Stephen Payne, a GOP fundraiser and Homeland Security Advisory Council member, was caught on video selling time with the nation's most powerful officials in exchange for six digit donations to the Bush presidential library. George W. wants the biggest library ever, and apparently he's willing to sell his time and influence to pay for it.
You have to see this to appreciate it:
Could Payne have been lobbying for this fund without Bush's knowledge? As they say in Britain, not bloody likely.
Just put this event on the long list of criminal offenses committed by this administration. Oh look, I see a space on Bush's personal list between "making stuff up so we could go to war" and "outing a covert agent to get that guy who called me on using bad pre-war intelligence."
John McCain's chief economic adviser has finally been given the boot. So what exactly did former Senator Phil Gramm do which cost him his job?
Was it the $1,000,914 he received in campaign contributions from the Securities and Investment industry while chairing the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Repairs from 1995 to 2000? Nope.
Was it that his wife, Wendy Gramm, served on Enron's Board of Directors after pushing through a key regulatory exemption for the company on Jan. 14, 1993 when she was Chairwoman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission? Not a problem.
What about Gramm's role in creating the Enron loophole (read my previous article about that here) by slipping it into an 11,000 page report just hours before the Congressional Christmas break in 2000? Given its impact on the current gas crisis, you'd think so, but no.
How about his work as Vice Chairman at UBC, the British company which wrote off $39 billion of American subprime and other mortgage debt in the past year-- the company that is now under FBI investigation for tax evasion involving some 20,000 US citizens, and the same company which took over the majority of Enron's assets? Wrong again.
According to this PBS interview, Phil Gramm was fired for calling the current US economic predicament "a mental recession" and saying of America, "we have sort of become a nation of whiners." That's it. Gramm's history bothered the McCain camp not a whit, but his embarrassing statement to the media lead to his swift removal.
As McCain's chief economic adviser, Gramm helped to forge the candidate's economic platform, and that is what matters most today. Perhaps with Gramm out of the picture, the platform can finally receive the scrutiny it deserves.
The Obama campaign released another ad today in response to the latest Republican National Committee (RNC) radio attack in Virginia and Ohio. The new RNC ad accuses Obama of trying to raise taxes on those making $32,000 per year:
This ad might have been more effective if the tax claim was actually true. It isn't. Apparently, the latest RNC strategy is to just make stuff up, and Obama's timely radio response says exactly that:
Two days after a 60 year old librarian was removed from a John McCain town hall event in Denver, the secret service has denied any involvement. It turns out that a McCain staffer requested the removal.
Officials at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts issued the following statement today:
"A representative of Senator John McCain's staff respectfully asked that the venue for its July 7 Town Hall Meeting, The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, not allow persons to display signage within the Arts Complex."
The ousted librarian, Carol Kreck, was holding a poster board which read "McCain = Bush" while waiting in line for entrance to the public event. How divisive? Ironically, removing dissenters from campaign events has always been standard operating procedure for President Bush, as shown here, here, and here.
Carol wrote about these developments today in her blog. She had this to say about the status of her case:
"I will not pay a fine, I will not accept diversion. That leaves two options: dropped charges, or going to trial. After that is resolved, David Lane will proceed civilly."
I think the (not so) straight talk express just pushed around the wrong little old librarian. Below is video of the ouster, compliments of ProgressNowAction.org:
Max Bergmann at the Huff Post posted a great article today about why John McCain's presidential bid should have been over this week. This tidbit is from the second paragraph:
"During this past week: McCain called the most important entitlement program in the U.S. a disgrace, his top economic adviser called the American people whiners, McCain released an economic plan that no one thought was serious, he flip flopped on Iraq, joked about the deaths of Iranian citizens, and denied making comments that he clearly made -- TWICE. All this and it is not even Friday! Yet watching and reading the mainstream press you would think McCain was having a pretty decent political week, I mean at least Jesse Jackson didn't say anything about him. "
Bergmann makes an excellent point about the mainstream media missing the boat with most of these stories. So why aren't they newsworthy?
As noted here, networks have been competing fiercely for smaller and smaller shares of the news market. Ratings drive story selection, and the shock value from most of these stories was negligible. After eight years of George W. Bush, I think Americans just expect these kinds of blunders from Republican politicians.
