The Top 10 Conservative Idiots
The Top 10 Conservative Idiots, No. 336
May 12, 2008
RIP GOP Edition
This week the National Republican Congressional Committee (1) stares into the abyss, and John McCain (2,4,5,9) gets into a series of scrapes. Don't forget the key!
The National Republican Congressional Committee
The continued wrangling over the Democratic presidential nomination is obscuring one very important fact about this year's elections: the Republican Party is utterly, utterly screwed. "GOP leaders warn of election disaster" blared the Politico headline last week, as "Shellshocked House Republicans got warnings from leaders past and present Tuesday: Your party's message isn't good enough to prevent disaster in November, and neither is the NRCC's money."
...in a closed-door session at the Capitol, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) told members that the NRCC doesn't have enough cash to "save them" in November if they don't raise enough money or run strong campaigns themselves.
That's great news - but here's the even better news. This is not just conjecture on the part of the Republicans, or some kind of expectations-lowering game. It's actually being quietly borne out across the country in real elections.
Three months ago the Democrats picked up Dennis Hastert's seat in a special election - that would be former House Speaker Dennis Hastert - beating the GOP candidate in a district that analysts had labeled "safe Republican."
Last week another special election was held, this time in Louisiana, to replace retiring Rep. Richard Baker (R). The election took place in a district held by Republicans since 1974. George W. Bush won 59% of the vote there in 2004. Last year Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) carried the district with 56%. This year the NRCC ran ads which tied the Democratic candidate Don Cazayoux "to Obama, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and their 'radical liberal agenda'."
And last week, Cazayoux beat the GOP candidate to take the district 49%-46%. Oh, ouch!
The Republican response?
"This election speaks to the potential toxicity of an Obama candidacy and the possible drag he could have down-ballot this fall," said a memo released Saturday by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).
So I have to say I fancy our chances this year - they've got no money, they're losing elections in solid red districts, their hysterical "evil liberals are coming to get you" ads aren't working any more... and I think the folks at the NRCC might be smoking crack.
Chalk up another clanger for gaffe-prone John McCain. While out on the campaign trail last week, the Seething Senator told an audience:
My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East that will - that will then prevent us - that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.
I see. So if we weren't dependent on oil from the Middle East we wouldn't ever have to go there. So the only reason we're there is because of the oil.
Not so fast! McCain quickly "clarified" his comments, according to MSNBC.
"No, no, I was talking about that we had fought the Gulf War for several reasons," McCain told reporters.
One reason was Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, he said. "But also we didn't want him to have control over the oil, and that part of the world is critical to us because of our dependency on foreign oil, and it's more important than any other part of the world," he said.
"If the word 'again' was misconstrued, I want us to remove our dependency on foreign oil for national security reasons, and that's all I mean," McCain said.
Okay, I mean, that makes absolutely no sense, but whatever. It turns out McCain can prove that he had a much better reason for invading Iraq than oil...
"The Congressional Record is very clear: I said we went to war in Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction," he said.
Well that should make everyone feel a lot better.
We first met Rep. Vito Fosella (R-NY) in last week's list after he was arrested for drunk driving in Virginia. It turns out that a DUI was the least of his worries.
Apparently the police officers who stopped Fosella asked where he was going, and he told them he was going to visit his daughter. After doing some checking, they discovered that Fosella lives with his family - his wife and three daughters - on Staten Island, NY.
So where was he going? To buy drugs? Meet a prostitute? Worse than that, I'm afraid. It turns out he was going to visit his daughter - his "3-year-old daughter with former Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Laura Fay, who lives in Virginia," according to NY1.
The Daily News talked to neighbors in Virginia who say they often saw Fosella with Fay and his daughter, walking in the neighborhood as a family.
Does it get any better than this? Yes, actually. The Carpetbagger Report points out that:
Perhaps now might be a good time to note that Fossella has an 81% rating from the Christian Coalition for his "pro-family" votes, and supported a constitutional amendment to prevent gays from destroying the sanctity of marriage. (Fossella also voted to impeach Bill Clinton over an extra-marital affair.)
A simple question got John McCain in a lot of trouble last week: "Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000?"
What a quandary! Clearly McCain has been a strong supporter of Bush's policies and would like to continue them if he becomes president. But on the other hand, sucking up to Bush is pure electoral poison this year, so McCain is simultaneously trying to distance himself from Our Great Leader.
So did he vote for Bush in 2000 or not? According to Arianna Huffington, he did not.
At a dinner party in Los Angeles not long after the 2000 election, I was talking to a man and his wife, both prominent Republicans. The conversation soon turned to the new president. "I didn't vote for George Bush" the man confessed. "I didn't either," his wife added. Their names: John and Cindy McCain (Cindy told me she had cast a write-in vote for her husband).
The fact that this man was so angry at what George Bush had done to him, and at what Bush represented for their party, that he did not even vote for him in 2000 shows just how far he has fallen since then in his hunger for the presidency. By abandoning his core principles and embracing Bush -- both literally and metaphorically -- he has morphed into an older and crankier version of the man he couldn't stomach voting for in 2000.
