Category Archives: John McCain

Conscience starts gaining ground in the GOP

We’ve seen some impressive moves lately by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan in recent months: First, he wouldn’t, then he reluctantly did, now he’s steadily creeping, step by step, day by day, back toward “wouldn’t.”

Here’s what I mean:

A decision Monday by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan to not campaign with or defend Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump through the November election sparked a public feud with his party’s standard-bearer within a matter of hours, suggesting that a widening split within the GOP could reverberate long after the presidential race is decided.

Profile in gradual, incremental courage

Paul Ryan: Profile in gradual, incremental courage

Ryan’s move — and a blunt assessment of the race that he and other congressional leaders delivered during a conference call with House GOP lawmakers Monday morning — underscored the perilous choice Republican officials now face in the wake of Friday’s release of a 2005 videotape in which Trump made lewd comments about women:

They can remain in line with their nominee, which would please their base but could alienate swing voters critical to maintaining their hold on Congress. Or they could renounce Trump and offend Republicans eager for a direct confrontation with Hillary Clinton and her husband.

For his part, the speaker — who canceled an appearance with Trump after the videotape surfaced Friday — did neither. He won’t publicly campaign with Trump, but he also did not rescind his endorsement of his party’s controversial nominee or back away from his pledge to vote for him….

That’s today, three days after he refused to appear at one rally with Trump. What will he do tomorrow?

Meanwhile, since I didn’t take note of my man John McCain’s abandonment of the Trump cause over the weekend, let me to do so now:

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) released the following statement today withdrawing his support of Donald Trump:

“In addition to my well known differences with Donald Trump on public policy issues, I have raised questions about his character after his comments on Prisoners of War, the Khan Gold Star family, Judge Curiel and earlier inappropriate comments about women. Just this week, he made outrageous statements about the innocent men in the Central Park Five case.

“As I said yesterday, there are no excuses for Donald Trump’s offensive and demeaning comments in the just released video; no woman should ever be victimized by this kind of inappropriate behavior. He alone bears the burden of his conduct and alone should suffer the consequences.

“I have wanted to support the candidate our party nominated. He was not my choice, but as a past nominee, I thought it was important I respect the fact that Donald Trump won a majority of the delegates by the rules our party set. I thought I owed his supporters that deference.

“But Donald Trump’s behavior this week, concluding with the disclosure of his demeaning comments about women and his boasts about sexual assaults, make it impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy. Cindy, with her strong background in human rights and respect for women fully agrees with me on this.

“Cindy and I will not vote for Donald Trump. I have never voted for a Democratic presidential candidate and we will not vote for Hillary Clinton. We will write in the name of some good conservative Republican who is qualified to be President.”


Not that a write-in accomplishes anything in terms of stopping Trump, but at least he’s not backing the guy anymore.

Oh, and in case you missed it, there was this Tweet from our own Lindsey Graham:

Not that there is a general stampede away from Trump on the part of Republicans in general. Far from it. But their arguments in defense of him are started to get a bit… strained.

Here’s Jeff Sessions’ attempt:

Sessions: ‘grab them by the p___y’ not sexual assault

So, there’s that…

Graham, McCain on Trump and the Khans


OK, vacation’s over and I’m back in the saddle, and we are in mid-outrage over the latest deeply offensive nonsense from Donald Trump. And, as is so often the case, the most pointed criticism is coming from leading members of the party that nominated him week before last for POTUS:

Already, the party’s leaders in the House and the Senate have distanced themselves from Trump’s remarks, and other Republican figures are attacking their nominee forcefully.
Sen. John McCain issue a very personal statement Mondaay blasting Trump’s comments about the Khans and paying homage to their son Humayun’s sacrifice. McCain noted that his son also served in the Iraq War and the McCains have been serving in the US military for hundreds of years.

“It is time for Donald Trump to set the example for our country and the future of the Republican Party,” McCain said. “While our Party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us.

“Lastly, I’d like to say to Mr. and Mrs. Khan: thank you for immigrating to America. We’re a better country because of you. And you are certainly right; your son was the best of America, and the memory of his sacrifice will make us a better nation — and he will never be forgotten.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said in a statement: “This is going to a place where we’ve never gone before, to push back against the families of the fallen. There used to be some things that were sacred in American politics — that you don’t do — like criticizing the parents of a fallen soldier even if they criticize you.”

“If you’re going to be leader of the free world, you have to be able to accept criticism. Mr. Trump can’t,” Graham said. “The problem is, ‘unacceptable’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.”…

As I noted last week (you’ll recall that I did spend most of my evenings blogging despite being on holiday, because I’m just that kinda guy), a lot of the Democratic Convention consisted of fare and themes we normally get from the Republicans — upbeat “Morning in America” patriotism, appeals to fundamental, traditional American values and the like.

Which has to be eating at Sens. McCain and Graham almost as much as anything else. Their values used to be what their party was all about. In recent years, that’s been changing, as ideological loonies have been squeezing them out. It was happening already in 2008, which is why I wrote this column, “Give me that old-time conservatism.” In 2012, the “base” (can an insurgency be called “the base?” Oh, yeah, I guess it can) reluctantly settled for the sane Mitt Romney after spending much of the primary season flitting from one extreme to another.

And this year, of course, it went screaming off the rails, which is why people such as McCain, Graham, Romney, John Kasich and the Bushes did not attend their party’s convention.

