.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, August 02, 2008


For the second week in a row, the McCain campaign has lobbed a negative ad on Friday, and then John McCain had "no public events scheduled" on Saturday.

I guess that's one way to use the "weekends off."

Fun fact

(Politico) "With wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and troops spread around the world, the Department of Defense is the nation’s biggest oil consumer, burning 395,000 barrels per day — about as much as Greece."


McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt explains why they shouted "race card," but I think you gotta see the little slip of truth in how he's running that campaign.
"I don't [care] whether it helps or hurts us," Schmidt said. "A lie unresponded to becomes the truth."

Friday, August 01, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2


Throughout the last two weeks of McCain attacks on Obama, the right wingers, pundits, and other Republican politicians have remained relatively quiet, not stepping in to repeat or support McCain's statements.

Now that the McCain camp has shouted "race card," that seems to have changed.

Make of that what you will.

Picture of the Day - 2

Phone sex?

(Well, he doesn't know how to use a computer.....?)

(Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., talks on his cell phone as his campaign plane sits on the tarmac in Mich.,Friday, July 18, 2008. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster))

Political bits - The media doesn't love John McCain anymore.

Todd Purdum of Vanity Fair starts off the anti-McCain, bemoaning the lack of access to the candidate symbolized in the unused "straight talk couch" on the airplane.

The FoxNews campaign reporter notes that McCain is doing very little actual campaigning, usually just one event a day. Frustrated reporters are spending most of their time at the hotel's pools and bars.

The NYTimes has blasted the most recent McCain attacks as "racially tinged," and has a widely read board editorial, "The Low Road Express."

The WSJ prints an editorial about McCain's positional flip flops titled, "Is John McCain Stupid?," a day after it printed an editorial blasting him over tax policy. (Later: Add another WSJ "straight news" piece that blasts McCain over taxes.)

Politico notes this morning that for all the happy talk and promises, the McCain campaign is offering very few details of how their going to actually meet those promises.

The WaPo has a frontpager, "The curious mind of John McCain," which has some praise but also talks about the chaos that comes out of McCain's "emotional" mind.

And, there is so much more out there. Joe Klein, Eugene Robinson, Andrea Mitchell, Howard Kurtz.......

I guess it's not a surprise that lately McCain has been holding one weekly press availability and only giving interviews to local media.

There seems to be a pent up media feeling towards McCain, and his recent swerve to the negative has unleashed some of it. The challenge for the Obama campaign is to figure out how to unleash the torrent. How do they turn the campaign attention off of Obama's "celebrity" and back onto McCain?

Picture of the Day

(Sen. John McCain takes a question during a town hall-style meeting at the Racine Civic Center Thursday, July 31, 2008 in Racine, Wis.(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer))

Pakistanis Aided Attack in Kabul, U.S. Officials Say

Frankly, there's little question at this point that the ISI is in hip deep with the Taleban, so the revelation that the ISI was involved in the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul isn't all that surprising.

What I'm more curious about is why US officials are pumping this allegation out into the media. I mean, the US knows they did it. The Indians know. And, certainly, the Pakistanis know. All the parties involved know the game, so, who is this story for? Why are US officials pushing this out so publicly?

(Note that this comes out right after Pakistani PM Gilani leaves Washington. Is it pressure on Gilani's rivals? Did he ask the US to make public some of what he was briefed in private?)

Later: (Reuters/AP) The Pakistani Foreign Ministry denounces this report, but the Prime Minister's office (which has had almost a day because of the time difference) has not issued a statement. Curious, no?

Pakistani PM Gilani is scheduled to meet the Indian PM Saturday.

Walmart organizes its employees against Obama?

Reading this, it sounds like they very carefully structured this on the edge of the law.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc is mobilizing U.S. store managers to lobby against Democrats in November's presidential election.....

If you know anything about the Wal-Mart corporate culture which includes rallies, retreats, and enforces a rather stringent set of beliefs on those hoping to rise in the company, you will appreciate how pernicious this really is.

2001 anthrax suspect kills self

A huge story in the LATimes saying that the latest suspect in the anthrax mailings in 2001 has committed suicide as the FBI was "closing in."

They have a huge amount of detail, but they don't get at the core questions. If it was this quiet scientist guy from Ft. Detrick why would he steal anthrax? Did he mail it himself? Did he sell it?

