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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, August 16, 2008


If Barack Obama won one evangelical vote tonight, he won the night.

Picture of the Day - 3

(Rick Warren, John McCain, and Barack Obama at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, August 16, 2008. (REUTERS/Mark Avery))

Good business.....

Everyone at the forum tonight was a Saddleback Church member. Their Pastor got them to shell out between $500 and $2,000 per ticket.

(Maybe someone should point this out to CNN's Candy Crowley who seems amazed that members at an evangelical church were warm to McCain.)

Obama's $51 million July

Obama raised $51 million in July with $65 million cash on hand.

McCain announced $27 million yesterday.

Also notable, the DNC announced $27.7 million raised, which, if you've been following all this, is a huge improvement.

(Why did the Obama camp announce on a Saturday?)

Picture of the Day - 2

(Senator John McCain delivers remarks to the citizens of York, Pennsylvania at the York Expo Center. (AFP/Paul J. Richards))

Musharraf's future now hung up on "immunity"

As the trajectory increases for Musharraf to resign, the key point in the negotiations now appears to be whether Musharraf will be granted immunity and allowed to stay in the country.

The great irony in this request is that the leaders of the two majority factions who have recently returned to power, both had their leaders charged with crimes and forced into something of a legal exile. So it's no wonder that Nawaz Sharif's party is now saying "no immunity."

The PPP is a little more waffling, "If a person moves to the side, we are not in the habit of bothering him. This would not be a good attitude, if someone is lying on the ground and we go aggressively against him," but that doesn't sound like a grant of immunity either. It sounds like they plan to hold prosecution continually over Musharraf's head.

The sequence tells a story

I think it's important that Saakashvili changed when Condi Rice arrived.
Rice was with Georgia's indignant President Mikhail Saakashvili on Friday in Tbilisi when he grudgingly signed a truce with Russia.

I think she carried a message for him to "shut the hell up and sign. We can't help you in this state."

Don't expect Rick Warren to help you out.....

Rick Warren's comments have led to some speculation that tonight's Obama/McCain megachurch appearance might be something big, but I really doubt it. He's saying that he's planning on asking the candidates the exact same questions, but, the appearance is keeping this on the air.
The minister said he would have compunctions against voting for someone who cheated on his wife.

"Absolutely I would because if you can't keep your faith to your most sacred vow 'til death do us part, how in the world can I trust you to lead my family? My government?"

Then there's that pro-Obama evangelical group hitting it, too.

Also, the McCain camp chose bad taste over ignorance.
McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said today that the Arizona senator knew that it (Miss Buffalo Chip) was a topless contest, but that he was joking and not actually volunteering his wife for it.

In the CBS version, there's a rather long section on the clash between the older politically powerful evangelicals (who are holding an anti-abortion thing on the Mall today,) and the newer groups like Rick Warren.

(Did Karl Rove fracture the evangelical/Republican axis?)

Picture of the Day

This one's a little old. From their first day in Beijing, hours before the Georgian conflict started.

(Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin greets U.S. President George W. Bush as U.S. First Lady Laura Bush, gestures, during their meeting in Beijing, China, Friday, Aug. 8, 2008. (AP Photo/Anatoly Maltsev, Pool))

Friday, August 15, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2

Check out Cindy McCain's face in the background.

( Sen. John McCain speaks to reporters during a news conference Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008 in Birmingham, Mich. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer))


"Not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime."

----- Michael Mukasey, the Attorney General of the United States.

Check this out

A Pro Obama Christian group is running an independent ad during the Obama/McCain megachurch appearance tomorrow night praising Obama and his strength in "family."

The kicker is the backhanded slap at McCain's "family history."
"Throughout his entire career, Senator Obama has stood by families."

(Derisive female voice) "...including his own."

It's pretty sharp edged for an ad called "families."

And, an Obama campaign ad, running in swing rustbelt states, hitting McCain over his past statements on the economy. (The key here is the woman at the end. This ad is clearly targeting women.)

