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Friday, November 30, 2007

 
Rudy's Judy Problem

by digby

Matthews says today, (paraphrasing) "are we really writing off Rudy because of some billing records? Hillary Clinton's got billing records up to ying yang and we haven't figured that out yet."

He was very depressed about these new revelations about his hero Rudy the manly, mans man. When a guest suggested that Rudy really couldn't take credit for reducing all the crime in New York because his predecessor had successfully persuaded the state to provide money for 5,000 more police before he left office, Chris objected saying that it was true on a "symbolic level" whatever that means.

I assume that Chris doesn't think this is any big deal either, being as Rudy's a big city man, a man dripping with manliness who acts like a man when a man needs to be a man:

The revelations continue in the case of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the security detail for Judith Nathan, his one-time mistress who is now his wife.

Did Nathan misuse the city police detail that Giuliani assigned to protect her?

At the dawn of 2001, Nathan was Giuliani's good friend and was receiving a blanket of police protection.

It was an unusual circumstance. His wife, first lady Donna Hanover, was still living at Gracie Mansion with their children.

But the mayor was unapologetic, citing security concerns.

"If you had any concern for people's safety, you'd have the decency to leave it alone. You should be ashamed of yourselves," the former mayor said back in 2001.

Six years later, presidential candidate Giuliani is facing questions about that security. A source involved with the mayor's operations at the time tells CBS 2 HD that Nathan took flagrant advantage of that police car and driver.

The source says Nathan forced police to chauffeur her friends and family around the city -- even when she wasn't in the car.

That set off alarms with ethics watchdogs.

"The rules are clear, you can't use city resources for private reasons," said Gene Russianoff of the New York Public Interest Research Group. "And if you're using a city car, a police driven car to chauffeur around relatives, unless they're explicitly protected and their [sic] deemed to be the subject of potential security threats, it's just wrong."

Nathan's detail was approved by the NYPD after a stranger made an unspecified threat to her. The commissioner at the time was Bernard Kerik, who was recently indicted on tax fraud charges in an unrelated matter.

"It wasn't about her being the mayor's girlfriend," Kerik said. "The person spoke to her by name and made comments to her."

On Friday, Giuliani avoided reporters' questions about the security for Nathan back then. He told reporters off camera "we've explained it."

Giuliani's press secretary, Maria Comella, angrily denounced the use of an unnamed source in this story.

But she did not deny the assertion that Nathan used her police detail to ferry around friends and family.

And she repeated what Giuliani has said about reports questioning how his security detail was financed, saying, "This is nothing more than partisan politics aimed at the Republican front-runner."


Ok, maybe there's nothing wrong with that. Bernie Kerik, once more stepping into the breach, says that the security had nothing to do with her being the mayor's mistress. I didn't know that the NYPD offered personal security to every citizen who is threatened, but that's a nice perk you New Yorkers have going there. (Here in LA we're told to lock our doors and keep and eye out for anybody who looks suspicious.)

But I'm looking forward to hearing him explain how his girlfriend having the NYPD ferry her friends around New York is substantially different from this:


The state's chief financial officer, Comptroller Alan Hevesi, resigned Friday and pleaded guilty to a felony for using state a employee as his wife's chauffeur.

The plea effectively ended Hevesi's 35-year political career and wrapped up an investigation by Albany County District Attorney David Soares, who had been presenting evidence about Hevesi to a grand jury.

Hevesi, 66, will serve no jail time. He agreed to pay a $5,000 fine and to not file any appeals. He also agreed not to take office on Jan. 1. The New York City Democrat had been re-elected in November despite amid the scandal.

[...]

In court, Hevesi acknowledged that he used a state employee to provide services for his wife that "could not be properly characterized as security" during 2005 and 2006.

Hevesi admitted to defrauding the government, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of 1 1/3 to four years in prison. He must submit DNA for the state's databank and is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 9.

In October, the bipartisan state Ethics Commission determined his use of state employees as chauffeurs violated state law.


Rudy is reported to be acting like his old, pissed-off self, refusing to answer questions, and his security is manhandling the reporters. He seems a little bit unnerved. I wonder why?


.
 
Panic Artists

by digby

I don't get this. According to Media Matters, CNN apologized for allowing General Kerr to ask that question at the Republican debates about "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and expunged it from their re-broadcasts because he is a Clinton supporter.

I could see it if the question itself was rude or shockingly partisan, but there is a GOP "special interest group" called the Log Cabin Republicans who actually sued the government over the same issue. One of them could have asked it just as easily. It's obviously a salient political issue in America and I don't see why any news organization should apologize and expunge the record just because of the political leanings of a citizen who asked a question. Apparently, after all these years of Bush's canned Townhall meetings with sweet softball questions, the media has decided that's the only form of legitimate debate.

As Sadly No points out here, Republicans asked questions at the Democratic You Tube debate and we didn't have a hissy fit over it.

What a big bunch of babies. (And I'm talking about CNN as much as the wingnut bloggers.)


Update:
No More Mister Nice Blog is as confused as I am and brings up this good point:

Sure, screen for affiliation if you want to limit the number of questions from opposite-party partisans, and maybe it would be a good idea to try to keep the number of such questions equal in the parties' debates -- but why not overtly allow them? Democrats are citizens. So are Republicans. You don't lose your citizenship when you join a party or endorse a candidate. So let partisans ask questions. Or do we just want to make the partisan "He's not my president" bumper stickers of the Clinton and Bush eras the law of the land?




.
 
Dialing Into The Lizard Brain

by digby


Frank Luntz invited Joe Klein to a dial-in group and this is what he saw:

I attended Frank Luntz's dial group of 30 undecided--or sort of undecided--Republicans in St. Petersburg, Florida, last night...and it was a fairly astonishing evening.

Now, for the uninitiated: dials are little hand-held machines that enable a focus group member to register instantaneous approval or disapproval as the watch a candidate on TV. There are limitations to the technology: all a candidate has to do is mention, say, Abraham Lincoln and the dials go off into the stratosphere. Film of soaring eagles will have the same effect. But the technology does have its uses.

Last night, for example, it was apparent from the get-go that Rudy Giuliani was having a very bad night. Mitt Romney clearly got the better of him in the opening debate about illegal immigration. Romney's dial numbers hovered in the 60s (on a scale of 100) while Giuliani (40s) seemed defensive, members of the focus group later said...and they thought Romney seemed strong, even when defending his Sanctuary Mansion. (I mean, if you care about illegal immigrants--which I don't understand in the first place, because I don''t--shouldn't you check the people working your lawn and, if you have doubts, hire another company?)

In the next segment--the debate between Romney and Mike Huckabee over Huckabee's college scholarships for the deserving children of illegal immigrants--I noticed something really distressing: When Huckabee said, "After all, these are children of God," the dials plummeted. And that happened time and again through the evening: Any time any candidate proposed doing anything nice for anyone poor, the dials plummeted (30s). These Republicans were hard.

But there was worse to come: When John McCain started talking about torture--specifically, about waterboarding--the dials plummeted again. Lower even than for the illegal Children of God. Down to the low 20s, which, given the natural averaging of a focus group, is about as low as you can go. Afterwards, Luntz asked the group why they seemed to be in favor of torture. "I don't have any problem pouring water on the face of a man who killed 3000 Americans on 9/11," said John Shevlin, a retired federal law enforcement officer. The group applauded, appallingly.


This is interesting to me because I was pleasantly surprised that there was spontaneous applause in the auditorium for one of those questions, which I wrote about yesterday. As it happens, the McCain answer on torture also got applause from the audience:

MCCAIN: Well, Governor, I'm astonished that you haven't found out what waterboarding is.

ROMNEY: I know what waterboarding is, Senator.

MCCAIN: Then I am astonished that you would think such a -- such a torture would be inflicted on anyone in our -- who we are held captive and anyone could believe that that's not torture. It's in violation of the Geneva Convention. It's in violation of existing law...

(APPLAUSE)

And, Governor, let me tell you, if we're going to get the high ground in this world and we're going to be the America that we have cherished and loved for more than 200 years. We're not going to torture people.

MCCAIN: We're not going to do what Pol Pot did. We're not going to do what's being done to Burmese monks as we speak. I suggest that you talk to retired military officers and active duty military officers like Colin Powell and others, and how in the world anybody could think that that kind of thing could be inflicted by Americans on people who are held in our custody is absolutely beyond me.

COOPER: Governor Romney, 30 seconds to respond.

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: Senator McCain, I appreciate your strong response, and you have the credentials upon which to make that response. I did not say and I do not say that I'm in favor of torture.

ROMNEY: I am not. I'm not going to specify the specific means of what is and what is not torture so that the people that we capture will know what things we're able to do and what things we're not able to do. And I get that advice from Cofer Black, who is a person who was responsible for counterterrorism in the CIA for some 35 years.