(And this is probably worth reading. Glenn Greenwald re-asking why ABC will not reveal the four sources for reporting that the anthrax attacks could have only come from Saddam Hussein.)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2

(Barack Obama looks on during a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad on July 21, 2008.(AFP/Thaier al Sudani))


The "celeb ad" aired less than half a dozen times total and only in a few local markets.

It is the media that is "making" this ad.


What the McCain campaign doesn’t want people to know, according to one GOP strategist I spoke with over the weekend, is that they had an ad script ready to go if Obama had visited the wounded troops saying that Obama was...wait for it...using wounded troops as campaign props.

Obama VP pool "larger than generally believed"

Chris Cillizza reports that Obama's VP vetting is not down to a short list of three or four but "larger than generally believed."

(Reinforces my Kaine "political payoff" conspiracy theory, and VoteBoth, the website operation run by two former Clinton staffers, shuts down.)

Picture of the Day - 2

(Sen. Barack Obama walks to greet two supporters holding a banner that says 'Rednecks for Obama' at a campaign stop in Union, Mo., Wednesday, July 30, 2008. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong))

"It's sad, really....."

I wish someone on the Obama side would say something along these lines,

"It's sad, really..... John McCain has made his career standing up for what he thought was right. He served with such tremendous honor in the military, has such a long, distinguished tenure in the Senate, and to see him brought so low.....

It depresses me that such a man, faced with being a little down in the polls, would abandon all that, would abandon his ethics, and sell his soul to his campaign operatives. It's desperate, and it's very, very sad...."

(I think pity would work on McCain. I think it would hit him personally pretty deep and would alos unleash what seems like a media feeling about all the new attacks.)

Quote of the Day

There was a bicycle bombing outside a Pakistani embassy in Afghanistan. The Pakistani statement.....?
"The government of Pakistan holds the government of Afghanistan responsible for the safety and security of its personnel in its embassy in Kabul and consulates in Herat, Kandahar, Jalalabad and Mazar-i-Sharif," Pakistan's Foreign Office said in a statement.

Do you appreciate the mindbending irony in that?

Or, a second candidate from the Pakistani Defense Minister,
"In their [the Americans'] view there are some people at some level in the ISI who tip off the Taleban at some level about impending missile attacks when these are shared with the Pakistanis.

"They [the Americans] have expressed displeasure over this."

Yes.... displeasure......


The coverage of the latest Quinnipiac "battleground" may be interesting to watch.

Florida: Obama: 46, McCain: 44
Ohio: Obama: 46, McCain: 44
Pennsylvania: Obama: 49, McCain: 42

I highlight this poll not as "truth," but to point out how selectively polling is used. The last round of "battleground" Q polling showed McCain gaining a little ground in Colorado, and Nevada, and it got pretty good media play as McCain "surging."

A poll showing Obama leading in Florida should get the same level of coverage, but I'll bet you it doesn't.

(I don't really think he's ahead in Fla. This is about how the media uses polls to claim narratives.)

"Talkshow McCain"

The WaPo has an article today discussing how candidate McCain is unable to deliver his campaign's message. It dovetails nicely with the "talkshow candidate" piece I wrote yesterday.

Picture of the Day

"Some people say I'm 'losing' and 'desperate' and 'violating my professed ethics....'"

(Think he'd be pulling this crap if he still had the NAACP convention ahead on the schedule?)

(Senator John McCain addresses supporters during a campaign stop at the NAACP National Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, July 16, 2008. (John Sommers II/Reuters))

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Look, nobody wants to hear your whining.....

Check out this McCain campaign memo sent out today.
Barack Obama is the biggest celebrity in the world, comparable to Tom Cruise, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.....

Only a celebrity of Barack Obama's magnitude could attract 200,000 fans in Berlin who gathered for the mere opportunity to be in his presence. These are not supporters or even voters, but fans fawning over The One. Only celebrities like Barack Obama go to the gym three times a day, demand "MET-RX chocolate roasted-peanut protein bars and bottles of a hard-to-find organic brew -- Black Forest Berry Honest Tea" and worry about the price of arugula.

Really? I know they want to try to "lightweight" Obama, but is this tack really supposed to work?

Then, of course, there's the very bizarre tactic of repeating attacks that have been irrefutably debunked, not just the Landstuhl visit, but also these as well as some others.