Almost a month has passed since the last presidential primary in June, and Senators Obama and Clinton are still working to repair the damaging split that was created among democratic supporters. On Wednesday and Thursday, the duo will attend fundraising events together in New York City.
Their focus, beyond fundraising, will be to woo former Clinton supporters who have not yet come to terms with her primary defeat, but groups like Facebook's PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) and others are making this fence mending effort increasingly difficult. To make matters worse, it seems that Clinton's supporters aren't the only ones with hard feelings.
Today, the New York Times reported that many Obama supporters are loathe to help Clinton pay off her $23 million campaign debt. So far, Obama's top donors have come up with less than $100,000, a "paltry sum" according to one Clinton official. From the article:
"Several Obama donors said in interviews that they were balking at Mr. Obama’s call for help because they believed Mrs. Clinton accumulated most of her debts after she had lost any mathematical chance of winning the nomination and was hanging on only in hopes of an Obama collapse. The idea of helping her now — and lining the pockets of Mr. Penn, a reviled figure in the Obama camp — is galling to them, they said, especially at a time when they say any available money should go to defeating Senator John McCain and the Republicans in November."
This argument may be justifiable, but it ignores the bigger picture. While some of Clinton's former supporters might be characterized as "sore losers," many of Obama's supporters might just as easily be dubbed "sore winners" for hanging on to resentment instead of attempting to make peace.
Winning the upcoming election must take precedence over bitter feelings. Four more years of Bush style governing and economics would have devastating consequences on the nation and its citizenry. Supporters on both sides should remember that above all else.
At a Philadelphia fundraiser on June 14th, Barack Obama promised supporters that he would respond forcefully to Republican attacks. "If they bring a knife to the fight, we'll bring a gun," he said, in reference to one of Sean Connery's lines from the 1987 movie "The Untouchables". Today, Obama showed just how quickly those responses will come.
On Sunday, the Republican National Committee announced an upcoming ad in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin which praises Senator McCain's balanced energy plan while charging that Obama lacks his own energy plan:
The Obama campaign responded quickly with its own ad buy today in the same four states. The new ad details Obama's energy plan-- the plan that didn't exist according to the RNC-- and it goes on to criticize McCain for giving unnecessary tax breaks to big oil companies and voting with President Bush 95% of the time:
So just what does the RNC think of Obama's quick response strategy? In reaction to Obama's movie quote in June, RNC spokesman Alex Conant said "[Obama]’s completely abandoned his campaign’s call for ‘new politics’, equating the election to a ‘brawl’ and promising to ‘bring a gun,’."
Translation: "Stop fighting back so we can smear you properly."
In both 2001 and 2003, Senator John McCain voted against President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Regarding his 2001 vote, McCain said "I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle-class Americans who most need tax relief."
Enter 2008. Presidential candidate McCain has abandoned his once thoughtful stance on fiscal responsibility in favor of political expediency. In February, he pledged to make the Bush tax breaks permanent during his presidency. And today, McCain took a detour into the truly absurd when he said that he will somehow balance the budget by the end of his first term.
Will the real John McCain please stand up?
Flip-flop aside, his plan makes no sense. Balancing the budget while extending excessive tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans (less revenue) and fighting two costly wars (more spending) is not going to happen short of cutting Medicare by as much as 81% or cutting all discretionary non-defense spending by 78%. In reality, our federal deficit, and our corresponding national debt, will continue to skyrocket under his proposed policies.
The US national debt is now over 9.5 trillion dollars and rising. Last year, the interest alone on this debt made up 9% of our entire federal budget. That's $237 billion, which equates to $649 millionper day, or just over $27 million per hour. The debt is so high that every US citizen would have to pay $31,216 to bring it back down to zero. That's every man, woman, and child.
This all makes sense to John McCain, George Bush, and their neocon followers. During the May 15th Republican presidential debate, McCain said "the fact is the tax cuts have dramatically increased revenues."
Candidate McCain has either changed his view dramatically on this issue or he is pandering. So what does he really believe? Perhaps the 2001 John McCain can pay the 2008 John McCain a visit to help us sort it all out.
