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John McCain’s chaotic operation may well rank among recent history’s least successful efforts.

The GOP presidential campaign of 2008 will certainly be one that historians discuss for years to come. But not in the way that some Republicans had hoped for when they selected an experienced maverick, loved by the media, to face off against an inexperienced African-American who had trouble vanquishing his opponent in the primaries.

To be fair, the odds were stacked against any Republican. The economy has suffered while the incumbent president was phenomenally unpopular. Democrats were well organized and well financed. They found, in Barack Obama, an exceedingly charismatic and dynamic candidate.

But nothing is inevitable in American politics. A strong campaign, combined with the issue of race and fears about Obama’s inexperience, could have produced a different outcome.

History is filled with examples of campaigns marked by bad decisions and poor performances that undermined their chances of victory. In 1964, Republican Barry Goldwater made statements that allowed President Lyndon Johnson to depict him as a candidate too far out of the American mainstream. Eight years later, Richard Nixon returned the favor to Democratic Sen. George McGovern, who had put together a campaign that appealed to the New Left and other activists inspired by 1960s activism but failed to bring in traditional Democratic constituencies such as organized labor. In 1988, Democrat Michael Dukakis was the proverbial deer in the headlights when Republican Vice President George H.W. Bush and his team redefined the technocratic Massachusetts Democrat into an extreme card-carrying ACLU liberal who let out murderers on weekend furloughs. Bush then stumbled in 1992 with his tin ear about the economic recession. In 1996, Republican Robert Dole ran a lethargic campaign that emphasized nostalgia and suspicion while President Bill Clinton ran around the country boasting about peace and prosperity. During the last election, Sen. John Kerry didn’t adequately defend himself against “Swift-Boat” attacks.

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But Team McCain ran a campaign that ranks on the bottom of this list. This was an aimless and chaotic operation made worse by poor choices at key moments. Their first mistake was picking Gov. Sarah Palin. Though in the first week following her selection, Palin energized the conservative base of the GOP, she became a serious drag on the ticket. This turned into one of the worst picks since McGovern selected Thomas Eagleton, a Missouri senator who withdrew after revealing that he had gone through electroshock therapy and suffered from “nervous exhaustion.” By picking Palin, McCain simultaneously eliminated his own best argument against Senator Obama—the limited experience of his opponent—while compounding his own most negative image, that of someone who was erratic and out of control. The pick also fueled the feeling that grew throughout September and October that the Republican candidate was willing to take any step necessary to win the campaign. The Palin pick made every decision that followed seem purely political.

The second mistake was going dark. McCain missed the biggest lesson of the Reagan Revolution: conservatives usually do best when they appeal to America’s optimism and develop a positive campaign around a vision for the country. President George W. Bush understood this in 2000, stressing compassionate conservatism, and in 2004 he couched his candidacy in an optimistic argument about how the Bush Doctrine could strengthen America against terrorism and restore the kind of security that seemed lost after 9/11.

McCain and Palin rejected this approach, instead putting together a campaign that was almost entirely negative and focused on attacking their opponents. They sounded much more like Goldwater in 1964 than Reagan in 1980, opening themselves up to Obama’s charge that they were willing to divide the nation for the purpose of winning the election. They called Obama a socialist, an extremist and even linked him to a terrorist. The campaign got so out of control that a man at one Palin rally yelled “Kill him!”. McCain had to restore order at a town meeting when one woman explained how scared she was of having an “Arab” in office. Still, the McCain campaign continued to run advertisements connecting Obama to 1960s radical Bill Ayers.

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The third mistake was the “no-state” strategy. In contrast to Obama’s “50-state” strategy whereby Democrats hoped to win support in red states, the Republican ticket moved from one state to the next without any clear rationale. Just as the Republicans lacked a broader vision, they also lacked a clear electoral strategy. From the start, they were playing catch-up and allowing Democrats to drive their decisions. The goal seemed to be courting support only when polls were narrowing rather than deciding in which states to focus their efforts. While Democrats systematically laid out their organizational and financial efforts, Republicans scrambled from one place to the other.

