Archive for the ‘campaigns’ Category

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A long look at John “greasy palm” McCain

February 24, 2008

Left and right, commentators appear to be in agreement that the NYT made a lousy call placing the emphasis in its McCain story on the rather slippery rumors of “romantic” overtones between the Senator and the Siren.

I am not so sure of that, myself. Yes, the bimbo eruption was, and is likely to remain, more of a bimbo squib. And even if true, it pretty much has zero relevance to McCain’s qualifications for the Oval Office. The real story lay in which bankbooks, not which babes, may have been cozying up to him.

But a page A-1 New York Times story indicating what everyone in the media and everyone in Washington knows, but virtually none have been willing to say – that McCain is up to the tips of his last wisps of hair in lobbyists; that he is awash in contributions from the very industries controlled by the committee he chaired for so long – would have raised a splash as resounding as a mayfly dropping into the Atlantic Ocean. Not so when someone yells “Sex!” in a crowded political theater. Decry it as you will, ears then prick up for miles around.

Now the pairing of “John McCain” and “lobbyist” has begun to light up a few synapses in that ever-sluggish neural network we tend to call, in a triumph of hope over experience, our “news” media. If the lights don’t fizzle out, Ms. Iseman’s gift to the nation may be a more balanced picture of the (monetary) kinks in the Straight Talk Express.

I have Harpers’ Ken Silverstein to thank for calling my attention to the fact that one of our more established Republican-friendly print organs, U.S. News & World Report, blew the whistle in May of ’07 on the Commerce Committee chairman’s financial dependence on the special interests he was regulating. There’s no blazing quid and smoking quo, of course. Up until the apotheosis of Tom Delay, our legislators have been adept at keeping their moneyed clients happy without getting too egregious about it. But Honest John was always happy to take the money.

I have to admit, the specific examples the article mentions (McCain’s support for gentler regulation of satellite broadcasting, easing of export restrictions on encryption, and a la carte options for cable subscriptions) all sound to me like good public policy. But the article is worth it for its documentation of the volume of the money river, and for the many googleable names of which contributors lined up to blow ki$$es to McCain while his campaign last year was trying (and failing) to get the wind in its sails.

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Fred “Tonka” Thompson

May 8, 2007

red toy pickup truck
We don’t know yet who the presidential nominees for either party will be next year. But one thing we do know. Whoever the Democratic nominee is, the press will inform us endlessly that he is a phony, a poseur, inauthentic; desperately trying and failing to look tough, or desperately trying and failing to look like a regular guy. Because that is how the press has portrayed every Democratic presidential candiate for the previous thirty-odd years, with the exception of Jimmy Carter, who was treated more kindly in his first, though not in his second, run. (Not coincidentally, that year Jimmy was the most conservative candidate in the Democratic field.)

Meanwhile, the Republican will probably be presented as a straightforward, simple-hearted man of the people. Because that is how nearly every GOP nominee has been presented . This rule had two exceptions, who were coincidentally the only ones from the centrist wing of their party: George Bush senior and Bob Dole. No moderates are applying for the job this go-round, though. So the standard media thumbnail narrative will apply: Do you want a phony baloney elitist Dem, or a forthright folksy GOPer?

Former Senator and former boob tube pretend D.A. Fred Thompson made rather less splash than expected on his fledgling introduction to the party faithful. He came across jowly and dull, and inept at throwing red meat into the conservative cage. But none of the other hopefuls are striking flint with Republican heartfire either, so Fred may well end up with the nod anyway. In case he does, it behooves us all to remember his red truck. Kevin Drum reminds us all about it:

The truck in question is a 1990 Chevy, which the famed statesman-thespian rented during his maiden Senate campaign in 1994. The idea was that Thompson would dress up in blue jeans and shabby boots and drive himself to campaign events around the state…

When Thompson ran for re-election two years later, says Michelle Cottle, Drum’s cohort at Washington Monthly

Seated in the audience is a childhood friend of mine….My friend stands talking with her colleagues as the senator is driven away by a blond, all-American staffer. A few minutes later, my friend gets into her car to head home. As she pulls up to the stop sign at the parking lot exit, rolling up to the intersection is Senator Thompson, now behind the wheel of a sweet silver luxury sedan. He gives my friend a slight nod as he drives past. Turning onto the main road, my friend passes the school’s small, side parking area. Lo and behold: There sits the abandoned red pickup, along with the all-American staffer.

But it’s okay. He’ll be a regular feller with no fancy airs, so long as Maureen Dowd doesn’t describe any of the browns in his shirts, pants, or boots as “earth tones”.

