What Joe Said (Re Dick Cheney)

There’s really nothing here beyond what I’ve already said about Bush and Cheney in response to their incompetence on handling terrorism while in office, but it is worth repeating now that Cheney has opened his mouth again on a topic he is both ignorant about. Once again Cheney shows he is far more concerned with playing politics than doing what is in the national interest.  Joe Klein wrote:

Let’s leave aside the fact that if Dick Cheney and his alleged boss had been more vigilant–if they had listened to the Clinton appointees like Sandy Berger who warned about Al Qaeda, if they had paid attention to their own intelligence reports (notably the one on August 6, 2001)–the September 11 attacks might never have happened. Actually, I can’t leave that aside…but in any case, it is sleazy in the extreme for Cheney to predict another terrorist attack. For several reasons:

1. Some sort of terrorist attack is likely, eventually, no matter who is President.

2. Cheney has done here what the Bush Administration did throughout: he has politicized terror. If another attack happens, it’s Obama’s fault. Disgraceful… and ungrateful, since it’s only Obama’s mercy that stands between Cheney and a really serious war crimes investigation. Which leads to…

3. The means that Cheney has supported to combat terror in the past, especially “enhanced” interogation techniques, are quite probably illegal. He is criticizing the Obama administration for not being willing to defy international law.

4. Cheney’s track record of mismanagement in Iraq and Afghanistan–his sponsorship of Donald Rumsfeld, the worst Secretary of Defense in US history– disqualifies him from having any credible say on the security policies of his successor.

This is a man who should either be (a) scorned or (b) ignored.

Klein’s choices of (a) and (b) are our best realistic hope, but ideally the choice would be (c) tried for war crimes.

The Bush Administration’s Most Despicable Act

Joe Klein picks out the Bush administration’s one most despicable act:

“This is not the America I know,” President George W. Bush said after the first, horrifying pictures of U.S. troops torturing prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq surfaced in April 2004. The President was not telling the truth. “This” was the America he had authorized on Feb. 7, 2002, when he signed a memorandum stating that the Third Geneva Convention — the one regarding the treatment of enemy prisoners taken in wartime — did not apply to members of al-Qaeda or the Taliban. That signature led directly to the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. It was his single most callous and despicable act. It stands at the heart of the national embarrassment that was his presidency.

The details of the torture that Bush authorized have been dribbling out over the years in books like Jane Mayer’s excellent The Dark Side. But the most definitive official account was released by the Senate Armed Services Committee just before Christmas. Much of the committee’s report remains secret, but a 19-page executive summary was published, and it is infuriating. The story begins with an obscure military training program called Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE), in which various forms of torture are simulated to prepare U.S. special-ops personnel for the sorts of treatment they might receive if they’re taken prisoner. Incredibly, the Bush Administration decided to have SERE trainers instruct its interrogation teams on how to torture prisoners. (Read “Shell-Shocked at Abu Ghraib?”)

Klein points out that such tactics do not work and considers possible punishment for those who supported such policies:

It would be interesting, just for the fun and justice of it, to subject Rumsfeld to four hours in a stress position — standing stock still with his arms extended, naked, in a cold room after maybe two hours’ sleep. But that’s not going to happen. Indeed, it seems probable that nothing much is going to happen to the Bush Administration officials who perpetrated what many legal scholars consider to be war crimes. “I would say that there’s some theoretical exposure here” to a war-crimes indictment in U.S. federal court, says Gene Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School. “But I don’t think there’s much public appetite for that sort of action.” There is, I’m told, absolutely no interest on the part of the incoming Obama Administration to pursue indictments against its predecessors. “We’re focused on the future,” said one of the President-elect’s legal advisers. Fidell and others say it is possible, though highly unlikely, that Bush et al. could be arrested overseas — one imagines the Vice President pinched midstream on a fly-fishing trip to Norway — just as Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean dictator, was indicted in Spain and arrested in London for his crimes.

