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Updated: 25 min 29 sec ago

McCain brings in another lobbyist.

1 hour 11 min ago

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has tapped yet another lobbyist to play a crucial role in his campaign. Frank Donatelli, who is currently a lobbyist at McGuire Woods, will take a leave from his lobbying job to “serve as the new deputy chairman of the RNC” as well as “the chief liaison between the committee and the campaign.” Donatelli joins a long list of seasoned lobbyists on the McCain campaign, including chief political adviser Charlie Black, campaign manager Rick Davis, and senior advisers Steve Schmidt and Mark McKinnon.

UPDATE: Earlier this week, McCain hired “leading GOP lobbyist” John Green to coordinate his “message and travel schedule with congressional Republicans.”

ThinkFast: March 7, 2008

1 hour 59 min ago

Employers slashed jobs by 63,000 in February, the most in five years, the starkest sign yet the country is heading dangerously toward recession or is in one already. The Labor Department’s report, released Friday, also showed that the nation’s unemployment rate dipped to 4.8 percent as hundreds of thousands of people…left the civilian labor force.”

A new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq is scheduled to be completed this month. But intelligence officials “have not decided whether to make its key judgments public” and “lean toward a return to the traditional practice of keeping such documents secret.

“A House committee will question three Wall Street executives later today over compensation awards reaching hundreds of millions of dollars while shareholders bear the brunt of billions in writedowns from subprime mortgages.”

Alleging that the White House “made apparently false and misleading statements in court about the White House e-mail controversy,” CREW asked a federal judge yesterday “to demand an explanation” about “testimony at a congressional hearing last week” that is inconsistent with “what the White House told a federal court in January.”

In a new book, former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias says that a former protege of President Bush told him that he was fired for political reasons. “Iglesias recalls Texas U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton telling him shortly after he was ousted. ‘If I were you, I’d just go quietly.‘” (more…)

Wilkerson: McCain is ‘arrogant,’ his advisers ’scare me.’

Thu, 2008-03-06 20:00

In an article titled “Hothead McCain,” for the upcoming issue of The Nation, Robert Dreyfuss quotes Col. Larry Wilkerson (Ret.) — former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell — saying that with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) “[n]o dissent, no opinion to the contrary, however reasonable, will be entertained.” Wilkerson added that McCain is “hardheaded,” “arrogant,” “hubristic,” and “too proud for his own good.” Referring to McCain’s foreign policy advisers, Wilkerson said: They “scare me.” “Scare me.”

UPDATE: In an article in Salon, Mark Benjamin writes that some military officials are worried about McCain:

“I like McCain. I respect McCain. But I am a little worried by his knee-jerk response factor,” said retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who was in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004 and is now campaigning for Clinton. “I think it is a little scary. I think this guy’s first reactions are not necessarily the best reactions. I believe that he acts on impulse.”

POLL: Over Half Of Americans Say They Do Not Trust The Press

Thu, 2008-03-06 18:41

A new Harris Interactive poll finds that over half of Americans — 54 percent — say they tend not to trust the press, “with only 30 percent tending to trust the press.” More Americans (41 percent) trust “Internet news and information sites” than they do the mainstream media. Radio tends to do best among Americans as 44 percent say they tend to trust it.

The Harris results reflect the findings of a Harvard University study conducted last year, which found “nearly two-thirds of Americans do not trust campaign coverage by the news media.” A few other recent surveys offer some explanation for the public’s distrust:

– Two thirds of Americans - 67% - believe traditional journalism is out of touch with what Americans want from their news.

– The harshest indictments of the press come from the growing segment that relies on the internet as its main source for news. The internet news audience is particularly likely to criticize news organizations for their lack of empathy, their failure to “stand up for America,” and political bias.

– Democrats, Republicans and independents have decreased confidence in the accuracy of media reports on the war.

These days, the slogan “most trusted name in news” doesn’t mean as much as it once did.

Pelosi: McCain should reject Hagee endorsement.

