DISPATCHES

ROMNEY WAITS FOR McCAIN STUMBLE.

Conservative Republicans provided verbal support for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) after the New York Times reported (2/21) on his close ties with lobbyists, but the Los Angeles Times reported (2/25) that Josh Romney, one of former Gov. Mitt Romney's five sons, says it's ‘possible' his father may rejoin the race for the White House." Earlier in February, Romney suspended" his campaign after a disappointing showing on Super Tuesday and endorsed McCain, who was the presumptive nominee, a week later. But Romney still retains control of the nearly 300 delegates he's already won." The article implied that 71-year-old McCain had an improper relationship with a female lobbyist and did favors for her corporate clients. McCain has denied the charges, but subsequent published reports have contradicted some of his denials of meetings with corporate executives while he chaired the Senate Commerce Committee. If further revelations occurred, the Times noted, it could raise questions about the Arizonan's viability as the GOP nominee.

BIG MAC ATTACKS. Before he dropped out of the GOP presidential race, Mitt Romney produced a Straight Talk Detour" press release recounting John McCain's tendency to lose his temper, even with fellow Republicans. The release (1/5) titled The McCain Way: Attack Republicans" details McCain's top 10 outbursts. Since he has endorsed McCain, the Romney campaign apparently has removed the press release from its Web site. But we remember:

1. Defending his amnesty bill, Sen. McCain lost his temper and screamed, ‘F**k you!' at Sen. John Cornyn" (R-Texas). Presidential hopeful John McCain — who has been dogged for years by questions about his volcanic temper — erupted in an angry, profanity-laced tirade at a fellow Republican senator, sources told the [New York] Post yesterday. In a heated dispute over immigration-law overhaul, McCain screamed, ‘F—- you!' at Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who had been raising concerns about the legislation. ‘This is chickens—-stuff,' McCain snapped at Cornyn, according to several people in the room off the Senate floor Thursday. ‘You've always been against this bill, and you're just trying to derail it.'" (Charles Hurt, Raising McCain," New York Post, 5/19/07)

2. In 2000, Sen. McCain ran an attack ad comparing then-Gov. George W. Bush to Bill Clinton. SEN. MCCAIN: I guess it was bound to happen. Gov. Bush's campaign is getting desperate, with a negative ad about me. The fact is, I'll use the surplus money to fix Social Security, cut your taxes and pay down the debt. Gov. Bush uses all of the surplus for tax cuts, with not one new penny for Social Security or the debt. His ad twists the truth like Clinton. We're all pretty tired of that. As president, I'll be conservative and always tell you the truth. No matter what." (McCain 2000, Campaign Ad, 2/9/00.

3. Sen. McCain repeatedly called Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) an a**hole", causing a fellow GOP senator to say, I didn't want this guy anywhere near a trigger." Why can't McCain win the votes of his own colleagues? To explain, a Republican senator tells this story: at a GOP meeting last fall, McCain erupted out of the blue at the respected Budget Committee chairman, Pete Domenici, saying, ‘Only an a—hole would put together a budget like this.' Offended, Domenici stood up and gave a dignified, restrained speech about how in all his years in the Senate, through many heated debates, no one had ever called him that. Another senator might have taken the moment to check his temper. But McCain went on: ‘I wouldn't call you an a—hole unless you really were an a—hole.' The Republican senator witnessing the scene had considered supporting McCain for president, but changed his mind. ‘I decided,' the senator told Newsweek, ‘I didn't want this guy anywhere near a trigger.'" (Evan Thomas, et al., Senator Hothead," Newsweek, 2/21/00)

4. Sen. McCain had a heated exchange with Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and called him a f**king Jerk." Senators are not used to having their intelligence or integrity challenged by another senator. ‘Are you calling me stupid?' Sen. Chuck Grassley once inquired during a debate with McCain over the fate of the Vietnam MIAs, according to a source who was present. ‘No,' replied McCain, ‘I'm calling you a f—-ing jerk!' (Grassley and McCain had no comment.)" (Evan Thomas, et al., Senator Hothead," Newsweek, 2/21/00)

5. In 1995, Sen. McCain had a scuffle" with 92-year-old Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) on the Senate floor. In January 1995, McCain was midway through an opening statement at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing when chairman Strom Thurmond asked, ‘Is the senator about through?' McCain glared at Thurmond, thanked him for his ‘courtesy' (translation: buzz off), and continued on. McCain later confronted Thurmond on the Senate floor. A scuffle ensued, and the two didn't part friends." (Harry Jaffe, Senator Hothead," The Washingtonian, 2/97)

6. Sen. McCain accused Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) of the most egregious incident" of corruption he had seen in the Senate. It escalated when McCain reiterated the charges Oct. 10 in a cross-examination, calling McConnell's actions the ‘most egregious incident' demonstrating the appearance of corruption he has ever seen in his Senate career." (Amy Keller, Attacks Escalate In Depositions," Roll Call, 10/21/02)

