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10 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:15 pm

Gopher It, Senator McCain!


Just wondering. . . .

As you may have heard, Ahhhnold was asked by John McCain to give the speech that Fred Thompson gave.  When he said no, they went to another politician-actor (or is it actor-politician?) to get the job done.

But if Fred Thompson would have said no, who would have been next on their list?

Fred Grandy.

He’s the only other actor-politician/politician actor they’ve got.

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9 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:55 pm

Meghan McCain Knows More about National Security than You Do


Or anyone else for that matter:

“No one knows what war is like other than my family. Period.”

I’m glad we got that cleared up.  I know that if I were a soldier or a member of a military family, I would want a pampered little princess telling me that I don’t know what war is like.

Last time we checked in with Meghan, she and her (paid-to-be-her) friends were having fun joking around with Henry Kissinger and pretending to be actual working people.  Those wacky kidders!

Since that was quite a while ago, I thought I’d stop by and see what America’s favorite beer heiress has been up to lately. So I went back and checked her blog.

The sacrifices I make for you people.

Turns out there was some kind of convention or something in St. Paul last week.  Who knew?  Here are a few of the photos that Meghan’s “friend” (if “friend” is defined as a full-time professional photographer that either the campaign or mommy has hired to follow Meghan around) took for her, along with the captions Meghan wrote for each photo.

Meghan:  “I want a ‘WE LOVE CINDY’ sign!

…because it’s the only way she can get Mom’s attention?

Meghan:  “McCain-Palin water bottles!”

. . .because Republicans have not done enough to trash the environment!

Meghan:  “During Dad’s intro video, there was a baby picture of me on the huge screen.”

. . .because Republicans NEVER exploit their children for political purposes!

Meghan:  “More Kissinger!”

. . .because all the other Republican war criminals were either in Washington or sent overseas.

Okay, hang on a second.  Kissinger in a cowboy hat?  WTF?  That’s almost as strange as a pitbull wearing lipstick.  And what is up with Meghan’s odd obsession with Kissinger?  This is the third or fourth post I’ve read where I wanted to scratch my eyes out with a dull spoon she had photos of Special-K.

Meghan:  “This baby’s outfit is so cute.”

. . .because I swear to God that we Republicans will never ever ever. . .well, hardly ever. . .ruthlessly exploit children for political imagery.

Meghan:  “Babies always bring a smile to mom’s face.”

. . .except after Botox sessions.  And how many times do I have to say it??? Republicans absolutely DO NOT EVER exploit children for political purposes except when we want to.

You can almost read Cindy’s mind here:  Trig, you’re worth at least a million votes to us, kid.

Meghan:  “Mom looks fabulous!”

. . .because it’s not every day that you can put together a $300,000 outfit to talk about helping poor people in New Orleans.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  I now understand why John McCain hates the bloggers.

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8 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:45 am

Morning Buzz


John McCain welcomes a very special guest to the Republican National Convention. . .

Somehow, I think if anyone at either convention was going to do “Never Going to Give You Up,” it would be John McCain singing it to Sarah Palin.

Hat tip:  Atrios

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6 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:45 am

While You Were Away: Hot for Condi


You may have missed it, what with Sarahpalooza and everything, but Dick Cheney wasn’t the only Bush Administration official exiled sent overseas during the Republican National Convention.

For some reason, Condoleezza Rice, perhaps second only to the Vice President on the list of people George Bush actually listens to, was sent to Libya to meet with raving nutjob new ally Moammar Gadhafi (or however the hell he’s spelling it this week).

Libya was never major-league caliber evil, but they did make it to the high minors a couple of times, particularly during the Reagan Administration.  There are some who still think they have the stuff to be Axis-caliber, but the Bushies have decided to make nice.

Not everyone — particularly the families of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103 — shares that sentiment, so apparently the Administration thought that sending The Condi to Tripoli in the middle of the Republican National Convention might mean that most Americans would be too distracted by McCainia to realize she was meeting with the Gadster (or is it Qaddster?  Khadster? GQKaaadster?  I can never keep it straight):

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi - once reviled as a “mad dog” by a U.S. president - on Friday on a historic visit that she said proved that Washington had no permanent enemies.

