Political MoJo

The Nixon Factor

| Tue Oct. 24, 2006 4:27 PM EDT

Memories of Nixon loom large in the minds of Republican political pros as Bush tosses and turns on Iraq. "GOP operatives are encouraging party leaders to echo Richard Nixon's 1972 re-election strategy for restoring his popularity despite the 20,000 American soldiers killed in Vietnam during his first term,'' writes Craig Crawford of CQ. "In that campaign, Nixon softened his hard line on the fighting and began talking up negotiations with the enemy.''

Nixon came to the presidency in 1968 promising to get the US out of Vietnam. But the war continued. Protests mounted, and in 1972, in the campaign against George McGovern, Nixon tried to turn the tide by running as a peace candidate. The President halted bombing the north in mid October of that year, and just before the election Kissinger made his famous statement that "peace is at hand." That was the death knell for the McGovern campaign, although there had been little hope for his election from the very beginning.

During the ensuing peace negotiations after the election, the Nixon government said the North Vietnamese negotiators were duplicitous, using Kissinger's pre-election announcement to mock the President and weaken the US negotiating position. To bring the North Vietnamese into line, Nixon ordered a resumption of the B-52 bombing of the North, including Haiphong and Hanoi.

Could Bush pull off something similar? In recent days he seems to be suggesting a change of course in Iraq, raising possibility of an exit. At least that what various commentators and politicians read into his odd interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC. Will that defuse the war issue in the campaign? If it does, and the Republicans manage to keep control of Congress, Bush will be in a strong position to increase the levels of fighting in Iraq, and perhaps argue Iraq can be straightened out by attacking Iran and Syria.

To date the winning Republican Iraq strategem entails, on the one hand, arguing vaguely for an end to the war in Iraq, but at the same time making sure never to set a date, all the while attacking the Dems for cut and run tactics that endanger American troops. Last night in New London, Connecticut in their last debate Joe Lieberman was setting out the Republican line, calling for an end the fighting but attacking Ned Lamont's demand for a more defined exit.

In this debate, Lieberman, who is running well ahead in the polls, openly called Lamont a liar, a charge which brought the Lamont supporters in the audience to issue a torrent of boos and catcalls, enforcing their man to come forward, asking his supporters to mind their manners. All the while, Lieberman stood smirking at his opponent's embarrassment.

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Jeff Skilling and Enron's Glory Days, Captured in Email

| Tue Oct. 24, 2006 3:48 PM EDT

As former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling heads off to the pokey, you can relive the good ol' days at the Death Star with the Enron Explorer, a searchable database of company emails sent by Skilling, Ken Lay, and their underlings. Read as they joke about shredding documents, plan meetings between Lay and Cheney, flirt with co-workers, and beg not to be fired as things go south. And see Skilling in R-rated action as he tells a fellow exec, "I can't wait to see you go down with the ship like all the other vermin." Good times.

Bush Uses "the Google"

| Tue Oct. 24, 2006 3:39 PM EDT

Take a look at the video of Bush being interviewed on CNBC and saying that "one of the things I've used on the Google is to pull up maps." (Syria? Iran? Cheney's bunker?)

Sure, it's good for a chortle and a little unfair; we don't really expect our presidents to be as conversant with, say, the most popular search engine in the world as those of us without huge support staffs. On the other hand, like Bush Sr.'s supposed (and discounted) befuddlement at supermarket scanning technology, it is a telling reminder of the bubble in which our leaders live.

President Bush Visits Mother Jones Radio Studio

| Tue Oct. 24, 2006 3:10 PM EDT

And we didn't even need to invite him, he just dropped in! He was on his lunch break searching for hot dogs and voila!, in he walked. Host Angie Coiro was interviewing Scott Dikkers and Peter Hilleren who wrote Bush's unauthorized biography

Civic Organization Hacks Into Chicago Voter Database

| Tue Oct. 24, 2006 1:30 PM EDT

The Illinois Ballot Integrity Project has successfully hacked into the 1.35 million-Chicago voter database, it was announced last week. Social security numbers, birthdates, and other information was revealed, and the hackers say they could easily change voters' addresses or change someone's voting status from active to inactive. Hackers could also change the location of voters' polling places.

Several weeks ago, the IBIP reported the issue to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, who did nothing, though they evidently want you to know that Your Vote Counts.

