John Kerry, Man of the Hour

John Kerry is not only “de facto Secretary of State” per an earlier post. He is also Politico’s Man of the Hour” for resolving the dispute over Afghanistan’s election.

Bloomberg compares Kerry’s diplomatic efforts to other high-profile diplomatic efforts:

Kerry’s involvement is the latest high-profile diplomatic effort by an unofficial envoy that has benefited the Obama administration. In August, former President Bill Clinton flew to North Korea to secure the release of two American journalists and held discussions with regime leader Kim Jong Il that started a thaw in relations with the U.S.

The Obama administration is now willing to hold direct talks to persuade North Korea to return to multinational negotiations aimed at eliminating its nuclear weapons program.

Also in August, Senator Jim Webb, a Virginia Democrat, flew to Myanmar, where the U.S. has had limited contact, and won the release of an American imprisoned there. The Obama administration has since announced a new policy of direct talks with the military rulers of the Southeast Asian nation in an effort to promote democratic changes.

In another example, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a former ambassador to the United Nations, visited Cuba as a de facto envoy and recommended upon his return that the administration engage in broader talks with the communist government.

Marc Ambinder asks, “Has Sen. John Kerry ever had as good a press cycle?” Probably not since he won the Iowa caucuses in 2004, leading to victory for the Democratic nomination. This widespread praise for Kerry is well-deserved, but the heads must be exploding on a few of the Swift Boat Liars.

Conservatives Opposing Conservative Extremism

Considering how extreme and out of touch with reality portions of the conservative movement have become, it is always good to see conservatives who oppose these trends. There were two such examples today from Jon Henke and Bruce Bartlett.

Jon Henke quotes from The Boston Herald:

[T]he Web site says that the government is considering Nazi-like concentration camps for dissidents. Jerome Corsi, the author of “The Obama Nation,” an anti-Obama book, says that a proposal in Congress “appears designed to create the type of detention center that those concerned about use of the military in domestic affairs fear could be used as concentration camps for political dissidents, such as occurred in Nazi Germany.”

The article goes on to explain what was really proposed:

In truth, Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., has proposed a bill that would order the Homeland Security Department to prepare national emergency centers — to provide temporary housing and medical facilities in national emergencies such as hurricanes. The bill also would allow the centers to be used to train first responders, and for “other appropriate needs, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security.”

Henke responds by saying conservatives should disassociate themselves from WorldNetDaily:

In the 1960’s, William F. Buckley denounced the John Birch Society leadership for being “so far removed from common sense” and later said “We cannot allow the emblem of irresponsibility to attach to the conservative banner.”

The Birthers are the Birchers of our time, and WorldNetDaily is their pamphlet.  The Right has mostly ignored these embarrassing people and organizations, but some people and organizations inexplicably choose to support WND through advertising and email list rental or other collaboration.  For instance, I have been told that F.I.R.E (The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) – an otherwise respectable group that does important work – uses the WND email list.  They should stop.

No respectable organization should support the kind of fringe idiocy that WND peddles.  Those who do are not respectable.

I think it’s time to find out what conservative/libertarian organizations support WND through advertising, list rental or other commercial collaboration (email me if you know of any), and boycott any of those organizations that will not renounce any further support for WorldNetDaily.

Sounds like a good idea but it isn’t so simple to separate the kooks from the conservative establishment. Steve Benen points out one problem:

There is, however, a small catch. Henke argues that those who advertise on WorldNetDaily shouldn’t be considered “respectable,” and deserve to be boycotted. That’s an entirely defensible position, but the Republican National Committee is one of the entities that does business with WorldNetDaily. Indeed, they partnered on a mailing as recently as last week.

Many conservatives have already drifted away from the conservative movement and the Republican Party, such as former Reagan adviser Bruce Bartlett. Today he responded to a question as to why he has become so anti-Republican:

I think the party got seriously on the wrong track during the George W. Bush years, as I explained in my Impostor book. In my opinion, it no longer bears any resemblance to the party of Ronald Reagan. I still consider myself to be a Reaganite. But I don’t see any others anywhere in the GOP these days, which is why I consider myself to be an independent. Mindless partisanship has replaced principled conservatism. What passes for principle in the party these days is “what can we do to screw the Democrats today.” How else can you explain things like that insane op-ed Michael Steele had in the Washington Post on Monday?

