Wednesday, July 2, 2008

McCain Campaign in Disarray

I think McCain is too much of a control freak to run an effective Presidential campaign. The same thing happened in 2000. He doesn't listen very well.

John McCain put a top adviser in control of day-to-day campaign operations Wednesday after weeks of private concerns among Republicans that the GOP presidential campaign had not made the transition for the general election.

Steve Schmidt, a veteran of President Bush's re-election and a member of the Arizona senator's inner circle, will oversee daily political, strategy, coalitions, scheduling and communications efforts from the campaign's northern Virginia headquarters.

The campaign's estimated 300-person staff will report to Schmidt, who will report to campaign manager Rick Davis.

Davis will continue to focus on long-term planning, the vice presidential search, fundraising and the national convention but Schmidt's added responsibilities mean the campaign manager's load now will be somewhat lighter. Davis took the reins of the campaign almost exactly a year ago amid a major staff shake-up and has been the subject of Democratic criticism for his past lobbying work.

He told the staff of Schmidt's expanded role at a Wednesday meeting at headquarters, saying that Schmidt would have "full operational control" of the campaign's daily activities.

This from the NY Times:
Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign has gone through its second shake-up in a year. Responding to Republican concerns that his candidacy was faltering, Mr. McCain put a veteran of President Bush’s 2004 campaign in charge of day-to-day operations and stepped away from a plan to have the campaign run by 11 regional managers, Mr. McCain’s aides said Wednesday.

The installation of Steve Schmidt, who worked closely with Karl Rove, at Mr. McCain’s headquarters represented a sharp diminishment of the responsibilities of Rick Davis, who has been Mr. McCain’s campaign manager since the last shake-up nearly a year ago.

The shift was approved by Mr. McCain after several of his aides, including Mr. Schmidt, went to him about 10 days ago and warned him that he was in danger of losing the presidential election to Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, unless he revamped his campaign operation, two officials close to the campaign said.

Mr. Schmidt’s elevation is the latest sign of increasing influence of veterans of Mr. Rove’s shop in the McCain operation. Nicolle Wallace, who was communications director for Mr. Bush in the 2004 campaign (and in his White House) has joined the campaign as a senior adviser, and will travel with Mr. McCain every other week. Greg Jenkins, another veteran of Mr. Rove’s operation who is a former Fox News producer and director of the presidential advance team in the Bush White House, was hired by Mr. Schmidt last week after a series of what Mr. McCain’s advisers acknowledged were poorly executed campaign events.

This from U.S.News:
It was a long time coming: Today's shake-up of GOP nominee John McCain's leadership team follows weeks of harsh—and increasingly public—criticism by influential members of his own party who say they have been alarmed at what they have seen as the campaign's lack of focus and poor planning.

[...]Top Republicans have been expressing frustration about the lack of focus of McCain's campaign, its failure to hit a consistent "message of the day," its lack of outreach to cultural conservatives, and poorly stage-managed campaign events. "His schedule has been unbelievable," said one strategist close to the McCain campaign. "They have him all over the place, no consistency—it's been incredible."

900 Case Backlog - Taxpayers Defrauded by Drugmakers, Contractors

The rights of consumers is a secondary concern of the government. The profits of big business are always the first concern in America. This is from the Washington Post:

More than 900 cases alleging that government contractors and drugmakers have defrauded taxpayers out of billions of dollars are languishing in a backlog that has built up over the past decade because the Justice Department cannot keep pace with the surge in charges brought by whistle-blowers, according to lawyers involved in the disputes.

The issue is drawing renewed interest among lawmakers and nonprofit groups because many of the cases involve the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, rising health-care payouts, and privatization of government functions -- all of which offer rich new opportunities to swindle taxpayers.

Since 2001, 300 to 400 civil cases have been filed each year by employees charging that their companies defrauded the government. But under the cumbersome process that governs these cases, Justice Department lawyers must review them under seal, and whistle-blowers routinely wait 14 months or longer just to learn whether the department will get involved. The government rejects about three-quarters of the cases it receives, saying that the vast majority have little merit.

Disputes can stay buried for years more while the government investigates the allegations."Even if no new cases are filed, it might take 10 years for the Department of Justice to clear its desk. Cases in the backlog represent a lot of money being left on the table," said Patrick Burns, a spokesman for Taxpayers Against Fraud, which advocates for Justice to receive more funding to support cases by whistle-blowers and their attorneys.

Supporters of federal intervention in the cases say the dividends are substantial: In recent years, verdicts and settlements have returned nearly $13 billion to the U.S. government.

