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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, July 05, 2008

From the Bush campaign to FoxNews to the McCain campaign

You know it goes on, but it's still awful to see it in writing.
As part of a staff shakeup that was announced Tuesday, he brought in a new adviser — Greg Jenkins, a former White House official and Fox News producer — who will oversee the producing and staging of Mr. McCain’s events. Mr. Jenkins is considered an expert at political stagecraft, oversaw many of President Bush’s appearances and served as executive director of the 2004 inaugural committee.

But I'm sure when he was "producing" at FoxNews, he left his politics at the door.... because that's news, right?

Picture of the Day - 2

(Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama and his wife Michelle watch a Fourth of July parade with their two daughters, Malia, right, and Sasha in Butte, Mont., Friday, July 4, 2008.(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong))

Later: Didn't know July 4th is Malia's birthday.


John McCain didn't appear anywhere on July 4th?

Was the trip too much for him? Taking the long weekends off, too?

The RNC/DNC fundraising gap

The WaPo has an article this AM confirming my point the other day. The main cause for the DNC/RNC fundraising gap is the near secret, closed door Bush fundraisers.

(And if Bill Clinton wanted to do something for the party....)

He said what?

Read this closely. Did CIA director Michael Hayden actually say that we weren't a democracy in the weeks after 9/11?
In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Hayden acknowledged "changed circumstances" since the weeks immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and he noted that the intelligence agencies must operate within the limits set by a democratic society. "We exist in a political context," Hayden said.


(BBC) An explosion in Yemen killed 5 people. Shia rebels are suspected. "Several hundred people have been killed in the area since a rebellion broke out in 2004."

(Reuters) India Party Backs Government Over Nuclear Deal

(AP) On July 4, "The Pentagon has extended the tour of 2,200 Marines in Afghanistan, after insisting for months the unit would come home on time."

(AP) "The U.S. military said airstrikes by its attack helicopters hit two vehicles carrying insurgents in eastern Afghanistan. The province's governor said 22 civilians, including a woman and a child, were killed."

(Reuters) Panama has ruled out hosting a U.S. military base to replace one in Ecuador which is being reclaimed by the Quito government.

(Reuters) John McCain wants another 150,000 increase in the army on top of the current increases.

And, a little July 4th news, (AFP) American Joey Chestnut defeated Takeru Kobayashi for the second year in the Nathan's hot dog eating contest. USA! USA!

Picture of the Day

(U.S. soldiers take an oath during a mass reenlistment ceremony in Baghdad July 4, 2008. More than 1200 soldiers were reenlisted in the U.S. military on Friday as part of a U.S. Independence Day celebration at al-Faw palace in Camp Victory. (REUTERS/Erik de Castro))

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Republicans can't figure out how to hate Obama yet

I think this is really telling,
President Bush’s re-election campaign had already settled on an effective argument against Mr. Kerry by late spring of 2004 — branding him daily as a flip-flopper and inauthentic. That months have passed without the McCain campaign similarly defining Mr. Obama somehow has frustrated Republicans more than, say, Mr. Obama’s strong fund-raising or Democratic Party unity.

They really, really want to hate Obama, but they just can't seem to figure out how.

(Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think the latest charges, "flip flopper" or "self interested" are going to do that much damage.

The attackers seem to misunderstand the phenomena. It's not about Obama at all. It's about a desperate desire within a majority of Americans to feel good about America again. How do you dislocate people from that?)

Using Montana to shape the narrative.

Montana has 3 electoral votes, so, frankly, it's hardly a prize on its own, but Obama is spending time and (small media market) money there. Obama is there today, attending a July 4 parade. He chose to spend this "patriotic day" in Montana.

He might have a shot in Montana (Rasmussen actually published an Obama +5 Montana poll, popular Dem governor, etc,) but I think this is much more about narrative than winning the state.

A perceived chance in Montana gives credibility to the 50 state claim, to the "different kind of politician" claim, to the western state claim, and to the challenge of the traditional Ohio, Pa, Fla, map. What the Obama folks are shooting for is the open question, "if he can compete in Montana...."

You would still expect Montana to swing to McCain (even though he's yet to put any staff in the state,) but in the interim, the idea that Obama could reach into Montana is a powerful tug on the narrative.

It's part of the core message the Obama folks want out there.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Snarkity snark, snark, snark, snark.

Rumored to be gay Charlie Crist announces his engagement (to a woman) just in time to slip under the VP consideration wire.

(Notice the poll on the left. Who asks that without a subtext?)

PS. Gay is not a big deal to me, unless you're in the closet and angling for the VP slot in the anti-gay party.

