Sunday, August 31, 2008
August 31, 2008
With the news of Sarah Louise Heath Palin inexplicably being chosen as a Vice-Presidential nominee, the attentive American public was also introduced to her character. Unfortunately for all of us, it was filled with multiple instances of backtracking and outright lies. While Alaskans had been giving her an 80% approval rating, recently 87% of Alaskans polled on the subject of TrooperGate believed she was lying.
Now, I've known liars in my life. Their single core problem is not with themselves, but those around them. If they're never called out on their twisting of truths and fabrications, they simply continue to make larger lies.
Well, Sarah, I'm calling you a liar. And not even a good one. Trig Paxson Van Palin is not your son. He is your grandson. The sooner you come forward with this revelation to the public, the better.
The story begins on March 6th, when Sarah decided to come forward and announce to the world that she was pregnant, a monumental occasion for an acting Governor. Republican Governor Jane Maria Swift of Massachusetts was the first sitting Governor in United States history to give birth in office just seven years before, and now here we were once again. Yet, no one could believe the news:
JUNEAU -- Gov. Sarah Palin shocked and awed just about everybody around the Capitol on Wednesday when she announced she's expecting her fifth child.
Palin said she's already about seven months along, with the baby due to arrive in mid-May.
That the pregnancy is so advanced astonished all who heard the news. The governor, a runner who's always been trim, simply doesn't look pregnant.
Even close members of her staff said they only learned this week their boss was expecting.
"I thought it was becoming obvious," Palin said. "You know, clothes getting snugger and snugger."
But people just couldn't believe the news.
"Really? No!" said Bethel state Rep. Mary Nelson, who is close to giving birth herself.
"It's wonderful. She's very well-disguised," said Senate President Lyda Green, a mother of three who has sometimes sparred with Palin politically. "When I was five months pregnant, there was absolutely no question that I was with child."
Palin said she's not aiming to take any time off from her job as governor, assuming all goes well with the pregnancy.
With Palin riding extraordinarily high popularity ratings, pundits have mentioned her as a potential vice presidential candidate. But she said Wednesday night she's "not pursuing or perpetuating it," adding, "I have no desire to leave my job at all as governor."
She's known as a fashion plate, but said she hasn't been dressing differently to cover her barely perceptible bulge.
Funny quote on her having no desire for the Vice-Presidency aside, the article is direly clear. No one knew she was pregnant, not even her own staff. Quite a feat. Why the secrecy? Sarah has never given an answer, and upon further reading, no one has bothered to ask.
Seven months into a pregnancy, and no one noticed.
Even Harry Houdini would be impressed. ... ( more )
© 2008 Independent Media Institute
Friday, August 29, 2008
The Huffington Post
August 29, 2008
I think we will look back at today as the day when the Republicans most certainly lost the Presidency. In choosing Sarah Palin of Alaska for Vice President, the Republicans have made a cynical but clever choice. At least they think it is clever. She is a woman, young (44 years old), a Governor (only two years), a mother (five children), pro-life, and pro-gun. But what is she not? She is NOT pro-choice. She has NO national experience. She has never been under the intense scrutiny of a national campaign. She is under investigation for some incident in Alaska that is messy and personal. She has no international experience. Her experience governing is in a very small state, famous for its "Bridge to Nowhere" kind of political graft. Her Republican colleague in that state, Senator Ted Stevens has been indicted for corruption.
When Republicans and independents go into the voting booth, will they have the confidence to vote for a McCain-Palin ticket, knowing that John McCain has had several recurrences of his skin cancer, and will be the oldest President ever? Can they imagine Sarah Palin stepping into the Oval Office and dealing with all the problems we face right now? The Russians and the terrorists must be quaking in their boots.
It's a slap in the face of other Republican women like Kay Bailey Hutchison, bless her heart, who was forced to stumble through an interview on TV trying to make the case for Palin whom she has never met. There are certainly women in the Republican party who were "in line" for this before Palin. Did the Rovian type advisors to McCain just cynically think that throwing a young attractive inexperienced woman into the mix would satisfy women who long to see a woman president? Women, and Republican women, are not so stupid as to fall for that! It is reminiscent of the Republicans putting up Alan Keyes to run against Barack Obama for the Illinois Senate just because he was black. Voters saw through that pretty quickly.
It's also a slap in the face of Democratic women voters. They don't get Hillary but they get Sarah as the first potential woman President? In fact, I can just hear Biden saying, "Sarah Palin, you are NO Hillary Clinton!" I would imagine that the few remaining Clinton supporters who are wondering if they should support John McCain are even more leery now. There is absolutely no overlap between the positions Hillary Clinton has fought her entire life for and Sarah Palin. The two women are not remotely substitutable. They are as different as they can be.
How will this cynicism play with American voters? It is insulting to women to suggest that just "any" woman will do!
Copyright © 2008 HuffingtonPost.com, Inc.
The Huffington Post
August 28, 2008
With a few standout exceptions, the television coverage of the Democratic Convention is so grossly disconnected with the reality on the floor that, if I were more conspiratorial, I'd wonder whether the networks hadn't pre-taped their coverage months ago. Sort of like that SNL sketch in which Dana Carvey plays Tom Brokaw -- preemptively taping an on-air obituary for Gerald Ford. "Tragedy today as former president Gerald Ford was eaten by wolves."
While obviously not canned, the DNC coverage this week definitely appears to follow a preordained law: When the Republicans attack, repeat the attack over and over. When the Democrats attack, attack the Democrats. For lack of a better term, let's call it Scarborough's Law, in honor of Joe "The Shovel" Scarborough.
Scarborough's Law explains everything we're observing on cable news this week, and it will become especially evident next week during the Republican convention. Worse, this phenomenon is partly how we ended up in Iraq, and despite all of the mea culpas from old media since 2006 or so, this practically habitual, knee-jerk law remains in play with few exceptions.
When the McCain campaign latched onto this silly "Greek pillars" story, Drudge picked it up and, because he's America's Assignment Editor, it's all we heard about on cable news -- especially MSNBC's Morning Joe. And now, concern trolls are urging the Democrats to backpedal -- to not only rip down the pillars, but to abandon Invesco Field altogether. And if the Democrats were to in fact backpedal, the usual suspects would truck out the "Democrats weak! Republicans strong!" scene as if on cue.
See how that works? Rather than ignoring this desperate attack as nonsense, or debunking it with a wide variety of photos of Senator McCain speaking in front of Greek pillars, cable news is, once again, performing with Republican cue cards.
Tragedy today as the Clintons are feuding with the Obamas. Exaggerated and ultimately debunked. Tragedy today as the Democrats are lacking "red meat." There was red meat served by the truckload from Senator Kerry, Governor Schweitzer, President Clinton, and many others. Just because Pat Buchanan didn't hear it, it apparently never happened. Tragedy today as Senator Obama is a Greek God celebrity who's out of touch with ordinary people. Torn directly from the McCain campaign's own ridiculous blog.
