Commentary Magazine


Topic: John McCain

McCain’s Stance on Cybersecurity Is Wrong

There are few politicians–heck, few Americans, period–for whom I have greater respect than John McCain. Not only do I have endless admiration for his character, I find his policy judgment, especially in the national security area, to be close to faultless. Which may be just another way of saying I seldom disagree with him. But I find myself in disagreement with his stance on cybersecurity–as does one of his closest Senate colleagues, Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman is co-sponsoring legislation that would allow the Department of Homeland Security to set minimal cybersecurity standards for air traffic control systems, dams, power plants and other such facilities that are absolutely essential to the safe functioning of the American economy. This is a major issue at a time when, as Gen. Keith Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, has just warned cyberattacks aimed at U.S. infrastructure increased seventeenfold from 2009 to 2012. General Alexander further said that “on a scale of 1 to 10, American preparedness for a large-scale cyber-attack is ‘around a 3.’ ”

Read More

There are few politicians–heck, few Americans, period–for whom I have greater respect than John McCain. Not only do I have endless admiration for his character, I find his policy judgment, especially in the national security area, to be close to faultless. Which may be just another way of saying I seldom disagree with him. But I find myself in disagreement with his stance on cybersecurity–as does one of his closest Senate colleagues, Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman is co-sponsoring legislation that would allow the Department of Homeland Security to set minimal cybersecurity standards for air traffic control systems, dams, power plants and other such facilities that are absolutely essential to the safe functioning of the American economy. This is a major issue at a time when, as Gen. Keith Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, has just warned cyberattacks aimed at U.S. infrastructure increased seventeenfold from 2009 to 2012. General Alexander further said that “on a scale of 1 to 10, American preparedness for a large-scale cyber-attack is ‘around a 3.’ ”

The only way to raise our level of preparedness is to give the federal government more authority to protect civilian infrastructure. As things stand, Alexander’s NSA can mount offensive cyberoperations against other countries but can only protect Defense Department networks in this country. The Department of Homeland Security is supposed to protect the civilian networks on which we all depend–and whose disruption via cyberattack could cripple our economy. But DHS does not have the resources or authorities to get the job done. Understandable concerns about privacy have made it impossible to fix this situation on Capitol Hill. Lieberman’s legislation is a start toward fixing this major vulnerability but, thanks to objections from Sen. McCain and the Chamber of Commerce, the bill has been watered down so the cybersecurity standards will now be optional. Optional standards make sense when it comes to governing the size of sodas–not when it comes to protecting critical infrastructure.

While the federal government has undoubtedly extended its reach into all kinds of areas where it does not belong, national defense remains its core responsibility–and in the 21st century that must mean defense from cyberthreats as well as physical ones. Until Congress moves to fix our vulnerabilities, we will remain wide open to attack by China, Russia, and other countries in the forefront of developing offensive cyberwarfare capabilities.

One only need look at the damage that the Stuxnet virus–cooked up by the U.S. and Israel–did to the Iranian nuclear program; now imagine the Iranians returning the favor with a virus that incapacitates major parts of the American electric grid. That is a nightmare scenario that we must worry about, and Congress’s failure to act will only encourage the world’s cyberpredators to continue developing and deploying ever-more fiendish computer weapons against us.

Read Less

NY Times’s False Attack on McCain

The New York Times carries an article today echoing congressional Democrats’ complaint that John McCain refuses to enable them to name, shame, and attempt to destroy the careers of Republican donors while shielding Democratic interest groups from scrutiny. That would be the DISCLOSE Act, which would force conservative grassroots to disclose publicly their political activity. Such groups and individuals have already been subjected to IRS shenanigans, death threats, and the occasional act of violence.

Democrats see no problem with this, as I detailed here. But McCain won’t help them get bipartisan support. So the Times sprang into action today, calling McCain a water-carrier for the Republican Party and suggesting he is a hypocrite on campaign finance. Of course that is not the case, as McCain has publicly lambasted the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United ruling striking down campaign finance regulations that McCain likes. But aside from getting all its facts wrong, the Times article also gets personal:

Many of Mr. McCain’s other interests align neatly with the big issues of the day, particularly the debate over the role of the United States in conflicts in the Middle East — in which he has largely been a staunch critic of the Obama administration — and the planned Pentagon cuts.

The pattern is similar to that of other unsuccessful presidential candidates, like Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who publicly sulked for a few years before becoming a major player on Afghanistan and other issues.

“I just think a lot of it has to do with the agenda,” Mr. McCain said of his re-emergence, in an impromptu interview with several reporters. “After I lost, I knew that the best way to get over it was to get active.” (Mr. McCain, who disputed some coverage of him by The New York Times during the 2008 campaign, has a policy of not speaking directly to reporters from The Times.)

Let’s take this from that last note. The Times wants readers to think McCain is sour over a generalized perception that the Times was biased against him in 2008. The Times doesn’t say what actually happened, because it was a low point not just for the egregiously unethical Times but for modern journalism in general, bringing shame to the paper from liberals as well as conservatives.

Read More

The New York Times carries an article today echoing congressional Democrats’ complaint that John McCain refuses to enable them to name, shame, and attempt to destroy the careers of Republican donors while shielding Democratic interest groups from scrutiny. That would be the DISCLOSE Act, which would force conservative grassroots to disclose publicly their political activity. Such groups and individuals have already been subjected to IRS shenanigans, death threats, and the occasional act of violence.

Democrats see no problem with this, as I detailed here. But McCain won’t help them get bipartisan support. So the Times sprang into action today, calling McCain a water-carrier for the Republican Party and suggesting he is a hypocrite on campaign finance. Of course that is not the case, as McCain has publicly lambasted the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United ruling striking down campaign finance regulations that McCain likes. But aside from getting all its facts wrong, the Times article also gets personal:

Many of Mr. McCain’s other interests align neatly with the big issues of the day, particularly the debate over the role of the United States in conflicts in the Middle East — in which he has largely been a staunch critic of the Obama administration — and the planned Pentagon cuts.

The pattern is similar to that of other unsuccessful presidential candidates, like Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who publicly sulked for a few years before becoming a major player on Afghanistan and other issues.

“I just think a lot of it has to do with the agenda,” Mr. McCain said of his re-emergence, in an impromptu interview with several reporters. “After I lost, I knew that the best way to get over it was to get active.” (Mr. McCain, who disputed some coverage of him by The New York Times during the 2008 campaign, has a policy of not speaking directly to reporters from The Times.)

Let’s take this from that last note. The Times wants readers to think McCain is sour over a generalized perception that the Times was biased against him in 2008. The Times doesn’t say what actually happened, because it was a low point not just for the egregiously unethical Times but for modern journalism in general, bringing shame to the paper from liberals as well as conservatives.

It was the Times’s unsupported allegations referencing McCain’s relationship with a lobbyist that the Times insinuated had become an affair. It was unsubstantiated, and the public generally recoiled in horror at the Times. Liberal bias is one thing, but not in anyone’s recent memory had a major newspaper published an unsubstantiated story to destroy the family of a respected politician simply because he was running against the Times’s preferred candidate.

Times editor Bill Keller took a lot of heat for the story. Did he backtrack and apologize? Nope. Here’s his response when he was asked about McCain’s criticism of the paper for running the story: “My first tendency when they do that is to find the toughest McCain story we’ve got and put it on the front page.”

Destroy McCain, Keller said. So now that the Times’s editor had announced a personal vendetta against McCain for disputing the coverage, McCain had the understandable reaction of avoiding the Times and talking to newspapers that hadn’t threatened to use whatever it had against him to destroy his career.

Now, on to the suggestion that McCain is somehow walking in John Kerry’s path by taking a vocal role in foreign affairs, it would appear that the Times reporter is mostly unfamiliar with John McCain. McCain, you’ll recall, has something of a background in military issues. After his heroics in Vietnam, he took that desire to serve his country to the Congress, where he has been easily the senator most engaged in foreign policy. (He was also right about the Iraq surge when his Democratic colleagues were abandoning the effort and sliming American servicemen and women.)

