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This week finds our war hero, on Old Hallow's Eve, having finished yet another very difficult stretch of his presidential campaign, as it draws to a close. As if it wasn't tough enough to find himself having to defend his home state of Arizona from that one's blithely effortless incursion onto desert turf -- never mind the continuing parade of defectors and detractors among high-powered Republicans -- G.O.P. presidential nominee Sen. John McCain learned, via the press, that his senior advisers think his vice presidential pick, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a "diva" and "a wack job" who was bent not just on "going rogue," but going even "more rogue" than her campaign has already gone. Which would be pretty far, since her remarks this week indicated that she may have already set her sights on 2012 presidential race, reportedly having written off the top-of-the-ticket's chances in 2008.
Not just a river in Egypt
In a Halloween morning interview on ABC's "Good Morning America", McCain called his running mate, Sarah Palin, the new face of the G.O.P., adding, "She's united the party." Which left The Nation's Ari Berman scratching his head:
Um, tell that to Colin Powell, Christopher Buckley or Ken Adelman, all lifelong Republicans who've cited the Palin pick as a chief reason they've endorsed Obama. Or to conservatives like David Brooks, David Frum, Kathleen Parker, Ross Douthat--all past or present McCain supporters--who've strongly criticized Palin.
Or, TAPPED's Tim Fernholz reminds us, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, who served under Bush 41, -- or former Reagan chief of staff, Ken Duberstein. Not to mention that hard-core conservative, Stephen Colbert.
All about her
Palin kicked up a bit of dust earlier this week when, in an interview with ABC's Elizabeth Vargas, she challenged Vargas' suggestion that she might want to go back to Alaska for good if McCain lost the presidential race to Barack Obama. "Absolutely not," Palin replied. "I think that, if I were to give up and wave a white flag of surrender against some of the political shots that we've taken, that ... that would ... bring this whole ... I'm not doin' this for naught."
Then CNN's Dana Bash rather breathlessly reported that when she read Palin's comments back to a senior McCain aide, the aide was "speechless."
Coming on the heels of her rogue comments last weekend in Iowa, touting the beauties of ethanol -- anathema to John McCain's anti-earmark crusade but dear to the hearts of Iowans, who set the course in their caucuses for the presidential primaries to follow -- it's not surprising that Palin's comments to Vargas were seen and evidence that she had thrown McCain under the wheels of the Hate Talk Express. Notes The Nation's Ari Melber, in the third presidential debate, McCain condemned ethanol subsidies as market distorters, wagging his finger at Obama for supporting them. But by the time I caught up with Palin at a Halloween Day rally in York, Penn. (having hitched a ride with The American Prospect's Sarah Posner), Palin was back on message. Asked if she was running for president in 2012, she responded to my shouted question by walking over to where I was standing behind a barricade, , saying, "I'll be campaigning for John McCain's re-election in 2012."I'll be campaigning for John McCain's re-election in 2012."
From Posner's TAPPED report on the Halloween Day York, Penn., Sarah Palin rally.
photo (c) 2008 Sarah Posner
The Colorado Independent looked at what it calls the fight for the soul of the Republican Party, which many believe are evident in the fissures exposed by the Palin pick. Writes Jeff Bridges:
Palin's popularity with [a conservative] group meeting in Virginia [the day after the election], though, does signal the strategy Republicans will likely pursue following what looks to be the second consecutive election with strong Democratic gains. The Politico story argues the party will not pursue a moderate agenda, but instead return to the core conservative values of "small government, a robust national security and unapologetic social conservatism."
This could lead to a colossal struggle within the Republican Party between the moderate wing and conservatives. Tuesday the Colorado Independent broke a story on former Colorado Republican U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis' blaming his party's move to the right for their expected losses in November. "Most of the races we've lost in the last six years are two reasons: one, money, and two, the candidates we put up," McInnis said. "Generally, people in Colorado don't like somebody who's radically to the right or radically to the left."