Rice’s trip, the first by a U.S. secretary of state to the North African country in 55 years, is intended to end decades of enmity, five years after Libya gave up its weapons of mass destruction program.

“I think we are off to a good start. It is only a start but after many, many years, I think it is a very good thing that the United States and Libya are establishing a way forward,” Rice told a news conference after talks with Gaddafi at a compound bombed by U.S. warplanes in 1986.

For a couple of years now, the Bush Administration has bragged about how it forced the Libyans to give up its nucular nuclear ambitions and return to the community of nations.  But what we didn’t know was that Gadhafi had a secret motive for improving U.S.-Libyan relations:  love.

From a 2007 Al-Jazeera interview with the Lucky Gadhafella himself:

Qadhafi:  I support my darling black African woman. I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders. She beckons to the Arab foreign ministers, and they come to her, either in groups or individually.

Interviewer:  You are referring to the American secretary of state, right?

Qadhafi: Yes, Leezza, Leezza, Leezza… I love her very much. I admire her, and I’m proud of her, because she’s a black woman of African origin. I congratulate her on reaching this global status. When she beckons to the heads of the Arab security agencies, they come running. She’s the secretary of state, yet she heads the Arab security agencies.

I think we’ve just established a new gold standard in the category of creepy stalker boyfriend wannabes.

Dipnote, the State Department’s little blog that could (if it only had the proper clearances!), either didn’t see this little tidbit or has a much more twisted sense of humor than I thought.  This is the headline to their story about The Condi’s visit:

What Lessons Can Be Learned from the U.S.-Libyan Relationship?

Nudge nudge, wink wink.  Say no more!

But what do you do with a problem like Moammar?  I have a suggestion.  The Condi should invite him to play a round of golf.  And now that Dubya has set a timetable for withdrawal of our troops in an aspirational horizon for success in Iraq, he could give up giving up golf and join them.  Add Dick Cheney and you have a war criminal foursome!  Be careful:  if you don’t let them play through, you might be taking lessons from the golf pro at Guantanamo Country Club.

Better yet, Moammar could tour with Van Halen.  They need a new lead singer (again), and “Hot for Condi” has a nice ring to it.

Hat tip:  Somewhere in Africa

Photos:  Wikipedia

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5 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:34 am

Sarah Barracuda


I’m going to spend a good part of the day writing long thoughtful posts on a myriad of topics, but before I do, one last bit of RNC snark.

Last night, after McCain spoke, after they played “Raising McCain” for the 95th time (coincidentally also John McCain’s age!), and just after Sarah Palin walked out on stage (to the loudest ovation of the night), the world’s oldest white Republican DJ put on Heart’s Barracuda.  That, of course, is a reference to Palin’s nickname.

But as Yglesias points out today, the lyrics don’t exactly work for the moment:

If the real thing don’t do the trick
No, you better make up something quick
You gonna burn burn burn burn it to the wick
Ooooooohhhh, barra barracuda.

Actually, those lyrics actually work really well.  They’re pretty much a description of John McCain’s last-minute decision to add Palin to the ticket.

In fact, there’s now video of the call McCain made to Palin to offer her the job.  (Warning:  the following is profoundly politically incorrect and probably NSFW.)

Oh, by the way, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart have lawyered up, issuing a cease and desist order to the McCain campaign for unauthorized use of the song.

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5 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:45 am

A Different Perspective on Sarah Palin’s Speech


This was shared with me by a fellow Virginian who is also supporting Obama.  It’s an email from his mom in response to Sarah Palin’s speech last night.  As you read it, keep in mind that in a previous email, she had said she was excited about McCain’s choice of Palin:

Last night I watched Gov. Palin give her speech,  I was so annoyed with her I could feel my blood pressure climb.  What a really wicked woman.  At the end of her speech, when everyone was on stage her youngest daughter wanted her attention and the all inportant Palin couldn’t even take a second to give the child a hug. And of course the bit about firing the mansion chef was just plain mean.  My advice to the democrats is to watch their backs with this woman.  She didn’t appear to be wearing lipstick so prehaps she really is a pit bull.  I will be watching when she and Biden have their debate in St. Louis.

