Mojo - October 2008

California's Prop 8 Push: "Save Our Children!"

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 9:05 PM PDT

I was walking down an Oakland, California street tonight when I passed a family, there were at least six of them, with big yellow signs that read: "Yes on Prop 8" and "Keep Government Out!" and "Save Our Children!" Now Proposition 8, as you likely have heard, is the latest attempt to erode equal rights, this year's "say no to gay marriage" initiative on the upcoming state ballot.

They were yelling, all of them, even the little kiddies, "Save Our Children! Save Our Children!" It's a curious slogan. How, exactly, is banning same-sex marriage "restoring marriage and protecting California children?" It isn't like Measure OO, a city initiative that would boost funding for youth development, dedicating a chunk of the city's budget to after-school and other programs for kids. In fact there's no money at all in the initiative that would save our children, the gay or the straight ones. And it does nothing to restore anything, or protect anything, it's not really "pro" anything.

And how, exactly, is banning people of the same sex from the benefits of marriage keeping government out? Is the government demanding women marry women or men marry men? According to one TV ad it sorta is. In the spot, a young girl comes home from school and tells her mom proudly, "I can marry a princess!" Have mercy, what parent doesn't want their kid to marry into royalty?

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MOJO VIDEO: Mad for McCain (Starring "Tito the Builder")

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 5:04 PM PDT

At a John McCain rally in Virginia this past weekend, Mother Jones ran into a group of angry and frustrated McCain supporters looking for reporters to yell at. The now famous "Tito the Builder" was front and center. Here's what happened.

Taylor Wiles, Jonathan Stein, and David Corn

Omaha Dispatch: Things Are So Much Worse For McCain Than You Realize

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 3:04 PM PDT

mojo-photo-huskersforobama.jpgLately, we've seen a lot of press about Obama making inroads in traditionally Republican areas, perhaps none more intriguingly than Nebraska's second congressional district, comprised of Omaha and its suburbs. I grew up in outstate Nebraska (not far from where Children of the Corn was filmed, to give you an idea) and while I'm proud to say the state is no Kansas, with its anti-abortion billboards and evolution-denying school boards, it's still incredibly hostile territory for national Democrats. However, I just got back from a quick trip to see family in Omaha, and without even trying, I ran across ample evidence that my home state may be ready for change, in Gotham bold.

We May See Jeremiah Wright Yet

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 2:18 PM PDT

I've long assumed that this campaign would get really ugly in its final weeks. Today, HuffPost finds evidence that my premonition will come to pass.

Here's McCain campaign manager Rick Davis speaking to a conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt late last week:

Look, John McCain has told us a long time ago before this campaign ever got started, back in May, I think, that from his perspective, he was not going to have his campaign actively involved in using Jeremiah Wright as a wedge in this campaign.
Now since then, I must say, when Congressman Lewis calls John McCain and Sarah Palin and his entire group of supporters, fifty million people strong around this country, that we're all racists and we should be compared to George Wallace and the kind of horrible segregation and evil and horrible politics that was played at that time, you know, that you've got to rethink all these things.
And so I think we're in the process of looking at how we're going to close this campaign. We've got 19 days, and we're taking serious all these issues.

Shorter Rick Davis: if we're going to be accused of being racists, we might as well be racists.

VIDEO: The GOP's Internal Struggle Over Racism and Xenophobia

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 1:30 PM PDT

This is heartening — anti-Islamic bigots at a McCain rally on Saturday were confronted by other attendees and actually sent packing.

A couple points: (1) I hope we seen a post-election rehabilitation of the image of Muslims in America. It's sorely needed. Colin Powell is already helping. (2) There is a war currently ongoing for the soul of the Republican Party. On the one hand you've got the folks in this video who decry racism, xenophobia, and fear-mongering. On the other hand you've got folks like the the man below and the party leaders who seek to exploit him. The positions the party takes on any number of issues — including military detainees, civil liberties, hate crime legislation, gay marriage, and immigration — depend on which kind of GOP voter wins this battle.

Frankly, I wish the nativists all the luck in the world. Their ascent in the Republican Party will only lead to its increased marginalization in a changing world.

The Candidates' Health Mysteries

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 12:58 PM PDT

Take a look at this New York Times article about the unprecedented lengths both campaigns have gone to conceal the health histories of their candidates. It's worth reading in full, but here are the Cliff Notes:

McCain: Granted a limited number reporters brief access to over a 1,000 pages of medical documents. Questions remain on the severity of his melanoma, which has reoccurred a number of times.

Obama: Released only a one-page letter from his doctor testifying to "excellent" health. Appears to nurse an on-again, off-again smoking habit, the full extent of which is unknown.

Biden: Campaign-approved doctors have been interviewed about Biden and records pertaining to his 1988 brain aneurysm have been released. According to the Times, "it is not known whether Mr. Biden has had recent brain imaging scans or has been evaluated by a neurologist or neurosurgeon recently."

Palin: No medical records of any kind have been released, keeping persistent rumors about the birth of her youngest son from being dispelled.