They know when you've been sleeping.....

I don't know if you saw this, but a federal court has ordered Google to turn over all users and every video they've ever watched on YouTube as part of the Viacom lawsuit.

So, you're now outed as user #32,453,234 who has a strange penchant for "man getting hit in balls," 2012 apocalypse videos, and 612 viewings of Dramatic Gopher.

Picture of the Day - 2

(President Bush participates in the groundbreaking ceremony Thursday morning for the $970 million Walter Reed National Military Medical Center project. (Getty))

Obama edges off his Iraq position

Don't freak out, but it appears Obama is backing off some of the specific language on his withdrawal timeline on Iraq. (The "one or two brigades a month....")

Not really too surprising, if you think about it. As Obama faces the reality that he's going to be the next president, he's backing off specifics on several of his national security positions to give himself more leeway later on. (On Iraq, he was always going to talk with Generals/Pentagon before enacting any strict withdrawal timeline.)

In a later press conference, Obama maintains his position hasn't changed.

But, they are definitely aware of the optics, dropping this on a three day weekend "Friday dump."

(He's also getting this out of the way before his trip to Iraq.)


Steve Schmidt, McCain's newly promoted campaign aide,
"There are 125 days left until the American people will decide the next president," he said. "Senator McCain is the underdog in the race. We suspect he is behind nationally five to eight points but well within striking distance."

The collapsing presidency of George Bush taking us all with it

Take just a minute to buzz through the first half of this interview with new Russian PM Medvedev.

It's really pretty unbelievable, but, I think importantly, it captures the current state and tone of the world towards the US and the current US president. Countries are simply ignoring the proclamations and wants of the Bush administration without real consequence, without any fear.

Our country is viewed as wounded, by Iraq, by debt, by oil prices, by our mortgage and economic crisis......

This administration began by swaggering about trying to use the military and blunt diplomatic force to bludgeon the world towards (what they viewed as) US ends. Instead they ended up hollowing out the country.

This was always the problem with the vision of "the Project for a New American Century." It's basic premise was to use the current US military advantage to try and hold back the larger shifting historical trends. But you can't do that.

The forces moving America from hyperpower back to superpower are the waves of history, and a few small wars cannot hold back the endemic and systemic economic and cultural trends that are making that happen.

This was always my primary disagreement with the Bush administration. We should have spent this time building international legal frameworks that would work to our advantage later rather than spending everything we had on some half assed plan to try and hold back history in the sands of Iraq.

(Sorry, not much of a July 4 message, but there are days when you've just had enough.)

Picture of the Day

(President Bush arrives at a private residence in Washington, Sunday, June 29, 2008. (AP/Lawrence Jackson))

RNC fundraiser.

The secret of the RNC fundraising advantage? Closed Bush fundraisers.

There's the well reported financial gap between the DNC and RNC, (DNC 5 million on hand, RNC 40 million,) but here's the secret.
The 20-minute speech was a relatively rare public fundraising event for Bush, whose 29 GOP fundraisers this year have generally been held inside private homes.

In those 29 "private home" fundraisers, how much has George Bush raised for the RNC? Between $750,000 and $1.5 million a pop? Plus Cheney's dozen or so?

That pretty much accounts for almost all of the DNC/RNC fundraising gap.


(WaPo) At a press conference, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mullen decries a lack of troops available and needed for Afghanistan. (I wonder why that could be....)

(ChicagoTribune) Same press conference, Mullen seems to warn against an attack on Iran, "Opening up a third front right now would be extremely stressful on us...."

Long NYTimes story, but the bottom line is that the long term SofA between the US and Iraq appears dead in favor of a much less defined and formalized temporary deal, between 2 to 10 years.

The WaPo attends the same press conference and comes away reporting "progress" on the current negotiation.

And, I don't know if I believe it, but (ABC) "President Bush will soon decide whether to close Guantanamo Bay as a prison for al-Qaeda suspects, sources tell ABC News."

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Getting your operatives killed

The US has done a number of dumb-assed things regarding Iran, but look at this little blurb from today's David Ignatius column.
He said the Iranians had recently captured several dissident Iranian operatives who had been recruited by U.S. military officers inside Iraq and then sent into Iran. The Iranians, whose intelligence network inside Iraq is pervasive, surveilled the meeting, then followed the agents across the border and seized them.

I mean, who could have known Iran might have sympathetic eyes in Iraq? It's not like the military has been screaming about it for months.

(PS. If you were thinking about working with the Americans, do you think you are now? Iranian dissident prison.)