I am not alone. When I talk to old timers from the Reagan years, many express the same concerns I have. But they all work for Republican-oriented think tanks like AEI and Hoover and don’t wish to be fired like I was from NCPA . Or they just don’t want to be bothered or lose friends. As a free agent I am able to say what they can’t or won’t say publicly.

I think the Republican Party is in the same boat the Democrats were in in the early eighties — dominated by extremists unable to see how badly their party was alienating moderates and independents. The party’s adults formed the Democratic Leadership Council to push the party back to the center and it was very successful. But there is no group like that for Republicans. That has left lunatics like Glenn Beck as the party’s de facto leaders. As long as that remains the case, I want nothing to do with the GOP.

I will know that the party is on the path to recovery when someone in a position of influence reaches out to former Republicans like me. We are the most likely group among independents to vote Republican. But I see no effort to do so. All I see is pandering to the party’s crazies like the birthers . In the short run that may be enough to pick up a few congressional seats next year, but I see no way a Republican can retake the White House for the foreseeable future. Both CBO and OMB are predicting better than 4% real growth in 2011 and 2012. If those numbers are even remotely correct Obama will have it in the bag. Also, Republicans have to find a way to win some minority votes because it is not viable as a whites-only party in presidential elections. That’s why I wrote my Wrong on Race book, which no one read.

Update: Besides writing the right wing nonsense quoted above, Jerome Corsi was a co-author of Unfit for Command which spread the false claims of the Swift Boat Liars against John Kerry during the 2004 election. Just as honorable conservatives should denounce the current insane writings of Corsi, honorable conservatives should have denounced his 2004 attacks on a war hero.

Of course few did. As much as some conservatives would like to dissociate themselves from this type of thought, this type of baseless attack now forms the heart of the conservative movement. Take away their hatred, paranoia,  and shared delusions and there is not much left of the current conservative movement. People like Henke and Bartlett have an uphill battle if they want to return the conservative movement to being a reality-based philosophy.

Obama’s Birth in Hawaii Confirmed Once Again

The Birther movement is an embarrassment for serious Republicans who realize this whole faux controversy is a gift to the Democrats.There is once again confirmation that Obama was born in Hawaii, but there’s no doubt that the conspiracy theorists will find a way to deny the evidence. The Honalulu Advertiser reports:

Hawai’i’s Health Department confirmed yesterday that it has President Obama’s original Aug. 4, 1961, birth certificate in storage, but the announcement is unlikely to satisfy conspiracy theorists who insist Obama was born in Kenya.

“We don’t destroy vital records,” Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo said. “That’s our whole job, to maintain and retain vital records.”

The Health Department’s director reiterated yesterday that she has seen Obama’s birth records.

“I, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Hawai’i State Department of Health, have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawai’i State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawai’i and is a natural-born American citizen,” Fukino said in a statement. “I have nothing further to add to this statement or my original statement issued in October 2008, over eight months ago.”

Fukino tried on Oct. 31 to put an end to the belief among so-called “birthers” that Obama was not born in Honolulu’s Kapiolani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital. The birthers insist that Obama was not born in the U.S. and is therefore ineligible to be president.

Despite Fukino’s statement yesterday — and several court rulings and statements by Hawai’i’s Republican governor, Linda Lingle, the issue continued to resonate from Capitol Hill to the blogosphere.

It is doubtful that this will convince those who believe Obama is not an American citizen. Conspiracy theorists can always come up with a new argument since they are not bound by reality and they typically consider any source of contrary information to be part of the conspiracy.

