Dean: Is McCain a Puppet … or a Racist?

I taped a MI political talking heads show this morning–if I don’t suck too badly, I should have a link to it tomorrow (just as a preview, though, the cameramen were apparently upset that I said "pissed" so often, six times … and here I was congratulating myself I avoided "fuck"). One of the Republicans was "pissed" that I brought up that McCain, a guy who married into a $100 million fortune, suggested that our economic problems were "psychological" so often.

One regret I have, though, is that we didn’t start talking about the NC Republicans’ race-baiting ad until after the cameras had stopped rolling. NPR had done a story on it while I was driving–and they credulously, sheepishly, accepted McCain’s and the RNC’s claims that they had asked the NC GOP not to run the ad. "Chumps!" I said to myself in the car. "Only chumps would believe the presumptive head of the Republican Party couldn’t get the NC GOP to withhold the ad if he wanted to." Digby says it better:

St McCain has written one of his patented sanctimonious letters saying that he doesn’t approve of these awful ads. He’s very upset and wants them to take them down. (Isn’t he awesome?) Sadly, they told him no. It’s really too bad the presumptive head of the Republican party he really can’t control what those terrible people are doing. C’est la vie! At least we all know where St. McCain stands on the issue and that his heart is totally in the right place.

So I was glad to see Howard Dean channeling Digby:

This is a test of leadership for John McCain. If he can’t pick up the phone and make members of his own party stop airing a television ad he claims to oppose, how can he lead our country through an economic crisis or the war in Iraq? After shifting his positions on gun control, immigration and tax cuts throughout this campaign, McCain should not equivocate on this issue. Making a show of releasing your emails to the press is not leadership. If he is serious, he will get this ad pulled.

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McCain Announces He Will Follow Christopher Ward’s Finance Methods

Remember Christopher Ward? The guy who set up a bunch of interlocking campaign funds at the NRCC, all the while inventing audits that made it look like it was kosher, but whom the FBI is very busy investigating for fraud? Well, key to the interlocking campaign accounts were his Victory Funds. I still owe you all a series of posts describing how the money worked. But for a short summary of how I think they work, you can read this Politico story describing how McCain plans to finance his campaign.

Indeed, to help counter their money deficit, McCain strategists now suggest that the proper comparison should be between the combined assets of the campaign and the RNC and that of their opponent and the far less flush DNC.

“The McCain camp is funded jointly” is how one adviser describes it.

By taking federal funds — something they intend to do, campaign manager Rick Davis told a closed-door meeting of chiefs of staff on Capitol Hill last week — McCain will receive $84 million.

That money, McCain aides say, will be bolstered by the $20 million in coordinated funds that they can legally direct the RNC to spend on anything they want.

Further, they’ll rely on the committee-campaign joint Victory Fund run out of the RNC, which allows contributions of up to $28,500 per person — far more than the $2,300 donors can give to individual candidates.

The Victory dollars will go into the states and be used to hire staffers, who in some cases will serve as the de facto McCain aides.

Other elements of the campaign, such as those tasked with developing coalitions and lining up surrogates, will also be placed at the RNC to save on overhead.

“Those functions that can legally be done at either [the campaign or RNC], we’ll err on the side of doing them at the RNC,” Black says. “The whole thing is under one umbrella in the way we are budgeting.” [my emphasis]

This is not to say McCain is breaking the law (aside from the campaign finance limits which he has already broken, that is). But it does say McCain is choosing a finance method that the Republican Party has already shown it cannot manage properly without someone committing fraud and–potentially–sifting money off the top for other expenditures.

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Family Recipes

My family’s family recipes tend toward the white trash side of the palate. Our potato salad leads the list (secret ingredients: mustard, onion flakes, and–depending on who’s making it–Miracle Whip). Then there’s our ice tea (secret ingredient: frozen lemonade mix). There’s our "recipe" for Thanksgiving turkey–which is no more complex than slapping a pound of bacon on top of the turkey and then picking the bacon off and eating it at about 4PM, just when you begin to get really hungry on Thanksgiving. And finally War Cake, which no one has made since Anastasia passed away. I guess mom’s refrigerator rolls have become a family recipe, too–gooey white rolls that seem perfectly designed as a vehicle for leftover turkey gravy (of course, the gravy always has a slight bacon flavor).