What is Kerry’s legacy on matters of war and peace? Well, most recently it was his far-too-cozy relationship with Bashar al-Assad, as Assad was gearing up to slaughter the Syrian population. This is Kerry’s audition for secretary of state in a hypothetical second Obama term. I don’t think the Times means this as a compliment to Kerry. More likely it’s part and parcel of the paper’s efforts to insult McCain, and those at the Times probably thought there was nothing more insulting than comparing him to John Kerry.

Read Less

Focus on Clinton’s Mistakes, Not Abedin

Huma Abedin, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, has been in the news recently as her husband, the disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner, tries to worm his way back into the public eye. Weiner paraded Abedin and their six-month-old infant before the cameras of People magazine this week as part of a not-so-subtle campaign to rehabilitate himself. But Abedin has other worries besides those associated with her husband. She was singled out in a letter sent by Rep. Michele Bachmann and four members of Congress that highlighted the ties between her family and the Muslim Brotherhood. The letter asked for the State Department’s Inspector General to conduct an investigation into whether Abedin and others had wrongly influenced American policy to show favor to the Islamist group that is battling for power in Egypt. That prompted a furious response from Sen. John McCain, who blasted Bachmann on the floor of the Senate. McCain described Abedin as a friend and said attacks on her “character, reputation and patriotism” were unwarranted and unfair.

McCain’s counterattack on behalf of Abedin is being echoed throughout the mainstream press. The New York Times editorial page today described Bachmann’s charges as a “crackpot allegation of a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy to infiltrate the government.” The Boston Globe’s Juliette Kayeem wrote in a column that the mention of Abedin’s mother was a new take on an old theme, a “Manchurian Mom.” While McCain’s speech centered on a defense of Abedin, both pieces poured scorn on the idea that the Muslim Brotherhood was worth worrying about or whether a discussion of the State Department’s conduct vis-à-vis the organization was worthy of scrutiny. The whole thing, they said, was merely a new front in an effort to single out Muslim-Americans and subject them to discrimination.

Prejudice against Muslims is wrong, and conspiracy theories are a noxious weed in political discourse. Those who think the Muslim Brotherhood is infiltrating the State Department are probably wrong, as there is no shortage of diplomats and consultants who foolishly think the United States should be engaging with the Islamist group without any of them being part of a plot. But if the Bachmann letter is used as an excuse to brand as McCarthyism any effort to discuss a possible shift in U.S. policy toward appeasing Islamist groups, that would be a mistake.

Read More

Huma Abedin, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, has been in the news recently as her husband, the disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner, tries to worm his way back into the public eye. Weiner paraded Abedin and their six-month-old infant before the cameras of People magazine this week as part of a not-so-subtle campaign to rehabilitate himself. But Abedin has other worries besides those associated with her husband. She was singled out in a letter sent by Rep. Michele Bachmann and four members of Congress that highlighted the ties between her family and the Muslim Brotherhood. The letter asked for the State Department’s Inspector General to conduct an investigation into whether Abedin and others had wrongly influenced American policy to show favor to the Islamist group that is battling for power in Egypt. That prompted a furious response from Sen. John McCain, who blasted Bachmann on the floor of the Senate. McCain described Abedin as a friend and said attacks on her “character, reputation and patriotism” were unwarranted and unfair.

McCain’s counterattack on behalf of Abedin is being echoed throughout the mainstream press. The New York Times editorial page today described Bachmann’s charges as a “crackpot allegation of a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy to infiltrate the government.” The Boston Globe’s Juliette Kayeem wrote in a column that the mention of Abedin’s mother was a new take on an old theme, a “Manchurian Mom.” While McCain’s speech centered on a defense of Abedin, both pieces poured scorn on the idea that the Muslim Brotherhood was worth worrying about or whether a discussion of the State Department’s conduct vis-à-vis the organization was worthy of scrutiny. The whole thing, they said, was merely a new front in an effort to single out Muslim-Americans and subject them to discrimination.

Prejudice against Muslims is wrong, and conspiracy theories are a noxious weed in political discourse. Those who think the Muslim Brotherhood is infiltrating the State Department are probably wrong, as there is no shortage of diplomats and consultants who foolishly think the United States should be engaging with the Islamist group without any of them being part of a plot. But if the Bachmann letter is used as an excuse to brand as McCarthyism any effort to discuss a possible shift in U.S. policy toward appeasing Islamist groups, that would be a mistake.

Abedin is entitled to a presumption of innocence, and given her history and personal circumstances the notion that she is a Brotherhood mole seems farfetched at best. But her family connections with the Brotherhood should raise some eyebrows. If a Jewish official were similarly tied to an extremist group such as the Jewish Defense League, it would be a matter for some uncomfortable speculation despite the fact that the JDL is utterly marginal. Given that the Brotherhood is a powerful and dangerous organization, it is not unreasonable for some questions to be asked.

But even if we assume, as we probably should, that Abedin has been thoroughly vetted and that mentioning her in this connection was an error, that does not mean members of Congress ought not to be asking questions about the State Department’s willingness to make nice with the Brotherhood. Nor should it lead us to ignore the other issues raised in both the letter to the State Department and another one written by the same group to the Department of Homeland Security about the vetting of individuals with Islamist ties and the use of materials that tend to downplay the nature of the Islamist threat from the Brotherhood and related groups, including those that have rationalized or support terrorism. The government has shown a troubling tendency to be unable to distinguish between patriotic American Muslims and Islamists who purport to speak for American Muslims.

The problem here is that by making a martyr out of Abedin, Bachmann and her colleagues have fed the false narrative about a mythical post 9-11 backlash against Muslims whose purpose is to shut down appropriate scrutiny of extremist groups and individuals. Doing so has aided those who wish to silence the discussion about Islamist terror and portray the Center for Security Policy, the Washington think tank that has documented many of the concerns the members of Congress raised, as a voice of extremism. In fact, it is raising legitimate issues that deserve to be aired.

McCarthyism was wrong not just because some of those who were subjected to scrutiny were innocent of the charge of being Communists, but because unfair accusations served to discredit any questions about Soviet espionage. Despite Joseph McCarthy’s lies about the subject, the issue of Communist subversion was real. While there is no evidence the Muslim Brotherhood has embarked on a similar campaign, the threat from Islamist terror is no less real and should not be ignored because of worries about false charges or prejudice.

Instead of worrying about Abedin and her family or elevating her to the status of Muslim-American heroine, what we should be doing is discussing the mistakes of her boss, Secretary Clinton. It is Clinton who is responsible for the administration’s troubling decisions to edge closer to the Brotherhood. Anything that distracts us from that or from the genuine threat of domestic and international Islamist terrorism is a terrible blunder.

Read Less

McCain’s Cheap Shot at Adelson

It is perhaps to be expected that Sen. John McCain would still be whining about the way the Supreme Court’s Citizens United 2010 decision effectively neutered the campaign finance law he co-authored with Wisconsin liberal Democrat Russ Feingold. McCain is still claiming the decision made politics more corrupt, but he is deaf, dumb and blind about the way his legislation restricted free speech, added further complications to an already byzantine system and drove campaign cash further underground. But while there is nothing remarkable about McCain beating his favorite dead horse, his latest comments cross the line between fair comment and slander.

In an interview with the PBS Newshour program, McCain didn’t just assert that Citizens United is aiding corruption but that the contributions made by Mitt Romney’s leading donor may be the product of “foreign” — and therefore by definition illegal — money. The reference to billionaire Sheldon Adelson — whose billions come in part from casinos in Macao — was a cheap shot, especially as it came directly after McCain predicted  there would be “scandals” that would come out of Citizens United. McCain knows very well there is nothing illegal or underhanded about Adelson’s money or his willingness to spend it to promote the causes and candidates he supports. The scandal here isn’t the fact that a billionaire is making money overseas and spending it at home on political speech; it is the willingness of the political class to restrict the right of Americans to have a voice in the political system.