Birthers will continue to deny that the birth certificate is legitimate. We saw similar denial after the claims of the Swift Boat Liars in the 2004 election were proven to be politically-motivated fabrications. For years after John Kerry’s military records were both posted on line and reviewed by journalists many right wing blogs continued to post claims that Kerry’s military records were never released.

Not Only Women Are Subjected To Unfair Attacks

Peter Daou compares Palin-bashing to Hillary-bashing at Huffington Post. His message seems to be that both Palin and Hillary Clinton were treated unfairly as they were women. Both were subjected to some unfair criticism, and some of this was related to their gender, but both were also subjects of attack for reasons independent of this. While it is strange to lump both Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton together because their views are so different, both of them have views which I (and many others) find objectionable, both have demonstrated a lack of integrity when pushing their agendas, and both tend to display poor judgment in matters of public policy.

If Peter simply wants to separate such differences of opinion on public policy from personal attacks I totally agree with this. While I would be reluctant to vote for a ticket containing either a Palin or a Clinton, there are many grounds to criticize them without resorting to many of the attacks which they have been subjected to. I not only agree with Peter in criticizing the comments claiming Hillary Clinton was pimping her daughter, I wrote a post defending Clinton on this while opposing her candidacy. When posting about the many lies of Sarah Palin I noted regret that personal issues were mixed in.

What bugs me about the way that Peter lumps together the attacks on both Palin and Clinton in such a manner is that it implies that only female politicians are treated this way. Gender differences do make it inevitable that there will be some differences in the nature of the attacks, but plenty of male politicians have also been treated quite unfairly. One example from each party in a presidential campaign quickly comes to mind–the attacks of the Swift Boat Liars on the honor of a war hero in their false claims about John Kerry in 2004 and the Daisy Ad used by Lyndon Johnson against Barry Goldwater in 1964.

Unfair treatment is a fact of life in politics. It would be great if it could be eliminated but it cannot. Most politicians take their lumps and continue. They do not run away and hide like Sarah Palin.

The Continuum of Right Wing Extremism

The uncomfortably close relations between the Republican Party establishment and those in the right wing media who have increasingly been feeding the hatred of the far right extremists who have been committing violence has been receiving increased attention. This has been discussed recently by Judith Warner, Paul Krugman, and Frank Rich. Krugman recently wrote, “Today, as in the early years of the Clinton administration but to an even greater extent, right-wing extremism is being systematically fed by the conservative media and political establishment.” Frank Rich discussed this topic at length in today’s column:

Conservatives have legitimate ideological beefs with Obama, rightly expressed in sharp language. But the invective in some quarters has unmistakably amped up. The writer Camille Paglia, a political independent and confessed talk-radio fan, detected a shift toward paranoia in the air waves by mid-May. When “the tone darkens toward a rhetoric of purgation and annihilation,” she observed in Salon, “there is reason for alarm.” She cited a “joke” repeated by a Rush Limbaugh fill-in host, a talk-radio jock from Dallas of all places, about how “any U.S. soldier” who found himself with only two bullets in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Osama bin Laden would use both shots to assassinate Pelosi and then strangle Reid and bin Laden.

This homicide-saturated vituperation is endemic among mini-Limbaughs. Glenn Beck has dipped into O’Reilly’s Holocaust analogies to liken Obama’s policy on stem-cell research to the eugenics that led to “the final solution” and the quest for “a master race.” After James von Brunn’s rampage at the Holocaust museum, Beck rushed onto Fox News to describe the Obama-hating killer as a “lone gunman nutjob.” Yet in the same show Beck also said von Brunn was a symptom that “the pot in America is boiling,” as if Beck himself were not the boiling pot cheering the kettle on.

But hyperbole from the usual suspects in the entertainment arena of TV and radio is not the whole story. What’s startling is the spillover of this poison into the conservative political establishment. Saul Anuzis, a former Michigan G.O.P. chairman who ran for the party’s national chairmanship this year, seriously suggested in April that Republicans should stop calling Obama a socialist because “it no longer has the negative connotation it had 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago.” Anuzis pushed “fascism” instead, because “everybody still thinks that’s a bad thing.” He didn’t seem to grasp that “fascism” is nonsensical as a description of the Obama administration or that there might be a risk in slurring a president with a word that most find “bad” because it evokes a mass-murderer like Hitler.

