John McCain, George Bush’s Bagman

So I spent a day and a half, knowing full well that the Colombian rescue was done with the assistance of our intelligence services, wondering, still, why they timed the rescue to coincide with McCain’s visit to Colombia.

Leaders of the Colombian FARC rebel movement were paid millions of dollars to free Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages, Swiss radio said on Friday, quoting ‘a reliable source’.

The 15 hostages released on Wednesday by the Colombian army ‘were in reality ransomed for a high price, and the whole operation afterwards was a set-up,’ the radio’s French-language channel said.

Saying the United States, which had three of its citizens among those freed, was behind the deal, it put the price of the ransom at some $20 million.


White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the rescue ‘was conceived by the Colombians and executed by the Colombians with our full support,’ while implying that Washington had provided intelligence and even operational help.

Silly me! They didn’t need McCain there for a photo op! They needed a bagman.

Now I wonder how long it’ll be before we find out the ransom came from Bandar’s little slush fund? But don’t worry–McCain’s just aspiring to be like Saint Ronnie.

Banana Republicans: $1.7 Million to Right Wing Death Squads, $2 Million to McCain

I did a whole series of posts on how Chiquita Banana paid off a right wing (and before that, a left wing) terrorist group in Colombia rather than pull out of the country. Here’s a good summary post, that shows that:

  • Chiquita had been paying protection money going back to 1989–including two and a half years of payments to the right wing AUC after it had been declared a terrorist organization (and, yes, those payments came after 9/11 changed everything)
  • In spite of warnings from outside lawyers that Chiquita "Must stop payments," Chiquita continued those payments
  • Michael Chertoff reported told Chiquita he would "get back to them" on the funding terrorists issue (which he never did)
  • A subpoena for the Republican-linked Chiquita may have mysteriously never gotten served by the Bush DOJ
  • Chiquita may have been shipping cocaine back to the US in its freighters as part of its deal with the right wing death squads

Which is just another way of saying that Chiquita is just as corrupt a company as it has been for the last century.

Today HuffPo points out that not only was Chiquita a very Republican company, the CEO of that company from 1984 to 2001, Carl Lindner, happens to be a big McCain donor.

The co-host of a recent top-dollar fundraiser for Sen. John McCain oversaw the payment of roughly $1.7 million to a Colombian paramilitary group that is today designated a terrorist organization by the United States.

Lindner must like McCain slightly more than he likes those Right Wing Death Squads: whereas he oversaw $1.7 million in payments to the AUC, he oversaw $2 million in payments to McCain from just one recent fundraiser.

Late last week, Lindner co-hosted a $25,000-per-person fundraiser for McCain and the Republican Party in the wealthy Indian Hills neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio. The event raised about $2 million; Lindner also serves on McCain’s Ohio Victory Team.

Maybe Lindner is more generous with McCain because the Senator has done political favors for Lindner in the past:

However, in the past, McCain has done favors on Lindner’s behalf. Last May, the Washington Post reported that in the late 1990s, McCain "promoted a deal in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest involving property part-owned by Great American Life Insurance, a company run by billionaire Carl H. Lindner Jr., a prolific contributor to national political parties and presidential candidates."

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Webb and McCain’s Attacks and the GI Bill

A number of people have noted that McCain is now trying to give Jim Webb the same treatment he has given General Clark.

If you didn’t think this was a coordinated attack on John McCain’s credentials before, it’s clear now that it is. Barack Obama’s surrogates are telling the McCain campaign to "calm down" about attacks on his military record? Seriously? Now somehow Wes Clark’s attacks are John McCain’s fault? It’s absurd. If Barack Obama can’t control his own surrogate operation, how can he be trusted to run the country?

I would respond to McCain’s baseless attack on Webb by noting that someone in McCain’s camp must be making a panicked effort to inoculate himself against any questions that getting shot out of an airplane doesn’t automatically qualify you to be President.

But it’s more than that, isn’t it?

This attack on Webb (and Clark, for that matter) comes right on the heels of one of McCain’s most cynical moves–out of many cynical moves–thus far this campaign season. After opposing Jim Webb’s GI Bill (mostly because he thought it was generous enough that it might make it harder to keep people in the military because they don’t have better options and because they can’t get an education), Bush and McCain have been claiming credit for Webb’s GI Bill.

Yesterday, House leaders in both parties struck a deal on a war supplemental bill that includes expanded college benefits for veterans. The GI Bill is Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-VA) version, as well as a provision allowing troops to transfer the benefits to family members. President Bush has promised to sign the legislation.

Now, however, Bush and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — the two most vocal opponents of Webb’s bill — are trying to take credit for it. They are claiming that they always supported the generous benefits — their main concern was just ensuring the benefits’ transferability:

At a time when (if we were really good at our jobs) we would be attacking McCain for opposing veteran benefits, he has, instead, turned and starting attacking Webb. Presumably, at least in part, to prevent any attacks on him for his cynical stance on the GI Bill.