And the DHL ad, of course. (Same woman!!)

Someone needs to ask McCain.....

I guess if you're losing on the wars that we're fighting.....
"My friends, we have reached a crisis, the first probably serious crisis internationally since the end of the Cold War. " -- John McCain

Yeah, those buildings going down, terrorists killing 2,976 people on American soil, the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan, the Pakistani border region, Iran..... Those are nothing....

Someone out there needs to ask McCain if Russia has supplanted Al Qaeda as "the 'transcendental' threat of the 21st century."

McCain raises $27 million

McCain's biggest fundraising month yet in July, $27 million (AP, FirstRead, CNN,) but it's still only about half of the $52 million Obama raised in June.

(The rumors I've read are that Obama's July report will be strong, and Obama's August is going to be through the roof.)

On Georgia

Georgia must be a crisis because Bush took off for Crawford this morning.

Picture of the Day

(President George W. Bush waves as he boards Air Force One to travel to his ranch in Texas, from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, August 15, 2008. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst))


“If there is anything I am lacking in, I’ve got to tell you, it is taste in music and art and other great things in life,” McCain joked. “I’ve got to say that a lot of my taste in music stopped about the time I impacted a surface-to-air missile with my own airplane and never caught up again.”

Musharraf to resign?

The sourced rumors seem to be that Musharraf is set to quit. (WaPo, Reuters, AFP)

His spokesman came out with a denial this morning, but resignation seems to be the direction it's going.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Picture of the Day - 3

(Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., eats shaved ice in Kailua, Hawaii on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon))

Quote (There's a difference between offense and offensive.)

Joe Klein blasts McCain's tactics again.
Apparently, though, McCain isn't confident that conservative policies and personal experience can win, given the ruinous state of the nation after eight years of Bush. So he has made a fateful decision: he has personally impugned Obama's patriotism and allows his surrogates to continue to do that. ....

Also, speaking of slime
, The makers of the "Left Behind" series are getting so many questions about Obama being the antichrist that they felt they had to issue a statement. (He's not.)

US-Russia diplomacy

You've gotta include this in the discussion,
Poland and the United States reached an agreement Thursday that will see a battery of American missiles established inside Poland, the prime minister said, announcing a plan that has infuriated Russia and raised the specter of an escalation of tension with the region's communist-era master.

The next thing I'm watching for is whether (and how) the Russians might respond within the context of the Iran nuclear negotiations.

Picture of the Day - 2

The Obama campaign has just passed 2 million donors.


About those long held perceptions

Democrat Barack Obama has received nearly six times as much money from troops deployed overseas at the time of their contributions than has Republican John McCain, and the fiercely anti-war Ron Paul, though he suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination months ago, has received more than four times McCain's haul.

Picture of the Day

That signage is really unprecedented in modern American politics.

The McCain campaign seems to have decided to stop playing this theme on the backchannel and bring it right out front.

("Country First" is also now the top banner on his website.)

Politics or desperation? They're pressing as hard as they can right now.

(Sen. John McCain and Sen. Joseph Lieberman during a news conference Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008, in Birmingham, Mich. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer))

When pulling out of Iraq is no longer a story....

In an interview with the British Times, Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, says that the US-Iraq SoFA is already written.
After five months of sometimes heated debate, the technical part of the job – drawing up a legally sound document that contains various compromises and is written in the right language – is over.

According to Zebari, the agreement is that US soldiers will withdraw from Iraqi cities by next summer and all combat troops will leave Iraq within three years "provided the violence remains low."

Additionally, all US military missions would have to be approved by a joint US-Iraqi command.

(And he says it's going to the Iraqi Parliament for a vote. (??))

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2

(Cindy McCain is seen with her arm in a sling during a news conference Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008, in Birmingham, Mich. She was treated Wednesday for a 'minor sprain' after someone at a campaign event in Michigan shook her hand too firmly. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer))

McCain has lost it on Georgia.

