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When will Sam Brownback end up on short lists for McCain’s VP?

It seems like everyone is putting together a list of Vice-Preside ntial candidates that John McCain could pick. Everyone. No, really, everyone. I mean it, everyone. This guy. That guy. Everyone.

So the speculation is out there. Tim Pawlenty from Minnesota? Mark Sanford from South Carolina? Tom Ridge from Pennsylvania  ? Rob Portman from Ohio? (Really, Rob Portman?! The budget director at the White House? That’s like the equivalent of someone picking the captain of the Titanic, just as the band members start plummeting to their death.)

I’d suggest a bit more stealth thinking. There’s one guy, an informal advisor to McCain’s campaign, that’s in the trenches right now. No, not Karl Rove, even though McCain has brought him on board. No, not Ken “Diarrhea of the Mouth” Mehlman, even though McCain’s brought him on, too.

But what about the guy who is in charge of the McCain campaign’s Catholic voter outreach – Sen. Sam Brownback?

Why Brownback?

  1. Brownback is conservative Christian with a capital CHRIST. But he’s also received some plaudits from liberal groups for having compassion, especially on issues like Darfur and human trafficking.   He’s like one part Bill Richardson, combined with nine parts Rick Santorum. In other words, he’s the type of Christian conservative that can spin the compassionat e yarn, while still rallying the “God’s warrior” crowd – a base that McCain is sorely thin with. Rolling Stone even dubbed Brownback “God’s Senator.”
  2. Brownback ran for President up until October 2007. After his pummeling by Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee in a pre-caucus Iowa straw poll, Brownback dropped out. Who did he subsequently endorse? John McCain. And at the time, McCain’s campaign was in tatters, near bankrupt, and his support in polls was dropping faster than Britney’s.
  3. Brownback is influential within the institutiona l Catholic Church. He was even baptized in a private chapel tucked between lobbyist’s offices, and owned by Opus Dei. There’s a great deal of difference between the institutiona l Catholic Church, and the prophetic, authentic Catholic Church. That said, ain’t no megaphone like a bunch of hell-bent bishops. Take Hillary Clinton’s recent appearance at a Catholic college in Texas, which drew the rebuke on San Antonio’s Archbishop, Jose Gomez, who said that Clinton’s pro-choice views were not welcome on a Catholic campus. With Brownback on the ticket, McCain could ensure that pews across America are filled with GOP talking points.
  4. Brownback refused to sign the Contract of America in 1994…becau se he thought it was too tame. Like Ron Paul, he once said that he wanted to eliminate the departments on energy, education and commerce. That’s sure to please not only the Libertarian, money bomb crowd, but also the “drown your government in a bathtub” fanatics, like Grover Norquist.
  5. Brownback sat on the Senate Judiciary Committee back before the 2006 mid-term elections, and as such is to blame for the death nail in Harriet Miers’ nomination, and the confirmation of Justice Samuel Alito. Brownback was apparently so influential in throwing Miers overboard that none other than John McCain held Brownback’ s hand up at a press conference after Miers withdrew her name, to boast, “Here’s the man who did it!”
  6. Brownback is only 51 years old…more than two decades younger than McCain, which would quiet any concerns about McCain being too senior. At 51, Brownback is barely older than Obama, and nine years younger than Hillary Clinton.

Brownback is all of this, and a bag of v-chips. In his time in the Senate, he’s shepherded the creation of the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act (in the wake of the cultural phenomenon known as Janet Jackson’s nipple); he spear-headed the Silk Road Strategy Act, which sought to smother the growth of Islam in Central Asia by bribing countries and communities with sweet trade deals; and he supports the Houses of Worship Act, which would allow churches to endorse candidates in elections.

Are there problems with the thought of McCain picking Brownback? Hells yes. He’s not well known, he’s a little uber-religio us for a large swath of the country (Opus Dei? Really?), he’s not particularly charismatic  (this site says he looks like Flattop from Dick Tracy), he thinks gay people are inherently immoral but compared Sen. Larry Craig to Thomas Jefferson in the wake of Craig’s “wide stance” scandal….yea h, there are issues.

But Brownback is certainly worthy of being on the short-list. I suggest watching out for him, especially if McCain keeps being dogged by a chasm in the GOP base.

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Jewish leaders condemn email rumors about Obama’s faith

If you’ve got a Republican family member, or several like I do, chances are you’ve seen one of those anti-Barack Obama emails, suggesting that he’s a terrorist in sheep’s clothing, and that he’s posing as a Christian to be elected President but then will come out as a Muslim and handover the United States to Al-Qaeda. It almost sounds like a future episode of 24, right?