Read More

It is perhaps to be expected that Sen. John McCain would still be whining about the way the Supreme Court’s Citizens United 2010 decision effectively neutered the campaign finance law he co-authored with Wisconsin liberal Democrat Russ Feingold. McCain is still claiming the decision made politics more corrupt, but he is deaf, dumb and blind about the way his legislation restricted free speech, added further complications to an already byzantine system and drove campaign cash further underground. But while there is nothing remarkable about McCain beating his favorite dead horse, his latest comments cross the line between fair comment and slander.

In an interview with the PBS Newshour program, McCain didn’t just assert that Citizens United is aiding corruption but that the contributions made by Mitt Romney’s leading donor may be the product of “foreign” — and therefore by definition illegal — money. The reference to billionaire Sheldon Adelson — whose billions come in part from casinos in Macao — was a cheap shot, especially as it came directly after McCain predicted  there would be “scandals” that would come out of Citizens United. McCain knows very well there is nothing illegal or underhanded about Adelson’s money or his willingness to spend it to promote the causes and candidates he supports. The scandal here isn’t the fact that a billionaire is making money overseas and spending it at home on political speech; it is the willingness of the political class to restrict the right of Americans to have a voice in the political system.

McCain clearly believes all political donations are inherently a form of corruption, a view he has hewed to since his involvement in the Keating Five Savings and Loan Scandal almost ended his political career. Since then, he has adopted a self-righteous posture on the issue and sought to impose severe restrictions on the ability of citizens to make contributions. But far from helping to clean up politics, McCain-Feingold only made things worse. It made it harder for candidates and political parties to raise money and opened the way for other entities to be created to fill the void.

Because money cannot be taken out of politics any more than it can be removed from the banking system, the growing volume of campaign finance laws has only added layers that made the system less accountable. Moreover, the danger of scandal does not come so much from the wealthy willing to spend to advance the ideas they cherish but from politicians who sell their votes to gain popularity.

Even more to the point, bills like McCain-Feingold give undue influence to the mainstream media as it made them the only venues for political discussion that could not be limited by the government. And by making it harder to raise money, McCain-Feingold was in effect an incumbent protection program that helped create an informal system of congressional tenure.

As for Adelson, the notion that any of his money comes from laundered accounts belonging to foreign players is absurd. Adelson’s conservative and pro-Israel views are no secret, and it is not likely that anyone in China is using him to advance those causes. That makes McCain’s smear a cheap shot that ought to be incompatible with the high-minded reformist stances the Arizona senator believes he embodies.

McCain is entitled to spout off about Citizens United and he is also within his rights in expressing contempt for the gaming industry that has made Adelson a billionaire. But he is way out of line when he wrongly smears the wealthy donor as a foreign agent or an emissary of corruption. He owes Adelson an apology.

Read Less

Romney’s Psych Out Ad

Mitt Romney’s latest attack ad against President Obama (the first negative spot of the campaign, as Jim Geraghty points out) sends two messages. On the surface it’s a cut-and-dry ad criticizing Obama as out of touch on the economy, but there’s another message that seems aimed at psyching out the Obama campaign. See if you can catch it:

Read More

Mitt Romney’s latest attack ad against President Obama (the first negative spot of the campaign, as Jim Geraghty points out) sends two messages. On the surface it’s a cut-and-dry ad criticizing Obama as out of touch on the economy, but there’s another message that seems aimed at psyching out the Obama campaign. See if you can catch it:

Look familiar? As the Huffington Post reports, Romney’s ad is a mirror image of one of Obama’s most effective attack ads against John McCain in 2008. Same music. Same format. Same kicker: “How can [he] expect to fix it…if he doesn’t understand what’s broken?” Take a look:

McCain’s “fundamentals of the economy are strong” gaffe helped kill him in 2008, and the Obama campaign hit him relentlessly on it. By putting out a nearly identical ad, the Romney campaign seems to be sending the message that it has learned the lessons of the last election and is not going to pull any punches this time around.

Read Less

Dems Block Resolution on WH Leak Probe

Sen. John McCain, who has been out in front on the White House leaking scandal, introduced a resolution earlier today calling for a special counsel to investigate. The Hill reports it was immediately blocked by Senate Democrats:

McCain introduced a resolution Tuesday expressing the Senate’s support for [Attorney General Eric] Holder to appoint a special prosecutor. But Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) objected after McCain asked for unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to consideration of his resolution.

“What is at issue here is whether or not we are going to give an opportunity for U.S. attorneys, professionals in their fields, to handle this particular inquiry,” Wyden said. “And I see no evidence, Mr. President, that the way U.S. attorneys are handling this investigation at this time is not with the highest standards of professionalism.”

Democrats are (to their credit) willing to criticize the White House for the leaks, but so far they’ve lacked the political courage to call for a special prosecutor to lead the investigation. Even Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the most vocal of these Democratic critics, announced her opposition to a special counsel appointment today. Feinstein said that the two attorneys appointed by the Department of Justice can handle the investigation — despite concerns over conflict of interest — and insisted that appointing a special prosecutor would needlessly prolong the investigation.

Read More

Sen. John McCain, who has been out in front on the White House leaking scandal, introduced a resolution earlier today calling for a special counsel to investigate. The Hill reports it was immediately blocked by Senate Democrats:

McCain introduced a resolution Tuesday expressing the Senate’s support for [Attorney General Eric] Holder to appoint a special prosecutor. But Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) objected after McCain asked for unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to consideration of his resolution.

“What is at issue here is whether or not we are going to give an opportunity for U.S. attorneys, professionals in their fields, to handle this particular inquiry,” Wyden said. “And I see no evidence, Mr. President, that the way U.S. attorneys are handling this investigation at this time is not with the highest standards of professionalism.”

Democrats are (to their credit) willing to criticize the White House for the leaks, but so far they’ve lacked the political courage to call for a special prosecutor to lead the investigation. Even Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the most vocal of these Democratic critics, announced her opposition to a special counsel appointment today. Feinstein said that the two attorneys appointed by the Department of Justice can handle the investigation — despite concerns over conflict of interest — and insisted that appointing a special prosecutor would needlessly prolong the investigation.

The strong opposition from Democrats is interesting. They certainly didn’t have the same concerns about DOJ appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the Valerie Plame leak, which had far fewer national security implications. Resolving this case as quickly as possible is important, but the overriding concern should be to get it right.

By opposing the special counsel appointment, Democrats are basically demanding that we blindly believe the White House’s claim that the leaks were unauthorized. Of course there’s no way to know for sure. Even if you’re inclined to trust the White House, there is still always a chance – slim as we might hope — that the leaks were approved at the highest level. And, if that’s the case, should we really let the administration control an investigation of itself?

Read Less

Senators Call for Investigation of WH Leaks

Sens. John McCain and Saxby Chaimbliss are calling for a Senate probe into whether White House officials leaked details of the cyber warfare program against Iran to the media for political gain. But Senate Democrats are also furious about the leaks, according to The Hill:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, said the leak about the attack on Iran’s nuclear program could “to some extent” provide justification for copycat attacks against the United States.

“This is like an avalanche. It is very detrimental and, candidly, I found it very concerning,” Feinstein said. “There’s no question that this kind of thing hurts our country.”

“A number of those leaks, and others in the last months about drone activities and other activities, are frankly all against national-security interests,” said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “I think they’re dangerous, damaging, and whoever is doing that is not acting in the interest of the United States of America.”

Read More

Sens. John McCain and Saxby Chaimbliss are calling for a Senate probe into whether White House officials leaked details of the cyber warfare program against Iran to the media for political gain. But Senate Democrats are also furious about the leaks, according to The Hill:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, said the leak about the attack on Iran’s nuclear program could “to some extent” provide justification for copycat attacks against the United States.

“This is like an avalanche. It is very detrimental and, candidly, I found it very concerning,” Feinstein said. “There’s no question that this kind of thing hurts our country.”

“A number of those leaks, and others in the last months about drone activities and other activities, are frankly all against national-security interests,” said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “I think they’re dangerous, damaging, and whoever is doing that is not acting in the interest of the United States of America.”

