Category Archives: John McCain

Tom Friedman’s take on torture report

I liked Tom Friedman’s latest column:

Why do people line up to come to this country? Why do they build boats from milk cartons to sail here? Why do they trust our diplomats and soldiers in ways true of no other country? It’s because we are a beacon of opportunity and freedom, and also because these foreigners know in their bones that we do things differently from other big powers in history.

One of the things we did was elect a black man whose grandfather was a Muslim as our president — after being hit on Sept. 11, 2001, by Muslim extremists. And one of the things we do we did on Tuesday: We published what appears to be an unblinking examination and exposition of how we tortured prisoners and suspected terrorists after 9/11. I’m glad we published it.

It may endanger captured Americans in the future. That is not to be taken lightly. But this act of self-examination is not only what keeps our society as a whole healthy, it’s what keeps us a model that others want to emulate, partner with and immigrate to — which is a different, but vital, source of our security as well….

It’s not a unique point of view. Even The Guardian, in expressing its high dudgeon over “America’s shame and disgrace,” acknowledged in a backhanded way that issuing the report illustrates something special about America, even though they were just using it as a way to beat up on HMG:

In one sense, it is a tribute to the US that it has published such a report. It is certainly a huge contrast to the cosy inadequacy of UK policy, practice and accountability – shortcomings that parliament must address.

But I particularly appreciate Friedman’s approach. His headline was “We’re Always Still Americans,” and it came from this John McCain quote at the end:

… I greatly respect how Senator John McCain put it: “I understand the reasons that governed the decision to resort to these interrogation methods, and I know that those who approved them and those who used them were dedicated to securing justice for the victims of terrorist attacks and to protecting Americans from further harm. … But I dispute wholeheartedly that it was right for them to use these methods, which this report makes clear were neither in the best interests of justice nor our security nor the ideals we have sacrificed so much blood and treasure to defend.” Even in the worst of times, “we are always Americans, and different, stronger, and better than those who would destroy us.”

Whether, of course, we remain Americans, true to our ideals, depends on whether we truly have put this shameful practice behind us.

Will Ravenel’s bids for attention get more desperate?

This came in this morning from Thomas Ravenel:


EDISTO, S.C. – Lowcountry businessman and independent U.S. Senate candidate Thomas Ravenel today challenged U.S. Sen. John McCain to “step up to the plate” and debate him so that South Carolina voters can hear the views of his longtime liberal understudy, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham – who is refusing to participate in a series of citizen-driven debates.

“The puppet is too afraid to debate me so I might as well start challenging his puppet masters – beginning with John McCain,” Ravenel said.  “The people of South Carolina deserve a series of real debates in which their concerns are heard and their questions are asked and answered by the candidates.  If Lindsey Graham is too afraid to defend his views in such a forum – then I’m going to start challenging the powerful interests that are pulling his strings in Washington D.C.”

Last month Ravenel issued a debate challenge to Graham, Democratic nominee Brad Hutto and Libertarian candidate Victor Kocher.  He proposed a series of at least eleven debates in different parts of the state in which citizens would conduct the questioning of the candidates.

Graham is the only candidate who hasn’t responded.

“Lindsey Graham has time to meet with Barack Obama nineteen times, to appear on all the Sunday morning talk shows and to fearmonger through the media – but apparently he doesn’t have the time to hear the concerns and face the criticisms of hard-working South Carolinians,” Ravenel said.  “That’s his prerogative, but by refusing to participate in these debates Lindsey Graham is telling South Carolinians that they aren’t worth his time.   He’s also telling them what many of them already know – that his abysmal record of wasting our tax dollars, attacking our liberties and unnecessarily harming our friends and loved ones in the military is indefensible.“

“If he won’t defend that record, maybe John McCain will,” Ravenel added.

Ravenel said that he would be issuing a series of debate challenges to Graham’s “puppet masters” over the coming weeks.

“The longer he refuses to participate in a series of public debates driven by South Carolinians like you the more I will expose him as being beholden to Washington’s special interests,” Ravenel said. “If Lindsey Graham thinks he can run out the clock on this election, he’s got another thing coming. I’m not just going to shame him, I’m going to shame the interests subsidizing his ongoing betrayal of our state and its people.”


Is this what he does when he’s ignored? Will his bids for attention get more desperate as time passes and the members of his former party continue to ignore him?

Unusual split between McCain, Graham on Iran, Iraq

This WashPost headline (“Wait, John McCain and Lindsey Graham are at odds? Yes — on Iran and Iraq“) grabbed my attention this morning:

Pick your favorite foreign policy debate and odds are hawkish Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) will be on the same side. Not so when it comes to the escalating situation in Iraq.

McCain on Monday warned sharply against the idea of collaborating with Iran to help the Iraqi government push back against radical Islamist fighters…

“It would be the height of folly to believe that the Iranian regime can be our partner in managing the deteriorating security situation in Iraq,” said McCain in a statement….

Appearing on the Sunday news shows, Graham cautiously endorsed the idea, provided certain conditions are met.

“Well, we’re going to probably need their help to hold Baghdad,” he said on CBS News’s “Face The Nation.”

On the same program, Graham said, “We need to all make sure Baghdad doesn’t fall

It’s not really a huge split, except that McCain’s language (“height of folly”)  is so emphatic. But worth making note.

Frankly, I’m intrigued by the implications of working with Iran for other issues. No, I don’t expect us to become big buddies and see them immediately drop their nuclear program for their new pals, but crises breed opportunity, and there could be one here — aside from the immediate tactical situation, which sees Iran in a better position to act than the U.S.

It’s going to be tough to work with the mullahs while simultaneously pressing Maliki to be less of a Shi’ite chauvinist (thereby making his regime one more worth saving), but it’s worth exploring.

