Andrea Mitchell: McCain Ad "Factually Wrong"

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

Andrea Mitchell committed a random act of journalism, yesterday, when she set the record straight on McCain's scurrilous attack ad. Mitchell would be in a position to know, since she was there.

In appearances on MSNBC, including "Hardball," she debunked McCain's claims that Obama cancelled his visit with wounded troops because he couldn't bring cameras. From the transcript (all emphases mine):

MITCHELL: ... And the other thing is, did he make a bad call in deciding not to go to Ramstein? He had every right to go to Ramstein...

BARNICLE: To visit the...

MITCHELL: ... to visit the troops in Landstuhl.

He had already been to visit the troops in Iraq without cameras, without an entourage. And he got, I think—his people, rather, got so backed off by warnings from the Pentagon, now, be please careful, and don‘t bring your military aide, because he‘s now a political aide. The Pentagon was way too aggressive probably in that. And they got so nervous, oh, well, this is going to look political, and they were damned if they did or damned if they didn‘t.



MITCHELL: Let me just finish one—just one point.

FINEMAN: I‘m sorry.


MITCHELL: There was never any intention—let me be absolutely clear about this. The press was never going to go. The entourage was never going to go. There was never an intention to make this political.

But by tacking it on to the tail end of a political—the political leg of the trip, they opened themselves up, they feared, to the criticism. And, if they had gone, they would have been criticized. And not going, they were criticized.

And the McCain commercial on this subject is completely wrong, factually wrong.

BARNICLE: Well, let‘s watch the commercial. And tell us where it‘s wrong.

. . .

MITCHELL: Well, first of all, the picture, the image that they use of him playing basketball is with the troops shot by a—an Army cameraman. That was DOD footage that the—the Pentagon shot of him in Kuwait shooting hoops—and a three-pointer, I might add.

BARNICLE: Yes. Swish.

MITCHELL: So, when he went to see the injured troops in the Green Zone, he did not bring a camera. There was no Pentagon camera. He did not even confirm to those of us covering by—covering that he had gone. I had to find out that he had gone through other sources, military sources.

I mean, the fact is that he was never planning to take the press corps. The press corps was going to be on the tarmac, locked up on the airplane while he went off by himself.

The only issue was whether he could bring a political aide, who was a retired military—retired Air Force general...

There is more on The Huffington Post, including a video of another Mitchell appearance and a "Countdown" segment discussing the perception/reality gap on McCain's "support" of the troops. Here are some highlights:

OLBERMANN: In falsely accusing Senator Obama of ditching U.S. troops in Germany because of press restrictions, the latest McCain campaign ad made an even more outlandish claim, quote, “John McCain is always there for our troops.”

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Except when he isn‘t.

As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid noted in mid-2007, McCain only showed up for four of the past 14 Senate votes on Iraq. So far this year, he shown up for none, not even the resolution honoring the sacrifice made by the fallen.

And looking at just part of McCain‘s record of supporting the troops since the war in Iraq began, April 2003, he tabled the motion to provide over $1 billion of National Guard and Reserve equipment. October 2003, he tabled an amendment to provide an additional $322 million for safety equipment for U.S. troops in Iraq. March 2004, he voted against eliminating abusive tax loopholes that would have increased veterans‘ medical care by $1.8 billion.

March 2006, he voted against closing corporate tax loopholes that would have increased veteran medical services by $1.5 billion. April 2006, he voted against providing an extra $430 million for veteran outpatient care. May 2006, he voted against $20 million for veteran health care facilities.

March 2007, he didn‘t bother on a resolution to start redeploying troops from Iraq by March 2008. September 2007, he voted against Senator Webb‘s amendment that would specify minimum rest periods for troops in-between deployments; and in May 2008, he first spoke out against Senator Webb‘s G.I. bill and then didn‘t bother to show up to vote on it.

But none of that stopped him from accepting President Bush‘s praise when the bill ultimately passed.

Joining me now: our own Rachel Maddow, the host of “Rachel Maddow Show” on Air America Radio.

. . .

MADDOW: ... I think, they‘ve been waiting to count on so far, the idea that if you to squint and don‘t focus too much, the fact that he is a veteran can sort of substitute for the idea that he has done right by veterans as a politician, that he‘s done right by veterans and by the troops as a senator.

But the fact is, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, they gave John McCain a “D” for his voting record; they gave Barack Obama a “B-plus.” Disabled Americans Veterans gave John McCain just a 20 percent voting record; they gave Barack Obama an 80 percent voting record.

There‘s a difference between being a veteran and supporting veterans as a politician. He‘s just counting on people not being able to tell the difference.

John McCain Playing Politics with the Troops

Sunday, July 27, 2008

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I have written a good deal over the years about how much Republicans, and Bush in particular, love to use our military as political props. Now, when Obama does the right thing, by respecting a Pentagon directive, and canceling a visit to wounded troops in Germany, McCain resorts to a cheap maneuver, that, once again, uses our fighting men and women as political pawns.

As per VetVoice:

Barack Obama canceled a pre-planned visit to the troops in Germany yesterday after being told by the Pentagon that the trip would violate a Pentagon policy prohibiting campaign stops on military installations. No problem there.