The fourth mistake was the way McCain handled the crisis on Wall Street. McCain’s decision to temporarily stop the campaign and possibly call off the debate at the start of the Wall Street crisis in September looked terrible. McCain often looked a lot like President Bush in 1992: uncertain about what to do about the economy and at many moments not seeming to care. In contrast, Obama’s decisions and performance seemed presidential.

McCain’s final mistake was to leave his most politically powerful argument until it was too late. While there were many problems with Joe the Plumber, the argument could have been used much more effectively against Senator Obama: that the Democratic ticket was too left of center, especially on the issue of taxes. Toward the end of the campaign, McCain picked up some steam in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. But the argument came much too late and at a point when many Americans had become so cynical, and turned off, by the Republican campaign that McCain could not restore his strength.

Now, the McCain-Palin campaign will be added to the list of devastated losers. The odds against the Republican ticket were formidable as any political scientist will tell you. But McCain could have put up a more effective fight. Perhaps the best outcome for Republicans would be if they took the campaign to heart, learned from their mistakes, and figured out for the next time around how to put together a campaign that looks more like 1980 than 1964. At the same time the next GOP candidate needs to look toward the future, realizing that at least when it comes to the economy, the conservative era has finally come to an end.

Julian E. Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. He is the co-editor of “Rightward Bound: Making America Conservative in the 1970s” and is completing a book on the history of national-secu rity politics since World War II, to be published by Basic Books.

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Fox lifts a radio clip of an academic argument on school funding and the civil rights movement from seven years ago as evidence that Obama’s tax cuts for the working middle class and poor are socialist.

In an initial Obama camp statement – they say their crowd sizes haven’t diminished and neither has John McCain seized on the matter. That it really is of interest to few outside of Fox News ~ here Megyn Kelly protests.

Former White House adviser Karl Rove, credited with winning two elections for President Bush, on Sunday said GOP nominee John McCain has a “very steep hill to climb” in his quest for the presidency.

Rove, who often puts a positive spin on things for the GOP, on “Fox News Sunday” offered a bleaker assessment of the state of the race from a Republican point of view. In his own electoral map, Rove has Democratic nominee Barack Obama ahead with 317 electoral votes after moving Ohio, Indiana, Colorado and Virginia to the Illinois senator’s column.

The GOP analyst noted that McCain would have to turn things around in all four states and sweep the remaining toss-up states in order to win the necessary electoral votes to prevail.

“It’s a steep uphill climb,” he said.

Rove added that McCain could turn the race if he is only down up to six points in national points. However, with the RealClearPolitics average of national polls putting Obama ahead by eight points, Rove said it would be “difficult” to make up that ground.

“What he’s got to do is pound home on two big messages. One message is, ‘I’m right on the issues and he’s wrong when it comes to taxes and the war on terror, and I’m experienced and ready to be president, and whatever his strengths and skills are, he, Sen. Obama, is not ready to be president’,” Rove said. “And you’ve got to make that message in a handful of states and repeat it constantly and hope that your ground game on Election Day is able to give you a point or two more beyond what the polls show you having.”

The GOP strategist also commented on signs that there is dissension within the ranks of the McCain campaign, including stress between vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and her handlers.

“It is a sign of undisciplined people who do not have the loyalty that they ought to have to the candidate whom they’re serving,” he said. “And it’s a sad sight to see. Nobody makes themselves look good by this process.”

Rove also acknowledged that this kind of infighting generally happens “in campaigns that are behind, and people want to make certain they escape with the best reputation they can.”

The Hill

Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, the brutal dictator who repressed and reshaped Chile for nearly two decades and became a notorious symbol of human rights abuse and corruption.

Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, the brutal dictator who repressed and reshaped Chile for nearly two decades and became a notorious symbol of human rights abuse and corruption.

Unclassified doc. detailing meeting took place here pdf.

