Saturday, October 25, 2008
Is An Abortion Clinic Bomber a Terrorist? Palin: Bill Ayers Was a Terrorist.
McCain Campaign: "Race Baiting"
John McCain's Pennsylvania communications director told reporters in the state an incendiary version of the hoax story about the attack on a McCain volunteer well before the facts of the case were known or established -- and even told reporters outright that the "B" carved into the victim's cheek stood for "Barack," according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions.
John Verrilli, the news director for KDKA in Pittsburgh, told TPM Election Central that McCain's Pennsylvania campaign communications director gave one of his reporters a detailed version of the attack that included a claim that the alleged attacker said, "You're with the McCain campaign? I'm going to teach you a lesson."
Verrilli also told TPM that the McCain spokesperson had claimed that the "B" stood for Barack. According to Verrilli, the spokesperson also told KDKA that Sarah Palin had called the victim of the alleged attack, who has since admitted the story was a hoax.
The KDKA reporter had called McCain's campaign office for details after seeing the story -- sans details -- teased on Drudge.
The McCain spokesperson's claims -- which came in the midst of extraordinary and heated conversations late yesterday between the McCain campaign, local TV stations, and the Obama camp, as the early version of the story rocketed around the political world -- is significant because it reveals a McCain official pushing a version of the story that was far more explosive than the available or confirmed facts permitted at the time.
The claims to KDKA from the McCain campaign were included in an early story that ran late yesterday on KDKA's Web site. The paragraphs containing these assertions were quickly removed from the story after the Obama campaign privately complained that KDKA was letting the McCain campaign spin a racially-charged version of the story before the facts had been established, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.
The story with the removed grafs is still right here. We preserved the three missing grafs from yesterday:
A source familiar with what happened yesterday confirmed that the unnamed spokesperson was communications director Peter Feldman. Feldman was also quoted yesterday making virtually identical assertions on the Web site of another local TV station, WPXI. But those quotes, which we also preserved here, are also no longer available on WPXI's site, for reasons that are unclear.
This is problematic because the McCain campaign doesn't want to have been perceived as pushing an incendiary story that not only turned out to be a hoax but which police officials said today risked blowing up into a "national incident" and has local police preparing to file charges against the hoaxster.
There's no evidence that anyone from McCain national headquarters put out a version of events like this.
After the story appeared on KDKA's site and this and other pieces in the local press started flying around the political world, an Obama spokesperson in the state angrily insisted to KDKA that it was irresponsible for the station to air the McCain spokesperson's incendiary version of events before the facts were fully known, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.
After that, KDKA went back to McCain's Pennsylvania spokesperson, Feldman, and asked if he stood by the story as he'd earlier told it, but he started backing off the story, a source familiar with the talks says. That prompted KDKA to remove the grafs.Feldman couldn't immediately be reached, and a McCain HQ spokesperson declined to comment.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Ashley Todd: The Face of the Republican Party.
Labels: Stupid and Racist
McCain Campaign Jumps The Shark.
Police say a campaign volunteer confessed to making up a story that a mugger attacked her and cut the letter B in her face after seeing her McCain bumper sticker.
At a news conference this afternoon, officials said they believe that Ashley Todd's injuries were self-inflicted.
Todd, 20, of Texas, is now facing charges for filing a false report to police.
Todd initially told police that she was robbed at an ATM in Bloomfield and that the suspect became enraged and started beating her after seeing her GOP sticker on her car.
Police investigating the alleged attack, however, began to notice some inconsistencies in her story and administered a polygraph test.
Authorities, however, declined to release the results of that test.
Investigators did say that they received photos from the ATM machine and "the photographs were verified as not being the victim making the transaction."
This afternoon, a Pittsburgh police commander told KDKA Investigator Marty Griffin that Todd confessed to making up the story.
Todd told investigators that she didn't remember what happened.
Police say they do not believe any other people were involved; and her friends believed the story about the attack.
More of the back story from AP:
A McCain campaign volunteer who reported that a tall black man robbed her and then cut a "B" onto her cheek after seeing a McCain bumper sticker on her car has been given a polygraph test because of "inconsistencies" in her story, police said.
Among other things, police said photos and bank card information from an automated teller machine where the college student claimed she was robbed do not show her using the machine at the time, police said.
Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Diane Richard wouldn't release the polygraph results, but said, "we're still looking at some inconsistencies" in the woman's story.
Police said the student, Ashley Todd, of College Station, Texas, who is white, told them she was attacked by a 6-foot-4 black man Wednesday night.
Richard said police have not ruled out that the woman was attacked as she claimed, and said inconsistencies deal primarily with how she described the attack.
"We're just trying to judge the validity of some of the information we received from her," Richard said. "We understand when you are under duress that sometimes you can't recollect things. We're just looking at all the angles."