So I think Graham’s being the more pragmatic and flexible here…

Editor’s note: The above video clip — one of my most popular ever — is NOT from this week. It’s from May 15, 2007.

Graham, McCain, et al., on Afghanistan drawdown

I missed this release yesterday, but it still seems to me worth sharing:

Graham, Ayotte, McCain on Afghanistan Troop Withdrawal Announcement


WASHINGTON ­– U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire) and John McCain (R-Arizona) released the following statement on President Obama’s announcement on Afghanistan today, which includes withdrawing all U.S. troops from the country by the end of 2016:


“The President’s decision to set an arbitrary date for the full withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is a monumental mistake and a triumph of politics over strategy. This is a short-sighted decision that will make it harder to end the war in Afghanistan responsibly.


“The President came into office wanting to end the wars he inherited. But wars do not end just because politicians say so. The President appears to have learned nothing from the damage done by his previous withdrawal announcements in Afghanistan and his disastrous decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq. Today’s announcement will embolden our enemies and discourage our partners in Afghanistan and the region. And regardless of anything the President says tomorrow at West Point, his decision on Afghanistan will fuel the growing perception worldwide that America is unreliable, distracted, and unwilling to lead.


“The alternative was not war without end. It was a limited assistance mission to help the Afghan Security Forces preserve momentum on the battlefield and create conditions for a negotiated end to the conflict. The achievement of this goal, and the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, should be determined by conditions on the ground, not by the President’s concern for his legacy.


“All wars end. The question is how they end. The war in Iraq has ended in tragedy. And it is difficult to see how we can succeed in Afghanistan when the President tells our enemies that our troops will leave by a date certain whether they have achieved our goals or not.”



On a side note… I’ve pretty much gotten Kelly Ayotte playing Shemp to Joe Lieberman’s Curly, but I still miss the old Three Amigos. By the way, I went looking at her website to remind myself what Sen. Ayotte looks like, and as my old softball teammate Dave Moniz would have said, key lid


And yeah, that’s David “Big Papi” Ortiz with her.

Graham: Leave more troops in Afghanistan

Just now seeing this release that moved late yesterday:

Graham, Ayotte, McCain Issue Statement on Afghanistan

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire), and John McCain (R-Arizona) today made the following statement on Afghanistan.

“We hope a recent press report that the White House is considering a post-2014 force in Afghanistan well below the recommendations of our military commanders is incorrect.

“After 13 years of sacrifice and investment, success in Afghanistan is now within our grasp. The last thing we should do in the coming years is increase the risks to our mission unnecessarily. We believe the recommendations of our military leaders represent sound military advice and would allow for continued U.S. support in the areas still needed by Afghan security forces. Maintaining several thousand additional U.S. troops in Afghanistan could mean the difference between success and failure.

“This is the lesson of Iraq. The administration ignored sound military advice and adopted a high risk strategy of withdrawing all U.S. troops. The result, tragically, is a resurgent Al-Qaeda, rising violence, and growing risk of renewed sectarian conflict. That fatal mistake in Iraq must not be repeated in Afghanistan.

“We stand ready to support a follow-on force that is consistent with the recommendations of our military commanders and that will end the war in Afghanistan with success.”


I generally agree. The total pullout from Iraq was a terrible move, and I’d hate to see it repeated. Too many have sacrificed too much to abandon Afghanistan to the Taliban.

Graham, McCain, et al.: Say ‘no’ to any Iran deal that eases sanctions, lets nuke program continue

This just in from Lindsey Graham:



With Geneva Negotiations Set to Resume, Senators Express Concern with Reported Deal Administration Currently Weighing – Plan Would Provide Relief from Sanctions without Significantly Rolling Back Iranian Progress towards Nuclear Weapon


Group of Senators Praise Administration’s Use of Sanctions Thus Far, Urges Negotiators to ensure that Concessions and Gains are Proportionate


Senators: Focus Should Be on Achieving a Balanced Deal That Rolls Back Iran’s Progress towards a Nuclear Weapon


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham, Charles E. Schumer, Robert Menendez, John McCain, Bob Casey and Susan Collins wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry, expressing their support for negotiations but cautioning the Administration against accepting a deal with Iran that would roll back economic sanctions without also rolling back progress towards nuclear weapons capability. According to media reports, Administration negotiators have considered accepting an agreement that would provide relief for the Iranian regime from the debilitating economic sanctions while only requiring the Iranians to halt their work towards a nuclear weapon, rather than undoing the progress they have already made.


The senators wrote, “We feel strongly that any easing of sanctions along the lines that the P5+1 is reportedly considering should require Iran to roll back its nuclear program more significantly than now envisioned.


“It is our belief that any interim agreement with the Iranians should bring us closer to our ultimate goal which is Iran without a nuclear weapons capability.  We must ensure that the steps we take in the coming weeks and months move us towards a resolution that ultimately brings Iran in compliance with all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, seeks to prevent Tehran from possessing any enrichment or reprocessing capability, and resolves any and all fears that Iran will develop a nuclear weapons capability.”


Under the reported agreement, the P5+1 is prepared to permit Iran to continue enriching uranium at 3.5% for civilian use, to cap but not reduce the number of centrifuges, and to continue work near the Arak heavy water nuclear reactor. The senators argue that these steps may suggest Iran is willing to temporarily slow its pursuit of a nuclear weapon, but they would allow Iran to continue making some progress towards obtaining a nuclear weapon under the cover of further negotiations.


In return, Iran would receive relief from economic sanctions, including access to previously-frozen assets. The senators said the reported agreement, “does not give us confidence that Iran is prepared to abandon unambiguously its nuclear weapons pursuit altogether, as it must.”