Both Kerry and Feinstein rejected the idea the leaks were politically motivated, but all signs point to White House authorization for the recent New York Times pieces on cyber warfare and drone strikes. This administration has not been shy when it comes to prosecuting leaks in the past, and yet it’s been notably nonchalant about a breach of this scale.

For example, the author of the Times’s cyber warfare story, David Sanger, told Gawker that “No government agency formally requested that I not publish the story.” The White House obviously knew about the article, and could have asked the Times to hold off if it believed the story was dangerous — but declined to do so. Why? And why call an FBI investigation well after the fact?

What we don’t know is whether the leak originated from the White House in the first place, or whether administration officials simply added additional information to a story that was already being written with help from other government sources or even Israeli officials.

We also don’t know what the White House’s motivation could have been for working with Sanger. Maybe officials talked to him because he agreed to withhold information that was even more sensitive from the final story, or because they wanted to make sure the article did as little damage as possible. But because this is the second big White House leak this spring that plays into the Obama campaign narrative, McCain and Chaimbliss are right to be suspicious.

Read Less

Biased Media’s Rope Line Hypocrisy

Reporters from the national press covering the Mitt Romney campaign kicked up a ruckus on Wednesday when the Republican’s staff attempted to keep them away from a rope line where they might have heard or seen the candidate say or do something dumb. The incident inspired a feature in the New York Times in which the GOP standard-bearer came off looking like a fragile hothouse flower desperately in need of protection from a press corps that could unveil his inadequacies. This might not be worth much of the public’s time, but criticism on this score shouldn’t be put down as unfair. If Romney can’t be relied upon not to commit a gaffe when interacting with the public at unscripted appearances — something that justified his staff’s worries — then he deserves to be called to account for it. However, if this is worth carrying on about when it concerns Romney then we are entitled to ask why isn’t it newsworthy when his opponents play the same game?

That’s the question some political observers are asking today after members of the Obama campaign made sure to keep reporters away from Vice President Biden when he was working a rope line, an incident that failed to get a mention in the Times. But as much as the lack of interest in the Democrats’ desire to protect the even more gaffe-prone Biden is the fact that no one seems to recall that when Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, his control freak staff rarely allowed reporters anywhere near him when he was on the hustings.

Read More

Reporters from the national press covering the Mitt Romney campaign kicked up a ruckus on Wednesday when the Republican’s staff attempted to keep them away from a rope line where they might have heard or seen the candidate say or do something dumb. The incident inspired a feature in the New York Times in which the GOP standard-bearer came off looking like a fragile hothouse flower desperately in need of protection from a press corps that could unveil his inadequacies. This might not be worth much of the public’s time, but criticism on this score shouldn’t be put down as unfair. If Romney can’t be relied upon not to commit a gaffe when interacting with the public at unscripted appearances — something that justified his staff’s worries — then he deserves to be called to account for it. However, if this is worth carrying on about when it concerns Romney then we are entitled to ask why isn’t it newsworthy when his opponents play the same game?

That’s the question some political observers are asking today after members of the Obama campaign made sure to keep reporters away from Vice President Biden when he was working a rope line, an incident that failed to get a mention in the Times. But as much as the lack of interest in the Democrats’ desire to protect the even more gaffe-prone Biden is the fact that no one seems to recall that when Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, his control freak staff rarely allowed reporters anywhere near him when he was on the hustings.

In 2008, the contrast between John McCain’s media-friendly ways and Obama’s less open policies only got noticed when the Republican’s staff tried to change things and restrict access to their all-too loquacious candidate. But no one ever seemed to think there was much amiss about Obama’s practices in which highly choreographed events consisted of appearances with an ever-present teleprompter and little or no press access to the candidate. That many of those covering him — and their editors — might have been as seduced by the historic nature of his run and by his “hope” and “change” mantra is a given.

The point is, if Obama’s lack of openness to the press was not an issue in 2008, it’s not clear why Romney’s staff’s attempts to restrict access to their man should be worthy of much comment today. It is doubly absurd when you consider that it is virtually impossible to cover President Obama in the same way you can Romney because of security considerations.

The election won’t be decided on the issue of which presidential — or vice presidential — candidate is more open to the press on the rope line. But this minor kerfuffle and the staggering hypocrisy with which it was covered is another reminder that Romney’s greatest disadvantage in his effort to prevent the president’s re-election is not his tendency toward gaffes but a biased mainstream media always willing to judge and condemn by a standard they won’t apply to his opponents.

Read Less

Obama Portrays Romney as Extreme Right

At a New York fundraiser last night, President Obama contrasted his 2008 opponent with his 2012 one, BuzzFeed reports:

President Barack Obama told an audience in New York tonight that Mitt Romney is worse than his 2008 opponent Sen. John McCain.

“We have a very clear contrast this time. John McCain believed in climate change and believed in immigration reform,” Obama told an audience of about 200 donors who paid at least $5000 for a ticket to the event. “What we have this time out is a candidate who said he would rubber stamp a Republican Congress that wants us to go backward, not forward.”

This is how Obama’s going to rein in his base. The gay marriage endorsement will help increase enthusiasm significantly. But to get his base out at the polls, Obama also needs to give them a big reason to vote for him – avoiding four years of a right-wing, Tea Party-controlled government, or whatever, is a pretty good reason, in their minds.

Read More

At a New York fundraiser last night, President Obama contrasted his 2008 opponent with his 2012 one, BuzzFeed reports:

President Barack Obama told an audience in New York tonight that Mitt Romney is worse than his 2008 opponent Sen. John McCain.

“We have a very clear contrast this time. John McCain believed in climate change and believed in immigration reform,” Obama told an audience of about 200 donors who paid at least $5000 for a ticket to the event. “What we have this time out is a candidate who said he would rubber stamp a Republican Congress that wants us to go backward, not forward.”

This is how Obama’s going to rein in his base. The gay marriage endorsement will help increase enthusiasm significantly. But to get his base out at the polls, Obama also needs to give them a big reason to vote for him – avoiding four years of a right-wing, Tea Party-controlled government, or whatever, is a pretty good reason, in their minds.

It’s always amusing when Obama talks about how moderate and reasonable Sen. McCain is; nothing at all like these scary, new, extreme conservatives today. It’s a play off of that old “the-only-good-conservative-is-a-dead-conservative” trope. McCain’s far from dead, but now that he’s no longer a political threat, Obama can speak honestly about McCain’s history as a moderate and an aisle-crosser.

Back in 2008, of course, McCain was blasted by Democratic groups for the same things Romney is being attacked for now – being an extreme right-winger. From a Democratic National Committee press release in Feb. 2008:

Throughout this campaign season, McCain has been working overtime trying to remake himself into a candidate the right wing of the Republican Party can accept in 2008. Along the way, he has cast aside his principles by flip-flopping on signature issues like campaign finance and immigration reform, and embracing the very same “agents of intolerance” and shady campaign tactics he once denounced.

Campaign McCain’s “extreme makeover” may help him pander to the right wing, but the rest of America has figured out that a vote for John McCain is a vote for a third Bush term. Whether he is pining for a 100-year war in Iraq, calling for Roe v. Wade to be overturned, supporting efforts to make the same Bush tax cuts he once opposed permanent, supporting President Bush’s veto of health care for 10 million children, or applauding the president’s decision to commute Scooter Libby’s sentence, John McCain has promised four more years of the same failed Bush policies that have undermined our economy and made America less secure.

Characterizing Romney as an extreme conservative is almost as ridiculous as calling McCain one. And it’s another example of why, at least from a campaign perspective, it doesn’t matter how moderate the Republican candidate is. He will always be portrayed as a radical, out-of-mainstream figure.

Read Less

How Boring Must the GOP Veep Be?

