Thursday, January 31, 2008

As McCain Wins, Critics on Right Look Again

WASHINGTON Senator John McCain has long aroused almost unanimous opposition from the leaders of the right. Accusing him of crimes against conservative orthodoxy like voting against a big tax cut and opposing a federal ban on same-sex marriage, conservative activists have agitated for months to thwart his Republican presidential primary campaign.

That, however, was before he emerged this week as the party’s front-runner.

Since his victory in the Florida primary, the growing possibility that Mr. McCain may carry the Republican banner in November is causing anguish to the right. Some, including James C. Dobson and Rush Limbaugh, say it is far too late for forgiveness.

But others, faced with the prospect of either a Democrat sitting in the White House or a Republican elected without them, are beginning to look at Mr. McCain’s record in a new light.

“He has moved in the right direction strongly and forcefully on taxes,” said Grover Norquist, an antitax organizer who had been the informal leader of conservatives against a McCain nomination, adding that he had been talking to Mr. McCain’s “tax guys” for more than a year.

Tony Perkins, a prominent Christian conservative who has often denounced Mr. McCain, is warming up to him, too.

“I have no residual issue with John McCain,” Mr. Perkins said, adding that the senator needed “to better communicate” his convictions on social issues.

Richard Land, an official of the Southern Baptist Convention and a longtime critic of Mr. McCain, agreed, saying, “He is strongly pro-life.”

“When I hear Rush Limbaugh say that a McCain nomination would destroy the Republican Party,” Dr. Land added, “what I want to say to Rush is, ‘You need to get out of the studio more and talk to real people.’ ”

How firmly conservatives reject or embrace Mr. McCain may be a pivotal variable, both in the homestretch of the Republican primary campaign, when Mitt Romney is hoping to rally conservatives to his side, and in the general election, when too much grumbling from the right in a close race could cost Mr. McCain the White House.

The McCain campaign, for its part, is doing remedial work on the right. On the day after the Florida primary, it announced that Mr. McCain would speak next week at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a major gathering held each year in Washington.

Last year, he drew barbs from the conservative news media for skipping the event while his Republican rivals all attended. His advisers now consider that a big mistake.

“We recognize that conservatives will be instrumental to our victory in November and we are reaching out and taking their advice,” said Jill Hazelbaker, a McCain spokeswoman.

Many on the right, though, say Mr. McCain has a lot of explaining to do. Not only did he vote against President Bush’s tax cuts and a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, Mr. McCain has also supported embryonic stem cell research and stricter environmental regulation. He fought for looser immigration rules. He championed campaign finance rules that many on the right consider a violation of free speech. And he made a deal with Democrats to break a deadlock on judicial nominations that many on the right considered near treasonous.

Anger over that deal flared up again this week when a Wall Street Journal columnist, John Fund, reported that Mr. McCain had privately criticized Mr. Bush’s Supreme Court nominee Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. because “he wore his conservatism on his sleeve.”

The McCain campaign quickly denied that he held such a view, noting that the senator voted for Mr. Alito’s confirmation and routinely praises his selection on the stump. But conservative activists say the charges nonetheless reminded them of their doubts.

“Conservatives need to act now, before it is too late!” Mark R. Levin, a movement veteran and talk-radio host, wrote on the Web site of National Review, urging a “rally for Romney.” The publication was host to an online debate on Wednesday on the question “A Republican future with McCain?”

A spokesman for Dr. Dobson, the influential evangelical Christian founder of Focus on the Family, said Wednesday that he stood by the position he staked out more than a year ago that as a matter of conscience he could never vote for Mr. McCain.

Nor has the small-government wing of the movement swung to Mr. McCain’s side. “I have yet to see McCain make any attempts to reach out to free market conservatives,” said Pat Toomey, president of the antitax group Club for Growth, warning that “if you have a big problem with a big part of your base, you really should be mending fences.”

And in his broadcast on Thursday, Mr. Limbaugh escalated his attacks on Mr. McCain as an imposter in the party.

“McCain is in a lot of these places not actually the Republican candidate,” Mr. Limbaugh said. “He is the candidate of enough Republicans, but independents and moderates and probably even some liberals.”

Mr. Limbaugh contended that such voters were deciding Republican primaries because other candidates had divided the conservative vote.

Still, even Mr. McCain’s most determined antagonists say the animosity among conservative leaders does not necessarily extend deep into the rank and file, where not many remember the details of Mr. McCain’s views on campaign finance or judicial nomination procedures. “It is kind of inside baseball,” as Mr. Perkins put it.

Mr. Limbaugh, Mr. Toomey and others are working hard to rally conservatives around Mr. Romney, who has campaigned as a by-the-book conservative despite a record of more liberal stances he took in campaigns for senator and governor in Massachusetts.

In contrast to Mr. McCain, Mr. Romney has convinced conservative leaders that he is on their side through assiduous, face-to-face courtship, but he has struggled to have the same success at the grass roots.

Mr. Romney also faces the problem of Mike Huckabee’s continuing campaign. A Southern Baptist pastor before he became governor of Arkansas, Mr. Huckabee has struck a chord with Christian conservatives, preventing Mr. Romney from bringing together economic and social conservatives opposed to Mr. McCain.

“Romney and Huckabee divided the Bush vote,” Mr. Norquist, the tax opponent, said. “Bush was Romney and Huckabee in one body.”

Meanwhile, conservatives are growing increasingly “resigned” to the idea of a McCain nomination, said David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, adding that among Washington activists, many of whom, like him, double as lobbyists, self-interest may also be a factor.

“There are people who don’t like the idea of a being off a campaign or being on the bad list if the guy gets into the White House,” Mr. Keene said. “This is a town in which 90 percent of the people balance their access and income on the one hand versus their principles on the other.”

PAUL KRUGMAN: The Edwards Effect


So John Edwards has dropped out of the race for the presidency. By normal political standards, his campaign fell short.

But Mr. Edwards, far more than is usual in modern politics, ran a campaign based on ideas. And even as his personal quest for the White House faltered, his ideas triumphed: both candidates left standing are, to a large extent, running on the platform Mr. Edwards built.

To understand the extent of the Edwards effect, you have to think about what might have been.

At the beginning of 2007, it seemed likely that the Democratic nominee would run a cautious campaign, without strong, distinctive policy ideas. That, after all, is what John Kerry did in 2004.

If 2008 is different, it will be largely thanks to Mr. Edwards. He made a habit of introducing bold policy proposals — and they were met with such enthusiasm among Democrats that his rivals were more or less forced to follow suit.

It’s hard, in particular, to overstate the importance of the Edwards health care plan, introduced in February.

Before the Edwards plan was unveiled, advocates of universal health care had difficulty getting traction, in part because they were divided over how to get there. Some advocated a single-payer system — a k a Medicare for all — but this was dismissed as politically infeasible. Some advocated reform based on private insurers, but single-payer advocates, aware of the vast inefficiency of the private insurance system, recoiled at the prospect.

With no consensus about how to pursue health reform, and vivid memories of the failure of 1993-1994, Democratic politicians avoided the subject, treating universal care as a vague dream for the distant future.

But the Edwards plan squared the circle, giving people the choice of staying with private insurers, while also giving everyone the option of buying into government-offered, Medicare-type plans — a form of public-private competition that Mr. Edwards made clear might lead to a single-payer system over time. And he also broke the taboo against calling for tax increases to pay for reform.

