Sunday, August 3, 2008

Is John McCain Playing the Age Card?

Turnaround is fair play. You can't have it both ways, Mr.McCain.

“It is code; there is no question it is,” Ed Rollins, a Republican strategist who helped lead President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 reelection campaign, said when age surfaced as an issue. “They are trying to raise doubts.”

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough repeatedly argued on his show last week that the Obama campaign was portraying McCain as a “doddering, old, confused fool. He needs to go to Miami Beach and play checkers.”

To Democrats, however, Republicans are imagining slights and smears where there are none as part of an attempt to silence any discussion of McCain’s vigor.

“They are definitely trying to just put a lid on the kind of language we use,” said Democratic consultant Jonathan Prince.

[...]The issue is no small matter for McCain. Polls in recent months found voters more likely to take into consideration his age than Obama’s race, which explains why the McCain campaign has turned into ersatz word police, calling foul on even the slightest hint of a reference to the Republican’s age.

His supporters certainly use the age card:
Former presidential candidate Bob Dole, 85, has cut off communication with John McCain, 71, so that McCain cannot be accused of taking advice from someone older than himself.

“I feel like I can’t even talk to McCain because it’ll be an issue,” Dole told The Examiner in an interview. “You know how the press would be. They’ll say this is a guy who lost because of his age and now he’s out there trying to tell McCain what to do."

“They’re already playing the age card,” the Republican added. “So what do you do? You have a friend running, but you can’t communicate.”

[...]Still, Dole acknowledged there are parallels between himself and McCain.

“We had the same age thing,” he said. “It’s sort of the same thing I went through. I’m a different generation than Bill Clinton, and McCain’s a different generation than Barack Obama.

“And we weren’t articulate enough for the media,” he added. “Let’s face it. I wasn’t the speaker that Clinton was and McCain’s not the speaker that Obama is. But are we going to elect a speech or we going to elect a president?”
McCain has been joking about his age for years; using it as a political weapon:
Back on November 30, 2006, future Republican presidential nominee John McCain joked, "I'm older than dirt." A year and a half later, DNC research director Mike Gehrke was reprimanded for agreeing with him.

[...]When asked by Reader's Digest in February 2007 "how are you going to answer the question when people say, 'I just think he's too old?'" McCain trotted out his old reliable response:
"I think I would say that I'm older than dirt. That I have more scars than Frankenstein. That I've learned a few things along the way. Anyone who has accompanied me in the two months before the last election, or while I was hiking in the Grand Canyon or doing many of the things that I do regularly, can attest to the fact that I'm capable of keeping a very rigorous schedule."
The next month, USA Today featured McCain offering the same "older than dirt" rim shot. Then during a December 2007 MTV/MySpace event broadcast live, McCain stumbled and bumbled his way through the joke to a very forgiving youth audience:
"I'm older than Frankenstein. I gotta few scars. I'm older than dirt and I've got more scars than Frankenstein...Screwed up that line."

And let's not forget that Reagan used age effectively when running against Walter Mondale:
Back in 1984, then 73-year old Ronald Reagan dispensed with the age question by standing it on its head. During a debate with Walter Mondale, Reagan joked, "I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience." But having already made himself the subject of the punchline, self-proclaimed Reagan foot soldier John McCain has guaranteed the issue of his age (50% of those surveyed in a 2007 Pew poll said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate in his 70's) won't go away.

How is this not using the age card:
McCain, 72, has said publicly that he's "older than dirt." He deadpanned on "Saturday Night Live" that he's "very, very, very old." He's even turned the tables on the Democrats' presumptive nominee -- 47-year-old Barack Obama -- by saying that "for a young man with very little experience, he's done very well."

This from Huffington in May:
John McCain said that Barack Obama is the candidate from Hamas.

Barack Obama said the comment was a sign that McCain is "losing his bearings as he pursues the nomination."

Which is more straightforward: That McCain was saying terrorists like Obama, or that Obama was saying that McCain is old?

So why is it that the McCain campaign has managed to frame the spat about Obama's remark?

To say that the race has caused McCain to lose his bearing is to be charitable. The Arizona senator talks about running a positive campaign (as does his wife, but of course she's not the candidate); he used to talk about wack-job preachers being agents of intolerance; he used to respect campaign finance law; I could go on. So the McCain who says his opponent is the terrorism candidate, cozies up to the Hagees and Parsleys of the world, and spins in and out of the public campaign finance system is either a straight-shooter who has lost his bearings or a calculating pol doing whatever he has to to win.