Meanwhile, in Maryland, the Diebold touchscreen source code went missing. According to The Washington Post:

Cheryl C. Kagan, a former Democratic delegate who has long questioned the security of electronic voting systems, said the disks were delivered anonymously to her office in Olney on Tuesday and that the FBI contacted her yesterday. The package contained an unsigned letter critical of Maryland State Board of Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone that said the disks were "right from SBE" and had been "accidentally picked up."

According to Diebold officials, the stolen software is no longer being used in Maryland, with the exception of "a limited number of jurisdictions," and that it is protected by encryption. Diebold officials have also dismissed the Princeton study which showed that a program created by the Princeton researchers could alter votes that had been cast via Diebold machines.

Sic Semper Tyrannis: What Does it Mean to be a Virginian? (Allen, Webb, and Robert E. Lee)

| Tue Oct. 24, 2006 3:44 AM EDT

The occasion for this post is that George Allen still slightly leads Jim Webb in the latest poll for the Virginia Senate race. I find this profoundly depressing, and not so much as the editor of a progressive magazine, but as a Virginian.

To be clear, this is my exact pedigree: I was born in Baltimore and raised in Virginia, Northern Virginia—and nowhere else is that modifier so loaded—in Arlington, to be precise. Arlington is, of course, home to the most famous National Cemetery, which was so enshrined when President Lincoln decided to bury Civil War dead in Mrs. Lee's rose garden so that the Lees could never again reside in their home, which was just across the river from Washington. It was a very personal decision: Lincoln had asked Lee to lead the Union army, but the General felt that if the country was going to divide itself, he would stand with his state.

Those who are determined to preserve Lee's godliness above all, will, if they are equality minded, point out that he was no particular defender of slavery; it was a matter of honor, the highest sacrifice on the altar of states' rights. Maybe so, maybe not—anyway, 140-odd years have past, who cares?

Except, except, except…George Allen, whose pandering, or worse, to the meanest level of racism, masquerading as Southern Pride, has occurred in the year 2006. I don't hold him to account for using the word nigger in the 60s and 70s. I have no doubt that he did so, if only because I challenge any American—black, white, or other—to say they've never used the word, in joke, in anger, out of truly felt prejudice. But here's the rub with Allen. He hides behind regional pride (read: small-mindedness), when in fact he's not of the region. Allen grew up in southern California, where, to be sure, racial relations have hardly been stellar, but where a kid growing up in the 60s and 70s would have surely been, had he so been inclined, exposed to a more enlightened view of others. And nothing is more disgusting than someone from a different part of the country taking on the trappings of the worst of the region to which they move—and if that adaptation is designed to pander to the basest level of the American electorate, it is worse still.

A 19-year old Allen using the N-word amongst teammates is one thing. Tossing off racial prejudices at a 2006 campaign rally, having a noose in office, and the many other indicators that Allen is at best the lowest form of political life, is another. He is either an unreconstructed bigot who is too stupid to think he'll be caught at his bigotry, or, worse, a base politician who designs to influence voters by the fallen angels of our nature.

It is worth recalling that, after the Civil War, Lee argued that a tone of reconciliation and patience would further the interests of white Southerners. Here's the Wikipedia version: "He repeatedly expelled white students from Washington College for violent attacks on local black men, and publicly urged obedience to the authorities and respect for law and order. In 1869-70 he was a leader in successful efforts to establish state-funded schools for blacks. He privately chastised fellow ex-Confederates such as Jefferson Davis and Jubal Early for their frequent, angry responses to perceived Northern insults, writing in private to them as he had written to a magazine editor in 1865, that 'It should be the object of all to avoid controversy, to allay passion, give full scope to reason and to every kindly feeling. By doing this and encouraging our citizens to engage in the duties of life with all their heart and mind, with a determination not to be turned aside by thoughts of the past and fears of the future, our country will not only be restored in material prosperity, but will be advanced in science, in virtue and in religion.'"

Amen. Bigots like Allen hurt the long-term interests of the state I love. Virginia is for lovers, not haters. Sic Semper Tyrannis means "Thus Always to Tyrants." It is the state motto. Bigotry is the worst form of tyranny.