When I asked my colleague to describe his mom, he said “65 years old.  White.  Widow of soldier.  Grew up in rural Kansas.  Lived in mid-Missouri for 50 years.   High school grad only.  Homemaker.   Historically Republican.   Two kids.  Lots of cats.”

In other words, swing voter.  Not a good sign for Republicans.  And I think that McCain’s speech last night also is going to hurt.  Prediction of what we’ll see in the polling numbers:  a Palin bump (from the base, not undecideds/independents) starting tomorrow, followed by a McCain deflation/Palin backlash within a few days.

As I said last night, it’s Sarah Palin’s party now.  But not everybody is happy about it.

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4 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:31 pm

Summing up John McCain’s Speech


This is Sarah Palin’s party now.

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4 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:16 pm

Live Blogging John McCain


10:04  They got lucky — the game ended.  Video tribute just started.

10:05  “Momma’s boy” joke fell flat.

10:06  An extended version of his bio, featuring a few additional tidbits.

10:07  Video says he was tortured.  Glad they had the guts to do that.

10:09  Video goes out of its way to highlight his pro-life credentials

10:10  I’d like to see a timer on the Cindy and John videos — I have a hunch that the Cindy video may have run longer.

10:10  Iraq tied to security at home.  Again the nationalism that has so predominated this convention.

10:10  Mother Theresa is being mentioned more often tonight than George W. Bush.  But wasn’t she a community organizer?

10:12  Quotes from mother frame video

10:12  Voiceover from Fred Thompson while arena is dark.

10:12  Gotta hand it to the Republicans — they do know how to stage a show.

10:13  When McCain came out, they backlighted him like Charlton Heston in Ten Commandments.

10:13  Ovation lasts two minutes.

10:14  Why isn’t Cindy chanting “USA”?  Is she un-American?

10:15  He’s using a teleprompter, I think.  Looks like he has a speech too.

10:16  Also using a green screen in back.  Thought the Republicans learned.

10:16  Why are they throwing out a protester with a sign saying “McCain votes against vets.”

10:17  They didn’t throw him out.

10:17  Amazing.  He starts with a shout-out to Dubya, but never mentions him by name.  Didn’t see that coming.

10:18  Creepy smile alert.  Definitely using a teleprompter.  According to Ambinder on twitter he’s been practicing for six weeks.

10:19  Shout out to Cindy, his kids, and his mom.  But he needs to stop trying to smile now.  Nervous twitch?

10:20  Just noticed:  Sarah Palin’s kids are behind her, but I don’t see Trig.  Good.

10:20  I think he’s stuck — he keeps saying “I won’t let you down” over and over again.

10:21  Obama “has his respect and his Admiration.  We are fellow Americans.  That is an association that means more to me than any other.”

10:22  Then says “let there be no doubt my friends, we’re going to win this election.”

10:23  Code Pink protester being attacked and shouted down.  McCain trying to stop it.

10:24  McCain:  Please don’t be diverted by the ground noise and the static.  Didn’t know expressing your first amendment rights was ground noise.  Can’t stand code pink but this is ridiculous.

10:25  Shout out to Palin.  Her ovation almost as long as his.

10:26  Now doing Sarah Palin bio.  Palin nodding.  One of her kids yayed.

10:27  Who told Palin to sit down?

10:28  “Change is coming.”  Holy meme-theft Batman!

10:28  Blue background is making him look like the edges of his head are throbbing.  Don’t think that was the intent.

10:29  Have to say the practice paid off.  Much better with the teleprompter.

10:30  Promises to veto pork barrel bills.  “I will make them famous and you will know their names.”

10:30  Attacking Abramoff, tobacco, trial lawyers, union bosses (that one gets cheer from crowd).

10:31  I would rather lose an election than see my country lose a war.  Took 20 minutes to get there.  But he did not suggest Obama did the opposite.  He implied it, but did not suggest it.

10:32  Shout out to Petraeus.

10:32  Crowd responds tepidly to need to keep fighting war.  That was odd.

10:33  Is this falling flat with the crowd?  Certainly not going over like Sarah Palin.  Lots of chanting of USA, USA, USA, but other than that no huge, sustained ovations.  More perfunctory, as if there was an applause sign.

10:34  Looking at the bracelet of the hero who did not return from Iraq didn’t really come across on TV.  Made it look like he was looking at his watch.