It is a given that the Romney campaign knows it must not repeat the mistakes made by John McCain’s staff during his failed effort to head off a Barack Obama presidency. Of course, at the top of the list of McCain’s blunders was his choice of a largely unvetted vice presidential candidate who proved to be unready for the scrutiny of the liberal mainstream press. Thus, according to Politico, Romney advisers are determined that their man will choose someone who will be the polar opposite of Sarah Palin. But if, as Politico claims, they are really convinced the ideal Romney running mate will be “an incredibly boring white guy,” they will be doing him a disservice. Like generals obsessed with winning the last war rather than the one they are currently fighting, the GOP standard bearer’s staff may be learning the wrong lessons from 2008.

For those picking a vice president, a desire to “do no harm” is probably as apt a guiding principle for politics as it is for medicine. But the idea that the Republicans are best served by a vice presidential candidate who will neither provoke controversy nor give the Democrats anything to criticize is equally as wrongheaded as McCain’s desperate attempt to catch lightening in a bottle with Palin. It’s one thing to try and avoid a flashy clunker. To deliberately seek a dud who provides no excitement or buzz is to ask for a completely different kind of trouble. Even more to the point, the Politico story makes it appear as if some people in the Romney campaign are leaking this information in an attempt to head off the possibility that one of a few brilliant but possibly controversial veep candidates is squelched before the vetting process is even completed.

Read More

It is a given that the Romney campaign knows it must not repeat the mistakes made by John McCain’s staff during his failed effort to head off a Barack Obama presidency. Of course, at the top of the list of McCain’s blunders was his choice of a largely unvetted vice presidential candidate who proved to be unready for the scrutiny of the liberal mainstream press. Thus, according to Politico, Romney advisers are determined that their man will choose someone who will be the polar opposite of Sarah Palin. But if, as Politico claims, they are really convinced the ideal Romney running mate will be “an incredibly boring white guy,” they will be doing him a disservice. Like generals obsessed with winning the last war rather than the one they are currently fighting, the GOP standard bearer’s staff may be learning the wrong lessons from 2008.

For those picking a vice president, a desire to “do no harm” is probably as apt a guiding principle for politics as it is for medicine. But the idea that the Republicans are best served by a vice presidential candidate who will neither provoke controversy nor give the Democrats anything to criticize is equally as wrongheaded as McCain’s desperate attempt to catch lightening in a bottle with Palin. It’s one thing to try and avoid a flashy clunker. To deliberately seek a dud who provides no excitement or buzz is to ask for a completely different kind of trouble. Even more to the point, the Politico story makes it appear as if some people in the Romney campaign are leaking this information in an attempt to head off the possibility that one of a few brilliant but possibly controversial veep candidates is squelched before the vetting process is even completed.

If Romney wants boring, then some on his putative short list are definitely out. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is a lot of things but boring isn’t one of them. He would attract a lot of attention and the press would dote on his every word during the campaign. Marco Rubio is also not boring. Having him on the ticket would also be interpreted as an appeal to the Hispanic vote much in the way Palin was seen as a token woman. Also not boring is Rep. Paul Ryan, the party’s ideas maven on entitlement reform. According to the logic of the Politico piece, he’s out because he would be a lightening rod for Democratic attacks.

That leaves Romney to choose between the likes of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, former Minnesota governor and erstwhile Romney rival turned campaign surrogate Tim Pawlenty, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and Ohio Senator Rob Portman. All are sound individuals and none could be accused of generating much excitement. Indeed, Pawlenty, who flopped on the presidential campaign trail, and Daniels, who stayed out of the presidential race in order to avoid media attacks on his family, pretty much define the word boring.

But none, not even these men, are without drawbacks. In particular, Portman’s presence on the ticket will allow President Obama to continue running against George W. Bush because he worked in his administration. But if this story was leaked in order to boost his chances or that of any other boring contender, I doubt it will work.

Instead of worrying about avoiding another Palin, what Romney needs to do is to find someone whom he finds compatible and thinks is a plausible president who would help him govern. And if that person has some political or personal appeal that might excite the voters, that should not be considered a drawback.

The circumstances of 2008 are radically different from those of 2012. Romney is not running against a historic challenger who seeks to succeed a two-term Republican incumbent. In Palin’s defense, it should be noted that it isn’t likely any other running mate would have made any difference to McCain’s chances. Nor should her presence be considered purely negative. She did excite the GOP base, though the former Alaska governor probably chased as many independents away from the Republicans as the number of conservatives she attracted.

Romney is running even with Obama, not way behind and looking for a Hail Mary pass to even the score. That should inspire some caution on Romney’s part, but it shouldn’t mean he ought not to consider men like Christie and especially Ryan, with whom he is said to have some affinity. The plan ought to be to avoid a mistake-prone person who doesn’t have the background to be a potential president, not an exciting personality who might help Romney get elected.

Read Less

SEALs Criticize Obama’s Grandstanding

Listening to the Obama campaign gush about the president’s courageous decision regarding the Osama bin Laden raid, you might think he was the one who piloted the helicopter, raided the compound, and fired the legendary shot. But what do the actual American heroes who risk their lives in these types of missions think? The Daily Mail spoke to several Navy SEALs who are mystified by the argument that President Obama’s decision was uniquely heroic:

A serving SEAL Team member said: ‘Obama wasn’t in the field, at risk, carrying a gun. As president, at every turn he should be thanking the guys who put their lives on the line to do this. He does so in his official speeches because the speechwriters are smart.

“But the more he tries to take the credit for it, the more the ground operators are saying, ‘Come on, man!’ It really didn’t matter who was president. At the end of the day, they were going to go.”

Chris Kyle, a former SEAL sniper with 160 confirmed and another 95 unconfirmed kills to his credit, said: ‘The operation itself was great and the nation felt immense pride. It was great that we did it.

“But bin Laden was just a figurehead. The war on terror continues. Taking him out didn’t really change anything as far as the war on terror is concerned and using it as a political attack is a cheap shot.”

Read More

Listening to the Obama campaign gush about the president’s courageous decision regarding the Osama bin Laden raid, you might think he was the one who piloted the helicopter, raided the compound, and fired the legendary shot. But what do the actual American heroes who risk their lives in these types of missions think? The Daily Mail spoke to several Navy SEALs who are mystified by the argument that President Obama’s decision was uniquely heroic:

A serving SEAL Team member said: ‘Obama wasn’t in the field, at risk, carrying a gun. As president, at every turn he should be thanking the guys who put their lives on the line to do this. He does so in his official speeches because the speechwriters are smart.

“But the more he tries to take the credit for it, the more the ground operators are saying, ‘Come on, man!’ It really didn’t matter who was president. At the end of the day, they were going to go.”

Chris Kyle, a former SEAL sniper with 160 confirmed and another 95 unconfirmed kills to his credit, said: ‘The operation itself was great and the nation felt immense pride. It was great that we did it.

“But bin Laden was just a figurehead. The war on terror continues. Taking him out didn’t really change anything as far as the war on terror is concerned and using it as a political attack is a cheap shot.”

Exactly. Every American will cheer on the bin Laden raid, and Obama’s gutsy decision to go ahead with it. Killing bin Laden was a wildly popular move – there has never been any serious debate in this country about whether or not to do it. The real debate has been about the less-popular steps that need to be taken to keep America safe in the War on Terror. Vice President Biden likes to say that Obama has a backbone “like a ramrod,” but where has that backbone been when it comes to the unpopular decisions during wartime? Obama is cutting out early in Afghanistan, quietly blasting away al-Qaeda leaders with drones instead of capturing them for intelligence, and hoping that tensions in Iraq don’t boil over before the November election, as not to mar his claim the was is over.

When you think of all the complex, critical, gut-wrenching decisions a commander-in-chief has to make during times of war, the decision to send in SEALs to bump off the world’s most hated terrorist leader and mass murderer of thousands of Americans is pretty cut-and-dry in the scheme of things.

Sen. John McCain made a similar point on Fox News yesterday:

“I say any president, Jimmy Carter, anybody, any president would have, obviously, under those circumstances, done the same thing. And to now take credit for something that any president would do is indicative of the kind of campaign we’re under — we’re — we’re seeing…So all I can say is that this is going to be a very rough campaign,” McCain told Fox News in an interview… “And I’ve had the great honor of serving in the company of heroes. And, you know the thing about heroes, they don’t brag.”

