2008/06/22

McCain, Obama & the press corps

David Broder makes an observation:

“McCain benefits from a long-established reputation as a man who says what he believes,” writes Broder. “His shifts in position that have occurred in this campaign seem not to have damaged that aura." (emphasis in blog post)

Gee, could it be that the press corps is carrying McCain's water for him? Could it be that the press corps is doing its best to cover for their man and are determined NOT to cover his many flip-flops? Broder goes on to observe that Obama "has tapped into a rich vein of small contributors using the Internet" while poor, poor John McCain (*Sob!* Weep! Wail!) "has lagged all year in his private fundraising." Broder then suggests that townhall-style debates would help the "credibility of the election process." The same blog post notes that Broder didn't seem very concerned about the "credibility of the election process" when it came to the Voter ID case in Indiana, where nuns in their 80s and 90s, lifelong voters, were prevented from voting because they didn't have photo IDs. Broder seems to have a highly selective concern for the "credibility of the election process." Sometimes, when credibility is sacrificed and it helps Republicans, no biggie. But when it helps Democrats, we get all sorts of tsk-tsking.

Media Matters has a piece on how Obama and McCain are covered by the press corps when it comes to campaign finance laws.

John McCain said he would take public financing for the Republican primaries. Then he used the promise of that public financing to help secure a loan for his campaign. Then, after he wrapped up the Republican nomination, he abruptly decided he did not want to be bound by the limits on campaign fundraising and spending that accompany public financing, so he announced that he had changed his mind.
But Federal Election Commission chairman David Mason sent McCain a letter saying that he cannot unilaterally opt out of the public financing system without FEC approval -- a letter the McCain campaign ignored. If McCain cannot opt out of the system unilaterally, he has broken the law by raising and spending funds in excess of legal limits, and continues to do so each day. Even if McCain isn't breaking the law, he has already broken his word and "reversed himself" on the question of whether he would take public funding for the primaries.

This history got a passing mention on ABC and NBC News, but neither station went into any detail and both quickly went on to other subjects without dwelling what McCain's on-again, off-again relationship with the public campaign-financing system meant. Other news sources didn't cover it at all.

One of the reasons Obama claims that he wants to stay outside the public financing system is so that he can respond to attacks from 527s (The Swift Boat Veterans who successfully attacked John Kerry and dominated the news in August 2004 were a 527 group). The AP, The Politico and the Washington Post all claim that there are no 527s currently attacking Obama. Obviously, these organizations do not have very good news-reporting staffs, because Media Matters identifies Freedom's Watch and Vets for Freedom as being 527s that are currently attacking Obama.

And this one's actually pretty funny. A conservative blog post screams out the headline "Obama Would Be A Clinton Third Term" 1!!1!! Umm, okay. And for America to get a relatively peaceful presidential term and an economic boom and a reasonably corruption-free government would be a bad thing? Seems to me that by far the worst thing about things under Clinton were all the attacks by Republicans!

2008/06/20

The failure of Goldwater-Reagan conservatism

I agree with Jonathan Lasts' assertion ("Bush isn't evil or stupid, just a bad manager" Jun 20) that President Bush cannot be both evil and stupid. That's like saying "We can't swim in that lake because it's polluted and it's full of fish." I come down on the side that says Bush is evil, but I explain Bush's failure by saying that the Republican conservatism of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan is a deeply flawed philosophy.
The flooding problems of the Midwest (And the collapse of the I35W bridge over the Mississippi in Minnesota, Katrina-New Orleans and the wildfires of California) can be explained in the words of Grover Norquist "My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." The two goals of maintaining the infrastructure of modern industrial society and keeping government small and cheap are utterly incompatible and mutually contradictory
Like Communism in Russia, the flawed ideas of Republican conservatism have been implemented without any concern for the human cost of doing so. What we're witnessing now is the utter bankruptcy of that philosophy. Hopefully, Barack Obama can act as Franklin D. Roosevelt did and save capitalism from its own excesses.

2008/06/19

Strange Bedfellows

Concerns FISA and the Democrats who act as traitors to the Democratic Party and the US Constitution.