While she has no doubt that conservatives are looking to their moment in 2012, The American Prospect's Sarah Posner is less than certain that Sarah Palin will become the right's standard bearer, at least within the G.O.P.'s ranks:
According to a recent Newsweek poll, only 20 percent of Republicans favored Palin as their party's nominee in 2012, if McCain loses next week, with 35 percent favoring Romney and 26 percent favoring Huckabee. Among "traditional" (taxes, economy, national security) Republicans, Palin, and Huckabee's numbers were worse (19 percent for Palin, 23 percent for Huckabee) than Romney's (42 percent), but among what the poll termed "social issue" (abortion, immigration, guns, and "family values") Republicans, Palin drew 23 percent, Romney 30 percent, and Huckabee 31 percent.
The invisible man in that poll is Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who next month is headlining the Iowa Family Policy Center's big fundraising dinner, widely seen as his first step in building a base of religious-right support for the 2012 Iowa caucuses.
Along the campaign trail, however, Salon's Rebecca Traister found conservative women entralled with Palin:
"I'm a strong woman, and I really relate to strong women," explained 67-year-old Gloria Stere, who wore a bright blue Palin Power T-shirt. Stere said she had just retired from running her own sewing machine business, and though a "dyed-in-the-wool Republican," she had considered -- just thought about -- voting for Hillary Clinton. But, she was quick to add, "Palin is the one that absolutely made my mind up about supporting John McCain. I took one look at her, heard her speak, and thought, 'Oh my god,' she is the one."
Pro-American parts of the Constitution
In weeks past, Palin wowed politicos with her expansive view of the powers of the office of the vice presidency, as she contends it is laid out in the U.S. Constitution. This week saw another novel constitutional interpretation, this time of the First Amendment, whose 45 words guarantee freedom of speech, religion and peaceable assembly. In her complaint about media coverage of her remarks and campaign, Palin alleged that her First Amendment rights were being abridged, ostensibly by media criticism. At Salon's War Room, Alex Koppelman reported Palin's comments from a Friday morning radio interview:
"If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations," Palin said, "then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media."
It hurts me deeply to say this, but here goes: I'm not a real American.
Oh, I'm proud to live in America and grateful for all the opportunities I've been given in this great country. Also, I would probably seem pretty American to you: I was born and raised in Texas, I came up through public schools, I drive a made-in-America 1997 Ford, I own a modest house, I have a small business, I pay taxes and meet a payroll, I work hard, I'm a beer drinker, I love baseball... and so on.
But here's where I fall down: I don't live in a place that Sarah Palin likes.
Rachel Maddow, writing with Jill McDonnough for the Women's Media Center, examines the provenance of some Palin's remarks, in particular a quote from Ronald Reagan used by Palin in her debate with Democratic rival Sen. Joe Biden that turns out to have a purpose far less noble than its burnished glow might suggest:
"It was Ronald Reagan who said that freedom is always just one generation away from extinction. We don't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. We have to fight for it and protect it and then hand it to them, so that they shall do the same, or we're going to find ourselves spending our sunset years telling our children, and our children's children, about a time in America, back in the day, when men and women were free."
...It could be talking about loose nukes, or civil liberties, or national defense or some competing ideology seeking global dominance. Except this was Reagan--so of course the creepy truth is that he was predicting what would happen if we got Medicare.
Like Ronald Reagan, John McCain is apparently no fan of Medicare, having concocted a health care plan the relies on cutting Medicare and Medicaid funding. According to the Economists' Policy Group for Women's Issues, he doesn't do so well on other family-friendly and women-friendly policies either. Writes Amie Newman at RH Reality Check:
Today, the Economists' Policy Group for Women's Issues (EPGWI)...released a report card for each of the presidential candidates, evaluating them on ten key, critical areas of concern for women and with an overall grade of "D", Senator McCain barely passed. Senator Obama received an overall grade of "B."
Speaking of economists, you'd be hard-pressed, according to economist Matthew Rothschild, writing in The Progressive, to find one who thinks that McCain's proposed capital gains tax cut is a good idea in this ailing economy. In fact, he says, it will as to the economy, for every dollar spent a mere 37 cents. Best returns on the dollar come from ideas McCain opposes or fails to consider:
Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody's Economy.com, has put out a chart showing that the biggest bang for the buck would be to boost food stamps. For every $1 the government spends on this, $1.73 returns to the economy as the benefits ripple through the economy.
Next best is extending unemployment benefits, which returns $1.64 for every dollar spent.
Next is spending on infrastructure, which returns $1.59.
And aid to states is right behind, returning $1.36.
But McCain is not advocating any of these.