Me, I’ve never served. I respect all three men–Clark, Webb, and McCain–for having done so. Like John Cole, I think not every fighter pilot would make a good President. Read more

McCain: The Presidency Is All in My Head

The Great Orange Satan points to John McCain, admitting that offshore drilling will provide nothing but "psychological" benefits:

At a town hall in Fresno, CA, McCain admitted that the offshore drilling proposal he unveiled last week would probably have mostly “psychological” benefits, NBC/NJ’s Adam Aigner-Treworgy notes. “Even though it may take some years, the fact that we are exploiting those reserves would have psychological impact that I think is beneficial." Uh oh.

But this isn’t the first time that McCain has treated his presidential campaign as an exercise in tilting at windmills psychological affirmation. As a Mid-Western gal, I still cannot believe McCain flew his Sugar Momma Express into Youngstown, Ohio and told a bunch of struggling manufacturing workers that the shitty economy, like the benefits of offshore oil drilling, is just psychological. Here’s McCain telling that to Fox News:

"But I think psychologically – and a lot of our problems today, as you know, are psychological – the confidence, trust, the uncertainty about our economic future, ability to keep our own home," he added.

McCain explained that his proposal to eliminate the federal gas tax for three months would provide Americans the necessary ‘psychological boost’ to deal with their economic problems.

Given McCain’s professed ignorance about economic issues, I guess this isn’t really surprising. But jeebus–isn’t it time for him to admit that his chief domestic policy is to fool Americans with a bunch of psychological hocus pocus?

It’s Not about the DNC–It’s about the GOP

You’ve heard, by now, that Obama just threw the lobbyists out of the, er, fundraising pool.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and the Obama for America Campaign today announced that the DNC will no longer accept Washington lobbyist donations, making the same commitment as Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.

As Phoenix Woman pointed out to me via email, that’s no big deal for the DNC. The big lobbyist money comes in through the DCCC and DSCC, which is one of the reasons those organizations are kicking their Republican counterparts’ behinds, whereas the DNC fundraising lags the RNC.

Which is the whole point, isn’t it?

McCain, you’ll remember, can’t match Obama’s personal fund-raising ability. Rather, he’s already sucking at the GOP teat.

Mr. McCain is likely to depend upon the party, which finished April with an impressive $40 million in the bank and has significantly higher contribution limits, to an unprecedented degree to power his campaign, Republican officials said.


Mr. McCain, who abandoned public financing in the primary but has indicated he would employ it in the general election, is aggressively building a joint fund-raising operation with the Republican National Committee and state party committees in four battleground states. These committees can raise money far in excess of the $2,300 limit imposed on individuals giving to Mr. McCain’s presidential campaign. Donors can write a single check of almost $70,000 to the committees that is divvied up to various entities.

But whole bunch of that money comes from lobbyists. To be fair, McCain’s already pretty happy to take money for lobbyists (he’s getting everything else for them). But if Obama can taint the GOP money that will be funding McCain’s campaign, it’s going to strike another blow at the McMaverick.

Goldwater and Kennedy, or Lincoln and Douglas?

You’ve probably heard that McCain’s campaign challenged Obama to do a series of town hall debates starting next week. It’s an interesting idea, down to McCain’s suggestion they fly together to the first one (but I gotta warn McCain–I don’t think Michelle will let Obama fly on the SugarMomma Express, not even if McCain proposes it in the interest of civility).

What’s more interesting to me is the imagery both campaigns are appealing to with their competing proposals. McCain pitched the town halls as a repeat of town halls that Goldwater and Kennedy planned to do–no doubt appealing to Obama’s self-conscious appropriation of the Kennedy legacy, not to mention McCain’s fanciful notion that he inherited the Goldwater legacy, and not just his seat.

In 1963, Senator Barry Goldwater and President John F. Kennedy agreed to make presidential campaign history by flying together from town to town and debating each other face-to-face on the same stage. In Goldwater’s words, those debates "would have done the country a lot of good." Unfortunately, with President Kennedy’s untimely death, Americans lost the rare opportunity of witnessing candidates for the highest office in the land discuss civilly and extensively the great issues at stake in the election. What a welcome change it would be were presidential candidates in our time to treat each other and the people they seek to lead with respect and courtesy as they discussed the great issues of the day, without the empty sound bites and media-filtered exchanges that dominate our elections. It is in the spirit of President Kennedy’s and Senator Goldwater’s agreement, in the spirit of the politics of change, and to do our country good, that I invite you to join me in participating in town hall meetings across the country to discuss the most important issues facing Americans. I also suggest we fly together to the first town hall meeting as a symbolically important act embracing the politics of civility.

(Incidentally, no one, thus far, has created a media firestorm suggesting that McCain has wished ill on Obama by referring to JFK’s assassination.)

McCain’s pitch for a town hall format, of course, is an attempt to get Obama on his–McCain’s–preferred turf. Small venues, pollsters pick the audience, unscripted exchanges. It’s an attempt to avoid the disaster of the green ghoul speech from last night.

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Will McCain Turn Over Requested Documents to the Renzi Prosecutors?

As the Hill reported this morning, John McCain’s (and John Kyl’s) staffers were interviewed in the Renzi investigation.