If Barack Obama really wanted to be cagey, he could pardon Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld for the possible commission of war crimes. Then they’d have to live with official acknowledgment of their ignominy in perpetuity. More likely, Obama will simply make sure — through his excellent team of legal appointees — that no such behavior happens again. Still, there should be some official acknowledgment by the U.S. government that the Bush Administration’s policies were reprehensible, and quite possibly illegal, and that the U.S. is no longer in the torture business. If Obama doesn’t want to make that statement, perhaps we could do it in the form of a Bush Memorial in Washington: a statue of the hooded Abu Ghraib prisoner in cruciform stress position — the real Bush legacy.

If Obama were to pardon Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld we would probably see protests reminiscent of when Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon. (I believe I still have one of the Monopoly -style Get out of Jail Free cards offering a free, full, and absolute pardon which were being distributed at the time to mock Ford’s act.) Seeing Klein put it this way, it would be a totally different situation with a totally different effect. Still this would disappoint those who fantasize about Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld being brought to justice and raise unnecessary protests against the Obama administration.

What Took You So Long, Joe?

Joe Klein finally gets it about George Bush in writing, “At the end of a presidency of stupefying ineptitude, he has become the lamest of all possible ducks.” He realizes Bush’s greatest failing:

It will be his intellectual laziness, at home and abroad. Bush never understood, or cared about, the delicate balance between freedom and regulation that was necessary to make markets work. He never understood, or cared about, the delicate balance between freedom and equity that was necessary to maintain the strong middle class required for both prosperity and democracy. He never considered the complexities of the cultures he was invading. He never understood that faith, unaccompanied by rigorous skepticism, is a recipe for myopia and foolishness. He is less than President now, and that is appropriate. He was never very much of one.

Unfortunately, as Glenn Greenwald points out, Klein didn’t always see through Bush. He provides an example of Klein on Face the Nation on May 4, 2003 discussing Bush’s Mission Accomplished stunt. Klein said:

Well, that was probably the coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day. That was the first thing that came to mind for me. And it just shows you how high a mountain these Democrats are going to have to climb.

Today he describes it differently:

He is an impeccable classicist when it comes to baseball. And that just about does it for me. I’d add the bracing moment of Bush with the bullhorn in the ruins of the World Trade Center, but that was neutered in my memory by his ridiculous, preening appearance in a flight suit on the deck of the aircraft carrier beneath the “Mission Accomplished” sign. The flight-suit image is one of the two defining moments of the Bush failure. The other is the photo of Bush staring out the window of Air Force One, helplessly viewing the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina. This is a presidency that has wobbled between those two poles — overweening arrogance and paralytic incompetence.(President Bush in the Middle East.)

Instaputz provides additional examples of Joe Klein’s change in attitude towards Bush.

The problems we faced during the Bush years are primarily the responsibility of George Bush, but the media deserves some blame for failing to do its job. They were so terrified by the ridiculous claims of liberal bias coming from the right that they bent over backwards to present Republican fiction as fact.

It wasn’t until after the disaster of Bush’s policies became greatly apparent that the media finally realized that presenting the facts which contradict untrue statements from government or other parties is not bias. This is simply doing their job. Just as they assisted the Bush administration in covering up facts which were inconvenient to them, some members of the media are now engaged in covering up their own failings during the earlier Bush years. As Glenn Greeenwald concludes:

Truly learning from one’s mistakes — as opposed to wet-finger-in-the-air abandoment of  previously revered leaders when they are revealed as failures and lose their power — requires, at the very least, an acknowledgment of one’s own role in what happened.   There have been very few mea culpas from establishment media journalists, many — most — of whom, to this day, think they did nothing wrong (“It was all Judy Miller!“).  As bad as this absence of remorse is, it is simply intolerable to watch those who cheered on many of the worst excesses try now to pretend that they were skeptical, adversarial critics all along.  Journalists with influential platforms have responsibilities, the primary one of which is to be accountable for what they say and do.

Back in September Joe Klein wrote about the dishonesty shown by John McCain during the campaign and indicated he would not accept an apology from McCain should he show remorse for his tactics after the campaign. It would be nice if Klein at least showed some remorse for his role in enabling George Bush. We don’t even have an apology to decide whether to accept.

Fact Checker Debunks Attacks on Obama and Redistribution of Wealth

I debunked the claims being made about Obama wanting to redistribute the wealth in a post earlier today. Those who read it earlier might want to check back as I have updated it with links to several other bloggers commenting, as well as responses from one of Obama’s economic advisers. The Fact Checker at The Washington Post has now looked into this and finds the charges being made against Obama are untrue. They conclude by saying, “The McCain camp is wrong to suggest that the Illinois senator advocated an ‘wealth redistribution’ role for the Supreme Court in his 2001 interview.”