Barack Obama has discovered that there is a downside to having the largest political grassroots movement in American history. By successfully tapping so many donors, there were scant few donations left over for the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
The DNC had merely $4 million on hand at the end of May. Compare this to the $53.5 million the Republican National Committee had in its coffers.
The DNC is responsible for funding the Democratic National Convention at Pepsi Center in Denver on August 25th through August 28th. Today, the New York Times reported that the DNC cash shortage has taken its toll on convention preparations. From that article:
"...problems range from the serious — upwardly spiraling costs on key contracts still being negotiated — to the mundane, like the reluctance of local caterers to participate because of stringent rules on what delegates will be eating, down to the color of the food. At last count, plans to renovate the inside of the Pepsi Center for the Democrats are $6 million over budget, which may force convention planners to scale back on their original design or increase their fund-raising goals."
The Obama camp has been critical of the process thus far:
"Only in the last month has the Obama campaign been able to take over management of the convention planning with the candidate claiming the nomination, and his aides are increasingly frustrated, as the event nears, at organizers who they believe spent too freely, planned too slowly and underestimated actual costs."
With less than two months to go, convention organizers will have to get cracking.
On a related note, Obama is now considering giving his acceptance speech at Invesco Field, home of the Denver Broncos. The stadium can hold up to 76,000 cheering Obamaniacs, while Denver's Pepsi Center has a maximum capacity of about 19,000.
The date of Obama's acceptance speech will correspond with the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. This will be big. And whatever the outcome of the general election, I suspect the historical significance of that speech, given on that day, will reverberate for generations.
'In the Left corner, weighing in on universal health care and the struggling middle class, we have "He's So Pretty" John Edwards!' <cheers from seats on the left>
'And in the Right corner, weighing in on universal tax breaks and the evils of liberalism, we have "Bush's Brain" Karl Rove!' <tepid applause from seats on the right>
It's true. Edwards and Rove will face off in a debate at the University of Buffalo on September 26th. This unlikely match-up was put together as part of the university's Distinguished Speakers Series.
Edwards, who was John Kerry's running mate in 2004 and a presidential candidate this year, has often suggested that Rove was at the heart of corruption and divisiveness in the Bush administration. In April 2007, the Edwards campaign sent out an email calling for Rove, a Bush adviser at the time, to be fired. The email began: "There is a trail of rot making its way through our government, and it leads straight to Karl Rove."
Those sound like fightin' words to me.
When Rove's resignation was announced in August of last year, Edwards issued the following statement : "Goodbye, good riddance."
There is no word on television coverage yet, but for those who live in the area, tickets for the event are expected to go on sale shortly after the entire series schedule is announced later this month. More information about the series can be found at the university website.
John McCain is celebrating the July 4th holiday at home in Arizona today. Obama and family are in Butte, Montana, where they were greeted enthusiastically this morning as they made their way to the town's July 4th parade.
I will be out celebrating the holiday with my family as well. To all my readers, here's to a jubilant Independence Day! I hope everyone enjoys the pretty lights in the sky as much as my youngest daughter will.
Rasmussen's daily tracking poll shows Obama up 47% to 40%, but that lead is cut to 5% when leaners are included.
Also from Rasmussen, Obama now leads McCain by 5 points in Montana. Bush won this state by 20% in 2004.
Remember Obama's supposed Hispanic problem? Gallup shows that Obama leads McCain by a whopping 40 points in this demographic, by 59% to 29%. In 2004, John Kerry won the Hispanic vote by just 9 points.
Democrats are preferred over Republicans by a 47% to 35% margin on Rasmussen's generic Congressional ballot. The same poll shows that Obama leads McCain among voters at the lowest end and the highest end of the income scale.
It's only early July, but the trends in these polls are certainly daunting for the Republican nominee and his party. Montana, with its 3 electoral votes, is now in play. And in another sign of Obama's growing support in historically red bastions, McCain has now bought television ad time in Virginia.
Virginia? This change in the electoral map, and the outlook of our nation as a whole, made me think of a certain Bob Dylan song written about another time of great change. Enjoy.
As reported by the New York Times today, the McCain camp has had its second major shake-up in less than a year. Campaign Manager Rick Davis has been demoted and replaced by Bush campaign veteran Steve Schmidt, who worked closely with Karl Rove in 2004. Schmidt will now be in charge of daily operations, including political strategy. But that's not all.