Among the differences in her accounts are whether she lost consciousness, whether she remembers handing over money and how the man assaulted her, police said.
The report of the attack Thursday prompted the Republican presidential candidate and his running mate, Sarah Palin, to call Todd expressing their concern. Barack Obama's campaign also issued a statement wishing Todd well and hoping the attacker would be swiftly brought to justice.
The Associated Press could not immediately locate Todd or her family.
Ethan Eilon, executive director of the College Republican National Committee, told reporters that Todd worked in New York for several months before moving to Pennsylvania two weeks ago to continue working for the group.
Eilon declined to comment on the investigation Friday or to help The Associated Press contact Todd. In a follow-up e-mail, Eilon said, "We think this girl has endured enough and that this is going to be something for her and her family to work through."
Richard, the police spokeswoman, said police have pictures of the victim and her injuries, but are not releasing them. She said they are "more or less" consistent with a picture that has surfaced on the Internet that show a woman with a black eye and a red backward "B" that looks like a welt or scrape on her right cheek.
"It's not like her cheek was carved out," Richard said. "It's more like a scrape or a scratch."
In her initial account, Richard said, Todd attempted to use the ATM when the man approached her from behind, put a knife with a 4- to 5-inch blade to her throat and demanded money. She told police she handed the assailant $60 and walked away.
Todd told investigators that she suspected the man then noticed a John McCain sticker on her car, became angry and punched her in the back of the head, knocking her to the ground and telling her "you are going to be a Barack supporter," police said in a statement.
She said he continued to punch and kick her while threatening "to teach her a lesson for being a McCain supporter," police said. She said he then sat on her chest, pinned her hands down with his knees and scratched a backward letter "B" into her face using what she believed to be a dull knife.
The woman told police she didn't seek medical attention, but instead went to a friend's apartment nearby and called police about 45 minutes later.
Police have reinterviewed Todd at least once since her initial statement, Richard said.
In the subsequent discussions with investigators, according to the police statement, Todd said she was accosted as she approached the bank and fled her attacker, fell to the ground and the assailant began beating and fondling her.
Police Cmdr. Larry Ross, who is in charge of the police precinct where the attack was first reported, said Todd's story has continued to change.
"I guess she elaborated more when she went down to the bureau headquarters. She added other things to it that we didn't have at first, that she didn't tell the initial officer," Ross said.John Moody, executive vice president at Fox News, commented on his blog that "this incident could become a watershed event in the 11 days before the election. If Ms. Todd’s allegations are proven accurate, some voters may revisit their support for Senator Obama, not because they are racists (with due respect to Rep. John Murtha), but because they suddenly feel they do not know enough about the Democratic nominee. If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting."
Labels: McCain Campaign Jumps The Shark
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Anybody Else Notice That Sarah Palin Interviews Have John McCain There As Chaparone? And They Don't Even Seem Like They Like Each Other.
Chuck Todd on McCain Palin: No Chemistry, No Trust, Possibly No Chance
Sam Stein at HuffPo
Commenting on a new joint interview with John McCain and Sarah Palin, NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd described the Republican ticket as lacking cohesion, chemistry, and (he hinted) trust.
"There was a tenseness," Todd told MSNBC's Chris Matthews. "I couldn't see chemistry between John McCain and Sarah Palin. I felt as if we grabbed two people and said 'here, sit next to each other, we are going to conduct an interview.' They are not comfortable with each other yet."
Todd, who was remarking on the interview conducted by NBC's Brian Williams (he was in the room), speculated that the candidates had come to the realization that "they are losing" the campaign, and guessed that McCain may have begun to hold his vice presidential choice responsible for his dwindling White House chances.
"When you see the two of them together, the chemistry is just not there. You do wonder, is John McCain starting to blame her for things? Blaming himself? Is she blaming him?" asked the highly regarded NBC newsman. "And maybe they don't feel they can win right now, so they are missing that intensity. That was the thing that struck me more than anything. You almost wonder why they wanted the two of them sitting next to each other."
The interview, Williams said, would air over the course of three days. And some actual news - beyond the body language - was drawn from the proceedings: Palin, apparently to her own staff's surprise, promised to release her medical records.
"Both of these candidates are on the verge of pulling a Bullworth," said Todd, referencing the late '90s political classic about a pol who stopped spinning. "We are at a critical juncture inside this campaign for the McCain folks and that is who is trusting who? You have got people worrying about their reputations. Now you are wondering do the candidates trust the staff? Does the staff trust the candidates? This is a dangerous time in a campaign that is behind. They desperately need some good news because you do wonder if cohesion is disappearing on the inside."