Can you hear the media rolling their eyes?

(Later: Here's McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt trying to make the "celebrity argument" on the conference call this morning.)

Later Still: Seriously, this is the best they've got?
"This is a typically superfluous response from Barack Obama. Like most celebrities, he reacts to fair criticism with a mix of fussiness and hysteria," says McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.

The McCain campaign is a complete freaking disaster.

Kaine conspiracy theory

Today I've been wondering if all the Kaine VP talk is a political play, a national profile raising payback for one of Obama's biggest early endorsers.

The more Kaine talks about it, the more I think this is true.

Picture of the Day

(The caption gives no context for this, talking about skin cancer. (AFP/File/Uriel Sinai))

The same trait that brought McCain to the big stage makes it impossible for him to play there

(I spent way too much time on this post, so I may leave it on top throughout the day, updating underneath.)

John McCain did not rise to prominence through some great policy initiative or leading some great movement. John McCain became "famous" by being entertaining on the political talk shows, by being nearly everpresent, and by being a "good guest."

Back in the days when he was just a Senator appearing on Hardball or the Sunday shows, McCain greatly benefited from his ability to respond extemporaneously to the events of the day. It was this charming, counterpunching style that made for good TV and the media found irresistible.

What's funny is that the same traits that brought him to enough prominence to reach this big stage are now the ones that are crippling him under a very different and more direct type of media coverage.

Despite the efforts to recreate the talkshow effect in the "townhalls," the McCain campaign is having all kinds of problems, and, I would argue those problems ironically stem from the same traits that made him a good "contestant" on a talk show.

The talkshows loved him because he wouldn't simply come on and repeat talking points like everyone else, but, on the stump, that is manifesting itself as the inability to make it through a single event staying "on message." An energy event turns into Obama's trip. An economy event turns into Iraq, etc.

McCain is being accused of "chasing the news cycle," but I would argue that's what he's always done, responding off the cuff to the events of the day. That's who he is.

McCain's delivery method means that he's constantly extemporaneously rephrasing his positions on the fly leading to inevitable overstatements and gaffes like the flips on Iraq timetables or the flips on new taxes.

This talkshow/townhall thing kinda works in small markets, given enough time. The "rephrasings" can mollify different audiences. But this isn't a primary election in a small state. It's national campaign, played under a very different level of media scrutiny.

No one is saying this, but when they talk about "letting McCain be McCain," I think they're talking about turning this "TV guest" loose.

I also think there's a something of a clash in generational media. While McCain may be the first "talkshow candidate," I think the talkshow candidate era peaked around 2000. We're now in the YouTube era where all of that extemporaneousness is recorded, extracted into its worst elements, and replayed on a loop.

(Just a theory I'm kinda kicking around. Sorry for the rambling. It's not completely solid yet.)

Later: How does McCain gain ground in the townhall format? It's by definition counterpunching, so without an Obama mistake, how does the "townhall" generate momentum?


There was the Pakistani report two days ago that Bush would press Pakistani PM on the ISI.

Today we get a NYTimes report that Stephen Kappes, the second in command at the CIA, made a similar presentation to the Pakistanis a month ago.

So, what do I make of this?
Pakistan's government yesterday abruptly reversed an order issued on Saturday placing the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency under the control of the -interior ministry.

I don't know enough about Pakistani politics, but the US's main effort right now seems to be to get the Pakistani government to seize control of and clean out the ISI, so what does it say that the groundbreaking effort to shift the ISI's chain of command was publicly revoked after just one day?

(And I don't think it's coincidental that the day after this initiative was initially announced, violence in the Swat Valley ticked up.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Kaine rumor mill is running

Normally, who would even notice, but Tim Kaine cancels an appearance at a fundraiser tomorrow citing a "scheduling problem."

Department of bad timing

As John McCain and the Republicans try to paint themselves as paragons of oil policy, the longest serving REPUBLICAN Senator gets indicted regarding his relationship with....... wait for it.... an oil services company.

Too funny.

But it's not like no one knew Stevens might be indicted.

Picture of the Day - 2

The McCain camp thought this visual image would shape the policy battlefield? This is the backdrop they chose for their big policy rollout?

One scraggly little well?

(Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain accompanied by his wife Cindy, speaks to reporters, , Monday, July 28, 2008 in Bakersfield, Calif. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer))

Who's looking presidential?

Obama is meeting with Pakistani PM Gilani today, and, later, sitting down with Fed Chief Ben Bernanke. (Later: Obama met with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, too.)

Meanwhile, a senior official in the Russian Foreign Ministry comments on McCain's repeated anti-Russian comments,
"Let him first become the U.S. president, and then we will listen attentively to him," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told a news briefing.



Has anyone else noticed that McCain has backed way off the attacks after his pretty scurrilous attacks on Obama over the weekend were widely panned as distasteful, and not supported by any other Republican figures?

VP speculation/No Clinton VP

Not really a surprise to anyone who has been watching that Clinton as VP is a dead issue.

Also: Ambinder asks an interesting question, "I wonder what the tight-lipped Obama world thinks about the leaks coming from Kaine allies as compared to the nada-nothing-bupkis coming from Sebelius's orbit?"

Picture of the Day

Kaine as VP? Really?

I guess the question should be, is this WaPo frontpager a true "rumor story" or is it a trial balloon?

Other names rumored to be in serious contention, Bayh, Biden, Sebelius.

When Webb pulled out, I was rooting for Sen. Jack Reed.

(Tim Kaine at the National Governors' Association centennial meeting, Saturday, July, 12, 2008, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek))

Destabilizing more than the middle east.....

While the Pakistani PM Gilani met with George Bush, Taleban/Pashtun militants in Swat seized 30 police and paramilitary personnel.

Also, (Reuters) "Police found ten unexploded bombs in the western Indian city of Surat...."

The ultimate farce of the Guantanamo trials

I am not keeping up with the Hamdan trial closely enough to intelligently comment on the specifics, but I would like to point one thing out.

Whatever the result of the "trial system," whether innocent or guilty, the US's plan is to keep Hamdan detained indefinitely.

The Guantanamo "trials" are not about the detainees. They are about trying to lay a veneer of legitimacy on the policy. That's why the system is being so rigged for guilty verdicts.

Republican deficits

The $482 billion deficit George Bush is leaving for the next president's 2009 budget is ridiculous enough ($1,600 in one year for every man, woman, and child/$4,1oo for every single tax filer,) but I'm also struck by the little graph at the top of this USA today piece.

In the 20 years of Republican presidents since 1980, all but one has been a deficit year, and that one was the year after Clinton left office.

And they still hold the "fiscal responsibility" mantle. Incredible.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2

According to Slate, Alberto Gonzales is the nexus.

McCain just can't get that oil rig moment

The first "energy policy promoting" oil rig photo op was canceled after that "bad luck" of a massive oil spill in the area, the second oil rig photo op, McCain has to explain that the "spot" removed from his cheek is being biopsied.

Hard to get that energy message out when everyone's talking cancer recurrence.....

Also: The extremely Republican/no tax supporting Club for Growth blasts McCain. (So, no evangelical passion, and now no big business passion?)

Take 30 seconds......

I thought this was pretty funny.

Moveon will be running this ad on comedy central.

Political bits

The Democratic convention starts in less than a month. Obama officially accepts the nomination one month from today. The election is 100 days away.

(ChicagoSunTimes) Bob Novak has a brain tumor.

(Reuters) McCain has a "spot" removed from his face. (Macbeth? Mote in the eye....? Will someone get a picture of him with the bandage?)

(ABC/Tapper) Former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, former SEC William Donaldson, and former Fed Chief Paul Volcker all appear at Obama's economic summit, lending their likenesses and credibility to his campaign. (Plus Warren Buffet, Robert Rubin, etc.)

(FirstRead) Rendell outlines Obama efforts in the state, heavy on grassroots. (Obama has 24 campaign offices and McCain still has only 2. McCain is just buying media. Isn't Pa supposed to be a McCain target?)

A very good point

A very pro-Obama Jed Report points out that virtually no one on the right is seriously echoing John McCain's more questionable attacks on Obama. Surprising, no?

Also, How unusual is it for these attacks to be coming from the candidate himself rather than through surrogates or a VP? Is no one but Lieberman willing to dirty themselves on McCain's behalf?