Tell Congress "No Deal on Telecom Immunity!"

Further info on Congress' attempt to set aside US Constitution on the warrantless wiretapping issue.

Update: ACLU's press release

Contributions as of Wednesday at 5:00pm have raised $90,000 in the past 24 hours ($170,000 total) The campaign the money will go towards is aimed at three backers of the bill.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) "is now offering the excuse that he had no choice but to negotiate it because 'conservative' Democrats were threatening to support the Rockefeller/Cheney Senate bill and Hoyer was thus forced to negotiate the best deal he could." This excuse is ridiculous.

Update: Many Congresspeople less than pleased with "compromise"

New wiretapping bill dubbed ‘repugnant’ and ‘a capitulation.’


"The Beltway establishment needs to be trained to understand that there is a real constituency for defending our constitutional framework."

Contribute to ActBlue to fight telecom immunity

2008/06/13

The candidates: How different?

A buddy of mine sent me the following:

Now the Democrats seem to be focused on one particular candidate, I hope that you are all aware what this really means. It means that David Rockefeller again has managed to set the agenda and is on track for his.

Thanks,
RonL
Shebuté

CFR Stacks The Deck With Both Democrat And Republican Presidential Candidates

Michelle Obama is on the Board of Directors in the Chicago branch of the CFR.

Obama Economic Controller Is Skull And Bones Member

Barack Obama CFR info

Barack Obama and the Council on Foreign Relations

I haven't read any of the stories at these links for two reasons. First off, RonL is a pretty reliable source and tends to read widely and deeply. Second, Dean Baker is an economist I've read for quite some time and whom I have found to be thoroughly reliable. From his piece bemoaning the fact (A bit tongue in cheek, of course) that he wasn't chosen to be one of Obama's economic advisers:

When it comes to economic issues the tone this crew sets is decidedly more in line with Wall Street than Main Street. This can be seen on issue after issue.

In other words, yes, Obama is choosing to follow an Establishment economic model. However, does this indicate, in Ralph Nader's words: "...there is no real difference between the two major-party candidates"?

I don't think so. Observe the very positive and heartening decision by the Supreme Court to re-affirm basic, fundamental, American, Constitutional values by their decision that "...foreign nationals held at Guantánamo Bay have a right to pursue habeas challenges to their detention. The Court, dividing 5-4, ruled that Congress had not validly taken away habeas rights."

Lawyer & blogger Glenn Greenwald points out how critical this next election could be to our rights:

Three of the five Justices in the majority -- John Paul Stevens (age 88), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (age 75) and David Souter (age 68) -- are widely expected by court observers to retire or otherwise leave the Court in the first term of the next President. By contrast, the four judges who dissented -- Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Sam Alito -- are expected to stay right where they are for many years to come.
John McCain has identified Roberts and Alito as ideal justices of the type he would nominate, while Barack Obama has identified Stephen Breyer, David Souter and Ginsberg (all in the majority today). It's not hyperbole to say that, from Supreme Court appointments alone, our core constitutional protections could easily depend upon the outcome of the 2008 election. [emphasis added]

We're talking about very fundamental differences that remain quite important, even if Obama and McCain see eye-to-eye on economic issues.

2008/06/08

The Senate Phase 2 report on misuse of available intel on Iraqi WMD

The first part of the Senate Report on Iraqi WMD Intelligence was put out on 9 Jul 2004. Democrats on the Intelligence Committee pointed out at the time that:

...the report painted an incomplete picture, because the Committee had put off until phase two of the investigation the key question of "how intelligence on Iraq was used or misused by Administration officials in public statements and reports."

This phase of the Senate report (PDF) was finally issued on 5 Jun 2008. How did our local paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, cover it? A search of Philly.com for the report showed a single hit from an AP piece on the day it was issued. A decent round-up, it concentrates on the second part (PDF) of the Phase 2 report, the part that focuses on the meeting in Rome between various characters. The author doesn't appear to be aware of, or ignores, the first part that concentrates on where the speeches of members of the Bush Administration contradicted or went beyond the available intelligence on the threat posed by Iraq, starting in late 2002. It's not clear whether the AP piece was published in the Inquirer, The Daily News or simply on the web. The paper copy of the Inquirer for Thursday doesn't have any sign of the report. The paper copy for Friday has a New York Times piece "Bush overstated threat, Senate committee says" on page A6. The NY Times title was: "Bush Overstated Iraq Evidence, Senators Report." The only other sign in the Inquirer that the report was ever published is a Tony Auth cartoon on Sunday the 8th.