John McCain, who has harshly criticized the idea of sitting down with dictators without pre-conditions, appears to have done just that. In 1985, McCain traveled to Chile for a friendly meeting with Chile’s military ruler, General Augusto Pinochet, one of the world’s most notorious violators of human rights credited with killing more than 3,000 civilians and jailing tens of thousands of others.

The private meeting between McCain and dictator Pinochet has gone previously un-reported anywhere.

According to a declassified U.S. Embassy cable about the meeting secured by The Huffington Post, McCain described the meeting with Pinochet “as friendly and at times warm, but noted that Pinochet does seem obsessed with the threat of communism.” McCain, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee at the time, made no public or private statements critical of the dictatorship, nor did he meet with members of the democratic opposition, as far as could be determined from a thorough check of U.S. and Chilean newspaper records and interviews with top opposition leaders.

At the time of the meeting, in the late afternoon of December 30, the U.S. Justice Department was seeking the extradition of two close Pinochet associates for an act of terrorism in Washington DC, the 1976 assassination of former ambassador to the US and former Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier. The car bombing on Sheridan Circle in the U.S. capital was widely described at the time as the most egregious act of international terrorism perpetrated on U.S. soil by a foreign power.

McCain’s visit with Pinochet took place at a moment when the Chilean strongman held virtually unrestricted dictatorial power and those involved in public, democratic opposition were exposed to great risk.

At the time of McCain’s meeting with Pinochet, Chile’s democratic opposition was desperately seeking support from democratic leaders around the world in an attempt to pressure Pinochet to allow a return to democracy and force a peaceful end to the dictatorship, already in its 12th year. Other U.S. congressional leaders who visited Chile made public statements against the dictatorship and in support of a return to democracy, at times becoming the target of violent pro-Pinochet demonstrations.

Senator Edward Kennedy arrived only 12 days after McCain in a highly public show of support for democracy. Demonstrators pelted his entourage with eggs and blocked the road from the airport, so that the Senator had to be transported by helicopter to the city, where he met with Catholic church and human rights leaders and large groups of opposition activists.

Mark Schneider, a foreign policy aide and former State Department human rights official who organized Kennedy’s trip, said he had no idea McCain had been there only days before. “It would be very surprising and disappointing if Senator McCain went to Chile to meet with a dictator and did not forcefully demand a return to democracy and then to publicly call for a return to democracy,” Schneider said.

Senator Edward Kennedy arrived only 12 days after McCain in a highly public show of support for democracy. Demonstrators pelted his entourage with eggs and blocked the road from the airport

McCain’s visit with Pinochet took place at a moment when the Chilean strongman held virtually unrestricted dictatorial power and those involved in public, democratic opposition were exposed to great risk.

McCain’s presence in Chile was apparently kept as quiet as possible. He and his wife Cindy arrived December 27 and traveled immediately to the scenic Puyehue area of southern Chile to spend several days as the guest of a prominent Pinochet backer, Marco Cariola, who later was elected senator for the conservative UDI party.

The trip was arranged by Chile’s ambassador to the United States, Hernan Felipe Errazuriz. According to a contemporary government document obtained from Chile, Errazuriz arranged for a special government liaison to help McCain while in Chile for the “strictly private” visit, and described him as “one of the conservative congressmen who is closest to our embassy.”

Errazuriz also arranged the invitation for the McCains to stay at the farm of his wealthy friend, Marco Cariola, according to Cariola, who did not know McCain previously. The McCains spent the three and a half days fishing for salmon and trout and riding horses. The area is one of Chile’s most beautiful tourist attractions, with dozens of crystal clear lakes and rivers surrounded by luxurious estates such as the Cariola farm where the McCains were staying.

On December 30, McCain traveled back to Santiago for a 5 pm meeting with dictator Pinochet, followed by a meeting with Admiral Jose Toribio Merino, a member of the country’s ruling military junta.

Read it all…

Source: HP

McCain’s on the phone !! Who wants to take the call? The man of honor has something disgraceful and disrespectful to say.

It doesn’t make sense feeling sorry for McCain – underdog or not – as he’s the fighter who punches below the belt.