I get that advice by talking to former generals in our military...

COOPER: Time.

ROMNEY: ... and I don't believe it's appropriate for me, as a presidential candidate, to lay out all the issues one by one...

COOPER: Time.

ROMNEY: ... get questioned one by one: Is this torture, is that torture?

COOPER: Senator McCain...

ROMNEY: And so, that's something which I'm going to take your and other people's counsel on.

COOPER: Senator McCain, 30 seconds to respond.

MCCAIN: Well, then you would have to advocate that we withdraw from the Geneva Conventions, which were for the treatment of people who were held prisoners, whether they be illegal combatants or regular prisoners of war. Because it's clear the definition of torture. It's in violation of laws we have passed.

And again, I would hope that we would understand, my friends, that life is not "24" and Jack Bauer.

Life is interrogation techniques which are humane and yet effective. And I just came back from visiting a prison in Iraq. The Army general there said that techniques under the Army Field Manual are working and working effectively, and he didn't think they need to do anything else.

My friends, this is what America is all about. This is a defining issue and, clearly, we should be able, if we want to be commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, to take a definite and positive position on, and that is, we will never allow torture to take place in the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)



Now, I would be open to the idea that there might have been a large number of Democratic ringers in the audience applauding for that sort of statement except for the fact that, other than the predictable Ron Paulite responses, there was no other counterintuitive evidence but for these two questions. It's extremely unlikely that these Democratic ringers would have remained silent except on these answers pertaining to treating "all god's children" with kindness and compassion and abiding by the Geneva Conventions. And anyway, the applause was much too loud for it to have been done by a spattering of Democrats in the audience. I think it was a reflexive response by the decent Republicans in the audience to these candidates saying the obviously correct thing.

Frank Luntz, for reasons we can only speculate about, invited Joe Klein to observe one of these (unreliable, as Klein notes) focus groups that didn't feature any of those decent Republicans. It could easily be just the luck of the draw --- there are a whole lot of them who obviously think torture is terrific and that Mexicans aren't God's children. It's not unlikely that you could easily wind up with a roomful of them. But I don't believe that they are representative of how all Republicans really felt about Huckabee and McCain's answers. That immediate applause is exactly how you would expect normal Americans, raised with American values, to respond to such statements. That they did it publicly at a Republican function where many of their fellows apparently think that torture and punishing children for their parents' behavior is an American value, is a testament to their decency. Those in that private little group of true believers are, as Klein writes, appalling.


.
 
You Say Plain Wrong, We Say Basically True

by digby

So today the NY Times did some good reporting and published a story exposing Rudy Giuliani's pompous, megalomaniacal braggadocio on the stump for what it is:

All of these statements are incomplete, exaggerated or just plain wrong . . . .An examination of many of his statements by The New York Times, other news organizations and independent groups have turned up a variety of misstatements, virtually all of which cast Mr. Giuliani or his arguments in a better light.


Now that strikes me as pretty straightforward.

Here's the MSNBC chyron about this story:

Newspaper finds some figures wrong, but basic claims still true.


I'm not kidding. It's like something from The Onion. It's long been obvious that Rudy is a puffed-up blowhard --- the only things he doesn't take credit for in his speeches is writing the score for "Les Mis" and inventing the IPod. He's a superhero in his own mind. But the NY Times did the actual spade work and proved that his claims are "incomplete, exaggerated or just plain wrong." Apparently MSNBC considers that to be "true."

But that wasn't the worst of it. While that chyron was up, they had a guest named Craig Gordon who explained that since New York improved during Rudy's tenure, "people have a gut sense that things got better so the fine print doesn't matter."

Setting aside the fact that in a compulsive desire to reveal the "character flaws" of certain politicians, the press spilled warehouses full of ink "explaining" the tedious details of an ancient Arkansas land deal and devoted an entire presidential campaign to exploring the supposed pathology of a man who (never) lied about inventing the internet, by what measure does this person make the broad based assumption that people don't care how leaders "make things better?" This authoritarian mind set may be in vogue among this fellow and his fearful incontinent friends but I don't believe this is a settled case among all Americans. And in any case, it's likely that people do care if their president is corrupt or a little bit nuts.

The revelations about Rudy coming out just this week --- his secretive big money ties to middle eastern players, his alleged accounting machinations to hide his affair with his then-mistress, his detailing a police driver for her at taxpayers expense and now this investigation into his claims on the stump should be enough to at least get the breathless, tabloid cable news media a little excited --- particularly the so-called "liberal skewing" MSNBC, which has made a fetish out of "character coverage" for years. Apparently not. Unless Giuliani shows some cleavage or offends Chris Matthews and Tucker Carlson with his laugh or his clapping, this isn't going to be a story.


.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

 
Only Time Will Tell

by digby

I tend to be a tiny bit of a skeptical sometimes, so I'm always relieved when I see clear evidence that racism plays no part in the immigration debate:

The chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas called Wednesday for state Sen. Denny Altes, R-Fort Smith, to apologize for e-mail comments attributed to the Senate GOP leader by a television station.

[...]

In the e-mail on the television station’s Web site, the message attributed to Altes states that he’s for “sending the illegals back but we know that is impossible.

“ We are where we were with the black folks after the revolutionary war. We can’t send them back and the more we p *** them off the worse it will be in the future. So what do we do,” the e-mail states. “I say the governor needs to try to enforce the law and sign the letter of understanding... and at least we can send the troublemakers back. Sure we are being overrun but we are being outpopulated by the blacks also. What is the answer, only time will tell.”


It's great to be living in a post racist society isn't it?


.
 
From The WTF Department

by digby

Military procurers make a responsible decision:

The Marines plan to buy fewer bomb-resistant vehicles than planned despite pressure from lawmakers who are determined to spend billions of dollars on the vehicles.

The Marine Corps' requirement for mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles would drop from the planned 3,700 to about 2,300, The Associated Press has learned. The Marines would not comment on the decision, but defense officials confirmed the cut. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision has not been announced.

About a month ago, Marine Commandant Gen. T. James Conway signaled the possibility of a new examination of the commitment to the vehicles, saying he was concerned his force was getting too heavy. "I'm a little bit concerned about us keeping our expeditionary flavor," he said.

At the same time, an independent study by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington questioned whether the Pentagon was buying too many of the pricey vehicles, which can cost as much as $1 million each. The study found that in some cases, the heavily armored vehicles, with their bomb-deflecting V-shaped hulls, might not be the answer that many believe they are.

Military officials and other experts have said that while the vehicles, known as MRAPs, are lifesavers in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are not as useful or mobile in some terrain.

[...]

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill, buoyed by the vehicle's solid record -- to date no troops have died in one -- have consistently said the military must buy more and must buy them faster.


Now, I get why lawmakers would do this even though it is completely nuts. Pushing this stuff shows that politicians "support the troops" which is second only to worshiping Jesus as a sanctified requirement of office. It's true that when troops were getting blown up every day by IEDs there was some need to get more of those things built quickly --- or, preferably, redeploy the troops. But not the surge is allegedly working --- no more car bombs. And the Marines don't see any use for the vehicles in other conflicts down the road, so they are canceling their order. Changing circumstances, changing needs, cancel some expensive equipment. Sounds reasonable. It might even be possible that the congress would be willing to hide behind the Marine Commandant's uniform and allow the taxpayers to be spared this useless burden.

But it's not looking good. The Marines may be canceling a bunch of MRAPs, but that isn't going to stop the administration from insisting that the congress appropriate even more money for them:

Q: Dana, the President is going to be meeting this afternoon with top brass, talking about, among other things, Iraq and Afghanistan, and I know that he's going to be -- you have just put out this 2007 funding -- war funding by the numbers, really, taking the gloves off, coming down hard on Congress. Where do things stand at the Pentagon when it comes to them actually running out of money for the wars in Iraq and --

MS. PERINO: Well, I think the slide that you're to is this one --talking about is this one. I don't think it's taking the gloves off by just pointing out the facts. They have had almost 300 days in order to debate in Congress the President's request for the money for the troops. There are about 100,000 civilians who would be at risk of losing their jobs if this money is not appropriated.

[...]

The President will make a statement afterwards. But I hardly see that as taking the gloves off, because they've had the request, they've seen how wonderfully our troops are performing in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this money is for the day-to-day operations that is needed to fight the war on terror. And this includes bullets, body armor, the MRAP vehicles that will help protect them.


I heard Bush blathering incoherently today about not being able to "steer" the defense department "like a skiff," which I think means he can't move billions from one account to the other. Maybe the congress could help him hold the oars and paddle away from spending these useless billions. Or, if it's the case that the Army still needs those vehicles, maybe they could pass a law that would allow him to transfer the money that's already been appropriated to them.