Suddenly, universal health care became a possible dream for the next administration. In the months that followed, the rival campaigns moved to assure the party’s base that it was a dream they shared, by emulating the Edwards plan. And there’s little question that if the next president really does achieve major health reform, it will transform the political landscape.

Similar if less dramatic examples of leadership followed on other key issues. For example, Mr. Edwards led the way last March by proposing a serious plan for responding to climate change, and at this point both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are offering far stronger measures to limit emissions of greenhouse gases than anyone would have expected to see on the table not long ago.

Unfortunately for Mr. Edwards, the willingness of his rivals to emulate his policy proposals made it hard for him to differentiate himself as a candidate; meanwhile, those rivals had far larger financial resources and received vastly more media attention. Even The Times’s own public editor chided the paper for giving Mr. Edwards so little coverage.

And so Mr. Edwards won the arguments but not the political war.

Where will Edwards supporters go now? The truth is that nobody knows.

Yes, Mr. Obama is also running as a “change” candidate. But he isn’t offering the same kind of change: Mr. Edwards ran an unabashedly populist campaign, while Mr. Obama portrays himself as a candidate who can transcend partisanship — and given the economic elitism of the modern Republican Party, populism is unavoidably partisan.

It’s true that Mr. Obama has tried to work some populist themes into his campaign, but he apparently isn’t all that convincing: the working-class voters Mr. Edwards attracted have tended to favor Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Obama.

Furthermore, to the extent that this remains a campaign of ideas, it remains true that on the key issue of health care, the Clinton plan is more or less identical to the Edwards plan. The Obama plan, which doesn’t actually achieve universal coverage, is considerably weaker.

One thing is clear, however: whichever candidate does get the nomination, his or her chance of victory will rest largely on the ideas Mr. Edwards brought to the campaign.

Personal appeal won’t do the job: history shows that Republicans are very good at demonizing their opponents as individuals. Mrs. Clinton has already received the full treatment, while Mr. Obama hasn’t — yet. But if he gets the nod, watch how quickly conservative pundits who have praised him discover that he has deep character flaws.

If Democrats manage to get the focus on their substantive differences with the Republicans, however, polls on the issues suggest that they’ll have a big advantage. And they’ll have Mr. Edwards to thank.

DAVID BROOKS: The McCain Transition


John McCain is exhausted. He hasn’t had a full-night’s sleep in forever. It took him 10 hours to get to California because of flight trouble. He underperformed in the debate Wednesday night, as his staff understands. He took some shots at Mitt Romney that were gratuitous considering the circumstances, as he privately acknowledges.

But somehow in the midst of all this frenzy, McCain has to transition from being an underdog to being a front-runner. He has to transition from being an insurgent to being the leader of a broad center-right coalition. He has to transition from being a primary season scrambler to offering a broader vision of how to unify the country.

By the end of next week, McCain could be the de facto leader of the Republican Party. The McCain staff is acutely aware of the responsibility this entails, and what it will take to operate at the next level.

First, the tone of the campaign will have to change. In 2000, McCain was a joyful warrior. He was the guy rollicking through rallies waving a light saber and launching playful verbal assaults on the Bush empire. He was the guy filling his speeches with New Frontier rhetoric and glimpses of hopeful vistas. “I believe we are an unfinished nation,” he used to say.

But the Obama campaign feels more like McCain in 2000 than the current McCain campaign does. Barack Obama outshines McCain right now as the hopeful warrior. Obama is the one insistently calling on audiences to serve a cause greater than self-interest. He’s the one transcending partisanship and telling young people that politics can be the means to a meaningful, purpose-driven life.

McCain seems to be burdened by the emotional cost of the war in Iraq, by the gravity of young people dying. But F.D.R. was a happy wartime campaigner and to compete with the Democrats in the fall, McCain will have to reconnect with the spirit of this moment. The country, the ├╝ber-pollster Peter Hart notes, is not in a mood for irritation and anger. It’s thirsty for uplift, progress and hope.

Second, McCain will have to clarify his vision for the future. He talks about the struggle with Islamic extremists as the transcendent foreign policy challenge of our time. But there’s a transcendent domestic challenge as well. America is segmenting. The country is dividing along the lines of education, income, religion, lifestyle and giving way to cynicism and mistrust. Government is distanced from the people and growing more corrupt.

In the past, McCain has said that repairing these divisions constitutes “a new patriotic challenge for a new century.” He has hinted at a philosophy that amounts to an American version of One Nation Conservatism. It emphasizes reforming federal institutions, calling on young people to perform national service, promoting economic competitiveness and enhancing social mobility. It is a mixture of Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. This governing philosophy has lurked in the background this year, but McCain will have to make it explicit to move a nation.

Finally, McCain is going to have to beef up his domestic policy offerings. He has some excellent ideas, like his plan to control health care costs, which he doesn’t explain well. But he has not yet focused sufficiently on the group that is always the key to Republican success or failure — the suburban working class.

Picture a suburban townhouse community filled with families making $40,000 to $60,000 a year. Maybe there’s a single mother in one unit who hates her job but needs the benefits. Maybe there are immigrant parents with associate degrees watching their son drop out of school in another. The definition of being middle class has changed, as many have noticed. It used to be a destination. Now it’s an uncertain place. It’s a struggle just to stay there. Any candidate who can’t talk specifically to these concerns is doomed.

If McCain does well on Super Tuesday, he would have pulled off one of the greatest comeback stories in modern political history. He would owe his victory to his character, his honesty and his tenacity.

But already, he is being judged by different standards. Republicans are wondering how he would compete against Hillary Clinton (whom they moderately fear) and Obama (whom they fear a great deal). To unify the party, McCain will have to respect different parts of the coalition. But more importantly, he will also have to excite Republicans with the possibility of a G.O.P. victory.

He will have to mine his own past and bring forward the ideals and causes that lurk there, and present them as a coherent package. He’ll have to show that winning the nomination of a dispirited Republican Party is one thing; winning the presidency and uniting a nation is another.

Ann Coulter Goes Britney Spears: If McCain’s the nominee, I’ll campaign for Hillary

Run Time 03:44

Media Matters Daily Summary 01-31-08

NY Times falsely suggested independent progressive groups are operating "outside campaign finance rules"
The New York Times' Leslie Wayne asserted that Sen. Barack Obama is "benefiting from millions of dollars being spent outside campaign finance rules," suggesting that the four groups she identified in the article are not subject to campaign finance regulations or, worse, are violating them. But three of the groups she named are political action committees (PACS) or have PACS and thus are subject to campaign finance restrictions, and she offered no evidence that they are not in compliance with those restrictions. Read More

Ignoring Boehlert's specific claims, O'Reilly suggested Media Matters is "lying" about Fox News' ratings
Referring to Eric Boehlert's recent Media Matters column, Bill O'Reilly claimed that "the smear factory has put out an article that says Fox News will have a rough year in 2008. Well, if the January ratings are any indication, Media Matters is once again lying its 'you know what' off." But Boehlert did not address Fox News' overall ratings; he compared Fox News' and CNN's ratings during major campaign events in January to support his argument that Fox News will have a "tough year." And O'Reilly did not address any of Boehlert's specific assertions about Fox News. Read More