Thu, 2008-03-06 17:31

In a conference call today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), a Catholic herself, condemned Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for accepting the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee, who has called the Catholic Church “The Great Whore,” an “apostate church,” the “anti-Christ,” and a “false cult system.’” The Huffington Post reports:

“That behavior is outside the circle of civilized debate in our democracy,” Pelosi said during a Thursday conference call. “I certainly think John McCain should reject his endorsement and I’m sure it won’t be long before he does.”

Perino Attacks Congress On Wiretapping Using A Factually Inaccurate Slide

Thu, 2008-03-06 16:32

During today’s White House press briefing, a reporter asked spokeswoman Dana Perino about the “prospects” for the Protect America Act (PAA) “from the White House point of view.” Perino quickly attacked Congress’s request for a 21-day extension to find a compromise between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

To underscore her point, Perino pulled out a slide that she had been “waiting to use” for “a couple of days.” Her attack fell flat, however, when reporters pointed out that the quote on the slide was inaccurately attributed to the nonexistent “Senate” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer:

PERINO: Well, what’s interesting is, you know, I actually have a slide I can actually bring up, now that you’ve asked. … We’ve been waiting to use this for a couple of days. […]

About four weeks ago, everyone in this briefing room was asking why President Bush wouldn’t accept a three-week extension. And everyone thought it would be very reasonable to just give them 21 more days to work. Well, we’re nearing — I think we’re at 20 days today and they’re not even here.

QUESTION: Steny Hoyer is the House majority leader, by the way.

PERINO: He is. That is a bad slide.

QUESTION: That says Senate.

PERINO: I know, and it’s the House. That’s why it’s bad.

Watch it:

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The reason Congress asked for the 21-day extension is because the White House claimed that the expiration of the PAA undermined America’s national security. Yet despite this fear-mongering, conservatives rejected the extension.

Since that time, congressional Democrats have held a series of bipartisan meetings to work out a solution. White House officials have skipped the meetings. “I don’t understand why the White House hasn’t been more active in pushing the solution they want,” said Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV). “It’s very strange.” House Republicans have also prevented their staffs from attending the meetings.

Transcript: (more…)

55 killed by bomb in Baghdad.

Thu, 2008-03-06 15:50

In “one of the bloodiest days in the capital in recent months,” two coordinated bomb blasts blamed on al Qaeda “killed 55 people in a crowded Baghdad shopping area on Thursday, on the day the U.S. military said it was withdrawing 2,000 troops from the Iraqi capital.”

Kondracke: McCain ‘Seeking Ways To Separate’ From Bush To Avoid Looking Like Third Bush Term

Thu, 2008-03-06 15:00

During the “All-Star Panel” segment on Fox News’s Special Report last night, Roll Call Executive Editor Mort Kondracke said that Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) campaign is worried about appearing too aligned with President Bush and they’re seeking “ways to separate themselves in some way from Bush.” They need “some issue that he can be distinctive from Bush,” said Kondracke

Noting that McCain is the same as Bush on the war and tax cuts, Kondracke said that he doesn’t want to be seen as “just the third term” of Bush:

I know, as a matter of fact, that they’re talking in the McCain camp about ways to separate themselves in some way from Bush, and they haven’t figured out how to do it–some issue that he can be distinctive from Bush about.

Clearly it’s not going to be the war. It’s not going to be tax cuts. It has got to be something reasonably major so that the Democrats can’t say this is just the third term.

Watch it:

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McCain has a reputation as a “maverick” for picking fights with Republicans. But as the Weekly Standard’s Matthew Continetti recently wrote, “when you look over the list of his deviations…one cannot help thinking of … George W. Bush.”

Kondracke notes that Bush and McCain are the same on the war and taxes, but in reality McCain represents a third term of his buddy Bush on issue after issue:

TORTURE: Despite McCain’s reputation as an opponent of torture, he has consistently supported legislative language that protects the Bush administration’s prerogatives to use it. Most recently, McCain voted against a ban on waterboarding and urged President Bush to veto the bill.