Editor's Note: Chuck Todd Just Became My New Hero for Referencing Bullworth.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
While Politico reports on the RNC spending $150,000 to 'accessorize' Palin and her family, I stumbled upon this picture of Senator Obama (along with a great collection of campaign trail photos from Callie Shell).
He's got holes in the bottom of both his shoes from walking so much on the campaign trail. And as the caption explains, he's already resoled them once.
"Senator Obama was doing press interviews by telephone in a holding room between events. Sometime later as he was getting ready to begin his event, he asked me if I was photographing his shoes. When I said yes, he told me that he had already had them resoled once since he entered the race a year earlier. Providence, R.I., 3/1/2008."
So... who's more in touch with the average American again?
For Someone Who Doesn't Like "Big Government" Sarah Palin Sure Knows How To Maximize Her Personal Benefits From Her Position As Governor.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Gov. Sarah Palin charged the state for her children to travel with her, including to events where they were not invited, and later amended expense reports to specify that they were on official business.
The charges included costs for hotel and commercial flights for three daughters to join Palin to watch their father in a snowmobile race, and a trip to New York, where the governor attended a five-hour conference and stayed with 17-year-old Bristol for five days and four nights in a luxury hotel.
In all, Palin has charged the state $21,012 for her three daughters' 64 one-way and 12 round-trip commercial flights since she took office in December 2006. In some other cases, she has charged the state for hotel rooms for the girls.
Alaska law does not specifically address expenses for a governor's children. The law allows for payment of expenses for anyone conducting official state business.
As governor, Palin justified having the state pay for the travel of her daughters — Bristol, 17; Willow, 14; and Piper, 7 — by noting on travel forms that the girls had been invited to attend or participate in events on the governor's schedule.
But some organizers of these events said they were surprised when the Palin children showed up uninvited, or said they agreed to a request by the governor to allow the children to attend.
Several other organizers said the children merely accompanied their mother and did not participate. The trips enabled Palin, whose main state office is in the capital of Juneau, to spend more time with her children.
"She said any event she can take her kids to is an event she tries to attend," said Jennifer McCarthy, who helped organize the June 2007 Family Day Celebration picnic in Ketchikan that Piper attended with her parents.
State Finance Director Kim Garnero told The Associated Press she has not reviewed the Palins' travel expense forms, so she could not say whether the daughters' travel with their mother would meet the definition of official business.
After Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain chose Palin his running mate and reporters asked for the records, Palin ordered changes to previously filed expense reports for her daughters' travel.
In the amended reports, Palin added phrases such as "First Family attending" and "First Family invited" to explain the girls' attendance.
"The governor said, 'I want the purpose and the reason for this travel to be clear,'" said Linda Perez, state director of administrative services.
When Palin released her family's tax records as part of her vice presidential campaign, some tax experts questioned why she did not report the children's state travel reimbursements as income.
The Palins released a review by a Washington attorney who said state law allows the children's travel expenses to be reimbursed and not taxed when they conduct official state business.
Taylor Griffin, a McCain-Palin campaign spokesman, said Palin followed state policy allowing governors to charge for their children's travel. He said the governor's office has invitations requesting the family to attend some events, but he said he did not have them to provide.
In October 2007, Palin brought daughter Bristol along on a trip to New York for a women's leadership conference. Plane tickets from Anchorage to La Guardia Airport for $1,385.11 were billed to the state, records show, and mother and daughter shared a room for four nights at the $707.29-per-night Essex House hotel, which overlooks Central Park.
The event's organizers said Palin asked if she could bring her daughter.
Alexis Gelber, who organized Newsweek's Third Annual Women & Leadership Conference, said she does not know how Bristol ended up attending. Gelber said invitees usually attend alone, but some ask if they can bring a relative or friend.
Griffin, the campaign spokesman, said he believes someone with the event personally sent an e-mail to Bristol inviting her, but he did not have it to provide. Records show Palin also met with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Goldman Sachs representatives and visited the New York Stock Exchange.
In January, the governor, Willow and Piper showed up at the Alaska Symphony of Seafood Buffet, an Anchorage gala to announce winners of an earlier seafood competition.
"She was just there," said James Browning, executive director of Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, which runs the event. Griffin said the governor's office received an invitation that was not specifically addressed to anyone.
When Palin amended her children's expense reports, she listed a role for the two girls at the function — "to draw two separate raffle tickets."
In the original travel form, Palin listed a number of events that her children attended and said they were there "in official capacity helping." She did not identify any specific roles for the girls.
In July, the governor charged the state $2,741.26 to take Bristol and Piper to Philadelphia for a meeting of the National Governors Association. The girls had their own room for five nights at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel for $215.46 a night, expense records show.