10:35  “We were elected to change Washington and we let Washington change us.”  Good line, but tepid applause.

10:35  Audience really isn’t responding to criticism of Republicans and Democrats.

10:36  They liked the “back to basics” line, though.

10:37  “We’re all God’s children and we’re all Americans.”  Again it feels like the applause is tepid.  “Letting peoplle keep the fruits of their labor” gets as much applause and “pro-life” and judges who legislate from bench get huge ovation.  Much more than the lines on fixing what’s broken.

10:38  Standard tax, spending, and other conservative shibboleths are being contrasted with Obama and crowd is booing Obama’s alleged positions.

10:39  I don’t think the crowd booing is a good idea — makes them sound really angry and resentful.

10:40  My opponent promises to bring back old jobs… Huh?  This is coming from the drill baby drill party?

10:42  I think the community college line was intentional — anti-elitist.

10:42  This is a pretty wonky speech, even if a lot of it is the same as what he says on the stump.

10:43  Spending a lot of time on education.  Picks on “bad teachers.”  Wasn’t all of this solved by No Child Left Behind?  Just gave a shout out to school choice.

10:43  Republicans love “choice” in education, not so much in other areas.

10:44  Unlike Palin, McCain is naming Obama by name.

10:44  “We’re going to stop sending $700 billion to countries that don’t like us very much.”  You mean like Iraq?

10:45  He’s stumbled a couple of times in the past few minutes.  Not significantly, though.

10:46  Energy section of speech, with emphasis - quel shock! — on drilling.

10:47  “It’s time to show the world again how Amercans lead.”  How about starting by abolishing torture?

10:48  This speech is going on too long.  He’s not going to sustain audience interest the way Obama and Palin did.

10:49  Audience largely silent as McCain goes through a list of those America is unhappy with — with an emphasis on Russia and Iran.  Mention of Georgia gets only perfunctory applause.

10:49  He just said back-to-back that he’d work for better relations with Russia and called them lawless and an empire

10:50  Not afraid of threats, prepared for them.  Again tepid response.  Not a chant of “USA” in sight.  I think he’s losing the audience — not completely, but I bet many of them are thinking of Palin right now.  And they’re not on their feet.

10:51  Build the foundations for a stable and enduring speech.  Audience stands, but it’s not overly enthusiastic.  More like a state of the union speech than a rip-roaring partisan barnburner.

10:52  Shot of some guy looking at his blackberry.  Not a good sign.

10:53  You can feel the audience coming down from their Palin 24-hour Palin buzz.

10:53  I have the record and the scars to prove it.  Senator Obama does not.  Creepy grin again.  Crowd chants “zero, zero.”  But still not that enthusiastic.

10:55  I am starting to feel sorry for him.  This is falling really flat.

10:56  Now talking about his POW experience.

10:56  How is an angry crowd greeting him funny?  Nervous laughter?

10:57  His POW story is, as always, moving.  But he should have led with it rather than finished with it.  He buried his lede.

10:58  Reminding people he turned down the opportunity to go home gets some of the most sustained applause of the night.

10:59  Acknowledges that the Vietnamese broke him.  I give him a lot of credit for that.

10:59  You know what’s missing here?  Any reference to his faith.  No cross in the dirt story.

11:00  I have a very bad feeling that the Nielsen minute-by-minute tracker of the speech audience will see a steady decline.

11:01  Crack about Obama as “blessed” and “annoited.”

11:02  Call to service.

11:02  Defend the rights of the oppressed.  But no mention of how this administration has trashed rights.

11:02  Mentioned God, thanking Him that he’s an American.  But again, it was just an aside.

11:03  “Fight with me.”  Crowd finally goes nuts but he’s talking over them?  It really hurt his close — it seemed like he wouldn’t pause to build up audience response.

11:06  Audience cheered louder for Sarah Palin coming out than they did for McCain.  This is her party now.

In one way this speech was not unlike Obama’s — a solid, workmanlike speech.  But for Obama, that still means pretty amazing rhetoric that keeps his audience rapt.  For McCain, it means he lost his audience for much of the speech.  And he really has to stop smiling, or learn to smile differently.  His rebukes of Republicans really fell flat, while his stump stuff went over better.  All in all, pretty flat, except for the part on his POW experience, which was moving.  But he buried that, and by the time he got to it, I’m guessing that some of his audience drifted away.