Later: Thinking overnight, I think it's important to note the "turf war" aspect of this. This operation was being run by the "US military officers inside Iraq," not CIA or whoever, so this may have been leaked as part of a broader "turf war."

A coup plot in Turkey

I'd have thought this would be bigger news....
Turkish authorities detained at least 24 ultra-nationalists, including two prominent retired generals, on Tuesday in a widening police investigation into a suspected coup plot against the government.

: A little more detail. Not a violent coup, more a plot to unseat the government through illegal means.

Picture of the Day - 2

Joe Lieberman is doing alot more than "just backing McCain on the war."

Is any politician, even a Republican, being pictured as much with John McCain?

(Sen. John McCain walks with his wife Cindy, Sen. Joe Lieberman and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe upon arrival in Cartagena July 1, 2008. (REUTERS/Jose Miguel Gomez))

Shake up in the McCain campaign

After the continuing complaints about the McCain campaign coming from Republicans all over the place (the latest rendition,) the McCain campaign moves campaign manager Rick Davis "up" to a strategic/messaging role and takes away his day to day operations, giving them to Steve Schmidt.

(Ambinder has a little more. This sounds like this is a concession to all the complaints about slipshod day to day coordination.)

And, the first thing that Schmidt does is completely tear down the independent regional manager structure that was supposed to be the innovative political base of the McCain campaign.

Political bits

(TheHill) Republicans are starting to grumble that John McCain has done nothing to help the Republican Senate and House reelection committees. (Not even an email on their behalf. I've been reading similar grumbles from some state parties.)

(Gallup) Hispanic voters solidly behind Obama 59-29. (A margin higher than either of the last two presidential elections.)

(Ambinder) An outside group trying to woo evangelicals for Obama run their first ad on Christian Radio. (It's like a whole different language.)

(HuffPo) The host of a McCain fundraiser was the Chiquita executive who plead guilt to giving $1.7 million to terrorists(FARC.) (This sounds like Oppo research. It only breaks when McCain is in Colombia?)

Later: Mike Allen at Politico actually has the oppo research release.

The ultraconservative Wall Street Journal editorial page tries to argue that it is Obama who is running for Bush's third term.

This is worth a read. Republican Senator Thad Cochran talks about a 1987 diplomatic trip to Nicaragua with McCain.
"John had reached over and grabbed this guy (an aide to the Nicaraguan president) by the shirt collar and had snatched him up like he was throwing him up out of the chair to tell him what he thought about him or whatever ..."

And, (MSNBC) John McCain is still denying things he said on tape.

Picture of the Day

When the dorky white guys start trying to do it.... It's no wonder that Obama's giving it up.

(President George W. Bush does a fist bump with USA Freedom Corps volunteer Robbie Powell in Little Rock, Arkansas, July 1, 2008. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst))

America petrified

This blows my mind.
According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday, 35 percent of Americans believe a terrorist attack somewhere in the United States is likely over the next several weeks. The figure is the lowest in a CNN poll since the al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington.....

35% believe a terror attack is likely over the next several weeks?

That's incredible.

Our allies in the Iraqi army

Gives you a real good idea of the state of play,
Caught off guard by recent Iraqi military operations, the United States is using spy satellites that ordinarily are trained on adversaries to monitor the movements of the American-backed Iraqi army, current and former U.S. officials say.

(Also in Iraq, the Mahdi is proceeding with its plans to create a new "elite" militia unit intended solely to attack US forces.)

The five year anniversary of "Bring 'em on."

Five years ago, George Bush said,
'''There are some who feel like -- that the conditions are such that they can attack us there,'' Mr. Bush said. ''My answer is, bring them on."

At least 3,927 US soldiers have been killed since.......

Iran softening?

There are a lot of little tea leaves out there that the Iranians are 'seriously considering' a shift on their nuclear program.

Of course, this could all be a stall to try and ride out the end of the Bush administration.

(Also floating around, a discussion in the US of opening a diplomatic office in Tehran, an embassy without an ambassador.)

Guantanamo interrogation class built on China's Korean war brainwashing?

The shock of this article is certainly that the US was training at Guantanamo with torture techniques practiced by the Chinese in the Korean war (condemned as torture and brainwashing at the time,) but let's be sure not to miss the more important point, that these torture techniques were known to produce false confessions.
What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.

The recycled chart is the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency. ....

The 1957 article from which the chart was copied was entitled “Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War” and written by Alfred D. Biderman, a sociologist then working for the Air Force, who died in 2003. Mr. Biderman had interviewed American prisoners returning from North Korea, some of whom had been filmed by their Chinese interrogators confessing to germ warfare and other atrocities.