So far, ninety percent of this country has been able to tell that this email, and other emails like it, are completely ludicrous, hateful, manipulative and beyond Swiftboating . Unfortunatel y, there’s that 10 percent that keeps flexing their right to be idiots.

As the NY Times reports this morning, nine Jewish leaders have released an open letter condemning these anti-Obama emails, calling them hateful and saying that “attempts of this sort to mislead and inflame voters should not be part of our political discourse and should be rebuffed by all who believe in our democracy.”

Kol Hakavod!

(It means well done in Hebrew. I think.)

Though these nine leaders have not endorsed any candidate, they are responding to reports that these anti-Obama Muslim rumors are being spread deliberately among Jewish constituenci es. And while the emails have been derided by many political pundits and politicians  (including Hillary…thou gh people affiliated with her Iowa campaign were caught forwarding the emails), the viral email has been so persistent that it came up in last night’s Democratic debate in Nevada, and is repeatedly referred to on countless numbers of blogs, including in the comments section of this one.

For the record, Barack Obama is a member of the United Church of Christ. So the lesson for today? Don’t believe everything you read in your email, especially if it comes from that dopey uncle or that pompous brother-in-l aw.

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Domino’s Pizza endorses Mitt Romney

Get the door. It’s Domino’s. Or, make that Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s, who has just thrown his endorsement to former Massachusett s Gov. Mitt Romney in the race for the 2008 Presidential election. Why Mitt Romney? In the words of Mr. Monaghan:

“As someone who values the importance of faith in one’s life, I recognize in Mitt his deep religious convictions which will serve him well in facing the critical moral issues facing our society,” said Monaghan. “I believe he will stand firm on the pro-life issues and for the traditional family values that our country was founded on and which are so critical to the future of our nation.”

When not endorsing Presidential candidates, Monaghan is busy creating his own conservative Catholic oasis in Southwestern Florida. He’s constructing a town called Ave Maria, near Naples, which has come under fire from rights groups like the ACLU. Among the reasons why it has come under fire? Monaghan has suggested that no contraceptiv es or pornography will be sold in Ave Maria, there will be no access to abortion, and rumors abound that Monaghan wound ban realtors from selling property or condos to gays and lesbians. (Monaghan, as well as a construction company he’s partnered with, have exclusive control over commercial real estate in the town.)

It’s curious that Romney would be so proud of an endorsement from a man, like Monaghan, who wishes to limit free speech and commerce, while threatening to skirt around the Florida State Constitution in order to pursue his religious agenda. It’s also curious that Monaghan would choose a candidate, like Romney, who has a wishy-washy history with most of the social issues that fuel Monaghan’s philanthropy  (and some might say, vision for world domination).  

Perhaps the fact that Monaghan sold his share in Domino’s to Bain Capital in 1998 – the venture capital firm founded by Romney – had something to do with the endorsement.  

Yes, it is nice to see billionaires sticking together.

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Pat’s Prayers Have Been Answered

Duuuude!Pat Robertson’s prayers have been answered - again. He apparently wandered off to consult a burning bush (pun intended) for advice on who will win the election and God slipped him a fixed betting slip on the outcome.

Of course, it isn’t unusual that Pat has been on the WWJD Hotline (1-555-GET-G OD). He and God have offered predictions and justificatio ns for all sorts of things over the years. Remember Hurricane Gloria? It was all about the gays. September 11? Ditto. It’s truly amazing that cash-poor, God-besotted rubes keep shipping him buckets of money to fund his suspicious African diamond mines.

The Human Race: Feh
I have a pretty low opinion of the human race. We’ve proven time and time again that we can’t be trusted to do anything right. Give us a nice place to live and we insist on polluting the whole planet in return for a Hummer than can handle the heavy snows of Key West. When an opening for Leader of the Free WorldTM came up…well, you know how well we handled that…TWICE! But the one thing we never do is pay retail.

In purely economic terms, smart God shoppers should avoid shopping at PatMart. They pay Pat wholesale prices to pray for them even though the nation’s leading deity experts confirm you can do that absolutely free. Besides, Pat sells a defective product. Aside from desperate, terminal cancer patients saying Pat’s Perfect PrayersTM cured them, most prayer purchasers seldom gets results worth their $100 “donation” to the 700 Club. Personally, I’d support a Consumer Product Safety Commission ruling requiring Pat to put “Paid Endorsement” in unreadable tiny letters at the bottom of the TV screen. However, that’s another post.

