David Weigel Leaving Slate To Join Bloomberg

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Bloomberg is attempting a major increase in their political coverage. I first discounted this when I heard it is being run by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. They have frequently fallen into covering trivia over substance in politics. Halperin has done some good in describing the political freak show, but instead of dismissing it will frequently report on it as news, repeating the talking points of the right wing freak show as fact. Back in 2011 he was suspended from a job at MSNBC for calling Obama a dick. Often Matt Drudge has seemed to be the type of political reporting he encourages.

There might be hope for Bloomberg as a serious source for political journalism after all. They have hired David Weigel away from his current job at Slate. A memo about his hiring might not be expected to be totally objective in describing Weigel, but I do agree with this:

“Driven by his own curiosity, he eschews the pack to write and report some of the smartest pieces about how real people perceive their politicians,” Tyrangiel said.

“He loves the far right and the far left–in part for their commitment to their beliefs and in part because there are such great stories there,” Tyrangiel continued. “Dave also radiates a passion for writing that manifests itself in more than just a freakishly intimidating number of bylines. The man knows how to twirl a word and turn a phrase. (Oh, he podcasts, too. His WeigelCast at Slate is a must-listen and we’ll be exploring ways he may pick that up for Bloomberg Politics.)”

David Weigel also has a post at Slate with his reasons on why he is leaving to work at Bloomberg:

Fun beyond description. This is still my favorite magazine, and I’m only leaving it because Bloomberg’s putting together—I will try to avoid corporate-speak—an ambitious political magazine run by the sort of geniuses who made Bloomberg Businessweek into a great print mag, and New York‘s political coverage a daily must-read.

 

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Christie May Not Survive Impact Of Email Saying “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee”

As The Rachel Maddow Show, and Maddow Blog writer Steve Benen have been vigorously covering the Chris Christie Bridge scandal for a month, I have been uncertain as to whether this would amount to enough to seriously impact Christie’s until-now rising political career. The new revelations released today, based upon email and text messages directly linking Christie’s top aides to the scandal, now suggest that this will be important:

Private messages between Governor’s Christie’s deputy chief of staff and two of his top executives at the Port Authority reveal a vindictive effort to create “traffic problems in Fort Lee” by shutting lanes to the George Washington Bridge and apparent pleasure at the resulting gridlock.

The messages are replete with references and insults to Fort Lee’s mayor — who had failed to endorse Christie for re-election — and they chronicle how he tried to reach Port Authority officials in a vain effort to eliminate the paralyzing gridlock that overwhelmed his town of 35,000, which sits in the shadow of the world’s busiest bridge.

The documents obtained by The Record raise serious doubts about months of claims by the Christie administration that the September closures of local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge were part of a traffic study initiated solely by the Port Authority. Instead, they show that one of the governor’s top aides was deeply involved in the decision to choke off the borough’s access to the bridge, and they provide the strongest indication yet that it was part of a politically-motivated vendetta—a notion that Christie has publicly denied.

“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Bridget Anne Kelly, one of three deputies on Christie’s senior staff, wrote to David Wildstein, a top Christie executive at the Port Authority, on Aug. 13, about three weeks before the closures. Wildstein, the official who ordered the closures and who resigned last month amid the escalating scandal, wrote back: “Got it.”

I’m not sure we have had such clear documentation implicating a major politician in a scandal since the Watergate tapes ended the career of Richard Nixon. Of course in this day and age it is email and text messages (raising the question as to why they would think that such a clear trail would not be revealed.) The documents both display an abuse of power and contradict previous denials that Christie was involved. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” is likely to become a phrase which will haunt Chris Christie for the rest of his career, and might very likely end his presidential ambitions. As Chris Cillizza points out, “Molehills can grow into mountains in politics. This is now a serious problem for Christie.”

Jonathan Chait pointed out why this scandal can be particularly harmful for Christie, both being easy for voters to understand and reinforcing previous questions about Christie:

Several things come together to make this scandal especially devastating to Christie. One is that it’s very easy for voters to understand: He punished a town because its mayor endorsed his rival. There are no complex financial transfers or legal maneuverings to parse. Second, it fits into a broader pattern of behavior, documented by the New York Times, of taking retribution against politicians who cross him in any way. There is, in all likelihood, much more. Mark Halperin and my colleague John Heilemann reported in their book about the 2012 campaign that Mitt Romney wanted to put Christie on his ticket, but his staff was “stunned by the garish controversies lurking in the shadows of his record”:

“There was a 2010 Department of Justice inspector general’s investigation of Christie’s spending patterns in his job prior to the governorship, which criticized him for being “the U.S. attorney who most often exceeded the government [travel expense] rate without adequate justification” and for offering “insufficient, inaccurate, or no justification” for stays at swank hotels like the Four Seasons. There was the fact that Christie worked as a lobbyist on behalf of the Securities Industry Association at a time when Bernie Madoff was a senior SIA official — and sought an exemption from New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act. There was Christie’s decision to steer hefty government contracts to donors and political allies like former Attorney General John Ashcroft, which sparked a congressional hearing. There was a defamation lawsuit brought against Christie arising out of his successful 1994 run to oust an incumbent in a local Garden State race. Then there was Todd Christie, the Governor’s brother, who in 2008 agreed to a settlement of civil charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission in which he acknowledged making “hundreds of trades in which customers had been systematically overcharged.”

The investigations also “raised questions for the vetters about Christie’s relationship with a top female deputy who accompanied him on many of the trips.”

Josh Marshall says essentially the same thing, but a little more bluntly with his comparison of Chris Christie to Tony Soprano:

As I’ve written several times, this Christie Bridge Scandal is far more potentially damaging for Christie that it might seem on its face because its fits so perfectly with the negative view (as opposed to the positive view) of Chris Christie. That is, that he and his crew are thugs and bullies. We have basically demonstrable evidence that one of Christie’s top aides instructed Christie’s crony at the Port Authority, David Wildstein, to create the series of massive traffic jams in the city whose Mayor wouldn’t endorse the Governor.

Put into a mix that a good part of the country has the Sopranos as their primary prism for viewing New Jersey. (And, hey, I’m a former New Jersey resident!) And these emails sound very Sopranos-esque. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Christie Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly told David Wildstein, according to emails obtained by TPM. “Got it,” Wildstein replied.

This isn’t some low level aide. This is part of his inner circle. And unless there’s some wildly unexpected explanation, it’s pretty clear that we’ve got the worst case scenario for the Governor in terms of the political damage. I doubted very much that we’d see any email smoking gun. And it’s still not from Christie himself. But it came from the Governor’s office and I think the weight of logic (though as yet no direct evidence) at least says that Christie himself knew about the order and may have ordered it himself.

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An Inane And A Meaningful Response To Marco Rubio’s Comments On The Age Of The Earth

The response to Marco Rubio’s answer to a question on the age of the earth shows why we need both a better opposition party and a better news media. Rubio’s answer:

GQ: How old do you think the Earth is?
Marco Rubio: I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.

Often ignorant comments such as this receive brief mention in the liberal blogosphere and are forgotten, but this comment continues to receive a lot of attention. Mark Halperin writes this off as an example of How the left-wing Freak Show is gearing up for ’16:

There’s one area where Democrats are really far ahead of Republicans right now. Science and technology, no. It’s doing this thing that Democrats failed to do in 2000, to stop George W. Bush, which is really, really early on using the left-wing Freak Show to define anyone who’s thinking of running for President, as quickly as possible, in negative terms on Twitter, on cable, on the Internet. They’re all over this Rubio thing because they want to control his image in a negative way and they did it this cycle too. They went after Romney early, it really hurt him. And they’re doing it now. And, you know, as a matter of just pure politics, it’s very effective because Rubio’s not full-time thinking about running for president. He’s out there dabbling but people on the Left will just be defining anyone who looks like they might be strong in four years.

Halperin has often referred to the right wing Freak Show, while far too often repeating their falsehoods as if there was some validity to them. It is even worse if he is going to call criticism of Rubio’s statement a left-wing freak show, analogous to the right-wing freak show of Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, and others who promote a fictitious right wing narrative. There is no real comparison between these people who spread misinformation and those on the left who criticize Rubio for making a statement showing such disregard for science.

It also borders on the right wing conspiracy-theory mentality to see this as a plan to take out (or Palinize) Rubio in preparation for a possible 2016 presidential run. This response came after the interview, not part of some long-range conspiracy. This is not a quote being invented or taken out of context as we frequently see from the right wingers. This is not an attempt to dig up some long past statement or action, as right wingers often do when attempting to demonize a political foe. This is an honest response to a recently published interview on a subject which the left is quite concerned about–the Republican denial of facts and science.

In his answer, Rubio played down the importance of the question stating, “I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow.” Alex Knapp responded to this in Forbes:

…the age of the universe has a lot to do with how our economy is going to grow. That’s because large parts of the economy absolutely depend on scientists being right about either the age of the Universe or the laws of the Universe that allow scientists to determine its age. For example, astronomers recently discovered a galaxy that is over 13 billion light years away from Earth. That is, at its distance, it took the light from the Galaxy over 13 billion years to reach us.