Kinda makes you wonder about all those claims by the Bush administration of terror attacks prevented.

(PS. I think it's also notable that even these Chinese tactics, condemned as torture at the time, don't include waterboarding.)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2

Enjoy the Olympics.

A woman with a child on her bicycle tries to navigate through traffic in central Beijing, China. (BBC)

Courting Colin Powell.......

Obama and McCain met with Colin Powell a few weeks ago.

Nothing concrete. It's just out there.

We're at the Swiftboaters again

The thing everyone seems to forget about the infamous "Swiftboat" episode of 2004 is that it wasn't really the Swiftboaters themselves who did the damage. That very small group with very small funds initially ran just one ad in just one market.

The true villainy of the Swiftboat episode was in the media, who promoted those guys full time for weeks, giving them free air time and exposure they could only dream of.

But more importantly than even the exposure, it was the media that gave the Swiftboaters their credibility by treating their charges as a "controversy."

I bring this up because, to some degree we're there again, Obama's patriotism. Regardless of any reality, how exactly would Obama prove he's "patriotic enough?"

But, also notice the things that aren't given "controversy status." McCain's first marriage, how it ended, the fact that he only got into politics because he married money, the several reports of infidelity and dubious lobbying contacts, Keating Five...... all off limits.

With Obama, let's put down, race, Rezco, past drug use.... I don't know what else (ask the Clinton folks, I'm sure they have a list,) but you get the point. It works both ways.

It is the media that stands as the gatekeeper on all this, on what is permissible conversation and what is not. Their decision making is some weird black box equational mashup of balancing ratings, filling the empty airtime, and their own self-opinions of their ethics.

I would love to see the media's role in the Swiftboaters brought back up, but that's not going to happen. The media never takes blame on itself.

But they were the ones who did it.

Just a rant. (I may redit/remove this post.)

Quickhits - I cry bullcrap

(AP) The White House is claiming "satisfactory" on 15 of the 18 Iraq benchmarks coming out of the latest Pentagon report. (This is just outright misrepresentation. At least the AP debunks a few as a sample.)

(Reuters) State Department spokesman Tom Casey slaps down all the bull flying around about Israel attacking Iran and Iran being 9 months from a bomb. (He actually taunts the "anonymous sources" in the ABC piece.)

And, A quote from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, in an interview.

I believe this loosely translates as "suck it."
"Consumer countries have to adapt to the prices and the mechanisms of the market."


Despite presenting the bad Iraq intel at the UN and serving in the Bush administration, people, broadly, still like and trust Colin Powell.

He has managed to push his blame onto the administration.

Picture of the Day

Throughout history, some pretty sorry individuals have won power by turning stress over economic problems into campaigns of "patriotism" and hatred of "the other."

It is the last refuge of scoundrels......

(Senator John McCain gives a thumbs-up during remarks to a National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference in Washington, June 28, 2008. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst))

27 US soldiers died in Afghanistan in June.

The Pakistanis are doing what now?

Always only at McClatchy,
Pakistan's fitful military operation against Islamist extremists pushed into its third day Monday, but there was no sign of overt combat....

A senior official in the North West Frontier Province, Afrasiab Khattak, said that despite the election of a civilian government in February, the army — with the support of President Pervez Musharraf — continues to dictate Pakistan's policy toward Afghanistan and to use the tribal belt sanctuaries to undermine the U.S.-backed Afghan government.

Two other interesting points in this article. 1) There appears to have been another US airstrike which was hidden underneath this PR exercise. (Maybe that's the point?)

2) It is very apparent that the Pakistanis will not go after its "homegrown" Taleban.

This article is well worth a read.


Has anyone else noticed that the Obama internet ads are everywhere right now?

(Or are they just targeting me?)

Picture of the Day

Monday, June 30, 2008

Political bits

The rumor from Politico is that Romney has the inside track for McCain's VP. Not because of his politics, or his ability to work with McCain, but because of his ability to raise money quickly. (With McCain being the oldest man ever to run for president, is that how we pick who is "a heartbeat away...."?)

(Politico) Obama and Bill Clinton finally talk.

Related: The DLC holds its big meeting just a block away from the Obama campaign office in Chicago, and Obama still won't attend.

And, Rasmussen has McCain leading +9 in his home state of Arizona. He was up +20 in April. (Note the gender gap.)

The campaign's nasty phase

As the McCain campaign transitions to attacks on Obama's character, let's remember why this is happening. They're losing.

