Mojo - October 2008

Palin Confuses on Proper Direction of Campaign

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 12:00 PM EDT

Sarah Palin on October 5, suggesting to Bill Kristol that the McCain campaign ought to go more negative:

"To tell you the truth, Bill, I don't know why [the Revered Wright] association isn't discussed more, because those were appalling things that that pastor had said about our great country, and to have sat in the pews for 20 years and listened to that — with, I don't know, a sense of condoning it, I guess, because he didn't get up and leave — to me, that does say something about character. But, you know, I guess that would be a John McCain call on whether he wants to bring that up."

Sarah Palin on Sunday, telling the press that she wants to focus on the issues:

"If I called all the shots, and if I could wave a magic wand, I would be sitting at a kitchen table with more and more Americans, talking to them about our plan to get the economy back on track and winning the war, and not having to rely on the old conventional ways of campaigning that includes those robocalls, and includes spending so much money on the television ads that, I think, is kind of draining out there in terms of Americans' attention span."

Those robocalls she's denouncing as "conventional ways of campaigning" are exactly the sort of negative, association-based campaign tactics she was urging just two weeks ago. It's almost as if her complete lack of experience on the national stage forces her to make it up as she goes along!

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Limbaugh: Colin Powell Endorsed Obama, He Must Be Destroyed

| Sun Oct. 19, 2008 7:04 PM EDT

This is like clockwork, folks. Limbaugh takes just a matter of hours to claim Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama because both men are African-American.

Rush Limbaugh said Colin Powell's decision to get behind Barack Obama appeared to be very much tied to Obama's status as the first African-American with a chance to become president.
"Secretary Powell says his endorsement is not about race," Limbaugh wrote in an e-mail. "OK, fine. I am now researching his past endorsements to see if I can find all the inexperienced, very liberal, white candidates he has endorsed. I'll let you know what I come up with."

Here's George Will making the same point with a little more subtlety.

An Ex-Powell Aide Explains Why the Time Is Right for an Obama Endorsement--UPDATED

| Sat Oct. 18, 2008 2:54 PM EDT

UPDATE: On Sunday, Colin Powell did endorse Barack Obam. Appearing on Meet The Press, he presented an eloquent statement of support in which he hailed Obama's "transformational" role, leadership ability, and intellectual curiosity. Powell emphasized that he believed that John McCain, his longtime friend, could be a good president, but he maintained that the GOP has become too much in hock to its right-wing base and that Sarah Palin was not at all ready to be president. Despite Powell's tarnished reputation--due to his starring role in the Iraq WMD fiasco--his unequivocal endorsement is a boost for Obama and yet one more problem for McCain. The below piece was written before Powell did the deed, but note Larry Wilkerson's explanation of the timing of Powell's endorsement. In this instance--unlike when he backed Bush's invasion of Iraq--Powell stuck to the Powell Doctrine, at least the Powell Doctrine of Decision-making....

With NBC News reporting that Colin Powell will appear on Meet the Press this Sunday, speculation is mounting that former Republican secretary of state will endorse Barack Obama for president. Politico reports

Retired Gen. Colin Powell, once considered a potential running mate for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), now may endorse his opponent, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), according to Republican sources. But an air of mystery surrounds Powell's planned live appearance Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," and no one is sure what he will say.

Note the use of the word "may."

Predicting the most anticipated endorsement of the 2008 campaign has been a pundit standby for months. In June, Robert Novak asserted, "Powell probably will enter Obama's camp at a time of his own choosing." In August Bill Kristol declared that Powell would endorse Obama at the Democratic convention and "quite possibly" speak at the convention. Last week, Lawrence O'Donnell wrote, "It now seems beyond doubt that Colin Powell will endorse Barack Obama and thereby hammer the final nail in the coffin of the Republican campaign to hold onto the White House." He cited no sources.

Will Powell take the leap this weekend? In tracking the Powell story these past few months, I have periodically checked in with Larry Wilkerson, who was Powell's chief of staff at the State Department and who had worked with Powell in a variety of positions going back to 1989. Wilkerson always said the same thing: with Powell, it's all about the 60-percent rule--that is, the general manner in which he makes big decisions. Wilkerson explains:

16 Words: New Court Filing Suggests Manufactured Terror Threat in Bush's 2002 State of the Union

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 10:38 PM EDT

A new court filing by the lawyers for Lakhdar Boumediene and five other Guantanamo detainees suggests that the Bush administration ordered the Bosnian government to arrest and hold the men after an exhaustive Bosnian investigation had found them innocent of any terrorism related activity and had ordered their release, in order to use them as props in Bush's January 2002 State of the Union speech.