Unfortunately, the Democrats know that if they propose it, even though the Marines have already said they are canceling part of the order, the Republicans will accuse them of heresy, so this will likely not happen. They're just going to appropriate more piles of money for hugely expensive equipment that the services won't need.

I guess we'll never know how many billions this government has simply thrown away so the Republicans can keep up their sad little pretense of warrior prowess (and both parties can deliver to their military contractor contributors.) It would be a lot cheaper to put fistsfull of Viagra in their coffee and pay them off directly.


.
 
Impotence

by digby


According to Ari Berman writing here in The Nation the anti-war Democrats in Iowa are unhappy, and for good reason, as the coverage of the "surge" seems to be taking the war off the agenda and the candidates are giving unsatisfactory answers about their plans to end the war.

It's not that antiwar sentiment has disappeared. Iowa is less hawkish and more internationalist than most swing states. There are vigils, yard signs, meetings, sit-ins. Iraq comes up in some form at every town-hall stop. Every Democrat mentions the need to get out of Iraq in his or her stump speech. In 2006 Iowans elected two new Democratic Congressmen and flipped both the state House and Senate blue, the only state besides New Hampshire with such a Democratic tidal wave. And yet the war goes on.

Perhaps that's why, after four and a half years of occupation and no end in sight, Iowa, like the rest of the country, is suffering from war fatigue. "They marched, wrote letters, elected a Democratic Congress and now Congress is funding the war--and Hillary is giving the President the authority to go into Iran!" says Nicholas Johnson, a University of Iowa law professor and former FCC commissioner who leans toward Richardson. "What's a voter to do?"


There's always a "pox on both their houses" potential third party strain running through the American electorate, but I don't think I've seen one in my lifetime on the left that's so attached to a single issue as this one. Not that the article indicates any of those Iowa anti-war activists are thinking of voting third party or staying home, but it's that kind of frustration that lends itself to such things. (There isn't anyone running they could pour their disaffection into anyway.) I don't know exactly what will happen --- nothing, perhaps --- but I can't help but think this feeling of impotence might be a dangerous thing for Democratic candidates to ignore.


.
 
Debatable Tactics

by digby


I watched the debate last night with my usual mixture of shock and awe at the bloodthirsty, inane and irrelevant spew that emits from this cycle's Republican presidential candidates and it did not disappoint. As Gail Collins wrote in her column today: "It was suspenseful, waiting for the next shoe to drop, for the next candidate to go whacky."

Giuliani and Romney are both running as fast as they can from their liberal records on immigration so they sound like a couple of Grand Kleagles circa 1924. Tom Tancredo couldn't be more pleased:

TANCREDO: Well, I tell you, this has been wonderful. Senator McCain may not be happy with the spirit of this debate. For a guy who usually stands on the bookend here, aside, and just listens all the time, that's kind of frustrating, you know, in other debates. I have to tell you, so far, it's been wonderful.

(LAUGHTER)

Because all I've heard is people trying to out-Tancredo Tancredo. It is great. I am so happy to hear it. It is a wonderful thing. It's a good message, yes. We want to secure the borders.


So I was a little bit surprised that both Huckabee and McCain got applause with their relatively human responses on the interminable immigration questions. The debate was in Florida, which probably explains it, but I think it shows once again that even the Republicans are not monolithic on this question.

Here's Huckabee:

HUCKABEE: Thank you very much.

Ashley, first of all, let me just express that you're a little misinformed. We never passed a bill that gave special privileges to the children of illegals to go to college.

Now, let me tell you what I did do. I supported the bill that would've allowed those children who had been in our schools their entire school life the opportunity to have the same scholarship that their peers had, who had also gone to high school with them and sat in the same classrooms.

They couldn't just move in in their senior year and go to college. It wasn't about out of state tuition. It was an academic, meritorious scholarship called the Academic Challenge Scholarship.

Now, let me tell you a couple of provisions of it. And, by the way, it didn't pass. It passed the House but got in the Senate and got caught up in the same kind of controversy that this country is caught up in.

And here's what happened. This bill would've said that if you came here, not because you made the choice but because your parents did, that we're not going to punish a child because the parent committed a crime.

That's not what we typically do in this country.

It said that if you'd sat in our schools from the time you're five or six-years old and you had become an A-plus student, you'd completed the core curriculum, you were an exceptional student, and you also had to be drug and alcohol-free -- and the other provision, you had to be applying for citizenship.

It accomplished two things that we knew we wanted to do, and that is, number one, bring people from illegal status to legal status.

And the second thing, we wanted people to be taxpayers, not tax- takers. And that's what that provision did.

And finally, would we give that provision to the children of veterans, personally? What we've done with not just the children of veterans, but most importantly, veterans is disgraceful in this country.

And that's why I proposed a veterans bill of rights that, if anything, would give our veterans the most exceptional privileges of all, because they are the ones who have earned all of our freedom -- every single one of them.

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Governor, you called Governor Huckabee a liberal on immigration.

ROMNEY: Well, you know, I like Mike. And I heard what he just said. But he basically said that he fought for giving scholarships to illegal aliens. And he had -- he had a great reason for doing so.

It reminds me of what it's like talking to liberals in Massachusetts, all right? They have great reasons for taking taxpayer money and using it for things they think are the right thing to do.

Mike, that's not your money. That's the taxpayers' money.

(APPLAUSE)

And the right thing here is to say to people that are here legally as citizens or legal aliens, we're going to help you. But if you're here illegally, then you ought to be able to return home or get in line with everybody else. But illegals are not going to get taxpayer-funded breaks that are better than our own citizens, those that come from other states or those that come from your state.

COOPER: You have 30 seconds to respond.

HUCKABEE: Well, but they didn't get something better. They had to earn it.

And, you know something, I worked my way through college. I started work when I was 14 and I had to pay my own way through.

HUCKABEE: I know how hard it was to get that degree. I am standing here tonight on this stage because I got an education. If I hadn't had the education, I wouldn't be standing on this stage. I might be picking lettuce. I might be a person who needed government support, rather than who was giving so much money in taxes I want to get rid of the tax code that we've got and make it really different.

ROMNEY: Well...

HUCKABEE: Mitt, let me finish. Let me finish, Mitt.

In all due respect, we are a better country than to punish children for what their parents did. We're a better country than that.

(APPLAUSE)



Huckabee sounded like a pretty reasonable, decent human being on this issue and a fair number of Republicans in that hall responded to it.

Here's McCain:

MCCAIN: I came to the Senate not to do the easy things, but to do the hard things. Mel Martinez and I knew this was going to be a tough issue, but we thought the status quo was unacceptable: broken borders; 12 million people here illegally; a need for a temporary worker program, certainly in my state in the agricultural section, certainly in this state of Florida.

And we tried to get something done. We said we'd enforce the borders. The American people didn't believe us. They don't believe us because of our failure in Katrina, our failure in Iraq, our failures in reining in corruption and out of control spending. So we tried and we failed. And I appreciate the president's efforts. He comes from a border state too. And what we've learned is that the American people want the borders enforced. We must enforce the -- secure the borders first.

But then you've still got two other aspects of this issue that have to be resolved as well. And we need to sit down as Americans and recognize these are God's children as well.

(APPLAUSE)

And they need some protection under the law. And they need some of our love and compassion.


It seems to me that if you can get applause (and no boos) for a comment like that on immigration at a GOP debate then Democratic consultants should relax just a tiny bit about the breathless responses they are getting in their focus groups and tell their candidates to sound reasonable too. They aren't going to be able to out-hate the Tancredo wing of the party so there's no margin in helping the Republicans set the political agenda by pushing bad legislation and even worse rhetoric.

It certainly looks like the cranky old Republican creeps are once again on the rise in the GOP. But Huckabee and McCain are judged to have done well in the debates last night and those answers don't seem to have hurt them.

Pat Buchanan ran for president partly on immigrant bashing in 1992 and he had quite a following. His speech at the Republican convention that year is infamous. The angry divisive tone of that speech was also considered to be the kiss of death for Poppy's candidacy. Republicans should probably consider whether making Tom Tancredo happy is really in their best interest. The Democratic leadership certainly should.


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Codpiece Redux

by digby

Reporters say Baghdad too dangerous despite surge

Nearly 90 percent of U.S. journalists in Iraq say much of Baghdad is still too dangerous to visit, despite a recent drop in violence attributed to the build-up of U.S. forces, a poll released on Wednesday said.

The survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center showed that many U.S. journalists believe coverage has painted too rosy a picture of the conflict.

A separate Pew poll released on Tuesday showed that 48 percent of Americans believe the U.S. military effort in Iraq is going very or fairly well, up from 34 percent in June, amid signs of declining Iraqi civilian casualties and progress against Islamist militants such as al Qaeda in Iraq.

But most journalists said they believe violence and the threat of violence have increased during their tenures.

[...]