AlterNet's Joshua Holland finds irony in the McCain campaign's description of Barack Obama as the candidate scarily seeking to redistribute wealth, when McCain's redistributionist tendencies, as he sees it, are far more radical:
McCain ... takes money from poor people and sends it upward.
[He] is a firm believer in a philosophy of governance that's been responsible for the most dramatic redistribution of American income and wealth since the New Deal. For the past 30 years, the conservative movement has focused relentlessly on redistributing income, but always upward, toward the top. It's a great irony of the 2008 campaign: Nobody is more dedicated to redistributing wealth than adherents of the ideology that McCain represents.
And yet, writes Mother Jones' David Corn, during the 2000 presidential campaign, it was McCain who was seen as the champion of regular people when it came to taxes:
[E]ight years ago, in January and February 2000, McCain was on the receiving end of similar criticism, as conservatives and Republicans accused him of engaging in class warfare by opposing tax breaks for the rich while advocating tax cuts for middle- and low-income Americans. That is, McCain was denounced in much the same way as he is now denouncing Obama.
Polling numbers in what should be McCain strongholds continue to afflict him -- like, for instance, his home state of Arizona. There, he's resorting to a fear-mongering robo-call, writes Greg Sargent at TPM Election Central. Here's part of the script:
If Democrats win full control of government, they will want to give civil rights to terrorists and talk unconditionally to dictators and state sponsors of terror. Barack Obama and his Democratic allies lack the experience and judgment to lead America. This call was paid for by the Republican National Committee and authorized by McCain-Palin 2008.
Ohio is also looking bad for McCain, though Democrats may which to touch wood before uttering those words, given the results of the 2004 election, in which the late polls -- after reports of widespread voting irregularties -- from Ohio ultimately gave the race to Bush.
The numbers are looking good, too, for Obama's 30-minute advertisement, which ran on seven networks -- including the broadcast networks CBS, NBC and FOX -- on Wednesday. Writes Ernest Luning of the Colorado Independent, but McCain campaign officials were not amused:
One in five Denver households watching TV tuned in the half-hour Barack Obama campaign commercial broadcast Wednesday night on seven networks, according to overnight Nielsen ratings, slightly below the nationwide average..."As anyone who has bought anything from an infomercial knows, the sales-job is always better than the product," McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said in a statement. "Buyer beware."
As a sort of counterpoint, Air America Radio's "Maron v. Seder" show offers a satire of what the writers read as the subtext of the McCain message, which they offer in the form of a mock ad.
And in the context of that subtext, there's more bad news for McCain, according to Chris Rabb of Afro-Netizen: lots and lots of African-Americans are voting early:
Hat tip to the addictive FiveThirtyEight.com for numbers-jockeys, political addicts and graph-whores.
This graph shows how highly correlated early voting rates this year are tied to states with large populations of Blackfolk.
No doubt, the RNC and Fox News will contend that these aren't genuine people, but fictitious voters brought to life by the magic ink of crafty ACORN workers.
The Vietnam legacy
Like John Kerry, John McCain intially wrapped his campaign around his personal story of heroism in the Vietnam war. Unlike John Kerry in 2004, John McCain has endured virtually no scrutiny of his personal account of his life in the military, and in Vietnam. While no credible critic contests the fact that McCain suffered terribly in his captivity at the hands of the North Vietnamese, official accounts of some of McCain's military history differ from his own. Why, wonders historian Mary Hershberger at the Women' Media Center, do most mainstream media shy from examining discrepancies in the McCain story, when they seemed all too eager to air the largely false claims of the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth:
McCain's war record is a legitimate topic of investigation precisely because he cites it as evidence that he should be president, as proof that he is tested and ready to lead from day one. As such, it ought to be more thoroughly examined than anything else. The few investigations that have been carried out are not reassuring.
On the single issue of his plane crashes, for example, the Los Angeles Times has concluded that "though standards were looser and crashes more frequent in the 1960s, McCain's record stands out." A pilot whose performance included two plane crashes and a collision with power lines usually underwent official review to determine his fitness to fly. McCain refuses to allow his military records to be released so that the voting public can see whether his record matches his claims.