Assassinatio ns-R-Us
In addition to prayers, PatMart offers other products under Pat’s Prince of Peace label. There are the Nigerian Email Scams and the Jesus action figures with thunderbolt throwing grip were huge this Christmas. The AIDS Patient Penitentiary  (add-on gay hurricane attachment optional) also sold gangbusters. Pat has suffered a few product failures though. Just ask Hugo Chavez about Pat’s Assassinatio ns-R-Us Kit - he should have known better than to stock Chinese-made rifles for that kit. Buy American!

So, as a public service, let me offer some consumer advice to Mr. and Mrs. America and all the neocons at sea. Pat has all the credibility of Ann Coulter and George Bush glued together at their empty heads. If Pat’s prayers worked, he wouldn’t be selling them, he’d simply pray for an eternal flow of cash in his pockets and stay home to enjoy the hot tub at Chateau Robertson. The fact is that Pat is a charlatan. If you want to pray, go ahead. If you want to have a friend or a loved one pray for you, be my guest. Hell, if you can convince Pat to throw a freebie your way, more power to you. Just don’t send the man any more money. He’s already richer than God and probably has the Cayman Island tax dodges to prove it.

Just pray for God to give you the sense to come in out of the rain and go with the discount prayers. They’re always a better deal.

politics, 2008 election, iraq, omnipotent poobah

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Mike Huckabee’s cat and mouse game

As the cult of Mike Huckabee continues to grow, both nationally and across the state of Iowa, his cat and mouse game on religion is stepping up. Case in point, this AP article, “Huckabee Bristles at Creationism Query.”

Huckabee has sought time and again to portray himself as a Christian candidate. His advertisemen t in Iowa features big, blocky letters that pan “Christian Candidate” across the screen. He’s received the endorsement from Tim LaHaye, one of the co-authors of the “Left Behind” series (compulsory evangelical lit). His campaign Web site uses the alliterate trifecta of “Faith. Family. Freedom.” And he just recently received the endorsement of Chuck Hurley, an influential conservative activist in Iowa who was backing former Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, before Brownback dropped out of the race.

Yet as The Incredible Huck is continually asked about his faith, he’s playfully getting irritated. Case in point in the news article above; Huckabee is asked whether he thinks creationism should be taught in public schools, and he responds “Why the fascination with my beliefs?”

At the risk of stating the obvious, Mr. Huckabee, the fascination with your beliefs is not only your own doing, but it’s the reason you’re up in Iowa. The more you’re identified as a Christian candidate, the more Mitt Romney looks like he believes that the Garden of Eden was located in Missouri. (Oh wait. He does.)

This is why Huckabee can play the cat and mouse game. He can say, “Look, stop focusing on my beliefs,” while still getting the message out there that what he believes is on target with the vast majority of GOP caucus-goers in Iowa. It’s like the reverse of a Catch-22. Whether he makes religion his focal point, or whether he chafes at religion being the focal point, Huckabee benefits.

Which begs the question: If Mitt Romney has millions and millions of dollars to pay political consultants, why the hell did none of them see this coming?

This caucus is Mike Huckabee’s to lose. And as Jet Netwal pointed out earlier on this site, that means we’re all in trouble.

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Beyond the Starbucks drinking elite

That’s a line from the latest article on Sen. Barack Obama, as he makes a much heralded media push to win over the hearts and minds of blue collar workers and red state voters. Ironically, I read the article tonight at a Starbucks, cashing in a gift card someone gave me.

That Obama (who’s secret service code name – Renegade – is decidedly one of the coolest secret service names out there) needs to move beyond the elite crowd is pretty much common knowledge. To do this, he’ll give a speech tomorrow in Iowa entitled “Reclaimin g the American Dream,” which as reports, will seek to expand Obama’s base beyond the “NPR-liste ning, Starbucks-dr inking, Prius-drivin g, Times-readin g” stereotype that has become a shorthand for his appeal to the party’s elite.

Obama’s “Reclaimin g the American Dream,” speech comes on the heels of an article in Time Magazine that talks about Obama’s red state appeal. Per Time:

Political organizing for Democrats in red states like Nebraska can often feel a bit like leading AA meetings. But that hasn’t deterred more than 300 Nebraskans from forming a dozen groups for Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, and they aren’t the only ones. On Monday, the Obama campaign announced that over 300 Iowa and New Hampshire Republicans had decided to cross party lines to support Obama. At Obama events in Oklahoma, Kentucky, Virginia and Georgia, a good 20% of audiences routinely raise their hands when emcees ask for Republicans in the crowd. A “Republicans for Obama” website has 11 state chapters with 146 members. An August University of Iowa even found Obama running third in the state among Republican candidates, behind Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani but ahead of both Fred Thompson and John McCain. And a national Gallup poll this month also found that nearly as many Republicans like Obama — 39% — than the 43% that dislike him, compared with the 78% of Republicans who held an unfavorable opinion of Hillary Clinton.