The full text of the letter appears below:


Dear Secretary Kerry:

We appreciate your continued efforts, in concert with our friends and allies, to negotiate with the Iranian regime. We also commend the efforts of your negotiating team to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability.  Our negotiators have benefited from the effects of tough economic sanctions in bringing Iran to the table.  Without the Administration, Congress, and our allies working together, we would not have arrived at this crucial point.

Indeed, we support the concept of an interim agreement with Iran that would roll back its nuclear program as a first step to seeking a final settlement that prevents Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapons capability. At the same time, we are concerned that the interim agreement would require us to make significant concessions before we see Iran demonstrably commit to moving away from developing a nuclear weapons capability.

It is our understanding that the interim agreement now under consideration would not require Iran to even meet the terms of prior United Nations Security Council resolutions which require Iran to suspend its reprocessing, heavy water-related and enrichment-related activities and halt ongoing construction of any uranium-enrichment, reprocessing, or heavy water-related facilities. For example, we understand that the P5+1 is prepared to permit Iran to continue enriching uranium at 3.5 percent albeit for civilian use, to cap but not reduce its number of centrifuges, and to continue work around or near the Arak heavy water nuclear reactor. While the interim agreement may suggest that Iran could be willing temporarily to slow its pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability, it could also allow Iran to continue making some progress toward that end under the cover of negotiations. This does not give us confidence that Iran is prepared to abandon unambiguously its nuclear weapons pursuit altogether, as it must.

Furthermore, it is our understanding that in return for certain Iranian actions, the P5+1 would allow Iran to gain access to considerable amounts of capital that have been frozen by our international sanctions. Some have estimated the value of this capital for Iran as much as $10 billion. We regard this as a major concession on our part that would not be justified by the concessions the Iranian regime would be required to make in return. If we are reducing sanctions, Iran should be reducing its nuclear capabilities.

As you know, it is not just the sanctions themselves but the threat that they would continue to tighten that has brought the Iranians to the negotiating table. Easing sanctions now without real, tangible actions by Iran to roll back its nuclear program would not only diminish this threat of future pressure, it could make it more difficult to maintain the current sanctions regime at a time when many international actors are already eager to lessen their implementation of sanctions. We feel strongly that any easing of sanctions along the lines that the P5+1 is reportedly considering should require Iran to roll back its nuclear program more significantly than now envisioned.

It is our belief that any interim agreement with the Iranians should bring us closer to our ultimate goal which is Iran without a nuclear weapons capability.  We must ensure that the steps we take in the coming weeks and months move us towards a resolution that ultimately brings Iran in compliance with all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, seeks to prevent Tehran from possessing any enrichment or reprocessing capability, and resolves any and all fears that Iran will develop a nuclear weapons capability.

The upcoming round of negotiations could hardly be more important and we must be ever mindful of with whom we are negotiating. Iran has been the largest state sponsor of terrorism for over thirty years; its leaders routinely call for the destruction of Israel; and it arms and finances terrorist groups around the globe. We urge you and your negotiating team to fight for an interim agreement that demands as much or more of Iran as it does of the United States and our allies. We hope in the next few weeks we and our partners will redouble our efforts to gain greater proportionality and to finalize an agreement that demonstrates that Iran is moving away from the nuclear weapons path.


John McCain didn’t like the heat in Lee Bandy’s kitchen

On a previous post, I quoted Aaron Sheinin telling a story about how, after “Brad and Cindi and Mike and Warren finished their wonk nerd questions” in editorial board interviews, Lee Bandy would weigh in with something that made the guest politico squirm.

Today, fellow alumnus Bill Castronuovo reminded me, over on Facebook, of video I shot of Lee making John McCain very uncomfortable in our boardroom in August 2007.

You don’t see Lee (hey, I had enough trouble keeping a camera trained on the candidate while taking notes and presiding over the meeting; two cameras were impossible), but that’s his voice you hear asking the question that brings out McCain’s dark side. Since the mike is facing away from Lee, you might have trouble hearing the question. I can’t make out parts of it myself, what with McCain talking over Lee before he could get it all out. But here’s the audible part:

What went wrong with your campaign? You were sailing along… you had a wide lead over everybody else… now you have to fight for your political life.

As you see, the senator did not like the question a bit.

To set the stage: McCain was considered practically down and out in this stage of the campaign for the GOP nomination. A few months before, he had been the unquestioned front-runner. But things seemed to have fallen apart for him. A few weeks earlier, I had posted this report (also with video), headlined “McCain goes to the mattresses.” In the video, McCain staffer B.J. Boling (one of his few remaining at this low point) said they were going from a huge production to “an insurgency-type campaign.”

In the end, it worked. McCain managed to win in SC, and go on to win the nomination. But at this point in the campaign, the candidate was in no mood to take questions about how badly he was doing from that pesky Lee Bandy…

Once a sailor, always a sailor: McCain hopes bill to eliminate bills will help enrich strippers

OK, to be fair, he was set up. But he rose to the bait, and had fun with it:

(CNN) – If Congress passes the COINS Act replacing the $1 paper bill for a coin, the U.S. government may be able to save billions in printing costs at the expense of a little more jangle in the average consumers’ pockets. But what about the strippers?

That’s what The Hill newspaper asked one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Sen. John McCain, in a piece published Thursday. The question came from a separate 2011 story where the publication suggested strippers could suffer in a bill-less economy, with G-strings and garter belts far less accommodating of cold metal.

For his part, the Arizona Republican responded in stride in a Capitol Hill hallway.

“Then I hope that they could obtain larger denominations,” McCain reportedly told The Hill.

According to The Hill, the 76 year-old McCain started answering questions from another reporter before a smile spread across his face and he shouted down the hallway to The Hill, “Fives, tens, one hundreds!”…

Hundreds? Bada-Bing!