Now, Marco Rubio’s Republican colleague Representative Paul Broun, who sits on the House Committee on Science and Technology, recently stated that it was his belief that the Universe is only 9,000 years old. Well, if Broun is right and physicists are wrong, then we have a real problem. Virtually all modern technology relies on optics in some way, shape or form. And in the science of optics, the fact that the speed of light is constant in a vacuum is taken for granted. But the speed of light must not be constant if the universe is only 9,000 years old. It must be capable of being much, much faster. That means that the fundamental physics underlying the Internet, DVDs, laser surgery, and many many more critical parts of the economy are based on bad science. The consequences of that could be drastic, given our dependence on optics for our economic growth.

Here’s an even more disturbing thought – scientists currently believe that the Earth is about 4.54 billion years old because radioactive substances decay at generally stable rates.  Accordingly, by observing how much of a radioactive substance has decayed, scientists are able to determine how old that substance is. However, if the Earth is only 9,000 years old, then radioactive decay rates are unstable and subject to rapid acceleration under completely unknown circumstances. This poses an enormous danger to the country’s nuclear power plants, which could undergo an unanticipated meltdown at any time due to currently unpredictable circumstances. Likewise, accelerated decay could lead to the detonation of our nuclear weapons, and cause injuries and death to people undergoing radioactive treatments in hospitals. Any of these circumstances would obviously have a large economic impact.

If the Earth is really 9,000 years old, as Paul Broun believes and Rubio is willing to remain ignorant about,  it becomes imperative to shut down our nuclear plants and dismantle our nuclear stockpiles now until such time as scientists are able to ascertain what circumstances exist that could cause deadly acceleration of radioactive decay and determine how to prevent it from happening.

The bottom line is that this economy, at its root, is built on  a web of scientific knowledge from physics to chemistry to biology. It’s impossible to just cherry pick out parts we don’t like. If the Earth is 9,000 years old, then virtually the entire construct of modern science is simply wrong. Not only that, most of the technology that we rely on most likely wouldn’t work – as they’re dependent on science that operates on the same physical laws that demonstrate the age of the universe.

Now, this doesn’t mean that our representatives to the Congress and to the Senate should be scientific experts. But if they hold ideas about the world around us that are fundamentally at odds with scientific evidence, then that will ultimately infringe on their ability to make reasoned judgments about a host of issues where the economy touches technology. And that could end up harming the economy as a whole.

Politicians who are ignorant of basic science are not capable of making rational decisions on public policy in the 21st century. It is possible that Rubio might be more knowledgeable about science but feels it is necessary to deny scientific facts to maintain the support of the anti-science right wing. If this is the case, such cowardice is also not desirable from those in government.

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Romney Response To Middle East Crisis Shows He Is Not Ready To Lead

One of the nagging questions among many of us following politics is why everyone doesn’t realize that Mitt Romney is a pathological liar who says anything which he thinks will help his campaign, with total disregard for the truth. This was the day that many in the mainstream media who either failed to realize this, or considered it inappropriate to discuss, are now writing about this. Mitt Romney has finally gone too far for even some people who support his campaign and as a result his chances to win might have evaporated as John McCain’s chances to win ended when it became apparent that he was clueless as to how to respond to the financial melt down in 2008.

This was not supposed to be an election about foreign policy, but only if voters assume that the candidate of each party is competent to handle national security. Barack Obama himself demonstrated that an extraordinary individual might do an outstanding job without prior experience. Mitt Romney, however, is not an extraordinary individual, and his strengths lie in areas far removed from national security, or for that matter, any positions of leadership in government. Need someone to tear down a company, make money off its assets, and put people out of jobs–Mitt Romney will do an excellent job of this and make a good profit. Want someone who has any idea as to how to handle national security issues? Mitt Romney is like a Sarah Palin who couldn’t even see Russia from her house.

While there was a plan for both campaigns to avoid political attacks on the anniversary of the 9/11 attack, Mitt Romney could not manage to hold off on another dishonest attack past around 10 pm. The situation was set up by this statement from the U.S. embassy in Cairo:

U.S. Embassy Condemns Religious Incitement

September 11, 2012

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

This statement, from the Embassy without support from the White House, was issued before the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic missions in Egypt and Libya began, most likely in the hopes of calming matters down before any serious violence began. After the attacks began, the right wing noise machine began to mischaracterize this with claims such as that Obama was apologizing to those doing the attacking. My bet is that Mitt Romney saw this as supporting his totally fabricated but ongoing attack line that Obama has been apologizing since taking office, and Romney issued this statement:

“I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

This was an outright lie, and Romney’s subsequent comments buried him further. The media reaction was strongly opposed to Romney, both for the dishonesty of his statement and for commenting while attacks on diplomatic missions were in progress, before all the information was in. There had already been serious doubts about Romney’s ability to handle foreign policy after the repeated fiascoes on his recent international trip. This confirmed that Mitt Romney is not prepared to be Commander-in-Chief.