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Blog comment of the day

March 21, 2007

(Excuse the dearth of posts. Verizon in its wisdom saw fit to leave the household bereft of phone service for several days, but now the lines are humming once again. We take comfort; if NSA had been listening in, they’d have insisted on getting our service restored faster. )

Comment by Republicant this morning on Digby:

The GOP gave us the first actor president. Now we have the first
cartoon president. I have heard rumors that there is a movement¬† to draft a stick figure for ’08.

Though such a draft movement may exist, I personally suspect that George Allen has been sufficiently humiliated for this cycle, and will decline.

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Time to take away their keys

January 25, 2007


…which they have made very easy to do.

Yep, Diebold has thoughtfully provided every basement and kitchen hacker in the country with his or her own set of keys with which to open any Diebold touch screen voting machine, so as to install the virus of his or her choice.

As Bradblog reported yesterday morning, a public web page for Diebold’s company store carries a photo of the keys in question. [Hastily taken down, once copies had spread throughout the Internets.] Since all their touch screen units open with the same key; and since the key is built on a blank available at any hardware store; all you have to do is look at the photo, file innies and outies that approximate what you see, and – voila! – you too can elect the dogcatcher, city councilman, or congressional rep of your choice.

The fellow who discovered the photo mailed his 3 homegrown keys to Princeton, which has a Diebold machine on hand for such tests. And two out of three opened it on the first try.

May I submit that there is no high-level conspiracy between Diebold and the GOP’s top miscreants to use these machines to steal votes? Because such a conspiracy would require, first, that Diebold management and said miscreants have, between them, at least three neurons to rub together. Obviously, they do not.

However, the slight lift that knowledge has given to my day is offset by the revelation that Wayne and Garth now have the power to install the lead guitarist from Rush into the Oval Office in 2008.

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Rovester’s Last Stand

November 10, 2006

Rumsfeld’s defenestration came as no surprise. But the fact that he was shown to the window mere days after Bush had sworn to the skies that he would stick to Don like glue to the end of his days did raise some eyebrows. That Bush openly admitted he was lying when he so swore, raised a few more. Talking through one’s ten gallon hat has always been integral to the Cowboy Code, Crawford style; but fessing up to it is a new codicil.

You may ask which was the lie: the old assertion that he planned to keep Rummy on forever, or the newer assertion that Rummy would have gone packing even if Republican supremacy had stayed put. And the only answer will be a Rumsfeldian one: It’s one of those unknown unknowns.

But what raised eyebrows in punditstan raised hackles among the Republican faithful. Why on earth did Bush make a categorical commitment to his SecDef, just when congresscritters on the stump were trying to emphasize their flexibility on the war? Didn’t he realize he was handing over the Congress to the enemy?

I have a contrarian take on that. The facts are these: the middle had turned decisively against Bush, by nearly two to one. Not only did independents not like his war, they no longer thought him truthful. They would not have believed a sudden burst of “flexibility” from him.

Rove’s whole electoral theory over seven years had been to play very hard right for the base, count on winning nearly half of the inattentive middle by default, and so to squeak out a 51% majority. The theory fell apart when the middle began to pay attention, and decidedly dislike what they saw. Once Bush lost credibility with the middle, a sudden feint to the left would have payed no dividends. Worse, it would have confused and depressed the True Believers. Rove had painted himself into a corner. He had deprived himself of all options but the same old playbook. He had to appeal even harder to the base, hope that the Dems were overestimating their new GOTV prowess, and hope that the middle just stayed home in droves.

Dubya’s eternal commitment to Rumsfeld the Brilliant was the final application, the dying spasm, the last throes, if you will, of the Rove Theory of Conservative Domination. He and Bush weren’t ignoring the plight of their congressional hopefuls. They were sending in the only cavalry they had left in the fort.

And they were trying not to see the arrows streaming through the air, or the ghostly aura of yellow moustaches streaming behind Karl in the wind, as he led the charge.

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How the West will be stolen?

October 24, 2006


Concerned about masked elephants in black coveralls tip-toeing away in the dead of the November 7th night with all the votes innocently entered into touch screen “voting” machines? It’s a valid and natural fear.

But a lot depends on where you’re voting. If you’re in Georgia or Maryland, of course, your vote is as good as vanished, because both of them have state-wide mandated paperless touch screen machines courtesy of Diebold. If you’re in Massachusetts or New Hampshire, the methods vary, but you’re pretty sure to have an honest vote (precinct-based optical scan, or hand counts).