Laura Meckler reports from New York City on the presidential race:

John McCain’s presidential campaign is blanketing battleground states with automated phone calls that accuse Democrat Barack Obama of working closely with a domestic terrorist, of holding extreme views on abortion and of “putting Hollywood above America.”

Automated calls have been an under-the-radar communication tool in recent elections, as they are hard to track and cheap to make. Hundreds of thousands of calls can be delivered before the opposition or the media is aware of them.

But today, a barrage of McCain-funded calls came into the open. Democrats have tracked them in 10 competitive states: Colorado, Nevada, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Virginia, Florida, Missouri, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Maine, where Republicans hope to snag a single electoral vote given to the winner of the northern congressional district.

Obama spokesman, “John McCain’s campaign has admitted that the economy is a losing issue for them, so he’s chosen to launch dishonorable and dishonest attacks like this.”

The calls are tough on Obama. The one that has been tracked in the most places picks up on McCain’s message from the stump and in TV ads to tie him to William Ayers, a 1960s era radical who is now a college professor. He has a loose association with Obama: the two sat on a board together and Ayers hosted a political event for Obama years ago, but Obama has said the two are not close. The McCain campaign has said that the issue is not the relationship between the two but Obama’s candor about it. But the automated phone call raises the relationship itself:

“Hello. I’m calling for John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. capitol, the Pentagon, a judge’s home and killed Americans,” the recorded message said. “And Democrats will enact an extreme leftist agenda if they take control of Washington. Barack Obama and his Democratic allies lack the judgment to lead our country.”

The call ends with the legally required disclosure, informing the listener that the call was paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee. (Listen)

Asked about the calls, McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said: “They are 100% factual, and the mission of this campaign is to ensure that voters are informed on Election Day and the presidential vetting process is complete.”

Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor responded, “John McCain’s campaign has admitted that the economy is a losing issue for them, so he’s chosen to launch dishonorable and dishonest attacks like this.”

A second script, picked up in Virginia and North Carolina, warns, “Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats aren’t who you think they are.” It goes on to say that Democrats do not understand the terrorist threat. (Listen)

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Another recorded message, which Democrats say was made to North Carolina homes, talks about an anti-abortion measure that Obama opposed in the Illinios legislature. (Listen)

 

 

 

A fourth message accuses Obama of spending more time at a Hollywood fundraiser than working on the financial crisis. (Listen)

Source: WSJ

William Ayers works as a professor – and likely there are a lot of students and faculty members who associate with him. The Woods Foundation which Obama and Ayers both worked on was started by a Republican. We are truly sorry for what the Murtagh went through as a result of the Ayers attack on their family home – some 40 years ago – but these accusations being made against Obama and now his wife are based on thin ice.

The McCain campaign is now broadening their attack on Obama’s past association with William Ayers to include Michelle Obama — even though McCain has repeatedly said spouses should be off limits during the campaign.

McCain is ditching yet another formerly-claimed principle

The attack? Bernardine Dohrn, Ayers’ wife and fellow former Weatherman, went to work in 1984 for the major Chicago-based national law firm of Sidley & Austin, and three years later, Michelle joined the mega-firm as well.

That’s the entire attack. We wish we were joking. But we aren’t.

In launching this latest, McCain is ditching yet another formerly-claimed principle as he faces the growing likelihood of defeat. In a statement back in June, the McCain campaign said: “Senator McCain agrees with Senator Obama that spouses should not be an issue in this campaign, and he has stated that position frequently.”

The attack on Michelle came on a McCain conference call with reporters this afternoon featuring John Murtagh, who has been hitting Obama over the Weather Underground’s attack on his family’s home back in 1970. Murtagh noted that Dohrn and Michelle Obama had both worked at the firm starting in the late 1980s.

The firm’s Chicago office currently employs more than 500 lawyers.

Murtagh didn’t even bother alleging that the two even knew each other, instead suggesting that they might have. If so, he said, the Obamas have known the two longer than suspected.