The WSJ has a brief piece on a training camp in Pakistan.
One young man said he was a student at a business school in Peshawar and recently completed his 40 days of fighter training. He said he is waiting to join the war in Afghanistan. "There is a long queue, but I hope my turn would come soon," he said.

There's a long line? A waiting list to join the Taleban?

Picture of the Day

(March 5, 2008 file photo. (AP/Charles Dharapak))

The US will threaten Pakistani PM Gilani

Pakistani news source, so I don't know the credibility, BUT, according to this, the US goal during Pakistani PM Gilani's visit is to confront him with evidence that the ISI is working both sides, even threatening to cut US (and Saudi?) aid to Pakistan.

The NYTimes looks at McCain at the IRI

Something of a must read as the NYTimes looks at McCain's role as the head of the International Republican Institute, with questions of soft money, lobbyists, and legislative "favors."

(It doesn't mention too much about who the IRI has supported, Venezuelan coup, rightist Colombian groups tied to paramilitaries, Lebanese "Cedar Revolution," anti-Russian opposition groups like Ukraine.)

Seriously though, read it.

No longer "on the cheap"

We've all focused for so long on Iraq's 10-12 billion dollar a month price tag,
The Congressional Research Service last month estimated that the Defense Department is now spending $2.3 billion a month in Afghanistan. Add $500 million monthly from the State Department and more from other agencies, and the total U.S. outlay in Afghanistan this fiscal year will be about $34 billion.

Explosions everywhere

(NYTimes) The Kurds bomb the streets of Turkey killing at least 16, injuring 150.

(AP) The US military blamed Al Qaeda for a bombing in a Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad killing "at least 28 people and wounding 92."

(AP) "In a separate attack, a bomb killed at least 15 people and wounded 80 others at a Kurdish rally in the northern city of Kirkuk, Iraqi authorities said."

Over the weekend, (AP) There were two sets of bombings in India killing "at least 45."

And, (Reuters) Another apparent US missile strike kills six at a madrassa right inside the Pakistani border.

Two sidenotes on the Pakistan attack. 1) It comes the day that Pakistani PM Gilani begins a 3 day visit to Washington, and 2) Check out the new Pakistan stance on such attacks.
Pakistan's military spokesman said he had little information, and noted that U.S. coalition forces were no longer informing the Pakistan army over every missile strike.

We don't know if that's necessarily true or not, but it would put a very different spin on everything.

Worse than you knew........

From a NYTimes article on the string of terror bombings in India,
A report last year by the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington concluded that from January 2004 to March 2007, the death toll from terrorist attacks in India was 3,674, second only to that in Iraq during the same period.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Glass Houses Part XXXIV

It's funny what you find when you actually do some reporting,
It turns out that presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain has attended even fewer Afghanistan-related Senate hearings over the past two years than Obama's one.....

The findings are surprising given the fact that the McCain campaign loudly criticized Obama this week for failing to schedule any hearings on Afghanistan in the last year and a half.....

A review of the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings as listed on the committee Web site for the past two years reveals that McCain's committee has held six hearings that included the word "Afghanistan" in the title or Central Command -- which overseas U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

McCain missed them all.

And don't miss the McCain campaign's response. Facts? What facts? We don't campaign on facts....
McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers, in a statement to ABC News, argued that McCain's years of previous foreign policy experience make up for his recent lack of attendance at hearings....

Picture of the Day

Dragging along the king of non-violence, "C'mon, c'mon. I have to attack my opponent on CNN at 3, and again at a fundraiser at 6."

(Sen. John McCain walks with the Dalai Lama Friday, July 25, 2008 in Aspen, Colo. (AP/Zach Ornitz))

A remarkable stability in the polls

Has anyone else noticed that we're almost two months on from Obama clinching the nomination, and that, in those seven weeks, the national polls haven't moved at all? Obama +5 to +8. Not really even a wobble.

I'm definitely not saying it's over, one thing happens and it could all change, but I find myself amazed at how calcified the numbers seem to be thus far. Can you think of another political race where the numbers have remained frozen for two months?

Maybe Obama's trip or McCain's new "attacking" stance will move the numbers.

Also, I haven't watched all the state polling that closely because it tends to be more volatile and less accurate, but I think it's also notable that Obama is now handily winning everybody's current set of electoral projections. (Pollster, CNN, RealClearPolitics, Rove's math(.pdf)