The journalists gave high marks to the overall reporting effort, with 74 percent rating news-gathering as good or excellent. The highest marks went to coverage of U.S. troops and the war against insurgents.

Despite claims by U.S. officials that reporting from Iraq is negatively biased, 70 percent of those surveyed believe overall coverage is accurate, while 15 percent say the coverage makes the situation look better than it is.

Forty-four percent of journalists believe reporting has treated the Bush administration fairly, while 43 percent said coverage has been too easy on U.S. officials.

But the data also showed that 67 percent are at least somewhat concerned that the accuracy and completeness of their reports have suffered because of ongoing security problems that limit their access to the country.

President George W. Bush's so-called surge strategy to stabilize Baghdad and its environs has been credited with a fall-off in attacks on Iraqi civilians and U.S. coalition forces over the past two months.

But 87 percent of respondents said at least half of Baghdad remains too dangerous for a Western journalist to visit, with the capital's Shi'ite-dominated Sadr City enclave rated the most dangerous spot in Iraq. Eighteen percent said the entire city of Baghdad is too dangerous for travel.

Most U.S. journalists have traveled to danger spots such as Sadr City, either under the protection of private security guards or the U.S. military.

"Eight in 10 journalists believe conditions have deteriorated for reporters since their own first posting in the country," the survey's authors said.


Last night the Republican candidates, particularly John McCain, were rhetorically prancing around the stage in skin tight jumpsuits, codpieces a-pulsing, over the grand success of the surge strategy. Considering the fact that reporters still can't assess whether the military's claims are correct because it's too dangerous to travel freely, these fellows ought to keep in mind what happened to the last guy who prematurely articulated "Mission Accomplished." A little caution might be in order.

And while I'm certainly looking forward to reading all the reporters' epic war memoirs someday, it would be really helpful for the health of the nation if they'd reveal who they believe is in the tank for the Republicans sooner rather than later.


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Pssst. Pass It On

by digby


It doesn't matter if it's true or not. It's "out there":

Foes Use Obama's Muslim Ties to Fuel Rumors About Him

In his speeches and often on the Internet, the part of Sen. Barack Obama's biography that gets the most attention is not his race but his connections to the Muslim world.

Since declaring his candidacy for president in February, Obama, a member of a congregation of the United Church of Christ in Chicago, has had to address assertions that he is a Muslim or that he had received training in Islam in Indonesia, where he lived from ages 6 to 10. While his father was an atheist and his mother did not practice religion, Obama's stepfather did occasionally attend services at a mosque there.

Despite his denials, rumors and e-mails circulating on the Internet continue to allege that Obama (D-Ill.) is a Muslim, a "Muslim plant" in a conspiracy against America, and that, if elected president, he would take the oath of office using a Koran, rather than a Bible, as did Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the only Muslim in Congress, when he was sworn in earlier this year.


No, those aren't the opening paragraphs of a Townhall hit piece. That's the Washington Post recycling anonymous wingnut email trash and calling it "rumors." I guess we should be grateful that the paper allowed Obama to "dispute" and "deny" the "charge" but considering that he isn't a Muslim, it might have been a teensy bit more responsible if they'd simply written that it's a lie and let it go at that. Instead, it blandly suggests this will hurt him more than the Romney since the polls show that even more people won't vote for a Muslim than a Mormon --- failing to note that Romney is actually a Mormon and thus could be expected to suffer from these prejudices more than someone who isn't actually a Muslim!

According to the Washington Post "Republicans say Barack Obama is a Muslim and Obama says he isn't" is a legitimate story. Modern campaign journalism in all it glory.

Update: Chris Hayes actually did some real reporting on this and it's much more informative than this piece of drivel. There is a story there if the Washington Post had cared to publish it.


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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

 
Rudy's Got Secret(s)

by digby


Most of you have probably already read about Rudy charging the taxpayers for his booty calls when he was mayor of New York, which should get a lot of play if the kewl kidz can get their noses out of Bill and Hillary's dirty laundry basket. But this little Rudy expose would actually be far more damaging in a more rational world:

Three weeks after 9/11, when the roar of fighter jets still haunted the city's skyline, the emir of gas-rich Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifah al-Thani, toured Ground Zero. Although a member of the emir's own royal family had harbored the man who would later be identified as the mastermind of the attack—a man named Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, often referred to in intelligence circles by his initials, KSM—al-Thani rushed to New York in its aftermath, offering to make a $3 million donation, principally to the families of its victims. Rudy Giuliani, apparently unaware of what the FBI and CIA had long known about Qatari links to Al Qaeda, appeared on CNN with al-Thani that night and vouched for the emir when Larry King asked the mayor: "You are a friend of his, are you not?"

"We had a very good meeting yesterday. Very good," said Giuliani, adding that he was "very, very grateful" for al-Thani's generosity. It was no cinch, of course, that Giuliani would take the money: A week later, he famously rejected a $10 million donation from a Saudi prince who advised America that it should "adopt a more balanced stand toward the Palestinian cause." (Giuliani continues to congratulate himself for that snub on the campaign trail.) Al-Thani waited a month before expressing essentially the same feelings when he returned to New York for a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly and stressed how important it was to "distinguish" between the "phenomenon" of 9/11 and "the legitimate struggles" of the Palestinians "to get rid of the yoke of illegitimate occupation and subjugation." Al-Thani then accused Israel of "state terrorism" against the Palestinians.

But there was another reason to think twice about accepting al-Thani's generosity that Giuliani had to have been aware of, even as he heaped praise on the emir. Al Jazeera, the Arabic news network based in Qatar (pronounced "Cutter"), had been all but created by al-Thani, who was its largest shareholder. The Bush administration was so upset with the coverage of Osama bin Laden's pronouncements and the U.S. threats to bomb Afghanistan that Secretary of State Colin Powell met the emir just hours before Giuliani's on-air endorsement and asked him to tone down the state-subsidized channel's Islamist footage and rhetoric. The six-foot-eight, 350-pound al-Thani, who was pumping about $30 million a year into Al Jazeera at the time, refused Powell's request, citing the need for "a free and credible media." The administration's burgeoning distaste for what it would later brand "Terror TV" was already so palpable that King—hardly a newsman—asked the emir if he would help "spread the word" that the U.S. was "not targeting the average Afghan citizen." Al-Thani ignored the question—right before Giuliani rushed in to praise him again.

In retrospect, Giuliani's embrace of the emir appears peculiar. But it was only a sign of bigger things to come: the launching of a cozy business relationship with terrorist-tolerant Qatar that is inconsistent with the core message of Giuliani's current presidential campaign, namely that his experience and toughness uniquely equip him to protect America from what he tauntingly calls "Islamic terrorists"—an enemy that he always portrays himself as ready to confront, and the Democrats as ready to accommodate.

The contradictory and stunning reality is that Giuliani Partners, the consulting company that has made Giuliani rich, feasts at the Qatar trough, doing business with the ministry run by the very member of the royal family identified in news and government reports as having concealed KSM—the terrorist mastermind who wired funds from Qatar to his nephew Ramzi Yousef prior to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and who also sold the idea of a plane attack on the towers to Osama bin Laden—on his Qatar farm in the mid-1990s.

This royal family member is Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani, Qatar's minister of Islamic affairs at the time, who was later installed at the interior ministry in January 2001 and reappointed by the emir during a government shake-up earlier this year.


There is not necessarily anything illegal about doing business with middle eastern countries. Lord knows that the a major reason why the US is as involved as it is there. But Rudy is being extremely cagey about Giuliani Partners, saying that he doesn't have to reveal any information because nobody has suggested that there's anything wrong with them.

Well, somebody is. This man is running almost entirely as an islamofasicst terrorist fighter. And here he is, after 9/11 kissing up to supporters of Osama bin Laden. For profit.

It's not a sexy as hiding his and Mistress Judy's room service expenses in the department of motor vehicles budget, but it's actually quite a big deal. Read the whole thing. He's been raking in millions selling "security" to terrorist sympathizers. When you think about it, it makes perfect "Shock Doctrine" sense.


H/T to bb


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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

 
Don't Call Colin

by digby


No, No, No. This is a horrible idea. I assume that Clinton thinks this would signal a return to "The Powell Doctrine" but even if it's decided that's a good idea, Powell himself should never be allowed anywhere near government again.

Despite his long career, Colin Powell's most world famous, resonant moment was this:



Clinton may think it's a neat idea to send a few Republicans around the world as envoys to show that America has a bipartisan foreign policy again, but she's going to have to look to people who have been out of government for a couple of decades if she expects them to actually have a credibility in the rest of the world.

Colin Powell sold his reputation and his soul when he helped the Bush administration sell a war he knew was bullshit. It's worse, in some ways, than what Bush did. At least Bush actually thought it was a good idea.