Savage: "Bring in 10 million more from Africa. ... They can't reason, but bring them in with a machete in their head"
On The Savage Nation, a caller identified by Michael Savage as "Kojo" asked Savage: "[D]o you know how the AIDS got there [Africa]?" Savage responded: "It got there because it was spread from eating green monkey meat, my friend. If you study the science -- but I don't think you have the capacity to understand science, my dear friend Kojo." Later, Savage stated: "See, we don't live in Africa where people settle arguments with machetes. We live in a country where we settle it with arguments. Something you apparently don't know anything about. ... Couldn't use the machete so his mind went blank. There, that's what we got. There's multiculturalism for you. There's immigration for you. There's the new America for you. Bring them in by the millions. Bring in 10 million more from Africa. Bring them in with AIDS. Show how multicultural you are. They can't reason, but bring them in with a machete in their head. Go ahead. Bring them in with machetes in their mind." Read More

Wash. Times article, Globe column discussing NOW-NY letter omitted Clinton campaign's reported disavowal of letter
A Washington Times article and a Boston Globe column both discussed a statement from the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women that criticized Sen. Edward M. Kennedy for endorsing Sen. Barack Obama and not Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for president, but both omitted the Clinton campaign's reported disavowal of NOW New York's statement. In a New York Daily News column, Bill Hammond reported that "her [Clinton's] campaign quickly disavowed [NOW New York president Marcia] Pappas' attack on Kennedy. 'This statement does not at all reflect her views or the opinion of the Clinton campaign,' spokesman Howard Wolfson said." Read More

WAMU report on McCain's relationship with congressional colleagues ignored his reputed "volcanic temper"
On Capitol News Connection, reporter Jodi Breisler stated that Sen. John "McCain's beliefs and behaviors can get him in trouble with other members of Congress," before playing a clip of American University professor James Thurber saying: "Senator McCain can be a little prickly because sometimes he has truth, and when you have truth, you push something very hard until your colleagues get a little tired of hearing it and you don't have the votes." In fact, McCain reportedly has a long history of outbursts and confrontations with his Senate colleagues. Read More

CNN's Bash noted McCain said he'd oppose his own immigration bill -- but not his remark days earlier that as president, he'd sign it into law
On American Morning, Dana Bash asserted that Sen. John McCain made "a concession" to "conservatives" on the issue of "illegal immigration" during CNN's January 30 Republican presidential debate, when McCain said he would not, in Bash's words, "vote for his own legislation allowing citizenship" for undocumented immigrants if it came to a vote on the Senate floor. But Bash failed to note that just days earlier on Meet the Press, McCain had said he would sign that very legislation into law. Read More

On Glenn Beck, Minuteman's Gilchrist compared La Raza to the KKK, smeared ADL, Southern Poverty Law Center
On Glenn Beck, Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist claimed that a sign in downtown Los Angeles identifying "La Raza Plaza" "is perhaps a racist sign." He further stated: "And if we're going to have a La Raza Plaza sign, what's next? A KKK Plaza sign, a Black Panther Plaza sign?" Later in the program, Gilchrist said the "Anti-Defamation League, like the Southern Poverty Law Center, are professional fundraising groups" and asserted: "They participate in encouraging and proliferating hate. These are not groups that you want to get -- you rely on for any valid information." Read More

Tapper falsely suggested Bill Clinton proposed "slow[ing] down our economy" to fight climate change
In a blog post, ABC News' Jake Tapper wrote: "In a long, and interesting speech, [Bill Clinton] characterized what the U.S. and other industrialized nations need to do to combat global warming this way: 'We just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions 'cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.' " But Clinton did not say that is what has to be done to combat global warming. Read More

Wash. Times op-ed falsely suggested PAA expiration would forbid U.S. to "monitor communications for counter-terror purposes"
In a Washington Times op-ed, Discovery Institute senior fellow John Wohlstetter falsely suggested that if the August 2007 Protect America Act (PAA) expires on February 1 as scheduled, the government will not be "allow[ed] ... to continue to monitor communications for counter-terror purposes." In fact, the government would retain the authority to monitor the communications of suspected terrorists after the PAA expires; only the PAA's revisions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act would expire. Read More

NY Times, Newsweek articles on Clinton statement on Kazakh president conflict with contemporaneous report
A January 31 New York Times article by reporters Jo Becker and Don Van Natta Jr. claimed that during a September 2005 visit to Kazakhstan, former President Bill Clinton "commend[ed] [Kazakh President] Mr. [Nursultan] Nazarbayev for 'opening up the social and political life of your country.' " Similarly, an article in the February 4 issue of Newsweek by Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball claimed that Clinton "praise[d] ... Nazarbayev, an authoritarian ruler with a poor human-rights record, for 'opening up the social and political life of your country.' " However, both the Times and Newsweek versions of Clinton's quote conflict with an Agence France Presse (AFP) article published at the time of Clinton's visit. According to the September 7, 2005, AFP article, Clinton said: "I applaud this statement you have made about opening up the social and political life of your country and [it's] a good point that you made this statement before the election this year" [emphasis added]. Read More

Media once again uncritically report McCain's criticism of Romney's negative ads without mentioning McCain's numerous ads attacking Romney
In their coverage of the January 30 Republican presidential debate, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, ABC, and National Public Radio all reported Sen. John McCain's criticism of Mitt Romney over negative campaign ads. However, none of those media outlets noted that McCain has aired numerous ads attacking Romney, despite having said that "negative campaigns don't work." Read More

Echoing Drudge and ABC's Tapper, Fox News' Hill falsely asserted Clinton said "we need to slow" economy to fight global warming
Fox News host E.D. Hill falsely asserted that former President Bill Clinton said that "we need to slow" the economy to combat global warming, echoing a report by ABC's Jake Tapper. In fact, Clinton did not say that. Read More

NY Times failed to note Giustra reportedly involved in Kazakhstan mining deals more than a decade ago
In an article about former President Bill Clinton's September 2005 trip to Kazakhstan with Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra, The New York Times suggested that Giustra was able to secure agreements giving his company the right to buy into Kazakh mining projects because of his connection to Clinton. The Times did not note that Giustra was reportedly involved in Kazakh mining deals more than a decade ago. Read More

McCain crosses picket line to appear on Leno.

Today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani crossed a Writers Guild of America picket line for a joint appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Former Massachusetts Mitt Romney, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee also crossed the WGA picket line in the past month for apperances on Leno

John McCain Slaps Rush Limbaugh's Face With Florida Win

The National Ledger

Miami — In what appears to be a crushing defeat for conservatism, John McCain has clearly slapped Rush Limbaugh's face with his win in the Florida primary. The vitriol, reaching a fevered pitch by the morning of the Florida primary, came crashing down on Limbaugh on Tuesday night.

Limbaugh's hatred for McCain has created anti-John McCain rhetoric, ending in a duel in the Sunshine State. Encumbered with the vicious attacks by Limbaugh, Senator McCain rose on the backs of spineless moderate Republicans, and stomped on conservatism.

“I enlisted as a foot soldier in the political revolution that he (Ronald Reagan) began. I am proud today to be a Republican conservative today as I was then,” said John McCain in his victory speech. “I would also like to say that this victory is a kick in the teeth to Limbaugh and his ridiculous conservative listeners. This should finally shut the windbag up!”

The sad events of the Florida election have no doubt stabbed the proverbial knife into the back of conservatism, ending a tenured philosophy in American politics, and sending conservatives into the wilderness.

“I promise you again I will always put America — her strength, her ideals, her future — before any other consideration. Tonight, my friends, we celebrate. Tomorrow it's back to work. We have a ways to go, but we're getting close, claimed Senator McCain. “We’re getting closer to amnesty for illegal immigrants, for tax hikes for the rich, for a reduction of greenhouse gases, and for putting an end to the insane asylum known as the EIB Network.”