At issue in most of the cases is whether companies knowingly sold defective products or overcharged federal agencies for items sold at home or offered to U.S. troops overseas. Under the Civil War-era False Claims Act, workers who file lawsuits alleging such schemes cannot discuss them or even disclose their existence until Justice decides whether to step in.

By its own account, the 75-lawyer unit in Washington that reviews the sensitive lawsuits is overloaded and understaffed. Only about 100 cases a year are investigated by the team, which works out of the commercial litigation branch of Justice's civil division.

Critics argue that the delays are at least partly the result of foot-dragging by Justice and the federal agencies whose position it represents, especially in the touchy area of suppliers that may have overbilled the government for equipment, food and other items used by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Salmonella Mystery: What If It were a Terror Attack?

The FBI was forced to payoff a scientist whom they accused of being behind the anthrax attacks, when it was al Qaeda that was behind it. They failed to prevent 9/11 eventhough there were plenty of warnings. Now the government can't find what is behind the Salmonella poisonings. For all we know it could be a terror attack.

The federal government has expanded its investigation into an outbreak of salmonella illness to include items commonly eaten with tomatoes, health officials said Tuesday.

"Tomatoes are not off the hook," said Dr. David Acheson, associate commissioner for foods at the Food and Drug Administration. "It's just that there's clearly a need to think beyond tomatoes."

The outbreak of illness linked to Salmonella Saintpaul, a rare form of the bacteria, has sickened 869 people, 107 of whom have been hospitalized, said Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the Division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The outbreak began in mid-April, and the most recent case was reported June 20, implying that the outbreak is ongoing, Tauxe said.

More than half the illnesses have been diagnosed in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, Tauxe said.

"It's like a detective trying to solve a case. We often have to rely on people's memories about things that are not very memorable: what they ate last week or the week before," Tauxe said.

He said the original tomato warning was issued after interviews with different people revealed a "strong association" with the consumption of raw tomatoes: More than 80 percent of the cases in the initial case-control study had eaten fresh tomatoes.

Still, many people interviewed may not have realized that the things they ate had different ingredients, Tauxe said.

Acheson said that 10 of approximately 100 laboratories that are part of the country's Food Emergency Response Network have volunteered to expand their testing to the wider array of foods that the agency is focusing on.

Acheson would not divulge what those other foods are.

Transcript: McCain Interviewed by Fortune Magazine

Read the complete transcript:

The answer to this question proves McCain doesn't have a clue on the economy. He views al Qaeda as the greatest threat to the economy. Don't you think that is a stupid answer?

Fortune: There's been a lot of bad economic news lately. On Friday we got a lot of bad economic numbers. The stock market took a big dive. It seems pretty clear that the country's facing grave economic challenges right now. But I'd like you to look a little further down the road, to when you're in the Oval Office - what do you see as the gravest long-term threat to the U.S. economy?

McCain: Well, I would think that the absolute gravest threat is the struggle that we're in against radical Islamic extremism, which can affect, if they prevail, our very existence. Another attack on the United States of America - another successful attack on the United States of America - could have devastating consequences. Now having said that, I would say that at this moment it's probably our dependence on foreign oil that is one of the major factors that's harming our economy dramatically, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, or shall I say, affecting our climate and hurting fixed-income Americans the most. Finally is the issue of affordable and available health care for all Americans.

He thinks the economy is sound when almost everyone thinks that things are headed the wrong way.
Fortune: Do you believe the U.S. economy today is fundamentally sound?

McCain: I think the fundamentals of the U.S. economy are very strong. We're still the most innovative, the greatest exporter, the greatest importer, the greatest producer, and by any measurement. And I believe the fundamentals are sound. But that in no way diminishes the severity of the immediate challenge to our economy and millions of Americans.

He likes nuclear power. When did he develop this position? When he decided to run for President.
Fortune: So, long term, we can continue to enjoy relatively inexpensive gasoline and electricity because of the compensating effect of innovation and growth?

McCain: Long term, I do not believe we will ever see the price of a barrel of oil come down permanently or dramatically. So that then argues for nuclear power, for wind, tide, solar and innovative technologies such as batteries that will take a car a hundred miles before we have to plug it in. Or 200. And so I just happen to believe that even though this very high price - and it may go higher - has some artificiality associated with it - i.e., speculation - the fundamental fact is that, even with new discoveries of oil, that there is a greater and greater demand for what is fundamentally a finite resource. So we will be driven to adapt energy resources - energy-producing capabilities - that will eliminate over time - reduce and then eliminate - our dependence on foreign oil. One small example: The French - 80% of their electricity is generated by nuclear power. They sell power to other countries. It's been good for their economy. So, I mean, it's just there in plain view.