The Anuzis “fascism” solution to the Obama problem has caught fire. The president’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and his speech in Cairo have only exacerbated the ugliness. The venomous personal attacks on Sotomayor have little to do with the 3,000-plus cases she’s adjudicated in nearly 17 years on the bench or her thoughts about the judgment of “a wise Latina woman.” She has been tarred as a member of “the Latino KKK” (by the former Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo), as well as a racist and a David Duke (by Limbaugh), and portrayed, in a bizarre two-for-one ethnic caricature, as a slant-eyed Asian on the cover of National Review. Uniting all these insults is an aggrieved note of white victimization only a shade less explicit than that in von Brunn’s white supremacist screeds.

Obama’s Cairo address, meanwhile, prompted over-the-top accusations reminiscent of those campaign rally cries of “Treason!” It was a prominent former Reagan defense official, Frank Gaffney, not some fringe crackpot, who accused Obama in The Washington Times of engaging “in the most consequential bait-and-switch since Adolf Hitler duped Neville Chamberlain.” He claimed that the president — a lifelong Christian — “may still be” a Muslim and is aligned with “the dangerous global movement known as the Muslim Brotherhood.” Gaffney linked Obama by innuendo with Islamic “charities” that “have been convicted of providing material support for terrorism.”

If this isn’t a handy rationalization for another lone nutjob to take the law into his own hands against a supposed terrorism supporter, what is? Any such nutjob can easily grab a weapon. Gun enthusiasts have been on a shopping spree since the election, with some areas of our country reporting percentage sales increases in the mid-to-high double digits, recession be damned.

Violence committed by right wing extremists is the more serious problem but a similar, even if less violent, mind set can be seen in the recent conservative fatwa against David Letterman. Despite agreement from Letterman that he should not have told a joke which was clearly about Bristol Palin, and despite the fact that Bristol Palin has been the target of jokes from multiple comedians largely because of the manner in which Sarah Palin has intentionally placed her children in the public spotlight for political gain, conservatives continue to attack with outright lies as to what Letterman actually said.

There was no point in attacks on David Letterman once he conceded that he should not have told the joke, with conservatives proceeding to over play their hand and ultimately discrediting themselves. The controversy is about the desire of the authoritarian right to prevent any criticism of their extremist agenda and has little to do with any real concern about sexist jokes. Conservatives wage their war on the modern world without regard for fact, with such distortions being common place. This has included a similar distortion of a joke told by John Kerry in 2006, the fabrications of the Swift Boat Liars, all the lies about Obama which were spread during the presidential campaign, and the recent lies about Sotomayor such as that sixty percent of her decisions have been overturned. While less extreme and violent than those who have been committing violence, the conservative movement has increasingly become dominated by hostility towards reason, freedom of expression, and much of the modern world.

Smear Campaign Against Sotomayor May Fizzle Out

While conservatives quickly launched a smear campaign full of misinformation on Sonia Sotomayor, it looks like it might already be fizzling out. There is no doubt that some right wing bloggers and talk radio propagandists will continue to repeat the same lies indefinitely. Those indocrinated in far right propaganda have a tough time shaking it off regardless of how much evidence is presented that they are wrong.  There are still some who claim that Obama isn’t a natural born American citizen and that the there is some validity to the discredited claims of the Swift Boat Liars against John Kerry. There are also some signs of rationality as some conservatives realize that, barring some unexpected revelations, none of their false claims will be enough to prevent Sotomayor’s nomination from being approved.

The right wing attacks have been based on limited and distorted evidence and are so weak that even some conservatives are not able to go along. Some such as Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich are making claims that she is a racist–a claim which certainely takes a lot of chutzpah considering the record of the GOP. These claims were based upon taking a few lines out of context from a lecture given in 2001. The simple fact that claims of racism are based upon a single lecture from almost eight years ago should already raise some red flags as to the validity of the argument. Rod Dreher reviewed the statements which earlier had him thinking she was racist in context and conceded,  I was wrong about Sotomayor speech.