First Read  was very critical of Romney (emphasis mine):

***  Over the top :Yesterday we noted that Mitt Romney, down in the polls after the convention, was   throwing the kitchen sink   at President Obama. Little did we know the kitchen sink would include — on the anniversary  of 9/11 — one of the most over-the-top and (it turns out)  incorrect attacks of the general-election campaign . Last night after 10:00 pm ET, Romney released a statement on the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Egypt and Libya. After saying he was “outraged” by these attacks and the death of an American consulate worker, Romney said, “It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” Yet after learning every piece of new information about those attacks, the Romney statement looks worse and worse — and simply off-key. First, Romney was referring to a statement that the U.S. embassy in Egypt issued condemning the “efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” But that embassy statement, which the White House has distanced itself from, was in reference to an anti-Islam movie and anti-Islam pastor Terry Jones, and it came out BEFORE the embassy attacks began. Then this morning, we learned that the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and others died in one of the attacks.

*** When news-cycle campaigning goes awry: Bottom line: This was news-cycle campaigning by the Romney campaign gone awry. Why didn’t the Romney campaign wait until it had all the facts? On his overseas trip in the summer, Romney was so careful not to criticize Obama while on foreign soil. But how much time do you give an administration to work through a diplomatic and international crisis before trying to score immediate political points? You’d expect the Sarah Palins of the world to quickly pounce on something like this, and she predictably did. But a presidential nominee running for the highest office in the land? After the facts have come out, last night’s Romney statement only feeds the narrative that his campaign is desperate. And given that the Romney camp has already moved on to other subjects this morning — issuing a press release on debt and not the embassy attacks — it appears the campaign realizes it, too. Right before our publication time, the Romney camp responds to us that it stands by its statement from last night. The controversial embassy statement, the Romney camp argues, had occurred AFTER the unrest in Egypt and Libya had already begun (citing this CBS report) and that the statement had served as the administration’s sole response until about 10:00 pm ET.

It’s not good for a presidential candidate when he is not only exposed for lying, but compared to Sarah Palin. Mark Halperin, who frequently echoes conservative talking points, was similarly harsh on Romney:

Unless the Romney campaign has gamed this crisis out in some manner completely invisible to the Gang of 500, his doubling down on criticism of the President for the statement coming out of Cairo is likely to be seen as one of the most craven and ill-advised tactical moves in this entire campaign.

If Halperin is calling this “one of the most craven and ill-advised” moves, Romney better prepare for a couple of months in which the media might be more willing than in the past to expose Romney’s lies.

Conservatives tend to generally stay on message, but in this case responses from Republican leaders and foreign policy hands varied. The statement was too off the wall for many Republican Congressional leaders who have to face reelection and for those who wish to have any credibility beyond the right wing echo chamber. Others, such as Rush Limbaugh, for whom credibility is not an issue, joined Romney in spreading these bogus attacks. Just for fun, try to count all the lies in just the first paragraph of GOPUSA’s coverage:

GOP presidential candidate MItt Romney isn’t backing down. Not only is he sticking to his early statement which blasted the Obama administration’s “apology” to muslims in the aftermath of the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Romney also stood before the media and held a very presidential press conference. The media were in a frenzy trying to explain Obama’s actions, but Romney held firm.

Obama initially spoke publicly about the situation without reference to Romney. Late on Wednesday, after he already had near universal support outside of Wingnut Land, Obama finally responded to questions on Romney’s statements:

In response to Mitt Romney’s criticism of the Obama administration for its handling of recent violence in Egypt and Libya, President Obama told CBS News on Wednesday that Romney “seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later.”

“There’s a broader lesson to be learned here,” Mr. Obama told “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft at the White House. “And I — you know, Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later. And as president, one of the things I’ve learned is you can’t do that. That, you know, it’s important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts. And that you’ve thought through the ramifications before you make ‘em.”

Asked if Romney’s attacks were irresponsible, the president replied, “I’ll let the American people judge that.”