And then we have this week's most obnoxious non-FOX News example of a host repeating Republican talking points verbatim, courtesy of the actual Tom Brokaw who last night responded to President Clinton's speech by shouting:
"When John McCain was sitting in a prison in Hanoi, Bill Clinton was writing letters to his ROTC commander trying to get out of the draft!"
I think Mr. Brokaw pre-taped that one 16 years ago.
So we're not allowed to criticize Senator McCain on foreign policy... because Senator McCain was a POW? I rest my case. This remark was clearly horked almost verbatim from the Rove-McCain campaign playbook of the last two or three weeks. The playbook that suggests everything can be deflected by exploiting Senator McCain's experiences in the war. The all purpose POW card: now with added cred from NBC's anchor emeritus Tom Brokaw.
By the same strained, exploitative cranky logic are we also not allowed to criticize McCain for having a nonexistent health care plan... because of his skin cancer? (I hasten to note: skin cancer that was treated via socialized medicine.) Are we not allowed to criticize McCain on his plan to privatize social security... because he's an old man?
Where were you, Mr. Brokaw, when the Republicans paraded around their convention four years ago wearing purple heart Band-Aids, mocking Senator Kerry's Vietnam heroism? Unless I'm mistaken, I don't recall hearing any similar such indictments from you -- especially when those Band-Aids should have been a thousand times more deserving of a Brokaw spanking than anything President Clinton said last night.
Meanwhile, over on CNN, when they're not desperately hunting for PUMAs to fuel the exaggerated "disunity" frame, they're consulting with known race-baiter Alex Castellanos who, before he began collecting CNN paychecks, collected paychecks from Jesse Helms in exchange for masterminding racist ads like the infamous "White Hands" commercial. Very serious, CNN. Hire a guy who produced the most notoriously racist political ad this side of Willie Horton to cover a convention in which the first African-American is nominated by a major party. And riddle me this: even though they've been compelled to capitulate to the Republican demands for ideological balance, why a known racist? Oh, right. It's hard work to find a Republican strategist who isn't.
There is, however, some hope for sanity. Regarding her forthcoming show on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow told Howard Kurtz this week:
"I'm sorry -- we're going to have a debate about whether or not the Earth is flat? It doesn't make sense to have a debate about whether offshore drilling is going to bring down gas prices. You know what? It's not. The fact that it's false ought to be reported, or you're advancing a lie."
Right. For example, the Republicans can only win this thing by suggesting that the less-wealthy African-American candidate who was raised by a single mother and who only recently paid off his student loans is too "exotic." Scarborough's Law dictates that Senator Obama either defend himself or Republican shills on cable and talk radio will repeat this lie over and over. And when someone from the Obama campaign responds, there's no vindication from the press -- instead, the Obama campaign is inexplicably and incongruously accused of dishonoring Senator McCain's POW experience. As Rachel pointed out, there shouldn't even be a debate about this specious GOP attack in the first place -- rather, it should be reported as false, or not reported at all considering how ass backwards it is.
So it's no wonder that much of the reporting from the convention doesn't seem to match what we're observing either in person or on C-SPAN. Further, it's no wonder why Senator McCain's poll numbers are artificially inflated and the reactions to various Obama campaign events are muted or somehow flipped into negatives. Not unlike the run-up to the Iraq invasion and the previous two presidential campaigns, the reality of this election is being so grossly obfuscated in lieu of a seemingly pre-taped perspective that, once again, old media is enabling an agenda of American self-destruction.
Thankfully, and in the spirit of Senator Obama's acceptance speech tonight, there's hope. Cooler, smarter heads are prevailing. The netroots. Maddow and Olbermann. And, naturally, an energized Obama-Biden Democratic Party that's more disciplined and stronger than any campaign we've seen since, perhaps, 1992. This combination may yet be enough to shred a few cue cards and, more importantly, win the day.
Bob Cesca's Goddamn Awesome Blog! Go!
Copyright © 2008 HuffingtonPost.com, Inc.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
The Left Coaster
August 25, 2008
So as Michelle Obama readies for her starring role tonight, how does the McCain campaign respond? By turning Cindy McCain into his chief diplomat to visit "the little country of Georgia", now somewhat littler after McCain and his chief foreign policy aide led the Georgian leadership into believing they could pick a fight with Vladimir Putin's military and count on an American military response.
John McCain told a crowd at a fundraiser that his wife is on her way to the embattled nation of Georgia, an announcement coming just hours before Barack Obama's wife makes a high-profile speech at the Democratic National Convention.
McCain told a crowd that wife, Cindy, was to accompany him on the California swing and he apologized for her absence.
"Cindy is not here today and I'm sorry she's not," said McCain. "She's on her way to the little country of Georgia."
If the Georgians were hoping for the 82nd Airborne, they'll have to settle for McCain's
Barbie doll Sugar Mama instead. This way McCain can let his wife take the brunt of the hard feelings while she is assessing the humanitarian situation in a faux First Lady tour. During a McCain administration, we can look forward to her visiting all the "little countries", wearing great tightfitting clothes, and shopping for shoes like Condi does.
At least Condi knows when to say nice things about the right people. But isn't sending Cindy McCain to Georgia right about now somewhat akin to shooting the wounded?
© Copyright 2008 The Left Coaster
Monday, August 25, 2008
August 25, 2008
Sen. Barack Obama may be the world's most famous person, but is he big enough, classic enough, or should we say "Boss" enough to command the stage at Mile High Stadium for the Democratic Convention finale?
Rumor has it that, during his Thursday acceptance speech, Obama will be joined on-stage by Bruce Springsteen. Apparently, the Boss is in the middle of a conveniently scheduled six-day tour gap. In addition, a local radio reporter announced that Springsteen's arrival later this week would create serious traffic problems. Darn, those traffic problems.
And if that weren't enough, the Las Vegas Journal says that Springsteen "will follow Obama with a solo acoustic performance on Thursday after Obama's acceptance speech." Meanwhile, the world prays that he doesn't do any Pete Seeger covers.
Now, this is all well and good. But considering the fact that John McCain and the Republicans have zero options when it comes to popular music, the Democrats should not stop at just Springsteen. They should call Jackson Browne, John Mellencamp, and BOSTON for a jam-session the likes of which the political world has never seen.
© Copyright 2007 AOL, LLC. All Rights Reserved
Sunday, August 24, 2008
The New York Times
August 24, 2008
AS the real campaign at last begins in Denver this week, this much is certain: It’s time for Barack Obama to dispatch “Change We Can Believe In” to a dignified death.
This isn’t because — OMG! — Obama’s narrow three- to four-percentage-point lead of recent weeks dropped to a statistically indistinguishable one- to three-point margin during his week of vacation. It’s because zero hour is here. As the presidential race finally gains the country’s full attention, the strategy that vanquished Hillary Clinton must be rebooted to take out John McCain.