Then there are the recipes I’m famous for: peach, apple, or rhubarb pie, sourdough pancakes (though mr. emptywheel is now in charge of the pancakes), bread pudding. They may or may not be white trash recipes, but they’re damned good (if I do say so myself).

As I think about it, there are a whole slew of things my family might consider family recipes.

But none of them qualify mr. emptywheel to be President. Not least because one of the perks of being President is a full time White House cook–it’s not like I’d be baking my rhubarb pie for the Pope when he came didn’t come to dinner.

Which is why I’m fascinated by recipe-gate–the news that someone in the McCain campaign had borrowed a bunch of recipes from the Food Network and posted them as "McCain Family Recipes." Yeah, I think it telling that the McCain campaign has been circulating a bunch of recipes and pretending they’re Cindy McCain’s–yeah, that’s dishonest. Gotcha!

I’m more fascinated by the larger practice of collecting a bunch of recipes and submitting them as if they somehow make the potential first lady authentic and, by association, the presidential candidate as well. Read more

A Trollop and a C$#T

The news that McCain called his wife a "trollop" and a "cunt" …

The Real McCain by Cliff Schecter, which will arrive in bookstores next month, reports an angry exchange between McCain and his wife that happened in full view of aides and reporters during a 1992 campaign stop. An advance copy of the book was obtained by RAW STORY.

Three reporters from Arizona, on the condition of anonymity, also let me in on another incident involving McCain’s intemperateness. In his 1992 Senate bid, McCain was joined on the campaign trail by his wife, Cindy, as well as campaign aide Doug Cole and consultant Wes Gullett. At one point, Cindy playfully twirled McCain’s hair and said, "You’re getting a little thin up there." McCain’s face reddened, and he responded, "At least I don’t plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt." McCain’s excuse was that it had been a long day. If elected president of the United States, McCain would have many long days.

… makes me wonder the following:

  • Has John McCain ever called Vicki Iseman a trollop and a cunt? Not that I’m suggesting they slept together, of course. It just seems like a remarkably effective way to do what his campaign tried to do in 1999–convince Iseman stop hanging around with McCain once and for all.
  • George Bush has been famous for his, um, deft handling of his female counterparts–most notably Angela Merkel. Is this kind of treatment what McCain plans to use to go Bush one better in the realm of diplomacy?
  • Did John Kerry ever call his wife, Theresa Heinz Kerry, a trollop and a cunt? I’m guessing the answer’s no. Aside from the snuggly image Kerry and his wife always presented when they campaigned together in 2004, Theresa was willing to contribute a sizable chunk of her fortune to Kerry’s presidential campaign; Cindy McCain seems to have lost her interest in contributing her fortune to support McCain’s ambition … oh, somewhere around 1992.
  • How will Phyllis Schlafly and Kate O’Beirne spin McCain’s treatment of his spouse as a victory for women’s rights?
  • Do McCain’s staffers call him a "trollop" when he plasters on makeup for televised appearances? Can we call him a "trollop" when he wears make-up (preferably from some distance)?
  • Do you think Meghan McCain will blog this story?

The Breach: McCain Dates, Not Obama Dates?

As you’ve no doubt heard, three second-rate burglars have been caught accessing Obama’s passport files. The WaPo reports the tree days when his files were accessed:

State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the employees had individually looked into Obama’s passport file on Jan. 9, Feb. 21 and March 14. To access such a file, the employees must first acknowledge a pledge to keep the information private.

To which Josh connects three events:

A few more details about the Obama passport breach. According to a new piece out in the Post from Glenn Kessler, the breaches occurred Jan. 9th, Feb. 21st and March 14th.

That would be the day after the New Hampshire primary, the day of the Democratic debate in Texas and the day the Wright story really hit.