You know, if this bill passes, and the senator wants to determine whether it’s having the desired, um, stimulative effect on the economy, I’ll be glad to help him with the research. But only if he’s buying; I hear the drinks are pretty pricey in those dives.

But seriously, I like the idea of this bill. When I was in England, I thought it was great that I could make small purchases — postcards, newspapers, a cuppa, or a bottle of beer from an off-license — with pound and two-pound coins. They were very handy.

But dollar coins have never caught on in my lifetime. And you know why? Because we haven’t produced a dollar coin that anyone could respect, much less love. Not since the old silver dollars, which by the time I came along were already collector’s items that your grandma gave you for your birthday and you stashed them safely in a dresser drawer where they still reside to this day.

I’m not going to get into the politics of choosing Susan B. Anthony and Sacajawea as the “heads” side of these coins; that’s neither here nor there. People would use dollar coins with Alfred E. Newman on them, if the coins themselves were substantial and respectable.

TwoPoundCoinBackInstead, our mints have produced these light, cheesy things that look and feel like they’re inherently worth less than a copper penny. They look and feel like something you’d get out of one of those old machines in arcades that squished a penny and stamped your name on it. And you can’t distinguish them from quarters in your pocket.

By contrast, the pound coin has heft, and thickness, and a good tactile feel to its surfaces. You can immediately distinguish it when you reach for one. As for the two-pound coins — they’re amazing. They are so distinctive, so substantial, you’d think they were crafted by the dwarves in Middle Earth in time out of mind. It even appears to have Elvish inscriptions on it.2pd02r

Craft something like that, and America won’t miss the dollar bill.

Maybe we could use some of the money saved by eliminating the paper ones to make these coins something Americans would actually want to use. For a change.

Have you heard the one about McCain and the Syrian rebels?

I wasn’t watching the news all that closely yesterday, so, as sometimes happens with Twitter, I saw the jokes about John McCain sneaking into Syria to talk to the rebels before I knew he had gone. Here’s the first I saw:

Syrian rebels with McCain, probably: “I want to trust your judgment, but go over again why you thought she was qualified to be president.”

Later, someone brought my attention to this one from McCain pal Lindsey Graham:

Best wishes to @SenJohnMcCain in Syria today. If he doesn’t make it back calling dibs on his office.

Anyway, no doubt to Graham’s chagrin, McCain apparently made it back out of Syria OK (at least, that’s how I read this reference to Yemen). The White House has said today that yeah, they knew he was going, and no, they don’t have anything else to say about it, but look forward to hearing from the senator about his trip.

High hopes for the Gang of 8’s immigration bill

It’s coincidences like this that make people think there’s some sort of conspiracy among news media. The story on this morning, from the NYT news service, was headlined, “Rubio offers full-throated support for immigration bill.”

Meanwhile a story in The Washington Post said,

On Tuesday, the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” is set to unveil a proposal that would represent the most far-reaching overhaul of immigration laws since 1986. The process of developing the legislation, which features a path to citizenship for up to 11 million immigrants who are in the country illegally, was hammered out in two dozen meetings led by veterans of earlier immigration battles, including Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).220px-Marco_Rubio,_Official_Portrait,_112th_Congress

But in many ways, the senators’ negotiations, behind the scenes and in public, have hinged on a party of one. Rubio, the tea party favorite whose parents emigrated from Cuba, has been considered the most crucial player all along. Although he has seemed to waver at times, his full-throated endorsement of the bill Sunday, in a marathon round of seven television interviews, put at ease a group of colleagues who have been working hard to ensure he stays the course. I don’t know how full his throat was, but his calendar was certainly crowded on Sunday.

Sort of makes you think there was an emergency meeting of the Press Establishment yesterday, and “full-throated” would be the modifier of the week.

The chances are good that I, too, will be offering “full-throated” endorsement of the bill when it’s unveiled tomorrow. Partly because, as you know, if both Lindsey Graham and John McCain are for it, I have a tendency to agree. (When Joe Lieberman was in the Senate, and all three of them agreed on something, I was almost always with them — the big exception being health care policy.)

Beyond that, after months of work by this bipartisan group, the pragmatic truth is that politically speaking, whatever they have come up with is the best chance this country has to achieve comprehensive immigration reform. Whatever this one’s flaws may be, I can’t imagine where a better bill would come from. And the country is overdue to address this issue.

I have another rule of thumb — if both David Brooks and E.J. Dionne are for it, I usually am. And I heard them praising the effort on Friday, in a way that implied they’d had a look at the bill. In fact, I thought for a moment that I’d missed something in the news, since they were talking about it as though it were already out there.

But to return to where we started, the fact that Marco Rubio is so “full-throatedly” on board is a good sign that this will be something worth supporting. While McCain and Graham are taking a big political risk with this — Graham faces re-election next year, and as we know, there are elements in his party who despise him specifically for such things as this — for Rubio, the stakes are bigger. Everyone’s speaking of him as a presidential candidate for 2016 (on NPR this morning, they were talking about him being “the GOP’s Obama”).

Presidential ambitions would help explain why he would support something like this, as it helps move him and his party toward the center. It also presents a big risk, since he’s already alienated much of his base just by being one of the Gang of 8.

Which is why all the political talk shows wanted him yesterday.

Whatever happens with Rubio, though, here’s hoping that, after all this buildup, the Gang’s bill doesn’t disappoint.

One thing Graham definitely is NOT is dumb…

salon graham

Say what you want about the increasingly ubiquitous Lindsey Graham, Salon was way off the mark today when its header featured an unflattering photo of our senior senator next to the teaser hed, “Hagel’s dumbest enemies.”