Expense forms describe the girls' official purpose as "NGA Governor's Youth Programs and family activities." But those programs were activities designed to keep children busy, a service provided by the NGA
to accommodate governors and their families, NGA spokeswoman Jodi Omear said.
In addition to the commercial flights, the children have traveled dozens of times with Palin on a state plane. For these flights, the total cost of operating the plane, at $971 an hour, was about $55,000, according to state flight logs. The cost of operating the state plane does not increase when the children join their mother.
The organizer of an American Heart Association luncheon on Feb. 15 in Fairbanks said Palin asked to bring daughter Piper to the event, and the organizer said she was surprised when Palin showed up with daughter Willow and Bristol as well.
The three Palin daughters shared a room separate from their mother at the Princess Lodge in Fairbanks for two nights, at a cost to the state of $129 per night.
The luncheon took place before Palin's husband, Todd, finished fourth in the 2,000-mile Iron Dog snowmobile race, also in Fairbanks. The family greeted him at the finish line.
When Palin showed up at the luncheon with not just Piper but also Willow and Bristol, organizers had to scramble to make room at the main table, said Janet Bartels, who set up the event.
"When it's the governor, you just make it happen," she said.
The state is already reviewing nearly $17,000 in per diem payments to Palin for more than 300 nights she slept at her own home, 40 miles from her satellite office in Anchorage.
Tony Knowles, a Democratic former governor of Alaska who lost to Palin in a 2006 bid to reclaim the job, said he never charged the state for his three children's commercial flights or claimed their travel as official state business.
Knowles, who was governor from 1994 to 2002, is the only other recent Alaska governor who had school-age children while in office.
"There was no valid reason for the children to be along on state business," said Knowles, a supporter of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. "I cannot recall any instance during my eight years as governor where it would have been appropriate to claim they performed state business."
Knowles said he brought his children to one NGA event while in office but didn't charge the state for their trip.
In February 2007, the three girls flew from Juneau to Anchorage on Alaska Airlines. Palin charged the state for the $519.30 round-trip ticket for each girl, and noted on the expense form that the daughters accompanied her to "open the start of the Iron Dog race."
The children and their mother then watched as Todd Palin and other racers started the competition, which Todd won that year. Palin later had the relevant expense forms changed to describe the girls' business as "First Family official starter for the start of the Iron Dog race."
The Palins began charging the state for commercial flights after the governor kept a 2006 campaign promise to sell a jet bought by her predecessor.
Palin put the jet up for sale on eBay, a move she later trumpeted in her star-making speech at the Republican National Convention, and it was ultimately sold by the state at a loss.
That left only one high-performance aircraft deemed safe enough for her to use — a 1980 twin-engine King Air assigned to the public safety agency but, according to flight logs, out of service for maintenance and repairs about a third of the time Palin has been governor.
Labels: Appearance of impropriety
Laugher of the Week: Republican Party Spends $150,000.00 on Palin's Clothes and Make-Up. Talk about Lipstick on a Pig.
Palin Clothes Spending Has Dems Salivating, Republicans Disgusted
Sam Stein at HuffPO
Since her selection as John McCain's running mate, the Republican National Committee spent more than $150,000 on clothing and make-up for Gov. Sarah Palin, her husband, and even her infant son, it was reported on Tuesday evening.
That entertaining scoop -- which came by way of Politico -- sent almost immediate reverberations through the presidential race. A statement from McCain headquarters released hours after the article bemoaned the triviality of the whole affair.
"With all of the important issues facing the country right now, it's remarkable that we're spending time talking about pantsuits and blouses," said spokesperson Tracey Schmitt. "It was always the intent that the clothing go to a charitable purpose after the campaign."
But even the most timid of Democrats are unlikely to heed this call for civility. For starters, the story has the potential to dampen enthusiasm among GOP activists and donors at a critical point in the presidential race. It also creates a huge PR headache for the McCain ticket as it seeks to make inroads among voters worried about the current economic crisis.
Mainly, however, Democrats (in this scenario) are not prone to forgiveness. After all, it was during this same campaign cycle that Republicans belittled the $400 haircut that former Sen. John Edwards had paid for with his own campaign money (the funds were later reimbursed). And yet, the comparison to that once-dominant news story is hardly close: if Edwards had gotten one of his legendary haircuts every singe week, it would still take him 7.2 years to spend what Palin has spent. Palin has received the equivalent of $2,500 in clothes per day from places such as Saks Fifth Avenue (where RNC expenditures totaled nearly $50,000) and Neiman Marcus (where the governor had a $75,000 spree).
Beyond the political tit-for-tat, however, the revelation of the clothing expenditures offers what some Democrats see as a chance not just to win several news cycles during the campaign's waning days but to severely damage Palin's image as a small-town, 'Joe Six-Pack' American.