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Mark Halperin Suspended From MSNBC, To Remain At Time Magazine After Calling Obama A Dick

Mark Halperin has been suspended by MSNBC after calling Barack Obama a dick on the air. Following is a transcript:

Joe Scarborough: Mark Halperin, What was the president’s strategy? We are coming up on a deadline and the president decided to please his base, push back against the Republicans.I guess the question is, we know a deal has to be done. Is this showmanship? A lot of times you go up there and both sides and they act tough so their base will be appeased, then they quietly work the deal behind the scenes.

Mark Halperin: Are we on the seven second delay?

Mika Brzezinski: Lordy.

Halperin: I wanted to characterize how the president behaved.

Scarborough: We have it. We can use it. Go for it. Let’s see what happens.

Brzezinski: We’re behind you, you fall down and we catch you.

Halperin: I thought he was a dick yesterday.

Scarborough: Delay that. delay that. what are you doing? i can’t believe — Iwas joking. Don’t do that. Did we delay that?

Halperin: I said it. I hope it worked.

Scarborough: My mom is watching! We’ll know whether it worked or not.

Halperin did apologize for this remark.

Time Magazine has not suspended Halperin but did issue this response:

“Mark Halperin’s comments on air this morning were inappropriate and in no way reflective of Time’s views. We have issued a warning to him that such behavior is unacceptable. Mark has appropriately apologized on air, via Twitter and on The Page.

I”m not terribly upset about a conservative pundit calling Obama a dick. I’m sure the president can handle such insults. The  bigger problem with Halperin is that he has had a long career promoting conservative memes, usually a bit more subtly, while being billed as an objective reporter. Hopefully the result of this will be that more people will be aware of his bias.  Plus, once his contract ends with MSNBC, I’m sure there will always be a spot waiting for him at Fox.

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Mark Halperin Accuses Republicans Of “Willfully Misreading” Financial Reform Bill

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I’ve often been critical of Mark Halperin for describing what he calls the “freak show” in politics and then proceeding to parrot the claims coming from the “freak show.” I was pleasantly surprised to find that Halperin took a stand on Morning Joe yesterday (video above).

During a discussion of the Republican response to the financial reform legislation, Joe Scarborough asked Halperin to defend the Republican position. The Republican position on the financial reform legislation, as with most recent Republican positions, is counter to reality with Republicans falsely claiming that the reform bill will lead to a permanent bailout. Here is a portion of the discussion:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Just this once, defend the Republican position.

MARK HALPERIN: I cannot defend what they’re doing.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Oh, please.

SCARBOROUGH: Look at you! Look at you!

[CROSSTALK]

HALPERIN: They are willfully misreading the bill or they are engaged in a cynical attempt to keep the president from achieving something.

White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee summed up the Republican response:

Everybody knows a consultant just handed them that line and they’re just reading it. It doesn’t matter what’s in the bill. It could be a bill about breakfast cereal and they’re going to say this is a bailout bill.

Steve Benen points out the significance of Mark Halperin refusing to repeat the Republican claims: “Note to Republicans: when even Mark Halperin is calling you out for lying, the conventional wisdom is turning against you.”

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Clintons Stand Alone Following Reports In “Game Change”

Game Change provided several details of the sleaze coming from the Clinton campaign. I noted some examples here and here. After items from Game Change were published many people came to the defense of Harry Reid, but Politco notes that nobody is defending the Clintons from the harsh treatment of them during the campaign:

What’s notable about the highly publicized release of “Game Change,” however, is the virtual silence from the Clinton camp. The lack of public outrage seems to mark the sputtering end of what was once known as the Clinton political machine and underlines a fact that onetime Clinton loyalists acknowledge: The book’s primary sources about the former candidate and current secretary of state are her own former staffers and intimates.

As a result, there is no campaign of veteran Clintonites spinning the press corps and trying to pre-emptively discredit the book’s scathing depiction of Hillary Clinton as a rudderless candidate and a cheerleader for vicious tactics against eventual winner Barack Obama. There is no team of Clinton proxies going on cable television to denounce authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann as scurrilous and unworthy of belief.

This time, Bill and Hillary Clinton are virtually alone.

While the low-key response to a brutal portrayal of Clinton in part reflected a decision to keep a prominent face of the Obama administration’s foreign policy above the fray, it was also a recognition of reality: The same senior aides who had leaked damaging gossip could hardly be expected to rebut it.

These people have violated the Clinton world’s final taboo: After savaging one another in the press for more than a year, the former aides finally turned on the principals.

I also don’t see anyone out there defending John Edwards from the description of him in the book, but that is hardly a surprise.

