More on McCain and Romney, the Amazing Pandering Duo

Yesterday when I blogged about Mitt Romney following John McCain's lead on the speak-at-universities-run-by-right-wing-zealots front, I couldn't have known that Howard Fineman of Newsweek would be thinking along the same lines.

 fineman_serious.jpg Well, he is. In a "WEB-EXCLUSIVE COMMENTARY" on Newsweek.com (for the record, everything I write in this space is a WEB-EXCLUSIVE COMMENTARY) Fineman says that the three "kingmakers" of the right are Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson. Writes the very serious gentleman at right, "There are two main fault lines among them: the one in Virginia, which separates Falwell and Robertson; and the one that separates Dobson, in his mountain fastness of Colorado Springs, from those he genially regards as amateurs (everybody else)."

That means that after Papa McCain cozied up to Falwell and the good reverend made McCain his choice for the Repbulican nomination, Robertson had to go looking for another candidate to endorse (and influence, obviously). And that's why we have news that Romney will be delivering the next commencement address at Robertson's Regent University; the man who once said that George Bush would win in 2004 because the Lord had told him so has selected the First Mormon as his cause.

That leaves Dobson. He's already said "I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances" and, according to Fineman, has said the same about Giuliani. Fineman says that leaves Mike Huckabee, "the personable former Arkansas governor who also spent a good bit of his career as a Southern Baptist preacher."

I can just see the campaign slogans now. "Huckabee '08: Jesus Was a Dark Horse, Too!"

Wait, isn't that a country song?

Philip Perry, a former member of the powerful Latham and Watkins law firm in Washington, DC, left the law firm in 2000 to become part of the transition team of his father-in-law, Dick Cheney. He then became the third-highest ranking official in John Ashcroft's Justice Department before serving as General Counsel to the White House Office of Management and Budget.

When the post-September 11 Environmental Protection Agency made an attempt to regulate the security at chemical industry facilities, Perry used his position at the OMB to block the attempt. According to Art Levine, writing for Washington Monthly, Perry told executive branch officials, "If you send up this legislation, it will be dead on arrival on the Hill."

That same year, 2003, Perry returned to his practice at Latham and Watkins, which represented a major chemical industry trade group. After two years, however, Perry went to the Department of Homeland Security, where he became General Counsel. Once Perry joined DHS, the department granted itself the power to set aside state laws, which decreased the level of security required for chemical facilities. There is nothing in the Homeland Security law which grants the DHS such power.

One Congressional staff describes Perry as "an éminence grise. He's been pretty good at getting his fingerprints off of anything, but everyone in this field knows he's the one directing it." Levine calls Perry "a key player in the struggle to prevent the federal government from assuming any serious regulatory role in business, no matter what the cost."

In January, Perry announced his intention to leave DHS. During his tenure in the federal government, both at OMB and DHS, he has successfully blocked every attempt made by a federal agency and Congress to provide reasonable security to chemical plants, storage tanks and rail cars.

Details are creeping out about Congressman John Murtha's plan to put the clamps on the Iraq War (featured today on the Mother Jones News and Politics page), but I think many people lack a clear understanding of how the plan works.

The idea is to pass a series of small measures that curtail the president's ability to make war, while at the same time showing support the troops. This is seen as more likely to get through the House and Senate than a proposal to cut off funding for the war and is more politically advantageous for the Democrats.

Here's specifically what Murtha's plan would do:

(1) It would not allow American troops to deploy to Iraq unless they meet certain (very high) standards of manpower, equipment, and training. Murtha believes few of the units Bush intends to use for the surge would be able to meet his requirements.

(2) It will limit the length and number of deployments by soldiers in the American armed forces, thereby making it more difficult for the Pentagon to replace troops it rotates out of war zones.

(3) It will mandate that troops get a year off in between stints at the front lines.

(4) It would end the construction of enduring bases in Iraq.

(5) It would raze Abu Ghraib.

When taken together, the plan would limit the number of troops Bush has to work with, while blunting conservative criticism that the Democrats are anti-military or anti-troops.

