Thursday, July 31, 2008


Good line on the tube today: McCain may not win Bush’s third term, but he’s certainly running Bush’s third campaign.
Mr. McCain’s campaign is now under the leadership of members of President Bush’s re-election campaign, including Steve Schmidt, the czar of the Bush war room that relentlessly painted his opponent, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, as effete, elite, and equivocal through a daily blitz of sound bites and Web videos that were carefully coordinated with Mr. Bush’s television advertisements.

The run of attacks against Mr. Obama over the last couple of weeks have been strikingly reminiscent of that drive, including the Bush team’s tactics of seeking to make campaigns referendums on its opponents — not a choice between two candidates . . .


Exhibit A: Have you really come to this, John – comparing your opponent to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton?
[Steve Benen] I’m pretty comfortable, at this point, describing John McCain as the single most ridiculous major party presidential nominee of the modern political era. This ad is so spectacularly inane, it’s hard to watch it without feeling insulted. . . . [read on]

Uh, John, let’s stay away from the Britney comparisons, okay?

“Oops, he did it again”

From the man who helped run McCain’s 2000 campaign
John Weaver, for years one of John McCain's closest friends and confidants, has been in exile since his resignation from McCain's presidential campaign last year. With the exception of an occasional interview, he has, by his own account, bit his tongue as McCain's campaign has adopted a strategy that Weaver believes "diminishes John McCain."

With the release today of a McCain television ad blasting Obama for celebrity preening while gas prices rise, and a memo that accuses Obama of putting his own aggrandizement before the country, Weaver said he's had "enough."

The ad's premise, he said, is "childish." . . . .

The strategy of driving up Obama's negatives "reduces McCain on the stage," Weaver said. . . . "There is legitimate mockery of a political campaign now, and it isn't at Obama's. For McCain's sake, this tomfoolery needs to stop." . . .

[NYT] Mr. McCain is clearly trying to sow doubts about his younger opponent, and bring him down a peg or two. But some Republicans worry that by going negative so early, and initiating so many of the attacks himself rather than leaving them to others, Mr. McCain risks coming across as angry or partisan in a way that could turn off some independents who have been attracted by his calls for respectful campaigning.

The drumbeat of attacks could also undermine his argument that he will champion a new brand of politics. . . .
[Steve Benen] Taken together, the three ads combine to make McCain look “desperate” or “relentlessly negative.” But there’s another adjective that comes to mind: “small. . . .

Democrats don’t need to “diminish” McCain; Democrats can sit back and watch McCain “diminish” himself. Over the last few days, I feel like I’m watching Obama play rope-a-dope with a pugilist who seems painfully oblivious to what he’s doing to himself. . . .
[McCain campaign memo, March 2008] “It is critical,” the memo explained, “as we prepare to face off with whomever the Democrats select as their nominee, that we all follow John’s lead and run a respectful campaign focused on the issues…. Throughout the primary election we saw John McCain reject the type of politics that degrade our civics, and this will not change.” The memo added that “overheated rhetoric and personal attacks” only serve to “distract” us, and that it was imperative that the campaign hold itself “to the highest standards.”

[NB: Well, he got rid of THOSE guys.]


Exhibit B: it all started with a Washington Post piece
Barack Obama has long been his party's presumptive nominee. Now he's becoming its presumptuous nominee.

Fresh from his presidential-style world tour, during which foreign leaders and American generals lined up to show him affection, Obama settled down to some presidential-style business in Washington yesterday. . . .

The 5:20 [event] turned out to be his adoration session with lawmakers in the Cannon Caucus Room, where even committee chairmen arrived early, as if for the State of the Union. Capitol Police cleared the halls -- just as they do for the actual president. The Secret Service hustled him in through a side door -- just as they do for the actual president.

Inside, according to a witness, he told the House members, "This is the moment . . . that the world is waiting for," adding: "I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions." . . .
[Greg Sargent] Not surprisingly, the Republican National Committee is now attacking Barack Obama over the Washington Post account of him supposedly hailing his own symbolic importance before a roomful of House Dems -- an account that's being disputed by multiple sources.

But here's what's funny: The RNC's attack consists of nothing more than a reproduction of the entire WaPo post, under the headline "Audacity Watch." In other words, the WaPo post is seen by the RNC as a perfect and complete attack in and of itself -- akin to an RNC press release. . . .


One little problem: that’s not what Obama said
[Matt Yglesias] So it seems that Barack Obama said something like:

“It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign, that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It's about America. I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions.” . . .

And now for hours the press and the GOP have been in a frenzy about Obama's arrogance. Because he tried to say something humble about why he was greeting by hundreds of thousands of people when he gave a speech.


Here’s some supportive evidence on which version to believe, from Michael Smerconish: a similar topic came up once before, and Obama said much the same thing
[June 5] “I love when I’m shaking hands on a rope line and”— he mimes the motion, hand over hand — “I see little old white ladies and big burly black guys and Latino girls and all their hands are entwining. They’re feeding on each other as much as on me."

He shrugs . . . “It’s like I’m just the excuse.”

Much more:

Why these kinds of stories work
[Atrios] While Obama's consumption of orange juice at breakfast was proof he was deeply out of touch with normal America, John McCain's $500 shoes are further proof that he is indeed a man of the people with whom most people would want to BBQ with. Except they wouldn't.

These zombie narratives (Democrats are out of touch, effete, elitist, and Republicans are rugged men of the people) are so ingrained that no amount of facts or reality can stop the bobbleheads from repeating them.
[Steve Benen] Put it this way — if Barack Obama paid $520 for a pair of Italian loafers, every voter in America would know about it. Every media outlet would report it and every Republican would talk about it.

I’m reminded, of course, of John Edwards’ $400 haircuts. Last year, that story was everywhere, with the Washington Post writing multiple articles about it. “How could Edwards relate to regular folks if he has that kind of lifestyle?” the media asked, over and over again.