McCain went on to address the flock that had gathered in Miami, Florida. “Our victory might not have reached landslide proportions, but it is sweet nonetheless. And nothing is sweeter than destroying a political party while sticking it to Limbaugh. How do you like me now, sailor?”

In an appeal to his now defunct audience and ideology, Rush Limbaugh addressed the Florida election results, vowing not to concede, but to fight on. “We did not win. But we did not and we have not lost. I know of all these reports of campaign irregularities. It has been revealed and documented, ladies and gentlemen. My name was left off the ballots in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties, Broward County. My name was not to be found on the ballots in Orlando, Jacksonville, in Tampa, St. Pete. No, no, no, no. Elections are what they are, and one thing we know is there will always be another. This election might have been stolen from us, ladies and gentlemen, but let me assure you we will not—I repeat—we will not. We will not pull an Algore and sue anybody. We will not look at hanging chads, nor lawyers, no lawsuits. Thank you.”

Even though the speech fell on deaf ears, Limbaugh continued to try to salvage a now defeated ideology, saying, “One-third of the Republicans voted for Senator McCain. Our friends in the media predicting my demise talk about how conservatism is dead. Let me ask a simple question, ladies and gentlemen. Why is it that all of the Republican candidates claim to now carry the mantle of Ronald Reagan?”

In desperation, Rush continued to fire at a victorious Senator McCain. “How can I be said to have lost, ladies and gentlemen, when what I stand for is rock-ribbed conservatism, and each one of these candidates—each one of them flawed, by the way, which has caused many conservatives to be wandering aimlessly in the electoral woods. How can it be said that I have lost or that conservatism has lost, when all of our Republican candidates claim to be conservative and to carry the conservative mantle?”

Senator McCain launched his own air strike back, responding to Rush’s extreme hyperbole. “My friends, in one week we will have as close to a national primary as we’ve ever had in this country. I intend to win it and be the nominee of our party. And for those who have been loyal moderates all the way down the line, I would like to say thank you. Thank you so much. And for Rush Limbaugh, I would like to say I demand satisfaction, sir! And when I am President of the United States, I will get my satisfaction. If the Fairness Doctrine doesn’t take care of you, then I’ll come down to the southern EIB command post and take care of it myself, personally, as a man of honor, sir!”

With blood in the water, and the vitriolic attacks coming from the Sunshine State, it appears that conservatism has been left for dead in the Florida swamps. It has been vanquished in the aftermath of the Florida primary, never to return, executed by Senator John McCain, yelling, “Your too extreme, Limbaugh?”

Or is it possible that Rush Limbaugh is right, and that it is simply one election? Is it possible that this election may generate a stronger, harder working conservative base, spreading a conservative fire not seen since 1980?

And is it possible that the highest price we pay in America is for ignorance? Senator John McCain and the mainstream media know so.

Republican Discontent: Conservatives Dislike McCain, Mistrust Romney


For the last year, conservative Republicans have been unhappy with the Republican field. But some pundits predicted that eventually the party would coalesce around someone.

Now the field has been winnowed down largely to two candidates -- Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.

Nevertheless, the discontent remains.

Thursday, California's Republican Gov.Arnold Schwarzenegger praised McCain for working with Democrats.

"He is reaching across the aisle in order to get things done," the popular actor turned governor said when endorsing McCain in Los Angeles.

But that ability -- which in part earned Schwarzenegger's endorsement -- hurts McCain with conservatives.

"So [McCain] just got the endorsement of a big taxing, big spending, socialist health care eco-extreme governor who says the Republican party needs to follow him to the left," conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh said on his radio program.

Conservative on most issues, McCain is resented for opposing the Bush tax cuts, backing immigration reform, and support for taking action on global warming.

"Those views are outside the mainstream of Republican conservative thought," Romney blasted during the most recent -- and perhaps last -- Republican primary debate Wednesday.

"Let me just say I'm proud of my conservative record," McCain shot back.

Questioning Romney

And while Romney claims conservative credentials -- that assertion is undercut by his own record.

"I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I'm not trying to return to Reagan-Bush," Romney said during his unsuccessful 1994 Senate bid against Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Six years later, in 2002, Romney sounded as if he favored abortion rights.

"I will preserve and protect a woman's right to choose," he said, while campaigning in a successful bid for governor of Massachusetts.................

Hours After Siding With States On Emissions Waiver, Romney Flips And Backs The White House


Last month, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson denied California a waiver that would have allowed 16 states to implement landmark automobile greenhouse emissions reductions.

In last night’s Republican presidential debate, all four candidates said they supported California’s efforts. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney emphasized that states should “be able to make their own regulations with regards to emissions.” He confirmed again later in the debate:

Q: Just so I’m clear, you said you side with the states. That means you side with Governor Schwarzenegger —

ROMNEY: I side with states being able to make their own decisions, even if I don’t always agree with the decisions they make.

But Romney didn’t want to side with the environment for too long. The AP reports that “[a]fter the debate,” — and after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) endorsed Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — “Romney’s campaign issued a statement in which he said that the federal government, not individual states, should set limits on carbon emissions.”

Romney’s alleged support of California’s emissions waiver is further discredited by the fact that on Jan. 4, he was skeptical of states’ efforts in an interview with the Detroit News Editorial Board:

[The energy bill] does maintain the distinction between light trucks and automotive (standards), which is encouraging, although it leaves open the door to states putting in place tougher standards and the EPA putting in place additional regulations.

For Romney, the right answer is always a multiple choice problem.

A McCain Win Would Signal the End of Conservatve Dominance

WASHINGTONIf John McCain secures the Republican presidential nomination, his victory would signal a revolution in American politics — a divorce, after a 28-year marriage, between the Republican and conservative establishments.

McCain would be the first Republican nominee since Gerald Ford in 1976 to win despite opposition from organized conservatism, and also the first whose base in Republican primaries rested on the party’s center and its dwindling left. McCain is winning despite conservatives, not because of them.

Those who built the American right, from Barry Goldwater in 1964 through the Reagan and Gingrich revolutions, are intensely aware of the dangers a McCain victory portends. Some on the right feel it would be less damaging to their cause to lose the 2008 election with the Republican-conservative alliance intact than to win with John McCain.

For those outside the conservative movement, such anxiety seems strange. McCain’s voting record in the House and Senate has typically won high ratings from conservative groups. His positions on key issues (support for the Iraq War, opposition to abortion, his long-standing criticism of government spending) are those of an orthodox, conservative loyalist.

If McCain is the nominee, Democrats will have plenty of ammunition to persuade middle-of-the-road voters that he is not a moderate. And in Wednesday’s California debate, McCain repeated his oft-declared claim that he had been a "foot soldier" in Ronald Reagan’s army.

But staunch conservatives see things differently. They know that in primary after primary, McCain’s base has been formed by moderates, liberals, independents, supporters of abortion rights and critics of President Bush. Conservatives — who mistrust McCain because of his history on taxes, immigration, global warming and campaign finance reform — were not his coalition’s driving force. And Republicans who describe themselves as "very conservative" have consistently rejected McCain. In this week’s Florida primary, such voters backed Mitt Romney over McCain by more than 2-1.

