Journalists First Debunk Republican Attack on Obama, and Now Debunk Attack on Kerry

Duck if you don’t want to be hit by the flying pigs today. Has the resignation of Karl Rove suddenly returned political coverage to reality?  First we had AP debunk the right wing smears on Barack Obama. Now The Swamp reports on how John McCain attacked John Kerry by misquoting Kerry’s position on the war. Maybe the media has really learned that reporting the news does not meaning repeating every untrue statement from the right without fact checking. After quoting an interview with John McCain they write:

McCain was talking of course about Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.,) the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee. If you give McCain the benefit of the doubt, he misremembered Kerry’s position. If you’re more cynical, he intentionally misstated Kerry’s position to make his own support of Bush more palatable.

Either way, it was odd coming in an interview where McCain sought to align himself on the side of character.

From there they quote John Kerry’s actual position on Iraq, which was quite different from the straw man which McCain attacked.

Politics will never be the same if Republicans are forced to respond to the actual views of Democrats as opposed to simply inventing straw men to attack.

Returning to the smears on Obama, there are segments of the news media which actually appears to enjoy being journalists as opposed to repeating right wing smears. The Politico reports the story and concludes,  “Points victory to Obama.” First read also reported on AP’s fact checking in their afternoon email update.

Media Breaks Pattern and Reports Obama Was Right Instead of Right Wing Smears

Conservatives remain consistent in their strategy of how to handle being consistently wrong. When they have no counter arguments to what a Democratic politician has actually said they make up something different to attack. We saw that with the attacks on John Kerry when they twisted the words “global test” and when they claimed his joke about George Bush getting stuck in Iraq was about the troops. Today they tried the same type of attack once again on Barack Obama.

Usually when the right wing launches their smears, the news media will quote the conservative smear, regardless of whether it has any validity, and try to pass this off as objectivity.This time, instead of repeating the right wing smears as news, somebody at AP actually did her job and acted like a real journalist.

Earlier today Barack Obama said:

We’ve got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we’re not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous problems there.

The right wing noise machine jumped into action. Rather than interpret this line as any reasonable person would they twisted it to mean that Obama was claiming that the United States was solely killing civilians. By their warped logic, all it took was to show that the United States does anything else to prove Obama wrong.

Of course this is not what Obama said. AP fact checked what Obama actually said and found that he was right:

A check of the facts shows that Western forces have been killing civilians at a faster rate than the insurgents have been killing civilians.

The U.S. and NATO say they don’t have civilian casualty figures, but The Associated Press has been keeping count based on figures from Afghan and international officials. Tracking civilian deaths is a difficult task because they often occur in remote and dangerous areas that are difficult to reach and verify.

As of Aug. 1, the AP count shows that while militants killed 231 civilians in attacks in 2007, Western forces killed 286. Another 20 were killed in crossfire that can’t be attributed to one party.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed his concern about the civilian deaths during a meeting last week with President Bush.

Bush said he understands the agony that Afghans feel over the loss of innocent lives and that he is doing everything he can to protect them. He said the Taliban are using civilians as human shields and have no regard for their lives.

“The president rightly expressed his concerns about civilian casualty,” Bush said of Karzai. “And I assured him that we share those concerns.”

Obama was right, but that doesn’t affect the attacks from the right. For example, earlier today Captain Ed wrote:

Does Obama think before making these statements? Does he think at all? He’s not just blowing his chances in this election, but he’s making an argument for his long-term exclusion from any position with foreign policy or military issues under his control.

This is a mighty strange thing for a Republican to say, considering how most of them were wrong every step of the way with regard to ignoring the warnings about al Qaeda before 9/11 and with regards to the entire conduct of the war in Iraq. If anyone, it is these Republicans who should be excluded from any position involving foreign policy or military issues.

Lacking any real arguments we see conservatives repeatedly resorting to this type of tactic. There will always be material for those who have so little integrity that they will resort to this. It is impossible to spend the day speaking without saying something which isn’t open to being twisted in this manner. Democrats if they chose could easily do the same. For example, at the signing of a defense appropriations bill on August 5, 2004 George Bush said, “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”

If we wanted to behave like conservatives, we could have cited this as proof that George Bush was thinking of ways to harm our country. Instead we simply attribute it to Mad Cowboy Disease, have a few laughs, and return to criticizing Bush for his real statements and actions. The difference is that liberals have real arguments to make and don’t need to resort to this type of smear tactic.