And anyway, there is no margin in rehabilitating members of the Bush administration. She will get no thanks for it and she knows it. Colin Powell was instrumental in destroying Bill Clinton's first term for gawd's sake:

As President Bush gave way to President Clinton, the general's protests grew more vocal. First, in October 1992, Powell went public with his opposition to using force in Bosnia, penning an unprecedented New York Times op-ed justifying his stance. Powell cleared the article with the Bush team, but coming at the height of a presidential election in which candidate Clinton was calling for forceful action to halt Milosevic, the intent was clear-all the more so when Powell reiterated his objections in a Foreign Affairs article published as Clinton prepared for his inauguration. "Whether the issue was military service for homosexuals, post-Soviet budget levels, or military action in ex-Yugoslavia," recounts Edward Luttwak, "Powell overruled the newly inaugurated Clinton with contemptuous ease." In at least one instance-the 1993 dust-up over gays in the military-Powell skirted the edge of insubordination. Exploiting Clinton's weakness vis-à-vis the armed forces, Powell went public with his opposition to the plan to integrate homosexuals into the military, letting it be known that he might resign over the issue and humiliating Clinton into negotiating with-and all but surrendering to-his own military chiefs.


The funny thing is that that article is about how Powell acted as a free agent under both Bush I and Clinton (especially Clinton) when he was in uniform, and it was warning that he'd freelance even more as a civilian in the BushII administration. If only. After he became Secretary of State, he turned into a good little soldier who never said a word in public about what went on in the Junior administration until just last summer, when Bush's approval ratings had been safely in the 30's for a year.

No member of the Bush administration should ever be set out to represent this country abroad again. And aside from Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney, I can't think of anyone less credible than Colin Powell.


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Today's Tweety Moment

by digby


Matthews: Let's go back to women with needs. Women with needs are Hillary's great strength. Women who don't have a college degree, women who don't have a lot of things going for them. May not have a husband, may have kids, have all kinds of needs with day care, education, minimum wage. Will Oprah help with them to move to Barack Obama?

Julie Mason Houston Chronicle: Well, they're looking more for issues than they are for a celebrity endorsement. I don't think it's a celebrity endorsement from Oprah or from Bill Clinton, not that he's a celebrity, but you know what I'm saying. I don't think they move votes. I think they bring attention, I think they bring TV cameras, but those particular women are more concerned with health care and other issues than they are with what Oprah says ...

Matthews : (angry, nasty) OK let's get straight. Don't ever say Bill Clinton doesn't bring votes. If it weren't for Bill there wouldn't be a Hill. The idea that he doesn't give her star quality is INSANE

Julie Mason: (startled) I'm not saying he ...

Matthews: He IS her star quality.

Julie Mason: I'm not saying, he doesn't bring votes but if you were undecided...

Matthews:(abrupt) Ok. ... Thank you Matt.

Julie Mason:... I don't think Hillary..er Bill Clinton ...

Matthews: I know I caught you off guard there.

Julie mason: ...would bring you in.

Matthews: I was too tough on you there, but I know I'm right. Anyway, Matt ... just like Hillary I know I'm going to win.


The entire panel laughed nervously and that was it. Julie Mason should refuse to appear on his show again, but I doubt she will, unfortunately.

It's reminiscent of the submissiveness training Matthews gave to Norah O'Donnell back when she used to say things Tweety didn't like. It works.

Oh, and it's quite clear that Matthews thinks these so-called women with needs who "don't have a lot going for them" are a bunch of morons who probably shouldn't be voting. His voice drips with derision whenever he describes them, which he does often, and in great detail. "Women with Needs" doesn't have quite the same ring as "Welfare Queens" but it does the trick.



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Hide The Bunnies

by digby

Radar Online interviewed former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee

Do you know any of the presidential candidates?
I don't know them that well—I know "how do you do." I know Romney—"how do you do." I know Hillary.

What do you think of Hillary?
Well, I'm not as against her as some other people under my roof. Sally [Quinn, his wife]—I find the women are really very, very strongly against her.

What's that about?
I don't know...

Please:

Sally Quinn: In terms of entertaining being partisan, it started with Clinton. The people who were seen as “hostesses” were people who had money or were raising money.… When the stuff about Clinton and women started appearing, in the second term, things shut down. Everybody wanted to go hide in a cave. For people willing to defend him, it became intolerable for them to go out.

In 2000, after being elected to the Senate, Hillary Clinton bought a fashionable house near the British and Italian Embassies. Before her run for the presidency, she added on to the house in order to have more space for entertaining.

Since Hillary has been here in the Senate for the last eight years, I think I’ve seen her twice. Otherwise, she is at fund-raisers. She entertains constantly, but it is all political. It is people who work for her or raise money for her.


Sally doesn't like being ignored.

When people ask me why I think the DC Establishment is like a Village, I send them this link. I didn't come up with it. Sally Quinn did:


In Washington, That Letdown Feeling
By Sally Quinn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 2, 1998; Page E01

"This beautiful capital," President Clinton said in his first inaugural address, "is often a place of intrigue and calculation. Powerful people maneuver for position and worry endlessly about who is in and who is out, who is up and who is down, forgetting those people whose toil and sweat sends us here and pays our way." With that, the new president sent a clear challenge to an already suspicious Washington Establishment.

And now, five years later, here was Clinton's trusted adviser Rahm Emanuel, finishing up a speech at a fund-raiser to fight spina bifida before a gathering that could only be described as Establishment Washington.

"There are a lot of people in America who look at what we do here in Washington with nothing but cynicism," said Emanuel. "Heck, there are a lot of people in Washington who look at us with nothing but cynicism." But, he went on, "there are good people here. Decent people on both sides of the political aisle and on both sides of the reporter's notebook."

Emanuel, unlike the president, had become part of the Washington Establishment. "This is one of those extraordinary moments," he said at the fund-raiser, "when we come together as a community here in Washington -- setting aside personal, political and professional differences."

Actually, it wasn't extraordinary. When Establishment Washingtonians of all persuasions gather to support their own, they are not unlike any other small community in the country.

[...]

But this particular community happens to be in the nation's capital. And the people in it are the so-called Beltway Insiders -- the high-level members of Congress, policymakers, lawyers, military brass, diplomats and journalists who have a proprietary interest in Washington and identify with it.

They call the capital city their "town."

And their town has been turned upside down


Like many a political observer, until I read this, I thought of DC as being more like a European Court filled with jesters and courtiers and grey eminences advising in the shadows. But Versailles could never be this hypocritically provincial --- and proud of it. DC is America, through and through --- America, ca. 1690. The Reverend Broder sentences the heretics to the stake while Sally Goodwyfe runs around screaming "burn them, burn them!"

It's always the dramatists who get this stuff right. Arthur Miller called it years ago.

Update: H/T to Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution who has more from the interview, here.

Did I confuse Bradlee with Jason Robards? He sure sounds like a jackass these days.


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You And What Army?

by digby

Huckleberry Graham and Saxby Chambliss give fair warning that their surging surge will be respected --- or else:


Two Republican senators said Monday that unless Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki makes more political progress by January, the U.S. should consider pulling political or financial support for his government.

The stern warnings, coming from Sens. Lindsey Graham and Saxby Chambliss, are an indication that while GOP patience on the war has greatly increased this fall because of security gains made by the military, it isn't bottomless.

"I do expect them to deliver," Graham, R-S.C., said in a phone interview upon returning from a Thanksgiving trip to Iraq. "What would happen for me if there's no progress on reconciliation after the first of the year, I would be looking at ways to invest our money into groups that can deliver."

Chambliss, R-Ga., who traveled with Graham as part of a larger congressional delegation, said lawmakers might even call for al-Maliki's ouster if Baghdad didn't reach agreement on at least some of the major issues seen as key to tamping down sectarian violence.

"If we don't see positive results by the end of the year I think you'll probably see a strong message coming out of Congress calling for a change in administration," he said in a conference call with reporters.


Right. More "regime change." If I were an Iraqi, I think I'd be asking, no begging the Americans to stop changing our regimes for us. It's really not working out.

Graham and Chambliss said the recent military gains are remarkable, but they agree with Democrats that the political progress has been disappointing. Graham, an early ally of Bush's troop buildup, said he would lose confidence in al-Maliki's government if it could not pass by January a law that would ease curbs on former Baathists from holding government jobs.


This is interesting because McCain was with them and he's doing an end zone dance saying that all the naysayers were wrong and he's a big hero because the surge is supposedly working.

That's one of the cleverest warmonger arguments around. When someone argues that there is no military solution to a problem, the right wing liars insist that means they are saying the military will be defeated. McCain and his fellows said the same thing before the Iraq war --- when we all argued that it wouldn't make us safer, that it would increase terrorist recruiting, that occupying the country would be dangerous and long term they spun that to mean we thought the military couldn't topple Saddam's regime, which we never doubted for a moment. We just didn't think toppling Saddam's regime was a good idea, not that the military couldn't do it. When they drooled all over Bush's victory lap on the carrier it was with a strong dollop of "I told you so" as if those who were against the war had ever doubted that the US Army could defeat Saddam's, which was absurd.