Indeed, the media seems to go to great lengths to look for evidence to bolster the far-right meme that Obama is some kind of outsider. From bowling to orange juice to arugula, reporters love to characterize Obama as something less than a “real” American.


Obama defends himself – and gets attacked for it

Let’s not be under any illusions about what’s going on here. Start with Karl Rove:
[June 23] ABC News' Christianne Klein reports that at a breakfast with Republican insiders at the Capitol Hill Club this morning, former White House senior aide Karl Rove referred to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, as "coolly arrogant."

"Even if you never met him, you know this guy," Rove said, per Christianne Klein. "He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by."

Ever since then, we’ve been hearing more and more about Obama’s “arrogance” and “presumption.” In this context these are racially loaded terms: read “uppity” . . . and he wants to steal your women
[John Ridley] We've heard that; we've heard the pejorative "arrogant" before. When I say "we" I mean those of us who are "others" in America; people of color. Minorities. Women. We hear the word all the time from a select section of privileged white guys . . . [read on]

Then there’s the guy who made this ad, run against Harold Ford in 2006 – he’s on McCain’s team now:
“Harold, call me”
[Josh Marshall] I note with interest today, John McCain's new tactic of associating Barack Obama with oversexed and/or promiscuous young white women. (See today's new ad and this from yesterday.) Presumably, a la Harold Ford 2006, this will be one of those strategies that will be a matter of deep dispute during the campaign and later treated as transparent and obvious once the campaign is concluded. . . . [read on]
[Paul Jenkins] What angers John McCain and bemuses many traditional observers is how unflappable Barack Obama remains in public, no matter how condescending the attacks. There is little doubt that the thick skin he grew over decades came in handy as he started to run for president. The past 18 months surely were not the first time Obama was baited for being black, for being white, for being Muslim, or for not being from "here," and it must be fascinating, although not unexpected, for him to see these patronizing attitudes resurface at this stage of his life. For the rest of us, what is fascinating is to witness how these old-school mindsets are backfiring on those who hold them, making them look less wise, more prejudiced, less fit to lead and altogether completely unappealing. . . [read on]


Exhibit C: There, was that so hard? The press, after giving a despicable McCain ad hour upon hour of free publicity, finally gets around to telling people it is full of lies. The McCain campaign instantly responds, “oops, sorry” – after the damage is done, of course
The New York Times reports that the McCain campaign's ad falsely attacking Barack Obama over the canceled troop visit has only run as paid commercial about a dozen times. Obviously the ad has gotten a lot more play than that -- and it's all come from free media talking about the ad, which was obviously the basis of their strategy to begin with.

The lies of John McCain
[St Petersburg Press] The Straight Talk Express has taken a nasty turn into the gutter. . . . [read on]


Cross this guy off the McCain VP list, I guess
John McCain's claim that Barack Obama would rather lose the war than lose the presidential race is so repugnant that one of his most prominent surrogates -- Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who's also talked about as a potential Veep -- refused to endorse it.

Here’s a good explanation for why the McCain campaign, and the candidate, can’t get their messages straight
As Aides Map Aggressive Race, McCain Often Steers Off Course
McCain’s cacophonous Cabinet
Is John McCain Stupid?
[Daniel Politi] In a front-page piece that almost (but not quite) implies that McCain's aides are thrusting this aggressive style on the candidate against his will, the Post notes that the senator from Arizona is unpredictable and dislikes parroting talking points over and over again. As a result, McCain's "advisers cringe" when he "keeps talking" and subsequently dilutes what could have been a good sound bite. McCain's campaign has been criticized for lacking a consistent message, but to some Republicans that failure has more to do with the candidate's shortcomings rather than campaign's failures. And the NYT points out that there are those who believe that trying to "apply the Bush model" to McCain simply won't work. "It could be the Coca-Cola strategy of marketing that they're trying to apply to Dr Pepper," a former McCain strategist said.

In the Post's op-ed page, David Ignatius flat-out suggests that what we're seeing now isn't the real McCain. In a fawning piece that goes through McCain's biography, Ignatius says the presumptive Republican nominee needs to stop listening to advisers and start being himself. "What's damaging the McCain campaign now, I suspect, is that this fiercely independent man is trying to please other people," writes Ignatius. "He should give that up and be the person whose voice shines through the pages of his life story."


[Andrew Tilghman] Should federal judges interpreting the new U.S. wiretapping law be able to hear and consider legal arguments from outside parties like the American Civil Liberties Union?

The Bush administration says no.

The Department of Justice filed court papers yesterday seeking to block the ACLU -- and any other third party -- from submitting briefs to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the classified forums that will be primarily responsible for translating the federal law signed last month into practice.

The DOJ argues that any briefs the ACLU might file would be ill-informed because its lawyers cannot access the classified information at the heart of many FISA cases . . . [read on]


The politicized hiring at the Justice Department was just one instance of a pattern extending across the Bush administration. Does anyone think that people like Monica Goodling just came up with this idea themselves? Where did the direction and coordination come from? (I think we know)
“The Bush administration is unprecedented in how systematic the politicization is and how it extends both across the wider organization chart and deep down within the bureaucracy,” Professor Rudalevige said. “They’ve been very consistent from Day 1 in learning the lessons of previous administrations and pushing those tactics to the limit.” . . . [read on]
On May 17, 2005, the White House’s political affairs office sent an e-mail message to agencies throughout the executive branch directing them to find jobs for 108 people on a list of “priority candidates” who had “loyally served the president.”

“We simply want to place as many of our Bush loyalists as possible,” the White House emphasized in a follow-up message . . .
There are still two more uncompleted inspector general reports pending -- one about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys and another about political agendas in the department's Civil Rights Division. . . . [read on]

This is appalling:
Throughout the investigation of improper political influence on the Department of Justice's hiring process, the DOJ's inspector general interviewed 85 people -- but only one from the White House. . .