Then there’s the Obama machine in South Carolina, which is seeking to highlight the candidate’ s strong faith background, and his commitment to civil rights. Sure, Obama flubbed it when he brought on an anti-gay pastor to lead a major campaign concert in the Palmetto State (notice the backtracking and media floundering that ensued), but the results of his “40 Days of Faith and Family” tour across the state will certainly surpass any fallout from that rookie mistake. Need proof? Obama appeared in the town of Manning, SC last week for a campaign stop. A whopping 25% of the town showed up! (A poll released last week showed him ten points behind Hillary Clinton in the state. The next one won’t.)

What does all of this mean? Probably a number of different things, but my take is that instead of getting rough in response to Hillary Clinton’s campaign (like many activists and pundits are imploring him to do), Obama’s going to do something that’s probably much smarter – he’s going to aggressively make the case that he’s more electable than Clinton is, in places as varied as Iowa, South Carolina, and as Time magazine suggests, Nebraska. Might that argument have enough sway to pull him through Iowa and New Hampshire? It’s hard to say. But it’s a valiant effort at moving his campaign to the next level (something that, sadly, Bill Bradley couldn’t do in 2000).

Stay tuned. The Iowa caucuses are less than two months away (January 3). (Need even more proof that we’re getting nearer to the caucuses? It snowed nearly 3 inches in my hometown last night. Winter and Iowa are almost here!)

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Doing business with human rights violators

This isn’t an overtly “religion and politics” post, though I think this ties in quite well with the concept Ubuntu, a Bantu language word used in post-Aparthe id South Africa to refer to what Archbishop Desmond Tutu defined as “my humanity being inextricably bound up in what is yours and vice versa.”

About two weeks ago, the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York ruled that a broad group of multinationa l companies must face a $400 billion dollar lawsuit, which accuses them of aiding South Africa’s repressive Apartheid regime during its reign. The suit, brought forward by victims including those who were tortured and family members of those who were killed under the brutally racist system, alleges that the dozens of companies involved in the lawsuit knowingly helped the Apartheid regime by selling it weapons and providing financing and loans, while benefiting from Apartheid government policies that gave corporations cheap labor and loads of government services.

I can’t see anything but good news in this, as the one thing that might make companies cease doing business with internationa l human rights violators is a $400 billion wake up call. Among the companies included in this South Africa lawsuit include JPMorgan Chase, General Motors, Credit Suisse, Citigroup, Exxon Mobil and IBM, to name a few. All did business with the Apartheid regime, even though these companies knew that the regime officially called for the separation of the races, practiced forced resettlement for non-whites, criminalized interracial marriage, and instituted policies that created white-only hospitals, white-only busses, and white-only business zones. That’s not to mention the regime’s policies on cracking down on those who fought against Apartheid, which resulted in the torture, detention and murder of scores of citizens.

The Bush administrati on opposes this lawsuit, saying that lawsuits against companies that knowingly do business with human rights repressive regimes hampers “the policy of encouraging positive change in developing countries through economic development. ” It’s thinking like this, though, that has allowed companies to reap billions of dollars of profits off of violence in South Africa, Burma, Sudan, and the like, while citizens in those countries are systematical ly beaten, raped, tortured, detained, and often times killed.

This lawsuit still has a few mountains to climb before any group of Apartheid victims can claim victory, or before some measure of accountabili ty is obtained for companies that tacitly supported Apartheid with their services and investments.  

But for now, let’s hope the reverberatio ns of this $400 billion lawsuit are giving companies second thoughts about doing business with known human rights violators. I’m immediately reminded of another Desmond Tutu quote: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

Similarly, if you are neutral in situations of injustice, but you make a steady profit off of those who continually oppress (Citigroup, IBM, Exxon Mobil, and the others), you have chosen the side of the oppressor. Here’s hoping the courts reaffirm this message as the lawsuit moves forward.

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Five years after Sen. Wellstone’s death

It’s weird…it seems like every year on October 25, I post some sort of reflection about the life of Sen. Paul Wellstone, who died five years ago today in a plane crash (along with his wife and daughter, three campaign workers and two pilots). I worked for Wellstone during his 2002 re-election campaign, in Minnesota’s Sixth Congressiona l District.