Not to be missed. "Sen. McCain has just announced that he's sending his own delegation to Georgia (Sens. Lieberman and Graham)...."

(And Obama was being Presidentially presumptuous by making a speech.)

There's a real question to be made about John McCain's judgment here.

After McCain's "League of Democracies" idea and the threats to throw Russia out of the G8, not to mention his recent statements on this affair, there's no doubt where McCain falls in the Russia/Georgia conflict or how the Russians feel about McCain.

So, what is he (or his delegation) going to do except shout and scream and muck everything up? The Russians aren't going to listen to him. They're not going to do anything for him. He's nobody. He's a losing Presidential candidate with no credibility before the Russians.

Let's remember the slap the Russian Foreign Ministry delivered about McCain just two weeks ago,
"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.

So, is the plan to try and claim credit for the inevitable settlement that he will have had nothing to do with? Is that the great campaign gamble? And would the Russians allow him to do that? Probably not.

So, if anything, his posturing is likely to extend the human suffering.

(There's also a broader question of the wisdom of electing a guy President who comes in with such a personally, poisonous relationship with one of the top global players.)

Also today, The Georgian lobbying of McCain's top foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, is crawling up the headlines. The WaPo had its version this morning, here's the AP's,
John McCain's chief foreign policy adviser and his business partner lobbied the senator or his staff on 49 occasions in a 3 1/2-year span while being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the government of the former Soviet republic of Georgia."

A few stray political thoughts

1) The decision to make Mark Warner the keynote speaker at the Dem convention and put Hillary Clinton's speech before him is rather interesting. The shrinking group of Clinton people aren't particularly happy, but it will force the networks to air two hours on that night. (And give Clinton an incentive to deliver the speech the Obama people want. No "her vision of the party" keynote address.)

The keynote spot is usually reserved for an "up and comer" or someone presenting the next vision of the party. It does say something that Clinton has not been given that spot.

2) It feels like Joe Biden's VP stock is rising. Kaine got so much press fed by his staff that he's probably not it. There's a growing backlash against Bayh because of his Iraq vote. Sibelius is already scheduled for a Monday speech. That leaves Dodd and Biden from the shortlist, right? Or a surprise..... (The VP speech is scheduled to speak on the "national security" themed night.)

(Biden has outdone himself by keeping his mouth shut so far.)

3) Is anybody seeing any McCain yardsigns, anywhere? I'm yet to see a single one, and only one McCain bumpersticker.

Picture of the Day

(Supporters wait for John McCain to speak in Des Moines, Iowa, Thursday, May 1. (Danny Frazier/Redux Pictures.))

(Bigger if you click it. Take the moment to do so.)

The Obama fallback, the "Base Plus" campaign

Everybody's freaking out over the Obama campaign. Calm down. He's winning by 5 points with the fundamentals on his side.

However, even in a "worst case" scenario where the polls close (which they haven't,) the Obama campaign still has one more bulwark, the "Base Plus" campaign, and they're doing all the legwork to leave that option open.

In 2000 and 2004, George Bush outperformed the pre-election polling by energizing their "base" and got them to turn out at historically irregular levels.

The Obama campaign is putting all the pieces in place to allow a similar "Base Plus" strategy. Building volunteers, establishing contact lists, registering voters in key states.... Even if the polls close (which they haven't) they will have the elements in place to win the strategic numbers game.

Remember, these are the same guys who "stole" the primary delegate count by targeting the math and applying their resources accordingly.

Without some major interceding event, I find it impossible to imagine a scenario in which the GOP turns out bigger than 2000/2004. Do you think the Dem turnout will be lower than 2000/2004?

"Base Plus" is not how these guys would like to win, but it's certainly there if they need it.

(Side Note: the Obama camp has smartly decided not to press the enthusiasm right now, avoiding one of the all too typical mistakes of populist campaigns. It's impossible to maintain high enthusiasm for an extended period, so they've kind of let it fall slack through the summer. I would expect the Convention to mark something of a relaunch for 60 days of Obama fervor.)