I was talking with a friend yesterday about the fact that conveniently for the Republicans, Iraq is liding off the agenda now that the surge is being touted as a huge success and he noted that we can probably expect to see it slide further as news netwroks decide the war is over and show less and less news. As Eric Boehlert shows in his column to day, it's already happening:

What's obvious is that it's becoming increasingly difficult to find news about the war on television. If the U.S. military action inside Afghanistan is often referred to as "The Forgotten War," due to the lack of media attention it receives, what has Iraq become -- "The Forgotten War II"?

And perhaps nowhere is that amnesia stronger than at ABC's Nightline. The virtual news boycott from Iraq that Nightline has implemented since July went far beyond what any other major American broadcast has done. Again, Nightline aired more than 230 news reports between July 18 and November 22, and not one was about the events on the ground in Iraq. Nightline has not even bothered to cover the ongoing Blackwater USA scandal, involving private American contractors accused of opening fire on unarmed Iraqi civilians on September 16 at a crowded Baghdad intersection, killing 17. The mass shootings are now being investigated stateside by a federal grand jury. Yet, in the 10 weeks since the story first made headlines, there has not been one word about Blackwater USA mentioned on Nightline. Not one.


This is another way the Village picks your president for you. It's not enough that they cover the primaries like a Junior High Wrestling match and Mean Girls slumber party, or even that they cover the general election horse race based upon who stuffs them with the most expensive food on the campaign press plane. They also decide which issues are important --- and that means that the issues they want to talk about --- or which certain savvy political operators who are adept at pushing the kewl kidz buttons want to cover.

Iraq is obviously boring them silly now that it's no longer a great and glorious story of dirty hippies vanquished by the conservative he-men (which is the real subtext of the war in the chattering classes.) So it's being taken off the schedule.

Meanwhile, Huckleberry shakes his tail feathers at the Iraqi government and Condi stages a pageant called "Annapolis" because she wanted her own "Dayton" or "Camp David" in her bio, even if it is seven years and a miserable failure of a war too late. She should have arranged for some people dressed as hippies to protest it and maybe the press would be interested.


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Time After Time

by digby

The blogosphere is steaming over Joe Klein's infamous error-filled column this week about the pending FISA legislation. Jane Hamsher took it to Klein's editor at TIME magazine this morning, who said there were no errors and hung up on her.

I am not an insider so I'm unfamiliar with most of the editorial staffs of the Village rags, but I have followed political coverage very closely for the past 25 years or so and when I looked at the editor's bio, I was struck by something. See if you see it too:


Before assuming her current title in January 2002, Painton had been an assistant managing editor. She was responsible for TIME's political reporting as the magazine's Nation Editor for six years, in which she helped guide readers through the the re-election of Bill Clinton in 1996, the rise and fall of Newt Gingrich, the campaign of 2000 and its vote-counting battle that led to George W. Bush's assumption of the presidency in December of 2000. She and her team produced that year’s “Person of the Year” cover on George W. Bush. In 1998, she oversaw the magazine's coverage of the Kenneth Starr investigation and President's Clinton's impeachment trial and edited TIME's "Men of the Year" cover story on Kenneth Starr and Bill Clinton.

In 1996 and 1997, she oversaw TIME's investigation of the campaign finance scandals, which won a prestigious Goldsmith Investigative Journalism Prize.


During that period I didn't have access to all the great sources for political news I have today, so TIME and Newsweek, along with the TV gasbags and the NY Times were the main sources of Village CW during the Clinton years for those of us who lived outside the beltway.

I don't know how many of you remember TIME's coverage, but suffice to say that it was about the same as what you got from the Washington Post and the NY Times, which is to say it was a non-stop sophomoric, error-ridden, tabloid spectacle.

Here's just a sample of political covers from the magazine in 1997 and 1998:













Let's just say these were as positive as it got in the Village Enquirer during that era. And the errors contained therein would fill the Grand Canyon.

It occurs to me that while we all mistrust the Broders and the Cohens, we may actually come to see them as paragons of journalistic ethics compared to those who came up during the 90's and the Bush years. Look at how many of them climbed the media ladder.



Update: Susie from Philly writes in with this via Gawker:


Date: Oct 16, 2007 3:25 PM Subject: To: Redacted To: TIME Staff From: Rick Stengel

After twenty magnificent years at TIME, Priscilla Painton has decided
to leave us before the end of the year. Priscilla recently came to me
and said she wanted to figure out "Act Two" of her career, and try
something new and completely different.

Before I say how much we will miss her, let me talk a little about her
"Act One." Priscilla has two qualities that are unmatched: her
unrelenting passion for our mission as journalists and the
intellectual rigor with which she approaches everything that we do.
When I worked with her in Nation, there was no one who could inspire
you so much to go out and find a great story--and no one who would
bounce it back so quickly when it didn't meet her standards. She cares
deeply about every aspect of the stories that we do--from the reporting
to the headline to the picture captions. There's no way to quantify
how much her passion and her standards have contributed to the
unmatched quality of TIME over the last two decades, except to say
that we wouldn't be who we are without Priscilla Painton. It will be
hard to match those qualities in the years to come, but her legacy is
that she's taught us all how to do so.

We will have a terrific celebration before she goes, and I promise,
the champagne will be good, and it will be French.

R.S.


Voila.

Update II: The daily Howler captured a revealing moment back in 2005, when Painton appeared on O'Reilly to talk about TIME's "Most Influential" list:

O’REILLY (4/11/05): All right–Ann Coulter. Wow! Ann Coulter?

PAINTON: Ann Coulter is big.

O'REILLY: Yes–

PAINTON: She had a huge best-seller, as you know, this year. Everywhere she goes, she attracts throngs of people.

O'REILLY: But doesn't she just speak to the choir, almost like [Jon] Stewart?

PAINTON: Well, yes, she does. But that doesn't mean that that isn't influential. I mean, in the sense that when there's a big debate, usually it's her funny, amusing, outrageous quips that people walk around–

O'REILLY: Do you think people, Americans, listen to Ann Coulter? Do you think she has influence in public opinion?

PAINTON: I think so. I think the way she sort of summarizes issues and twists them with humor has a big impact. But I also think people read her books.

O'REILLY: Well, obviously. She's another best-selling author.

Monday, November 26, 2007

 
Keeping Them Viable

by digby

Far be it for me to be suspicious of the Kewl Kidz of Village High, but I have noticed an odd phenomenon in the past week or so that makes me wonder if those clever kids aren't doing a little GOP prep work for the general election.

Isn't it a little bit weird that we are suddenly seeing a bunch of articles about the liberal records of Republican candidates in the mainstream press? I realize that they are running in conservative primaries and these articles may be planted by rivals, but if I were a GOP pooh bah I might think it was important not to let stories of GOP candidates' bloodthirstiness and fundamentalism get too embedded in the public consciousness. After all, the money people have already decided that they need a "different kind of Republican" who can win over some moderates this time out. We wouldn't be seeing Blue State Mitt and Big City Rudy (with Compassionate Conservative Huck on the rise) if they didn't know that this is one election where running as a conservative in the general is likely to be the kiss of death.

Hence, we see David Brooks trying to convince the readers of the NY Times that Rudy really loves immigrants. We see the Prince of Darkness telling everyone who will listen that Huckabee is far too liberal. And we had that bizarre "realignment" talk from William Kristol a couple of weeks ago where he was pushing for the nominee to bring Lieberman on the ticket.

The surrogates are all doing their jobs to preserve the GOP candidates' viability after they get the rabid neanderthals in line with appeals to the right of Atilla the Hun. But I don't know if they can maintain all this winking and nodding all the way to next November. It's going to get a little bit confusing after a while trying to tell "Red State Rudy" from "Blue State Rudy" and all that dogwhistling going in both directions is liable to make everybody howl.


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Misdirection

by digby


I've been observing discussions here and elsewhere about the immigration debate with increasing anxiety that the Republicans are going to get away with yet another misdirection perfectly designed to derail progressive hopes and dreams by stroking America's lizard brain. The election feels eerily reminiscent of 1992, when so-called reasonable centrists stoked the crazy man Ross Perot's campaign by backing his obsessive concern for "the deficit" which was nothing more than a weird abstraction into which misinformed discontented voters could pour their economic fears. The political result was that even though a Democrat won, instead of using the tax windfall from the tech boom to finance new initiatives for the public, the best he could do was hang on to the surplus for as long as possible and then watch as the Republicans passed it out to their rich friends like it was Christmas morning the minute they stole the election. Suckered, suckered, suckered.