A lesson about how heroes don’t brag, from someone who would know. In fact, some would say McCain’s own modesty hurt him in 2008, because he was reluctant to make his time as a POW a focus of his campaign.

Read Less

A “Plan B” on Syria Urgently Needed

It’s good to hear the Obama administration may be searching for a Plan B on Syria. One is certainly needed—and urgently. Plan A was the UN-brokered cease fire which, as no less an authority than UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon notes, is not being implemented by the Assad regime. Indeed, there are numerous reports of regime assaults continuing on opposition bastions while the rebels have little equipment with which to defend themselves.

Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman just got back from Turkey where they meet with Syrian rebel leaders. “The most stunning, unsettling conclusion I drew from the leaders of the Free Syrian Army was that they have essentially got no help from anyone. They are literally running out of ammunition while Assad’s forces are being resupplied by Iran and Russia,” Lieberman told a reporter afterwards.

Read More

It’s good to hear the Obama administration may be searching for a Plan B on Syria. One is certainly needed—and urgently. Plan A was the UN-brokered cease fire which, as no less an authority than UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon notes, is not being implemented by the Assad regime. Indeed, there are numerous reports of regime assaults continuing on opposition bastions while the rebels have little equipment with which to defend themselves.

Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman just got back from Turkey where they meet with Syrian rebel leaders. “The most stunning, unsettling conclusion I drew from the leaders of the Free Syrian Army was that they have essentially got no help from anyone. They are literally running out of ammunition while Assad’s forces are being resupplied by Iran and Russia,” Lieberman told a reporter afterwards.

That being the case, what a Plan B might be answers itself: simply provide more aid to the Syrian rebels and also help Turkey to set up safe zones inside Syria where refugees can come to escape annihilation. Those options, which could be combined (but don’t have to be) with air strikes on Syrian regime targets, are hardly new, but the case for them is becoming more compelling as it becomes clear there is no real alternative–unless we are simply willing to sit back and watch a close Iranian ally maintain his bloody rule in such a vital state.

 

Read Less

McCain Weighs in on the Veepstakes

Who better understands the stakes of the vice presidential choice than Sen. John McCain, who still gets to see his own decision played out repeatedly on HBO? When asked on CBS about whether the GOP nominee should “go rogue” with the VP choice this year, McCain gave a wink to his own 2008 choice:

Read More

Who better understands the stakes of the vice presidential choice than Sen. John McCain, who still gets to see his own decision played out repeatedly on HBO? When asked on CBS about whether the GOP nominee should “go rogue” with the VP choice this year, McCain gave a wink to his own 2008 choice:

McCain then went on to name all the obvious picks: Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal and Mitch Daniels. All good choices, but with due respect to the argument that the dullest veep is the best veep, a Romney-Daniels ticket might be pushing it.

Rubio is obviously the odds-on-favorite. Then again, Christie’s visit to Israel yesterday – and meeting with Netanyahu – is fueling speculation that he’s trying to boost his foreign policy cred for some sort of high-profile national role.

Someone McCain left out who has been getting more VP buzz than usual today is Rep. Paul Ryan, who delivered a scathing speech blasting President Obama last night, after the president publicly criticized Ryan’s budget proposal.

Ryan challenged Obama for his “broken promises” reminding voters that he would try to divide Americans because he could not run on his record.

“I seem to remember him saying that he was going to be a uniter, not a divider,” Ryan said. “Frankly this is one and the worst of his broken promises. We do not need a campaigner-in-chief, we need a commander-in-chief, we need a leader that America deserves.”

“The presidency is bigger than this. He was supposed to be bigger than this.” Ryan continued, “We need solutions, not excuses. We need a president who takes the lead in not one that spreads the blame. We need someone who appeals to our dreams and aspirations, not to our fears and anxieties. We as Americans deserve to choose what kind of country we want and what kind of people we want to be.”

Obama’s direct attacks on Ryan this week have been fascinating. It’s not often the president of the United States gives speeches calling out the chairman of the House Budget Committee. But it’s a sign that Ryan’s desire to focus this election on the ideological differences between the parties on economic issues is working.

Choosing Ryan for VP could help cement that focus – but it would also carry risks. As a vice presidential candidate, Ryan would instantly become a more polarizing figure. His charisma and status as a conservative rising star could also end up overshadowing Romney in some ways. Ryan may actually be able to play a more supportive role for Romney outside of the campaign than in it.

Read Less

You Can’t Take Money Out of Politics

Yesterday’s edition of NBC’s “Meet the Press” featured a battle of two surrogates: John McCain, who was there boosting Mitt Romney, and his former Senate colleague Fred Thompson, who was on hand to speak for Newt Gingrich. Given the polls that show Romney ready to win big in Florida, McCain had the better of the argument about the Republican presidential race. But when he got around to discussing the use of super PACs in the contest, Thompson made more sense.

As the co-author of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that was largely gutted by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, the Arizona senator is still furious about the impact this had on his pet cause of campaign finance reform. His dire predictions it would all lead to “scandal” because there is “too much money washing around in politics” made for a good sound bite, but the super PACs’ role in the 2012 campaign is not so much a testament to the mistakes of the High Court but to the fallacies promoted by the campaign finance reform lobby. If McCain doesn’t like the way campaigns are being financed, and there are good reasons not to like it, then he should blame the entire reform movement, not a court that protected free speech rights.

Read More

Yesterday’s edition of NBC’s “Meet the Press” featured a battle of two surrogates: John McCain, who was there boosting Mitt Romney, and his former Senate colleague Fred Thompson, who was on hand to speak for Newt Gingrich. Given the polls that show Romney ready to win big in Florida, McCain had the better of the argument about the Republican presidential race. But when he got around to discussing the use of super PACs in the contest, Thompson made more sense.

As the co-author of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that was largely gutted by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, the Arizona senator is still furious about the impact this had on his pet cause of campaign finance reform. His dire predictions it would all lead to “scandal” because there is “too much money washing around in politics” made for a good sound bite, but the super PACs’ role in the 2012 campaign is not so much a testament to the mistakes of the High Court but to the fallacies promoted by the campaign finance reform lobby. If McCain doesn’t like the way campaigns are being financed, and there are good reasons not to like it, then he should blame the entire reform movement, not a court that protected free speech rights.

It is true the spectacle of individual donors like Newt Gingrich’s friend Sheldon Adelson having the power to affect the race seems an indictment of the current state of the law. But super PACs exist, like their predecessors in recent elections such as the 527 groups made famous by the Swift Boat Veterans that attacked John Kerry, because of the reform impulse that seeks to take money out of politics. As this is impossible, all the reforms have done is to make it more difficult for candidates and political parties to raise money. Though some laws, like McCain’s unlamented legislation, have sought to extend those restrictions to individual citizens, groups and corporations, this violates the constitutionally protected right of political speech.

McCain thinks it is scandalous that a “casino owner and his wife” — meaning the Adelsons — have a right to spend their money promoting candidates and issues they believe in. But even if you agree some of the ads financed by Adelson (such as the Michael Moore-style documentary attacking Romney’s business career that was run by a Gingrich super PAC) were absurd, why should the government have any more right to stifle the Adelsons’ speech than it does that of the media or incumbent politicians?

As Thompson pointed out in rebuttal to McCain, the right of political speech cannot be restricted only to those candidates who can “self-fund.” That means all candidates and the parties should have the ability to raise the money they need, if they can muster such support, so long as there is some transparency. If McCain thinks it’s a bad thing that campaign finance law has marginalized parties, he should blame the whole “reform” impulse that has continually blighted our political life since Watergate, not the court.

If there are to be more campaign finance scandals, they are as much the fault of those who, like McCain, cling to the myth that money can be drained from politics if only you write enough restrictive laws. On the contrary, politics will be a lot cleaner once this “reform” impulse is permanently shelved.