Vin Weber, a former member of Congress, who backed McCain in 2000 but supports Romney this year, said the confusion outside Republican ranks is not surprising. "People usually think that the conservative leadership and the Republican leadership are one and the same, but they’re not," Weber said.

McCain has gotten to where he is because conservatives failed to agree on a single standard-bearer. Mike Huckabee has consistently peeled off religious conservatives. Fred Thompson further splintered the conservative vote, particularly in South Carolina. Both foiled Romney’s hope of becoming the early alternative to McCain. Moreover, because Romney changed his stand on a number of issues important to the Republican right, many in the rank and file never fully trusted him. Rudy Giuliani’s decision to make his stand in Florida left moderate votes to McCain in the earlier primaries.

This allowed McCain to consolidate his position. Significantly, many of the leading Republicans championing McCain have never been heroes to the right. Giuliani, a social moderate, quickly endorsed McCain after dropping out on Wednesday. Gov. Charlie Crist, who helped McCain in Florida, earned his popularity as a moderate and appeals to independents and even Democrats. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who backed McCain on Thursday, has veered far from conservatism and now works closely with Democrats in the California Legislature.

All this explains the ferocity of the continued resistance to McCain among conservative leaders. Rush Limbaugh has served as a spokesman for their cause. On his radio show Wednesday, Limbaugh excoriated those who "pretend that Senator McCain is the choice of conservatives when exit poll data from every primary state show just the opposite."

"He is not the choice of conservatives, as opposed to the choice of the Republican establishment — and that distinction is key," Limbaugh declared. "The Republican establishment, which has long sought to rid the party of conservative influence since Reagan, is feeling a victory today as well as our friends in the media." McCain, of course, has yet to secure the nomination, and his performance in Wednesday’s debate was less than inspiring. His straight talk took a crooked path when he repeatedly refused to say whether he would now vote for his own immigration bill. McCain’s self-satisfied smile as Romney tried to defend himself against his opponent’s essentially false characterization of the former Massachusetts governor’s position on the Iraq War was hardly the visage of a gracious winner.

But as one prominent conservative noted on Wednesday night, Republican elected officials are starting to fall into line behind McCain, despite their reservations, simply because they think he will win. Their capitulation signals the end of the Reagan-Bush era and the beginning of something quite different.

Iraq VP says won't sign off on key Baath party law

BAGHDAD, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Iraq's Presidency Council is unlikely to sign off on a new law that would give thousands of former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party their old jobs back, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi said on Thursday.

Iraq's parliament passed the bill on Jan. 12, winning praise for making headway on the first of a series of key measures that Washington has sought to promote national reconciliation.

Hashemi, a Sunni Arab, said the bill was flawed because it meant many people appointed to fill jobs after the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003 would be forced out of those positions to allow ex-Baathists to return.

"We cannot regard this law as a step in the national reconciliation process," Hashemi told Reuters in an interview.

"It is not only me who objects to signing it, but the whole Presidency Council," he added.

ThinkFast: January 31, 2008


A new poll finds that Americans have “a decidedly dour view of how things are going in the country” and “great expectations for the next president’s ability to get things done.” “Fully three-quarters” of the public believe the president has influence over health care costs, and “two-thirds of those under age 35 believe it’s still possible to change the way Washington works.”

Next week, President Bush is expected to call for deep cuts in Medicare and Medicaid in this year’s budget, as lawmakers will have to work to “spare doctors from a 10 percent cut in Medicare fees that would otherwise take effect on July 1.”

Yesterday, Reps. John Conyers (D-MI) and Linda Sanchez (D-CA) demanded that former attorney general John Ashcroft testify “about his appointment to oversee a Justice Department corporate settlement.” Their letter asks Ashcroft to appear at a Feb. 26 hearing, noting that he had ignored previous requests.

Gen. David Petraeus will likely call for an operational “pause” in withdrawals when he testifies before Congress in April. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and top military officers have said “they would like to see continued withdrawals throughout this year, but Bush has indicated he is likely to be guided by Petraeus’s views.”

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), who co-chairs the Progressive Caucus, said she will “reintroduce legislation calling for a troop withdrawal from Iraq and urge leadership to move the measure in the wake of the economic stimulus package that has been the center of attention for several weeks.”

A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that one in six soldiers returning from Iraq has suffered concussions, leaving them “at higher risk for” post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Last night’s Republican debate spawned at least one memorable surprise: all four GOP candidates appeared to express support for California in its battle with the U.S. EPA to get a waiver it needs to implement its greenhouse-gas emissions standards for vehicles.”

NATO forces in Afghanistan are in a “strategic stalemate,” according to a new military assessment. “Make no mistake, NATO is not winning in Afghanistan,” said the report by the Atlantic Council of the United States, chaired by former NATO commander Gen. James Jones.

And finally: Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) recently blew Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) “chance to win a few dollars — legally — on his beloved New York Giants in the NFC championship game against the legendary Green Bay Packers on Jan. 20.” The day before the game, Schumer asked Weiner — who was in Las Vegas — “to put $50 on the Giants for him at one of the casino’s sports books.” The good news for Schumer was that the Giants won. The bad news? “I forgot to place your bet,” Weiner confessed.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

US attorney general hints at Bush's permission for torture

Guardian - UK

Under questioning from a Democratic senator, US attorney general Michael Mukasey today suggested that George Bush might have personally authorised the waterboarding of suspected terrorists.

Mukasey immediately corrected himself to say that he was not permitted to discuss past events. But in describing the process by which the CIA could seek legal clearance to resume waterboarding, he appeared to tie the president to the controversial technique.

When Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein asked if the current path to authorising waterboarding - a request from the CIA director, followed by approval from the attorney general, followed by consultation with the president - had applied in the past, Mukasey said yes.

"I should take a step back," he then added. "I'm not authorised to say what happened in the past, but I was told this wasn't news.".........

White House Criticizes Envoy Over Iran

WASHINGTON -- White House officials expressed anger on Tuesday about an appearance in which the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, sat beside the Iranian foreign minister at a panel of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Saturday.

The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, and the Bush administration has limited its official high-level dealings with Iran to discussions about Iraq, primarily in Baghdad. Administration officials said that Mr. Khalilzad’s appearance beside Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in Davos at a panel on Iranian foreign policy surprised senior Bush administration officials, who became aware that Mr. Khalilzad had appeared with Mr. Mottaki only when a video of the discussion appeared on YouTube on Tuesday.

Mr. Khalilzad was still in Europe and could not be reached for comment. His spokesman, Richard A. Grenell, characterized Mr. Khalilzad’s appearance beside Mr. Mottaki as “just a multilateral conversation with the moderator.”

“There was no separate meeting or separate conversation or handshake with the Iranian foreign minister,” Mr. Grenell said. But administration officials said that White House officials, in particular, were angry about the episode. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about internal administration affairs.

The in-fighting reflects continuing disagreements within the Bush administration about how to deal with Iran, and just where to draw the line on engaging its nemesis, particularly when the administration’s Iran policy appears to be in disarray. Many State Department officials say privately that they think the administration should directly engage Iran, and without preconditions, a view that is not shared by the White House.

Six years after invasion, Taliban is on the rise

KABUL — In the better times that followed the U.S.-led invasion, Kabul's famous Chicken Street used to attract hundreds of foreigners seeking a bargain on Afghan rugs, leather goods and gemstones such as lapis lazuli.

These days, the Westerners have all but disappeared from the downtown thoroughfare in Afghanistan's capital. At shops such as the one owned by Mohammed Hasef, a 36-year-old rug salesman, security fears have become so intense that he even shoos away beggars out of fear they could be wearing suicide vests.