"It shows that Palin ain't like the rest of us," Tom Matzzie, a Democratic strategist told the Huffington Post, when asked how the party would or could use the issue. "It can help deflate her cultural populism with the Republican base. The plumber's wife doesn't go to Nieman's or Saks."
Indeed, the story could not come at a more inopportune time for the McCain campaign. During a week in which the Republican ticket is trying to highlight its connection to the working class -- and, by extension, promoting its newest campaign tool, Joe the Plumber -- it was revealed that Palin's fashion budget for several weeks was more than four times the median salary of an American plumber ($37,514). To put it another way: Palin received more valuable clothes in one month than the average American household spends on clothes in 80 years. A Democrat put it in even blunter terms: her clothes were the cost of health care for 15 or so people.
There are, in these cases, legal questions surrounding campaign expenditures. Though, on this front, Palin and the RNC seem to be in the clear.
"I don't think it's taxed," said David Donnelly of Campaign Money Watch. "I don't think she can keep it. It's owned by the RNC. They had to use coordinated funds to pay for the clothes."
And certainly the possibility exists that this issue can be effectively swept under the rug. Palin is not known for taking impromptu questions from the press. Moreover, the media, at this juncture, has other major story lines (see: upcoming election) to grapple with, thus denying the piece the relative vacuum that accompanied the Edwards story. Finally, there is little desire among conservative writers or pundits to litigate the matter, even if they were more than happy to jump on board when a Democrat was in the spotlight.
Several hours after Politico posted its findings, the topic remained nearly untouched by the major right-wing outlets. Though as Marc Ambinder at the Atlantic opined:
"Republicans, RNC donors and at least one RNC staff member have e-mailed me tonight to share their utter (and not-for-attribution) disgust at the expenditures. ... The heat for this story will come from Republicans who cannot understand how their party would do something this stupid ... particularly (and, it must be said, viewed retroactively) during the collapse of the financial system and the probable beginning of a recession."
Palin Answers Same Question Wrong for the Fourth Time. What Does the Vice President Do? The Vice President is "in-charge of the Senate."
Article 1 Section 3 of the United States Constitution: The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Colin Powell On Republican Party's Smear Campaign Against American Soldiers.
Why Is John McCain's Smear Campaign Failing Miserably? You see the internets are a series of Tubes, not a Dump Truck.
The Internet and the Death of Rovian Politics
Arianna Huffington at HuffPo
Age has finally become an issue for John McCain. But the problem isn't the candidate's 72 years; it's the antediluvian approach of his campaign.
McCain is running a textbook Rovian race: fear-based, smear-based, anything goes. But it isn't working. The glitch in the well-oiled machine? The Internet.
"We are witnessing the end of Rovian politics," Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google told me. And YouTube, which Google bought in 2006 for $1.65 billion, is one of the causes of its demise.
Thanks to YouTube -- and blogging and instant fact-checking and viral emails -- it is getting harder and harder to get away with repeating brazen lies without paying a price, or to run under-the-radar smear campaigns without being exposed.
But the McCain campaign hasn't gotten the message, hence the blizzard of racist, alarmist, xenophobic, innuendo-laden accusations being splattered at Obama.
And it seems that the worse McCain is doing in the polls, the more his team is relying on the same gutter tactics. So over the next 15 days, look for the McCain campaign to become even uglier. That's what happens when following Rovian politics is your only strategy -- and Rovian politics isn't working.
McCain has stockpiled his campaign with Rove henchmen, including not one but three of the people responsible for the political mugging inflicted on him in 2000.
Just last week he brought on Warren Tompkins in an "unofficial" capacity to see how receptive North Carolina would be to some Rovian slime. After all, it's right next door to South Carolina, where in 2000 Tomkins and his buddies in the Bush campaign spread race-baiting rumors about McCain having an illegitimate black daughter (referring to McCain's adopted Bangladeshi daughter Bridget).
And those disgraceful robo-calls that McCain is running? They were done with the help of Jeff Larson and his firm FLS-Connect -- the same firm that created the robo-calls smearing McCain in 2000.
At the time, McCain's reaction to the attacks on him was: "I believe that there is a special place in hell for people like these."
His reaction now? I have a special place in my campaign for people like these!
So the Karl Rove specials keep coming. Obama and Ayers. Obama the Socialist. Obama and ACORN "destroying the fabric of democracy." Palin (herself the manifestation of Rovian decision-making) delineating which parts of "this great nation of ours" are "pro-American." (Interestingly, the sites of the 9/11 attacks didn't make the list.)