But again: How is it that the Obama campaign has let the debate become about whether he transgressed rather than whether McCain did. (Possible answer: The focus currently keeps the age issue in voters' minds.) I fear the campaign may be losing its bearings.

Also losing their bearings: The media and the candidates for focusing on this stuff at all.

UPDATE: As I do too often, I wrote this without precision. To be clear -- I think it's obvious that Obama was talking about McCain having flipped, flipped and flipped again from the straight-shooter to the typical pol. Trapper John over at Daily Kos lays out a good case for why the McCain campaign is trying to paint it as age-ism. I still am not sure why the Obama campaign has let the McCain camp define the debate.

Meet The Press Transcript: Kerry vs. Lieberman (8-3-08)

Read the entire transcript of the debate between Senator surrogates John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman:

MR. BROKAW: And just this past week you said to the Palm Beach Post, "There's a problem in Washington. That problem is partisanship, grown people going to Washington acting like children having a mud fight." Do you think running a campaign ad in which you feature Britney Spears and Paris Hilton with Barack Obama is respectful?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I do. First off, you know, we all ought to relax a little bit. It's, it's a bit of humor. It's a way to draw people into the ad. Incidentally, the McCain campaign has another ad up in which they seem to be comparing Obama to Moses. So, in my book, that's about a good comparison as you can ask for. I should say, in "The Book," it's about a good a comparison as you should ask for. But, look, there's a very serious point to that ad, and it, and it gets right to it, which is, is, notwithstanding his celebrity status, is Barack Obama ready to lead? And my answer is no, that Barack Obama is a gifted, eloquent, young man who can and I hope will give great leadership to America in the years ahead. But the question is who's ready to be president on January 20th, 2009 with the economy in a crisis and facing dangerous enemies abroad. It's clearly John McCain. We only have two choices here: John McCain, Barack Obama. John McCain is ready to lead.

[...]Senator Kerry, by using the language that he did, saying, "I don't look like the president on a dollar bill or a five dollar bill," wasn't he, in effect, saying, "They're picking on my because I'm black"?

SEN. KERRY: No. What he was saying is they're trying to scare you. They're trying to scare the American people. And, believe me, I'm an expert on how they do that. They are engaged in character assassination, even John McCain's partner in a number of initiatives in the Senate, Russ Feingold, said yesterday, "They've decided they can't win on the issues, so now they're going to try to destroy his character." And that is exactly what this ad is calculated to do.

MR. BROKAW: But it's not, it's not just...

SEN. KERRY: The New York Times--well, but let me just...


SEN. KERRY: Tom, The New York Times said this is the low road express. John McCain himself, you just quoted him, John McCain said, "I want to have a campaign not of insults, but of ideas."

I mean, Joe, what's the idea in that?


SEN. KERRY: What is the idea--no, wait, let me just finish. What is the idea...

SEN. LIEBERMAN: The idea is that Barack Obama's not ready to lead, and he's against offshore drilling.

SEN. KERRY: Well, I'm going to come to that. I'm going to come to that.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: That's pretty direct and clear.

SEN. KERRY: No, it doesn't mention not ready to lead...

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Yes it does.

SEN. KERRY: ...and it doesn't mention offshore drilling. What it talks about--it tries to insinuate that his celebrity is somehow all he has. Now, I'm going to get to the other, but this is, you know, this is a complete contradiction in John McCain. John McCain has said he wants a campaign of ideas, not insults. John McCain has said the American people want a campaign that's respectful.

Even you, Joe, 10 years ago, you went to the floor of the United States Senate, and you said that our public life is coarsening. You said that the society's values are shrinking. That's an ad that plays to the worst instincts in America, which is to diminish someone's character.

US Auto Sales Slump to 16-Year Low

This isn't just a recession. It is economic collapse.

U.S. auto sales slumped to a 16-year low in July as automakers failed to keep up with consumers' growing demand for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. While production changes may help that problem, trouble in the credit and auto leasing markets will continue to take a toll on sales.

[...]Automakers were expecting a slide in July as high gas prices continued to cut into sales of trucks and sport utility vehicles and new troubles in the auto leasing sector further wrecked consumers' confidence. July's seasonally adjusted sales rate — which shows what sales would be if they continued at the same pace for the full year — was 12.5 million vehicles, according to Autodata Corp. That's down from 17 million as recently as 2005.

Automakers expect things to get worse before they get better.