7. Sen. McCain attacked Christian leaders and Republicans in a blistering speech during the 2000 campaign. MCCAIN: Unfortunately, Governor Bush is a Pat Robertson Republican who will lose to Al Gore. ... The political tactics of division and slander are not our values... They are corrupting influences on religion and politics, and those who practice them in the name of religion or in the name of the Republican Party or in the name of America shame our faith, our party and our country. Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right." (Sen. John McCain, Remarks, Virginia Beach, VA, 2/28/00)

8. Sen. McCain attacked Vice President Cheney. MCCAIN: The president listened too much to the Vice President ... Of course, the president bears the ultimate responsibility, but he was very badly served by both the Vice President and, most of all, the Secretary of Defense." (Roger Simon, McCain Bashes Cheney Over Iraq Policy," The Politico 1/24/07)

9. Celebrating his first Senate election in 1986, Sen. McCain screamed at and harassed a young Republican volunteer. It was election night 1986, and John McCain had just been elected to the U.S. Senate for the first time. Even so, he was not in a good mood. McCain was yelling at the top of his lungs and poking the chest of a young Republican volunteer who had set up a lectern that was too tall for the 5-foot-9 politician to be seen to advantage, according to a witness to the outburst. ‘Here this poor guy is thinking he has done a good job, and he gets a new butt ripped because McCain didn't look good on television,' Jon Hinz told a reporter Thursday. At the time, Hinz was executive director of the Arizona Republican Party. ... Hinz said McCain's treatment of the young campaign worker in 1986 troubled him for years. ‘There were an awful lot of people in the room,' Hinz recalled. ‘You'd have to stick cotton in your ears not to hear it. He (McCain) was screaming at him, and he was red in the face. It wasn't right, and I was very upset at him.'" (Kris Mayes and Charles Kelly, Stories Surface On Senator's Demeanor," Arizona Republic, 11/5/99)

10. Sen. McCain publicly abused" Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). [McCain] noted his propensity for passion but insisted that he doesn't ‘insult anybody or fly off the handle or anything like that.' This is, quite simply, hogwash. McCain often insults people and flies off the handle... There have been the many times McCain has called reporters ‘liars' and ‘idiots' when they have had the audacity to ask him unpleasant, but pertinent, questions. McCain once... publicly abused Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama." (Editorial, There's Something About McCain," the Austin American-Statesman, 1/24/07)

Dems also could bring up the comments of Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss, who said of McCain, The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me." But after his first choices, Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney, dropped out of the race, Cochran on Feb. 7 endorsed McCain, telling the Jackson, Miss., Clarion-Ledger his criticisms of McCain were behind me."

Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., is outspoken in his opposition to McCain's candidacy, the Washington Post noted. Everybody has a McCain story. If you work in the Senate for a while, you have a McCain story. ... He hasn't built up a lot of goodwill."

To be fair, McCain wasn't always wrong when he blew his top. But he's changed his mind on many of the things he was once right about.

GOP NATIONAL SECURITY BLUFF. Glenn Greenwald also asks in what rational universe is John McCain an authority on national security? Greenwald noted at Salon.com (2/10), there is no politician who has been more mindlessly supportive than McCain of endless war in Iraq, one of America's most unpopular wars in its history. Only in Media World could undying support for an extremely unpopular war be considered a political asset." A Washington Post/ABC News poll (2/4) found that Americans trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle every issue of any significance, including — by a now fairly wide margin of 44% to 37% — the US campaign against terrorism." But establishment Democrats have been unwilling to challenge Republicans on national security.

When Chris Matthews asked Terry McAuliffe whether McCain was too hawkish for the American people, McAuliffe said McCain's biggest problems are going to be dealing with the issues on the economy." He declined to criticize McCain on national security, but instead accepted the premise that McCain was tough" and formidable on foreign policy, and then argued that Hillary was just as tough" and would not, therefore, be vulnerable to attack.

As Joshua Holland wrote for AlterNet.org (2/4): The senator's been showing his age throughout the primaries, and there is still a long and exhausting slog ahead. His wooden delivery of stump speeches — sometimes offered while staring at his notes — and some incidents in which he's appeared confused" — he referred to Vladimir Putin as the president of Germany — are vulnerabilities for a 71-year-old candidate. Most people still haven't had a chance to see and hear from these candidates at length this cycle, and while we all decry the fact that people often make political decisions based on the candidates' mannerisms or appearances rather than on the issues, in a race against a cranky, old-looking and somewhat out-of-it McCain, the War of Appearances is likely to be won handily by either of the potential Dem nominees."