SURVEILLANCE: Echoing Bush in his CPAC speech this year, McCain called it “shameful and dangerous” for Democrats to oppose a surveillance bill that contains retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies. He then voted “to terminate lawsuits against” those companies.

IMMIGRATION: In 2005, McCain told the New Yorker that “the President and I share exactly the same views on the issue.”

SOCIAL SECURITY: In 2005, McCain was “a big booster” of Bush’s Social Security privatization plan and last week he told the Wall Street Journal that as president he wants to reform Social Security through private savings accounts “along the lines that President Bush proposed.”

HEALTH CARE: After examining his health care plan, the New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn recently concluded that McCain will act “like George W. Bush” as he supports policy ideas that “President Bush has embraced.”

Not only is McCain the same as Bush on most policy issues, but he would hire the same types of ideologues to staff his administration. McCain is said to believe that John Bolton is “the type of ambassador that ought to represent the United States at the United Nations.”

Reporters no longer interested in traveling with Rice.

Thu, 2008-03-06 14:10

In 2005, an “unprecedented 19 reporters” accompanied Condoleezza Rice on her first trip overseas as Secretary of State. Now, however, things have changed. The Washington Post reports that “vastly fewer reporters” joined Rice on her latest trip to the Middle East:

The three wire services–Associated Press, Reuters and Agence-France Presse–are on board. Bloomberg News and National Public Radio took seats. But only three newspapers–The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Washington Times–are on the plane, down from the standard five. And the networks did not even bother to send a camera crew, let alone a correspondent.

The media began losing interest in Rice last year. In mid-2007, every single major newspaper turned down an op-ed by Rice on Lebanon and in September, CBS and NBC declined a White House offer to have Rice appear on their Sunday shows.

Perino: ‘Don’t Know’ If White House Will Seek Congress’ Approval Of Permanent Iraq Occupation

Thu, 2008-03-06 13:14

Earlier this week, State Dept. Coordinator for Iraq David Satterfield refused to say whether it was “a constitutional requirement” for the administration to “consult with Congress” on a long-term agreement with Iraq.

This morning on Fox News, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino echoed Satterfield, saying that “we don’t know” whether Congress has any constitutional role in authorizing such treaties:

The negotiations on it have just started. In fact, there was a hearing on Capitol Hill yesterday. And members will be fully briefed. We don’t know if this is going to result in something that Congress will need to approve or not. But they are going to be fully consulted all along the way.

Watch it:

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But the administration does know it will bypass Congress. In a follow-up letter to Satterfield’s testimony obtained by ThinkProgress, Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Bergner said the President does have “constitutional authority” to “continue combat operations” in Iraq without Congress’s authorization.

As justification, Bergner cited the 2002 authorization of force against Saddam Hussein and the resolution passed after 9/11:

[T]he U.S. military has the authority to conduct operations in Iraq beyond the end of the year under the laws passed by Congress and the President’s authority as Commander in Chief under the Constitution.

“I don’t think anybody argues today that Saddam Hussein is a threat,” said Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) in response. “Is it the government of Iraq that’s a threat?”

In defending the executive agreement, Perino cited “the long-term relationship we have with countries Japan and Germany and South Korea.” Indeed, these “strategic framework agreements” were approved by Congress first, as Oona Hathway of Yale Law School noted.

Homeowner equity reaches lowest point since 1945.

Thu, 2008-03-06 12:44

The Federal Reserve announced today that “Americans’ percentage of equity in their homes fell below 50 percent for the first time on record since 1945.” Moody’s estimated that “8.8 million homeowners, or about 10.3 percent of homes, will have zero or negative equity by the end of the month.”

Bob Dole: McCain ‘has a temper.’

Thu, 2008-03-06 12:02

Former Sen. Bob Dole told CNN’s Larry King last night that John McCain “does have a…I guess you could say temper. But I always sort of rationalized that because the poor guy had been locked up” in a tiny cell for six years. But he said McCain “can control it. It’s not a problem anymore.” Recently, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) refused to say whether McCain is temperamentally suited to be President.