Alice responds: the White House is really, really concerned. And disappointed. Really
QUESTION: Dana, what's your reaction to the Justice Department report where they -- the report essentially says, yes, that there was inappropriate influence on politics and ideology that was part of our hiring and firing practices?

PERINO: Well as I have read the coverage of it -- I haven't read the report, but as I read the coverage of it, there's obviously information in there that would cause concern to anybody. And we agree with Michael Mukasey that -- the Attorney General -- that there was concern. There should be concern any time anyone is improperly using politics to influence career decisions. . . .

QUESTION: But you won't go so far as to say that, looking at Alberto Gonzales's Justice Department, President Bush is disappointed this was going on?

PERINO: Well, I think that we are -- overall disappointment in the situation, sure.

Citing Rove for contempt: what comes next?

[Josh Marshall] Can we note that Karl Rove is now working as an outside advisor to John McCain? So shouldn't McCain be asked about today's developments?

Why Stephen Johnson, EPA, should resign

Going after Blackwater

Heavy irony alert
[Atrios] Sam Brownback is on my TV upset that China might be monitoring the internet and telephone communications of visitors during the olympics. "That's spying!" he says. He's really upset. . . .

Keeping up the pressure on Ron Fournier, Associated Press

Kiss kiss

Vincent Bugliosi: George W. Bush deserves worse than impeachment (thanks to Hugh P for the link)

Bonus item: Hey, McCain, leave poor Britney alone!

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I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


McCain just can’t get his story straight on tax increases
[Steve Benen] In March, John McCain chatted with National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru when the discussion turned to entitlements such as Social Security. Ponnuru asked if, in the course of negotiations with congressional Democrats, McCain might be “willing to accept a tax increase.” McCain said, “No, no.” Ponnuru pressed on, asking, “Any circumstances?” McCain replied, “No. None. None.”

This certainly seemed to be McCain’s position. As recently as a couple of weeks ago, McCain told the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review that he opposes any effort to “raise the [payroll] cap” as part of an effort of strengthening the Social Security system.

Over the weekend, McCain reversed course and said the opposite. . . .

He’ll take it back (again):
Fiscal conservative group The Club for Growth went after presumptive GOP nominee McCain on social security.

"We listened with concern yesterday to your interview with George Stephanopoulos on Social Security," the club's president Pat Toomey writes in a letter to McCain. "When asked if you would be open to raising the payroll tax, you refused to rule out a tax increase, saying 'There is nothing that’s off the table.' This statement was particularly shocking because you have been adamant in your opposition to raising taxes under any circumstances." . . .

And so it goes:
[Kevin Drum] Today, after getting beat up by the tax jihadist wing of the GOP, here's the candidate's mouthpiece on Fox:

KELLY: Might the Social Security tax go up? Is that on the table?

BOUNDS: No, Megyn, there is no imaginable circumstance where John McCain would raise payroll taxes. It's absolutely out of the question.


McCain: withdrawal from Iraq could take a hundred years, or one month. We’ll just have to wait and see
[Eric Kleefeld] John McCain is continuing to hedge on how long it might take to withdraw from Iraq, at once ruling out a timetable and hinting he might do it faster than Barack Obama. "Now whether that fits into 16 months or not, or one month, or whatever, the point is it's got to be conditions-based," McCain told Larry King last night.

McCain says he would chase Bin Laden “to the gates of hell.” But he doesn’t really mean it

I hesitate to call this another “senior moment” – but I guess I just did
MCCAIN: I believe that, when he said that we had to leave Iraq, and we had to be out by last March, and we had to have a date certain, that was in contravention to -- and still is -- the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General David Petraeus. . . .

The religious right doesn’t like McCain, they don’t trust McCain, and they seem ready at any point to walk away from him
Prominent evangelical leaders are warning Sen. John McCain against picking former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as his running mate, saying their troops will abandon the Republican ticket on Election Day if that happens. . . .

Will they?

McCain’s poll numbers IN ARIZONA

The kind of campaign they’re running: McCain aide compares Obama to Paris Hilton

How do you fight political smears? Two theories

Another ridiculous, untruthful attack ad from the McCain campaign

McCain picks up the latest Republican lie: that approving offshore oil drilling would have an immediate impact

The kind of “even-handed” coverage that makes us all dumber
Obama, McCain both have lobbyist ties . . .

During this campaign, lobbyists and trade groups donated $181,000 to McCain, while Obama received $6,000 . . .

Real journalism:
[Josh Marshall] A while back the McCain put a new rule in place that no one involved in their campaign could be a federal lobbyist or foreign agent. But CBS has an interview out with McCain campaign manager Rick Davis that appears to say that rule is no longer in effect. Asked how many lobbyists work on the campaign, Davis tells Katie Couric: "We don't make it a litmus test for employment at the McCain campaign." . . . [H]ow is this not a reversal of their rule?

Hey! Major press outlets suddenly discover that McCain’s “Obama won’t visit the troops” attack ad is a lie (well, better late than never)

Compare the NYT account:

Is McCain losing his “base” in the media?

Ron Fournier, Washington Bureau chief for AP, almost worked for McCain – maybe he still does

Ted Stevens (R-AK), one of the nastiest figures in the Senate, has been two steps ahead of the law for years. It finally caught up with him. This creates another possible Democratic pick-up, and puts a filibuster-proof majority of 60 within reach
Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, the longest-serving Republican senator in United States history and a figure of great influence in Washington as well as in his home state, has been indicted on federal corruption charges. . . .
[Kate Klonick] According to the indictment, Stevens concealed "things of value," estimated at around $250,000, from his publicly filed personal financial disclosure forms over the past seven years. It is this concealment, and not the legality of accepting those "things of value," that is at issue.