I’m rather more interested in two of the dates on the Republican side. The day after the New Hampshire primary (when it became clear McCain’s campaign was far from dead), and the day of the Texas primary (when McCain sealed the nomination). After all, New Hampshire was a set-back for Obama. Why would a Democrat waste bribes to do oppo research on Obama when it looked, once again, like Hillary would win the primary? But I can understand why McCain would start doing oppo research at a time when his chances started looking up.

Though, I would still have to explain the February 21 date. 

McCain Fails Test to Be Legislator, Much Less President

You guys already know about McCain’s seemingly intentional conflation of Iran and Al Qaeda disguised as a serial gaffe (and if you don’t then go read Blue Texan on it, because he’s much funnier than I am).

Since I’m late to the party, all I can add is a link to that Quiz for Lawmakers I devised last year after Silvestre Reyes made the same gaffe. Reyes has gotten much sharper in the interim period–unlike McCain, Reyes can even distinguish an illegal wiretapping program from a legal one.

McCain, however, still fails from the first question of the quiz.

1. The terrorist group Al Qaeda is overwhelmingly made up of what kind of Muslims?

    a. Shiite
    b. Sunni
    c. Kurds
    d. Nation of Islam

 I’m guessing he would flunk most of the rest of the questions, as well.

Ana Marie Cox: I Let McCain’s Crankiness Go Because I Think His Ribs Are Delicious

John Amato links to this fascinating exchange on Howie Kurtz’s show (you have to click through the link for Kurtz–the YouTube is McCain’s daughter talking about how KEWL it is to hang out with the–apparently drunk and–famous journalists). In it, Ana Marie Cox explains how she ignores McCain’s crankiness.

KURTZ: But that suggests that the people who have been traveling with him regularly…

COX: Yes.

KURTZ: … become part of the bubble, part of the team?

COX: Become part of the bubble, and also, I mean, I think what happens is that you — if you’ve been covering him for a long time, there’s a sense that, well, he does that all the time, it’s not worth reporting, because he does — he’s a cranky old man. I mean, to be quite frank. You know, like, and also, I’ve gotten much tougher terseness than Bumiller got just there. And…

COX: But the cameras weren’t rolling. And also, we wrote it off to, like, you know, he hadn’t had his fifth cup of Starbucks today. [emphasis Amato’s]

But Amato doesn’t include the most important context to Ana Marie’s comment. Howie notes that some people have been receiving better treatment from McCain than others of late.

KURTZ: And McCain did hold a barbecue for the press at his ranch in Sedona where some people were in attendance.

COX: Yes, uh, delicious dry rubbed barbecue ribs, actually, baby back ribs.

KURTZ: First hand report!

Goodness! Did Howie catch Ana Marie going easy on McCain because she loves slurping on his his ribs?

A press "critic" worth his salt, of course, might point out that journalists who haven’t been wined and dined by McCain might find the fact that he’s a cranky old man newsworthy–particularly for a guy auditioning to put his hands on the nuclear football. A "critic" might point out that that’s precisely the problem with the press’ little rib-sucking fun with McCain, it makes them less likely to actually report the things we might like to know about these guys.

Not surprisingly, the "critic" in question did none of those things. I suspect Howie’s just hoping to be invited next time around.

Yet More Straight Talk to Lobbyists

In its report on the latest lobbyist to join the McCain team, the Politico focuses on how John Green will help McCain coordinate his messaging with votes in Congress.

With two senators in the race — McCain for the Republicans, and either Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama for the Democrats — Senate leaders have a unique opportunity to create both opportunities and pitfalls for their parties’ candidates by forcing votes on taxes, national security, health care and energy.

“The future basically revolves around our candidate for president, who will be principal messenger for where Republicans think America ought to go in the next four years,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “What we do on the proactive side — the offense, if you will — needs to be closely coordinated with our candidate for president, without … turning the Senate floor into a sparring match between the two candidates.”

But, as John Kerry points out, the minority party doesn’t really get to coordinate timing for actions in Congress.

Although Kerry credited Daschle and Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) with trying to coordinate with his presidential campaign, he said then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was “always maneuvering to schedule votes and set a debate that amplified the Bush-Cheney campaign’s attacks.”