One reason that the Inquirer may have for underplaying the report is an issue that crops up several times in the Republican response to the report. This issue was articulated in President Bush's nonresponsive answer to a series of charges of incompetence made by Senator Kerry (D-MA) in the 30 Sep 2004 debate between them:

BUSH: My opponent looked at the same intelligence I looked at and declared in 2002 that Saddam Hussein was a grave threat.

On 14 Nov 2005, Kerry responded to that assertion:

The very worst that Members of Congress can be accused of is trusting the intelligence we were selectively given by this Administration, and taking the President at his word. But unlike this Administration, there is absolutely no suggestion that we intentionally went beyond what we were told were the facts. That is the greatest offense by the Administration. Just look at their most compelling justification for war: Saddam’s nuclear program and his connections with Al Qaeda.
The facts speak for themselves. The White House has admitted that the President told Congress and the American public in the State of the Union Address that Saddam was attempting to acquire fuel for nuclear weapons despite the fact that the CIA specifically told the Administration three times, in writing and verbally, not to use this intelligence. Obviously, Democrats didn’t get that memo. In fact, similar statements were removed from a prior speech by the President, and Colin Powell refused to use it in his presentation to the UN. This is not relying on faulty intelligence, as Democrats did; it is knowingly, and admittedly, misleading the American public on a key justification for going to war. [emphases added]

The fact of the matter was, and this was known at the time, the Democrats didn't (and still don't) have an independent intelligence service, they had to rely upon the statements given to them by the government and those statements had to be approved by the Chief Executive, President Bush.Once this single fact is taken into account, most of the Republican objections to the report fall apart.
One other objection might be that this is all terribly overblown. The blogger Glenn Greenwald reports that columnist David Broder is just oh-so-terribly bored and unfazed by the whole controversy as Broder states:

I am reluctant to see every big policy dispute turned into a criminal or impeachable affair. There needs to be accountability but there also needs to be proportionality.

Greenwald explains this reaction on Broder's part by pointing out that Broder is complicit in Bush's crimes as he was supportive of them at the time. Naturally, calling too much attention to the criminality of the Bush Administration calls into question Broder's own dereliction of duty in not raising objections to the war before it began.

And was the propaganda campaign waged by the Bush Administration in late 2002 and early 2003, a criminal matter? As a matter of fact, it was.

Since 1951, Congress has enacted an annual, government wide prohibition on the use of appropriated funds for purposes of "publicity or propaganda."
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The bottom line seems to be that any "covert" program by the government to shape the news, or disseminate false news, to the domestic American audience constitutes a violation of both the Appropriations Act prohibitions as well as the Anti-Deficiency Act.

PRAWN, the Philadelphia Regional Anti-War Network has long been interested in protesting the Inquirer for it's shoddy and conservatively-biased coverage of the news. Members have felt that they need a specific complaint to focus their protest around. I'd say this constitutes a very good focus.

Update: FireDogLake has a post that links to two WaPo pieces. The first is Fred Hiatt, a reliable right-wing water carrier, who notes the many times that the Senate report notes that Bush Administration talking points were generally substantiated by the intel. Very true, the report does indeed note that there is a high degree of correlation between reality and the talking points, but there are enough discrepancies and Scott McClellan describes the White House sales job well enough, nah, we don't have to scrape off the "Bush lied, soldiers died" bumperstickers.

The second is a report by Walter Pincus (Whose report is published, predictably, on page A15) that details the evidence that the Senate did not review. Both are worth reading, if only to add depth to the initial reading of the Senate report.

Jun10 update: The Inquirer delivered a satisfactory piece on the Senate report in today's paper, covering all of the essential details of the issue.