“Stevens’ Road to Ruin”:,0,6322685.story
According to Citizens Against Government Waste, a Washington watchdog group, Stevens sponsored a total of 1,452 pork barrel projects worth $3.4 billion between 1995 and 2008, making Alaska the No. 1 state in pork per capita every year since 1999. . . .

He intends to fight:


Bye-bye Ted
[Michael Crowley] Stevens cultivated a tyrannical image and personalized politics to an extreme degree, dividing the world into friends and enemies and showing no mercy. . . . [read on]

GOP senators scramble to erase financial ties to Stevens
Smith, Collins . . .

Good for McCain? I DON’T THINK SO

It’s always good to have these reminders of Republican corruption on the eve of a national election. Here’s more
Special Counsel Scott Bloch is under investigation by the FBI. His own employees can't stand him. And now pressure is mounting from Capitol Hill for one of Washington's top watchdogs to step down. . . .
Three Senate Democrats have called for EPA administrator Stephen Johnson to resign. . . .

Iraq war proponent now cashing in

Joe Klein makes some enemies
I have now been called antisemitic and intellectually unstable and a whole bunch of other silly things by the folks over at the Commentary blog. They want Time Magazine to fire or silence me. This is happening because I said something that is palpably true, but unspoken in polite society: There is a small group of Jewish neoconservatives who unsuccessfully tried to get Benjamin Netanyahu to attack Saddam Hussein in the 1990s, and then successfully helped provide the intellectual rationale for George Bush to do it in 2003. Their motivations involve a confused conflation of what they think are Israel's best interests with those of the United States. They are now leading the charge for war with Iran.

Happily, these people represent a very small sliver of the Jewish population in this country. Unhappily, their views have had an impact in the highest reaches of the Bush Administration--and seem to have an influence on John McCain's campaign as well. . . . [read on]

This is a long, ongoing story: the Army has to keep lowering its enlistment and promotion standards in order to maintain numbers

Yesterday we saw the release of a devastating report detailing the ideological, “moral,” and religiously inflected litmus tests imposed on candidates for Justice Dept jobs. But we haven’t seen anyone question the White House about it

“A culture of corruption”

I probably don’t do enough left-wing criticisms of Barak Obama here. Well, there is room for criticism

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Business as usual in the Bush Department of “Justice”
[Matthew Blake] We've known for more than a year that Monica Goodling, the former Justice Dept. White House liaison, and Kyle Sampson, chief of staff for Gonzales and Goodling's immediate supervisor, violated federal govt. policy -- and federal law -- by taking into account the political affiliations of candidates for career Dept. positions. Today's report, though, details Goodling's remarkable lack of subtlety in her zeal for a more Republican Justice Dept.

The report gives eight instances where candidates who qualified for positions like counter-terrorism prosecutor and asst. U.S. attorneys were turned down by Goodling due to questions about their GOP loyalty. . . . Several prospective employees told the inspector general that Goodling often steered the conversation to questions about abortion and gay marriage. For instance, one employee might have thought they were displaying their GOP bona fides by naming Condoleezza Rice as their most admired politician. But Goodling "frowned" and replied "but she's pro-choice."

Goodling also performed Lexis Nexis searches on prospective candidates by typing in their names in tandem with words like "abortion," "gay," and "homosexual." She also mined for prospective employee's political contributions. . . .
For nearly two years, a young political aide sought to cultivate a "farm system" for Republicans at the Justice Department, hiring scores of prosecutors and immigration judges who espoused conservative priorities and Christian lifestyle choices. . . .
[Ali] In today’s Justice Department report on Monica Goodling’s and other DOJ officials’ politicization of the department, the investigators reveal that Goodling’s political considerations were “particularly damaging to the Department because it resulted in high-quality candidates for important details being rejected in favor of less-qualified candidates.”

In one disgraceful example, Goodling refused to hire “one of the leading terrorism prosecutors in the country” because his wife was a Democrat . . . [read on]
The report is rich in the code used in e-mails by Goodling and others to connote those deserving of advancement: "on the team" was a favorite (e.g. "loyal to the team," "a true member of the team," "completely on the team"), but there's also simply "like you and me" or the more robust "rock-solid Americans."

Those on the wrong team usually got a simpler tag. "She’s a D," says one e-mail. Or in another: "she's a big D." . . . [read on]
[Washington Post] Goodling regularly asked candidates for career jobs, "What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?"
“Tell us about your political philosophy. There are different groups of conservatives, by way of example: Social Conservative, Fiscal Conservative, Law & Order Republican.” . . .

“Aside from the President, give us an example of someone currently or recently in public service who you admire.” . . .

"Why are you a Republican?"
[Marcy Wheeler] Over a year and a half has passed since Margaret Chiara was fired with a bunch of other US Attorneys--and we still have no good explanation why she was targeted. The apparent reason, though, is a rumor that she was having a gay relationship with an AUSA in her office . . . .
Leslie Hagen, an assistant U.S. attorney . . . was denied at least two positions at the Justice Department because Goodling suspected she was a lesbian . . .
As a Republican source told NPR, "To some people, that's even worse than being a Democrat." . . . [read on]
When a reporter last year asked about political litmus tests for Department of Justice officials, a guy in the press office said that's "crap."

But he was lying. . . .

The press flack was John Nowacki, who is now the deputy director for the Executive Office for United States Attorneys' Staffs. He's one of the only DOJ officials named in today's report who is still working for the department.

Nowacki was a staunch defender for Monica Goodling. She helped hire him at DOJ and both are graduates of Regent University, the evangelical school in Virginia founded by televangelist Pat Robertson. . . .

The full report:

Can CNN read?
Aides to then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales improperly considered political affiliations and ideologies in hiring, but Gonzales was unaware of those actions, according to an investigation released Monday by the Justice Department internal watchdog.

But the aides are unlikely to be punished because they do not appear to have committed criminal violations and no longer work in the Justice Department. . . .