In the end I go back to what I said before.  The crowd cheered more loudly for Sarah Palin tonight than they did for John McCain.  It’s her party now.

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4 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:00 pm

Live Blogging Cindy Lou McWho


9:38   This just doesn’t sound genuine to me.

9:39  Get the federal government under control and out of our way.  Except of course, for all that disaster relief you were just talking about.

9:40  “The hand we feel on our shoulder belongs to Abraham Lincoln.”  Yeah, Cindy, he’s trying to show you the door.

9:41  Crowd is hushed.  Lack of interest or rapt attention?  Hard to tell.

9:41  I’m sorry but she is is so reading.

9:42  Looks like she’s still wearing the same pearls from Monday night, but I think the $200,000 earrings are AWOL.

9:42  What kind of father would a man be?  Ask the kids from his first marriage.

9:43  John McCain is a steadfast man who will not break with our heritage.  That sure sounds like code to me.  As in the other, uppity guy will.

9:44 I just realized who she reminds me of — those upper-class elitist sorority cheerleaders from Animal House.  Oh, and Everclear’s “Volvo Driving Soccer Mom.” And if you think about it, she married Senator Blutarski!

9:45  Sarah Palin in da mansion house!

9:46  Your husband is quiet about his service?  I will grant you he was a hero, but quiet?  Have you listened to the other speakers?  Did you not read the advance text of his speech?

9:47  Wait a second.  McCain told Time last week that “we don’t discuss our sons’ service.”  Whoopsie!

9:48  For Cindy McCain:  “The American Dream” is a black American Express Card and $200,000 earrings.

9:49  Look left, read three lines.  Look center, read three lines.  Look right, read three lines.  Look center, read three lines.  Repeat until comatose.

9:50  Do you realize, Cindy, that the same people who smeared Bridget as “John McCain’s illegitimate black baby” are now running your husband’s campaign?

9:52  Props for the token Rwandan refugee, but “In my box tonight?”  You have a box?

9:52  Cindy is using this poor woman.  Using her.  It’s as cynical as Sarah Palin’s exploitation of her children.

9:53  I think there’s a good reason that Cindy McCain’s speech is taking place outside the prime time hour.  The McCain campaign better hope that this speech.

9:55  Four words:  local station morning host.

I know I’m being pretty harsh on her, but that was not a help to McCain’s campaign.  It was elitist, upper class, and incredibly condescending.  I don’t see that helping the McCain campaign.

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4 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:37 pm

Cindy Lou Who (The Motion Picture)


The Cindy McCain video may be the most nauseating pile of horse crap that I’ve ever seen.  And WTF was up with the angelic choir?

Oh, by the way.  That wonderful father?  HE WAS A FELON.

Oh, by the way.  That handsome Captain John McCain?  HE WAS MARRIED.

And she camped in the Kuwait desert for FIVE WHOLE DAYS.

Oh, by the way.  Her outfit on Monday night cost THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS.

Sorry for the caps, but I’m screaming at the screen right now.

One last thing:  has anyone else noticed that her video has a longer run time than Sarah Palin?

Molly just made the point that this is so over-the-top it’s going to backfire.

Notice there are no hand-made signs for Cindy.  Heh.

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4 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:30 pm

If I Were A Person of Color


I’d take one look at the middle-aged white male Republican National Convention and switch my allegiance to the Democrats.

Of course, that would make me uppity, wouldn’t it.

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4 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:15 pm

Speech Preview: McCain’s NFL Challenge


When Sarah Palin so easily exceeded expectations last night, something like 37 million Americans were watching.  That comes close to the 42 million that Obama got last week, and demonstrates just how much Americans are paying attention to this election.

But it also significantly raises the bar for John McCain.

In the best of circumstances, McCain doesn’t do well with teleprompters — his June “prebuttal” speech was so bad that even Fox News called it a disaster.  In more recent speeches, including the one he gave announcing his pick of Palin, he has worked off  a printed text rather than use a teleprompter.  Given the reports that the teleprompter malfunctioned last night during Palin’s speech, he may be even more disinclined to use one tonight.