The filing--"Lakhdar Boumediene, et al., Petitioners, v. George W. Bush, President of the United States, et al., Respondents, Petitioners' Public Traverse to the Government's Return to the Petition for Habeas Corpus"--lays out the case that the Bush administration threatened at the highest levels to withdraw diplomatic and military aid to the Balkan nation if Bosnia released the men, which its own three-month investigation had found innocent of any terrorism charges in the days leading up to Bush's January 2002 State of the Union.

Faced with the threats of the withdrawal of aid and that if it released the men, the White House would order NATO troops to detain them, Bosnia transferred the men under duress to the custody of the US government in January 2002, and the US transferred them to Guantanamo. Ten days later, in his 2002 State of the Union address, Bush used sixteen words to warn Americans that, in "cooperation" with the Bosnian government, it had captured terrorists who had planned to bomb the US embassy in Sarajevo: "Our soldiers, working with the Bosnian government, seized terrorists who were plotting to bomb our embassy," Bush told the nation.

But, six years later, the detainees' new petition says, after the US Supreme Court has sided with the detainees and ordered the US to give the detainees habeas corpus rights, the Bush administration has failed to repeat the embassy plot charges that Bush used in his State of the Union address, or to produce credible evidence of why the men should be held as enemy combatants.

(Bush also used 16 words to falsely claim in his 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq's Saddam Hussein had sought yellowcake uranium from the African nation of Niger -- a claim the White House had been previously repeatedly warned by the CIA was unfounded and which the White House later admitted Bush should not have said, months after the US invasion of Iraq).

The 58-page traverse petition was filed today in the US District Court for the District of Columbia (.pdf). Some key excerpts from its preliminary statement below the fold:

Dan Savage on Sex, Moose, and the Palin Kids

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 9:44 PM EDT

Gay-as-hell sex columnist Dan Savage offers himself up to teach Sarah and Todd's kids about sex and birth control, if they'll teach his kid about God and how to "kill and field dress a moose. Something he doesn't get to see at home."

Take a look, it'll make your day, trust me.

The American Economy - More Pain to Come For Now

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 9:30 PM EDT

Below is a guest blog entry by economist and MoJo author Nomi Prins:

There are no bright spots on the immediate horizon for the US economy, mired in a debt-led recession that has yet to reach its trough. Indeed, on Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke relayed his most somber opinion about the US economy to date. Focusing on the ongoing liquidity crisis, he told a roomful of people at the Economic Club in New York that there was a "significant threat" to the US economy emanating from the credit markets, indicating that as bad as it seems, the worst is still ahead.

Though Bernanke appeared to be giving the Fed room for more rate cuts in the near future, especially since inflationary pressures from things such as high oil prices have fallen dramatically over the past few weeks, that won't be enough to do more than put some short-lived cheer in the markets.

Even if Bernanke were to cut rates to the levels that Greenspan reached to spur the US economy out of its recession in 2001, he and the US are facing a more widespread problem given the extent of credit issues. He can do little to control the massive over-leverage that still exists in the US (and global) banking industry, but wait, and hope that at some point, the pressures of the tightened credit will ease.

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Is Getting Race Right All About the Benjamins?

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 6:36 PM EDT

Ireland is welcoming immigrants of all hues and thriving. From Slate:

After centuries of emigration—particularly to Great Britain and the United States—Ireland has attracted thousands of newcomers. While the economy has cooled, foreigners have not, for the most part, headed for the exits: Approximately 10 percent of the country's 4.1 million residents are now foreign-born. The diversity of this group becomes apparent as you stroll around Dublin: Filipino restaurants stand next to Polish grocery stores and African hair-braiding salons. ...

...the government has encouraged businesses to fill low-skill jobs with citizens from the new EU member states. According to 2006 statistics (the most recent available), about 70,000 Poles have successfully landed work in Ireland. The third-largest group of foreigners—after British and Polish—are Africans. There are about 50,000 Africans in Ireland, and many of them arrived as asylum seekers.

