here are that this will be underwhelming, and that Palin could well score big tonight.

Bailout's Handouts

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 3:45 PM EDT

Wondering why the Senate version of the bailout passed so easily? Why, sweeteners of course! Good government watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense has broken down the package of tax breaks that were tacked onto the bill (which has ballooned to over 450 pages), and it's clear that at least some of them are being used to placate skittish Senators by handing goodies to their constituents. Examples include a $478 million tax break for movie and TV studios, a $33 million economic development tax credit for businesses in American Samoa, a more favorable depreciation timetable for motor sports race track owners, and an excise tax exemption for manufacturers of wooden arrows meant for children.