John McCain's got quite the storied past, which is probably why he lives there most of the time! But yesterday he had more of a Back To The Future moment in which he justified his past positions based on current events that he knew then were going to happen but not because they would be an obvious result of the action he was about to take. This morning, Spencer Ackerman and I parse McCain's amazing powers of prediction, the reappearance of the Left's biggest attack dog and what dirty tricks he might have up his sleeve, David Broder's inability to see through more of McCain's bullshit and the end (ha!) of racial politics and Jew-baiting. All of it, of course, after the jump.
MEGAN: Spencer, do you really think that Republican donors will be quaking in their boots when their secretaries start opening letters from MoveOn founder Tom Mattzie letting them know that he knows they're giving money to Republican-y groups?
SPENCER: The thing to know about Tom is that he's relentless. He carries twin shotguns that he twirls like drumsticks as the city burns behind him. He lights a cigar off the smoldering ruins left in the wake of a missile strike that failed to kill him. in the movie version, Michael Bay will have to literally sew Carl Weathers and Jesse Ventura together in order to get a proper portrayal of Mattzie, because one action hero just can't do the job alone.
MEGAN: That makes him sound ever-so-slightly more rugged and sexy than he is. Let's not go overboard. He will likely not appreciate this comparison, but he reminds me of Frank Lutz. Only smarter.
SPENCER: My question for you is do you really think Mattzie — who I like a lot, if you can't tell — would do this if Freedom's Watch really kept its donor lists anonymous?
MEGAN: There's anonymous, and there's anonymous. I mean, yes, Freedom Watch spokesman Ed Patru is right, they don't have to disclose their donors to the IRS. But if I'm guessing, and I am (and guessing moreso that Tom's not stupid enough to put it out there if it weren't already a fait accompli), he's already got the lists through a shady donor list swap done through a 3rd party. Having worked at a nonprofit, technically-nonpartisan-but-Republican-leaning think tank, this is how it's done. Heritage shares donors with ATR shares donors with CEI etc. It's a money-maker for everyone, and it's all arranged through 3rd party arrangers.
SPENCER: All the GOP quotes in the NYT piece struck me as bluster — like, Sheldon "Evilest Jew Alive" Adelson surely knows what his legal options are, but a lot of potential Freedoms' Watch/Corsi donors probably don't.
MEGAN: Well, I mean, I can't imagine the low-end donors are the ones he really wants, and the rich ones aren't going to be that worried.
SPENCER: so who would the likely 3rd parties be here? Who could sell the lists to Tom?
MEGAN: Well, but if Tom's good with the dirty tricks, and here's hoping he is, then he could've practically bought it directly. It's more how he would make himself or his organization seem like the sort of group Freedom Watch would trade with. Or how much money he offered to do so.
SPENCER: A friend just emailed to say he heard Freedoms Watch on the air on Missouri radio running downballot ads for a congressional race. Hmmmmm maybe Mattzie is using a cutout himself LIKE THE PUNISHER.
MEGAN: Um, ok, I think it's time for a segue. If we're on Freedom Watch, we should at least mention the fact that their completely inept fired former President is suing Kelsey Grammer. So maybe that's how Tom knows — someone is short of cash and respect. And certainly self-respect.
SPENCER: Let's insult John McCain for saying stupid shit like this:
"What do you think that Saddam Hussein would be doing with oil at $120, $125, $130 a barrel?," McCain asked. "What do you think he'd be doing? I'll tell you what he'd be doing. He'd be doing what he said he was committed to doing. And that's acquiring and using weapons of mass destruction, which he did twice before."
Your first instinct is to gently tell the Senator that there wouldn't be oil at these prices if we hadn't fucking invaded Iraq.
MEGAN: My first instinct, actually, was to chortle at the thought that McCain is the Amazing Kreskin and knew ALL of this when he voted to invade Iraq.
SPENCER: And then your second instinct is to notice how fortuitous Obama is to have the question of the original judgment over the invasion to be once again mooted as an issue.
MEGAN: Can you imagine him in a turban with a crystal ball and stuff? Go ahead and try. It's funny.
SPENCER: Man, you and your Johnny Carson-ass vanilla humor.
MEGAN: I'm going to ignore your comments about my humor. I'm bringing the average age of the room in which I'm currently sitting down to 70.
SPENCER: The only way McCain possibly looks prescient is if he divorces The Surge from The War (ceding for a second the wisdom of the surge).
MEGAN: Can you Surge without a War? I mean, really? I don't think McCain's messaging machine is good enough to make the entire country re-imagine the war as not a singular effort that started when we invaded and hasn't ended yet.
SPENCER: That's why McCain wants the voters to think the war's balances were zeroed in spring 07. But if he's returning to the question of invading, obviously Obama's judgment is superior. and then McCain's first/last/only argument for his candidacy is nullified and the universe's balance is finally righted.
I'm with you — McCain's actual argument for the war is too complex for voters: we have to stay because if we don't it'll sink into chaos even though what I advocated has brought violence down and we're winning but we're not winning hard enough and that's why we can go by 2013 mostly although we should actually stay 100 years as long as no one dies and I'm cold when is Murder She Wrote on?