That leaves him betwixt and between.  If he works off of a printed text, he has to look down a lot, which won’t come off well.  If he instead uses a teleprompter, he may look as bad as he did last May.  I’m sure that his aides have been working hard to improve his skills, but that doesn’t mean that he will look good, much less appear as charismatic as either Obama or Palin.

The second problem he faces is that tonight is a bit of an anticlimax.  Some of the people who tuned in out of curiosity last night arent’ going to watch his speech tonight.  He will get lower numbers than Palin — the only question is how much lower.

The third problem, and the one most out of his control, is the fact that the Giants and Redskins kick off the NFL season tonight.  The game starts at 7:00 pm EDT and should be over by 10, but what if it runs long?  Will NBC break away, leading to the political version of the Heidi Bowl?  There are some reports that McCain will delay his speech until the game is over.  But the later he goes, the smaller his viewership.  And some may suggest it shows weakness to wait.

Even if the game ends on time, many fans will turn to ESPN or other post-game coverage.  That is particularly true in New York and DC, meaning that McCain’s viewership will be hurt in two of the five largest media markets in the United States.  That means it will be almost impossible for him to match Palin’s numbers.

Add to all of this the reports that McCain is now giving a far longer speech than he originally intended.

What happens if a) McCain does poorly (especially in comparison to Palin and Obama) and b) his “ratings” are lower than Palin’s?  What happens if he goes on too long?

That could do greater damage to his chances than a Palin stumble last night would have.  In fact, it could be a major disaster.

Image via The Orlando Sentinel


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4 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
03:38 pm

Hurricane Cindy and the RNC’s Potemkin Gustav Relief


On Monday, I had this to say about the the Cindy and Laura show, a.k.a. the Republicans’ hurricane Gustav relief efforts:

Cindy McCain look like, uh. . . .  Well.  Hmmmm.

How do I put this?

She looks like she spent more money on her dress, pearls, make-up, manicure, and hair than the Republicans will raise on behalf of Hurricane Gustav victims.

Turns out I was more right than I thought:

Yes, something from Arizona was certainly shining at the convention, but it wasn’t the sun. It was Cindy McCain’s citrine dress from Monday night. And her three-carat diamond earrings. Oh, and don’t forget the Chanel J12 white ceraminc watch.

Cindy’s dress, designed by Oscar de la Renta, cost $3,000, and the watch, another $4,500. Her four strand pearl necklace cost between $11,000 and $25,000, and her shoes set her back $600. But the real whoppers were the earrings, priced at $280,000, putting the total cost of the outfit beteween $299,100 and $313,000.

Here’s the only press report I could find about the RNC’s hurricane relief campaign.  Just so you know, it’s from Fox:

As Gustav pummels the Gulf Coast, several delegates are missing the breezy, beautiful weather locally to man the phones at a telethon effort set up at the downtown Hilton in Minneapolis. About 150 red phones were set up in the ballroom and Cindy McCain not only helped make the calls, she and husband John McCain donated $25,000 dollars to relief efforts. In all, 90 delegates, volunteers, campaign staff and others in the Twin Cities for the convention were helping out at the telethon.

The telethon opened at 2 p.m. ET and had raised $1.165 million by 3 p.m. ET. One donation was in the form of $1 million, but officials would not release the identity of the donor.

If the $1 million pledge actually comes through, then the Republicans did a worthwhile thing (more on that in a second).  But if it didn’t, that means that they raised $165,000, or $140,000 if you don’t count the McCains’ contributions — or about half of what Cindy’s outfit cost.

But even if the $1 million pledge comes through — and even if the RNC/McCain campaign managed to raise more money than this report indicates, there is still one little fact that isn’t going anywhere:  Cindy McCain spent between twelve and fifteen times as much on her outfit as she and her husband donated to Hurricane Gustav relief efforts.

And they have the huevos to call Democrats elitist?  As Vanity Fair put it, “Wow! No wonder McCain has so many houses: his wife has the price of a Scottsdale split-level hanging from her ears.”

A couple of questions for the McCain campaign:

1.  How much did your relief efforts raise?

2.  Did your campaign donate the time, website server costs, and other associated expenses?  If so, can you account for it?  How do you plan to report these expenses to the FEC?