Page 137 of the report

“In sum, the evidence showed that Sampson, Williams, and Goodling violated federal law and Department policy . . . .”

Other non-CNN news outlets
Justice Department Report on Hiring Finds Violations (The New York Times)

Report Finds Former Justice Aids Broke Law in Selection of Prosecutors (The Wall Street Journal)

Justice Officials Repeatedly Broke Law on Hiring, Report Says (The Washington Post)

Bush Justice officials broke law: DOJ IG (Chicago Tribune)

Justice Dept.: Hiring Scandal Violated Law (CBS News)

DOJ: Former aide broke law in hiring scandal (MSNBC)

It wasn’t only Goodling
[Andrew Tilghman] In October 2003, shortly after Sampson started working at DOJ, then as Counselor to Attorney General John Ashcroft, he began to overhaul the selection process for immigration judges. "[We] were only considering essentially Republican lawyers for appointment," Sampson said . . .

Sampson's new process involved "coordination" with White House and an extra effort to get friends of the Bush administration into the judgeships when possible. Sampson circulated a document outlining the new process.

"Many lawyers seeking positions within the Administration, including judgeships, become known to the White House offices of Political Affairs, Presidential Personnel, and Counsel to the President." . . .

Also, Sampson often called over to the White House personnel office seeking "ideas for immigration judge postings." Sampson told a staffer to "contact the White House to get any candidate ideas that they had for immigration judges".

In one case, Sampson pushed a prospective judicial candidate who was supported by White House political director Karl Rove. . . [read on]


Gonzales: I knew nothing

[NB: I am certain that Sampson and Goodling had direct instructions to do this, and if it is true that Gonzales had nothing to do with it, then it came from somewhere else: Rove or others in the White House. If there is ever a trial, will they give those others up?]

Yes, we were RIGHT

More on the possible legal consequences
[Christy Hardin Smith] Monica Goodling was granted immunity conditioned on her not committing perjury or giving false statements to investigators or Congress. According to am e-mail I received from the HJC, that immunity may now be in jeopardy . . . [read on]
[John Conyers] The Report also indicates that Monica Goodling, Kyle Sampson, and Alberto Gonzales may have lied to the Congress about these matters. I have directed my staff to closely review this matter and to consider whether a criminal referral for perjury is needed."

OTHER consequences
[Patrick Leahy, D-VT] "The report reveals decisions to reject qualified, experienced applicants to work on counterterrorism issues in favor of a less experienced attorney on the basis of political ideology. Rather than strengthening our national security, the Department of Justice appears to have bent to the political will of the administration. Further, the report reveals that the 'principal source' for politically vetted candidates considered for important positions as immigration judges was the White House- a clear indication of the untoward political influence of the Bush administration on traditionally non-political appointments."

It’s better to be good AND lucky. Coming back from Europe, Obama wanted to turn his focus to the economy. The White House accommodates by releasing a truly damning report on the deficit: half a trillion and no end in sight. McCain’s answer? Extend Bush’s tax cuts and veto earmarks
The White House predicted on Monday that the Bush administration would bequeath a record deficit of $482 billion to the next president — a sobering turnabout in the nation’s fiscal condition from 2001 when President Bush took office and inherited three consecutive years of budget surpluses.

By most accounts, the worst seems yet to come. The deficit announced by Jim Nussle, the White House budget director, does not reflect the full cost of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the potential $50 billion cost of another economic stimulus package or the prospect of steeper losses in tax revenue or further declines in the housing market. . . .


No kidding, they actually said this:
[A] senior administration official says the budgetary problems stem from what is believed to be inadequate defense, intelligence and homeland security resources that were handed down from Clinton.

You know, McCain really DOESN’T know anything about economics. This is fairy tale material . . .
“"I have an unmatched record in fighting wasteful earmarks and unnecessary spending in the U.S. Senate and I have the determination and experience to do the same as President. As President, I have committed to balancing the budget by the end of my first term”

[Marc Ambinder] McCain's advisers insisted that the budget would essentially balance itself if Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security are reformed, if hundreds of billions in waste are trimmed from the budget, if troops begin to come home and Iraq begins to cost less, and if (when) McCain's tax cut proposals up the GDP (which would bring more revenue to the treasury,) etc. etc. . . .

The major networks just aren’t interested in the piddling little detail that McCain’s latest attack ad is completely FALSE, fortunately, is:
[Joe Klein] This is the sort of thing you put on the air when:

1. You're desperate.

2. Your Middle East policy has been superseded by events and abandoned by your allies.

3. You apparently have nothing substantive to say about America's future role in the region and the world.


“Pinãta politics”
[Steve Benen] [S]ince McCain brought in Rove’s team to run the campaign operation, his brand of Pinãta Politics have led him to take swings in all kinds of directions . . . [read on]
[WP] The moves puzzled some GOP strategists, who said McCain would be better off touting a more positive message . . . [read on]

The real target audience of McCain’s smears


“John McCain is always there for our troops – except when he isn’t”

Here is the new and expanded list of McCain’s track record on Iraq: he can claim he was an early critic, but the facts say otherwise

CANCER: not the kind of thing McCain wants to be talking about right now
John McCain told CNN’s Larry King Monday that voters should not be concerned about his health, hours after the Arizona senator had a mole-like growth removed from his face.

McCain, who has had four malignant melanomas removed in the past . . .

When will the press start looking into Randy Schuenemann’s past?

Another example of “if it were Obama . . .” (because he's arrogant and hates the troops, you know)
Vice President Cheney’s invitation to address wounded combat veterans next month has been yanked because the group felt his security demands were Draconian and unreasonable.

The veep had planned to speak to the Disabled American Veterans at 8:30 a.m. at its August convention in Las Vegas.

His staff insisted the sick vets be sequestered for two hours before Cheney’s arrival and couldn’t leave until he’d finished talking, officials confirmed.