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No Piracy Here, Scouts Honor!

| Tue Oct. 24, 2006 12:49 AM EDT

The Motion Picture Association of America hopes to convert young mp3-downloaders into copyright enforcers, and who better to enlist than the Boy Scouts? Scouts in L.A., all 50,000 of them, can now add another patch to their sleeve.

boyscoutcopyrightpatch.jpg

Boy Scouts will earn the "Respect Copyrights" merit patch after following the curriculum designed by the M.P.A.A., which includes the basics of copyright law and instructions on how to identify five types of copyrighted works, and three ways copyrighted materials may be stolen. Scouts must also choose one activity from a list that includes visiting a movie studio to meet the "victims" of piracy (likely not the stars of films like Brokeback Mountain).

Check out other examples of Intellectual Property Run Amok that Mother Jones unearthed this spring:

-To prevent piracy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, a Montreal Cineplex monitored audiences with metal detectors and night vision goggle and checked popcorn for video cameras.
-Last year Disney and other media companies sued two small L.A. shops for selling $15 pinatas of Winnie the Pooh, The Incredibles, and Nemo.
-A French Director had to pay $1,300 after a character in his film whistled the communist anthem, "The Internationale," without permission.

Find the rest here, and sources here.

--Koshlan Mayer-Blackwell

Bush Says Administration is "Constantly" Changing Course

| Mon Oct. 23, 2006 8:15 PM EDT

Yesterday, on ABC's This Week, George Stephanopoulos asked George Bush about the Baker Commission's recommendation to find an alternative to the two strategies on the table for Iraq--"cut and run" or that of the administration's long-time coveted tagline "stay the course." Earlier this month, I wrote about the Baker Commission reporting that splitting Iraq into three sections was the only other alternative. The president told Stephanopolous that the administration has never had a "stay the course" mentality.

We've never been 'stay the course,' George. We have been -- we will complete the mission, we will do our job, and help achieve the goal, but we're constantly adjusting to tactics. Constantly.

(Read the full transcript here.)

Hmmm…Really? Think Progress provides a great rundown of the many times Bush has drilled "stay the course" jargon into the minds of the American people. Although, no surprise, at other times this has certainly been a chameleon administration, at least when it comes to marketing the war on terror, which has changed names at least 7 times from the "war on terror" to "GWOT" to the "global struggle against the enemies of freedom" to its latest incarnation "the struggle for civilization."

Some Officials May Not Be That Upset Over A North Korean Nuclear Test

| Mon Oct. 23, 2006 2:50 PM EDT

What doesn't make the news (for example, that Senate investigators recently accused Grover Norquist of major fraud) is more significant than what does, these days. Think Progress points out today that a little bombshell buried in a Washington Post story has gone unnoticed: "Some senior officials even said they were quietly rooting for a [North Korean nuclear] test, believing that would finally clarify the debate within the administration."

The story, "Rice Sees Bright Spot In China's New Role Since N. Korean Test," is about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's claim that China is becoming "more of a partner on issues of importance to the United States." And, as Think Progress points out, Post reporter Glenn Kessler believes that Rice may be one of the officials who believes that North Korea's nuclear test was a "plus" for the U.S.

Here is an illuminating timeline on North Korea's nuclear program.

Desperate Republicans Try Sex

| Mon Oct. 23, 2006 12:41 AM EDT

They've got to know they're in trouble when they're scraping the bottom of barrel this hard to come up with muck to throw at Democrats. Trying to tip the scales in a tight New York House race, the Republican National Committee has been running an ad declaring that the Democratic candidate called a phone-sex line and left taxpayers with the bill. Strictly speaking, it's true: there was a phone call placed from the hotel room of candidate Michael Arcuri, a county district attorney, to a 1-800 fantasy line. Billing records show it lasted all of one minute, cost $1.25 - and was followed immediately by a call to the state Department of Criminal Justice Services, which has nearly the identical number. It was so obviously a misdial that Arcuri is threatening a libel suit, and seven television stations have refused to run the ad.

But that's minor-league mud-slinging compared to the efforts of several GOP candidates to link their opponents to pedophilia! Yep, you read that right: since Nancy Pelosi marched in a gay pride parade that included the icky North American Man/Boy Love Association, and California candidate Charlie Brown (no kidding) supports the ACLU who sometime, somewhere filed a suit on behalf of the same NAMBLA, they are ipso facto advocates of sodomizing teenage boys. I could have sworn that was some other politician...