The split between Los Dos amigos, Graham and McCain

Meant to post something on this this morning, but didn’t get to it, and Doug just posted something that reminded me…

Trump Civil War: Republican brothers John McCain and Lindsey Graham on different sides of battle

May 12 at 4:10 PM

Sen. Lindsey Graham paused for five full seconds and stumbled over his words pondering the question: When is the last time he split with fellow Republican Sen. John McCain on a major issue?Graham mug

“I don’t know, let me think about it,” Graham (S.C.) finally said of his closest Senate friend. “There have been several. I just can’t recall right now, right off the top of my head.”

Yet that’s what has happened in the wake of Donald Trump’s ascendancy to presumptive Republican nominee for president. In the Republican civil war over Trump, this is perhaps the most glaring example of two “brothers” fighting on opposite sides of the battlefield. It reflects a larger chasm in the Republican Party over whether to embrace the anti-establishment businessman that could end up costing the party the presidency in November…

Yeah, he probably overdid the “brother against brother” Civil War shtick, but try to look past that to the substance…

I remain proud of Lindsey on this, but I’m disappointed with McCain.

Disappointed, and confused.

The temptation of course is to say McCain is being a political opportunist to save his electoral bacon, like when he denied his own maverickness in 2010.

But that doesn’t add up. As the story says:

While the Arizona Republican is heavily favored to win his primary, his state’s GOP voters gave Trump nearly 50 percent in a blowout for the real estate mogul in the state’s March presidential contest.

Then, McCain faces a general election challenge that could be the “race of my life,” as he described it at a fundraiser that was taped by an attendeeand leaked to Politico. Despite the low profile of the likely Democratic candidate, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, McCain suggested that Trump’s divisive rhetoric and policies toward immigrants would make his race difficult because of his southwestern state’s heavy Latino bent….

OK, so… he’s poised to win his primary, which is the only place where backing Trump could help him. But he doesn’t need that help. On the other hand, he’s got a huge general election challenge in which backing Trump definitely HURTS him.

So this makes no sense as opportunism.

Guess I’ll just have to take the Arizonan at his word — that he’s backing the (presumptive) Republican nominee because he’s a Republican and that’s what he does.

That’s wrong-headed, and illustrates one of the worst aspects of partisanship, and this would be an EXCELLENT time for McCain to duck into a phone booth and change into his Maverick costume — but within the universe of partisans makes sense. Party member do that sort of thing. Wish they wouldn’t, and am glad when they don’t…

Chris Christie touts tenuous link to Lindsey Graham

Some of y’all who are always belittling my main senator, Lindsey Graham, may think he gets no respect on the national scene, given how poorly his erstwhile presidential campaign did.

But you’re all wrong, as evidenced by Chris Christie’s eagerness to connect himself to the South Carolinian, even at second hand:



Former McCain NH Chairman and Lindsey Graham Supporter Peter Spaulding Endorses Chris Christie for President


For Immediate Release:                                                 Contact:

Monday, January 25, 2016

MORRISTOWN, NJ – At a press conference in Concord today flanked by several additional members of Senator McCain’s former New Hampshire leadership teams, Peter Spaulding announced his support for Governor Christie. Spaulding was chairman of Senator McCain’s successful 2000 and 2008 bids for president in New Hampshire. He had previously endorsed Senator Graham in the 2016 race.

Spaulding was joined at the press conference by Wayne MacDonald, Paul Chevalier, Sheriff Scott Hilliard, Richard Brothers, Jim Burke, Bernie Streeter, and Dan St. Hilaire who were members of Senator McCain’s 2000 or 2008 New Hampshire leadership teams.

“Chris Christie has the extensive executive and leadership experience that our country needs in these very difficult times. He is also the only candidate who has a proven record of meeting the terrorist threat to our nation head on,” said Peter Spaulding. “I am proud to support him.”

“As we get closer to the primary and we continue to see the growing momentum on the ground in New Hampshire, I am honored to receive Peter’s endorsement,” said Governor Christie. “Peter has a deep understanding of the Granite State and the qualities voters here are looking for in their next president. His support in the coming weeks will be incredibly helpful.”

Peter Spaulding was New Hampshire Chairman of US Senator John McCain’s successful presidential primary campaigns in the first-in-the-nation primary. He also served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1988, 1996, 2000 & 2008. He was Chair of the New Hampshire Delegation in 2000 and 2008.

Spaulding, currently Chairman of the Merrimack County Board of Commissioners, served as an Executive Councilor from 1983 to 2006. He previously served as a county commissioner from 1970-1992.

Spaulding is a New Hampshire native who grew up in Bradford, NH. He earned a BA from the University of New Hampshire in 1966.

View the full New Hampshire endorsement list here. 

So there…

Video: McCain urging N.H. to vote for Graham

Lindsey Graham may not be on the debate stage tonight, but he’s on the airwaves in New Hampshire — or rather, John McCain is, in Graham’s behalf.

From The Washington Post:

Two Graham radio ads launched in conjunction with the TV spot also feature the Arizona senator, and in an interview last week, Graham said he had no intention of quitting.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Graham said. “I’m going to stick to what I’m doing. I’ve always thought that using national polls for [debate] selection is ridiculous.”

Graham’s campaign said that the ads would start airing today, in a “significant buy.” His war chest, built on the one that got him through a 2014 Senate reelection, is about $1.6 million, putting him closer to the middle of the 2016 pack than the bottom.

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.)