“Change We Can Believe In” was brilliantly calculated for a Democratic familial brawl where every candidate was promising nearly identical change from George Bush. It branded Obama as the sole contender with the un-Beltway biography, credibility and political talent to link the promise of change to the nation’s onrushing generational turnover in all its cultural (and, yes, racial) manifestations. McCain should be a far easier mark than Clinton if Obama retools his act.
What we have learned this summer is this: McCain’s trigger-happy temperament and reactionary policies offer worse than no change. He is an unstable bridge back not just to Bush policies but to an increasingly distant 20th-century America that is still fighting Red China in Vietnam and the Soviet Union in the cold war. As the country tries to navigate the fast-moving changes of the 21st century, McCain would put America on hold.
What Obama also should have learned by now is that the press is not his friend. Of course, he gets more ink and airtime than McCain; he’s sexier news. But as George Mason University’s Center for Media and Public Affairs documented in its study of six weeks of TV news reports this summer, Obama’s coverage was 28 percent positive, 72 percent negative. (For McCain, the split was 43/57.) Even McCain’s most blatant confusions, memory lapses and outright lies still barely cause a ripple, whether he’s railing against a piece of pork he in fact voted for, as he did at the Saddleback Church pseudodebate last weekend, or falsifying crucial details of his marital history in his memoirs, as The Los Angeles Times uncovered in court records last month.
What should Obama do now? As premature panic floods through certain liberal precincts, there’s no shortage of advice: more meat to his economic plan, more passion in his stump delivery, less defensiveness in response to attacks and, as is now happening, sharper darts at a McCain lifestyle so extravagant that we are only beginning to learn where all the beer bullion is buried.
But Obama is never going to be a John Edwards-style populist barnburner. (Edwards wasn’t persuasive either, by the way.) Nor will wonkish laundry lists of policy details work any better for him than they did for Al Gore or Hillary Clinton. Obama has those details to spare, in any case, while McCain, who didn’t even include an education policy on his Web site during primary season, is still winging it. As David Leonhardt observes in his New York Times Magazine cover article on “Obamanomics” today, Obama’s real problem is not a lack of detail but his inability to sell policy with “an effective story.”
That story is there to be told, but it has to be a story that is more about America and the future and less about Obama and his past. After all these months, most Americans, for better or worse, know who Obama is. So much so that he seems to have fought off the relentless right-wing onslaught to demonize him as an elitist alien. Asked in last week’s New York Times/CBS News poll if each candidate shares their values, registered voters gave Obama and McCain an identical 63 percent. Asked if each candidate “cares about the needs and problems of people like yourself,” Obama beat McCain by 37 to 23 percent. Is the candidate “someone you can relate to”? Obama: 55 percent, McCain: 41. Even before McCain told Politico that he relies on the help to count up the houses he owns, he was the candidate seen as the out-of-step elitist.
So while Obama can continue to try to reassure resistant Clinton loyalists in Appalachia that he’s not a bogeyman from Madrassaland, he must also move on to the bigger picture for everyone else. He must rekindle the “fierce urgency of now” — but not, as he did in the primaries, merely to evoke uplifting echoes of the civil-rights struggle or the need for withdrawal from Iraq.
Most Americans, unlike the press, are not obsessed by race. (Those whites who are obsessed by race will not vote for Obama no matter what he or anyone else has to say about it.) And most Americans have turned their backs on the Iraq war, no matter how much McCain keeps bellowing about “victory.” The Bush White House is now poised to alight with the Iraqi government on a withdrawal timetable far closer to Obama’s 16 months than McCain’s vague promise of a 2013 endgame. As Gen. David Petraeus returns home, McCain increasingly resembles those mad Japanese soldiers who remained at war on remote Pacific islands years after Hiroshima.
Economic anxiety is the new terrorism. This is why the most relevant snapshot of voters’ concerns was not to be found at Saddleback Church but at the Olympics last Saturday. For all the political press’s hype, only some 5.5 million viewers tuned in to the Rev. Rick Warren’s show in Orange County, Calif. Roughly three-quarters of them were over 50 — in other words, the McCain base. By contrast, a diverse audience of 32 million Americans tuned in to Beijing that night to watch Michael Phelps win his eighth gold medal.
This was a rare feel-good moment for a depressed country. But the unsettling subtext of the Olympics has been as resonant for Americans as the Phelps triumph. You couldn’t watch NBC’s weeks of coverage without feeling bombarded by an ascendant China whose superior cache of gold medals and dazzling management of the Games became a proxy for its spectacular commercial and cultural prowess in the new century. Even before the Olympics began, a July CNN poll found that 70 percent of Americans fear China’s economic might — about as many as find America on the wrong track. Americans watching the Olympics could not escape the reality that China in particular and Asia in general will continue to outpace our country in growth while we remain mired in stagnancy and debt (much of it held by China).
How we dig out of this quagmire is the American story that Obama must tell. It is not a story of endless conflicts abroad but a potentially inspiring tale of serious economic, educational, energy and health-care mobilization at home. We don’t have the time or resources to go off on more quixotic military missions or to indulge in culture wars. (In China, they’re too busy exploiting scientific advances for competitive advantage to reopen settled debates about Darwin.) Americans must band together for change before the new century leaves us completely behind. The Obama campaign actually has plans, however imperfect or provisional, to set us on that path; the McCain campaign offers only disposable Band-Aids typified by the “drill now” mantra that even McCain says will only have a “psychological” effect on gas prices.
Even as it points to America’s future, the Obama campaign also has the duty to fill in its opponent’s past. McCain’s attacks on Obama have worked: in last week’s Los Angeles Times-Bloomberg poll, Obama’s favorable rating declined from 59 to 48 percent and his negative rating rose from 27 to 35. Yet McCain still has a lower positive rating (46 percent) and higher negative rating (38) than Obama. McCain is not nearly as popular among Americans, it turns out, as he is among his journalistic camp followers. Should voters actually get to know him, he has nowhere to go but down.
The argument against Obama’s “going negative” is that it undermines his message of “transcendent politics” and will make him look like an “angry black man.” But pacifistic politics is an oxymoron, and Obama is constitutionally incapable of coming off angrier than McCain. A few more fisticuffs from the former law professor (and many more from his running mate and other surrogates) can only help make him look less skinny (metaphorically if not literally). Obama should go after McCain’s supposedly biggest asset — experience — much as McCain went after Obama’s crowd-drawing celebrity.
It is, after all, not mere happenstance that so many conservative pundits — Rich Lowry, Peggy Noonan, Ramesh Ponnuru — have, to McCain’s irritation, proposed that he “patriotically” declare in advance that he will selflessly serve only a single term. Whatever their lofty stated reasons for promoting this stunt, their underlying message is clear: They recognize in their heart of hearts that the shelf life of McCain’s experience has already reached its expiration date.