Of course, as is often the case with such hyperbolic come-ons, the actual headline that the teaser linked to took it down a notch: “The increasingly ridiculous Hagel opposition.” The subhed, situated atop huge mugs of Graham and John McCain, begins, “Republicans block a vote for no reason…”

The very first paragraph of the body copy then refutes that (boldface added):

Sen. Graham and his best friend John McCain have been blocking the confirmation of Chuck Hagel as Defense secretary, because they want to know whether President Obama called the president of Libya the night of the Benghazi attack. While that’s not a very good reason to filibuster a Cabinet nominee, it is at least “a reason.” The White House has complied, giving Graham and McCain what they want. Graham’s response: Now he is just going to pointlessly delay the Hagel vote, because it will make him feel good. As always, with Lindsey Graham, being a senator is all about feelings.

Disagree with Graham — and McCain — all you want, but making him the poster boy of the “dumbest” is, well, pretty stupid.

I find a lot of the indignation on the left about delaying the Hagel nomination a few days a little on the disingenuous, even absurd, side. My least favorite manifestation of this is when I hear a Democrat express absolute mystification that these Republicans could possibly be objecting to Hagel, since he’s a Republican. There is no mystery as to why this is a Republican Democrats love. and Republicans have problems with him for the same reasons.

There are actual substantive reasons to question this nomination. We could start with his having been completely wrong on the Iraq surge. Which is kinda relevant in a candidate for SecDef. But then, of course, we’d have a whole other argument that we’ve had too many times before…

So never mind all that. I don’t call the president “dumb” for wanting a guy who looked at Iraq the way he did. I have more respect for the president than that.

But there’s a bigger reason I wouldn’t call Barack Obama dumb: I’ve heard him speak. And the same goes for Lindsey Graham.

I was speaking to a class at Lexington High School yesterday, and I let slip a comment that always makes me sound arrogant when I say it, but it’s true: It’s pretty unusual for me to interview a political officeholder in South Carolina who makes me think to myself, “This guy’s smarter than I am.” But I’ve had that thought more than once when talking with Lindsey Graham.

And I may have a host of faults — correction, I do have a host of faults — but being dumb isn’t one of them.

The Gang of Eight offers a solution on immigration

“As far back as I can remember,” said Henry Hill in the opening to “Goodfellas,”  “I always wanted to be a gangster.”

The same might be said of John McCain and our own Lindsey Graham. And I honor them for it.

The gangs they tend to join are all about uniting to get around the partisan dysfunction of Congress. This time, despite having been so badly burned by the issue six years ago, they are once again ganging up to try to pass a version of comprehensive immigration reform.

This time, there are some new gangsters, such as that kid out of Florida, Marco Rubio. And Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Robert Menendez, Michael Bennet and Jeff Flake. The Washington Post is calling this “a bipartisan push that would have been unimaginable just months ago on one of the country’s most emotionally divisive issues.”

Here’s the memo they’ve put together. This is the introduction:

We recognize that our immigration system is broken. And while border security has improved significantly over the last two Administrations, we still don’t have a functioning immigration system.This has created a situation where up to 11 million undocumented immigrants are living in the shadows. Our legislation acknowledges these realities by finally committing the resources needed to secure the border, modernize and streamline our current legal immigration system, while creating a tough but fair legalization program for individuals who are currently here. We will ensure that this is a successful permanent reform to our immigration system that will not need to be revisited.

The document has a tendency to redundancy — “tough but fair” is mentioned three times on the first page (OK, technically, the third time it was “a tough, fair and practical roadmap”) — but readable. I just think it could have used a tough, but fair, editor.

Amid all sorts of stuff about tightening border security, giving our border patrol the latest technology and making sure people who are supposed to leave by a certain date actually do leave, there is the path to citizenship part:

While these security measures are being put into place, we will simultaneously require those who came or remained in the United States without our permission to register with the
government. This will include passing a background check and settling their debt to society
by paying a fine and back taxes, in order to earn probationary legal status, which will allow
them to live and work legally in the United States. Individuals with a serious criminal
background or others who pose a threat to our national security will be ineligible for legal
status and subject to deportation. Illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes
face immediate deportation…

Once the enforcement measures have been completed, individuals with probationary legal
status will be required to go to the back of the line of prospective immigrants, pass an
additional background check, pay taxes, learn English and civics, demonstrate a history of
work in the United States, and current employment, among other requirements, in order to
earn the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residency. Those individuals who
successfully complete these requirements can eventually earn a green card.

Individuals who are present without lawful status – not including people within the two
categories identified below – will only receive a green card after every individual who is
already waiting in line for a green card, at the time this legislation is enacted, has received
their green card. Our purpose is to ensure that no one who has violated America’s
immigration laws will receive preferential treatment as they relate to those individuals who
have complied with the law….

There’s a lot more. I invite y’all to go read it, and react.

Your ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ scoreboard

1134604 - Zero Dark Thirty

OK, I think I’ve got it straight now.

I had thought that the official GOP position was that “Zero Dark Thirty” was the result of an unholy relationship between the filmmakers and the Obama administration, meant to aggrandize the latter.

I had seen Sen. John McCain’s criticism of that film as overlapping somewhat with that position, although I also saw it as consistent with his principled, and very personal, opposition to torture.

I was vaguely inclined toward emphasizing the latter reason for McCain’s objections over the former, because I had heard that Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin were joining McCain in his criticism of the movie.

Anyway, the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal stepped in today to straighten me out and clarify the partisan battle lines over the film:

You know it’s a bad day in America when Hollywood seems to have a better grip on intelligence issues than the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the top two Members at Armed Services. The film depicts the “enhanced interrogation techniques,” or EITs, used on the detainees held at the CIA’s so-called black sites, and hints that the interrogations provided at least some of the information that led to bin Laden’s killing.