Since my earlier round up of comments on this story, Joe Klein has also weighed in:

Well, we’ve seen this sort of thing the entire campaign,occasionally from the Obama camp, relentlessly from McCain. Today’s edition of scrofulous mudslinging–aided and abetted by a banner headline from the Drudge Scourge–involves a wildly inaccurate reading of remarks that Barack Obama made in a 2001 radio interview. It turns out that he wasn’t criticizing the Supreme Court for its failure to “redistribute” wealth. He was saying the exact opposite: that the Supreme Court wasn’t the way to go. He was saying that political power was the only real way to make decisions about the distribution of taxation. Obama’s sentiment is, of course, a wildly radical notion–or, at least it was, before the American Revolution.

To state the obvious, once again: We have had a redistribution of wealth, upward, during the Reagan era. Taxes on work, a.k.a. payroll taxes, have increased. Taxes on wealth, the upper margins of the income tax plus capital gains plus estate taxes, have decreased. To call Obama a socialist because he wants to redress this imbalance is as accurate as calling McCain an oligarch because he doesn’t.

Now that McCain’s been called out on this, you figure he’ll stop using it, right? Yeah, sure. After all, this is mild compared to the trash going out in those robo-calls. You wonder how McCain returns to the land of the living after this campaign is over–after all, his voice and vote, and his pre-campaign moderation, would be valuable on issues like immigration and global warming. There must be some sort of political detox, right?

More Conservative Hysteria on Economic Discussion

The right wing continues to practice what Mark Halperin and John Harris described as the freak show in The Way to Win. Today they are going wild over a YouTube video dug up by Matt Drudge–which is the first sign it should be questioned. A heavily edited segment from a 2001 interview is distorted to claim Obama supports redistribution of the wealth in a Marxist sense. The full show, which sounds quite different from the segments taken out of context by many right wing bloggers, can be found here.

Obama uses what Ben Smith accurately describes as “professorial talk” about “redistributive change.” The conservative writers who are distorting Obama’s statements in this interview appear ignorant of such language and fail to understand that redistributive change occurs under capitalism and does not necessarily indicate Marxism. Such ideas are really nothing more radical than can be found in the works of Adam Smith. It is a perversion of capitalist ideas in recent years by the extreme right to claim that any form of economic assistance to the poor represents socialism.

Much of the economic aide to the poor which Obama actually talks about in the interview is using tax funds for education for the poor. The far right might object to this, but this is hardly socialism. Obama is bound to support things which the far right oppose, and even things which I disagree with, but such plans come far short of redistribution of the wealth. On irony of this is that in many ways Obama is actually making a fairly conservative argument. A key point he makes throughout the interview is that such economic policies need to be handled at the legislative level as opposed to through judicial action. One would think that conservatives who are frequently attacking judicial activism would back Obama on this point.

Just as they did with his response to Joe the Plumber, conservatives are distorting a statement from Obama to attempt to portray him as a socialist. Besides originating with Drudge, there are other clues that this should not be taken very seriously. With all the interviews Obama has given, and all he has written, it is strange that they have to rely on an obscure interview from 2001, and then heavily edit it to give the impression they desire to give. To understand Obama’s views we must consider the full body of his statements on his economic beliefs as well as his specific proposals at present. The “redistributive change” he actually advocates is a tax cut to the middle class and reversal of the Bush tax cuts for families making over $250,000 per year. This falls far short of Marxism.

By relying on the politics of the freak show the right wing has wound up reducing McCain’s chances to win. If McCain had run as a reasonable moderate he might have had a shot. By making absurd claims about Obama palling around with terrorism and being a socialist the Republicans have lost all credibility among voters who are concerned about seeking solutions to our current problems in place of partisan attacks. This type of attack will go viral and excite the far right, but will further alienate the independent voters who the Republicans have lost.