Read Less

Not Great Timing for McCain Endorsement

There was no doubt John McCain would back Mitt Romney for the nomination. The question is, why did the campaign decide to roll this out today, of all days? It’s understandable that Romney would want a big endorsement to help sustain the buzz over his Iowa victory. But the narrative coming out of Iowa is that Romney still has a lukewarm relationship with the base, and he’s only playing into that by appearing with the bane of the conservative grassroots.

There are still conservatives out there who hold a grudge against McCain for losing in 2008, and – rationally or not – cling to the idea that if Republicans had only nominated a more conservative candidate, Obama would never have won the election. McCain’s endorsement is helpful for Romney in New Hampshire, but maybe he should have waited a day or two for the post-Iowa chatter to die down before making the announcement.

Read More

There was no doubt John McCain would back Mitt Romney for the nomination. The question is, why did the campaign decide to roll this out today, of all days? It’s understandable that Romney would want a big endorsement to help sustain the buzz over his Iowa victory. But the narrative coming out of Iowa is that Romney still has a lukewarm relationship with the base, and he’s only playing into that by appearing with the bane of the conservative grassroots.

There are still conservatives out there who hold a grudge against McCain for losing in 2008, and – rationally or not – cling to the idea that if Republicans had only nominated a more conservative candidate, Obama would never have won the election. McCain’s endorsement is helpful for Romney in New Hampshire, but maybe he should have waited a day or two for the post-Iowa chatter to die down before making the announcement.

Rick Santorum has already used the opportunity to take a swipe at Romney’s moderate record:

“Yeah, that’s fine,” Santorum said when asked about McCain’s planned endorsement. “You know, I would’ve expected that. …

He added: “John is a more moderate member of the Republican team, and I think he fits in more with Newt’s — excuse me, with Mitt’s — view of the world. And I wish him the very best, and again, I have nothing but respect for John McCain.”

Gingrich also pushed the narrative that Romney won’t be able to seal the deal with the GOP base. “The fact is, Gov. Romney has a very limited appeal in a conservative party,” Gingrich said, describing Romney as “a moderate Massachusetts Republican to the left of the vast majority of Republicans.”

Read Less

McCain, Putin Trade Barbs

Vladimir Putin does not like John McCain. Whether it’s McCain’s 2007 remark that he looked into Putin’s eyes and “saw three letters: a K, a G, and a B,” or his announcement during the 2008 Russia-Georgia war that “today, we are all Georgians,” the Arizona senator has been a thorn in Putin’s side.

It’s not surprising, then, that McCain is enjoying the burgeoning “Slavic Spring” protests. It’s also no surprise that McCain has happily shared his feelings with Putin via social media. The Washington Post reports:

Read More

Vladimir Putin does not like John McCain. Whether it’s McCain’s 2007 remark that he looked into Putin’s eyes and “saw three letters: a K, a G, and a B,” or his announcement during the 2008 Russia-Georgia war that “today, we are all Georgians,” the Arizona senator has been a thorn in Putin’s side.

It’s not surprising, then, that McCain is enjoying the burgeoning “Slavic Spring” protests. It’s also no surprise that McCain has happily shared his feelings with Putin via social media. The Washington Post reports:

“Dear Vlad, The Arab Spring is coming to a neighborhood near you,” McCain tweeted earlier this month. Two days later, he delivered remarks on the Senate floor excoriating the Russian government on missile defense, human rights and interference in Georgia, among other issues.

On Thursday, in his nationally televised and wide-ranging “phone in,” Putin was asked about McCain’s pugnacious tweet, and the suggestion that the kind of uprisings that have unfurled across the Middle East could be replicated in Russia.

According to reports from Moscow, Putin turned stone-faced.

“Mr. McCain was captured, and they kept him — not just in prison, but in a pit — for several years,” he said, referring to McCain’s years in captivity during the Vietnam War. “Anyone would go nuts.”

Putin also invoked the NATO mission in Libya, saying McCain has “the blood of peaceful civilians on his hands, and he can’t live without the kind of disgusting, repulsive scenes like the killing of Qaddafi.”

There is perhaps no love lost between McCain and Putin. On Thursday, McCain shot back on Twitter: “Dear Vlad, is it something I said?”

It’s pretty clear McCain got under Putin’s skin, and this is more than schoolyard taunting. During the 2008 war, a Georgian woman told Michael Totten: “The night they came close to Tbilisi, Bush and McCain made their strongest speeches yet. The Russians seemed to back down. Bush and McCain have been very good for us.”

Whether or not McCain’s strong statements influenced Russian behavior, McCain serves as a steady reminder to Putin that the free world is watching. And it’s telling that in Putin’s mind, Qaddafi is the victim and McCain the bloodthirsty one.

Read Less

John McCain: Right Again on Foreign Policy. But Will Obama Listen?

Say what you will about John McCain, he has an unerring instinct in a foreign crisis. He was right about the surge in Iraq. He was right about the Russian invasion of Georgia. And now he’s right about Egypt. He has come to the conclusion that, as his Twitter feed put it, “Regrettably the time has come 4 Pres. Mubarak 2 step down& relinquish power. It’s in the best interest of Egypt, its people &its military.” Leaving aside the inelegance of announcing an important position via such a limited medium (one that I admittedly use myself), this is a principled stand. More important, it’s the right stand.

McCain understands what Obama apparently does not, or at least what Obama is not willing to come out and say publicly: that having Mubarak try to cling to office by violence serves no one — not the people of Egypt, not the United States, and ultimately not even Mubarak himself. Mubarak’s historical reputation will only grow worse if he is seen as inflicting bloodshed on his people to preserve his rule. Further fighting of the kind we have seen today, with pro-regime thugs attacking peaceful protesters, also has the potential to fracture the army and to provide an opening to the Muslim Brotherhood. At this point, it is imperative for Mubarak to leave quickly, opening the way for a transition government that with military support could prepare the way for free and fair elections. The U.S. does not have the option of voting “present” in this crisis. What we say and do matters. It’s time for Obama to follow McCain’s lead — not for the first time.

Say what you will about John McCain, he has an unerring instinct in a foreign crisis. He was right about the surge in Iraq. He was right about the Russian invasion of Georgia. And now he’s right about Egypt. He has come to the conclusion that, as his Twitter feed put it, “Regrettably the time has come 4 Pres. Mubarak 2 step down& relinquish power. It’s in the best interest of Egypt, its people &its military.” Leaving aside the inelegance of announcing an important position via such a limited medium (one that I admittedly use myself), this is a principled stand. More important, it’s the right stand.

McCain understands what Obama apparently does not, or at least what Obama is not willing to come out and say publicly: that having Mubarak try to cling to office by violence serves no one — not the people of Egypt, not the United States, and ultimately not even Mubarak himself. Mubarak’s historical reputation will only grow worse if he is seen as inflicting bloodshed on his people to preserve his rule. Further fighting of the kind we have seen today, with pro-regime thugs attacking peaceful protesters, also has the potential to fracture the army and to provide an opening to the Muslim Brotherhood. At this point, it is imperative for Mubarak to leave quickly, opening the way for a transition government that with military support could prepare the way for free and fair elections. The U.S. does not have the option of voting “present” in this crisis. What we say and do matters. It’s time for Obama to follow McCain’s lead — not for the first time.

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: Standing Up Against Earmarks

Only a few Republicans, such as John McCain, stood up and applauded when the president said he wouldn’t sign a bill with earmarks. That’s real bipartisanship, as many members of both parties aren’t happy about the end of the gravy train.

Only a few Republicans, such as John McCain, stood up and applauded when the president said he wouldn’t sign a bill with earmarks. That’s real bipartisanship, as many members of both parties aren’t happy about the end of the gravy train.

Read Less

RE: Gail Collins and Joe Lieberman

Following up on John’s post on Gail Collins and Joe Lieberman: a standard trope in the mainstream news media is to bemoan the decline of bipartisanship and the disappearance of centrist politicians. If only there were more lawmakers willing to vote based on their principles rather than politics, we often hear, Washington would be a better place. Except this week just such a politician announced his retirement, and instead of offering him tributes for his political bravery, he has been kicked in the shins for daring to deviate from the party line.