Is a man who is just discovering the Internet qualified to lead a restoration of America’s economic and educational infrastructures? Is the leader of a virtually all-white political party America’s best salesman and moral avatar in the age of globalization? Does a bellicose Vietnam veteran who rushed to hitch his star to the self-immolating overreaches of Ahmad Chalabi, Pervez Musharraf and Mikheil Saakashvili have the judgment to keep America safe?
R.I.P., “Change We Can Believe In.” The fierce urgency of the 21st century demands Change Before It’s Too Late.
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
The New York Times
August 24, 2008
My mom did not approve of men who cheated on their wives. She called them “long-tailed rats.”
During the 2000 race, she listened to news reports about John McCain confessing to dalliances that caused his first marriage to fall apart after he came back from his stint as a P.O.W. in Vietnam.
I figured, given her stringent moral standards, that her great affection for McCain would be dimmed.
“So,” I asked her, “what do you think of that?”
“A man who lives in a box for five years can do whatever he wants,” she replied matter-of-factly.
I was startled, but it brought home to me what a powerful get-out-of-jail-free card McCain had earned by not getting out of jail free.
His brutal hiatus in the Hanoi Hilton is one of the most stirring narratives ever told on the presidential trail — a trail full of heroic war stories. It created an enormous credit line of good will with the American people. It also allowed McCain, the errant son of the admiral who was the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific during Vietnam — his jailers dubbed McCain the “Crown Prince” — to give himself some credit.
“He has been preoccupied with escaping the shadow of his father and establishing his own image and identity in the eyes of others,” read a psychiatric evaluation in his medical files. “He feels his experiences and performance as a P.O.W. have finally permitted this to happen.”
The ordeal also gave a more sympathetic cast to his carousing. As Robert Timberg wrote in “John McCain: An American Odyssey,” “What is true is that a number of P.O.W.’s, in those first few years after their release, often acted erratically, their lives pockmarked by drastic mood swings and uncharacteristic behavior before achieving a more mellow equilibrium.” Timberg said Hemingway’s line that people were stronger in the broken places was not always right.
So it’s hard to believe that John McCain is now in danger of exceeding his credit limit on the equivalent of an American Express black card. His campaign is cheapening his greatest strength — and making a mockery of his already dubious claim that he’s reticent to talk about his P.O.W. experience — by flashing the P.O.W. card to rebut any criticism, no matter how unrelated. The captivity is already amply displayed in posters and TV advertisements.
The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, the pastor who married Jenna Bush and who is part of a new Christian-based political action committee supporting Obama, recently criticized the joke McCain made at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally encouraging Cindy to enter the topless Miss Buffalo Chip contest. The McCain spokesman Brian Rogers brought out the bottomless excuse, responding with asperity that McCain’s character had been “tested and forged in ways few can fathom.”
When the Obama crowd was miffed to learn that McCain was in a motorcade rather than in a “cone of silence” while Obama was being questioned by Rick Warren, Nicolle Wallace of the McCain camp retorted, “The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous.”
When Obama chaffed McCain for forgetting how many houses he owns, Rogers huffed, “This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years — in prison.”
As Sam Stein notes in The Huffington Post: “The senator has even brought his military record into discussion of his music tastes. Explaining that his favorite song was ‘Dancing Queen’ by Abba, he offered that his knowledge of music ‘stopped evolving when his plane intercepted a surface-to-air missile.’ ‘Dancing Queen,’ however, was produced in 1975, eight years after McCain’s plane was shot down.”
The Kerry Swift-boat attacks in 2004 struck down the off-limits signs that were traditionally on a candidate’s military service. Many Democrats are willing to repay the favor, and Republicans clearly no longer see war medals as sacrosanct.
In a radio interview last week, Representative Terry Everett, an Alabama Republican, let loose with a barrage at the Democrat John Murtha, a decorated Vietnam War veteran who is the head of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, calling him “cut-and-run John Murtha” and an “idiot.”
“And don’t talk to me about him being an ex-marine,” Everett said. “Lord, that was 40 years ago. A lot of stuff can happen in 40 years.”
The real danger to the McCain crew in overusing the P.O.W. line so much that it’s a punch line is that it will give Obama an opening for critical questions:
While McCain’s experience was heroic, did it create a worldview incapable of anticipating the limits to U.S. military power in Iraq? Did he fail to absorb the lessons of Vietnam, so that he is doomed to always want to refight it? Did his captivity inform a search-and-destroy, shoot-first-ask-questions-later, “We are all Georgians,” mentality?
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
Saturday, August 23, 2008
August 20, 2008
The world according to John McCain is one in which America is triumphant at home and abroad thanks to the Bush legacy, rolling to victory internationally and mastering its domestic economic problems. If daily news, like reports of the 10 French soldiers killed by a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan and the U.S. government's imminent nationalization of much of the American mortgage-lending industry, would seem to deny such a rosy scenario, then that only shows skeptics lack the courage that sustained McCain as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
There you have it encapsulated, the McCain campaign for president, an irrational mélange of patriotic swagger and blindness to reality that is proving disturbingly successful with uninformed voters. How else to explain the many millions of Americans who tell pollsters they prefer a continuation of Republican rule when so many of them are losing their homes to foreclosure and the nation is devastated by out-of-control military spending?
The economy is in a downward spiral, the national debt is at an all-time high, the dollar is an international disgrace and inflation in July had the steepest rise in 27 years, driven by oil prices fivefold higher than when George W. Bush invaded the nation with the world's second-largest petroleum reserves.
While the oil-rich Mideast nations we protect refuse to fully open the oil spigots as payback for our military efforts, McCain celebrates Gen. David Petraeus as his No. 1 hero for "victory" in Iraq. Aside from the reality that victory there is now defined as returning to the level of stability provided by Saddam Hussein, who the Bush administration admits had nothing to do with the bin Laden-led terrorists, even that goal requires the cooperation of our former sworn enemies, Iran's ayatollahs.
Presumably McCain envisions a more favorable outcome for Georgia, to which he would commit the unqualified support of the United States with his outrageously overreaching statement that "we are all Georgians." If Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama had been in contact with the leader of a nation before and after that nation provoked a war, his campaign would be a shambles. Not so McCain, who is acting as if he is already the elected commander in chief ensconced in a reconstituted neoconservative-dominated White House. By contrast, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been reduced to a blustering bystander.
That military victory in Iraq and any other trouble spot is the key selling point of the McCain campaign is odd, because McCain's credentials derive from participation in a war that resulted in the most ignominious defeat in U.S. history. How else to think of the loss of almost 59,000 Americans and 3.4 million Indochinese in a war that even McCain has long since not seriously tried to defend. Surely McCain accepted the notion that a Communist Party-run Vietnam was compatible with U.S. security interests when he, along with Sen. John Kerry, led the fight for U.S. recognition of Vietnam.