A big part of the problem is consumer's have no money to purchase cars:
Low-wage workers in the United States are gripped by increasing financial insecurity as they inch along an economic tightrope made riskier by pervasive job losses and rising prices. Many struggle to pay for life's basics -- housing, food and health care -- and most report having virtually no financial cushion should they stumble.

[...]"A lot of issues that have long confronted low-wage workers are now increasingly facing middle-income workers," who more than ever face the prospect of jarring income declines, and the lack of health care and pensions to support them, said Beth Shulman, a scholar with the Russell Sage Foundation's Future of Work Project.

If those growing concerns translate into political action to bolster the social safety net, she said, it would disproportionately help low-wage workers. "I don't think we want to live in a country where people are working and doing what they are supposed to do but yet they can't get the basics," Shulman said.

Meanwhile, George Bush plays political games and tries to do favors for his oil buddies:
President Bush chastised Democrats on Saturday for refusing to allow a vote on whether to lift the federal ban on offshore oil drilling before lawmakers departed for their summer recess.

"To reduce pressure on prices, we need to increase the supply of oil, especially oil produced here at home," Bush said in his weekly radio address. It was the fourth time this week that he has called for Congress to end the drilling restrictions off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

Bruce Ivins was a Scapegoat in the FBI Anthrax Investigation

The Feds have failed from the beginning to find those responsible for the anthrax attacks. One of the main reasons being their penchant for using profiles that were intended for common criminals. The problem is profiling does not work with international terrorism. That anthrax attacks was committed by al Qaeda. That simple. The failure of the FBI in finding the truth behind the anthrax terror is the same reason they failed in preventing 9-11 in the first place. The FBI is not equipped to investigate or prevent international terrorism.

For nearly seven years, scientist Bruce E. Ivins and a small circle of fellow anthrax specialists at Fort Detrick's Army medical lab lived in a curious limbo: They served as occasional consultants for the FBI in the investigation of the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks, yet they were all potential suspects.

They hounded Ivins to death:
[...]colleagues and friends of the vaccine specialist remained convinced that Ivins was innocent: They contended that he had neither the motive nor the means to create the fine, lethal powder that was sent by mail to news outlets and congressional offices in the late summer and fall of 2001. Mindful of previous FBI mistakes in fingering others in the case, many are deeply skeptical that the bureau has gotten it right this time.

"I really don't think he's the guy. I say to the FBI, 'Show me your evidence,' " said Jeffrey J. Adamovicz, former director of the bacteriology division at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, or USAMRIID, on the grounds of the sprawling Army fort in Frederick. "A lot of the tactics they used were designed to isolate him from his support. The FBI just continued to push his buttons."

Congress needs to investigate this matter. Don't let the FBI get away with closing the case without proving they had one:
Once the case is closed, the FBI and Justice Department will face questions -- and possibly public hearings -- from congressional oversight committees, which have been largely shut out of the case the past five years. The investigators have cited the ongoing nature of the case, as well as accusations of leaks to the media, for the information blackout to Capitol Hill.

Ivins did not have the wherewithal to make airborne anthrax:
[...]others, including former colleagues and scientists with backgrounds in biological weapons defense, disagreed that Ivins could have created the anthrax powder, even if he were motivated to do so.

"USAMRIID doesn't deal with powdered anthrax," said Richard O. Spertzel, a former biodefense scientist who worked with Ivins at the Army lab. "I don't think there's anyone there who would have the foggiest idea how to do it. You would need to have the opportunity, the capability and the motivation, and he didn't possess any of those."

Then there is the nonsense about Ivins profiting from an anthrax attack:
[...]sources familiar with details of the Army's patent process said it was unlikely that Ivins or the other scientists would reap a big financial windfall from VaxGen's vaccine production. They say the government restricts income from inventions produced in its laboratories to no more than $150,000 per year, but the amount is often considerably less.

Ivins erratic bahaviour during his final days can be directly attributed to the strain of having the government hounding him for months for something he hadn't done.
Court records obtained yesterday shed further light on the concerns of a mental health professional who met Ivins during his final months -- a period when, friends say, he fell into depression under the strain of constant FBI scrutiny. The records also suggest that a Frederick social worker, Jean Duley, passed on her concerns to the FBI after receiving death threats from Ivins.

Let's have the press interview this woman and have explain her charges. Her description of Ivins sounds very suspicious to me.
Duley became so worried that she petitioned a local judge for a protective order against Ivins. According to an audio recording of the hearing, she said she had seen Ivins as a therapist for six months, and thought he had tried to kill people in the past.