Indeed. But the McCain campaign hit back almost immediately.
Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for McCain, said "It's not true, and I ask you to please consider the source."
Asked why Huffington would make up her story about McCain not voting for Bush, longtime McCain aide Mark Salter -- who has previously tangled with the Huffington Post -- ripped into her. "Why would she make something up? Because she's a flake and a poser and an attention-seeking diva. And that's on the record."
Salter would have continued but the bell rang to end recess and he had to go back inside. And that would have been the end of it - if only there weren't other witnesses.
Two Hollywood actors who dined with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in early 2001 at actress Candice Bergen's home confirmed Thursday that he told the assembled group he did not vote for George W. Bush in the 2000 election.
In separate phone interviews, Bradley Whitford and Richard Schiff -- both of whom starred in the television political drama "The West Wing" -- said the senator made the remarks after he spoke at length about his reservations about Bush becoming president.
Whitford and Schiff said they did not hear Cindy McCain describe her vote, but both recalled how McCain had conveyed his opposition to Bush just a few days before Bush was inaugurated.
"He was going on and on about how horribly unqualified and untested Bush was, how the campaign had attacked his family," said Whitford, a registered Democrat. "Someone said, 'If he's so terrible, why did you support him?'"
McCain replied that as a member of the GOP, Whitford added, he always intended to back the party's nominee. Then, the actor said, someone asked McCain whether he had cast a vote in favor of Bush.
"He put his finger up to his lips, shook his head and mouthed, 'No way,'" Whitford said.
This revelation forced McCain to come out with strong display of support for the least popular president in recorded history. Appearing on The O'Reilly Factor last week, he revealed that:
"I voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004," he said in an interview with Fox News' "O'Reilly Factor" that aired on Thursday night.
"And not only that, far more important than a vote, I campaigned everywhere in America for him," McCain said. "I enjoyed it. I campaigned with him. I did everything I could to get him elected and re-elected president."
That should look good in a campaign ad later this year.
So take your pick:
1) McCain did vote for Bush in 2000, but lied about his vote so he could pander more effectively to Hollywood types.
2) McCain didn't vote for Bush in 2000 and told the truth at Candice Bergen's party, but has revised history now that he needs to pander to Bush's base.
Either way, it looks like the Straight Talk Express is heading for Dead Man's Curve - and there's nobody at the wheel.
Last month John McCain pledged to run a "respectful campaign" against the Democratic nominee, whether it be Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Last week he turned around and called Sen. Obama the candidate of Hamas. Wow, that's respectful.
Obama hit back at McCain in an interview with Wolf Blitzer.
"John McCain always says 'I am not going to run that kind of politics,' and to engage in that kind of smear is unfortunate, particularly because my policy toward Hamas has been no different than his," Obama tells Wolf Blitzer.
Obama says of Hamas that "I've said it's a terrorist organization and we should not negotiate with them unless they recognize Israel, renounce violence, and unless they are willing to abide by previous accords between the Palestinians and the Israelis. So for him to toss out comments like that I think is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination. We don't need name calling in this debate."
Wait a minute... bearings? That sounds like "ball bearings," which is somewhat reminiscent of "marbles"... why, Barack Obama just said John McCain is senile old fart!
No, actually he said exactly what he meant: McCain is losing his bearings. His sense of direction. His poise. His awareness of his position or situation relative to his surroundings. Pick your own definition.
But this was red meat for the McCain campaign, who for some reason decided that it would be a good idea to encourage the public to focus on their candidate's advanced age. Mark Salter (he of the "flake and a poser and an attention-seeking diva" comments) immediately whipped out an outraged email:
"First," Salter said in an E-mail to reporters and McCain supporters, "let us be clear about the nature of Senator Obama's attack today. He used the words 'losing his bearings' intentionally, a not particularly clever way of raising John McCain's age as an issue. This is typical of Obama's style of campaigning."
Waaaah. But this is all a moot point. Clearly John McCain is not losing his bearings, as you can see from this picture.
And video. Third Bush term anyone?
The Pentagon and The Media
Last week the Department of Defense was forced to dump 8,000 pages of documents related to its "military analyst" program, which revealed a disturbing truth: the Pentagon has been running a domestic propaganda program, using "friendly" officers to feed information to the media and crowd out less "cooperative" military voices. According to Glenn Greenwald:
These Pentagon-controlled analysts were used by the networks not only to comment on military matters -- and to do so almost always unchallenged -- but also even to shape and mold the networks' coverage choices.
The proof is in the pudding. Just take a look at this 2005 memo from Capt. Roxie T. Merritt, the Director of DoD Press Operations, to top Pentagon officials (I've left Glen Greenwald's emphases intact):
One of the most interesting things coming from this trip to Iraq with the media analysts has been learning how their jobs have been undergoing a metamorphosis. There are several reasons behind the morph ... with an all voluntary military, no one in the media has current military background. Additionally we have been doing a good job of keeping these guys informed so they have ready answers when the networks come calling.