At AlterNet, Norman Stockwell examines the story of McCain's plane crash in Hanoi -- the one that landed him in captivity -- and tracks down the tale of McCain's rescuer, Mai Van On, with whom McCain was reunited in 1996, but who McCain failed to mention in his 1999 book, Faith of My Fathers. Mai Van On, Stockwell learned, not only pulled McCain out of the lake while the pilot was sinking to the bottom, but also intervened when the crowd on the shore began beating McCain, who was badly injured by his ejection from the plane.
One bright spot for McCain, writes Andrew Lam of New America Media, is the support McCain enjoys in the U.S. Vietnamese community:
If Ho Chi Minh, the father of Vietnamese communism, is idolized in Hanoi and hated in Little Saigon, Orange County, it is to be expected. Hanoi, the stronghold of the Vietnamese Communist Party, and Little Saigon, formed by those it forced into exile, have never seen eye to eye on any modern political figure or issue.
That is, until now. As the U.S. presidential election date draws near, both sides have suddenly found common ground and enthusiasm in one man: Sen. John McCain.
The 2008 National Asian American Survey recently found that among Asian groups, Vietnamese Americans are by far the most conservative: two out of three said they would vote for McCain.
In 2001 and 2004 [John Kerry and John McCain] collaborated to block the Vietnam Human Rights Act in the Senate, though in 2004 it passed 410-to-1 in the House. The bill, had it become law, would have tied U.S. humanitarian aid to Vietnam's human rights record. For his efforts, John Kerry, who fought to defend South Vietnam from communism, became a hated man in Little Saigon, and they showed it in the 2004 election by voting overwhelmingly for Bush, who managed to avoid the Vietnam War by serving in the National Guard. Oddly enough, John McCain remained their hero.
Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo had a warm and fuzzy feeling on Wednesday. He wrote: "My favorite campaign moment of the day: Wolf Blitzer asking Ed Rollins whether McCain needs an assist from Laden to win on Tuesday ..."
At The American Prospect Online, Paul Waldman considers the likely result of just such an "assist":
[T]he American people may just be getting the picture. The sight of Osama bin Laden could make them rush to George Bush's arms four years ago, but would it have the same effect today? Would voters react to a new bin Laden tape -- or even a terrorist attack -- by saying, "We need someone who'll get tough on terrorism"? Or might they say, "Why the hell haven't we caught this guy yet? What are we doing wrong?"
Prof. Todd Gitlin of Columbia University recently encountered a media-neglected category of McCainiac: the occasional pro-Israel suburban Jew who's convinced that Obama means death to Israel. Gitlin writes at TPM Cafe of his encounter with a McCain partisan during a talk the professor gave at at Temple Emmanuel in Great Neck, on Long Island:
During the Q-and-A, a man halfway back in the audience started shouting: "You have no business here! Shut up! Get out! Obama hates Israel! You hate Israel! You're anti-American! You're a Communist!" And so on. (I think there was something about terrorists, too, though I'm not sure, the acoustics not having been designed for enraged disruptions.) The shouter had to be, as they say, escorted away. Among the one-fifth or one-quarter of American Jews who'll vote for McCain are a number -- a small number, but small numbers make history -- who have worked themselves into an apocalyptic furor. They know that the devil stalks the gate to the temple. This won't be the first time that the prospect of a Democratic president drives their sort around the bend. They'll be back.
According to Josh Marshall, a McCainiac mob appeared to be reading from a similar script, minus the stuff about Israel, when they surrounded two Obama supporters who entered a McCain rally wearing Obama tee shirts and holding Obama signs:
McCain mob surrounds two Cuban-American Obama supporters in Miami before police intervene to hustle the two away to safety. "People were screaming, 'Terrorist!' 'Communist!' 'Socialist!'", said Raul Sorando, [one] of the two Obama supporters. "I had a guy tell me he was gonna kill me."
At an Obama rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, McCain supporter Charles David Ficken arrived with a 10-foot tall picture of Barack Obama in East African attire, shouting the United States doesn't need a "Muslim-leaning" person for president, according to the American News Project's Davin Hutchins, who has the video.
Speaking of McCainiacs and video, you won't want to miss the latest music video, "Hounds," from our own Max and the Marginalized.
Now, don't forget to vote, y'all. And before you do, check out Yes! magazine's Checklist for a Fair Election: 12 Ways to Safeguard Your Vote.
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