And, did you hear, Obama is also... black! And he wants to give your money to all the poor black people! McCain didn't come right out and say that, but it's surely what he insinuated in his radio address this weekend: "Barack Obama's tax plan would convert the IRS into a giant welfare agency." Somewhere, Karl Rove is smiling, Richard Nixon's southern strategy is waxing nostalgic, and John McCain's missing moral compass is getting steamed about John Lewis' evocation of the civil rights struggle.
But there is a diamond amidst all this dung: the lack of traction this Rovian politics is getting. It's as if Rove and his political arsonists keep lighting fires, only to see them doused by the powerful information spray the Internet has made possible.
The Internet has enabled the public to get to know candidates in a much fuller and more intimate way than in the old days (i.e. four years ago), when voters got to know them largely through 30-second campaign ads and quick sound bites chosen by TV news producers.
Compare that to the way over 6 million viewers (on YouTube alone) were able to watch the entirety of Obama's 37-minute speech on race -- or the thousands of other videos posted by the campaign and its supporters.
Back in the Dark Ages of 2004, when YouTube (and HuffPost, for that matter) didn't exist, a campaign could tell a brazen lie, and the media might call them on it. But if they kept repeating the lie again and again and again, the media would eventually let it go (see the Swiftboating of John Kerry). Traditional media like moving on to the next shiny thing. But bloggers love revisiting a story. So when Palin kept repeating her bridge to nowhere lie, bloggers kept calling her on it. Andrew Sullivan, for one, has made a cottage industry of calling Palin on her lies. And eventually, the truth filtered up and cost McCain credibility with his true base: journalists.
The Internet may make it easier to disseminate character smears, but it also makes it much less likely that these smears will stick.
As a result, the McCain campaign's insinuation-laden "Who is Barack Obama?" was rendered more comical than spooky. Who is Barack Obama? The guy we've been watching over and over and over during the last two years. We've seen him. We know him. And we can remind ourselves about him with a quick Google search and a mouse click.
Obama "has shown the same untroubled self-confidence day after day," and "over the past two years, Obama has clearly worn well with voters." Those are the words of David Brooks, who has gotten to know Obama just like the rest of us.
Four years ago, McCain's Rovian race-based appeals to our darker demons might have worked. This year, they are blowing up in McCain's face. And in the face of the entire GOP.
Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama as "a transformational figure" was powerful. But even more powerful was his withering indictment of the state of the Republican Party and the cancer of Rovian politics.
It was similar to the diagnosis of Christopher Buckley following his endorsement of Obama: "To paraphrase a real conservative, Ronald Reagan, I haven't left the Republican Party. It left me."
There are many other anti-Rove Republicans abandoning their party. I've had several Republican friends tell me privately what Powell and Buckley told the world publicly: that they're voting for Obama. Most of them not because they like Obama, but because they can't stand what Bush, Rove and now McCain and Palin have done to their party.
Rovian politics may or may not end up destroying the GOP. But, thanks to the Internet, with a bit of luck it will no longer have the power to befoul our democracy.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Bizarro World: McCain Supporters Run Off McCain Supporters in Virginia. Fascinating.
Conservative's No Longer "Colorblind" claim race main factor in Powell's Endorsement. And Joe Lieberman only supports John McCain because he's White.
Some Conservative's See Race In Powell's Obama Endorsement
Colin Powell's decision to endorse Barack Obama has sparked a mini-debate of sorts over both the significance of the endorsement itself and the role that race has and will play during this campaign.
In the immediate aftermath of his appearance on Meet The Press, several prominent GOP officials - ranging from the established to the extreme - defined the announcement more by skin color than ideology.
The most crass interpretation came from talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who wrote the Politico's Jonathan Martin the following:
"Secretary Powell says his endorsement is not about race... OK, fine. I am now researching his past endorsements to see if I can find all the inexperienced, very liberal, white candidates he has endorsed. I'll let you know what I come up with."
Later in the day, Pat Buchanan echoed Limbaugh's refrain. "Alright, we gotta ask a question," he declared on MSNBC, "look would Colin Powell be endorsing Obama if he were a white liberal Democrat..."
The esteemed conservative columnist George Will did not go so far, but he did seek to explain the impact of Powell's decision as part of a larger, more psychological sway that Obama held over other African Americans.
There will be "some impact," Will declared. "And I think this adds to my calculation -- this is very hard to measure -- but it seems to me if we had the tools to measure we'd find that Barack Obama gets two votes because he's black for every one he loses because he's black because so much of this country is so eager, a, to feel good about itself by doing this, but more than that to put paid to the whole Al Sharpton/Jesse Jackson game of political rhetoric."
There were, down the conservative line, other voices who gave credence to the race-over-politics theory. A prominent Republican attorney in Maine, Dan Billings, accused Powell of racism, stating: "If Obama was a white man, Powell would not have made the endorsement."