3.  Were the relief efforts run out of St. Paul separate from or part of the phone banks set up by the AidMatrix Foundation?  If separate, how did you arrange for these funds to get to relief organizations?

4.  Both FEC and IRS non-profit reporting rules require the identification of donors, particularly large donors.  Why are you not identifying the donor who made the $1 million pledge?

5.  How much did Cindy’s outfit really cost?

This whole McCain/RNC Gustav relief operation looks more and more unreal.  Not illegal, mind you, but suspiciously like a Potemkin Village.  Earlier this week, I raised other questions about the McCain relief effort, focusing on the relationship between he McCain campaign, the Bush Administration/FEMA, and AidMatrix, the charity that supposedly is managing the money (and which received a big FEMA contract in 2006):

Aidmatrix may be an entirely legitimate organization, but there’s a real lack of transparency regarding how they got the FEMA contract and how they got involved in the McCain campaign.

To learn the truth, Aidmatrix, FEMA, and the Bush Administration need to answer some questions:

1.  How did Aidmatrix get its FEMA grant?  Was it sole-sourced or competed?  How much is it for?  What percentage of Aidmatrix’s budget comes from the FEMA grant?

2.  If [Aidmatrix's] main focus is logistics — using “advanced information technology to create efficiencies between donors and those in need” — what are they doing managing donations for the McCain website?  And where will these donations go after they receive them?

3.  Did Aidmatrix get the hurricane relief gig because of [Aidmatrix CEO, McCain supporter and former Wisconsin Governor Scott] McCallum’s connections with the McCain campaign?

4.  If not, why did McCain choose Aidmatrix instead of better-known and more established non-partisan humanitarian relief organizations such as the Red Cross?

5.  Did AIdmatrix inform and/or clear its involvement in the McCain campaign with FEMA or other U.S. government officials?

To see the full post, go here.

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4 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:45 am

The Palin-McCain Chemistry (Or Lack Thereof)


So it’s been nearly twelve hours since Sarah Palin wowed the Republican National Convention last night.  It’s still not clear whether she had a similar appeal beyond St. Paul, particularly among independents.  I think it’s important to acknowledge that she did very well under a level of pressure that would have crushed many people.

But I want to talk about something other than her speech today:  what happened immediately after she finished, when John McCain came out and spoke briefly to the crowd.

What struck me about that moment was similar to what hit me when I watched the rollout of Palin in Dayton last Friday:  there is an utter lack of chemistry between John McCain and Sarah Palin.  Tonight, as was the case in Dayton, they awkwardly stood apart, except for one moment when Palin moved over to him and put her arm around him.  But then he moved away again.

I think that’s why the closing was so oddly anti-climatic.

It also made me wonder:  other than yesterday’s photo-op at the airport, how often have McCain and Palin spoken and/or met since she got the nod?  Did he consult her about his speech tonight?  Has he talked about next steps?  Or has he handed her off to aides and handlers?

I raise this not because I am concerned about the campaign — I think Palin demonstrated that she is ready for the national stage (although she still faces at least two additional tests — her first press conference and her debate with Biden), and will prove to be a far tougher McCain surrogate than Democrats expected.  (And barring some big new revelation, she’s not going to be dropped from the ticket.)

But the utter lack of a connection, the absence of any real empathy between the two is a pretty loud warning bell that she will not play a serious or significant role in a McCain Administration.

If that’s true, how long will it take after McCain is elected (of course this assumes he will be elected) before McCain loyalists — the same folks so unhappy with her choice, the same people who leaked to the media those damaging allegations about the vetting process — start leaking stories to the media about how disconnected she is, how out of the loop she is?

Sarah Palin may have won the battle tonight, but if she doesn’t find a way into McCain’s inner circle, she will lose the war.

| posted in media, politics | 1 Comment

4 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:45 am

Hey, Kids! Let’s Play Hide the WMD!



Back when I was in graduate school, Chernobyl happened.  Being graduate students, we responded to this tragedy in the only way we knew how:  we threw a party.  We covered the walls with aluminum foil, replaced all the light bulbs with flashing red lights, and renamed the keg the cooling tower.  We had so many people there, that the floor almost collapsed and the heat generated by the foiled-up walls caused the air conditioning unit for the entire building to fail.