Update: As the day went on, there has been more comment on this from beyond the right wing blogosophere. Ben Smith has the response from the Obama campaign. Cass Sunstein also posts at The New Republic. More discussion from Greg Sargent, Marc Ambinder Matthew Yglesias, Michael Scherer at Swampland, Justin Gardner, and Andrew Sullivan.

Update II: With all the responses to these charges, I’ve added a second post on the topic containing debunking from The Fact Checker and from Joe Klein.

Anger Management Part I: John McCain’s Problem With Rage

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAyK-enrF1g]

Anger has become a major concern in this race, both with regards to McCain’s personal anger problems and with the manner in which he uses fear and anger to attempt to get  back into the race. The above video summarizes McCain’s anger problem. Michael Kinsley describes one specific example:

McCain’s game is craps. So is Jeff Dearth’s. Jeff was at the table when McCain showed up and happily made room for him. Apparently there is some kind of rule or tradition in craps that everyone’s hands are supposed to be above the table when the dice are about to be thrown. McCain—“very likely distracted by one of the many people who approached him that evening,” Jeff says charitably—apparently was violating this rule. A small middle-aged woman at the table, apparently a “regular,” reached out and pulled McCain’s arm away. I’ll let Jeff take over the story:

“McCain immediately turned to the woman and said between clenched teeth: ‘DON’T TOUCH ME.’ The woman started to explain…McCain interrupted her: ‘DON’T TOUCH ME,’ he repeated viciously. The woman again tried to explain. ‘DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU’RE TALKING TO?’ McCain continued, his voice rising and his hands now raised in the ‘bring it on’ position. He was red-faced. By this time all the action at the table had stopped. I was completely shocked. McCain had totally lost it, and in the space of about ten seconds. ‘Sir, you must be courteous to the other players at the table,’ the pit boss said to McCain. “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? ASK ANYBODY AROUND HERE WHO I AM.”

This being Puerto Rico, the pit boss might not have known McCain. But the senator continued in full fury—“DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU’RE TALKING TO? DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?”—and crisis was avoided only when Jeff offered to change places and stand between McCain and the woman who had touched his arm.

What is bothersome about this story, if it’s true, is only partly the explosive anger. More, it’s the arrogance. At the craps table, who cares who he is? And there’s the recklessness of such a performance in a casino full of journalists (unless McCain absolutely couldn’t control himself, which is even scarier).

Joe Klein believes that McCain’s attempts to control his anger is one factor in his poor debate performances:

But there is also a pent-up anger to McCain. He seems to be concentrating so hard on trying to stay calm that he doesn’t have much energy left over to answer questions in a free and creative way. He is not the sort of person, in the end, that you want to invite into your living room for a four-to-eight-year stay.

Taegan Goddard writes, “a former senior Bush administration official told Political Wire of at least three occasions where he saw McCain fly into a fit of rage, including one time when he got physical and actually push the person annoying him.”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uXdpXprfcM]

This anger has become part of the chess game the two campaigns are playing. Steve Benen points to an interview yesterday with Charlie Gibson (video above) as suggesting that Obama is hoping to provoke McCain to show his tempter. He begins by quoting an answer from Obama:

“Well, I am surprised that, you know, we’ve been seeing some pretty over-the-top attacks coming out of the McCain campaign over the last several days that he wasn’t willing to say it to my face,” Obama said. “But I guess we’ve got one last debate. So presumably, if he ends up feeling that he needs to, he will raise it during the debate.”

Obama, in this sense, is almost daring McCain to make these attacks directly. He’s practically questioning McCain’s fortitude, calling him out for using sleazy tactics behind Obama’s back, but not to his face.

I suspect Obama is baiting McCain for a reason — he wants McCain to lose his cool, make personal attacks, and try to change the subject away from the economy. Obama isn’t afraid of this scenario, he’d welcome this scenario.

The McCain campaign is using anger differently, in inciting anger against Obama based upon discredited smears. That will be the topic of Anger Management Part II.

John McCain’s Desperation Effort To Avoid Debating Barack Obama

First John McCain began avoiding the press. Now he is attempting to avoid debating Barack Obama as planned for Friday–just at a time when it is crucial that voters get a chance to hear from the two candidates. McCain’s call to return to Washington, where he has been AWOL for months, was a transparent political gambit, or as Joe Klein calls it, Gimmicks ‘R’ Us.