“Word got back to us … that this would be a prerequisite,” said the veterans executive director, David Gorman, who noted the meeting hall doesn’t have any rest rooms. “We told them it just wasn’t acceptable.”

David Autry, another Disabled American Veterans official, said Cheney’s demands would be “a huge imposition on our delegates.” . . .

Obama’s VP short list?
The Washington Post and Chicago Tribune's Swamp are saying the same thing: Obama's veep vetting is focusing most heavily on Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, Joe Biden, and Sen. Evan Bayh. . . .

Obama’s economic advisors – including more than one former Bush aide!
Bush administration veterans former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and former Securities and Exchange Commissioner William Donaldson will join former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, and more traditionally Democratic economic advisers such as former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, billionaire liberal Warren Buffett, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, and SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger. . .

An assault on democracy
[Greg Palast] In swing-state Colorado, the Republican Secretary of State conducted the biggest purge of voters in history, dumping a fifth of all registrations. Guess their color.

In swing-state Florida, the state is refusing to accept about 85,000 new registrations from voter drives – overwhelming Black voters.

In swing state New Mexico, HALF of the Democrats of Mora, a dirt poor and overwhelmingly Hispanic county, found their registrations disappeared this year, courtesy of a Republican voting contractor.

In swing states Ohio and Nevada, new federal law is knocking out tens of thousands of voters who lost their homes to foreclosure. . . .

The Bush gang pumps up the fear before the fall election: watch for a heightened terror alert level

Gitmo justice
[Eric Umansky] The first trial started last week: Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden, has been charged with conspiracy and material support for terrorism.

So far there have been relatively few fireworks. A judge excluded any statements Hamdan made during interrogations at Bagram, where abuse of prisoners was reportedly routine. Hamdan also apparently became upset and walked out after video was shown of him being, as the Los Angeles Times put it, “trussed, hooded and badgered by armed and masked U.S. captors.”

Meanwhile, yesterday’s Los Angeles Times had a "reporter’s notebook” dispatch giving a peek behind the scenes. According to the Times' Carol Williams, no mention of the CIA will be allowed at the trial . . .
[Daniel Politi] FBI agents have testified about how they didn't inform Osama Bin Laden's former driver, Salim Hamdan, about his constitutional rights, and a psychiatrist has said that the isolation and repeated interrogations have so warped Hamdan's sense of reality that he sometimes thinks the trial itself is another method of interrogation. The whole process sometimes takes a surreal nature. At one point, a prosecution witness showed a chart of al-Qaida's leadership that includes Hamdan far below the supposed leader, who was released from Guantanamo in 2004. Plus there's the small fact that the administration has made it clear that even if Hamdan is acquitted, he could still face indefinite detention. . . .

Small business?
Private military contractor Blackwater and its affiliates may have wrongly received more than $100 million in contracts that were supposed to be set aside for small businesses . . .

Our Orwellian EPA
The Environmental Protection Agency is telling its pollution enforcement officials not to talk with congressional investigators, reporters and even the agency's own inspector general. . . .

The June 16 message instructs 11 managers in the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, the branch of the agency charged with making sure environmental laws are followed, to remind their staff members to keep quiet. . . .

[NB: Nothing to hide, folks?]

One person CAN make a difference
Senate Republicans yesterday blocked consideration of 35 bills that were rolled into one omnibus measure designed to overcome the objections of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who has used parliamentary tactics to stymie dozens of pieces of legislation. . . .

What Coburn is blocking:

Theocracy watch: death to liberals
“Killer targeted church for liberal views”

[John Aravosis] Wonder what our friends on the religious right have to say about this? You know, the ones who publicly demonize "liberal" churches. Think their hate had a hand in this? Yes it did.
[Knoxville News] Inside the house, officers found "Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder" by radio talk show host Michael Savage, "Let Freedom Ring" by talk show host Sean Hannity, and "The O'Reilly Factor," by television talk show host Bill O'Reilly. . . .
[Mark Kleiman] Of course, if this had been an atheist or a Muslim shooting up a fundamentalist church rather than a wingnut shooting up a Unitarian church, Hannity, O'Reilly, and Savage would be screaming "terrorism."


***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Monday, July 28, 2008


Another episode in the ongoing John McCain comedy series, “I Never Said What I Am Recorded on Tape Saying”
During John McCain's interview today on ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos, McCain got noticeably flustered when he denied having called 16 months "a pretty good timetable" for leaving. McCain denied using the word "timetable” . . .
Remember when "timetable" was a dirty word for Republicans?

Back in January of this year, John McCain pilloried Mitt Romney for encouraging President Bush in April 2007 to develop a private "series of timetables and milestones" for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

"Timetables was the buzzword for those that wanted to get out," McCain scolded Romney at a Jan. 30 debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

How the (time)tables have turned.

During a Friday interview with CNN, McCain called a 16-month withdrawal from Iraq "a pretty good timetable."


The fact is, McCain has given us nothing but doubletalk about the war and the “surge” all along – while mouthing supportive language, he has always been careful to pepper his comments with cautionary qualifications that give him the ability to either claim partial credit for success, or distance himself from failure. Now we’re hearing that he “supported the surge,” but it wasn’t always so clear
[Salon, February 20th, 2007] In fact, McCain has increasingly hedged his position on the surge . . . [read on]


McCain’s long journey

Steve Benen offers a scathing, point-by-point takedown of McCain’s latest ad
It’s nothing short of breathtaking to watch a once honorable man want the presidency so desperately, he’s willing to flush his credibility and reputation down the toilet. John McCain’s new TV ad marks a turning point, not only in this presidential campaign, but as a measurement of McCain’s increasingly absent character. . . . [read on]

More reactions:
[Kevin Drum] I've never been a big John McCain fan. Even in the 2001-2004 era, when he was flirting with the left and opposing the most neanderthal elements in his own party, I didn't really warm to him.