I am thinking, of course, of Joe Lieberman, who has come to define genuine bipartisanship in Washington. A liberal Democrat on many issues, he voted for ObamaCare and led the charge to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But he also courageously supported the Iraq war even when it became extremely unpopular to do so, and he stood by his friend John McCain even when McCain was opposing Barack Obama, the liberal darling. Thus Lieberman’s retirement announcement has been greeted not with tributes to his statesmanship but with brickbats hurled by the likes of New York Times columnist Gail Collins.

In an ungraceful and unpleasant column, Collins cannot seem to find anything nice to say about one of the nicest people in Washington. She even slights him rather than praises him for his leadership on allowing gays to serve openly in the military:

Last month, when he helped lead the fight for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” some people seemed more than a tad resentful at having to give up complaining about him for the duration of the debate. “Of course, he wants gay people in the military,” wrote Alex Pareene at Salon.com, “He wants everyone in the military.”

Whatever happened to civility in politics — that virtue much praised in recent weeks? Do its dictates apply only to Republicans? And is “courage” a virtue that can be exhibited only by those who take liberal policy stands? Silly questions, I know.  The commentary on Lieberman’s retirement confirms that there is no institution quite so partisan as the MSM, even as it sings the praises of bipartisanship.

Following up on John’s post on Gail Collins and Joe Lieberman: a standard trope in the mainstream news media is to bemoan the decline of bipartisanship and the disappearance of centrist politicians. If only there were more lawmakers willing to vote based on their principles rather than politics, we often hear, Washington would be a better place. Except this week just such a politician announced his retirement, and instead of offering him tributes for his political bravery, he has been kicked in the shins for daring to deviate from the party line.

I am thinking, of course, of Joe Lieberman, who has come to define genuine bipartisanship in Washington. A liberal Democrat on many issues, he voted for ObamaCare and led the charge to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But he also courageously supported the Iraq war even when it became extremely unpopular to do so, and he stood by his friend John McCain even when McCain was opposing Barack Obama, the liberal darling. Thus Lieberman’s retirement announcement has been greeted not with tributes to his statesmanship but with brickbats hurled by the likes of New York Times columnist Gail Collins.

In an ungraceful and unpleasant column, Collins cannot seem to find anything nice to say about one of the nicest people in Washington. She even slights him rather than praises him for his leadership on allowing gays to serve openly in the military:

Last month, when he helped lead the fight for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” some people seemed more than a tad resentful at having to give up complaining about him for the duration of the debate. “Of course, he wants gay people in the military,” wrote Alex Pareene at Salon.com, “He wants everyone in the military.”

Whatever happened to civility in politics — that virtue much praised in recent weeks? Do its dictates apply only to Republicans? And is “courage” a virtue that can be exhibited only by those who take liberal policy stands? Silly questions, I know.  The commentary on Lieberman’s retirement confirms that there is no institution quite so partisan as the MSM, even as it sings the praises of bipartisanship.

Read Less

Is the Right Worse Than the Left?

Some on the left are still attempting to justify the biased nature of the story line that depicts conservative opinions as being the source of a poisoned debate that allegedly leads to violence. To that end, Michael Kinsley writes today in Politico that the real problem with coverage of the debate about Arizona isn’t the fact that the entire topic is a red herring promulgated in an attempt to silence the right, but that in the course of introducing this utterly false narrative, some liberals are accepting a “false balance” between the right and the left.

Though Kinsley concedes, “Democrats should be cautious about flinging accusations,” he still insists that “It seems — in fact, it seems obvious — that the situation is not balanced. Extremists on the right are more responsible for the poisonous ideological atmosphere than extremists on the left, whoever they may be. And extremists on the left have a lot less influence on nonextremists on the left than extremists on the right have on right-wing moderates.”

Why is this so? Because Kinsley says so, that’s why. From his perspective, the extreme left is represented by the chicly biased liberalism of NPR that is, I suppose, inherently more tasteful than Fox News.

But in order to accept Kinsley’s premise, you have to ignore the tone of Democratic opposition to President Bush for eight years, which was largely aimed at delegitimizing that administration and which encouraged even more extreme street rhetoric that manifested itself in demonstrations where vulgar and violent speech were commonplace. And you also have to ignore the rants that are heard today from the likes of Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, to mention just two left-wing talk-show hosts. Not to mention the more intellectual riffs of anti-conservative hatred that emanate from Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Princeton University. Yesterday I noted that Krugman called for “hanging Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of the senator’s stand on ObamaCare. I neglected to mention that, according to a largely flattering profile in the New Yorker, Krugman hosted an election-night party at his home during which an effigy of Sen. John McCain was burned in effigy. Indeed, guests were invited to burn effigies of any politician they disliked. And yes, this is the same New York Times columnist who wrote that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “climate of hate” fostered by conservative rhetoric. Read More

Some on the left are still attempting to justify the biased nature of the story line that depicts conservative opinions as being the source of a poisoned debate that allegedly leads to violence. To that end, Michael Kinsley writes today in Politico that the real problem with coverage of the debate about Arizona isn’t the fact that the entire topic is a red herring promulgated in an attempt to silence the right, but that in the course of introducing this utterly false narrative, some liberals are accepting a “false balance” between the right and the left.

Though Kinsley concedes, “Democrats should be cautious about flinging accusations,” he still insists that “It seems — in fact, it seems obvious — that the situation is not balanced. Extremists on the right are more responsible for the poisonous ideological atmosphere than extremists on the left, whoever they may be. And extremists on the left have a lot less influence on nonextremists on the left than extremists on the right have on right-wing moderates.”

Why is this so? Because Kinsley says so, that’s why. From his perspective, the extreme left is represented by the chicly biased liberalism of NPR that is, I suppose, inherently more tasteful than Fox News.

But in order to accept Kinsley’s premise, you have to ignore the tone of Democratic opposition to President Bush for eight years, which was largely aimed at delegitimizing that administration and which encouraged even more extreme street rhetoric that manifested itself in demonstrations where vulgar and violent speech were commonplace. And you also have to ignore the rants that are heard today from the likes of Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, to mention just two left-wing talk-show hosts. Not to mention the more intellectual riffs of anti-conservative hatred that emanate from Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Princeton University. Yesterday I noted that Krugman called for “hanging Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of the senator’s stand on ObamaCare. I neglected to mention that, according to a largely flattering profile in the New Yorker, Krugman hosted an election-night party at his home during which an effigy of Sen. John McCain was burned in effigy. Indeed, guests were invited to burn effigies of any politician they disliked. And yes, this is the same New York Times columnist who wrote that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “climate of hate” fostered by conservative rhetoric.

Kinsley is right when he decries hateful rhetoric. But he is not above taking comments out of context to back up his point. For instance, he claims Bill O’Reilly’s reaction to one of his columns consisted of a call by the FOX News host for Kinsley’s head to be cut off. That sounds despicable. But he neglects to mention that what O’Reilly was saying was that Kinsley’s opposition to Guantanamo and other tough anti-terror measures was so obstinate and foolish that perhaps the only thing that might change his mind was for al-Qaeda terrorists to treat him the same way they did Daniel Pearl. That’s pretty harsh, but not the same thing as a call for a beheading.

The cockeyed lesson that liberals seem intent on shoving down the throats of their fellow citizens is that when conservatives talk tough about liberals, it is tantamount to incitement to murder, but that when liberals talk tough about conservatives, it’s just talk, because liberals don’t mean anyone any harm. We have heard a great deal about the way political debate in this country has been debased by violent rhetoric in recent years. But for all of the nastiness of the left about Bush and of the right about Obama, I don’t think any of that has done as much damage to the fabric of democracy as the determination the past few days by the mainstream media and its liberal elites to exploit a crime carried out by a mentally ill person to further their own narrow partisan political agenda.

Read Less