They have made an even weaker argument in dishonest claims that sixty percent of her cases were overturned by the Supreme Court. This argument is so deceitful that it might help open a few more eyes as to the dishonest tactics regularly employed by the right wing noise machine. They leave out the important facts that she only had five cases reviewed by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court typically reverses 75% of circuit court decisions that rules on. Having three cases reversed is hardly meaningful. This actually represents 2% of her total cases, far less than the 60% number misleadingly cited by the right.

The attackers also claimed that Sotomayor has a far more liberal record than she actually has. Her decisions have offen been based upon narrow technical grounds specific to the individual case  as opposed to ideology. The conservatives who have actually looked at her record are finding that she is far more centrist and far less ideological than they first heard. She has a very limited record with regards to abortion, and opponents of abortion rights found that her record was not what they expected. Steven Waldman wrote:

One has to assume Obama wouldn’t have appointed Sonia Sotomayor without some indication that she’s pro-choice but — based on very, very little information — I wonder if she might not end up being an abortion centrist.

First, in Center for Reproductive Law and Policy v. Bush, she actually ruled against the pro-choice group on Constitutional grounds.

Second, in Amnesty America v. Town of West Hartford, she ruled in favor of the rights of anti-abortion protestors.

Neither of these cases dealt with the merits of abortion. Nonetheless, it’s interesting that in the two cases we know of that related partly to abortion, she took the position that pro-life groups would have wanted (albeit for reasons unrelated to Roe v. Wade). At a minimum, these cases would seem to indicate that, if she is pro-choice, she didn’t let those views affect her view of the relevant law.

While some bloggers and right wing pundits will repeat any attack, the arguments are appearing to be too weak even for the Senate Republicans. Mike Allen reports that any Republican opposition to her is fizzling out quickly:

More than 24 hours after the White House unveiling, no senator has come out in opposition to Sotomayor’s confirmation.

“The sentiment is overwhelming that the Senate should do due diligence but should not make a mountain out of a molehill,” said a top Senate Republican aide. “If there’s no ‘there’ there, we shouldn’t try to create one.”

So far there is certainly no ‘there’ there in the accusations being fabricated by the right. The attacks upon Sotomayor are so weak, and so transparently false, that if they have any impact it should be to increase the backlash against the Republicans. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah for the Republicans to raise charges of racism against others and only their most hardcore supporters can even listen to such claims without chuckling at them. Maybe Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice is on to something and their attacks are being orchestrated by a mole out to further destroy the Republican Party:

In instance after instance since Obama’s 2008 election and the Democratic sweep of Congress, the GOP is proving itself to be not so much “stuck on stupid” as much as “stuck on preaching to its (already convinced) choir.” It seems oblivious to the fact that OTHER voters — from critically important ethnic and age demographics — need to be courted which means being at least partially on the same cultural wavelength. Today’s Republican party is seemingly Super-glued to the slash-and-burn, characterize and demonize conservative talk radio political culture.

It’s hard to imagine that a party that has problems with independent voters and Latino voters so going out of its way to repel voters it needs, unless there is a Democratic mole inside the GOP instigating these comments.

Calling her a racist will get lots of publicity but it’s going to drive many Hispanic voters away in droves. And so will the faces delivering this message: the well-fed, sizeable face of multi-millionaire private- jet-owner Limbaugh, sitting in front of his mike, and the very familiar face of Gingrich. Many Americans (who are not millionaires or who aren’t conservative Republicans) will look at and compare the two GOPers’ life narratives with that of Sotomayor.

Even worse:
many independent voters, Democrats who may not be enamored with Obama, and moderate Republicans have already distanced themselves from the GOP. This latest barrage at Sotomayor now clearly is part of a pattern: no matter what the issue, the GOP is responding now with demonization in attempts to stir up hot button resentments and/or political rage.