One Nigerian immigrant is mayor of an Irish town, and he isn't even a citizen. Imagine that happening here. Unfortunately, immigration isn't going so well in Spain. Also from Slate:

It wasn't so long ago that Spain was considered one of the most immigrant-friendly countries in the world. In 2005, the nation's European neighbors looked askance when the Spanish government instituted an amnesty program that granted residency papers to more than 500,000 foreigners. It was a potential first step to acquiring Spanish citizenship and, by extension, an EU passport. That wasn't the only chance non-EU citizens had to settle in the country through legal channels: The government has also allowed businesses to recruit for so-called hard-to-fill positions—ranging from medical technician to domestic worker—by hiring abroad. Last year, more than 200,000 foreigners arrived in Spain this way. Upon arrival, newcomers both legal and illegal could access Spain's health care system at no cost by registering at the local town hall.

Immigrants can still access the state safety net, but now that the economy has cooled, opportunities to settle in the country legally are becoming scarce. ...

Perhaps it was inevitable that the Spanish government would become more apprehensive about its newfound multiculturalism. The country has undergone a bewildering transformation: In the past decade, the immigrant population spiked to nearly 4 million, or 10 percent of the country's total population of 40 million. That is almost as high as the proportion of foreign-born residents in the United States, where immigrants comprise 12.5 percent of the population. Unlike the United States or European countries like Austria and Germany, Spain has little experience of absorbing outsiders. Traditionally, people left the country rather than settled there.

As usual, it's all about the benjamins; when the economy is strong and unpleasant work needs to be done, immigrants are wooed. When the economy tanks.....

Maybe Nothing is Wrong With Kansas

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 4:03 PM EDT

CNN reports that Rep. Murtha is apologizing for referring to western Pennsylvania, which he represents, as "a racist area". Of course, this comes on the heels of Obama's comments about the white working class bitterly clinging to racism, guns and religion as the economy worsens. Until recently, this week in fact, my reaction had been a big 'truth hurts. Deal with it'. Now I'm wondering if it's so simple.

In the Oct. 13 New Yorker, George Packer offers a superbly argued defense of this very demographic and tries to shift the paradigm: Counter-intuitive as it seems for poor-to-lower middle class whites to have shifted their loyalty to the GOP and remain aloof to Obama, it is not a symptom of stupidity. It's a legitimate reaction to their belief that the Democrats just haven't done much for them lately. Lately, like since the 70s, when working whites abandoned the party they'd embraced since FDR.

It's the delicious New Yorker, so a quick excerpt just won't do:

It Finally Happened: Reporter Assaulted at Palin Rally

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 1:00 PM EDT

This was a long time coming. A reporter in North Carolina was assaulted at a Palin rally when he tried to interview Obama supporters who were protesting on the scene.

I sidled up to one of the Obama supporters and asked why they were there, what they were trying to accomplish.
As he was telling me a large, bearded man in full McCain-Palin campaign regalia got in his face to yell at him.
"Hey, hey," I said. "I'm trying to interview him. Just a minute, okay?"
The man began to say something about how of course I was interviewing the Obama people when suddenly, from behind us, the sound of a pro-Obama rap song came blaring out of the windows of a dorm building. We all turned our heads to see Obama signs in the windows.
This was met with curses, screams and chants of "U.S.A" by McCain-Palin folks who crowded under the windows trying to drown it out and yell at the person playing the stereo.
It was a moment of levity in an otherwise very tense situation and so I let out a gentle chuckle and shook my head.
"Oh, you think that 's funny?!" the large bearded man said. His face was turning red. "Yeah, that's real funny…" he said.
And then he kicked the back of leg, buckling my right knee and sending me sprawling onto the ground.

You can read the rest of the account here. Ugly.

McCain Now Using Robocalls He Once Condemned

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 12:05 PM EDT

As John McCain robocalls sweep the country, accusing Barack Obama of literally murdering newborns and associating with a group that "killed Americans," keep in mind that when John McCain was a victim of Bush robocalls in the 2000 Republican primary he had a very different view of the tactic. Back then, he slammed slimy robocalls as "hate calls."

Evidently, he is willing to use "hate calls" in the service of his campaign. But who knows? As I've postulated before, the image of McCain as a saintly campaigner that emerged out of 2000 might have been very different if he had won the primary and went on to a bruising general election. If McCain were losing by 10 points in October 2000, whose to say he wouldn't be acting the same way he is now?