The plan will be attached to an upcoming $93 billion supplemental spending bill that is needed to pay for Iraq and Afghanistan. Murtha controls the progress of that bill as chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee. In effect, if you aren't willing to support Murtha's plan, you are forced to vote against funding the troops. Not a good position for a Republican lawmaker to be in.

This should all come to a head in late February or early April March when the spending bill needs to be voted on, after which point it would head to the Senate. Anti-war groups with deep pockets are preparing to roll out ad campaigns in favor of the plan, and will specifically target Republican Senators vulnerable in the 2008 elections.

Tonight: A Documentary on Melvin Van Peebles

How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (And Enjoy It) is premiering on The Independent Film Channel at 9 p.m. tonight. It's a biographical documentary on Melvin Van Peebles, who grandfathered blaxspoitation cinema with Sweet Sweetback's Badasssss Song in 1971, and has created 11 other films and seven plays in his career.

"I wanted a movie that black people could walk out of standing tall," Van Peebles explains. "I didn't see the type of movie I wanted to see so I made it myself." How he has done so again and again, despite all odds, is what this documentary shows best.

Read the rest of this post on The Riff.

Edwards Gets Headlines, While Romney Gets A Pass

Regardless of how you feel about John Edwards' hiring of two "controversial" bloggers, his scolding of them, and their eventual resignation, the fact is that while the Edwards debacle got all kinds of media attention, a similar disaster, brewing among Republicans, got none. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romeny, identified in this blog as a pandering wonder, has problems of his own.

Romney announced his candidacy for president of the United States at the Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, an act that did not go over well with the National Jewish Democratic Council. Henry Ford was, of course, a renowned anti-Semite. Said a spokesman for the NJDC: "Romney has been traveling the country talking about inclusiveness and understanding of people from all walks of life. Yet he chooses to kick (off) his presidential campaign on the former estate of a well-known and outspoken anti-Semite and xenophobe."

According to Media Matters for America, the Romney/Ford issue was reported by the New York Times, but not by the Washington Post CNN or Fox News, all of whom made a big deal of the Edwards campaign problem.

Court Upholds Alabama Sex Toy Ban

A federal appeals court just upheld Alabama's sex toy ban, defending the state's interest in "preserving and promoting public morality," i.e. invading your privacy so you don't do it yourself. That's bad news for Sherri Williams, the adult store (NSFW) owner who's the lead plantiff on the case (and whom we wrote about last year.) This could be the end of the road for the case—the Supreme Court has already refused to touch it.

As Jonathan writes today, Nancy Pelosi's new blog, "The Gavel," is "a boon to C-SPAN junkies who can't watch TV during work hours." Just think, more accessible wonk, and first-hand. Well, some are less excited than others. DailyKos has the press release that the Republican Study Committee spammed the media with today. "The RSC spoke with C-SPAN today, who confirmed that these videos violate C-SPAN copyright/trademark of the House proceedings." I'm not sure I would expect anything less from the far right wing of the party. Stay tuned. I'm sure there's more to come.

Via Feministing, comes this pretty frightening tidbit. The state of Tennessee is proposing legislation to create death certificates for aborted fetuses. No, really. Republicans tout the bill as a way to track how many abortions are performed. As Feministing blogger, Jessica, points outs, the number of abortions is already reported, so really it's just a way to infringe on the privacy of women; creating public records with their social security numbers and all.

Iraq Vets Trying Technology to Regrow Fingers

With amputations an all too common injury in this war, scientists are hoping that new technology may one day lead to full limb regeneration. Read about at The Blue Marble.

Edwards, Obama Keep It Virtual

John Edwards just lost the blogosphere, but he's already staked out his place in the virtual realm of Second Life. Isn't there something ironic about talking about the "two Americas" from inside an alternate world? But then, it's a lot less expensive to build a mansion in SL. Not to be outcourted by a man who already has the hair of an avatar, Barack Obama's just launched his version of MySpace called— yes, really—MyBarackObama. Beacuse Obama belongs to all of us. Even the lurkers.

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