“There was a lot of counter-scheduling,” Kerry said. “I remember flying all night back from New Mexico for a vote that Bill Frist canceled as soon as we got back. You bet it matters who runs the Senate when you’re out on the trail.”

So I wonder whether the Politico actually misunderstands what Green’s role (who, after all, is described for his ties with Trent Lott, not any currently-serving GOP leader) will be. Consider the following description.

Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain has engaged a leading GOP lobbyist to coordinate his message and travel schedule with congressional Republicans — the most concrete sign yet that the biggest battleground in the 2008 presidential race may not be Pennsylvania or Ohio or Florida’s I-4 corridor but rather the floor of the United States Senate.

And then consider what the GOP meant–in the previous several election cycles–when they discussed coordinating message and travel.

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George Will Sums Up McCain’s “Unattractive Righteousness”

George Will, voicing the position of those (like Mitch McConnell) who don’t like getting attacked for doing things their attacker has done, captures the state of McCain’s hypocrisy regarding lobbyists and campaign finance.

First, the Times muddied, with unsubstantiated sexual innuendo about a female lobbyist, a story about McCain’s flights on jets owned by corporations with business before the Senate Commerce Committee, and his meeting with a broadcaster (McCain at first denied it happened; the broadcaster insists it did, and McCain now agrees) who sought and received McCain’s help in pressuring the Federal Communications Commission. Perhaps McCain did nothing corrupt, but he promiscuously accuses others of corruption, or the "appearance" thereof. And he insists that the appearance of corruption justifies laws criminalizing political behavior — e.g., broadcasting an electioneering communication that "refers to" a federal candidate during the McCain-Feingold blackout period close to an election.


Although his campaign is run by lobbyists; and although his dealings with lobbyists have generated what he, when judging the behavior of others, calls corrupt appearances; and although he has profited from his manipulation of the taxpayer-funding system that is celebrated by reformers — still, he probably is innocent of insincerity. Such is his towering moral vanity, he seems sincerely to consider it theoretically impossible for him to commit the offenses of appearances that he incessantly ascribes to others.

Such certitude is, however, not merely an unattractive trait. It is disturbing righteousness in someone grasping for presidential powers.

Will adds a little detail to the dynamics of the Von Spakovsky nomination I laid out the other day. The guy who originally mobilized opposition to Von Spakovsky, Trevor Potter, is the same guy McCain will rely on to argue that–in spite of receiving benefits from his decision to accept matching funds–McCain should not be held to the requirements imposed by that decision.

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McCain Hearts Renzi

Not only is Rick Renzi unwilling to step down from the House, but John Straight Talk for Lobbyists McCain is unwilling to kick him out of his campaign.

Asked in Ohio today, however, McCain said “it doesn’t matter” if Renzi stays on his campaign or not. Watch it:

McCain has been staunchly loyal to his fellow Arizonian. After the FBI investigation into Renzi was first reported in October 2006, McCain vouched for Renzi’s “integrity” in a robo-call to Arizona voters:

This is Senator John McCain. I’m calling to urge you to support my friend, Representative Rick Renzi for Congress. Rick has represented the first district of Arizona with tenacity, honesty and integrity beyond reproach.

Perhaps the several AZ folks who hang around these parts will help me out. But isn’t Renzi one of the best known carpet-baggers in Congress? Further, don’t most of the ethical, um, exuberances that were not charged, but should have been, associated with him bringing pork to Daddy’s (RIP) boondoggle in Huachuca–outside of Renzi’s district. That is, Renzi’s been a great second Congressman for AZ’s 8th CD, but a piss poor one for its first district, the one that elected him.

Someone ought to confirm with McCain that he meant to invoke the first district in this statement.

Or even better, folks ought to ask McCain why it is that he’s so loyal to a spooked up Congressman who is so obviously violating the trust of his constituents (regardless of whether he committed a crime or not). I imagine this support for Renzi will grow more embarrassing for Mr. Straight Talk for Lobbyists, as he go forward.

So why is he risking that embarrassment now?