"All of us shopkeepers have to keep an eye out," Hasef says. He hasn't sold a rug in two months.

Such worries have proliferated among Afghans and Westerners alike since the Taliban's audacious Jan. 14 attack on Kabul's five-star Serena Hotel. The assault on one of the city's best-protected landmarks was the latest — and most dramatic — sign that the Taliban may be gaining strength more than six years after U.S.-led forces invaded to drive the Islamist militant movement from power.

G.O.P. Faces Challenge in Efforts to Reclaim House

WASHINGTONA swelling exodus of senior Republican incumbents from the House, worsened by a persistent disadvantage in campaign money, threatens to cripple Republican efforts to topple the Democratic majority in November.

Representative Tom Davis, a moderate from Northern Virginia, on Wednesday became the fifth House Republican in the last week to announce that he would not seek re-election.

That puts the roster of retirees at 28, one of the highest numbers recorded for the party in the House.

With only five Democratic seats opening so far, party strategists and independent analysts say the disparity in open seats — typically the most competitive House fights, as voters oust relatively few incumbents — makes it highly unlikely that Republicans could seize the seats necessary to regain the House. The current House has 199 Republicans and 232 Democrats, with four vacancies to be filled by special elections.

“The open-seat situation is so lopsided as to deny Republicans any chance of taking back the House in 2008,” said David Wasserman, who analyzes House races for The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan publication.

Compounding their problems, Republicans face a worrisome financial gap in comparison to House Democrats. New fund-raising figures to be made public on Thursday will show that the national campaign committee of the House Democrats ended 2007 with $35 million in the bank and $1.3 million in debt. The Republicans’ committee had $5 million in the bank and $2 million in debt.

Senate Democrats, who intend to report $29.4 million in the bank with $1.5 million in debt, are expected to be comfortably ahead of Republicans in the holdings of their campaign committees as well. The National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee would not make its year-end fund-raising figures available on Wednesday........

Media Matters Daily Summary 01-30-08

Scarborough to Brzezinski on Morning Joe: "[D]on't make me backhand you"
On the January 30 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough said to co-host Mika Brzezinski, "Mika, don't make me backhand you." Scarborough made the comment after telling CNBC chief political correspondent John Harwood: "I, actually -- I don't endorse anybody because, as you know, I'm a journalist," prompting Brzezinski to laugh. Brzezinski responded to Scarborough's "backhand" remark: "Oh, lord." Read More

CNN reporter on issue of driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants: "It literally drives some off the deep end, like Lou Dobbs"
Discussing driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, CNN correspondent Carol Costello remarked on The Situation Room that the issue "literally drives some off the deep end, like Lou Dobbs." Read More

CBS characterized "attack" as "unusual position" for McCain -- but it's not, even as he has denounced negative campaigning
Reporting on Republican presidential candidates' final days of campaigning before the Florida primary, Kelly Cobiella of CBS and John Berman of ABC both noted that John McCain criticized Mitt Romney for attacking opponents who "are moving up and succeeding." Neither, however, reported that McCain has been airing attack ads against Romney even while denouncing negative campaigning. Read More

CNN's King, WSJ reported McCain has shifted "emphasis," "subtly alter[ed]" position on immigration -- but he has reversed himself on it
Discussing immigration reform, CNN's John King stated that Sen. John McCain "has changed his emphasis -- he still says a guest-worker program, still says treat those here illegally humanely." The Wall Street Journal similarly reported that McCain "subtly alter[ed] his position without actually reversing it," adding that "[t]he lesson he drew from the debate last year ... is that Americans 'want the border secured first, and I would do that.' " In fact, McCain's current support for securing the border before implementing a guest-worker program is flatly inconsistent with his previous assertion that, unless other changes to immigration laws are also passed, "people will risk their lives to cross our borders -- no matter how formidable the barriers -- and most will be successful." Read More

Scarborough on Giuliani: "America's Mayor ... will endorse John McCain"
On Morning Joe and MSNBC Live, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski referred to Rudy Giuliani as "America's Mayor," in the context of Giuliani's departure from the presidential race and reported endorsement of Sen. John McCain. Media figures have repeatedly touted Giuliani's reputation as "America's Mayor" since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, despite criticism over his actions before and after the attacks. Read More

Ignoring response at debate, Matthews praised McCain's "candor" and "honest[y]" on economic knowledge
On Hardball, Chris Matthews praised Sen. John McCain's "candor" and "honest[y]" for, in Matthews' words, "admitting that his strong suit is not the economy." However, Matthews ignored McCain's comment during a recent debate, in which he suggested that he had not said he knows "a lot less about economics" than "military and foreign policy issues." Read More

Imus on President Clinton: "This is a fat, low-rent hillbilly"
On the January 30 edition of ABC Radio Networks' Imus in the Morning, while discussing the results of the January 29 Florida presidential primary, host Don Imus described former President Bill Clinton as "a fat, low-rent hillbilly who was getting BJs from an intern in the Oval Office in the White House who was about the age of his daughter." After Bernard McGuirk, the show's executive producer, said, "He's been accused of rape," Imus continued, calling Clinton "a dirtbag." Read More

Byron York's admittedly "wildly inappropriate" comparison: Giuliani's Florida concession speech and slain Italian hostage's final words
In a column about Rudy Giuliani's speech following his "resounding defeat in the Florida primary," National Review White House correspondent Byron York wrote: "[I]t is hard not to think of Fabrizio Quattrocchi, the courageous Genoan who, taken hostage by Islamic terrorists in Iraq in 2004 cried out, 'Now I will show you how an Italian dies!' just before he was shot." Read More

NY Times' Nagourney says Romney vulnerable to charges of inconsistency ... but McCain isn't?
In a January 30 New York Times news analysis of Sen. John McCain's victory over Mitt Romney in the Florida primary, Adam Nagourney wrote that while McCain "presents himself as a man of principle ... who is willing to suffer the political consequences for breaking with party orthodoxy," Romney "is in line with all the proper positions for a Republican conservative, but he underwent a series of transformations to get there, leaving him vulnerable to the charges of inconsistency Mr. McCain has hurled." Yet on immigration and abortion, McCain too has displayed "evolution" and "inconsistency," a fact nowhere to be found in the Times report. Read More

Once again, NBC's Myers ignored Obama's specific response countering suggestion that Rezko "may have essentially subsidized" Obama's home purchase
NBC's Lisa Myers reported that critics, whom she did not name, say that "in paying full price for" the vacant lot adjoining Sen. Barack Obama's Chicago home, indicted Chicago businessman Antoin Rezko "may have essentially subsidized Obama's purchase" of the property in 2005. While noting that Obama "strongly disputes" the charge, Myers did not report Obama's specific statements countering the suggestion. Read More

After touting his presidential prospects, Matthews said Giuliani "never really offered a big idea as to why he would be a great president"
During MSNBC's coverage of the Florida primary, Chris Matthews said of Rudy Giuliani: "I began to watch his campaign soon after he entered it last year, and the one thing missing was a big idea as to why he should be president," adding, "It was all, it seemed to me ... about the past. It was about 9-11." But Matthews has repeatedly cited Giuliani's experience on September 11 as one of his greatest perceived strengths in the presidential race. Read More

Key 9/11 Commission Staffer Held Secret Meetings With Rove, Scaled Back Criticisms of White House


A forthcoming book by NYT reporter Philip Shenon — “The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation” — asserts that former 9/11 Commission executive director Philip Zelikow interfered with the 9/11 report.