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“Game Change” Has Embarrassing Moments For the Clintons, the Edwards, Harry Reid, and Sarah Palin

Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin doesn’t come out until Tuesday but advance copies are out. Marc Ambinder has some of the juiciest portions:

Hillary Clinton had a “war room within a war room” to deal with Bill’s libido:

The war room within a war room dismissed or discredited much of the gossip floating around, but not all of it. The stories about one woman were more concrete, and after some discreet fact-finding, the group concluded that they were true: that Bill was indeed having an affair — and not a frivolous one-night stand but a sustained romantic relationship.  …. For months, thereafter, the war room within a war room braced for the explosion, which her aides knew could come at any moment.

The identity of the woman is not revealed.

Harry Reid has already issued an apology for this:

[His] encouragement of Obama was unequivocal. He was wowed by Obama’s oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama — a “light-skinned” African American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,” as he said privately.  Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama’s race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination.

Barack Obama has accepted the apology:

Harry Reid called me today and apologized for an unfortunate comment reported today. I accepted Harry’s apology without question because I’ve known him for years, I’ve seen the passionate leadership he’s shown on issues of social justice and I know what’s in his heart. As far as I am concerned, the book is closed.

Ambinder summarized the material on John Edwards’ affair:

I would be remiss if I did not point to the chapters about the unbelievably dysfunctional husband and wife team of John and Elizabeth Edwards.  Not only, it turns out, did many senior Edwards staffer suspect that John was having an affair, several confronted John Edwards about it, and came away believing the rumors.  At least three campaign aides resigned because of their knowledge of the affair well before the national media picked up on those early National Enquirer stories.

And John and Elizabeth (who the book says was known to Edwards insiders as “abusive, intrusive, paranoid, condescending, crazywoman”) fought, in front of staffers, about the affair. The authors describe a moment where Elizabeth, in a such a state of fury, deliberately tears her blouse in the parking lot of a Raleigh airport terminal, “exposing herself. ‘Look at me,” she wailed at John and then staggered, nearly falling to the ground.” (That’s page 142.)   (This was in October, by the way, well before the media took the reports of the Hunter affair seriously.)

New York Magazine has an extended excerpt from the book on John Edwards. Long time readers of this blog may recall that even before the scandal broke I considered Edwards to be a light weight and a phony who had no place on a national ticket (and realistically was not even fit to be a Senator). Apparently many Democratic leaders agreed with my feeling in 2003 that neither Clinton or Edwards would make satisfactory candidates:

Edwards never expected to be the third wheel in 2008. The race was going to be Hillary versus him. That was how he saw it from the start. She would be the front-runner, of course. But as sure as night follows day, there would be an alternative, an anti-Hillary, and he would be it.

The Democratic Establishment agreed that there would be—and certainly should be—a viable challenger to Clinton. The party’s pooh-bahs on Capitol Hill were privately terrified about the prospect of Hillary rolling to the nomination. They feared that she was too polarizing to win, that she would drag down House and Senate candidates in red and purple states; and they worried, too, about Bill’s putative affairs. But while the Clintons themselves regarded Edwards as Hillary’s most formidable rival, there existed a deep wariness about the North Carolinian among his fellow Democrats. In the Senate, in particular, Edwards was regarded almost universally by his former colleagues as a callow, shallow phony. Quietly, the Establishment began a quest to find a different alternative, eventually settling on the unlikely horse that was Obama—with Harry Reid personally, and secretly, urging the Illinois senator to run against Clinton.

Ben Smith reveals why Ted Kennedy was so mad at Bill Clinton:

[A]s Hillary bungled Caroline, Bill’s handling of Ted was even worse. The day after Iowa, he phoned Kennedy and pressed for an endorsement, making the case for his wife. But Bill then went on, belittling Obama in a manner that deeply offended Kennedy. Recounting the conversation later to a friend, Teddy fumed that Clinton had said, A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.

This is reminiscent of  Clinton’s racist attacks on Obama as the campaign heated up.

The book is full of stories of Sarah Palin’s ignorance.

In the days leading up to an interview with ABC News’ Charlie Gibson, aides were worried with Ms. Palin’s grasp of facts. She couldn’t explain why North and South Korea were separate nations and she did not know what the Federal Reserve did. She also said she believed Saddam Hussein attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

Anderson Cooper has interviewed former McCain campaign  adviser Steve Schmidt for a story on 60 Minutes regarding the upcoming book. Schmidt said that Palin’s preparation for the debate with Joe Biden was going so badly that they feared “the debate was going to be a debacle of historic and epic proportions. … She was not focused … not engaged.”  She also had trouble remembering her debate opponent’s name:

Sarah Palin’s charming opening debate line for now-Vice President Joe Biden — “Hey, can I call you Joe?” — was scripted after she repeatedly referred to him as “O’Biden” in preparation sessions, former McCain campaign senior adviser Steve Schmidt told “60 Minutes.”