That was the last time I remember connecting nuclear power to dancing.  Until now.  If you’ve been watching the conventions, you’ve seen this commercial:

You may not have noticed it, given the awesome animation and Lipps Inc.’s “Funkytown” playing in the background, but if you pause at 0:09, you’ll notice a couple of words down in the lower right hand corner:

YELLOW CAKE

So that’s where Saddam put it!  Canada!

And what is up with this ad?  Funkytown?  The happy shiny strip mining?  And the apparent argument that we should have nukes so that people can play Dance Dance Revolution in Shanghai?

So the ad is at least two years old.  The first version was in French.

{{PAGENAME}}You wouldn’t know it from the commercial, but after a check of The Googles, I found out that Areva is “a French public multinational industrial conglomerate that is mainly known for nuclear power.”

Oh.

Did I mention that the company also manages those yellow cake mines in Niger?  More happy shiny strip mining!

That means Areva played a role, albeit indirectly, in the whole Valerie Plame scandal.  And the Iraq war.  And, of course, the lies of the Bush Administration to justify both the war and the Plame leak.

Now that’s some serious funk.

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4 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:45 am

Ron Paul: Get Over It Already


So I was watching C-Span after Palin’s speech last night, just for giggles, and caller after caller was whining about how the Convention roll call dissed Ron Paul.  Apparently the Republicans failed to mention that he got 16 delegates!

Those bastards.

I know the Paulistas got 15,000 people to a stadium the other day, but enough already.  Either secede from the Republicans once and for all, vote for Bob Barr, or just get over it.

Let me put it another way,  We. Don’t. Care.

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3 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:30 pm

McCain: Hedging His Bets?


I watched the arrival of McCain at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport today.  Most media accounts have focused on McCain greeting Bristol Palin and her fiancee, Levi Johnston.

I noticed something different:  neither the plane McCain arrived on nor the bus the Palin and McCain families used to leave the airport had Sarah Palin’s name on them. Both were still just “McCain.”

Is that a sign of tardiness by the campaign or McCain hedging his bets?  I guess we can call these vehicles the “Not So Straight Talk Express” now.

| posted in politics, pop culture | 0 Comments

3 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:25 pm

Whoopsie!!


Ah yes, the greatest Republican curse:  the live microphone.  Mike Murphy and Peggy Noonan:

Did I hear Noonan say “It’s over” at one point?   Wow.

Kudos to TPM for this.

| posted in media, politics | 0 Comments

3 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:30 pm

Noted without Comment


Photo: bobster1985 via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons License.

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3 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
12:21 pm

Pondering: Veep Speech Defanged?


President Palin?

Going to be a lighter-than-usual blogging day afternoon, as I’m doing my day job (consulting).  But I wanted to pass on this thought:

Usually the VP candidate’s acceptance speech is all about attacking the opposing party’s Presidential nominee.  But right now, Sarah Palin has to focus on biography and highlight her policy chops.  I think we’ll still see some red meat, particularly a claim that the “angry left” has been attacking her family and how proud she is to honor conservative values.

But Palin can’t use two of the key themes of the McCain attack on Obama:  experience and tabloid celebrity.  So what does that leave?  Values?  Sure, but that will please the base, not slice off independents.  Energy?  Maybe, but it hasn’t been a winner so far.  Her role as a change agent?  That leaves her open to the facts — that she actually has spent more time gaming the system (hiring an Abramoff protege to be a lobbyist for Wasilla, leading Stevens’ 527, supporting the bridge to nowhere before she opposed to it, etc.) than she did opposing it.

As I noted in an earlier post, Palin has to walk the fine line between outrage and victimhood.  If she veers toward the former, she’ll sound shrill.  If she moves too close to the latter, she risks looking weak.

If she pulls it off, it may reshape the campaign and end talk of her coming off the ticket.  If she fails, the McCain campaign is going to face growing pressure from Republican elites to replace Palin. And that risks moving him into McGovern-Eagleton territory.

Whatever happens, Democrats (and my fellow members of the progosphere) would be wise not to groan, pounce on mistakes, or gloat.

Photo: bobster1985 via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons License.

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