According to the book, Zelikow had failed to inform the commission at the time he was hired that he was instrumental in helping Condoleezza Rice set up Bush’s National Security Council in 2001. Some panel staffers believe Zelikow stopped them from submitting a report depicting Rice’s performance prior to 9/11 as “amount[ing] to incompetence.”

Relying on the accounts of Max Holland, an author and blogger who has obtained a copy of the forthcoming book, ABC reports that Zelikow was holding private discussions with White House political adviser Karl Rove during the course of the 9/11 investigation:

In his book, Shenon also says that while working for the panel, Zelikow appears to have had private conversations with former White House political director Karl Rove, despite a ban on such communication, according to Holland. Shenon reports that Zelikow later ordered his assistant to stop keeping a log of his calls, although the commission’s general counsel overruled him, Holland wrote.

Zelikow flatly denied discussing the commission’s work with Rove. “I never discussed the 9/11 Commission with him, not at all. Period.”

After completing his work with the 9/11 Commission, Zelikow was hired by Condoleezza Rice as Counselor at the State Department. He resigned from that position in late 2006. In 1995, Rice and Zelikow co-authored a book entitled, “Germany Unified and Europe Transformed.”

Edwards in St. Paul last night: I’m staying in the race. Today in New Orleans: I’m out.

Barely 12 hours before word began leaking out that John Edwards would fold his presidential campaign this afternoon, he sat in a meeting room at a St. Paul union hall and denied — repeatedly — he planned to do any such thing.

Edwards was reacting to the non-stop speculation in recent days that his lackluster showings in the first four Democratic contests would force him to bow out, shortly after his campaign announced that he was canceling appearances today in North Dakota and Alabama. Instead, he was headed for New Orleans, where he launched his campaign more than a year ago, to give a major speech on poverty.

At one point in a brief interview, he dismissed the buzz about him dropping out as “nonsense”

And in a full-throated speech to hundreds of fired-up union members, he left them with the clear impression he was in the race for the long haul.

Click here to hear what the former North Carolina senator had to say last night about quitting his second bid for the presidency..........

Israel probe finds war 'failure'


Israel's 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon was a "large and serious" failure, according to an Israeli government-appointed inquiry.

Military and political leaders had no clear strategy, which meant Israel was "dragged" into an inconclusive ground operation in Lebanon, the report said.

PM Ehud Olmert has insisted he will not step down despite the findings.

However, public pressure could grow on partners in his governing coalition to pull out, analysts say.

Hostilities broke out in July 2006, when Hezbollah fighters captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross border raid that left three other soldiers dead.

In the conflict that followed, more than 1,000 Lebanese died, mostly civilians, along with 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, but the captured soldiers have still not been freed. ............

Britney Spears makes more news than Bush


Despite the economy drawing “heavy coverage and widespread interest” last week, Americans and the news media see President Bush as a non-story, behind Britney Spears. The Pew Research Center reports:

When asked to name the person they had heard the most about in the news lately, 24% of the public named Obama and 23% named Clinton. In a week when he proposed a major economic stimulus plan, just 5% of Americans named George Bush as the person they had heard the most about. About twice as many (11%) named Hollywood actor Heath Ledger, who died last week.


Matthews Ditches His ‘Perfect Candidate’ Rudy Giuliani After Drop-Out Announcement


Last year, MSNBC host Chris Matthews declared former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani to be the “perfect candidate” for president in 2008. However, last night on MSNBC — after reports that Giuliani decided to end his campaign for president following a debilitating defeat in the Florida primary — Matthews jumped ship and began criticizing Giuliani.

Matthews said that the “one thing missing” from Giuliani’s campaign “was a big idea as to why he should be president” because it was only “about the past” and “about 9/11.” Matthews added: “I think Rudy Giuliani never really offered a big idea as to why he would be a great president and I think he made that mistake.” ............

U.S. sells Syria dual-use tech that could be used by Iran

WASHINGTON The Bush administration has approved the sale of advanced dual-use computers to Syria.

"It's a major piece of equipment and is being given to an ally that could use it for military purposes as well as share it with Iran," an official said.

The export, disclosed by the U.S. television network Fox, was approved despite U.S. sanctions on Damascus of military and advanced dual-use systems. Syria, deemed a terrorist sponsor, has been in the same category as Iran and North Korea.

Officials said the State Department has provided a license for the sale of advanced computers for a Syrian border surveillance program. They said the systems were being provided through a United Nations program that could significantly enhance Syria's military capabilities.

In 2004, President George Bush signed legislation to severely restrict technology exports to Syria, deemed a gateway of Al Qaida for the war against the U.S. military in neighboring Iraq. But the legislation allowed the president to waive sanctions on grounds of U.S. national security.

Officials said the U.S. firm Cisco would supply computers and networking equipment to Syria under UN program. They said Syria would receive about $2.2 million in equipment under a program termed "Modernization of Syrian Customs Directorate," launched in 2005 and meant to be completed in early 2008.........

Right Wing Attacks Khalilzad For Not Defending Bolton’s Honor: ‘A Lack Of Testicular Fortitude’


Last Saturday, Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, participated in a panel discussion on Iranian foreign policy with two high-ranking Iranian officials at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The New York Times reports that the White House and Condoleezza Rice were “angered” by Khalilzad’s move because he did not receive explicit authorization. (Watch video of the event here.)

The moderator of the forum joked that Khalilzad has a “really formidable advantage of having a name that is not John Bolton.” Because Khalilzad let that comment stand without repudiating it, right-wing bloggers have erupted in full rage that Khalilzad did not jump to defend Bolton’s honor (as they surely would have). Thus, Khalilzad’s behavior was “disgusting,” “an insult to the United States” and showed “a lack of testicular fortitude”:

Powerline: “The moderator begins the panel with an insult to former United States Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. Rice is apparently angry that Khalilzad participated in the panel without administration authorization. I am angry that Khalilzad participated after the insult to his predecessor in office. Disgusting.

Captain’s Quarters: “The moderator noted in his effusive introduction of Khalilzad that among his outstanding qualities was “the further, really formidable advantage of having a name that is not John Bolton.” Regardless of whether Khalilzad had prior authorization, allowing the insult to Bolton to stand unchallenged represents an insult to the United States and a lack of testicular fortitude on the part of his replacement.

During the panel discussion, Khalilzad “did not veer from the U.S. position” and “stuck to the administration playbook” during the entire event.

So, despite the fact that Khalilzad adhered to the Bush administration line on Iran during the discussion, the right-wing bloggers found it reprehensible that an American official would have the temerity to sit in the same room with an Iranian official and let a mild dig at John Bolton go undefended.

UPDATE: Newshoggers writes, “Poor Zalmay. He’s been a loyal neocon for years and they lauded him for his work in Afghanistan and Iraq when he was up for the UN post. … But let a slur on the Almighty Moustache slide and he’s neocon toast.”

Pilot 'breakdown' diverts flight


An Air Canada flight made an emergency landing in Ireland after a pilot apparently suffered a mental breakdown.

A passenger said the pilot was carried from the plane shouting and swearing, saying he wanted to talk "to God".

The flight from Toronto to Heathrow landed at Shannon airport after its crew declared a medical emergency. Passengers flew on to London later.