To me, he mostly seemed like a standard issue conservative who had discovered a good schtick during the 2000 campaign and was milking it for all it was worth, pandering to a press and pundit corps that, he had learned, routinely goes gaga over politicians who supposedly reject the shibboleths of both parties and simply speak their mind.

I never really bought it, but at the same time, politics is politics. McCain was hardly the first guy to work hard on his public persona, and, ideological disputes aside, he always struck me as a basically decent person. A little too self-righteous for my taste, but decent.

But now I'm watching him in 2008, his desperation for the presidency driving him to conduct a campaign that's carefully but relentlessly testing ever more contemptible depths of squalor in its attacks on Barack Obama ("he made time to go to the gym but cancelled a visit with wounded troops" is just the latest), and I wonder how he's going to feel when it's all over. Not only will he lose the election, but he's going to wake up one morning and realize that he abandoned his dignity in the process. That's obviously something that's important to him, and even for someone who was never much of a fan, it's kind of sad to watch him give it up so readily.
[BarbinMD] With more than three months until the November election, it’s hard to believe that we are at a point where we must ask, exactly how low is John McCain willing to go? . . .
[Matt Yglesias] When you think about the stunningly dishonest ad John McCain is running, falsely accusing Barack Obama of not meeting with troops during his trip abroad and falsely accusing Obama of some scheme to deny money to the troops, you have to recall the breathtakingly unprincipled way in which McCain has been pursuing the presidency from the beginning . . .


Who said it?
“How can we possibly find honor in using the fate of our servicemen to score political advantage in Washington? There is no pride to be had in such efforts. We are at war, a hard and challenging war, and we do no service for the best of us — those who fight and risk all on our behalf — by playing politics with their service.” [read on]

McCain’s lies are so vile that even a press inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt seems uneasy about it

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf reports from Capitol Hill: The McCain campaign criticism of Sen. Barack Obama's hearing record on Capitol Hill led us to put the shoe on the other foot.

It turns out that presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain has attended even fewer Afghanistan-related Senate hearings over the past two years than Obama's one. Which is a nice way of saying, McCain, R-Ariz., the top Republican on the Senate Armed Service Committee, has attended zero of his committee's six hearings on Afghanistan over the last two years. . . .

Double d’oh!
[ABC] New McCain Ad Bashes Obama for Not Visiting Troops Using Footage of Obama Visiting Troops . . .

McCain’s flip-flop list reaches the 70 mark (and still counting)
[Steve Benen] When I first started pulling these together, it never occurred to me, even once, that the list would get this long. . . .

Here’s #71:

McCain: outsider? maverick? Don’t believe it

What’s THIS all about?
Silver State Bancorp, the Henderson-based holding company for the similarly named bank, reported that Andrew McCain, son of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, resigned today from the boards of directors of the bank and bank holding company.

The company cited “personal reasons” for McCain’s resignation, and a Silver State spokesman declined further comment. . . .

Bush’s trip to Israel; McCain’s trip to Israel; and Obama’s trip to Israel – a fascinating comparison

Obama: it’s not bragging if you can do it

Speculation (no more than that) on Obama’s VP options

The key Obama advisor you’ve never seen or met,0,1640738.story

Obama’s press coverage versus McCain’s: some real numbers
Most of the reporting from the evening news was opinion-free, but when on-air media personalities strayed, 28% of the statements about ----- were positive, while 72% was negative. In contrast, 43% of the statements about ----- were positive, while 57% was negative. . . [can you fill in the blanks?]


A good question, from Atrios
One wonders just how high [Obama’s] polling support should be before the "he isn't winning enough so he's really losing" narrative is killed.

Ow! This hurts my head
The latest inanity is, apparently, a new piece in US News & World Report that was breathlessly quoted today by the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza. In this piece we learn that Obama's universally praised speech in Berlin this past Thursday might be a problem for Obama because, as we learned with George Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech, sometimes great speeches are judged harshly by history.

More on the Bush gang’s fascination with “24”
[Digby] I've written a ton about this shocking phenomenon over the years, but even I didn't know that John Yoo actually cited the show in his book . . . [read on]

I guess I’m just going to have to read Jane Mayer’s book. This stuff is incredible
BILL MOYERS: Who were some of the other conservative heroes, as you call them, in your book?

JANE MAYER: A lot of them are lawyers. And they were people inside the Justice Department who, one of whom, and I can't name this one in particular, said when he looked around at some of the White House meetings - he was in where they were authorizing the President, literally, to torture people - if he thought that was necessary, he said, "I can't, I could not believe these lunatics had taken over the country." And I am not talking about someone who is a liberal Democrat. I'm talking about a very conservative member of this Administration . . . [read on]


The climate change report the Bush gang doesn’t want you to see

No wonder they can’t wait to get rid of us
The American military admitted Sunday night that a platoon of soldiers raked a car of innocent Iraqi civilians with hundreds of rounds of gunfire and that the military then issued a news release larded with misstatements, asserting that the victims were criminals who had fired on the troops. . . .

In a statement issued late Sunday, the American military said that “a thorough investigation determined that the driver and passengers were law-abiding citizens of Iraq.” It added that the soldiers were not at fault for the killings because they had fired warning shots and exercised proper “escalation of force” measures before they opened fire on the people in the car. . . .

The U.S. government paid a California contractor $142 million to build prisons, fire stations and police facilities in Iraq that it never built or finished . . .

The Afghanistan we’ve made (thanks to Ben R for the link)
A Narco-state . . . [read on]

Bonus item: A new book, sponsored by the State Dept, on how to avoid fiascos like Iraq in the future
"The biggest stupid idea," Kilcullen said, "was to invade Iraq in the first place." [read on]

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Well, it’s only July and the true colors of the McCain campaign are coming through – watch this despicable new ad
“Barack Obama never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan.