And even worse for the GOP: its unlikely to resonate among the younger voters the GOP will need to regain footing in the 21st century.

So, except for getting nods of approval and cries of “That’s the way, go get ‘em!” from Republicans, what gains will Republicans (via talk shows, Gingrich and weblogs) make in accusing Sotomayor of being a racist — except, rightfully or wrongfully, causing some on the fence to conclude that those Republicans raising the racism issue could perhaps be mistakenly talking about what they are seeing when they look in the mirror?

A mole might be the most rational explanation for the manner in which the Republicans persist in utilizing tactics which drive away rational voters, but unfortunately what we are seeing is the actual mindset of the conservative movement.

Barring any unexpected findings she will be easily confirmed. The manner of the right wing attacks are now one of the most  significant aspects of this story, considering that any pick would have been subjected to similar lies from the right wing. Their distortion of her judicial record is very similar to how the right typically distorts voting records, such as taking an up or down vote on an overall budget and then launching attacks based upon saying a Senator voted for or against a specific item in the budget.

In a democracy  it is an extremely serious issue when votes are being influenced not by the actual facts or serious discussion over different viewpoints but based upon repeated campaigns of distortion such as this. It is important for a democracy to work for the voters to be working from accurate information, not the misinformation regularly spread by the right. It would be both legitimate and healthy for the democratic process if conservatives responded to a nominee with an honest discussion of the areas where they disagreed. Instead they ignore her actual record, as they also do with political candidates, and launch attacks based upon fabrications created by distortions of the record and taking statements out of context.

Possibly The Most Delusional Blog Post Ever

John Hawkins writes The Right Needs to Play as Dirty as the Left. Beyond being wrong on most issues and being incompetent in office, their dirty politics is a major reason why most Americans are rejecting politicians of the right. Public attention to Sarah Palin’s family, which was more a national phenomenon than something coming from the left, hardly compares with the dirty tactics of Dick Tuck, Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Karl Rove, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the Swift Boat Liars.

It gets even more ridiculous. Hawkins’ recommendations include:

Instead of continuing to complain, here’s a better idea. Why don’t conservatives do opposition research on the journalists endlessly running stories about Bristol Palin and Joe the Plumber? Have they ever been arrested? Whom do they own property with? Have they ever been paid to do a speech for someone and then run a favorable news story about him? Certainly Keith Olbermann’s personal life is just as newsworthy as Joe the Plumber’s, and the details of Maureen Dowd’s life are just as noteworthy as those of Bristol Palin — are they not?

Sure, start writing about Keith Olbermann and Maureen Dowd’s sex lives. Anyone think that will get anyone who has abandoned the Republicans to give them another chance?

Yes, Conservatives Are Stuck In The Past

Steve Benen notes that conservatives are still repeating the same disputed arguments to try to pin the blame for the economic crisis on the Democrats and asks if we are still stuck in October. Is anyone really surprised? The conservative movement operates in an echo chamber which is extremely effective at keeping out actual facts which contradict their arguments. As I noted earlier in the week, they are also skilled at contriving ways to blame others for the problems which arise from their policies, regardless of what the evidence demonstrates.

Once something is accepted as a conservative talking point, they continue to make the same claims regardless of how much evidence is present to show they are wrong. There are still conservatives claiming that Obama is a Muslim and that he is not a natural born American citizen. If John Kerry’s name comes up, they will still repeat the same disputed claims from the Swift Boat Liars even though the military records clearly supported Kerry’s account. We can expect to hear the same untrue claims from conservatives about the mortgage problems and the entire economic crisis as long as it is an issue. Once they come up with an argument, that is their story and it will never change.

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?

Obama To Use Keating 5 In Response to McCain’s Smears About Obama’s Past


John McCain plans to launch a new series of smears against Barack Obama this week based upon distorted accounts of association with others. This is a rather desperate move on McCain’s part considering both his own history and the extremists Sarah Palin has associated with. While Obama would prefer to stick with discussion of the issues, he cannot ignore the lessons of the Swift Boat Liars and other Republican smears of the recent past. If McCain wants to make the campaign about the past, it is time to take a closer look at John McCain’s past.