The state of play on "attack Iran"

An interesting Haaretz article looking at the current state of US-Israeli diplomatic play over an attack on Iran. Short version, not likely soon.

Al Qaida stronger than last year, according to government's top analyst

Shouldn't this be the top story everywhere today?
Al Qaeda’s success in forging close ties to Pakistani militant groups has given it an increasingly secure haven in the mountainous tribal areas of Pakistan, the American government’s senior terrorism analyst said Tuesday.

Al Qaeda is more capable of attacking inside the United States than it was last year, and its cadre of senior leaders has recruited and trained “dozens” of militants capable of blending into Western society to carry out attacks, the analyst said.

Shouldn't the fact that the government's top analyst is saying we're failing against Al Qaeda get more coverage than page 12?

(But Georgia! We should be talking about Georgia, because it was Russian separatists who flew planes into US landmarks, are reportedly seeking biological/nuclear weapons, are "more capable of attacking inside the United States than it was last year....")

Also in the region, (Reuters) Another (likely US) missile strike in S. Waziristan, 9 killed.

(NYTimes) "The Taliban response was immediate and costly. A minibus carrying 18 members of the Pakistani Air Force was destroyed by a bomb on a major road in Peshawar on Tuesday morning, killing at least 13 people. The Taliban said the attack was in retaliation for the airstrikes on Monday."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Picture of the Day - 3

(Barack Obama with his kids on Kailua Beach in Kailua, Hawaii, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2008. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia))

Little noticed.....

At the very end of the Atlantic article featuring the internal Clinton emails was something very interesting that I haven't seen cited anywhere. Clinton's claim to authority, the "speak for the 'invisibles'" post campaign theme is nothing more than an extension of the campaign as written by Mark Penn.

Even at concession they were still trying to spin for power.

Political bits

(Politico) Enthusiasm gap plagues GOP convention (GOP politicians in close races avoiding the convention like the plague. Also some choice quotes.)

(Ambinder) At the GOP convention, John McCain will accept the nomination "in the round." (I guess that's one way to try and avoid the terrible teleprompter/flat background speech.)

(Politico/Playbook) On that last night of the GOP convention, when John McCain makes his speech to accept the nomination, the "theme" of the night will be "Peace."

(WSJblog) The "Obama-can" launch (Republicans for Obama) is getting a whole lot of press considering the b-list names associated with it.

And, Making the rounds and defaming god, the Focus on the Family web video asking it's followers to "pray for rain" on Obama's acceptance speech.

190,000 contractors in Iraq

Just a jawdropping number. 40K more than US military personnel.

Picture of the Day

(President George W. Bush speaks to his father, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, during the dedication of the new U.S. embassy in Beijing August 8, 2008. (Larry Downing/Reuters))

Are "over 65's" the target of the "celebrity ads?"

Reading this WaPo piece on older voter "discomfort" with Obama, I find myself wondering if the over 65's are the real target of the McCain campaign's "celebrity" ads.
With polls showing Obama dominating among those under 40 and running even among middle-aged voters, Republican John McCain's lead among those 65 and older is the main reason he remains close overall. His margin is largest among older white voters without a college education, accounting for much of Obama's problem with the white working class.

In some of the rust belt states, like Pa, that "over 65 without a college education" is a larger demographic than elsewhere. As reverse example, the younger age demographics give some explanation as to why Obama is doing so well in "the West."

Is the "celebrity" campaign with Britney and Paris, designed to stoke the oldsters? They're the ones closely watching politics now.

(I think it would be informative to see in which TV shows the ads are being placed, which demographic.)

Who pays?

As McCain repeats that "the US has the highest corporate taxes in the world" line to try and justify more deficit inducing tax breaks......
Two-thirds of U.S. corporations paid no federal income taxes between 1998 and 2005, according to a new report from Congress.....