Update: Debunking conservative distortions appears to be a new trend in journalism. Rove resigns and the whole conservative strategy falls apart.

Hillary’s Secrets

Hillary Clinton boasts about her expertise in health care, but won’t reveal the deails of her health care plan. Clinton uses her experience as first lady as a reason to vote for her, but now there is controversy over her records being sealed. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton cites her experience as a compelling reason voters should make her president, but nearly 2 million pages of documents covering her White House years are locked up in a building here, obscuring a large swath of her record as first lady.

Clinton’s calendars, appointment logs and memos are stored at her husband’s presidential library, in the custody of federal archivists who do not expect them to be released until after the 2008 presidential election.

A trove of records has been made public detailing the Clinton White House’s attempts to remake the nation’s healthcare system, following a request from Bill Clinton that those materials be released first. Hillary Clinton led the healthcare effort in 1993 and 1994.

But even in the healthcare documents, at least 1,000 pages involving her work has been censored by archives staff because they include confidential advice and must be kept secret under a federal law called the Presidential Records Act. Political consultants said that if Hillary Clinton’s records were made public, rivals would mine them for scraps of information that might rattle her campaign.

“Those files — that’s the mother lode of opposition research,” said Ray McNally, a Republican political consultant in Sacramento. “Opposition researchers would be very hungry to see what’s there.” Robert Shrum, senior political strategist in Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, said: “In 2 million pieces of paper, would opposition researchers hope to find one where she wrote a memo saying, ‘I wish I’d never gotten involved in healthcare?’ Sure. That’s what they’d love to find.”

Bob Shrum doesn’t know how to go for the jugular as Republicans do. A memo such as that in the context of frustration over the political oppositon to her plan would not really be all that terrible, although I doubt she would have put such thoughts, if she ever had them, in writing. In contrast, Republican researchers would dream of finding a memo saying, “Once we get this plan into operation, we move on to full government control over health care, and then the entire economy, Comrads.” Of course Republican fantasies and reality are two different things.

More seriously, the papers might be illuminating not only to the opposition but to those of us who are trying to get a better handle on exactly what Clinton thinks about health care, along with other issues, beyond the political spin and triangulation. I wonder if Clinton gave any thought to the serious flaws in her health care program. Perhaps a better insight into her thought process will give a better idea as to whether she might be able to do it better the second time around.

Not surprisingly, many conservative blogs are already demanding that all the records be released. If this was simply in order to better understand the candidate in order to make an educated choice in voting, I’d agree completely. More likely they are hoping to find evidence of scandal, despite all the negative results on numerous previous fishing expeditions.

Regardless of their motivations, as a matter of principle I will back their demands that Hillary Clinton’s public papers be made available. In return I wonder when more conservatives will speak out about the secrecy of the Bush administration, which is the ultimate cause of these papers not being public, especially considering that the information which Congress is attempting to obtain pertains directly to abuse of power and to evidence that this administration has usurped the law and the Constitution.

Update: I also wouldn’t mind a chance to check out all the documents from his father’s administration which Bush classified while everyone was distracted by 9/11. It is certainly ironic that measures initiated by Bush to increase government secrecy might wind up helping Hillary Clinton.

The Ideas of Obama vs. Edwards on Poverty

Libertarian Democrat writer Terry Michael made an excellent argument in favor of his first choice, Barack Obama, over John Edwards. His arguments regarding the problems with Edwards’ economic populism should also be of interest to supporters of some of the other candidates.

Michael reviewed some of the reactions to Edwards’ policies, agreeing with me The Onion best summed up the problems. Michael was impressed that “a low budget satirical tabloid knows a political huckster when it sees one.” His article concludes:

If Democrats are loony enough to buy the reactionary left-liberal, complete-the-New-Deal, wealth re-distributionist economics that Edwards is hustling, we (I’m a libertarian Democrat) risk blowing a nearly sure thing in 2008.

The middle class in this country is not falling behind. It is suffering from the psychological turmoil of “The Age of Abundance,” as Brink Lindsey describes it so well in his recent book. America’s working class is working.

And the impoverishment of our underclass is not the result of a failure of federal government largesse. Nor is it the legacy of rampant white racism. It’s what the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan was so maligned for writing truthfully in the late ’60s: a break-down of the family and the loss of nurturing values inherent in having two married parents. Or, to update Moynihan, two gay parents, or one loving single parent, skillfully caring for the children he, she and/or they produced or adopted.