Ohio has gone almost entirely to “electronic” machines – though only two counties are getting theirs from Diebold. So, did the GOP pull its funding from the DeWine Senate bid because Sherrod Brown had pulled too far ahead, or because they have it in the bag? We’ll learn in due course. But they are continuing to fund Steele, even further behind in Maryland. And they’re pouring money into Tennessee, which is mostly gone over to E-voting this year.

If you want to check out local stealability conditions, this page from Verified Voting is a godsend. It shows, county by county on clickable maps, just what machinery is in use everywhere in the USA. Bear in mind that “precinct based” optical scan machines are the good ones; “centrally tabulated” optical scans are the bad ones, where votes can be switched at the central machine. But even for the CT OS, vote switching is a big risk, and can’t be done too blatantly, because the paper trail remains and the fraud could be found out.

My guess? They can jigger all the close House races in Indiana, the Senate in Tennessee and Maryland, and a number of others. But they can’t steal enough votes in enough districts to keep the House. For that, they’ll have to depend on their staples: vile last minute push polls, massive voter suppression, tons of money behind tons of lies. And fear.

If Steele loses in Maryland, and DeWine in Ohio, it will mean that they really can’t jigger the machines. Yet. It will be instructive to watch.

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Demise of the unexpected hangsman?

October 22, 2006

There’s a well-known logical paradox known as “The Unexpected Hanging”. A condemned prisoner is told Saturday night that he will be hung at dawn sometime during the next week, but to increase the mental anguish of his punishment, he will never know which morning.

The prisoner reasons, “They can’t hang me next Saturday, because it’s the last day, so I’ll know it’s coming. They can’t hang me on Friday, because I know they can’t do it on Saturday, so when Friday comes, I’ll know it’s their last chance.” By the same process of elimination, he concludes that there is no day on which he can be hung without his expecting it.

So he is genuinely surprised when they trot him out the door and string him up on Saturday morning.

Republicans have successfully caused Democrats mental anguish for many elections now, by promising their hangsman Rove will deliver an October surprise, but we’ll never know what or when. But I’m coming round to the view it won’t be surfacing this time. Since the only October surprise big enough to help them out this time around would be launching the Iran war, I certainly hope I’m not whistling in the dark.

There are several sources for my growing confidence that Karl won’t be showing up with that noose. The first, and weakest, is the absolute desperation being shown by all the embattled GOPers this cycle: wildly over the top negative ads, hurling easily exploded accusations of hebophilia, pedophilia, cavorting with naked Playboy Bunnies, the works. Ken Blackwell in Ohio preparing to break the 2-2 party line tie between election board members on whether to disqualify his opponent for Governor, ahead of him in the polls by over twenty points, on the grounds that he switched from one Ohio residence to another, and that whichever house he claims as his home, the Secretary of State will claim the other one is, making him ineligible to vote, and therefore ineligible to be a candidate.

Crazy stuff.

The second tipoff is that popping jacks out of boxes in late October is a game with diminishing returns. Both because early voting is growing more and more common, so that at least 10 percent of votes will already be cast by the time you spring your surprise. And because all such surprises consist of TOUS, Teeror-alerts Of Unusual Size. The hope is to send such a jolt of fear-adrenaline through the limbic system of the electorate that it will turn off its brain until just after it exits the voting booth. The model is Pulp Fiction: Travolta slamming that hypo into Uma Thurman’s heaving chest.

But it turns out that our citizenly hearts have become habituated to the GOP’s terror adrenaline drug. Each dose is less effective. The poll bounce is smaller and shorter. Not even the ritual chest-beating video from Osama, much as UBL would like it to give his favorite recruitment officers in DC a boost, will make any noticeable difference this time.

Third is the fact that their latest Horrorama campaign ad, aping Johnson’s infamous Daisy Ad to the best of their ability, has as its punchline an entreaty to the party faithful to go vote early. They fear more uncontrollable October surprises that will break the Dems’ way, more than they look forward to any rabbit Karl is going to pull out of his size eighteen hat.

Most potent argument of all? Last week, the panel of judges who heard the first set of charges against Saddam announced that they’d reached their conclusions. Verdict and sentence all ready. But they were going to sit on it, and not schedule an announcement until – let’s see now, what’s the first date one of us doesn’t just happen to have a dentist’s appointment or an urgently required beard trim? Ah, here it is! – November 5.

That Bushco is so abjectly eager to control the last news cycle before the election, that they would humiliate the supposedly sovereign government of Iraq and its supposedly independent judiciary with instructions from the Washington overlords to time their trial outcomes at the overlords’ convenience, seems a strong indication that they have no other means at hand to control that cycle. Heck, the verdict of guilty and the sentence of death are neither of them even surprises.