Wouldn't it have been grand if McCain, who made his own pilgrimage of reconciliation to Hanoi, would have drawn the proper lesson from that sad chapter in American history -- that victory isn't everything it's cracked up to be? Or, by extension, from the recent Olympic festivities in still-Red China, where Bush was photographed quite happily near portraits of the once-dreaded Chairman Mao, whom U.S. propaganda had long described, quite erroneously, as chief sponsor of the Vietnamese communists.
We are reminded of how brilliant Republican Richard Nixon was in rejecting the neoconservative addiction to the Cold War that McCain embraces when the late president traveled to Beijing to make peace with the man previously depicted as the bloodiest of communist dictators. It turns out that the various communist movements were nationalist above all else, and when we "lost" in Vietnam, the result was not attacks on the United States, but a war between China and Vietnam.
The lesson McCain should have learned is that the world is a complex place, that today's enemies may be tomorrow's negotiating partners -- as Obama has at times dared to suggest -- and that the neoconservative idea of a Pax Americana is a dangerous fantasy. And a costly one at that, not only in lost lives and blowback from the regions we destabilize, but also in the dollars that American taxpayers must waste.Thanks to the absurdly misdirected war on terrorism that McCain so enthusiastically supports, we spend more annually in inflation-adjusted dollars on the military than at any time since World War II, even more than during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Vote for McCain and forget about funding to solve the Social Security, Medicare and subprime mortgage disasters or for anything else that truly would make America stronger.
© 2008 Truthdig
Media Matters for America
With Barack Obama and John McCain each trying portray the other as an out-of-touch, wealthy elitist, there's one thing missing from media coverage of the skirmish: an assessment of what the two candidates' policy positions say about how well they understand and care about the needs of average Americans.
The latest imbroglio was sparked by John McCain's admission on Wednesday that he does not know how many houses he owns. That statement came on the heels of McCain's initial refusal last weekend to define "rich," after which he indicated a yearly salary of $5 million is the threshold for being rich, a comment he then suggested was a joke. But McCain never did define the term, even though he has in the past based his opposition to tax cuts he now supports on the fact that they disproportionately benefit the wealthy.
The Obama campaign quickly responded with an ad pointing out that McCain didn't know how many homes he owns, and answering the question for the Arizona senator: seven homes worth a total of $13 million, according to the Obama campaign.
McCain's camp responded angrily, with spokesperson Brian Rogers defending McCain: "This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years -- in prison" and saying Obama's house is "a frickin' mansion." Apparently forgetting that just a few days earlier, their candidate suggested that you aren't rich unless you make $5 million a year, McCain's campaign also mocked Obama for making $4 million last year.
Naturally, the news media rushed to cover the fight. Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post explained the importance:
In politics, there is nothing worse than appearing out of touch.
From time immemorial, a candidate who is effectively portrayed as forgetting about the "little" people, of having "gone Washington," of living higher on the hog than voters, loses.
Class remains a powerful motivator for many voters in the country. Politicians are forever trying to cast their candidacies as closely rooted in the communities from which they sprung -- a purposeful attempt to ensure that voters know that the candidate "understands the problems of people like you." Put simply: The worst thing you can call a politician is an elitist.
But in more than 1,000 words about the importance of candidates' convincing voters they are not "out of touch" and understand the problems of typical Americans, Cillizza made no mention of the candidates' policy positions. Didn't even hint that such things might indicate, in a more concrete way than the shoes they wear or the salad greens they favor, whether the candidates truly understand the problems of the people they would serve -- and whether they would do anything to ease those problems. Cillizza's focus was entirely on the perception and the politics of the dispute -- without so much as an acknowledgment that the candidates' policies might more meaningfully indicate whether one (or both) of them is "out of touch."
And Cillizza's approach carried the day. NBC's Nightly News, the CBS Evening News, ABC's World News, The New York Times, and The Washington Post -- among others -- ignored the candidates' policy positions in their reports on the flap. Instead, they focused on the campaign attacks -- and on attempting to assess which would be more effective. But assessments like these have absolutely no merit, no value. They serve no purpose; they do not educate viewers and readers about anything that matters. As Congressional Quarterly senior editor Chris Lehmann explained this week:
Market share dictates the witless coverage, which is largely for the media's own amusement. You see that all the time on the Sunday political chat shows, which are always about the polls and who is performing better in strategic terms. The only constituency that cares about that is the media. I have family around the country and we always talk politics, and no one ever asks me, "How did Obama perform on his European tour?" It's an asinine question.
Rather than attempting to guess how voters will score the exchange so they can tell the voters how they'll react (an exercise that is pointless at best), reporters should be giving them additional information that will help them meaningfully assess the candidates.
When John Edwards was running for president, and the media were obsessing about his wealth, they linked his fortune to his policy positions. Surely John McCain -- who can't remember how many houses he owns, "jokes" that you aren't rich unless you make $5 million a year, and supports tax policies that would save him and his wife, Cindy, nearly $400,000 a year -- should be held to the same standard?
Of course, John McCain is rarely held to the same standard the media apply to Democrats. But if basic fairness doesn't convince reporters to examine how the candidates' policy proposals relate to their wealth -- and to the voters they are trying to woo -- maybe this will: John McCain wants the media to link the candidates' wealth with their proposals.
McCain's campaign released a statement yesterday linking Obama's 2007 salary with his "plans to raise taxes." (Obama would, in fact, cut taxes on the vast majority of Americans, which didn't stop several journalists from reporting McCain's false attack as though it were true.) If media darling John McCain wants the media to consider the candidates' wealth in concert with their policy proposals ... well, few reporters have a track record of resisting McCain's desires. Why should they start now?It's easy to get caught up in trying to count John McCain's houses or listing Barack Obama's preferred salad greens or trying to figure out whether there's a Whole Foods in Iowa or how much John and Cindy McCain spend on household staff. But reporters covering these who-is-the-real-elitist battles should keep in mind that for most voters, the candidates' bank accounts are less important than their own. The candidates' policy positions -- their tax plans, their proposals for dealing with the mortgage crisis, their health care plans, among others -- should be part of any news report purporting to assess the skirmish over which candidate is more in touch with the needs of the typical American.
© 2008 Media Matters for America
Friday, August 22, 2008
Michael Moore Dares to Ask: What's So Heroic About Being Shot Down While Bombing Innocent Civilians?
August 21, 2008
Confession: I have not yet read all six (short, illustrated, large type) chapters of Mike's Election Guide 2008, Michael Moore's, latest work of jaunty political opinion. Am I supposed to discuss it with him on "Meet the Bloggers" tomorrow? Yes. But I'm not worried. It's a breezy read, has already made me laugh out loud, and besides, I may have already found the best part in Chapter One.