Air Canada has confirmed that a crew member was unwell, but did not confirm he was suffering mental problems.

"At no time were the safety of the passengers or crew in question," said an Air Canada spokesman.

"The flight was met by medical personnel and the individual is now in care.".......

Nader Warns Bloomberg Not to Run

Only Room for One Egomaniac in Race, Activist Says

Not so fast.

That was the message delivered today to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg by consumer activist Ralph Nader, who warned Mr. Bloomberg, “If some egomaniac is going to jump in and screw up this election, it’s going to be me.”

Mr. Nader established an exploratory committee for a presidential bid today to let Mr. Bloomberg know that there was “only room for one self-absorbed gas-bag in the 2008 race.”

At a press conference in Washington, Mr. Nader said that voters who are looking for someone to spoil the 2008 election should be suspicious of Mr. Bloomberg’s motives: “Michael Bloomberg has a track record of winning elections, not screwing them up.”

In contrast, Mr. Nader said, “I know how hard it is to wreck an election, and I am prepared to put in the long hours necessary to mess this one up big-time.”

If both Mr. Nader and Mr. Bloomberg were to enter the race, they would be competing head to head for the vote of egomaniacs, who make up three percent of the electorate nationwide but closer to fifty percent in California and New York.

Speaking to that egomaniac constituency, Mr. Nader called Mr. Bloomberg a “novice spoiler,” adding, “When it comes to screwing up elections, experience matters.”

“Michael Bloomberg can’t point to a single election he’s messed up – I can,” he said. “I am ready to screw this one up on Day One.”

Elsewhere, Attorney General Michael Mukasey clarified his position on waterboarding, saying, “Having to answer questions about whether waterboarding is torture or not is torture.”

Nader eyes 2008 presidential bid

WASHINGTON (AP) Ralph Nader is seeking the presidency — again.

The consumer activist and political gadfly kicked off an exploratory presidential campaign Wednesday with the launch of a new Web site that promises he'll fight "corporate greed, corporate power, corporate control" and asks people to donate $300 each.

Nader sought the White House in each of the last three presidential elections: He ran on the Green Party ticket in 1996 and 2000, and as an independent in 2004.

ThinkFast: January 30, 2008


“Rep. Don Young (R-A”), who is under FBI investigation and faces a tough reelection fight, opened a legal defense fund earlier this month, according to House filings. The House ethics committee approved the defense fund Jan. 9, but it has not reported taking any donations yet, and Young spokesman Mike Anderson would not say if anyone had written checks.”

The FBI is investigating 14 companies related to the subprime mortgage crisis for “accounting fraud, securitization of loans and insider trading, among other areas.” The agency “is looking into allegations of fraud in various stages of the mortgage process, from companies that bundled the loans into securities to the banks that ended up holding them.”

In a letter to Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT), Attorney General Mike Mukasey again dodged the issue of waterboarding. “I understand the strong interest in this question, but I do not think it would be responsible for me, as attorney general, to provide an answer,” he said.

Some Methodists “are mounting a last-ditch effort to block” the placement of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, museum and policy institute at Southern Methodist University by forcing a vote at “a regional church conference in July.”

“Economic and employment opportunities are much on the minds of black voters during this presidential campaign season.” Ronald Walters, a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, notes “there is something of a permanent recession in the black community.”

Nearly five years after the invasion of Iraq, allied countries have paid just 16 percent of “what they pledged to help rebuild the war-torn country,” according to a new report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. The biggest shortfalls in pledges are from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Weapons the U.S. provides to Iraqi security forces may still be ending up in the hands of terrorists, insurgents and criminals,” Defense Department Inspector General Claude Kicklighter told Congress yesterday. A GAO report in July said the Pentagon could not account for 110,000 rifles and 80,000 pistols meant for Iraqi troops.

The U.S. military “is funding the construction of Islamic schools, or madrassas, in the east of Afghanistan in an attempt to stem the tide of young people going to radical religious schools in Pakistan.”

According to a report from ret. Gen. James Jones and Thomas Pickering, “Afghanistan risks sliding into a failed state and becoming the ‘forgotten war’ because of deteriorating international support and a growing violent insurgency.”

And finally: Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) explains his kiss to the President.Joe Lieberman got a kiss from the president, so I thought I’d give him one back,” said Shays. He later added, “I said some words of encouragement to the president as he walked by and he pulled me close and whispered something very thoughtful and kind in return.”

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Scarborough: McCain’s Platform Is ‘Less Jobs And More Wars’


During the coverage of this evening’s Florida primary results, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough discussed the impact of John McCain’s victory with Pat Buchanan. The Republican establishment will rally around McCain and say “he’s the guy,” Buchanan said, but he cautioned that McCain’s vision for America was foreboding.

“What does he say? The jobs are never coming back, the illegals are never going home, but we’re gonna have a lot more wars,” Buchanan said of McCain. Scarborough remarked that McCain’s “inviting” presidential platform for the fall consists of “less jobs and more wars”:

BUCHANAN: Here’s a guy, basically, what does he say? The jobs are never coming back, the illegals are never going home, but we’re gonna have a lot more wars.

SCARBOROUGH: We’re gonna start a lot of wars! He has promised, for the record Keith, John McCain’s platform — and it certainly looks inviting for the fall — he has promised less jobs and more wars. Now that’s something we can all rally behind.

While campaigning in Michigan earlier this month, McCain said some Michigan industries cannot be resurrected. “I’ve got to give you some straight talk: Some of the jobs that have left the state of Michigan are not coming back,” he said.

And just this weekend, McCain told a crowd of supporters, “There’s going to be other wars. … I’m sorry to tell you, there’s going to be other wars. We will never surrender but there will be other wars.”

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias writes, “Oddly, though, McCain keeps picking up the votes of Republican primary voters disgruntled with the Iraq War despite being, in reality, the candidate most fanatically devoted to the cause.” More here.

It's All Over

Assuming there is no shocking revelation or health issue, the GOP nomination is over. Conservatives need to start practicing the phrase "Nominee presumptive John McCa....."

Sorry, I can't say it. Not yet.

But it's true. When the campaign comes here to Massachusetts on February 5th, I'll proudly cast my vote for any option on the GOP ballot other than You-Know-Who. But it will be a futile gesture. Mr. "1/3rd Of The GOP Primary Vote" is going to be the nominee.

He's going to win the big, left-leaning states on Tuesday. Huckabee will stay in and deny Romney a one-on-one contest for GOP voters that Captain Amnesty would almost certainly lose. The result: More wins for He Who Must Not Be Named, and fewer wins for Romney—regardless of delegate count. Florida has launched the one ship that Romney's money and Rush Limbaugh cannot stop: The U.S.S. Inevitable. It's gonna happen. Even if there were a realistic pathway to stop him, the media have seized control of the process now and are declaring him inevitable. He is, after all, the favorite son of the New York Times.

So it is over. Finished. In November, we'll be sending out our most liberal, least trustworthy candidate vs. to take on Hillary Clinton—perhaps not more liberal than Barack Obama, but certainly far less trustworthy. And the worst part for the Right is that McCain will have won the nomination while ignoring, insulting and, as of this weekend, shamelessly lying about conservatives and conservatism.

You think he supported amnesty six months ago? You think he was squishy on tax cuts and judicial nominees before? Wait until he has the power to anger every conservative in America, and feel good about it.

Every day, he dreams of a world filled with happy Democrats and insulted Republicans.