Certainly, it is hard to dismiss this element when the discussion surrounds a man who seemed en route -- if he simply wanted -- to becoming the first African American president and the individual who is poised to fulfill that possibility. But the argument (for all its condescending simplicity) seems to be missing the larger point. For starters, Powell has, in the past, endorsed a "white man" who was described as inexperienced -- George W. Bush in 2000. Mainly, however, the endorsement tells us more about how Obama's candidacy will be perceived among white voters than it says about the Illinois Democrat's African American support structure. As the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder explains:
"Powell is a culturally individuated African American hero; to the extent that there remain white voters who have inchoate worries about Obama's race, it helps to have him associated with a man whose race they've already gotten over. I do think this cohort of people is tiny."
UPDATE: Notre Dame Professor Darren Davis, who specializes in the intersection of race and politics, writes in with his take on the Powell endorsement and the conservative reaction.
"There is nothing racially obvious about Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama. I have read Colin Powell's comments and he did not at anytime allude to race being a factor in his endorsement. I think what we are seeing is a sense of racial stereotyping of two ostensibly racially transcendent political figures. There has always been a stereotype that all black people will stick together. It seems that this is somewhat in play here, given that they only factor connecting Colin Powell and Barack Obama is race."
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Germans had been shaken to their roots by defeat in 1918. The emotional impact was all the more severe because German leaders had been trumpeting victory until a few weeks before. So unbelievable a calamity was easily blamed on traitors.
The Anatomy of Fascism
With the prospect of a bone-crushing election defeat staring them full in the face, the diehard rump of the conservative movement is already busy fashioning a narrative to explain the dissolution of its world -- the one that Ronald Reagan built and that George W. Bush (with an assist from Wall Street) has thoroughly trashed.
And the emerging story line appears to be, roughly, that ACORN did it.
Given the underlying proclivities of the modern conservative movement (Sarah Palin division) we should have understood that sooner or later it would come to something as absurd as this. Failed authoritarian movements needs scapegoats the way fecal coliform bacteria need a steady supply of raw sewage, and this one has a lot of failures that need explaining.
The remarkable thing, of course, is the right's effort to make the ACORN boogie man do double duty: responsible not only for the looming "theft" of American democracy (per John McCain) but also for bringing the US and global financial system to its knees (per any number of conservative
quacks economists and cranks pundits).
You have to admit: That's a damned impressive revolutionary track record for an obscure group of community organizers operating on a shoestring budget. I mean, who needs the Red Army when you've got ACORN and the Community Reinvestment Act?
It would be easy to dismiss this lunacy as a manifestation of what the social scientist Richard Hofstader called the "paranoid style" in American politics. And some liberals have already made the connection. As far as the grassroots hysterics are concerned(i.e. the sort of people who are obsessed with the kerning and font size on Barack Obama's "alleged" birth certificate) this is no doubt true.
But I think by now it's also very clear that the GOP high commmand -- as far back as the Twin Cities white power rally, if not before -- deliberately adopted the demonization of ACORN/community organizers/the poor as a proxy for the hatred that no longer dares to speak its real name (except at the occasional Sarah Palin rally).
I think this strategy serves two purposes. One is obvious: to play upon traditional racial and class resentments to try to win back middle-class and working-class voters who might otherwise be waivering as they watch their jobs, their homes and their already inadequate retirement savings go spinning around the hole in the bottom of the economic toilet bowl.
We can take a page from John Lewis and call this the George Wallace gambit -- not the Wallace of the stand in the schoolhouse door or the bridge at Selma, but rather the Wallace who ran for president in 1968, '72 and '76 and managed to attract quite a few Northern Democratic votes with his attacks on school busing, affirmative action, fair housing laws and other examples of "social engineering" foisted upon Regular Joe (Joe Sixpack's dad and Joe the Plumber's granddad) by Ivy League professors and pointy-headed government bureaucrats.
Exactly who was supposed to benefit from all that social engineerin' was left unsaid, just as it is today.
Students of American politics know that Wallace's populist rabble rousing was quickly expropriated by the GOP and -- watered down for respectable middle-class consumption -- became one of the weapons used by Richard Nixon and his pit bull of a running mate, Spiro Agnew (Sarah Palin with jowls) to crack open the New Deal coalition.
The ACORN monster, in other words, is a stock character out of a play the Republicans have been performing with mind-numbing efficiency for the past 40 years -- making it the political equivalent of what The Fantasticks is for suburban dinner theater.