Monday, August 11, 2008

Condi Rice is completely useless (Part XXXVII)

Unbelievable. Remember, she's supposed to be "the" Russia expert.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has also been noticeably absent on the diplomatic scene, having failed to interrupt her holidays to fly to Tbilisi in support of the Georgian government.

I don't know about flying to Tblisi, but she could at least check in at the office, you know? Make herself useful?

Later: Especially since "Moscow will not talk to Saakashvili, (Russian FM) Lavrov said."

Did you know?

Georgia "was the third-largest contributor of coalition forces (to Iraq) after the U.S. and Britain"?

They were running border crossings near Kut. The US is scrambling to fill the void.

(Also, Georgia has a population of only 4.4 million, so what percentage of their military were the 2,000 troops in Iraq?)

Picture of the Day - 3

How weird is it to see her amongst the Obama signage when part of the "change" message related to her?

(Friday, Aug. 8, 2008, in Henderson, Nev.(AP/Jae C. Hong))

Jetskiing with Saakashvili

WSJ. Not a joke.
In August 2006, Sen. McCain returned to Georgia on another congressional delegation, visiting Mr. Saakashvili at a presidential villa on the Black Sea. While Mr. Scheunemann watched from a dock, Sen. McCain and the Georgian leader rode jet skis together, Mr. Scheunemann said.

(I guess those shoulders aren't that bad.)

Read it

The Atlantic story built on the Clinton campaign emails is out. I don't really have time to properly handle it right now, but it's a pretty interesting read.

(I may modify or delete this post.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Another priceless photo out of Beijing.
(Clipped from NBC coverage.)

This passes for a campaign ad?

It's not that offensive or anything, but I find it hard to believe that this passes for a campaign ad without someone raising a question. (Clearly labeled as paid for by the McCain campaign.)

If nothing else, isn't this ad at least beneath the dignity of a man who wants to be President?

Wanting to fight everyone, everywhere......

For all those people shouting "we've got to do something" about Russia and Georgia, let's look at a few points.

1) What exactly do you propose the US do? The US is not in a position to deploy "peacekeeping" troops. You're not going to send US jets over Russian troops. As the Chinese will likely cover the Russian's backs, nothing will get through the UN Security Council. You're not going to get into an embargo war with oil rich Russia.

2) Even if you do figure out something, you might as well kiss goodbye any chance on stopping Iran from getting (at least the technology for) nuclear weapons.

3) Because Iran would stall, going hostile with Russia is almost a guarantee of some sort of attack (however ill guided) on Iran, opening a third or fourth or fifth war front with a military that was structured to fight one and one half regional wars.

4) Yes, what's going on is horrible, but the Bush administration (your administration) has been substantially outplayed by the Russians. That's why we're here.

5) Pissing off the Russians and spending all that political capital on Kosovar independence looks like a very poor decision right now. That's part of the reason the Russians are so viciously putting Saakashvili back in his box.

(A gentleman I had lunch with yesterday said that the great flaw of this administration, the neocons, and current hawks is that they had no sense of proportionality, that they didn't properly assess cost benefit in national security.)

Picture of the Day - 2

(Amateur photo of Obama on vacation.)

Let's just say John McCain were in charge.....

Just for the sake of grins, let's assume the US had let/gotten Georgia into NATO as McCain and several other right wing anti-Russian crazies still say they want, what would we be doing right now?

Entering into a direct military conflict with Russia, having been drawn in, by treaty, after Saakashvili's poorly made decision?

Tell me how that leads to security.....

The campaign without a candidate

Since reading that NYTimes article yesterday (which I think is pretty damned important,) I have been occupied by a developing theory. The main change to the McCain campaign since Steve Schmidt took over is to, as much as possible, take McCain out of his own campaign.

McCain is currently making only one or two public appearances a day, only five days a week. They've almost completely shut down media access to the candidate (a total of 38 minutes last week.) McCain is no longer really featured in his own ads other than "approve this message." McCain is not involved in the state by state strategies, and seems to be serving only in a "sign off" role on the larger strategies. And, most troublingly to me, the campaign is now trying to limit his access to the outside world by limiting his phone use.