UPDATE: Carpetbagger writes, “Military officials worried about McCain’s ‘knee-jerk response factor.’”

AEI Awards Loyal Bushie John Howard With Its Annual ‘Irving Kristol Award’

Thu, 2008-03-06 11:20

While in office, Australian Prime Minister John Howard was one of President Bush’s “staunchest allies,” supporting the Iraq war and refusing to sign the Kyoto Protocol. Last year, frustrated Australians voted Howard’s party out of power in a “humiliating defeat.” His support of Bush also cost him his own constituent election, making Howard the first sitting prime minister to lose his seat in Parliament since 1929.

Misery loves company. Last night, Howard joined some of his fellow fallen neocons — including Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, and Scooter Libby — at an annual dinner hosted by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). AEI presented Howard with its annual “Irving Kristol Award” for being “one of the world’s most successful democratic politicians.”

Making his first major speech since losing the election, Howard wasted no time providing his hosts with some conservative red meat. He warned of the threat of “Islamic fascism,” boasted that the “surge” in Iraq is “beginning to bear fruit,” said that viewing the Iraq war as a distraction from fighting terrorism is “naive and dangerous,” extolled “traditional” marriage, and proclaimed a “major ideological battle” against the left:

The dominant left-liberal elements in the media in both our countries apparently cannot bring themselves to acknowledge good news stories coming out of Baghdad. […]

Those who hold to conservative values continue to face a major ideological battle.

The left liberal grip on educational institutions and large, though not all, sections of the media remains intense.

Howard’s speech can serve as a preview to the future: he recently signed with the prominent Washington Speaker’s Bureau, a move that allows him to follow in the footsteps of a number of unemployed, but loyal Bushies, including Rudy Giuliani, Andy Card, Tony Snow and Scott McClellen.

Indeed, Howard’s speech has already won an admirer. Writing about the event at the National Review Online, Mark Steyn called Howard a “great man” and then asked: “Any chance of a quickie constitutional amendment to enable Howard to run for President?”

Fleischer: ‘I miss the president.’

Thu, 2008-03-06 10:36

On CNN last night, Larry King asked former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, “do you miss the White House?” “No, Larry,” replied Fleischer. “I miss the president.” Watch it:

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KBR Dodges $500 Million In Social Security And Medicare Taxes In Cheney-Backed Scheme

Thu, 2008-03-06 09:42

No private contractor has financially profited from the Iraq war more than Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), which until last year was a subsidiary of Halliburton. The firm currently has more than 21,000 employees in Iraq, and between 2004 and 2006, received more than $16 billion in government contracts — far more than any other corporation.

Yet KBR hasn’t been passing on these enormous profits to American taxpayers or even its own employees, thanks to a plan that Vice President Cheney helped establish. Today, the Boston Globe reports that KBR has avoided paying more than $500 million “in federal Medicare and Social Security taxes by hiring workers through shell companies” based in the Cayman Islands. A look at the costs to KBR employees:

While KBR’s use of the shell companies saves workers their half of the taxes, it deprives them of future retirement benefits.

In addition, the practice enables KBR to avoid paying unemployment taxes in Texas, where the company is registered, amounting to between $20 and $559 per American employee per year, depending on the company’s rate of turnover.

As a result, workers hired through the Cayman Island companies cannot receive unemployment assistance should they lose their jobs.

KBR’s practices are extreme, even compared to its competitors. Other top Iraq war contractors — including Bechtel and Parsons — pay Social Security and Medicare taxes for their employees.

The Bush administration has aided this tax dodging. One of KBR’s shell companies is Overseas Administrative Services, which was set up two months after Cheney became Halliburtion’s CEO in 1995. Since at least 2004, the Pentagon has known about KBR’s practices, but chosen to ignore the issue.

Of course, KBR is more than happy to claim workers as its own in one instance: when seeking “legal immunity extended to employers working in Iraq.”

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Perino: McCain and Bush have always been ‘buddies.’