The key issue here is that more and more, media analysts are having a greater impact on the television media network coverage of military issues. They have now become the go to guys not only for breaking stories, but they influence the views on issues. They also have a huge amount of influence on what stories the network decides to cover proactively with regard to the military. ...
1.) I recommend we develop a core group from within our media analyst list of those that we can count on to carry our water. They become part of a "hot list" of those that we immediately make calls to or put on an email distro list before we contact or respond to media on hot issues. We can also do more proactive engagement with this list and give them tips on what stories to focus on and give them heads up on issues as they are developing. By providing them with key and valuable information, they become the key go to guys for the networks and it begins to weed out the less reliably friendly analysts by the networks themselves. ...
3.) Media ops and outreach can work on a plan to maximize use of the analysts and figure out a system by which we keep our most reliably friendly analysts plugged in on everything from crisis response to future plans. This trusted core group will be more than willing to work closely with us because we are their bread and butter and the more they know, the more valuable they are to the networks. ...
5.) As evidenced by this analyst trip to Iraq, the synergy of outreach shops and media ops working together on these types of projects is enormous and effective. Will continue to exam (sic) ways to improve processes.
And here's the list of military analysts who have been trusted to "carry water" for the Pentagon over the past several years:
Unsurprisingly, the media's reaction to this news has been... zippo. For some reason they don't want their readers and viewers to know that they've been relying on military analysts who were piping information directly from the Pentagon's propaganda factory. I guess it will be up to the blogosphere to spread the word...
George W. Bush
Good news, everyone! According to Reuters:
President George W. Bush is expected to talk with Saudi Arabian officials about the effect record oil prices are having on the U.S. economy during his upcoming visit to the kingdom, the White House said on Monday.
Hmm. I wonder how that conversation will go...
Oh well, at least Bush is wearing an American flag pin in those photos.
Clint Straatman doesn't need a flag pin, mind you - he's got a much better way to show off his patriotism. Mr. Straatman is a teacher at Minico High School in Rupert, Idaho, and last week he saw red white and blue when a student brought a Mexican flag to school for Cinco de Mayo.
Camelo said he was changing into gym clothes at Minico High School in Rupert when Straatman told him, "Give me the flag."
"I said, 'What's the problem?'" Camelo, speaking in Spanish, told The Times-News of Twin Falls. "He said, 'The problem is that we are in the United States and not in Mexico.' He grabbed it from me. He threw the flag in the garbage can."
Camelo said that Straatman told him the flag would be returned at the end of the school day, but that Straatman taunted him instead.
"I asked, 'Where is my flag?'" Camelo said. "He said, 'What, the U.S. flag?' I said, 'No, the one for Mexico.' But he wouldn't give it to me."
Way to go, Mr. Straatman! You show 'em what America is all about.
Sadly, Straatman is now under investigation by the Minidoka County Joint School District. He does have a really good excuse though...
Clint Straatman denies Froylan Camelo's version of events but said he took the flag Monday because "white kids" might have hurt the 16-year-old. He said he put it in a garbage can because he had no place else to keep it.
Er, sure, that sounds... plausible.
Burma's ruling military junta has come under intense scrutiny in the past week, after Cyclone Nargis ravaged the country and killed tens of thousands of people. First the government refused outside aid, then they went ahead with a dubious referendum, then, after deciding to take some aid shipments after all, they were "quickly relabeled to say that the goods had been donated courtesy of the junta," according to Time magazine.
Even Laura Bush slammed the junta last week at a rare press conference (before moving on to more important matters.) Indeed, Burma's dictatorship is "widely criticized as one of the world's most oppressive and corrupt regimes," according to Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post.
So what does this have to do with John McCain?
Last week we learned that the McCain campaign has selected Doug Goodyear to manage this year's Republican National Convention. Goodyear is described as a "veteran operative and Arizonan" by Newsweek, who was picked for his "management experience and expertise." Oh yes, and I should probably also mention that Goodyear is "CEO of DCI Group, a consulting firm that earned $3 million last year lobbying for ExxonMobil, General Motors and other clients."
So what? Well it turns out that not only is Doug Goodyear a veteran GOP operative, expert manager, and fatcat oil industry lobbyist...
Potentially more problematic: the firm was paid $348,000 in 2002 to represent Burma's military junta, which had been strongly condemned by the State Department for its human-rights record and remains in power today. Justice Department lobbying records show DCI pushed to "begin a dialogue of political reconciliation" with the regime. It also led a PR campaign to burnish the junta's image, drafting releases praising Burma's efforts to curb the drug trade and denouncing "falsehoods" by the Bush administration that the regime engaged in rape and other abuses."
Yikes. So does the man who John McCain handpicked to run this year's Republican National Convention have anything to say about his association with the Burmese junta?
"It was our only foreign representation, it was for a short tenure, and it was six years ago," Goodyear told NEWSWEEK.
With an explanation that good, I'm surprised Goodyear felt the need to quit.
And finally, this one really deserves a shout-out:
I especially like the way she took the time to underline "offical." See you next week!
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