At noon on Monday, Obama’s campaign will be releasing a thirteen minute documentary on John McCain’s role in the Keating 5 scandal entitled Keating Economics: John McCain and the Making of a Financial Crisis. The point of the documentary is to show that John McCain “still hasn’t learned his lesson,”  and “this time, McCain’s bankrupt economic philosophy has put our economy at the brink of collapse and put millions of Americans at risk of losing their homes.”

A preview of the documentary is above. The full video will be available after noon at Background information is currently available, including this information:

The ABCs of John McCain, Charles Keating & The Savings & Loan (S&L) Crisis

During S&L Crisis, 747 Savings & Loans Banks Failed, Costing US Taxpayers $124 Billion; Deregulation Allowed Riskier Investments By S&Ls, Leading To Widespread Collapses And Fraud. In the 1980’s and early 1990’s the US economy was badly shaken by the failure of 747 savings and loan (S&L) institutions that had to be taken over and bailed out by the federal government. In total, the failures cost taxpayers $124 billion. One of the main causes for the epidemic of failures was the unregulated expansion of S&L’s, which had traditionally only dealt with home loans, into more exotic and riskier investments. When many of those investments failed, the institutions collapsed. [Chicago Tribune, 7/3/98, Los Angeles Times, 9/17/08]

S&L’s Risky Investments With Federally-Insured Money Led To Call For More Regulation. In the early 1980’s, Charles Keating’s American Continental Corporation purchased a California S&L named Lincoln. At that time, S&Ls like Lincoln were able to go beyond their traditional purpose of offering home loans and engage in riskier forms of investment. Since the deposits of S&Ls were insured by the federal government, regulators began to take notice of the investments being made by Keating and at other S&Ls. The Federal Home Loan Band Board (FHLLB), which had regulatory authority over the S&Ls, began to worry about the risks of this trend, and proposed a “direct investment” regulation to limit the money S&Ls could direct to these riskier investments. [Senate Ethics Committee Keating Five Investigation, 1990]

At Keating’s Request, McCain Wrote 5 Letters, Supported Bill To Forestall Direct Investment Rule. Keating was unhappy with the direct investment rule and began actively lobbying against it. Senate Ethics Committee Special Counsel Robert Bennett explained during the 1990 Keating Five hearings that John McCain wrote at least five letters to regulators, Treasury and White House officials to argue against these proposed restrictions on risky investments by S&Ls. Bennett said that “In 1984 and ‘85, then Congressman McCain wrote several letters to Chairman [Edwin] Gray [of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board] and White House officials urging them to postpone promulgation of the direct investment rule… There is evidence that Senator McCain did so at the urging of Mr. Keating or other representatives of Lincoln.” McCain’s work for Keating also included signing onto a bill to delay the direct investment rule in 1984 [Senate Ethics Committee Keating Five Investigation, 1990; HCONRES 363, 98th Congress]

With New Regulations In Place, Officials Began Investigation That Found That Keating’s Lincoln S&L Had Operated As Massive Fraud. After the direct investment rule was enacted the Federal Home Loan Bank Board began a more vigorous investigation into Lincoln’s practices, beginning to uncover a vast web of fraud and accounting irregularities designed to embezzle money to Keating and his family and friends. Top regulator William Black later said that Lincoln “operated like a Ponzi scheme, or financial pyramid dependent on an ever-increasing churning of assets.” Black said, “Its parent, Keating’s American Continental Corp., was no more than a shell that siphoned dividends from Lincoln and distributed them through inflated salaries to Keating, his family members and associates.” [Senate Ethics Committee Keating Five Investigation, 1990; Associated Press, 12/5/90]