What Ms. Bigelow intended by depicting the EITs is not for us to explain: This is an action flick, not a Ken Burns documentary. Yet the mere suggestion that such techniques paid crucial intelligence dividends—as attested by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former CIA Director Michael Hayden, among many others—has sent Mrs. Feinstein and her colleagues into paroxysms of indignation. They even have a 5,000-plus-page study that purports to prove her case…

One day, perhaps, some of our liberal friends will acknowledge that the real world is stuffed with the kinds of hard moral choices that “Zero Dark Thirty” so effectively depicts. Until then, they can bask in the easy certitudes of a report that, whatever it contains, deserves never to be read.

So, in the never-ending partisan argument, which requires that everyone take one of two (and only two) directly opposing positions, apparently opposition to the movie is officially a Democratic, liberal position, and John McCain’s agreement with that position is designated as just one of his “maverick” positions.

Whatever. I still sympathize with McCain’s objection to our nation embracing torture on any level.

And… I still look forward to seeing “Zero Dark Thirty.”

McCain to go to bat for McMaster (as well he should)

The Hill reports that John McCain is going to be raising funds for Attorney General Henry McMaster's (yet undeclared) bid for governor in 2010:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is hitting the fundraising circuit to return the favor to a local Republican who proved a key supporter in the 2008 primaries.

McCain and many of his top advisers will throw a fundraising reception on behalf of Henry McMaster, the South Carolina attorney general who backed McCain during his run for president in 2008.

The event's host committee includes McCain loyalists like one-time senior advisors Charlie Black, former campaign manager Rick Davis and former Republican National Committee deputy chairman Frank Donatelli. McCain will make an appearance, a spokeswoman confirmed.

And well he should, because Henry was right with him through thick and thin in his most recent presidential bid. He and Bobby Harrell, all the way, even when people were counting McCain as out of the GOP race. Note the video from above (this is the slightly more extended version of my most-viewed video of all time, at 59,850 views), in which Henry warmed up the crowd for McCain one night in the Vista in 2007 (the night of the first S.C. presidential candidate debate, as I recall).

Not that ‘Morning in America’ hubris again…

Just got this e-mail a little while ago from a reader (I guess it was a reader, anyway):

The headlines today said that McCain claims Obama "must" consult with the GOP on stimulus talks. That's not true, any more than saying that Ronald Reagan was required to allow Dems much input in his 1981 plans. On election eve 1980, even old democrats like me realized that the public had said no to government spending, said no to government meddling and no to more regulations. I believed the public was wrong, but also understood that Reagan's mandate was to proceed as he'd promised.
Thirty years later, Americans' have decided that we need government, government to stop us from dying from eating peanut butter, government to stop bankers from stealing from us, and government to provide jobs until the economy picks up. That's Obama's mandate, and to do anything else would be to back off from his promises. McCain is wrong. He and his party lost. Obama wants to be nice and extend an olive branch to the losers, but it is not necessary that he does so. What's necessary is he goes forward with his plans.

To which I felt compelled to answer as follows (slightly edited, as I read back over it):

Interesting you should mention 1981. I'm still ticked off that Democrats back then took just the attitude that you're calling for. Tip O'Neill and the rest said, well, Reagan won the election, so let's give him anything that he wants. This, after four years of that same Democratic Congress not giving Jimmy Carter ANYthing he wanted.

I'm still mad about it. I'm still mad about how the whole world just rolled over for Reagan. Much of the media was full of that "Morning in America" hoopla, and I felt like …. well, have you ever been the only person in the room who was not drunk or stoned, and everybody around you thought everything was just SO funny, and you just thought they were all very irritating? Not much fun, huh? Well, that was me in the Reagan era.

I don't feel that way this time. I sort of thought Reagan's win in 1980 was the end of the world — not because I was anti-Republican, but because I had liked Jimmy Carter so much (I don't like him as much as I did then, but I really liked him then). I don't feel that way at all about Obama. Out of all the people running for president last year, McCain and Obama were my first and second choices. So while I'm sorry McCain didn't win, I'm glad Obama didn't lose. I'm highly ambivalent on that score.

But one reason I DO like Obama so much — and liked him so much more than Hillary — is that he IS about post-partisanship. (That's one of the main things I liked about McCain, too.) He's nothing like Reagan; he's far less the ideological warrior. And if he doesn't work with McCain (something which, to his credit, he's already demonstrated a willingness to do), then he's not the guy that a LOT of people voted for. I would expect exactly the same from McCain — a willingness to work across the aisle — had he been elected.

And I have little patience for Democrats who act the way the Reaganites did in the early 80s — We won, so we'll do what we damn' well please. Unfortunately, I do hear that from some. Like "Morning in America" revisited. And I didn't like that triumphalist bull the first time, not one bit.

And if you don't care about bipartisanship, think about this: There's a good chance this stimulus will fail. There's a good chance ANY stimulus would fail. So how would you feel about it if, once the stimulus fails, the GOP recaptures Congress, and then goes around telling Obama and the world that "We won, so we don't have to listen to you?"

Far better that we have a stimulus plan that both parties buy into. It's a little late for that, but it WOULD have been far better. It's never good to have one of the two major parties politically invested in the nation failing…

(I'll add one more thought: I would not say that Obama "must" work with McCain et al. I'm just saying that to the extent that he can, he should. This is not to say that if you've tried to bring the GOP along and they've just refused and you truly believe your plan is the right one, you don't go ahead — just as I thought it was right for us to go ahead into Iraq without France, Germany and Russia on board. But I am saying that if you can possibly swing it, bipartisan is WAY better for the country.)

Worrying about the stimulus

Editorial Page Editor

    “This is your bill; it needs to be America’s bill.”

            — Sen. Lindsey Graham,
         addressing Senate Democrats

worries me, after all the rhetoric, exhortation, accusations,
counter-accusations, fault-finding and blame-laying, is that the
stimulus bill that spent the week staggering its way through the U.S.
Senate might not work anyway.