Also reported by the Times:
"Nicolle Wallace, who was communications director for Mr. Bush in the 2004 campaign and in his White House, has joined the campaign as a senior adviser, and will travel with Mr. McCain every other week. Greg Jenkins, another veteran of Mr. Rove’s operation, has joined the McCain communications operation."
"Mr. Jenkins is a former Fox News producer and a director of Mr. Bush’s presidential advance team that set up political events."
For someone who repeatedly denies his similarities to a certain commander and chief, these changes certainly are telling. I find them disturbing.
The Rovian strategy that Bush relied on has always been about scaring people into voting against their best interests. It worked so well in 2004 that candidate John Kerry, a distinguished Vietnam war hero, was diminished to the status of flip-flopper while Bush, who merely served stateside during that same conflict, was perceived as the stronger security candidate by the majority of voters.
The same strategy failed to connect in 2006. That year, voters were more scared of Republican mismanagement than they were of threats from abroad, and the Democratic party took back control of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
So, will Rovian scare tactics work in 2008? A late assist from the White House might help. I have a sneaking suspicion that a major foreign policy event will occur just before the 2008 November election, Security Level Orange, or worse. Just wait and see.
And if you think that's cynical, thinkback to what this administration has done over the past eight years. At this point, nothing will surprise me.
Barack Obama has announced his second ad buy for the 2008 general election campaign. This one is a 30 second spot, and it will air in the same 18 states as his last ad:
His message smartly targets independent voters, focusing on worker's rights, slashing welfare rolls by 80%, reducing taxes for workers, and providing health care for children. This vision of a working society should play well in blue collar America.
In May, 2004, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT) launched a smear campaign attacking Senator John Kerry's distinguished Vietnam war record.
In August 2004, Senator John McCain said "I think the ad is dishonest and dishonorable. As it is none of these individuals served on the boat (Kerry) commanded. Many of his crew mates have testified to his courage under fire. I think John Kerry served honorably in Vietnam."
After the spots aired, the men who actually knew and served with John Kerry repeatedly refuted the Swift Boat ads as a political sham.
On November 6th, 2007, Texas billionaire and SBVT financier T. Bone Pickens announced that he would give one million dollars to anyone who could refute any of the SBVT allegations.
On November 16th, 2007, Kerry took Pickens up on his offer. Hours after Kerry's statement, Pickens responded by saying he would need to receive every service record, movie, and tape made during Kerry's service from 1971-1978. In his letter, Boone also said he was concerned about political figures maligning the Swift Boat Veterans!
Last week, a group of veterans sent Pickens a 12 page document along with 42 pages of military records and other support documents which proved the SBVT had lied at least ten times. Pickens sidestepped this evidence by saying "none of the information you provided speaks specifically to the issues contained in the ads." Picken's original challenge was for anyone to disprove anything that the SBVT had said.
Today, John McCain hired Bud Day, a fellow POW who was part of the despicableSBVT campaign smear. Ironically, Bud was brought on board as part of McCain's "Truth Squad," a group created to counter attacks on the candidate's military record.
I used to like the old, 2004 John McCain. He was one of the few Republicans who frequently stood up against the misguided actions of his own party, but no longer.
The older, 2008 John McCain is a different beast altogether. He's made an end run to the right to appease his political base, and his scruples were lost somewhere along the way.
When NEWSWEEK broke this story on Friday, I immediately wondered what had taken the press so long to find out about it. It turns out that one of Cindy and John McCain's seven homes has not had its property tax paid in over four years. That property, an oceanfront condo in La Jolla, California, is home to Cindy McCain's elderly aunt.
Tax bills sent to the address were returned by the post office, so the bank that manages the trust never received them. The McCains first learned about this on Friday, and they have since brought the account current.
How could the presumptive Republican nominee miss something so fundamental during the vetting process? Cindy McCain is reportedly worth about 100 million dollars, so cash flow was not an issue.
With the economy first on voters' minds this year, I'm sure we can expect this episode in personal mismanagement to come back and haunt Senator McCain in the fall.
In 2004, billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens offered one million dollars to anyone who could disprove any of the accusations the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT) made against Senator John Kerry. Pickens provided partial financing for those detestable SBVT ads.