However, the McCain campaign is now blasting Obama:

The McCain camp has nonetheless been using Obama's canceled trip to insinuate that he's anti-troops. "Barack Obama is wrong," McCain spokesperson Brian Rogers said in a statement yesterday. "It is never 'inappropriate' to visit our men and women in the military."

Clever talking point. Too bad it's total bullshit. There are times when it is completely inappropriate to visit our troops, like when you're a candidate for office, traveling with your campaign. The McCain campaign knows this perfectly well, having only recently been denied permission to speak at the Naval Aviation Museum.

And if that utterly fallacious statement from McCain's spokesman weren't enough, the campaign has leapt on this non-story with both feet and created what is probably their most disingenuous ad to date. (See above.) In it they imply that Obama made time for the gym, but not the troops, and that he didn't want to visit the troops without the cameras rolling. And the worst thing about this slime is that it will probably stick. Casting Democrats as "weak on defense" and "not supporting the troops" just never goes out of style.

But, at least one Senate Republican gets it. Here's Chuck Hagel, from his appearance on "Face the Nation."

CHUCK HAGEL: Let me add to that. As you know, Bob, the congressional delegation that you referred to ended when we parted in Jordan. At that point, it was a political trip for Senator Obama. I think it would have been inappropriate for him and certainly he would have been criticized by the McCain people and the press and probably should have been if on a political trip in Europe paid for by political funds-not the taxpayers-to go, essentially, then and be accused of using our wounded men and women as props for his campaign. I think the judgment there-and I don't know the facts by the way. I know what you've just read. No one has asked me about it other than what you've just asked about. But I think it would be totally inappropriate for him on a campaign trip to go to a military hospital and use those soldiers as props. So I think he probably, based on what I know, he did the right thing. We saw troops everywhere we went on the congressional delegation. We went out of our way to see those troops. We wanted to see those troops. And that's part of our job to see those troops, by the way, and listen to those troops, Bob. And we did.

Who is the Batman? George W. Bush?

Friday, July 25, 2008

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Separted at Birth?

Well, this was fairly inevitable. Batman is our new neocon hero. Wall Street Journal's Andrew Klavan has gone so far as to insist that the caped crusader is none other than George W. Bush.

A cry for help goes out from a city beleaguered by violence and fear: A beam of light flashed into the night sky, the dark symbol of a bat projected onto the surface of the racing clouds . . .

Oh, wait a minute. That's not a bat, actually. In fact, when you trace the outline with your finger, it looks kind of like . . . a "W."

There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.

I had little doubt that the moral ambivalence depicted in "The Dark Knight" would set off alarm bells for civil libertarians and give fodder to fans of the extra-legal. But Klavan (and yes, I find it hilarious that his name evokes that other pseudo-intellectual Cliffie Clavin of "Cheers" fame) has put forth a very shoddy analysis to back his claim.

Let's start with the obvious. Batman does not become a vigilante because of the nature of the criminals he's pursuing, however much like terrorists Klavan imagines them to be. He becomes a vigilante because of a broken system of government and jurisprudence. One which is in bed with the crime families it is supposed to be arresting and prosecuting. All of Gotham is a well-known cesspool of criminality, in which it is an open secret that institutions like the bank the Joker robs in the opening sequence, are owned by the mob. The crime in Gotham is not anomalous or unexpected, like terrorism. It's institutionalized into the very fabric of Batman's universe. Gotham is a city in which nearly every public and private institution is enmeshed in a culture of criminality. The handful of honest pols, police, and prosecutors, are hamstrung by the corruption in their own midst. Now that sounds like the Bush Administration. Batman, for his part, longs for a trustworthy gatekeeper of the public trust, and sincerely hopes that the apparently scrupulous Harvey Dent will make his tactics unnecessary.

Also, unlike Bush, et al., Batman is quite aware that he is breaking some laws. He's not insisting that everything he does is legal and enlisting attorneys to reinterpret the Constitution. He is beset by moral qualms that have never been expressed by that poster child for wrong-headed certitude, George W. Bush.

Batman also fights his own battles. He doesn't send thousands of men and women off to fight and die, after carefully avoiding war in a champagne unit of the National Guard. Bush is more like the wealthy, playboy persona Bruce Wayne adopts to throw people off the trail of his superhero identity.

Although Klavan doesn't specifically address it, the issue of torture has been raised, because of the brutal and sadistic tactics employed by Batman, and in some cases, undertakes under the imprimatur of the Police Dept. It has even been suggested, in some quarters, as testimony to the efficacy of torture. The propensity amongst Republican weenies to confuse movies and television with reality, has been well covered. But more to the point, if we are using "The Dark Knight" as an elucidation of the merits of torture, it would behoove us to recognize that torturing that "terrorist," the Joker, didn't work. In fact it played right into his hands. He used Batman's little chair smashing exercise to do what real interrogation experts have long warned any terrorist would in the event of the "ticking-time-bomb" scenario: Run out the clock.

There is no question that "The Dark Knight" tests the boundaries of major civil liberties questions. But the film, in addition to being set in a virtually lawless environment, also wrestles with those questions, rather than offer pat answers. It does not portray anything like the moral clarity Klavan suggests. Quite the contrary.