This time, of course, the stupid irrelevant issue they are forcing into the ether is illegal immigration. And, like "the deficit" it is virtually designed to twist the Democratic candidates into pretzels as they help the Republicans once again misdirect the public to blame something other than the corrupt plutocrats who just pillaged the treasury for their woes.

Illegal immigration has long been a political football in America and this time is no exception. There have been bracero guest worker programs and repatriation programs from the beginning of the last century. During the 1950's, Eisenhower had tens of thousands of Latinos deported under Operation Wetback more than a few of them citizens. (Read that link if you want to see just how similar the arguments then were to today's.) Migration across the border has been present since before there was a border and it's a "problem" that always exists and nobody cares about until they suddenly ... do.

The thing progressives need to keep in mind is that only thing truly different in this latest "crisis" is the growing number of Latino citizens who are getting agitated by the predictably ugly tone of it and are starting to politically organize. That really is new and the ramifications of it are huge and important for both political parties. It is true that the voter registration drive after the massive rallies was disappointing. But those rallies are a sign of something very, very different in this age-old debate and the Republicans know it. That's why Rove tried so hard to get comprehensive immigration reform knowing very well that he had a short window to take credit among Latinos. They couldn't get it done, not because of the decent people we all know who are suddenly concerned about illegal immigration, but because of a very distinct cohort of the far right who even the old hardline racists are smart enough to know are on the wrong side of history on this one:


Comments by Republican senators on Thursday suggested that they were feeling the heat from conservative critics of the bill, who object to provisions offering legal status. The Republican whip, Trent Lott of Mississippi, who supports the bill, said: “Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem.”


They gave their monster a megaphone and now they can't shut them up. ("As ye sow" and all that drivel.)

The issue tends to get ginned up whenever the plutocrats need to misdirect the people from their corruption and malfeasance, so I would be very suspicious of their "support" for CIR in this environment. There is every reason to believe that they will get behind any punitive border enforcement atrocity with everything they have (if they aren't behind it already.) As much as the Wall Street Journal likes to tout open borders, their real mission at the moment is keeping the people from demanding regulations and laws that will contain their massive greed and reduce income inequality. If it means shutting the border for a little while to keep the rubes from blaming the real culprits, that's a small price to pay.

But like it or not, the way they do this (over and over again) is by playing to certain xenophobic and racist impulses that are always present among some Americans (or which can be drawn out in others who might not think they have such impulses, but, in fact, do.) It's one thing to say that we shouldn't go around willy nilly calling people racists, but it's quite another to actually believe that racism and xenophobia are not in play in a major way.

We political junkies talk a lot about "intensity" when trying to figure out what issues people vote on and which issues to emphasize in an election. It takes very little scratching beneath the surface of this argument to come up with usual "they live like pigs," "they're diseased" and worse among those who say this is the most important issue facing the nation.

But that's not the whole story either. On their side the intensity is with racists and xenophobes who are pushing their ideas into the mainstream with fervor and focus. On our side the intensity is in all those Latino citizens and legal residents who are living with the same loathing and suspicion as their family members and acquaintances who once were or currently are "illegal" and that's what our side should be concerned about. Discounting all of those who we would love to see brought into the system, if even those Latinos who are currently registered fail to vote, we will lose Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and Florida in the next election again when they should be blue all the way. (Check out the current state of the Democratic party in Louisiana now that it's been cleared of African American voters to see how this works.)

The Latino community -- the fastest growing voting bloc in America -- is rightfully very concerned by these condemnations of "illegals" as being diseased, dirty and criminal, since those who say such things don't bother to make certain important distinctions.

Back at the Help Save Manassas booth, volunteers wearing T-shirts emblazoned with "What part of illegal don't you understand?" displayed photographs of garbage-strewn houses and yards. One showed a tent next to an overturned wading pool propped up by a stick—overflow, Letiecq claimed, from a house full of illegals. An elderly woman in a Democratic Party T-shirt confronted a stocky ex-Marine named Steve, asking, "How do you know that the people living in these houses are illegal? Poor people would live like that, too."

"Ma'am, they're illegal. They are," Steve said. "You're in denial."


People like that have made sure that the Republicans have lost the Latino vote for the foreseeable future. They are making the best of it by falling back on their tried and true methods of vote suppression. The question for progressives is why Democratic leaders would help them do it by having Heath Shuller and half the caucus co-sponsor a punitive enforcement only bill that is a taxpayer boondoggle and a mandate to harrass the Latino community. It simultaneously legitimizes the extremist right wing (who love the bill, by the way) while telling Latino citizens that the Democratic party would rather appease racists like Tom Tancredo than stand up for them and insist on comprehensive immigration reform --- which they support in large numbers.

Of course not everyone who is concerned about illegal immigration are racists. But it is clear that the ones who claim "illegals" are dirty, diseased and depraved to make their argument are. I don't think the vast majority of Americans are comfortable with that kind of talk and if it's exposed, they might just wise up and realize they are being played -- and not want to be associated with such people. And it certainly would reassure our Latino brothers and sisters that the Democratic party is not a party that welcomes people who believe such things.


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Best Wishes

by digby

I just heard that Robert Frank, economist and great friend of Hullabaloo, had a heart attack recently. Apparently, he's doing very well, back at home etc., so that's good news.

If you would care to make him happy in his recuperation (good for healing), I would urge you to consider buying one of his books, particularly "The Economic Naturalist: In Search of Explanations for Everyday Enigmas" a fun little book that answers many questions about how and why people make the decisions they do. It's a great way for those of us who are not economists to think about economics in our everyday lives.

Frank appeared on the FDL Book Salon a few months back and we had a very lively discussion of his book Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class --- a book for our times if there ever was one.

Get well soon!


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Sunday, November 25, 2007

 
Deep Thoughts

by digby

A couple of months ago I published a memo about the upcoming elections from a friend of mine who is a very sharp, well informed observer and participant in the political scene. I call him Deep Insight.

He's updated his analysis of the presidential election and I thought you might find it interesting:


On some days, it appears George Bush could care less if he drives the GOP over the cliff in 2008. His pursuit of rightwing foreign and domestic policy continues unabated. Iraq will remain a mess for years and millions have already fled the country. Our wonderful ally, the President of Pakistan, declares martial rule while we funnel billions in cash to his military cronies. Meanwhile, the Taliban now controls parts of Northwest Pakistan. Bush’s decision to veto the Children’s health proposal cements a nice brand image for his party as reckless and incompetent on foreign policy and heartless on healthcare for kids.

The GOP remains confident, however, on its messaging ability and willingness of the mainstream media to carry its talking points. Just tune in and watch pundits Tim Russert and Chris Matthews, who began their careers as Democratic aides on the Hill, carry on a dialogue that Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme.” Their former employers, Daniel Moynihan and Tip O’Neill, roll over in their graves. This type of elite pundit narrative is repeated daily on television, radio and op-ed pages. The next media magic trick will be to make George Bush, as Digby notes, “disappear.” It worked for Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales who have made Nixon’s henchmen Haldeman and Mitchell look like amateurs. Rather than Rove being investigated by the mainstream media, he now has a column in Newsweek. The Democratic nominee will not only have to defeat the GOP nominee, but also the elite media narrative.

The Republicans in Congress, however, have reason to be worried. They face the inevitable retirements after losing majority status. The number in the House is 15 and still rising. The Democrats should retain both open seats (Maine, Colorado) where the incumbents are seeking Senate seats. If handled properly, the vote against the Children’s health bill could resonate against GOP incumbents. Democrats have to be concerned, however, about the overall approval rating of Congress. Anti-Washington sentiment in the country is still growing. In the Senate, the Democrats are posed for a 2seat pick up. This margin will grow with the right breaks and enough grassroots activism. In the House, the Democrats are now ahead by 17 points in their most contested seats. As a bonus, the party is ahead by 6 points in the Republican held marginal seats. Right now, it looks like a pick up of at least high single digit House seats for the Democrats.

Congressional Democrats, however, sometimes act as if it is still 2002 when they were still in the minority. The big bad Republicans will distract the country and beat them into submission. Bush has a 25% approval rating. There is absolutely no political price in opposing the initiatives of the GOP. On national security issues, the Democrats need to take the “kick me” sign off their backs. Bush has weakened our national security with this reckless war in Iraq. Bombing Iran will only add to the terrorist threat. This has to be clearly stated.

Extremists, who have little interest in responsible governance or the common good run the modern Republican Party. They obstruct any positive legislative effort, force the Democrats to compromise, and then abandon the compromise. The Democrats need to tout accomplishments and fault the GOP for its obstructionism. Instead, the Democrats are losing the communications skirmishes to the rightwing noise machine including wasting time on such things as responding to the censure of MoveOn for an ill-advised ad and telling Congressman Pete Stark to apologize for calling the President names. If Bush continues to veto popular bills to benefit the common good, the Democrats can draw sharp contrasts with the right wing. This will only enhance 2008 opportunities.