Holland wrote that John McCain is the antithesis of the principled straight-talker. When he was asked in a recent debate whether, as president, he would sign into law the comprehensive immigration reform bill that he's championed for the past three years, he responded: No, I would not, because we know what the situation is today." Yes, the situation today is that he's running for the Republican nomination.

EDWARDS' NEXT ACT. John and Elizabeth Edwards are joining an multi-million dollar anti-Iraq war campaign dubbed Iraq/Recession," The Nation reported (2/25) The couple joined a coalition that includes leaders of MoveOn.org, the Service Employees International Union, USAction, VetsVote, the Center for American Progress and Americans United for Change. They will advocate a party platform and ticket that recognizes how an unnecessary war has diverted resources and energy away from the real work of building a functional and just domestic economy. A new poll of swing voters commissioned by USAction found that a huge majority — 69% of them — support ending the war and reinvesting in health care and new clean energy jobs. A recent AP poll found that 68% of Americans believe pulling our troops out of Iraq would help a great deal or somewhat in addressing our faltering economy, ThinkProgress.org noted (2/25).

STUDY: IMMIGRANTS LESS CRIMINAL. One of the right wing's favorite anti-immigrant claims is that immigrants are dangerous and commit high levels of crime, ThinkProgress.org noted (2/26). A new report by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California (ppic.org), however, finds that these claims are baseless: In California, as in the rest of the nation, immigrants … have extremely low rates of criminal activity," said Kristin Butcher, a co-author of the report, Crime, Corrections and California: What Does Immigration Have to Do With It?" The report's authors found, among other things, that immigrants make up 35% of the state's adult population but only 17% of its prisoners and crime rates are much higher in the native-born population. Salinas police chief Dan Ortega told the Monterey County Herald the findings are no surprise to him. In fact, he said, immigrants are more likely to be victims of crime.

INDICTED REP. RENZI WON'T QUIT. Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.), who was indicted by a federal grand jury on 35 corruption charges, issued a statement (2/25) saying that he was innocent and would not resign despite signals from Republican leaders in Congress that they would welcome his swift departure, the New York Times reported. Renzi had already announced that he would not seek re-election to a fourth term. But his insistence on remaining in office while fighting the charges is likely to frustrate fellow Republicans who already face enormous challenges in this year's elections, including a persistent disadvantage in campaign money and a wave of retirements by incumbents. Renzi, Arizona state co-chairman of Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign, was indicted on a raft of corruption charges, including fraud, money laundering and extortion. He also is accused of swindling insurance clients and depositing premiums in his campaign accounts. Arizona's 1st District, which Renzi represents, was widely considered one of the Dems' best opportunities for pickup this fall, as they have have a slight edge in voter registration in the district, the Arizona Republic reported (2/23).

AIR AMERICA GETS NEW OWNER. Charlie Kireker will succeed Stephen L. Green, the New York real estate developer who brought the company out of bankruptcy, as board chair, Sam Stein reported at HuffingtonPost.com (2/21). Mark Green, Stephen's brother and Democratic activist, will remain as Air America's president. Kireker credited the Greens with saving and stabilizing the business. We are yet to profitability but we are heading there," he said. Kireker was a minor investor in one of the companies that rescued Air America's ownership from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2007. That year, the network — which was purchased by Green Family Media for $4.25 mln — posted more than $13 mln in losses. Sometime in 2009, Green said, he envisions that the network will be in the black. Air America has 65 affiliates, an estimated audience of nearly 2 mln weekly, and is set to release a new web-based format for radio listeners.

RICH SCHOOLS WAIVE LOWER-INCOME TUITION. Brown University has joined other Ivy League schools in eliminating tuition for students whose parents earn less than $60,000. Brown announced plans to increase tuition for the 2008-9 academic year to $36,928. With room and board, costs are $47,740 for one year, Bloomberg News reported. Brown's action follows similar moves by Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and Stanford. Ironically, Ivy League schools will be more affordable for middle-class families than many public universities. The College Board reported in October that the average cost of tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies at public universities was $15,488 in 2007, while the average for private universities was $34,063. The average net cost after scholarships and tax benefits are subtracted were $11,879 for public universities and $24,756 for private universities. Sens Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) put pressure on the nation's 136 wealthiest colleges and universities when they asked for detailed information on their endowments, tuition hikes and financial aid, BusinessWeek reported (2/20). The requests came shortly after the National Association of College & Business Officers reported that a record 76 schools had endowments topping $1 bln or more. But very few private colleges and universities can follow this example. Of 1,600 member schools of th National Association of Independent Colleges & Universities (NAICU), only 40 have an endowment of $1 bln or more. The remaining 1,560 schools have a median endowment of $14 mln, and only three of NAICU's member schools have announced plans to replace loans with grants. "That tells you right there and then what the disparity looks like between the haves and the so-called have-nots," Tony Pals, a spokesperson for NAICU, told BusinessWeek.