The presence of  John McCain, who just last week was arguing that the fundamentals of the economy are sound, is hardly needs to rush back to Washington because of this crisis. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid advised McCain to stay away and proceed with the debate:

This is a critical time for our country. While I appreciate that both candidates have signaled their willingness to help, Congress and the Administration have a process in place to reach a solution to this unprecedented financial crisis.

I understand that the candidates are putting together a joint statement at Senator Obama’s suggestion. But it would not be helpful at this time to have them come back during these negotiations and risk injecting presidential politics into this process or distract important talks about the future of our nation’s economy. If that changes, we will call upon them. We need leadership; not a campaign photo op.

If there were ever a time for both candidates to hold a debate before the American people about this serious challenge, it is now.

The financial crisis was the equivalent of the 3:00 a.m. phone call in the Hillary Clinton commercials, regardless of time of day. McCain failed the test and has been falling in the polls, leading to such desperation measures. You can’t just call time out when their is a crisis. As Matthew Yglesias points out, “walking and chewing gum at the same time is part of the president’s job.”

McCain is trying to get credit for looking like a problem solver on the issue, but it is actually Obama who first reached out to McCain. Obama’s campaign issued this statement:

At 8:30 this morning, Senator Obama called Senator McCain to ask him if he would join in issuing a joint statement outlining their shared principles and conditions for the Treasury proposal and urging Congress and the White House to act in a bipartisan manner to pass such a proposal. At 2:30 this afternoon, Senator McCain returned Senator Obama’s call and agreed to join him in issuing such a statement. The two campaigns are currently working together on the details.

Despite claims of suspending the campaign, Andrew Sullivan argues that once again McCain is lying about suspending the campaign. Marc Ambinder tries to sort out exactly what is to be suspended here and here.

This gimmick is only fooling the die hard McCain apologists. Even The National Review is mocking McCain suggesting that since Obama wants to proceed with the debate, “they’d like McCain to just offer Palin step in for him.” More seriously they comment:

Some of this is a lot of nonsense, but if I’m just getting home from work and I only pay casual attention to these debates, Obama sounds reasonable and less gimmicky than McCain.

He says that there is no reason why we can’t do more than one thing at once. Obama says it is “more important than ever” to have a debate.

Obama says he called McCain this morning and announced that he wanted to do a no-politics-as-usual joint statement about addressing the market mess. He says that McCain wanted to insist on meeting with the president and congressional leaders too. Obama says Obama said: Let’s do the statement, go from there. Obama says he thought McCain was thinking about the joint statement, working on with staff, when McCain went on TV. So now Obama is on TV.

Obama says he’s told Pelosi, Reid, and Paulson that “if I can be helpful, I am prepared to be [in dc] anytime” but I don’t want to infuse presidential politics on the hill and goes on about how presidents need to be able to multitask.

Obama may win this campaign moment yet. If McCain protests, he looks petty

Besides such comments from conservatives, you know that a gimmick is backfiring against McCain when the late night comedians begin joking about it. Drudge reports that David Letterman is mocking McCain’s cancellation of the debates:

David Letterman tells audience that McCain called him today to tell him he had to rush back to DC to deal with the economy.

Then in the middle of the taping Dave got word that McCain was, in fact just down the street being interviewed by Katie Couric. Dave even cut over to the live video of the interview, and said, “Hey Senator, can I give you a ride home?”

Earlier in the show, Dave kept saying, “You don’t suspend your campaign. This doesn’t smell right. This isn’t the way a tested hero behaves.” And he joked: “I think someone’s putting something in his metamucil.”

“He can’t run the campaign because the economy is cratering? Fine, put in your second string quarterback, Sara Palin. Where is she?”

“What are you going to do if you’re elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We’ve got a guy like that now!”