“If it is true” that the two women knew each other, Murtagh said, “the relationship is almost a decade older than Senator Obama has acknowledged. And that can very easily be resolved by Senator Obama, by Mrs. Obama, by Mr. Ayers and by Ms. Dohrn.”

“And incidentally, I would emphasize that we’ve all been focusing on Senator Obama,” said Murtagh. “I think we need to speak to his wife.”

Keep in mind that this wasn’t any surrogate speaking off the cuff. He was on a call organized by the McCain campaign, and he was apparently reading from a prepared statement, which would of course have been vetted by McCain aides. And so another once-cherished McCain principle gets junked in the service of self-parody.

Original radio broadcast


Click To Play

 

Source: TPM

Sarah Palin, John McCain’s running mate, unlawfully abused her power as Alaska’s governor by trying to have her former brother-in-law fired as a state trooper, according to an ethics investigation released last night. It deals a significant blow to an already embattled Republican ticket just over three weeks until Election Day.

Two month investigation, found that Mrs Palin was motivated in part by a personal grudge when she fired Walt Monegan, the police chief

The report, released after a two month investigation, found that Mrs Palin was motivated in part by a personal grudge when she fired Walt Monegan, the police chief, after he failed to dismiss her brother-in-law, who had been involved in an ugly divorce from her sister.

The finding will be an unwelcome distraction for Mr McCain at a time when he is struggling to hold ground against his Democratic rival Barack Obama, who has been boosted by the economic crisis, an issue where significantly more voters trust him on.

Mrs Palin has always maintained that she dismissed Mr Monegan over budget disputes, but the investigator hired by a 14-member bipartisan panel of the Alaskan state legislature concluded that a personal grudge influenced her decision – although it was not the sole reason for her motive to fire him.

Mrs Palin has always maintained that she dismissed Mr Monegan over budget disputes

Mr Monegan triggered the enquiry this summer when he alleged he had been fired by Mrs Palin, the Governor of Alaska, because he refused to bow to pressure by her, her husband Todd, and members of her staff to sack Mike Wooten, Mrs Palin’s former brother-in-law.

Mr Wooten, an Alaskan state trooper, was divorced from Mrs Palin’s sister in unseemly circumstances. He has not denied tasering his 10-year-old stepson – although he says the boy requested it – and at the height of intra-family conflict the Palins allege that he threatened to kill Mrs Palin’s father.

The investigation found Mrs Palin in violation of a state ethics law that prohibits public officials from using their office for personal gain.

“I feel vindicated,,“ Mr Monegan said. “It sounds like they’ve validated my belief and opinions. And that tells me I’m not totally out in left field.”

Stephen Blanchflower, the investigator hired by the legislative committee to conduct the investigation, said he found Mrs Palin in violation of a state ethics law that prohibits public officials from using their office for personal gain. He said she violated a statute of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.

The nearly 300-page report does not recommend sanctions or a criminal investigation, but it will inevitably be seized upon by Democrats to undermine both Mrs Palin and Mr McCain, who knew about the ethics investigation before he chose her as his running mate.

The report detailed the unusually high level of access Mrs Palin’s husband, Todd, had to her top aides.

In sworn affidavits released yesterday, the man she calls ‘The First Dude of Alaska’ attempted to shoulder much of the blame for the pressure on Mr Monegan to fire Trooper Wooten.
 

Interviews and documents show that the commissioner and his aides were contacted about Trooper Wooten more than 30 times over 19 months by the governor, her husband and seven administration officials.

He defended his two-year crusade to get his former brother-in-law kicked off the state police force. He said he had been trying to get Mr Wooten fired months before Mrs Palin became governor, and that his efforts intensified after she took office. He also said that at one point she told him to “drop it”.

“I make no apologies for wanting to protect my family and wanting to publicise the injustice of a violent trooper keeping his badge,” said Mr Palin.

Interviews and documents show that the commissioner and his aides were contacted about Trooper Wooten more than 30 times over 19 months by the governor, her husband and seven administration officials. At one point Mr Palin met with Mr Monegan with a file on Mr Wooten put together by a private investigator.