Update: More from Game Change

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Republicans Lost By Fighting the Wrong Battles

The Republicans lost not only because a majority of voters rejected their views but because they were fighting the wrong battles. Voters didn’t so much disagree with Republicans but simply found that their views were irrelevant to the 21st century world.The old Republican arguments no longer worked.

Republicans won in 2002 and 2004 by capitalizing on fear of terrorism and portraying themselves as being stronger on foreign policy. The failure of Bush’s policies in Iraq have made the Republicans far less attractive on foreign policy. Fareed Zakaria pointed out how the view of Republicans on foreign policy has changed when interviewing Brent Scowcroft today. While a transcrpt is not yet available, the gist came down to Zakaria saying that Republicans were perceived as delivering a pragmatic internationalist foreign policy in the past but have now been taken over by ideologues.

Liberals now represent pragmatism on foreign policy. The same is true on economic policy. Voters did not accept the outrageous and untrue claims that Democrats favored socialism and redistribution of wealth. The battle between socialism and capitalism is long over with capitalism coming out victorious and supported by members of both political parties. Most voters did not vote based upon this false choice between capitalism and socialism. For those who did, Republicans made for poor representatives of a free market philosophy even before the current response to the financial crisis. I have not taken Republicans seriously as defenders of the free market since I saw Richard Nixon institute wage and price controls. While few current voters are likely to remember this, some may have considered factors such as Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force and the K-Street Project as examples of Republican hypocrisy on the free market. Most voters simply are looking for the party with the most pragmatic answers on the economy.

Republicans came to office promising to cut the size of government but instead have given us a bigger government. After cutting taxes they continued to spend, borrowing money instead of cutting the size of government. Between seeing this failure to cut the size of government, along with decreased concern for cutting government in all cases after Katrina and the recent financial crisis, Republican arguments based upon cutting government were no longer as meaningful. Many voters simply wanted smarter government and were less concerned about the size.

After seeing Republican government, many voters also became more sophisticated, realizing that cutting the size of government is not the real issue. The impact of government on the lives of the individual is far more meaningful than the size of government. Even if Republicans delivered in cutting the size of government this would not necessarily be a victory for liberty. Voters increasingly see Republicans as the party which desires to restrict civil liberties, eliminate abortion rights, intervene in end of life decisions as in the Schiavo case, prevent funding of embryonic stem cell research, block the medicinal use of marijuana (even in states where it is legal), and promote the agenda of the religious right. These are far more concrete issues than the size of government.

It is the association of Republicans with the religious right which has done the most to marginalize them into primarily a southern regional party. Both the nonreligious and sensible religious individuals understand the reasons why our founding fathers considered separation of church and state to be so important. This association also resulted in the loss by Republicans of suburban and affluent educated voters. Educated voters would have difficulty backing a party which backs creationism, regardless of whether they have total agreement with the opposing party.

Republicans tried to make issues of the patriotism of their opponents, but voters have become more sophisticated and ignored such attempts to revive what Mark Halperin and John Harris have described as the freak show. Most voters ignored these arguments and concentrated on which candidate they thought could best solve our problems. Many of those who did consider these arguments questioned how the Republicans could dare challenge the patriotism of Democrats when they were the ones who acted in opposition to our American heritage of separation of church and state, freedom of expression, and freedom of association. You cannot claim to be patriotic Americans while opposing such basic American values. It is a virtue of Barack Obama that he listens to a wide variety of views, and some association with those whose views he does not share was not considered reason to base ones vote by voters beyond the extreme right.

Voters ignored the Republican arguments and looked for pragmatic solutions to problems. After having backed a president who was clearly unqualified for the position for the past eight years, the Republicans further harmed their credibility by pretending (until they began to speak out after the election) that Sarah Palin was qualified to be VP. Support for Sarah Palin, along with her views on creationism and ignoring the position of the vast majority of scientists on climate change, only emphasized the anti-intellectuaism of the current Repubican Party. As Nicholas Kristoff wrote today, after Obana’s race, the “second most remarkable thing about his election is that American voters have just picked a president who is an open, out-of-the-closet, practicing intellectual.” Voters wanted a pragmatic, intelligent candidate who would attmpt to solve problems without being blinded by ideology.