He hadn't been to Iraq in years.

He voted against funding our troops.

And now, he made time to go to the gym, but cancelled a visit with wounded troops.

Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras.

John McCain is always there for our troops.

McCain. Country first.

John McCain: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.”
[Josh Marshall] [It] is really beyond disgusting. At this point I think it's clear that honor really doesn't mean much to McCain. When things get tough, as it is in this election campaign, there's no limit to what he'll do.
[Obama spokesman] “John McCain is an honorable man who is running an increasingly dishonorable campaign. Senator McCain knows full well that Senator Obama strongly supports and honors our troops, which is what makes this attack so disingenuous. Senator Obama was honored to meet with our men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan this week and has visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed numerous times. This politicization of our soldiers is exactly what Senator Obama sought to avoid, and it's not worthy of Senator McCain or the 'civil' campaign he claimed he would run,” said Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor. . . . [read on]


Why Obama didn’t go to Landstuhl

Various items on what a lousy, miserable campaign McCain is running

“The big picture”
[Josh Marshall] Just think that a couple weeks ago the entire campaign was engulfed by scrutiny of Obama's suggestion that he might be "refining" his plan for a 16 month timetable for withdrawal -- a twitter, if that, on the seismograph of campaign course corrections. Now consider that over the span of a few weeks Sen. McCain has gone from predicting a decades long presence of American troops in Iraq and attacking any discussion of timetables for withdrawal to endorsing Maliki's push for a 16 month timetable and tying himself in knots trying to explain why what Maliki's endorsing is any different from Obama's.

When confronted with Maliki's own words saying that he supports what Obama supports, McCain now falls back on that last redoubt of philanderers, asking the American people, "Who you gonna believe? Me or your lyin' eyes?"

For all the seismic shifts that have taken place over the last two weeks, we need to recognize that McCain has now abandoned virtually everything he's been campaigning on for the last year. There's really no more eloquent confirmation of that reality than the fact that McCain now appears determined to base his campaign on charges that Obama is unpatriotic and despises American soldiers. . . . [read on]

McCain advisor: you can’t assume that what McCain says on the stump is necessarily the official position of the campaign. Huh?
[Matt Yglesias] Basically, the McCain campaign's position is that their candidate should be allowed to produce one set of "official" numbers for the purposes of expert scrutiny. But when going around the country talking to voters, McCain should be allowed to produce a different set of "unofficial" proposals -- perhaps made with his fingers crossed behind his back -- that are designed to trick voters into believing he means what he says, while really they're just unoffocial proposals he doesn't mean. Or something.

Same advisor: when McCain says he doesn’t know anything about economics, that’s just humble self-deprecation. In fact, his knowledge is “phenomenal” (r-i-i-i-g-h-t)

What do you say about a campaign that takes its theme of the day directly from late night show monologues?
"Hey, have you heard John McCain's new campaign slogan? 'Hey guys! I'm over here!'” --Jay Leno
John McCain's is using a weekly radio address to take some jabs at his Democratic rival's trip abroad.

He says the presidential contest became "a long-distance affair" this week, as Barack Obama made speeches abroad to "the people of the world." McCain says he began to feel "a little left out" . . .

Who said it?
[March 21, 2008] Flanked by fellow Senators ----- noted they'd undertaken their week long fact-finding tour of Iraq, Jordan, Israel, England and France as members of Congress's Armed Services committee -- not as some sort of campaign foreign road show. Perhaps, but discussing international affairs with foreign leaders and enhancing ----'s presidential hopes aren't mutually exclusive. Still, ----- acted the apt pupil. "I wish every senator, every senator would make this same trip," ----- said, noting several of the first-hand educational experiences he'd gotten. "They'd be better informed."

Campaign contributions from oil industry executives to Sen. John McCain rose dramatically in the last half of June, after the senator from Arizona made a high-profile split with environmentalists and reversed his opposition to the federal ban on offshore drilling. . . .
[McCain, July 22] “My friends, we have to drill off shore. We have to do it. It's out there and we can do it. And we can do that. The oil executives say within a couple of years we could be seeing results from it. So why not do it?”

What Bush and Cheney wrought
[Jane Mayer] There was such an atmosphere of intimidation. … They felt so endangered in some ways that, at one point, two of the top lawyers from the Justice Department developed this system of talking in codes to each other because they thought they might be being wiretapped…by their own government. They felt like they might be kind of weirdly in physical danger. They were actually scared to stand up to Vice President Cheney.

Seeding for the future
Two leading Senate Democrats asked Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey yesterday to "exercise vigilance" and ensure that political appointees do not improperly wheedle their way into permanent slots at the beleaguered Justice Department.

Sens. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) wrote to department leaders seeking "personal assurances" that they would monitor employment decisions at Justice as the Bush administration draws to a close.

"When unqualified political appointees take over jobs better left to skilled candidates, it threatens the agency's professionalism and independence," Schumer said. "We don't need ideological stowaways undermining the work of the next administration." . . .

Yes, tv coverage of Obama sometimes has a rock-star quality. But DON’T TELL ME that they’re easier on him than they are on McCain
[Frank Rich] It was laughable to watch journalists stamp their feet last week to try to push Mr. Obama into saying he was “wrong” about the surge. More than five years and 4,100 American fatalities later, they’re still not demanding that Mr. McCain admit he was wrong when he assured us that our adventure in Iraq would be fast, produce little American “bloodletting” and “be paid for by the Iraqis.” . . . [read on]

The blatant bias of ABC News


Hardly news, but now we have it from the source: Fox News hacks Hannity, O’Reilly, etc, take their leads from WH talking points


Sunday talk show line-ups
THIS WEEK (ABC) : Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

FACE THE NATION (CBS): Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.).

MEET THE PRESS (NBC): Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

LATE EDITION (CNN): Obama and McCain.

Bonus item: so Obama is “presumptuous,” huh?

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***