Initially Mrs Palin claimed there had been no pressure on Mr Monegan to fire Mr Wooten, but this summer she was forced to concede that members of her staff made numerous calls to Mr Monegan and other state officials about Mr Wooten.

Mike Wooten divorced Mrs Palin’s sister, Molly McCann, in 2005.

In March 2006 – eight months before Mrs Palin became governor – he was given a 10-day suspension after being accused of killing a moose without a permit, unfairly claiming disability benefit and using a stun gun on his 10-year-old stepson.

Mrs Palin said Mr Monegan was never fired, insisting he had been asked to step down as public safety commissioner and was offered a position on the Alcoholic Beverage Control board, due to his “outright insubordination” and “rogue mentality” when it came to budget and policy issues.

Last week, an Anchorage judge refused to halt proceedings, after five Republican lawmakers sued to block the inquiry. Joined by a sixth legislator, they filed an emergency appeal, which was later rejected by the state high court.

In a pre-emptive attack on today’s report – and in a clear sign of their concern about it – the McCain campaign released its own version of events. Taylor Griffin, a campaign spokesman, said that their report found that the dispute between the governor and her commissioner was an entirely legitimate one, which had been skewed by Democratic bias. The McCain campaign has maintained for over a month that the investigation was politically motivated.

In a pre-emptive attack on today’s report – the McCain campaign released its own version of events.

“The following document will prove Walt Monegan’s dismissal was a result of his insubordination and budgetary clashes with Governor Palin and her administration,” campaign officials wrote. “Trooper Wooten is a separate issue.”

“It is tragic that a false story hatched by a blogger over drinks with Trooper Wooten led the legislature to allocate over $100,000 of public money to be spent in what has become a politically-driven investigation,” it concludes.

In a statement after the report’s findings were released, the McCain campaign added: “Today’s report shows that the Governor acted within her proper and lawful authority in the reassignment of Walt Monegan. The report also illustrates what we’ve known all along: this was a partisan led inquiry run by Obama supporters and the Palins were completely justified in their concern regarding Trooper Wooten given his violent and rogue behavior.

“Lacking evidence to support the original Monegan allegation, the Legislative Council seriously overreached, making a tortured argument to find fault without basis in law or fact. The Governor is looking forward to cooperating with the Personnel Board and continuing her conversation with the American people regarding the important issues facing the country.”

Source: TimesOnline London

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Those waiting for a peek at Governor Sarah Palin’s personal finances are going to have to wait just a bit longer, under an agreement between the Federal Election Commission and the McCain campaign.

Federal election law requires the vice presidential candidate to file a personal financial disclosure statement within 30 days of their nomination. But, there seemed to be some confusion between the F.E.C. and the McCain campaign over the exact date of her nomination.

The McCain campaign has said that it believes the 30-day deadline ends on Oct. 3, 30 days after her Sept. 4th nomination at the Republican National Convention. The F.E.C. had said that the 30-day period began on August 29th, when Senator John McCain named her as his running mate and changed the name of his campaign fund to the McCain-Palin Compliance Fund. By the F.E.C.’s calculations, the filing was due on Monday, Sept. 29.

So, letters between the campaign and the F.E.C. ensued. Trevor Potter, the McCain campaign’s general counsel, also said that Mrs. Palin needed extra time to prepare since she had never done this before.

“Because Governor Palin has not previously run for federal office, it is clear to us that additional time is required to compile and prepare Govenor Palin’s financial information. As you are well aware, the Executive Branch financial disclosure form is vastly more complex than most state disclosure forms, and requires the assemblage of a quantity and a level of detail far beyond that reported previously by the Governor in Alaska and therefore readily available,’’ said Mr. Potter in his letter.

The F.E.C, in a letter to Mr. Potter, granted an extension until 30-days prior to the general election, or Oct. 5. Since that is a Sunday, the F.E.C. said the campaign would have until Oct. 6 to comply – but that no extension would be granted beyond that date.

Source: NYT

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