The only serious Democratic candidate who seems to get this is Barack Obama. Instead of pandering to those Democrats whose minds were left somewhere in the Age of Aquarius, the Illinois senator, as Dionne wisely noted in the piece I faulted above, “stresses personal and parental responsibility.”

If we Democrats are serious about ending the government dependent underclass poverty we helped create with our misguided War on Poverty forty years ago, let’s hope what Obama stresses gets stressed in our 2008 platform.

If, however, we get sidetracked by the feel-good populism Edwards is peddling, we not only risk losing an election. We’ll once again fail those children trapped in underclass hell.

The differences in economic views between Obama and Edwards are receiving too little attention from the media, which is more interested in the horse race, as well as from Democrats. It took a conservative writer to look more at this subject and see the value of Obama’s ideas in an op-ed written a few days after Michael’s post, which I previously quoted here.

The Rove Presidency and Realignment

The resignation of Karl Rove has been widely discussed with similar topics coming up repeatedly. These include the ultimate failure of Rove’s policy of division and his ongoing legal problems as his conduct in office is investigated. No matter what you think of the Bush administration, there is one characteristic which both supporters and detractors might agree on. They thought big. Their policies may have been failures, but they sure were big failures. Bush went from speaking out against nation building in the 2000 campaign to seeking to change the entire middle east. The Bush administration didn’t attempt to just whittle away at a bit of what they saw as the welfare state. Their policies were designed to ultimately destroy Social Security and Medicare.

Karl Rove also thought big in the area of politics. In an article in The Atlantic, Joshua Green described how Karl Rove wanted to do more than simply getting out the far right to win narrow elections. He had a bigger goal which was to create a realignment of of party politics which would last decades.

In a way he succeeded, but he didn’t create the permanent Republican majority he sought. Instead Rove contributed to a realignment of American politics in which groups who never before voted Democratic are now supporting the Democrats and voting against the Republicans.

A portion of Green’s article is reprinted below the fold. (more…)

China Regulates Reincarnation

Even for a totalitarian country such as China which has no respect for separation of church and state on first reading this one sounds really wierd.

In one of history’s more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is “an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation.”

It turns out that there is a political motivation here:

But beyond the irony lies China’s true motive: to cut off the influence of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual and political leader, and to quell the region’s Buddhist religious establishment more than 50 years after China invaded the small Himalayan country. By barring any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation, the law effectively gives Chinese authorities the power to choose the next Dalai Lama, whose soul, by tradition, is reborn as a new human to continue the work of relieving suffering.

At 72, the Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since 1959, is beginning to plan his succession, saying that he refuses to be reborn in Tibet so long as it’s under Chinese control. Assuming he’s able to master the feat of controlling his rebirth, as Dalai Lamas supposedly have for the last 600 years, the situation is shaping up in which there could be two Dalai Lamas: one picked by the Chinese government, the other by Buddhist monks. “It will be a very hot issue,” says Paul Harrison, a Buddhism scholar at Stanford. “The Dalai Lama has been the prime symbol of unity and national identity in Tibet, and so it’s quite likely the battle for his incarnation will be a lot more important than the others.”

Tax and Spend Republicans

Cato-at-Liberty reports that George Bush is the biggest taxer in the history of the world:

The Treasury Department reported Friday that federal revenues reached $2.12 trillion ($2,120,000,000,0000) for the first ten months of fiscal year 2007. In both current and inflation-adjusted dollars, that puts the federal government on course for the most revenue it’s ever collected in a year. Indeed, it’s the most revenue any government in the history of the world has ever collected. And yet it’s not enough to satisfy the voracious appetites of the spenders in Congress and the administration. Spending was $2.27 trillion for the same ten months.

It seems that the deficit problem in Washington is not a result of insufficient tax revenue but rather the inexorable growth of spending on everything from earmarks to entitlements to war.

To be sure, the U.S. economy is the largest national economy in history, and that’s the main reason for record tax levels. And tax revenues are not at their peak in terms of percentage of GDP–though they’re getting close. Earlier in the year OMB estimated that revenues as a percentage of GDP would reach 18.5 percent in 2007. But as of a month ago that figure had reached 18.8 percent, approaching the levels that typically produce popular demand for relief. But as spending interests become stronger and more widespread in Washington, popular demand for lower taxes faces more resistance. It seems safe to conclude that George W. Bush will go down in history as the biggest taxer and the biggest spender ever.