Conservatives lost not because of any specific issue but because their entire world view is not relevant to the modern world. They campaigned against Obama not based upon his actual positions but out of a distorted sense of what non-conservatives believe after years of listening to their own rhetoric. To see how out of touch with reality the conservatives are, read the view of Peter Hitchens that the election of Obama represented the end of “our last best hope on Earth.” He repeats the conservative line that voters for Obama were cultists when in reality most were voting for a pragmatic centrist. While he accuses Obama supporters of being like “Moonies, the Scientologists or people who claim to have been abducted in flying saucers,” it is conservatives like him who have adopted a philosphy which is not only extremist but out of touch with reality. Voters awoke to this reality in 2006 and 2008 and the Republicans arguments based upon a fantasy-world failed to resonate with them.

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Another Desperation Move From the Republicans

With only a few days to go until the election,the Republicans have failed to learn the lessons of Hillary Clinton’s defeat to Barack Obama. Instead of presenting positive arguments to vote for John McCain they have concentrated on a succession of smears which have only backfired against them. After the 2004 election, when John Kerry was defeated by the false claims of the Swift Boat Liars and other dishonest smears, Mark Halperin and John Harris predicted in The Way to Win that the winner of the 2008 election would be the candidate who could best take advantage of what they described as the freak show. This year McCain has tried to take advantage of the freak show to smear Obama, and in each case Obama was able to take the narrative beyond such attacks and come out ahead.

Like Clinton, Republicans tried to demonize Obama by distorting his associations with others. The result was to reduce their own support by resorting to such McCarthyist tactics as most realized that these attacks represent a direct assault on a free society. An objective look at the associations of McCain and Obama would show far more examples of McCain associating with extremists (such as here, here, here,and here). Obama wisely avoided this line of attack and stuck with more meaningful issues.

Republicans distorted Obama’s comments on wealth to falsely claim he supported redistribution of wealth, but most Americans backed Obama’s desire to reduce income disparity and Republican policies which unfairly benefit the ultra-wealthy. Obama also reduced the effect of this attack by heavily advertising on this issue, allowing most voters to hear that Obama would spread the wealth around by reducing taxes on the middle class and small business, and by growing the economy for all, as opposed to any socialistic ideas.

Today there is yet another weak line of attack coming from the right wing noise machine regarding Barack Obama’s aunt who is living in the country illegally. Zachary Roth tracked the story noting, “First the Murdoch-owned Times of London reported Thursday that Obama’s aunt, Zeituni Onyango, is living in a Boston public-housing complex. It’s unclear how the paper learned of the woman’s presence in the U.S.” From there he described how it was picked up by other portions of the media and blogosphere in the right wing echo chamber.

Once the right wing noise machine spread this sufficiently it was picked up by the mainstream media, beginning with AP, along with an interesting note regarding how the information was obtained:

Information about the deportation case was disclosed and confirmed by two separate sources, one of them a federal law enforcement official. The information they made available is known to officials in the federal government, but the AP could not establish whether anyone at a political level in the Bush administration or in the McCain campaign had been involved in its release.

Josh Marshall adds:

That’s about as transparent a red flag as an outfit like the AP is usually willing to give. And there you have it. Quite likely working in concert with the McCain campaign, a Bush administration official is leaking details on an immigration case to try to help McCain three days before the election. It’s shades of Bush I’s riffling through Bill Clinton’s passport files just before the 1992 election in a desperate last minute gambit as they were swirling down the drain.

It is tactics such as this, along with the McCarthyist attacks on Obama’s past associations and claims of supporting socialism, which provide the primary reason why I would vote for Obama regardless of disagreements on some issues. Unlike the majority of plumbers and others the Republicans are trying to scare, I’m in the small minority who will wind up paying more in taxes under Obama’s tax plan than McCain’s. Paying even an extra $1000 a year, which what the difference would amount to under their current plans except for the ultra-wealthy, is worth paying if this means removing people from government who behave as if they running a banana republic, and who openly disparage freedom of speech and association.

Current Republican tactics are not only unethical (and in this case possibly illegal) but are not even very likely to help them. Marc Ambinder points out:

Barack Obama’s long-lost aunt, who is living in poverty, might be deported for being in the country illegally…and this is supposed to make people not want to vote for Barack Obama?

Republicans think anti-immigrant forces are going to be rallied by attacking a middle aged woman in her fifties?  This is what’s going to swing independents back to McCain?  Reminding people (a) of an actual human face on the receiving end of anti-immigration policies and (b) that the Democratic candidate is personally affected by a complicated issue facing many American families?

And assuming voters _are_ motivated by the connection, they’re going to turn to McCain as their anti-immigrant savior?

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