"As far back as the year 2000, [Ivins] has actually attempted to murder several other people, [including] through poisoning," she said "He is a revenge killer, when he feels that he's been slighted . . . especially towards women. He plots and actually tries to carry out revenge killings," she told a judge.

And if Ivins was the culprit why didn't the government focus on him first. They instead hounded another scientist, Steven Hatfill. Hatfill sued the government for defamation and won.
He accused investigators of alerting the news media in advance to the search of his home, and later of conducting constant surveillance of him. His home phone was wiretapped, he said, and agents followed him wherever he went.

Five years ago in the Georgetown section of Washington, he approached the car of an F.B.I. agent who had been trailing him, wanting to take the agent’s picture. The agent drove off, and his car ran over Dr. Hatfill’s foot. The police later issued a ticket to Dr. Hatfill for “walking to create a hazard,” and he was fined $5. No ticket was given the agent.

Declaring that his life was being destroyed by harassment, Dr. Hatfill went to court to try to clear his name.

The NY Times understood back in November of 2001 that the FBI was screwing-up the investigation into who was behind the anthrax attacks. Ever since then they've been desperate to find anyone to blame:
WRONG TURNS -- The federal inquiry into the anthrax attacks has stumbled in several key areas and may have missed opportunities to gather valuable evidence as investigators have been unable to fully grasp the scientific complexities of the case.

There are some prominent figures involved in the case who also doubt the FBI's case:
Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, whose office was a target of the anthrax attacks in 2001, said Sunday the suicide of the government's main suspect does not mean the case is over.

Daschle said the FBI has not given him any new updates. He also raised questions about the quality of the investigation, noting that the government recently paid out almost $6 million to a former Army scientist, Steven Hatfill, who accused authorities of unfairly targeting him in the anthrax case.

"From the very beginning I've had real concerns about the quality of the investigation," Daschle said in a broadcast interview. "Given the fact that they already paid somebody else $5 million for the mistakes they must have made gives you some indication of the overall caliber and quality of the investigation."

This comes from Salon/Glenn Greenwald:
The unanswered questions in the anthrax case are literally too numerous to chronicle. It is so vital to emphasize that not a shred of evidence has yet been presented that the now-deceased Bruce Ivins played any role in the anthrax attacks, let alone that he was the sole or even primary culprit. Nonetheless, just as they did with Steven Hatfill, the media (with some notable and important exceptions) are reporting this case as though the matter is resolved.

Given the significance of the anthrax attacks, it would be unconscionable for there to be anything other than a full-scale Congressional or independent investigation -- with a full airing of all the facts -- regarding everything that happened here. Those issues should include exploration of the following questions, many of which might well have perfectly reasonable and benign explanations, and some of which may not, but until there is a full airing, it will necessarily be the case -- and it should be the case -- that this episode will only serve to further erode whatever lingering trust there is in media and government institutions

Obama Press Conference Transcript (8-2-08)

Read the transcript.

Q: 60 miles off of the Florida coast for drilling is a huge shift in where we are now. Are you going to do anything to discourage or oppose that element of the bill?

BO: You know, again, we don't have legislation yet. So I don't want to prejudge what's out there. I made a general point about the fact that we need to provide the American people some relief and that there has been constructive conversations between Democrats and republicans in the senate on this issue. So I applaud them on that. But I'm not ready to sign off on any particular approach or proposal, because I think that these are very important issues. the one thing that I have said consistently when it comes to the Florida coastline is that as dependant as this state is on tourism, as important as that coastline is, we've got to proceed with extreme caution when it comes to anything that would have an impact on that extraordinary treasure, not just of Florida's, but of the country as a whole.

[...]Q: Senator, you said you are not injecting race into the campaign race. Your surrogates have said that your comments about not looking like other presidents on the dollar bill is not about your race. But you did say that, back at a fund-raiser in Jacksonville, that they are going to try to make you afraid of me, that he is young and inexperienced, he's got a funny name and did I mention that he is black. How do you reconcile that?

BO: I don't think it is accurate to say that my comments have nothing to do with race. Let me make this first point. Most of the people here here at this event in Union, Missouri. Almost none of you, maybe none of you, thought that was making a racially incendiary remark or playing the race card. It wasn't until John McCain's team started pushing it that it ended up being on the front page of the New York Times two days in a row.[...]