Joe Klein Exposes John McCain’s Lying Game

One remarkable aspect about the coverage of all the lies coming from John McCain is that many in the media are outright calling them lies. Joe Klein, one of many columnists who has changed his mind about McCain this year, writes:

Politics has always been lousy with blather and chicanery. But there are rules and traditions too. In the early weeks of the general-election campaign, a consensus has grown in the political community — a consensus that ranges from practitioners like Karl Rove to commentators like, well, me — that John McCain has allowed his campaign to slip the normal bounds of political propriety. The situation has gotten so intense that we in the media have slipped our normal rules as well. Usually when a candidate tells something less than the truth, we mince words. We use euphemisms like mendacity and inaccuracy … or, as the Associated Press put it, “McCain’s claims skirt facts.” But increasing numbers of otherwise sober observers, even such august institutions as the New York Times editorial board, are calling John McCain a liar. You might well ask, What has McCain done to deserve this? What unwritten rules did he break? Are his transgressions of degree or of kind?

Almost every politician stretches the truth. We journalists try to point out the exaggerations and criticize them, then let the voters decide. When McCain says, for example, that Barack Obama favors a government-run health-care system, he’s not telling the truth — Obama wants a market-based system subsidized by the government — but McCain’s untruth illuminates a general policy direction, which is sketchy but sort of within the bounds. (Obama’s plan would increase government regulation of the drug and insurance industries.) Obama has done this sort of thing too. In July, he accused McCain of supporting the foreign buyout of an American company that could lead to the loss of about 8,000 jobs in Wilmington, Ohio. McCain did support the deal, but the job loss comes many years later and was not anticipated at the time. That, however, is where the moral equivalency between these two campaigns ends.

After further discussion of many of the lies McCain has told, Klein hits the key point in writing, “The McCain camp has decided that its candidate can’t win honorably, on the issues, so it has resorted to transparent and phony diversions.” He later concludes:

The good news is that the vile times may be ending. The coming debates will decide this race, and it isn’t easy to tell lies when your opponent is standing right next to you. The Wall Street collapse demands a more sober campaign as well. But these dreadful weeks should not be forgotten. John McCain has raised serious questions about whether he has the character to lead the nation. He has defaced his beloved military code of honor. He has run a dirty campaign.

I’m not certain that McCain is really being more dishonest than Bush and Cheney, but the response to such lies from McCain is probably worse because of his previous reputation as a straight talker. Journalists, including Joe Klein, who helped spread that myth now realize they had been conned, and are not very happy about it.

McCain Criticized For His Health Care Plan

I’ve been surprised that Obama has not done more to criticize McCain on his health plan. Not only does McCain’s plan fail to help those who are uninsured or underinsured, but it will also increase health care costs for those who currently have insurance coverage. One group, Health Care for America Now, is taking action. The Politco reports:

A progressive group pushing for health-care reform – Health Care for America Now – took a swing at Republican presidential nominee John McCain Monday, telling him to “stop lying about” Democratic rival Barack Obama’s health-care plan.

The group took issue with McCain’s characterization last week that Obama’s plan would “force small businesses to cut jobs and reduce wages and force families into a government-run health care system where a bureaucrat stands between you and your doctor.”

“Sen. Obama’s heath care plan offers the American people and American business a choice. His plan allows individuals to stay with the private insurance they have now, choose a new health care plan similar to the one Congress has or opt into a new public plan so we are no longer left at the mercy of the private insurance industry,” the group’s national campaign manager, Richard Kirsch, said in a statement.

“His plan includes lowering health care costs for small business and allowing employers to offer health insurance by paying for it as a percentage of their payroll rather than continue to feed into the current system where premiums are completely disconnected from what a business can afford.”

Kirsch also knocked McCain’s plan saying, “McCain’s health care plan, which proposes taxing your health-care benefits at work and eliminating what little regulation already exists by allowing people to purchase across state lines, will raise costs and lower consumer protections.”

Jason Rosenbaum presents several reports on the actual differences between the health care plans of Obama and McCain, as opposed to the lies being spread by the Republicans:

McClatchy:

Obama’s proposed universal health-care plan embodies the long-held Democratic Party goal of covering the 47 million Americans who lack health insurance. Employers, insurers, individuals and the government all would have greater roles in assuring coverage through a number of proposals designed to close gaps in the system.”It builds on the existing system and recognizes that we’re not starting from scratch,” said M. Gregg Bloche, health care adviser for Obama. “One can’t impose sudden radical change on the system from the top down. There are real limitations to what can be accomplished centrally with respect to health care.”

McCain’s plan takes a different approach. It follows Republican orthodoxy of trying to make the private-insurance marketplace more affordable and competitive by radically altering the tax treatment of health-care benefits.