It's pretty bizarre if you think about it. They're trying to run a Presidential campaign somewhat "around" their own candidate. They don't really want him out there. Don't really want him in ads. Don't want him talking to the press. Don't really want him involved in strategy, and are openly afraid he's going to mess up (their?) message.

His main role right now seems to be using his "prestige" to deliver one photo opportunity and one attack line a day to make it on the national media.

I guess you could argue it's part of the effort to turn the campaign into a referendum on Obama, but it all seems very unusual to me.

(We'll have to see how it plays out this week when McCain has the campaign trail to himself.)

Off Day

Not feeling too bloggy this morning. So, maybe more after lunch.

Picture of the Day

(President George W. Bush looks at Chinese President Hu Jintao before their talks on Sunday, Aug. 10, 2008 in Beijing. (AP/Guang Niu))

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Nope, it's a timeline, not a "general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals"

The Iraqis won't even let the Bush administration cling to its Orwellian language wiggle room.

The Bush administration says it's a "general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals."

The Iraqis say,
Iraq's foreign minister insisted Sunday that any security deal with the United States must contain a "very clear timeline" for the departure of U.S. troops.

When veterans no longer like McCain?

Local reporting, non-scientific, but still.....
The veterans (National Convention of Disabled Veterans,) at Bally’s for their national convention, gave him a tepid reception, especially considering McCain’s life story.

Picture of the Day

(President Bush gestures toward the back of Misty May Treanor as he visits the practice of the U.S. beach volleyball team the 2008 Summer Olympic games in Beijing, China Saturday, Aug. 9, 2008. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert))

And you want to be my latex salesman.......

This will not get the play it should, but this man wants to run the free world.
Senator John McCain is so quick to pick up his gold-colored cellphone to solicit advice — from senators, campaign consultants, even the stray former deputy press secretary — that aides, concerned about his tendency to adopt the last opinion he has heard, have tried to cut back on the time he has to make calls.......

Mr. Schmidt has sought to cut down on Mr. McCain’s use of his cellphone and limit the people who have regular access to Mr. McCain in an effort to keep him more focused, advisers said.....

...typically Nicolle Wallace, a Schmidt ally and a veteran of Mr. Bush’s 2004 campaign and White House who recently joined the campaign as a traveling senior adviser — is given the responsibility of making sure Mr. McCain agrees to the message and tries to stick to it.

..Unlike Mr. Bush or Mr. Clinton, Mr. McCain has displayed no particular interest in or knowledge of the minutiae of politics. He rarely gets involved with discussions about what states he should visit, other than to insist that he spend a day or two at home in Arizona most weekends.

Seriously, this guy wants to run the world. Read it.


Reinforcing to the previous post.
The presumptive Republican nominee spent a total of 38 minutes talking to print, television, magazine and radio reporters from national publications over the past week, according to the count on my recorder.

He wants to be President, but his own campaign doesn't think he's capable of talking to the press without screwing up.

You may call it campaign strategy, but, to me, it's terrifying.

Beginning to frame the Ossetia violence

It's really surprising that it took someone so long to mention this in regards to the Russia/Georgia/Ossetia (and now Abkhazia?) violence.

The British Daily Mail headline: The Pipeline War.

Also, The NYTimes has an interesting piece framing the violence against current state of macro geopolitical play.

Per BBC, "Georgia says its troops have withdrawn from the breakaway region of South Ossetia and that Russian forces are in control of its capital, Tskhinvali."

NYTimes "Georgian authorities expect Russian attacks to come on three fronts on Sunday — from Gali and Zugdidi, two spots on the Abkhazian border, and from Ossetia, according to Gigi Ugulada, the mayor of Tbilisi."

Later: (AP) "A senior U.S. military official says the Americans have begun flying Georgian troops (2,000) home from Iraq after they requested help with transportation."

(Let me say again that former Soviet bloc is an area where I have little expertise.)