MEGAN: Murder She Wrote is on every night at midnight on the Hallmark Channel. D'oh. Damn old people osmosis.
SPENCER: Which is why he's just like Surges For Everyone! Surge In Afghanistan! Economic Surge!
But speaking of old people...
MEGAN: I mean, isn't another word for "economic surge"... "bubble?
SPENCER: Let's talk about this David Broder column - what did you make of it?
MEGAN: I read it and was like, ok, so, let me understand this thesis. Obama decided to campaign for his own candidacy rather than spend the summer with McCain going to 10 town hall meetings at McCain's suggestion and using his own campaign staff to pack the room the way McCain uses his, let alone the logistics work, instead of having staff do GOTV efforts. And so McCain's plan — which he shouldn't have counted on anyway — goes flat. And then McCain betrays his promises about negative campaigning and spends a month going negative and blames it on the other guy not attending the events that he was never going to attend anyway and McCain pretend like he wouldn't've gone negative if Obama had joined him and people are supposed to believe that? But, he did convince David Broder, apparently, since Broder didn't bother questioning that "logic."
SPENCER: First on the issue: how has Obama gone negative on McCain? The equivalence is absurd: McCain intimates that Obama is an unAmerican elitist N-WORD terrorist and Obama says... McCain isn't a maverick.
MEGAN: Oh, and he had the audacity to point out that McCain was intimating that Obama doesn't "look" Presidential, so Obama's playing the race card by pointing out that McCain is playing with racial stereotypes.
SPENCER: Demonstrating the daffiness of the column is Broder's inclusion of this:
I asked Obama if he had any regrets about turning down McCain's early June invitation to start the joint appearances back then. He said, "I think the notion that somehow as a consequence of not having joint appearances, Senator McCain felt obliged to suggest that I'd rather lose a war to win a campaign doesn't automatically follow. I think we each have control over ourselves and our campaigns, and we have to take responsibility for that."
A halfway introspective columnist would have said, "Oh shit, this quote exposes the weakness of my thesis. I'd better come up with something else."
MEGAN: Man, Obama needs to stop qualifying his attacks. "Doesn't automatically follow"? It doesn't follow. at. all.
SPENCER: Yeah, agreed. but David Broder — even after he took the Post's buyout he will. not. stop. writing. he is to journalism what Tucker Max is to sex.
MEGAN: Well, that assumes that Tucker Max had actual sex.
SPENCER: Well even better, because there ain't any actual journalism here.
MEGAN: Yes, I've "heard" that involves unbiased reporting.
SPENCER: No it doesn't! you don't start on me now! I make a living off biased reporting, which is more honest and transparent than this shit Broder does. Broder's problem isn't bias, it's total lack of rigor and intellectual discipline.
MEGAN: There is no objectivity anyway, but the subjective appearance thereof.
SPENCER: But let's celebrate the implosion of the Tennessee Jew Baiter
MEGAN: I mean, I actually feel bad because Nikki Tinker isn't a terrible person, but Steve Cohen has got the worst of the deal of representing that district from Day 1.
SPENCER: So Nikki Tinker, a one-time Harold Ford protege, ran an ad against her Jewish primary opponent in which she said Rep. Steven Cohen was sullying "OUR churches" but unsupportive of school prayer — and got fucking trounced last night. i dunno, Tinker seems like a pretty terrible person from this Jew's perspective.
MEGAN: Ok, well, what I meant was that she didn't seem like a terribly bad person schooled in the Cynthia McKinney school of anti-Semetic politics until then. That ad was fucking over the line, it was really offensive and I was pre-disposed to like her as a female candidate. So, thank goodness for that, even if Obama went all mealy-mouthed in his non-condemnation. I miss the old Obama.
SPENCER: Why is what he said mealy-mouthed?
"These incendiary and personal attacks have no place in our politics and will do nothing to help the good people of Tennessee," Obama said in a statement. "It's time to turn the page on a politics driven by negativity and division so that we can come together to lift up our communities and our country."
MEGAN: Well, it is compared to when he weighed in for Barrow.
MEGAN: So, John Barrow's a Blue Dog (i.e., conservative) white Dem in Georgia who was facing a primary fight there, and Obama cut an ad for him. He didn't even mention Tinker or Cohen by name, and Cohen backed him before the Tennessee primary. One of your colleagues wasn't impressed by that, actually.
SPENCER: But was it a negative ad? I'm not understanding why the two cases are similar.
MEGAN: Well, I guess my point is that when it came to Barrow, Obama was in the trenches cutting ads for the incumbent even when it wasn't a terribly negative campaign. But in this case, the campaign's been getting ugly for a while, and the ad was just the last thing, and rather than coming out and saying "I support Steve Cohen and these ads are disgusting," he issues a statement about his opposition to negative campaigning.
SPENCER: But it's better if he does that, isn't it? Because now he's on the record as being opposed to, say, comparing your opponent to racist groups or attacking his religion and iwonder who's going to cut those ads in the future. If he just makes it about the TN race it's... just about the TN race.
MEGAN: That's a good point, I hadn't thought about it that way.
SPENCER: I'm an enlightening motherfucker.