The Republican K Street Project is in tatters as access donors in the business community pony up to the Democrats. Before Democrats get too cozy with the priorities of business, they should note the public is not enthralled with the current state of the economy. Whether the economy falls into recession, or merely slow growth, many Americans are really hurting. People are working longer hours to run in place. 1.7 million Americans face home foreclosure next year. As Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz noted recently, “Herbert Hoover has been regarded as the “worst President” when it comes to the economy, but Bush’s legacy is more insidious and likely to be longer lasting.” Congressman Rangel has started a discussion of why hedge fund managers and private equity bigwigs pay a lower marginal tax rate than the janitors in their building. Bush will veto any tax increase anyway, but a political airing will be useful.

The Republicans hope to use this economic discontent to fan resentment against immigrants. The Democratic leadership is divided, but being less crazy than the Republicans is not a policy. The public knows illegal immigration is a serious issue and is concerned about it. When the Wall Street Journal waxes poetic about open borders, it is clear business wants downward pressure on wage. Americans favored a comprehensive solution to this issue but a vocal movement derailed it. Lou Dobbs pretends to represent the mainstream view on immigration, and now toys with a Presidential run to pump up his ratings.

Before a single vote is cast, the pundit class has awarded the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton. The Republicans are already running against her, and McCain has an attack ad up of dancing hippies at Woodstock (one more time let’s go back to 1969). Certainly, she is in a commanding position with plenty of money and universal name identification. She remains the favorite, and the press has even decided it is time to harass her.

Democratic primary voters do, however, have a way of upsetting apple carts or Ed Muskie would have been the 1972 nominee and in 1976 Jimmy Carter would have remained a polling asterisk. Walter Mondale had all he could handle with Gary Hart’s 1984 challenge. Unpredictability is the rule not the exception in the Democratic primaries. Early polling is just early polling. Howard Dean had a 23-point lead in New Hampshire at this juncture in 2004. Polling is particularly shaky in Iowa where no one can predict turnout and the 15% threshold rule applies.

Still, Obama and Edwards have to shake up the race. Obama has consciously scaled back his “audacity of hope” campaign for a more restrained approach. He needs a movement of individuals who vote, not a traditional campaign. He needs a win in Iowa or a close second. Edwards has placed his political fate on Iowa and if either he or Obama wins, it will give the victor substantial momentum heading in to the rush of primaries. The margin between first and third in Iowa is likely to be small.

Chris Dodd stood up to the White House on the FISA legislation. He definitely needs to win New Hampshire as does Senator Biden or their campaigns will end with applause in the Senate. Bill Richardson’s last stand is Nevada.

In early fundraising, the Democratic field continues to swamp the Republican one. This is also true, not surprisingly, for the Senate and House Committees, but the RNC continues to out fundraise the DNC. If the Democratic nominee is settled in February, the DNC has to step up fundraising. This pre-Labor Day period will be critical for the party to spend on behalf of the nominee.

An independent NGO communication effort must also utilize this time period. Only innovative and cost-effective communication strategies should be considered. With TIVO, satellite TV and itchy finger remotes, typical political advertising on broadcast TV is of declining utility. The GOP and rightwing will be very active during this time. Their 527 “Freedom Watch” is already in full swing on Iraq and Iran.

The Republican field continues to distinguish itself by pandering to its base. Evolution is a myth, not established science. The war is going great; global warming is not a threat. Taxes have to be cut on the wealthy, etc. Rudy still leads in national polls but as he receives more scrutiny, the numbers trend downward. He employed and defended Bernie Kerick his indicted mobbed connected ex-police commissioner. Now there is a lawsuit from Kerick’s ex-mistress alleging her former employer, News Corp, tried to suborn perjury from her to help Rudy. Expect banner coverage from FOX News and the Wall Street Journal. An ex-priest accused of pedophilia is also on his payroll. The social conservatives have upped their threat to run a third party candidate if he is the nominee, but this may be a ruse as the religious right leadership is fractured. The berserk businessman/evangelist Pat Robertson, who said we deserved 9/11, recently endorsed Rudy. The Republicans like aggressive candidates and nobody is going to out aggressive Rudy. Should he become the nominee, the Democrats do need to worry because of his “strong leader” image.

Fred Thompson, the conservative “great white hope,” seems to be fading. Mitt Romney keeps dipping into his own pocket and upping his right wing rhetoric. He still leads in New Hampshire and if unprincipled ambition is the threshold, Mitt is the clear winner. John McCain is staging a mini comeback but still has little money and the enmity of the right wing. Senator Brownback’s endorsement of him is interesting, if it is not just Senatorial courtesy. Mike Huckabee looks like he will inherit a good proportion of the social conservative vote, particularly if Thompson flops. Huckabee is moving up in national polls, and is tied with Romney in Iowa. He will hurt Romney badly if he wins there. Ron Paul is running 4th in New Hampshire but raised an astonishing $4 million on the Internet on Guy Fawkes Day.

So far, the GOP race has been the gift that keeps on giving to the Democrats. But George Bush must be made into the GOP nominees’ political brother. 2008 will be a “change the course” election and the electorate is clearly not thrilled with Washington DC priorities or institutional arrangements. So, the Democrats need to ride this tide both on the Presidential and Congressional levels.


I can't tell you how important I think that last is. Here's David Brooks:

DAVID BROOKS: ... this campaign will not be about George Bush.

MARK SHIELDS: It won't be about George Bush, if Republicans have their way. I mean, the past eight years, are you better off than you were eight years ago?


George Bush should be tied so tightly around the Republican candidates' necks they can hardly breathe. Every quote of support, every vote, every word of worship should be thrown in their faces and there is a ton of it. He is the most unpopular president, for the longest sustained time, of any president in history. He is the modern Herbert Hoover, a man whose name should become an epithet.

And it isn't just the presidential campaigns. The congress, obviously, is missing its moment to solidify this president and the drones who enthusiastically supported every single thing he did for six long years as losers in the eyes of the public. I know that liberals don't like to be nasty to anyone but each other, but this is just crazy. As Deep Insight says:

Congressional Democrats, however, sometimes act as if it is still 2002 when they were still in the minority. The big bad Republicans will distract the country and beat them into submission. Bush has a 25% approval rating. There is absolutely no political price in opposing the initiatives of the GOP. On national security issues, the Democrats need to take the “kick me” sign off their backs. Bush has weakened our national security with this reckless war in Iraq. Bombing Iran will only add to the terrorist threat. This has to be clearly stated.


This is not brain surgery and it isn't ideological. This is purely tactical. If the Democrats are seen to be unwilling to take on the party and ardent supporters of the most unpopular president in history then their entire case for leadership falls completely flat. Of course, they have to run against Bush. The Republicans are Bush.


Update: Responding to the now infamous, misinformed Joe Klein column this week, saying for the umpteenth time that Democrats must go along with Republican crackpot legislation or risk being seen as wimps, Athanae at First Draft gives one of the best explanations I've seen for why people don't care to vote for people who think capitulation is a good way to show toughness:

[Voters] don't like voting for people who make them embarrassed. You all know what an embarrassment squick is, right? It's why I can't watch Ricky Gervais's original version of The Office, or Charlie Kauffman movies, or Jerry Seinfeld, or those silly home video shows of kids falling off bikes or doughy guys getting hit in the balls. I don't ... it's just ... ugh. It's the feeling you get when watching uncomfortable people being stupid, and sticky, and ... it's like this in politics, every day, with Klein and his ilk. They are advising a course of action that sets off everybody's embarrassment squick, and nobody's gonna vote for the guy who you watch and it's like your baseball team's getting whomped. You're up in the stands, having your tenth beer in an hour, pulling your hat down over your face and hoping nobody is looking at you. Or your team. You don't even want to be there because the yuck might rub off on you.

Is that dumb and irrational? Sure. We're talking about perception and strategy here, so it's dumb and irrational. But Democrats won in 2006 by acting like they didn't give a fuck what Republicans thought, they were gonna fix the mess we're in, and everybody was happy, and they felt like winners, and people like winning because the parties are better, and so on and so on. I don't know what it will take for them to act like that again. A veto-proof majority? A Democratic president? Both? The sudden and unexplained silence of every pundit everywhere? A memory transfusion? I really don't know what it's going to take but I can tell you for damn sure going back to the glory days of 2002 is not the answer here.


I suspect that if they would just refuse to allow the Republicans to set the agenda for the upcoming election as they are currently doing, they would be halfway there. I don't know if anyone's noticed, but nobody's talking about Iraq now that the administration has managed to move the goalposts so far that victory is defined as fewer killings than six months ago. Huzzah! We won! Now we can talk about the Mexicans and the tax and spend liberals!

It's embarrassing alright.


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