The title is "Ask Mike!" and, in it, ordinary voters, old and young, pose questions about politics and current events. Some are more serious than others ("If Iran has weapons of mass destruction, we should invade, right?"), which does not make Moore's answers any more subtle. ("Excuuuuuse me? Did you say the words, 'weapons of mass destruction?' Take it back. I SAID TAKE IT BACK!") Of course, the "questions" are really satirical jabs at the media -- "When a Republican wears a little American flag lapel pin, what is he trying to say?" "If Obama can't bowl, can he govern?" -- but there's one in particular that is worth paying attention to -- especially if you happen to be a member of the press and have been utterly unwilling to take McCain's supporters and opponents alike to task for perpetuating a narrative that would be central to a McCain victory, and which has already become a dominant theme in this election: The McCain as War Hero canard.
The "question" is posted thusly:
"Why did the Vietnamese shoot down John McCain and put him in prison for five years? He seems like such a nice guy."
ANSWER: I'm guessing, in spite of his anger management issues, he is a nice guy.
He has devoted his life to this country. He was willing to make the ultimate
sacrifice in the defense of our nation. And for that, he was tortured and then
imprisoned in a North Vietnamese POW camp for nearly five-and-a-half years.
That's the set-up. It gets better. Moore proceeds, not to question, as Wesley Clark recently did to so many shrieks of criticism, whether McCain's capture really makes him qualified to be president of the United States -- the answer, any thinking person realizes, is "no" -- but whether the Vietnam war was a conflict that can really be said to have produced the breed of "American hero" McCain is so often celebrated as.
"Sadly," he writes, "McCain's sacrifice had nothing to do with protecting the United States. He was sent to Vietnam along with hundreds of thousands of others in an attempt to prop up what was essentially an American colony, South Vietnam, which was being run by a dictator whom we installed."
Lest we forget, the Vietnam War represented a mass slaughter by the United
States government on a scale that sought to rival our genocide of the Native
Americans. The U.S. Armed Forces killed more than two million civilians in
Vietnam (and perhaps another million in Laos and Cambodia). The Vietnamese had
done nothing to us. They had not bombed or invaded or even sought to murder a
single American. President Johnson and the Pentagon lied to Congress in order to
get a vote passed to put the war in full gear. Only two senators had the guts to
John McCain flew 23 bombing missions over North Vietnam in a campaign called
Operation Rolling Thunder. During this bombing campaign, which lasted for almost
44 months, U.S. forces flew 307,000 attack sorties, dropping 643,000 tons of
bombs on North Vietnam (roughly the same tonnage dropped in the Pacific during
all of World War II). Though the stated targets were factories, bridges, and
power plants, thousands of bombs also fell on homes, schools, and hospitals. In
the midst of the campaign, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara estimated that we were killing 1,000 civilians a week. That's more than one 9/11 every single
month -- for 44 months.
Alas, McCain does have some regrets about Vietnam. As Moore points out, in his memoir Faith of Our Fathers, McCain called it "illogical" and "senseless" that he was limited to bombing only military targets.
"I do believe," McCain wrote, "that had we taken the war to the North and
made full, consistent use of air power in the North, we ultimately would have
In other words, McCain believes we could have won the Vietnam War had
he been able to drop even more bombs.
When McCain was shot down, on October 26, 1967, he was busy bombing what he would describe as a "heavily populated part of Hanoi."
John McCain is already using the Vietnam War in his political ads. In doing so,
it makes not just what happened to him in Vietnam fair game for discussion, but
also what he did to the Vietnamese … I would like to see one brave reporter
during the election season ask this simple question of John McCain: "Is it
morally right to drop bombs and missiles in a 'heavily populated' area where
hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians will perish?"
Of course, no member of the "mainstream" media is going to ask John McCain that question. (And given his famous quips on "Bomb-bomb-bomb-ing Iran" or, when asked to comment on the U.S. exporting cigarettes to the country, on the speculation that "Maybe that's a way of killing them,", the answer may be too disturbing to bear.) Regardless, this is the same press that obligingly calls McCain a "maverick" and McCain's campaign bus the "Straight-talk Express." Going after his war hero credentials? Why, that would be ... un-American.
I Spent Years as a POW with John McCain, and His Finger Should Not Be Near the Red Button
Thursday, August 21, 2008
HuffPost Reporting From DC
The Huffington Post
August 21, 2008
John McCain said in an interview with Politico on Wednesday "that he was uncertain how many houses he and his wife, Cindy, own."
"I think -- I'll have my staff get to you," McCain said. "It's condominiums where -- I'll have them get to you."
The answer, according to the group Progressive Accountability, is an even 10 homes, ranches, condos, and lofts, together worth a combined estimated $13,823,269.
John and Cindy McCain own a plethora of houses spread throughout the United States, including: two beachfront condos in Coronado, California, condo in La Jolla, California, a two-unit condominium complex in Phoenix, Arizona, three ranch houses located outside of Sedona, Arizona, a high-rise condo in Arlington, Virginia, a rental loft, and, according to GQ, a loft they bought for their daughter, Meghan.
As Politico notes, McCain's comments are a serious potential gaffe, as they dovetail with an increasingly aggressive effort to paint the GOP nominee as wildly out of touch on economic issues.
In recent weeks, Democrats have stepped up their effort to caricature McCain as
living an outlandishly rich lifestyle -- a bit of payback to the GOP for portraying Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) as an elitist, and for turning the spotlight in 2004 on the five homes owned by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.
Pro-Obama labor groups have sent out mailers highlighting McCain's wealth, and prominent Democrats have included references to it in comments to reporters.
Twice in the past two weeks, those Democrats have focused on McCain's houses.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Politico's Ben Smith that it was McCain "who wears $500 shoes, has six houses and comes from one of the richest families in his state."
And David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist, referred in an interview with Adam Nagourney of The New York Times to an imagined meeting of McCain strategists "on the portico of the McCain estate in Sedona -- or maybe in one of his six other houses."
McCain's comments came four days after he initially told Pastor Rick WarrenUPDATE: Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine piles on:
during a faith forum on Sunday his threshold for considering someone rich is $5
million -- a careless comment he quickly corrected.
Obama V.P. prospect and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine mocked Sen. John McCain,
R-Ariz., on Thursday for not knowing exactly how many houses he owns.
"I understand that Sen. McCain was asked yesterday this question, 'how
many houses do you own?,' and he couldn't answer that question. He couldn't
count high enough, apparently, to even know how many houses he owns," said
Copyright © 2008 HuffingtonPost.com, Inc.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
August 19, 2008
Fellow Naval Academy classmate and POW of John McCain Phillip Butler is saying the Great Unmentionable.