Federal agents interviewed staffers for likely Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) as part of their corruption case against Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.).

U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona Diane J. Humetewa and fellow prosecutors disclosed the interviews with aides for McCain and fellow Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl in a written response to Renzi’s attorneys, who asked for the contents of the interview to help prepare for Renzi’s upcoming trial, which is scheduled for October.

But as the letter from the prosecution team to Renzi’s lawyers (and the Hill article) makes clear, the prosecution requested–but had thus far not received–more than that.

12. You have requested documents obtained from the offices of any U.S. Senator with respect to land exchanges. You will be provided with FD-302s of interviews of staffers of Senators McCain and Kyl. We have also requested documents from the offices of Senators McCain and Kyl, and if we receive documents we will make those available to you consistent with the rules and practices of the U.S. Senate.

13. You have requested documents reflecting communications between Resolution Copper or Petrified Forest and U.S. Senators. We will provide you with the opportunity to inspect and copy anything that we have received during the investigation on this topic. [my emphasis]

The prosecution team requested documents from the two Arizona Senators, documents that as of April 14, they had not yet received.

Now, to be totally fair to John McCain, these documents might show McCain in a good light. They might reveal that, after Rick Renzi allegedly tried to solicit a bribe from Resolution Copper and Petrified Forest, those companies appealed to the state’s Senators for help.

But John McCain has a history of sponsoring land swaps favored by his backers.

Sen. John McCain championed legislation that will let an Arizona rancher trade remote grassland and ponderosa pine forest here for acres of valuable federally owned property that is ready for development, a land swap that now stands to directly benefit one of his top presidential campaign fundraisers].

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A Return to Zapruder in the Live-Stream World

Last fall, Jay Rosen wrote a post and I wrote a follow-up, both of which elicited much discussion. Jay quoted a member of the White House press corps explaining why the press corps continues to attend the White House press events even though they’re staged spin, rather than news. Here’s the exchange between Jay and the anonymous reporter.

Well, there are two phrases that I’d like to pass along to your readers. They mean more or less the same thing. “Body watch” means covering an event that will produce zero news on its own because you need to make sure the president doesn’t collapse. The other is SSRO — “suddenly shots rang out” — which is basically equivalent, just a bit more dramatic.


When I emailed this to my friend, he asked whether we were responsible for the president’s safety, so I assume that others will have the same question. What we are responsible for is making sure that, if he collapses, or is shot at, we are in a position to get that information to our viewers/listeners/readers.

From what I know, a correct and concise statement of what the body watch is.

Think about how much JFK, RFK, MLK, Wallace, Squeaky, and Hinckley have shaped the logistical reality of White House coverage. The history of journalism is littered with stories of reporters who called it a day a bit too early, like the guy from the New York Times (if memory serves) who decided to head back to NYC hours before Wallace was shot. [my emphasis]

Basically, the press corps continues to attend all of Bush’s–or Presidential candidates’–events out of fear that something newsworthy might happen and they wouldn’t be present.

When I read this account of how the reporters covering the Hillary campaign learned of her RFK assassination comment–not to mention the fact that John McCain had a squamous cell carcinoma removed in February, in the middle of a Presidential campaign, without anyone reporting it–it made me want to further challenge the notion that the press corps has to follow the President–and Presidential candidates around–to make sure they, and not some random citizen with a video camera–reports on serious things that happen to the President.

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Oh, That’s Why McCain Can’t Keep Shiite and Sunni Straight

Because he’s "dizzy."

Also revealed: He has occasional momentary episodes of dizziness, when he gets up suddenly. McCain first told a doctor about them in 2000 — a visit that also uncovered the melanoma — and intense testing concluded they were harmless vertigo. He didn’t report any episodes at his most recent exam.

So I guess in the McCain family, not only is John not the breadwinner of the family, but in spite of the fact that he has a beautiful blonde wife, he’s the dizzy one. 

GOP: If You Can’t Disenfranchise Brown People at the FEC, Disenfranchise Them by Vote-Caging

I’m not surprised that the RNC is hiring former insta-US Attorney and expert vote cager Tim Griffin.

Indicating what lies ahead is the McCain campaign’s plan to bring in Tim Griffin, a protege of Karl Rove, who is a leading practitioner of opposition research — digging up derogatory information about opponents. Although final arrangements have not been pinned down, Griffin would work at the Republican National Committee, as he did in Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign.

I’m rather more struck by the timing.

Griffin’s return comes just days after Mark McKinnon, who refused to use smear tactics to campaign against Obama, stepped down.

More alarming still, it comes just days after Hans von Spakovsky, whom Bush had selected to be the FEC’s expert in disenfranchising brown people, gave up his bid for that position.

I guess the Republicans felt they couldn’t run this year without having somebody in charge of disenfranchising brown people.

All of which leaves me wondering. If Tim Griffin helps McCain win the Presidency using the same methods he did in 2000 and 2004, how will President McCain reward him? Will he try to illegally fire Justice Souter and replace him with Tim Griffin?