Given that the same attacks have been used, in some form or another, against a long line of lily white Democratic candidates, it would be unfair to characterize them as coded attempts to make an issue of Obama's race per se. That's a line the GOP high command apparently is still not willing to cross, even as coded attacks on Obama's alleged "foreignness" (i.e. his middle name) have become the order of the day. It is, however, an obvious coded attack (and very lightly coded at that) on the inner-city poor. And in American political slang, "inner-city poor" is simply a five-syllable substitute for "black".
However, as the McCain campaign descends into bitter futility (clinging to its guns and its religion all the way) and the band of the USS Republican Party assembles on deck to strike up "Near My God to Thee," the anti-ACORN hysteria is starting to look less like a coherent campaign attack and more like a post-defeat rationalization. Clearly, conservatives are preparing themselves to take a knockout punch. Unfortunately it appears a big part of this psychological armouring will be convincing themselves the election was stolen, not lost. Even worse: stolen by the same "socialist" extremists who destroyed the American economy by forcing the banks to give loans to the n------.
This, of course, is not how the new stabbed-in-the-back myth will be expressed in polite conservative company (i.e. among the David Brooks and Ross Douthats of the world). But anyone who doubts that is the way it will be internalized among the many new members of the Sarah Palin Fan Club simply hasn't been paying attention.
Choosing ACORN (and/or its constituents) as the scapegoat for the implosion of the biggest credit bubble in American history and, simultaneously, a wholly fictional attempt to steal a presidential election, may seem like a bit much. Why not pick on someone a bit more believable -- like, say, the demon id from Forbidden Planet?
The GOP at times has tried to do this -- citing, variously, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Democrats in Congress (i.e., the demon id from Forbidden Planet) and greed and corruption on Wall Street as the prime villains. But for various reasons (such as the fact that Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager, was a Fannie Mae lobbyist, or that Wall Street is the ideological Vatican of the same militant free market doctrine that modern conservatism has sworn to defend) none of these have proven very satisfactory. As I once noted of the effort to blame the nearly invisible anti-war movement for the debacle in Iraq:
The best scapegoat is one that is both blameless and weak. Blameless, because it relieves the truly guilty parties of the need to decide who among them must take the fall. Weak, because the guilty themselves have been weakened by defeat, and even a modest defense might enable a truly blameless set of scapegoats to convince the country of their innocence.
Given the fratricidal war brewing on the right over which faction (neo, paleo or psycho) is responsible for conservativism's 1918, that comment appears particularly relevant now.
We don't need to hark back to the unfortunate history of a certain Central European country in the 1930s to understand how poisonous this kind of political myth making can become. Powerful elements of the Republican Party and the conservative "movement" aren't just preparing themselves to go into opposition, they're preparing themselves to dispute the legitimacy of an Obama presidency -- in ways that could, if taken to extreme, lead to another Oklahoma City.
It's hard to tell to what degree the GOP high command fully understands or is trying to feed these dynamics (indeed, it's becoming increasingly difficult to even tell who the GOP high command is these days). The last thing I want to do is get into an arms race with the wingnut right when it comes to paranoid conspiracy theories. (That's one race the left will always lose). Still, the recent statements of John McCain and his Bircher-influenced running mate aren't exactly reassuring:
My opponent's answer showed that economic recovery isn't even his top priority. His goal, as Senator Obama put it, is to "spread the wealth around."
You see, he believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that help us all make more of it. Joe, in his plainspoken way, said this sounded a lot like socialism.
I've been following politics for going on 35 years now, and I don't think I've ever heard a Republican candidate publicly refer to his Democratic opponent as a "socialist" -- not even while hiding behind a cardboard cutout like "Joe the Plumber". This from a man who told the entire nation on Wednesday night that believes an obscure nonprofit group is "perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy."
Likewise, I don't think there's ever been an American vice presidential candidate who explicitly referred to entire regions of the United States as "pro-American" -- with the clear implication that other regions are something less than "pro-American." Not since the Civil War, anyway.
We've crossed some more lines, in other words -- in a long series of lines that have made it increasingly difficult to distinguish between the ultraconservative wing of the Republican Party and an explicitly fascist political movement. And John McCain and his political handlers appear to have no moral compunctions whatsoever about whipping this movement into a frenzy and providing it with scapegoats for all that hatred, simply to try to shave a few points off Barack Obama's lead in the polls.
To call this "country first" only works if you assume your opponents (and scapegoats) are not really part of that same country. And we all know where that leads.
It may lead us there yet, or to something like it. Middle class America has clearly entered a prolonged period of economic pain -- on top of the existing climate of cultural disorientation and rapid demographic change. Conventional assumptions (401k plans are an adequate substitute for company pensions; black men can't be elected president) are toppling left and right. Scapegoats that seem remotely plausible only to the most deranged partisans may appear less fantastic to the apolitical majority by and by. And even a party that has nothing left to offer America but fear itself may eventually find itself in a seller's market.