Keating Asked McCain And Other Senators To Whom He Had Contributed To Intervene With Regulators. In the most well-known episode of the scandal, Charles Keating asked five U.S. Senators including McCain to intervene with regulators from the Federal Home Loan Bank Board on his behalf. The Senators attended two meetings with the regulators in 1987. Reports of the meetings and the fact that Keating had contributed heavily to those Senators led to an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee in 1990 into what became known as Keating Five scandal. [Senate Ethics Committee Keating Five Investigation, 1990; Chicago Tribune, 6/14/90; Los Angeles Times, 5/30/89]

Keating Admitted He Was Trying To Buy Influence. Keating was asked if his contributions bought him influence with the Senators, to which Keating replied, “I want to say in the most forceful way I can, I certainly hope so.” [Los Angeles Times, 5/30/89]

Ethics Committee Special Counsel Said McCain Had Closest Relationship to Keating. Robert Bennett, the Special Counsel for the Senate Ethics Committee said during the 1990 hearings: “of the five senators here before you, Senator McCain had the closest personal friendship with Charles Keating. Their friendship predated Senator McCain’s political career. Senator McCain also was the only one who received personal as well political benefits from Charles Keating.” [Senate Ethics Committee Hearing into the Keating Five]

  • McCain Received $166,000 In Campaign Contributions from Charles Keating and his Associates. “Together with friends and associates, Keating contributed $56,000 to McCain’s first House race, another $56,000 to the second and $54,000 to his 1986 Senate campaign,” contributions that were key to early success as a politician. [New York Times, 5/25/97]
  • McCain Used Keating’s Private Planes on Nine Occasions. “From August 1984 to August 1986, Sen. John McCain and his family flew across the country and to the Bahamas on at least nine occasions at Charles H Keating Jr.’s expense,” often to stay at the Keatings’ exclusive Cat Cay getaway. [Arizona Republic, 10/8/89]
  • McCain Had Direct Financial Ties To Keating. Keating brought in McCain’s wife and father-in-law as the largest investors in an Arizona shopping center investment. Fountain Square Shopping Center was a no-risk investment that virtually guaranteed a 25% return and a “significant tax write-off” through a tax shelter technique available to the wealthy that was soon outlawed. When reporters first questioned the deal, McCain said to reporters “It’s up to you to find that out, kids.” [Arizona Republic, 10/8/89]
  • McCain Originally Denied Reports of Connection. “When the story broke, McCain did nothing to help himself. ‘You’re a liar,’ McCain said” when asked about the investments. He challenged reporters saying, ‘It’s up to you to find that out, kids.’” [Arizona Republic, 3/1/2007]

McCain Rebuked By Senate Ethics Committee For Exercising “Poor Judgment.” In 1990, the bipartisan (three members of each party) Senate Ethics Committee rebuked McCain “for exercising ‘poor judgment’ for intervening with the federal regulators on behalf of Keating.” [Arizona Republic, 3/1/2007]

Keating’s S&L Was Declared Insolvent; $3.4 Billion Bailout Most Expensive in Meltdown. Federal regulators declared Lincoln Savings and Loan insolvent. It ended up costing taxpayers $3.4 billion to clean up the mess and cover federally-insured deposits at Lincoln, making it the most expensive failure in the entire S&L meltdown. [Washington Post, 11/29/92; New York Times, 2/21/08]

Keating Also Bilked 23,000 Investors – Many Elderly – With Junk Bonds. As his deeds unraveled under the scrutiny of regulators and civil and criminal court cases, it became clear that he had sold worthless junk bonds to 23,000 investors, many of them elderly retirees who had thought their investments were insured and lost their lost savings to Keating’s crimes. [Associated Press, 2/23/08]

Keating Was Found Guilty of 73 Counts of Fraud, Lost Two Criminal And One Civil Case. “a federal jury convicted him of 73 counts of wire and bankruptcy fraud in the collapse of American Continental and Lincoln,” a keystone of the Savings & Loan scandal as Keating “looted” the bank. Keating was also found guilty in civil court and lost a massive class action suit by investors he bilked. [Arizona Republic, 3/1/2007; Associated Press, 4/7/99]