Thu, 2008-03-06 09:14

On Fox and Friends this morning, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino called President Bush’s anointment of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) as his chosen successor “a significant and symbolic moment.” Perino then described Bush and McCain’s friendship, including how after the 2000 primary, “McCain went on to work his tail off to help this president.” She said that they were never “enemies” or “rivals,” but always “buddies.” Watch it:

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Bush and McCain’s embrace yesterday was a “symbolic moment.” Symbolic of the fact that McCain represents a “third Bush term.”

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Transcript: (more…)

Being a senator not a ‘high priority’ for McCain.

Thu, 2008-03-06 08:35

John McCain (R-AZ) has already missed 57 percent of the Senate votes this session. Today, The Hill reports that McCain will likely continue to “steer far away from his day job in the United States Senate” in order to avoid “politically sensitive votes.” Campaign adviser Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) confirmed that voting in the Senate isn’t “a high priority” for McCain.

Canadians toss out CIA’s tainted evidence.

Thu, 2008-03-06 07:50

Newsweek reports that the Canadian government is no longer using evidence gained from CIA interrogations of a top al Qaeda detainee who was waterboarded. “The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the country’s national-security agency, last month quietly withdrew statements by alleged Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah from public papers outlining the case against two alleged terror ’sleeper’ operatives in Ottawa and Montreal.”

ThinkFast: March 6, 2008

Thu, 2008-03-06 07:01

Yesterday, the House passed the The Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007 which “would help end the stigma of mental illness and create greater access for people needing mental health and addiction treatment.”

A new Army mental health report finds that the percentage of troops “reporting depression in Afghanistan was higher than that in Iraq.” Mental health problems in general were higher than that in Iraq, and “mental health problems in general were higher than they had previously been in Afghanistan.”

At the weekly meeting of conservative leaders at the American for Tax Reform, former White House aide Tim Goeglein, who resigned after acknowledging repeated instances of plagiarism, “received three rounds of applause from the packed room, including one standing ovation, as he asked for their forgiveness.”

“The Veterans Affairs Department estimates that on any given night last year, 154,000 veterans were homeless, about a 20 percent decrease from 195,827 in the agency’s 2006 estimate.”

Big industries are waging “an intense lobbying effort to block new, tougher limits on air pollution that is blamed for hundreds of heart attacks, deaths and cases of asthma, bronchitis and other breathing problems.” The groups met with the White House in “a last-ditch effort to keep the health standard unchanged.” (more…)

Bush: ‘America Is In The Lead’ On Climate Change

Wed, 2008-03-05 18:35

This morning, President Bush gave this keynote address at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC), a ministerial-level conference hosted by the U.S. government.

Trying to stamp down what he called “stereotypes,” Bush insisted the US was leading the effort to combat global warming:

Now, look, I understand stereotypes are hard to defeat. People get an image planted in their head, and sometimes it causes them not to listen to the facts. But America is in the lead when it comes to energy independence; we’re in the lead when it comes to new technologies; we’re in the lead when it comes to global climate change — and we’ll stay that way.

Watch it:

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Bush’s claim defies the imagination. At the UN conference in Bali in December, the US objected to the proposal — backed by Britain and the EU — to cut carbon dioxide emissions 24-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. “We have problems with defining the numbers up front,” the White House’s head climate negotiator explained.

Six months earlier, Bush single-handedly killed a statement of commitment to halving emissions by 2050 by the leaders at the G8 summit.

While the US remains only industrialized nation that has refused to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol, other nations are taking the lead:

Britain has set a strong goal to cut CO2 emissions by 60 percent by 2050, leaving the door open for steeper cuts.

Sweden will half its CO2 emissions by 2050.

–The European Union created a cap-and-trade system more than two years ago, in 2005.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has supported caps on airplane emissions.

Japan announced last month that it would consider a cap-and-trade system.

Rather than taking real action to address our warming planet, as these nations have, Bush chooses to frequently — and grossly — inflate his record on combating climate change.

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