For years employers have been able to exclude the cost of health benefits from their employees’ taxable incomes, but self-employed workers and those who buy private coverage don’t have the same tax benefit. To level the playing field, McCain no longer would exempt employees’ health benefits from income taxes. Instead, he’d provide refundable tax credits of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families to help purchase private insurance.

New York Times:

Though Senator John McCain has promised to not raise taxes, his campaign acknowledged Wednesday that the health plan he outlined this week would have the effect of increasing tax payments for some workers, primarily those with high incomes and expensive health plans.

Time’s Joe Klein:

Today’s issue: health insurance. John McCain wants to tax your employer-provided health care benefits. He wants to replace those benefits with an insufficient tax credit–$2500 for individuals and $5000 for families (the average cost per family for health insurance is $12000).

There is a positive, progressive tax aspect to this: wealthier people should have to pay for health insurance themselves, without tax breaks from the federal government.

But make no mistake: this plan will do little or nothing for those who do not have insurance now–unless they are young and healthy–and it may well hurt a fair number of workers, especially unionized workers, who get gold-plated benefits from their employers.

The media has also called out John McCain’s outright lies about Obama’s health care plan:

Disputed characterizations are not uncommon on the trail. At a campaign stop this week in Missouri, Mr. McCain said that Mr. Obama’s plan would “force small businesses to cut jobs and reduce wages and force families into a government-run health care system where a bureaucrat stands between you and your doctor.”Jonathan B. Oberlander, who teaches health policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said that Mr. Obama’s plan would not force families into a government-run system. “I would say this is an inaccurate and false characterization of the Obama plan,” he said. “I don’t use those words lightly.”

Media Getting Mad At McCain’s Dishonest Tactics

John McCain has long been a creation of the media. The media created the myth that McCain is a maverick, and a moderate who is different from Bush. Just as the media created teh myth of John McCain, the media might wind up destroying that myth now that McCain has repeatedly crossed the line. Moderate journalists such as Joe Klein who were neutral, or who might have even leaned towards McCain, are now critical of him. The latest is Howard Kurtz:

The media are getting mad.

Whether it’s the latest back-and-forth over attack ads, the silly lipstick flap or the continuing debate over Sarah and sexism, you can just feel the tension level rising several notches.

Maybe it’s a sense that this is crunch time, that the election is on the line, that the press is being manipulated (not that there’s anything new about that).

News outlets are increasingly challenging false or questionable claims by the McCain campaign, whether it’s the ad accusing Obama of supporting sex-ed for kindergartners (the Illinois legislation clearly describes “age-appropriate” programs) or Palin’s repeated boast that she stopped the Bridge to Nowhere (after she had supported it, and after Congress had effectively killed the specific earmark).

The McCain camp has already accused the MSM of trying to “destroy” the governor of Alaska. So any challenge to her record or her veracity can now be cast as the product of an oh-so-unfair press. Which, needless to say, doesn’t exactly please reporters, and makes the whole hanging-with-McCain-on-the-Straight-Talk era seem 100 years ago.

As for the sudden insistence that Palin is a delicate flower who must be shielded from harsh rhetoric, take this example. Joe Biden, asked if Palin as VP would be a step forward for women, said: “Look, I think the issue is: What does Sarah Palin think? What does she believe? I assume she thinks and agrees with the same policies that George Bush and John McCain think. And that’s obviously a backward step for women.”

A typical political shot? Not according to the RNC, which said the “arrogant” remarks are “better suited for the backrooms of his old boys’ club,” while Palin is trying to break “the highest glass ceiling.”

Of course, she wasn’t picked because she is a woman, was she? And I’m sure if Hillary was the nominee, the RNC would be extremely respectful of her attempt to shatter an even higher glass ceiling.

The lipstick imbroglio is evidence that the Drudge/Fox/New York Post axis can drive just about any story into mainstream land. Does anyone seriously believe that Barack Obama was calling Sarah Palin a pig? What about the fact that McCain has used “lipstick on a pig” before? What about the book by that title by former McCain aide Torie Clarke? Never mind: get the cable bookers to line up women on opposite sides of the lipstick divide and let them claw at each other!