     There was always
that very good chance. Several weeks back, Paul Krugman — who as a
Princeton economist is a Nobel Prize-winner, but as a political
columnist is a partisan automaton — said as much. He said it wouldn’t
be enough to give the economy the jolt it needs to overcome the lack of
activity in the private sector. He made a persuasive case.

last week, Mr. Krugman wrote that this bill just had to pass, that
those blasted Republicans opposing it were “putting the nation’s future
at risk.” Obama’s mistake, he now said, was trying “to transcend
partisanship” and work with the Republicans at all.

    I believe the
exact opposite to be true. I believe the chances of the bill doing any
good declined with each step into the thicket of partisanship.

never won so much as a Cracker Jack prize for economics, much less a
Nobel, but there’s one thing I think I understand: Whatever Washington
does in the way of stimulus — and it needs to do something (with the
private sector in paralysis, this is a job for the Keynesians) — it
won’t work unless America can believe in it.

    Just as Mr. Krugman
is right about some things, so is Phil Gramm. Remember how indignant
the Democrats got when the McCain adviser said, in mid-campaign, that
we were experiencing a “mental recession”? Well, he had a point. While
it doesn’t make the real-life pain any less, the mechanisms that get us
into a predicament like this have an awful lot to do with what’s going
on in our heads.

    When businesses think they have a chance to
grow, they invest and create jobs. When they’re scared, they freeze up.
When buyers and sellers believe home values will keep appreciating, the
real estate market is hot. When they start to doubt values, buying and
selling stop. When everyone believes a stock’s value will keep rising,
it does keep rising; when they don’t, it crashes. When you think the
lousy economy is threatening your job, you stop spending and stuff your
earnings, literally or figuratively, into a mattress, and the workers
who depended on you to buy what they produce lose their jobs, which of
course increases everyone’s pessimism.

    No, it’s not all in our
heads. At some point, certain things have real value. But we’re not
going to start buying and selling and hiring and investing and taking
risks at the levels needed to pull ourselves out of this tail-spin
until we reach a consensus that things are getting better, or about to
get better.

    You can argue about the specific provisions in the
stimulus all you want, and Democrats and Republicans have been doing so
enthusiastically. But I don’t think I’ve seen a specific idea yet that
couldn’t be argued both ways. Even the worst idea pumps some juice into
the economy; even the best one is no silver bullet.

    With private
sector leadership — especially on Wall Street — having failed us so
spectacularly, we need something intangible from our political
leadership every bit as much as we need infrastructure spending and/or
tax cuts: We need to look at what Washington is producing and believe
that it actually is for the good of the country, and not for the good
of the Democrats or the Republicans or this or that politician.

he entered office, I thought Barack Obama had what it took to lead us
in that direction — to pull us together and help us believe that we can
solve our problems. To persuade us, as FDR did, that we had nothing to
, that we were going to get through this, together.

    I still
think he can. But last week, I saw him stumble. I’m not talking about
the Tom Daschle business. As the stimulus package faltered, he reverted
to campaign mode, blaming Republicans who wanted to cling to those
failed policies of the past eight years we heard so much about in 2008.

him in this counterproductive effort were such Republicans as our own
Jim DeMint, who most certainly was clinging to the ideologies that have
failed his party and the nation — such as the stubborn idea that tax
cuts are the only kind of stimulus anyone needs.

    A far more
sensible position was taken by our other senator late Thursday. Lindsey
Graham grabbed headlines by saying “this bill stinks,” but he had
smarter things to say than that

    You know, my problem is that I
think we need a stimulus bill. I think we need to do more than cut
taxes. But the process has been terrible. The House passed this bill
without one Republican vote, lost 11 Democrats. Nancy Pelosi said, We
won, we write the bill…. (W)e’re not being smart and we’re not
working together, and people want us to be smart and work together, and
this has been a miserable failure on both fronts.

    As I wrote this
column, much remained unsettled. By the time you read it, something may
have passed. But as I wrote, I was sure of this: If the Congress gave
the president a bill that was pleasing only to the Harry Reids and
Nancy Pelosis, it wouldn’t help the president inspire the kind of
confidence that the whole nation needs to recover. (The same would be
true if Jim DeMint got all he wanted, but there was no danger of that.)

if the president has a bill that Lindsey Graham and John McCain and Ben
Nelson of Nebraska and Susan Collins of Maine all voted for, the nation
would have a chance of moving forward together. And together is the
only way we can recover.

For more, please go to

McCain, Graham support Obama on Gitmo

FYI, I just got this release from Lindsey Graham's office:


Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and John McCain (R-Arizona) today issued the following statement regarding the executive order put forth by President Obama calling for the closure of the prison at Guantanamo:  

“We support President Obama’s decision to close the prison at Guantanamo, reaffirm America’s adherence to the Geneva Conventions, and begin a process that will, we hope, lead to the resolution of all cases of Guantanamo detainees,” said Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator John McCain.  “The executive orders issued today constitute an important step in the right direction but leave several major issues unaddressed.”
“Numerous difficult issues remain,” Senator Graham and Senator McCain continued.  “Present at Guantanamo are a number of detainees who have been cleared for release but have found no foreign country willing to accept them.  Other detainees have been deemed too dangerous for release, but the sensitive nature of the evidence makes prosecution difficult.  The military’s proper role in processing detainees held on the battlefield at Bagram, Afghanistan, and other military prisons around the world must be defended, but that is left unresolved.  Also unresolved is the type of judicial process that would replace the military commissions. We believe the military commissions should have been allowed to continue their work.  We look forward to working with the President and his administration on these issues, keeping in mind that the first priority of the U.S. government is to guarantee the security of the American people.”