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McCain Picks Tailhook Sexual Harassment Scandal Vet To Oversee Transition

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 12:57 PM PDT


On October 29, 1991, Senator John McCain went to the floor of the US Senate. The former Navy pilot was angry and disgusted. In recent days, the news had broken that the previous month Navy airmen and others had gone wild—engaging in sexual molestation, out-of-control drinking, and other misconduct—at the Tailhook Association convention in Las Vegas, an annual gathering of retired and active-duty naval aviators. "I cannot tell you," McCain proclaimed, "the distaste and displeasure that I have as a naval aviator…concerning this incident." He bemoaned the fact that senior ranking naval officers and civilian leaders had been at the meeting. He called for an investigation and urged the Navy to suspend its traditional participation with the Tailhook reunions. "There is no time in the history of this country that something like this is more inappropriate," McCain said, "and we cannot allow it. It is unconscionable. And we in the military...should be ashamed and embarrassed...that this kind of activity went on. And there is no excuse for it."

Now, McCain has placed one of the men responsible for permitting—and encouraging-- loutish activity at the Tailhook meetings in a powerful position: heading up his transition team.

McCain recently named John Lehman to oversee his transition effort and figure out how a McCain administration ought to get started—and whom it ought to hire for the most senior jobs—should McCain win the November 4 election. Lehman, now an investment banker, was secretary of the Navy during the 1980s, and he played a R-rated role in the Tailhook scandal.

Lehman was no longer Navy secretary when the Tailhook scandal exploded. But in 1991 and 1992, as military investigators and journalists probed what had happened at the 1991 convention—which included the so-called Gauntlet, a line of rowdy and drunk junior officers who harassed and assaulted women passing by--they learned that the events at the Tailhook convention of 1991 were predated by similar behavior in early years. And they discovered that Lehman, as Navy secretary, had been an enthusiastic participant.

In his 1995 book, Fall from Glory: The Men Who Sank the U.S. Navy, Greg Vistica, the San Diego Union-Tribune reporter who broke the Tailhook scandal, described a scene from the 1986 Tailhook meeting:

When the door to the suite at the Las Vegas Hilton opened, a prominent member of President Ronald Reagan's administration and a naked woman were clearly visible. He was lying on his back, stretched out in front of a throng of naval officers. There were probably one hundred men watching him, laughing with him….

Are Black Athletes Obligated to Support Obama?

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 11:37 AM PDT

Do black athletes, among the most visible and well-paid members of their communities, have a responsibility to support Obama? Perhaps the better question is: Did it ever even occur to them to?

How many of them thought it through and decided to remain silent (rather than officially oppose the brother), and how many just never saw the connection to themselves? I'm willing to bet most of them will vote for Obama (though I'm not willing to bet most of them will vote). So why not play a role in the biggest opportunity facing the community that supports them so fervently (too fervently, IMnotsoHO)?

Turns out that few in this group have either donated to his campaign or publicly endorsed him.
From News One:

The "Voter Fraud" Fraud: The GOP's Last-Ditch Strategy for Winning an Unwinnable Election

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 10:23 AM PDT

Make no mistake: At this point, it's clear that the voter fraud chimera, and its potential to keep thousands or millions of Obama voters out of the final count, is becoming the central Republican strategy for winning this election. The party doubts it can win if every legitimate vote is counted, so they aim to make sure that some of them aren't. False allegations of voter fraud, which can serve to both intimidate voters and challenge ballots, is their means to this end.

As David Corn wrote last week, the right's "desperation is showing" as they scramble to reverse John McCain's free-fall by smearing Barack Obama with every scary label they can find. (As David summarized it: "Obama is a Black Muslim, Anti-Christian Socialist Plotting with an Evil Jewish Billionaire.") But in case this fails to frighten off enough voters to close Obama's lead, vote suppression is the Republicans' last-ditch tactic for snatching a tainted victory from the jaws of defeat.

This is a strategy that's been developing for years within the Republican Party. But it's really taken off during the Bush administration—maybe because W (or, more likely, Dick Cheney) remained conscious that he only got into the White House through vote suppression, and could only stay there through more vote suppression. The administration's zeal to advance the myth of voter fraud was key to what has become one of its biggest scandals: the politically motivated firings of nine U.S. attorneys by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2006.

Powell on Being Muslim in America

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 10:16 AM PDT

I thought the most interesting thing about Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama, other than the indictment of the current state of the Republican Party, was his heartfelt defense of something that really shouldn't have to be defended: being Muslim in America.

Here's what he said:

I'm also troubled by — not what Senator McCain says — but what members of the Party say, and it is permitted to be said: such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is he is not a Muslim. He's a Christian; has always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, "What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?" The answer's "No, that's not America." Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim American kid believing that he or she could be President? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own Party drop the suggestion he's Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.
I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery. And she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards -- Purple Heart, Bronze Star; showed that he died in Iraq; gave his date of birth, date of death. He was twenty years old. And then at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross. It didn't have a Star of David. It had a crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Karim Rashad Sultan Kahn. And he was an American. He was born in New Jersey, he was fourteen years old at the time of 9/11 and he waited until he could go serve his country and he gave his life.

That photo can be found here. As a country, we've let anti-Muslim bigotry run rampant these last 12 months. And part of the blame rests with the left: it has been politically expedient to say "Barack Obama isn't a Muslim" but it hasn't been politically expedient to defend Muslims themselves, and so we haven't done so nearly as much as we should. I'm glad Colin Powell took this stand on so public a stage, and I hope others follow.