One of Kerry's vocal supporters at the time was the formerly moderate John McCain. In an August, 2004 statement to the AP, he said:
"I think the ad is dishonest and dishonorable. As it is none of these individuals served on the boat (Kerry) commanded. Many of his crewmates have testified to his courage under fire. I think John Kerry served honorably in Vietnam."
Last week, a group of veterans took Pickens up on his challenge. The billionaire was sent a 12 page document along with 42 pages of military records and other support documents which proved that SBVT had lied about Kerry's service 10 times during its smear campaign.
Picken's response? Predictably, he sidestepped the issue by saying that "none of the information you provided speaks specifically to the issues contained in the ads." He said this in spite of the fact that his original challenge was for anyone to disprove anything that the SBVT had said.
As exemplified in this Newsweek profile of Willie Horton ad man Floyd G. Brown, the 527s will be back in full force this year (minus MoveOn.org). My goggles are on, and the Truth-o-meter is green for go. Let the mud slinging begin.
On a Related Note
In a shameful example of quid pro quo by the Bush administration, billionaire Sam Fox, who was the primary financier for SBVT, was rewarded with an appointment as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenifotentiary of the United States of America to Belgium on April 4, 2007. Bush made the appointment during a Congressional recess, which allowed him to bypass Congress completely.
Today in Unity, New Hampshire, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton stood on stage together to announce unity within the Democratic Party. The small northeastern town has significance beyond its name; citizens there voted in equal numbers for Obama and Clinton (107 to 107) during the democratic primary.
An Abundance of Sour Grapes
So, has party unity really been achieved? Recent polling suggests that 39% of former Clinton supporters still intend to stay home or vote for McCain in November. That number is down from 46% in April.
Many of these Clintonistas blog over at TalkLeft, where anti-Obama sentiment is still commonplace, although diminishing. Others have joined P.U.M.A. (Party Unity My Ass), a Facebook group created for Clinton supporters who vow not to vote for an Obama ticket.
Doesn't this seem just a little bit crazy?
If some former Clinton backers believe that John McCain, with all of his similarities to George Bush, would make a better president than Barack Obama, with all of his similarities to Hillary Clinton, then by all means they should vote accordingly.
However, I don't think the majority of these people believe that. They refuse to vote for Obama because their candidate lost, or because the primary system is flawed, or because of some perceived injustice done to them by the DNC, or even because they believe some of the right-wing smears about Obama and have failed to seek out the truth.
Obama won by inspiring a movement and out-organizing his opponent. He won against a candidate who had the party establishment firmly in her grasp and who was already well-known to the American people. This was no small feat.
If the rules had been different, Obama's superior organizational machine would have made the necessary adjustments, and he might have won anyway. That fact that he did win is all that matters now.
So Why Does It Matter?
There is far more at stake than sour grapes and bruised egos. Our great nation, and the world we live in, will be impacted for better or worse by the decisions our next president makes.
We cannot allow our nation to be further bankrupted with excessive tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans while we continue to fight a costly war with no end in sight. We cannot allow our government to detain suspects without providing even a shred of credible evidence against them in a courtroom. We cannot allow our government to torture, ever, and we cannot allow our government to spy on Americans without cause, or to start wars and out covert agents for political gain.
It may be decades before we fully grasp the degree to which injustice and deceit thrived during the Bush-Cheney years. John McCain now stands firmly behind Bush-Cheney in almost every policy area, while Obama stands strongly opposed.
For the first time in 27 years, MTV has decided to allow political advertisements on its airwaves. The Obama camp, which was recently denied an ad buy on the network, should be ecstatic.
This new opportunity benefits the democratic contender in two ways. First, the youthful viewers that MTV attracts favor Obama over McCain by at least a 2 to 1 margin. Secondly, political commercials will help to motivate this group so that more of them actually register to vote and cast their ballots in November.
Traditionally, the 18 to 29 year old demographic has been apathetic during elections, but this year could really be different. MTV executives are determined to get out the youth vote, and I'm sure Obama will be delighted to assist them in their efforts. Rock on!
Do they even say that anymore? I'll have to call my oldest daughters to find out. One of them is 20 and the other is 19, so I think they'll know.
And the last time I checked, they were planning to vote for Obama.