… which seems to me an appropriate stance for the loyal opposition. They support their commander in chief because they share his concerns that our nation live up to its highest ideals — which is completely consistent with their advocacy during the Bush administration. (And remember, McCain said that he, too, would have closed the Gitmo facility if elected.) At the same time, they make sure they get on the record the unresolved problems inherent in this move. Smart, principled and appropriate.

The Obama-McCain meeting


Not a lot to emerge from the president-elect’s meeting with John McCain (and Lindsey Graham and Rahm Emanuel) today, which is to be expected. Here’s the closest thing to substance I’ve seen, from their joint communique:

We hope to work together in the days and months ahead on critical
challenges like solving our financial crisis, creating a new energy
economy, and protecting our nation’s security.

Of those items, seems to me the greatest potential for collaboration would be on energy. (But I would think that, wouldn’t I?)

Here’s a scene-setter from the NYT politics blog:

Senator John McCain and President-elect Barack Obama are sitting
down together now and metaphorically smoking a peace pipe in their
first face-to-face session since the bruising campaign.

The two are meeting at Mr. Obama’s transition headquarters at a federal building in Chicago, where they just posed for the cameras.

The meeting space has a stagey look, in front of the kind of thick
royal blue curtain you see in an auditorium, not the usual
campaign-rigged blue backdrop. Flags are strewn throughout, with one
planted between the two principals, who are sitting in yellow,
Oval-Office-like chairs.

To their sides are their wingmen, Rahm Emanuel on Mr. Obama’s left
and Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina on Mr. McCain’s right.

They’re all looking jolly (Mr. Obama and Mr. Emanual the jolliest), and we’ll soon get a read-out on the discussion.

The Obama team is hoping they can smooth any ruffled feathers and
build an alliance with the old John McCain — not the one whom the Obama
camp called “erratic” during the presidential campaign but the
self-styled “maverick” who worked across party lines for various causes
that Mr. Obama wants to advance — global warming, immigration, earmark
spending among them.

In the brief moment before the cameras, Mr. Obama said: “We’re going
to have a good conversation about how we can do some work together to
fix up the country, and also to offer thanks to Senator McCain for the
outstanding service he’s already rendered.”

Mr. McCain was asked whether he would help Mr. Obama with his administration.

“Obviously,” he said.

Those pesky reporters tried to shout out other queries, like about a
possible bail-out for the auto industry, but the pool report says they
were “shouted down by the pool sherpas,” and that “Mr. Obama finally
said with a smile, ‘You’re incorrigible.’”

The last in-person meeting between Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain took place more than a month ago, at the third and final presidential debate at Hofstra, remembered chiefly as the coming-out party for Joe the Plumber.

Updated | 2:12 p.m.: A joint statement was released from President-elect Barack Obama and Senator John McCain:

“At this defining moment in history, we believe that Americans of
all parties want and need their leaders to come together and change the
bad habits of Washington so that we can solve the common and urgent
challenges of our time. It is in this spirit that we had a productive
conversation today about the need to launch a new era of reform where
we take on government waste and bitter partisanship in Washington in
order to restore trust in government, and bring back prosperity and
opportunity for every hardworking American family. We hope to work
together in the days and months ahead on critical challenges like
solving our financial crisis, creating a new energy economy, and
protecting our nation’s security.”

Beyond that, here are versions of the story from:

One war, two wars: But who’s counting?

This morning we ran an editorial calling upon the nation to unite after the election, and quoting something S.C. Supt. of Ed. Jim Rex had said:

“What’s important for our students to know is that after elections, Americans come together,” Dr. Rex wrote. “We have enormous challenges ahead of us — a war on two fronts, an economy in crisis, a broken health care system, and so much more. We cannot stand to be divided one more day. Regardless of who wins, it’s time for us to work together to move this country forward and create a better, more stable America for our children and grandchildren."

Did you catch the little grace note there that made his message truly bipartisan — his reference to "a war on two fronts?" In case you missed it, that is decidedly not the official Democratic Party version.

We were reminded of that last night in Barack Obama’s otherwise gracious, affirming victory speech, in which he sincerely called on the nation to come together, but nevertheless repeated the official Democratic Party version of reality:

we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – two wars, a planet in peril…

And so we continue with the refusal to acknowledge either a) the global war on terror, or b) that Iraq is part of it. It makes me wonder: When we act against al Qaida in Somalia, or Yemen or Pakistan or Indonesia, are those third and fourth and fifth and sixth wars, etc.?

Sorry to be such a nitpicker. I truly thought Obama’s speech was good, and appreciated its attempts to reach beyond party.

Likewise, I appreciated the graciousness of John McCain’s acceptance speech, even though one could detect partisan difference in that even when he was trying the hardest to reach out:

In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving.

Did you catch it? Yes, it’s a very Republican thing to say those Americans "WRONGLY  believed that they had little at stake or little influence." Democrats would likely leave out the "wrongly."

Bottom line, I appreciated both speeches, for what they did, and more, for what they meant to do. I can think of no recent election in which both victor and defeated were so gracious at the critical moment.

But I’m an editor; I pick at words. And even while I’m applauding, these little flaws jump out at me. File them under the heading of "how far we have yet to go," even on agreeing about the nature of reality.

Congratulations to President Obama!


Obama’s done the expected, and done it on deadline, which certainly warms my heart toward him.

Here’s hoping his leadership as president is on a par with the highest notes he struck during the presidential campaign. And he has struck some fine ones, such as on the night of his triumph in S.C. I certainly had an undivided mind about his victory on that night.

He’s shown he can inspire; let’s all hope and pray he can unite the nation. We need it. No, I’m not as happy about this as I thought I would be several months ago. But I’m hopeful, so call me audacious.

I now turn the floor over to you, the reader — I’ll have more to say in the coming days, but I’m going to go get some sack time now.