OHIO JOB LOSSES WORST SINCE DEPRESSION. Ohio lost 209,400 fewer nonfarm jobs from December 2000 to December 2007, according to the US Department of Labor. This loss of 3.7% of Ohio's jobs is the worst seven-year loss since 1939 as the Great Depression was ending, Charles McMillion of MBG Information Services reported (2/21). Nine of the state's 13 metropolitan areas suffered job losses more severe than Ohio's statewide losses. Most devastated is the Springfield area, losing 10% of its jobs over the last seven years. The other areas with job losses worse than statewide include Canton (8.6%), Dayton (7.6%), Mansfield (6.5%), Youngstown (6.3%), Lima (5.7%), Cleveland (5.5%), Toledo (5$) and Steubenville, Ohio–Weirton, W. Va. (3.8%). Over the past seven years Ohio lost 23.3% of its manufacturing jobs (236,000 jobs). It also lost construction jobs, jobs in wholesale and retail, information services and even in financial activities. Recent job growth came in private health services bureaucracies (100,100 jobs), restaurants and bars (24,500 jobs) and in state and local governments (18,700 jobs), mostly for public education, health care and prisons. Since 2000, Ohio added just 2,500 jobs in firms providing professional, scientific and technical services.

The US lost a record 19.8% of its manufacturing jobs over the past seven years. The previous record was the loss of 14.6% from the peak of the World War II buildup in 1942 to the depth of the demobilization in 1949. Record-smashing US manufacturing trade losses (production shortages) totaled over $3 tln over the past seven years as the full current account trade losses reached $4.3 tln.

GOP DEFENDING 9 VULNERABLE SENATE SEATS. The Rothenberg Political Report sees 10 potentially vulnerable Senate seats and Republicans will be defending nine of them (2/22). Rated a Likely Takeover" is Virginia, where former Gov. Mark Warner (D) is favored to win the seat Sen. John Warner (R) is giving up. Lean Takeover" is the seat Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., is giving up. Rated Toss-Up" are the seat Sen. Waynne Allard (R-Colo.) is giving up and incumbents Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), John Sununu (R-NH) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) Rated Narrow Advantage for Incumbent Party" are Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). Targeted seats with a strong Democratic challenger but a Clear Advantage for Incumbent Party" include Susan Collins (R-Maine), Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

 

OBAMA'S AMMO-STARVED CAPTAIN. In the 2/21 debate in Austin, when Barack Obama floated that anecdote about US soldiers in Afghanistan who had an easier time getting the ammunition they needed from captured Taliban than through Army supply channels, Obama said he'd heard the story from an Army captain describing his undermanned rifle platoon's experience in-country. Often in cases like this, even if the story is completely on the up-and-up, the pol will get some fairly inconsequential detail wrong. Or even if they get it all right, they get whacked around because some pundit who's read a few John Keegan books decides it can't possibly be true," Josh Marshall wrote at TalkingPointsMemo.com (2/22). Marshall added that ABC's Jake Tapper picked up the phone, asked the Obama campaign to put him in touch with the captain, called the captain in question, and the story checks in every detail." But right-wing bloggers continued to challenge the story, even after an NBC reporter also talked with the captain. A few hours later, he wrote, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman is telling reporters he doesn't think it's true and that of course they can't confirm it unless the soldier — still on active duty — comes forward to discuss the issue with the Pentagon brass, a step that would surely do wonders for his future in the Army." Marshall said it fits a pattern in which political appointees at the Bush Pentagon volubly insert themselves into domestic political debate or even election campaigns."

McCAIN MEMORY HOLE. Charles Pierce, writing at MediaMatters.org/Altercation (2/22) remembers riding around Arizona on McCain's bus 10 years ago on assignment from Esquire on the day that the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke. "The first thing he ever said to me was, ‘What do you think I should say?' My immediate reaction was that this guy was really, really good. Later in that ride, though, we talked about the Keating Five [a 1989 scandal that involved McCain, four other senators and savings and loan executive Charles Keating Jr.] and I asked him, you know, the THIRD time he flew you to the Caribbean, shouldn't you have figured out that the old crook might eventually want something in return? McCain's answer was a whole lot of nothing. That should be the story going forward. ... But, sooner or later, someone's going to have to break down this pattern he has of doing things completely contrary to what he's supposed to be about, apologizing for it, and then getting double-credit for the apology while the original offense goes straight down the old memory hole. At the very least, we should know as much about Paxson Communications and Sinclair Broadcast Group as we do about, say, John Edwards' haircut. But I would almost guarantee you that we won't."

From The Progressive Populist, March 15, 2008


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