John was a wild man. He was funny, with a quick wit and he was intelligent. But he was intent on breaking every USNA regulation in our 4 inch thick USNA Regulations book. And I believe he must have come as close to his goal as any midshipman who ever attended the Academy. John had me "coming around" to his room frequently during my plebe year. And on one occasion he took me with him to escape "over the wall" in the dead of night. He had a taxi cab waiting for us that took us to a bar some 7 miles away. John had a few beers, but forbid me to drink (watching out for me I guess) and made me drink cokes. I could tell many other midshipman stories about John that year and he unbelievably managed to graduate though he spent the majority of his first class year on restriction for the stuff he did get caught doing. In fact he barely managed to graduate, standing 5th from the bottom of his 800 man graduating class. I and many others have speculated that the main reason he did graduate was because his father was an Admiral, and also his grandfather, both U.S. Naval Academy graduates
John was awarded a Silver Star and Purple Heart for heroism and wounds in combat. This heroism has been played up in the press and in his various political campaigns. But it should be known that there were approximately 600 military POW's in Vietnam. Among all of us, decorations awarded have recently been totaled to the following: Medals of Honor - 8, Service Crosses - 42, Silver Stars - 590, Bronze Stars - 958 and Purple Hearts - 1,249. John certainly performed courageously and well. But it must be remembered that he was one hero among many - not uniquely so as his campaigns would have people believe.
I furthermore believe that having been a POW is no special qualification for being President of the United States. The two jobs are not the same, and POW experience is not, in my opinion, something I would look for in a presidential candidate.
Most of us who survived that experience are now in our late 60's and 70's. Sadly, we have died and are dying off at a greater rate than our non-POW contemporaries. We experienced injuries and malnutrition that are coming home to roost. So I believe John's age (73) and survival expectation are not good for being elected to serve as our President for 4 or more years.
I can verify that John has an infamous reputation for being a hot head. He has a quick and explosive temper that many have experienced first hand. Folks, quite honestly that is not the finger I want next to that red button.
It is also disappointing to see him take on and support Bush's war in Iraq, even stating we might be there for another 100 years. For me John represents the entrenched and bankrupt policies of Washington-as-usual. The past 7 years have proven to be disastrous for our country. And I believe John's views on war, foreign policy, economics, environment, health care, education, national infrastructure and other important areas are much the same as those of the Bush administration.
Wow. It's stunning to see someone who knows McCain lay this all out so specifically. And he hits everything -- the age, the temper, the flyboy antics, the policies right in line with Bush. It's all there.
He should have some fun with his newfound not-stardom, with all the not-appearing on news programs and not-being cited in the print media.
© 2008 Hullabaloo
August 20, 2008
In recent months, right-wing opinion outlets of varying pedigrees have accused Barack Obama of participating in an increasingly preposterous web of dopey conspiracies, including plots to make himself the next Hitler, to forge his birth certificate and, most sinisterly, to make children learn Spanish. And thanks to the wonder of the Internet and right-wing blogs, we can now chronicle how right-wing memes are spawned, from their genesis within the comments section of the Free Republic Web site to their viral spread across the Michelle Malkin blog empire to their final destination in the pages of "respectable" conservative opinion journals such as the Weekly Standard, the National Review and the Wall Street Journal op-ed page. In this article, you will learn about the Right's five most unintentionally hilarious not-ready-for-prime-time smears that have been trial-ballooned in various forms during the 2008 presidential campaign. Each conspiracy will be rated on a scale of 1 to 10 wingnuts that will be a reflection of its originality, implausibility and sheer, flat-out insanity.
While I'd like to say that this article will be informative and enlightening, I'm not going to lie to you: Your IQ will plummet by at least 10 points just by reading about the first two smears, and by a whopping 30 points by the time you get to Obama's unseemly affection for fancy vegetables. I recommend listening to a nice collection of Bach cantatas while reading this article, and also having copies of Joyce's Ulysses and Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow nearby in case you need to take a break and feel smart again. Now if you're ready, we're going to move on to the first smear, which just happens to be:
SMEAR #1: OBAMA IS A COMMIE NAZI!
Origins: While accusing Democrats of being commies has been a time-honored American tradition dating back the McCarthy era, the Right has breathed ingenious new life into this old standard by tracing Obama's commie origins back to his pre-fetus years. For as the National Review's Lisa Schiffren deftly notes, Obama's father is black and his mother is white. Why is this important, you ask? Because "for a white woman to marry a black man in 1958 ... there was almost inevitably a connection to explicit Communist politics." Wowsers! So even Obama's very conception was forged out of a mutual hatred for capitalism!
And that's not all: In his autobiography, Dreams From My Father, Obama says he developed a close relationship with poet and activist Frank Marshall Davis during his teen years in Hawaii. Davis, of course, just happened to be A COMMIE! While several poets over the years have been known for their controversial political views -- Ezra Pound, for instance, was a notorious fascist -- Obama's mere association with Davis was enough to prompt blogger Bob "ConfederateYankee" Owens to ask the burning question: "Is Barack Obama a Communist?" Owens allows that right now, "We simply do not know where along the radical leftist continuum Barack Obama's thoughts reside," although he feels certain that Obama must be either a Marxist, a "socialist revolutionary with Maoist tendencies" or an out-and-out communist "like his own wife," who insists that "someone is going to have to give up a piece of their pie so someone else can have more."
The flip side of this vast commie conspiracy, of course, is the idea that Obama is actually simultaneously positioning himself to be the next Adolf Hitler. While it may seem counterintuitive to think of a black guy as the newest incarnation of an ideology that hated black people, consider that Obama gave a speech in Germany and printed campaign fliers that were written ... IN GERMAN!!!! To make matters worse, noted blogger Dr. Melissa Clouthier, Obama and Hitler have used campaign literature that looks sort of similar, if you ignore the fact that it doesn't look anything alike at all.
"When I saw the Obama flier picture, my mind immediately called up this Hitler image and I was struck by how similar they are in feel," she darkly intoned. "This is about artistic tone. The profile view. The serious expression. The shading ... Unnerving really."
Blogger Gene over at the Say Anything Blog has also noticed Obama's fascistic tendencies and thinks that Obama fills a savior void for liberals, who are "mostly godless" people who spend too much time "relying on reason" and who "have empty souls." And because liberals are so soulless and reasonable, they "need a person to invest their faith and trust in. ... In Germany that person was Hitler, today that person is OBAMA."
The notion that Obama is a fascist is not wholly accepted by everyone on the right, however. John Ray of the Stop the ACLU blog, for example, thinks that calling Obama a fascist does fascism a great disservice, since at least "fascists were patriotic and Obama is the sort of America-hater that is now typical of the Left." Well, you can't please everyone, I guess. (more)© 2008 Independent Media Institute.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Editor's Note: Jack Cafferty is the author of the best-seller "It's Getting Ugly Out There: The Frauds, Bunglers, Liars, and Losers Who Are Hurting America." He provides commentary on CNN's "The Situation Room" daily from 4 p.m.-7 p.m. You can also visit Jack's Cafferty File blog.