Their hope is that they can separate the candidates from the frame of actually, you know, running the country and its policy, and try to lure Obama into a pissing contest of their definition.

I think it's important to respond, but I don't think fighting it tit for tat is really the way to go. That's what the McCain campaign wants.

I think you rebut particular charges, but I think the underlying thread is that you shame McCain, saying these are the tactics of a desperate losing campaign and a man who has lost his bearings.

"It really is sad that a man with such a proud history as John McCain has been dragged so low by his desperation. We all expected so much more from John McCain......"

Picture of the Day

(Sen. John McCain listens to reporters question before boarding his charter jet in Asheville, N.C., Sunday, June 29, 2008. (AP Photo/LM Otero))

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The state of the war against Al Qaeda

The NYTimes has a huge article indicting the Bush administration for its Al Qaeda policy, painting political infighting and "shifting its sights" to Iraq.

Iraq was a mistake, not only in itself, but also for the opportunity lost. In Fall 2002, we still had the world on our side.
The story of how Al Qaeda, Arabic for "the base," has gained a new haven is in part a story of American accommodation to President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, whose advisers played down the terrorist threat. It is also a story of how the White House shifted its sights, beginning in 2002, from counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan to preparations for the war in Iraq.

Just as it had on the day before 9/11, Al Qaeda now has a band of terror camps from which to plan and train for attacks against Western targets, including the United States......

Current and former military and intelligence officials said that the war in Iraq consistently diverted resources and high-level attention from the tribal areas.

Also of interest are all the plans aborted at the very last minute. Worth a read.

Lieberman threatens terror in '09

(Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.,laughs before the start of the taping of 'Face The Nation', June 29, 2008. (Karin Cooper))

On Face the Nation, In describing the reasons he believes the Republicans' presumptive nominee for president would be better prepared than the Democrats' to lead the nation next January, Sen. Joe Lieberman said that history shows the United States would likely face a terrorist attack in 2009.

Pretty damn funny, huh? (Video here.)

(PS. Endorsing the other party's candidate is one thing, but becoming his primary TV surrogate......)


Classic GOP. McCain has flipped on everything under the sun, and,
Hours after sparring with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama over immigration, Sen. John McCain told a fundraiser in Kentucky Saturday night, “Senator Obama’s word cannot be trusted”.

Out of the candidate's mouth.


McClatchy has a piece on the blowback from the recent US special ops raid that killed a Maliki relative.

(Telegraph) "Vice President Dick Cheney fought furiously" to kill the N. Korea deal.

(Same article) "Mr Cheney's office is believed to have played a key role in the release two months ago of documents and photographs linking North Korea to a suspected nuclear site in Syria that was bombed by Israeli jets last year."

(Guardian) "Three key US-backed measures on oil, provincial elections and the future of US troops are mired in the Iraqi parliament..."

(AP) The Kurds still claim their independent oil deals stand regardless of what the central government says.

(PressTV/release) Ahmed Chalabi is in Tehran meeting with the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament Larijani.

And, a very sad NYTimes article pointing out that, after all the war, the Iraqi Paralympic team is significantly larger than its Olympic team.

Picture of the Day

The NYTimes has a pretty empty piece on the "jazz diplomacy" of the late 50's and 60's, but I thought this wonderful photo of Louis Armstrong in Cairo in 1961 deserved reprint.

Escalating covert operations in/against Iran - Sy Hersh

Sy Hersh has a new New Yorker piece on the escalation of covert ops against/within Iran. As with most Sy Hersh pieces, it's huge and discursive, so here's a topline only summary from Reuters.

Just on a quick read, the US is still funding the Baluchis/Jundullah a Sunni terror group operating out of the south with ties to Al Qaeda that has bombed, executed, and committed terrorist acts, as well as the Iraq based MEK and Kurdish PJAK.

Sec Def Gates last year meeting with some Democratic Senators,
Gates warned of the consequences if the Bush Administration staged a preëmptive strike on Iran, saying, as the senator recalled, “We’ll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America.”

A dispute over whether this finding covers use of lethal force inside Iran.

One of the disputes around now retired Centcom commander Adm. Fallon was that Fallon expected all operations to report to him. They went around him to report to the CIA and White House.

Not officially linked to the groups the US is supporting, but a huge increase in reports of violence in country,
“Hardly a day goes by now we don’t see a clash somewhere. There were three or four incidents over a recent weekend, and the Iranians are even naming the Revolutionary Guard officers who have been killed.”

And it's not just money, “We’ve got exposure, because of the transfer of our weapons and our communications gear."

There's more if you're willing to dig through it all.