NEW YORK -- Russia invades Georgia and President Bush goes on vacation. Our president has spent one-third of his entire two terms in office either at Camp David, Maryland, or at Crawford, Texas, on vacation. His time away from the Oval Office included the month leading up to 9/11, when there were signs Osama bin Laden was planning to attack America, and the time Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city of New Orleans. Sen. John McCain takes weekends off and limits his campaign events to one a day. He made an exception for the religious forum on Saturday at Saddleback Church in Southern California. I think he made a big mistake. When he was invited last spring to attend a discussion of the role of faith in his life with Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, McCain didn't bother to show up. Now I know why.
It occurs to me that John McCain is as intellectually shallow as our current president. When asked what his Christian faith means to him, his answer was a one-liner. "It means I'm saved and forgiven." Great scholars have wrestled with the meaning of faith for centuries. McCain then retold a story we've all heard a hundred times about a guard in Vietnam drawing a cross in the sand. Asked about his greatest moral failure, he cited his first marriage, which ended in divorce. While saying it was his greatest moral failing, he offered nothing in the way of explanation. Why not? Throughout the evening, McCain chose to recite portions of his stump speech as answers to the questions he was being asked. Why? He has lived 71 years. Surely he has some thoughts on what it all means that go beyond canned answers culled from the same speech he delivers every day.
He was asked "if evil exists." His response was to repeat for the umpteenth time that Osama bin Laden is a bad man and he will pursue him to "the gates of hell." That was it. He was asked to define rich. After trying to dodge the question -- his wife is worth a reported $100 million -- he finally said he thought an income of $5 million was rich. One after another, McCain's answers were shallow, simplistic, and trite. He showed the same intellectual curiosity that George Bush has -- virtually none. Where are John McCain's writings exploring the vexing moral issues of our time? Where are his position papers setting forth his careful consideration of foreign policy, the welfare state, education, America's moral responsibility in the world, etc., etc., etc.?
John McCain graduated 894th in a class of 899 at the Naval Academy at Annapolis. His father and grandfather were four star admirals in the Navy. Some have suggested that might have played a role in McCain being admitted. His academic record was awful. And it shows over and over again whenever McCain is called upon to think on his feet. He no longer allows reporters unfettered access to him aboard the "Straight Talk Express" for a reason. He simply makes too many mistakes. Unless he's reciting talking points or reading from notes or a TelePrompTer, John McCain is lost. He can drop bon mots at a bowling alley or diner -- short glib responses that get a chuckle, but beyond that McCain gets in over his head very quickly.
I am sick and tired of the president of the United States embarrassing me. The world we live in is too complex to entrust it to someone else whose idea of intellectual curiosity and grasp of foreign policy issues is to tell us he can look into Vladimir Putin's eyes and see into his soul. George Bush's record as a student, military man, businessman and leader of the free world is one of constant failure. And the part that troubles me most is he seems content with himself. He will leave office with the country $10 trillion in debt, fighting two wars, our international reputation in shambles, our government cloaked in secrecy and suspicion that his entire presidency has been a litany of broken laws and promises, our citizens' faith in our own country ripped to shreds. Yet Bush goes bumbling along, grinning and spewing moronic one-liners, as though nobody understands what a colossal failure he has been. I fear to the depth of my being that John McCain is just like him.© 2008 Cable News Network.
August 19, 2008
All Things Considered, August 18, 2008 · Last Tuesday, NPR broadcast a story about Cindy McCain's business and charity work. In it, Ted Robbins described McCain as the only child of Jim Hensley, a wealthy Arizona businessman. The next morning, NPR received an e-mail from Nicholas Portalski of Phoenix, who heard the story with his mother.
"We were listening to the piece about Cindy McCain on NPR, All Things Considered, and it just struck us very hard," Portalski said.
His mother, Kathleen Hensley Portalski, is also Hensley's daughter.
The Portalski family is accustomed to hearing Cindy McCain described as Hensley's only child.
She's been described that way by news organizations from The New Yorker and The New York Times to Newsweek and ABC.
McCain herself routinely uses the phrase "only child," as she did on CNN last month. "I grew up with my dad," she said then. "I'm an only child. My father was a cowboy, and he really loved me very much, but I think he wanted a son occasionally."
McCain's father was also a businessman — and twice a father.
"I'm upset," Kathleen Portalski says. "I'm angry. It makes me feel like a nonperson, kind of."
Who Is Kathleen Hensley Portalski?
Documents show Kathleen Anne Hensley was born to Jim and Mary Jeanne Hensley on Feb. 23, 1943. They had been married for six years when Kathleen was born.
Jim Hensley was a bombardier on a B-17, flying over Europe during World War II.
He was injured and sent to a facility in West Virginia to recuperate. During that time, while still married to Mary Jeanne, Hensley met another woman — Marguerite Smith. Jim divorced Mary Jeanne and married Marguerite in 1945.
Cindy Lou Hensley was born nine years later, in 1954.
She may have grown up as an only child, but so did her half sister, Kathleen, who was raised by a single parent.
Portalski says she did see her father and her half sister from time to time.
"I saw him a few times a year," she says. "I saw him at Christmas and birthdays, and he provided money for school clothes, and he called occasionally."
Jim Hensley also provided credit cards and college tuition for his grandchildren, as well as $10,000 gifts to Kathleen and her husband, Stanley Portalski. That lasted a decade, they say. By then, Jim Hensley had built Hensley and Co. into one of the largest beer distributorships in the country. He was worth tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars.
Sole Inheritor To Hensley's Estate
When Hensley died in 2000, his will named not only Portalski but also a daughter of his wife Marguerite from her earlier marriage. So, Cindy McCain may be the only product of Jim and Marguerite's marriage, but she is not the only child of either.
She was, however, the sole inheritor of his considerable estate.
Kathleen Portalski was left $10,000, and her children were left nothing. It's a fact Nicholas Portalski says his sister discovered the hard way.
"What she found in town — on the day of or the day before or the day after his funeral — was that the credit card didn't work anymore," Nick says.
The Portalskis live in a modest home in central Phoenix. Kathleen is retired, as is her husband. Nicholas Portalski is a firefighter and emergency medical technician looking for work.
They say it would have been nice if they were left some of the Hensley fortune.
They also say they are Democrats, but Nicholas Portalski says he had another reason for coming forward.
"The fact that we don't exist," he says. "The fact that we've never been recognized, and then Cindy has to put such a fine point on it by saying something that's not true. Recently, again and again. It's just very, very hurtful."
Kathleen Portalski says she'd like an acknowledgment and an apology.
NPR asked the McCain campaign — specifically, Cindy McCain — to comment or respond. Neither replied.Copyright 2008 NPR