My favorite Wellstone words still stick with me today: Never separate the life you live from the words you speak. It’s a challenge I still find difficult to live up to today, as I imagine most people even tangentially involved in politics do.

Though I’m not crazy about  , they have a nice piece today on Wellstone’s legacy, five years after his death. For me, I recall a Senator who called me up on my cell phone when my mom had her stroke, and listened to me burst into tears. I recall a Senator who marched with me in Stillwater, MN during one of the ugliest parades I’ve ever been in (people actually started spraying the Senator with a hose!). And I recall a Senator who told us during the campaign: “The future will not belong to those who sit on the sidelines. The future will not belong to the cynics. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

So on this day, it seems only appropriate to remember Wellstone’s words, that the future belongs to those with passion. As Mark Twain once said, “Really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great.” That was Wellstone, constantly trying to make all of the members of his campaign team — and his state — feel great.

And that’s what I remember most every October 25.

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The religious right’s threat of a third-party candidacy

Here’s a poll: How many of you think all the major GOP presidential candidates are sweating buckets right now that leaders of the religious right suggested they may back a third-party Presidential candidate in 2008, due to less than enthusiastic support for the current crop of candidates?

Giuliani’s camp fought back by pumping the media with stories about how the GOP has “to have a candidate that can run in all 50 states,” and arguing that he’s the only Republican contender who can do so.

McCain’s camp arranged for him to give an interview to Beliefnet, where he slandered Islam and suggested that he’d only be comfortable with a Christian president.

Thompson’s been trying to thwart attention from his religion to his tax proposal, in hopes of convincing the religious right to vote with their pocketbooks instead of their bibles.

Huckabee issued a statement saying that a third-party backed candidate would hand Hillary Clinton the election.

And this past weekend, the Boston Globe reported that Romney is doubling his efforts to lure the support of the religious right, by asking Rev. James Dobson of Focus on the Family (the media’s anointed leader of the religious right) to take a second look at his candidacy.

At that’s just the news from the past few days. My god, I don’t even know if the children of Elm Street were this afraid when they went to sleep!

The truth is that Huckabee is probably right. A third-party candidate would handicap the race for Democrats, splintering the coalition of the willing comprised of social conservative s and fiscal conservative s. All of the leading GOP candidates know this, and my guess is that all of them have the head of James Dobson on a dartboard in their war rooms. Imagine having to kiss Dobson’s ass just so he doesn’t pull behind a rogue candidacy?

It’s kind of like the last season of The West Wing playing out in real time. Remember how Alan Alda’s character had to placate the religious right?

Though Tuesday’s Republican debate in Dearborn, Michigan is meant to focus on economic issues, I’ll be curious how the candidates work in some religious right talking points to kabash the growing story line that the moral majority is magnificentl y dissatisfied with this bunch. Stay tuned.

(Note: For those who may be interested, I hold a soft spot in my heart for Dearborn, MI. It’s where I tried out for Jeopardy back in 2005. I didn’t make it, but I can hardly hold that against Dearborn. I blame it on Jeopardy’s penchant for asking too many damn opera questions.)

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In God We Act Crazy

James Madison DollarSometimes it’s the small news items that catch your eye. The one that caught my eye today was a story about Rep. Roger Wicker (R-MS) wanting to withhold funding for minting newly designed $1 coins bearing the “In God We Trust” motto on the edge rather than the face.

Oh, and he wants to do this after we’ve already paid $600 million on the redesign that is set to roll out in November.

Dollars? Dollars? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Dollars

Personally, I think the advisability of a dollar coin is dubious. As a young Air Force sergeant, I can remember hauling pallet-loads of misbegotten Susan B. Anthonys overseas to foist on military personnel. The rationale for going metal was genuine - to save money by using longer lasting coins rather than short-lived paper - but the implementati on was awful, the public simply didn’t want them, and we lost money on the whole deal. It seems the only winners were the nation’s piggy bank manufacturer s.

Perhaps the mint put a bit more thought into the new James Madison dollars, I’m not sure. But the stamping die has literally been cast and it’s $600 million too late to fuss over such trivialities now. If the placement of the damn motto was so important, why wasn’t he proposing the change before the money was spent? Methinks ol’ Roger has some ’splainin’ to do.

Somebody Muzzle That Loon

As disturbing as Wicker’s addlebrained complaint is, the House passing the bill and the Senate Appropriatio ns Committee agreeing to introduce the Senate verions, is mind-numbing . Making these types of concessions to overwrought disciples of the Big Guy is insane. Just as insane as the inevitable argument that some atheists will throw up over whether the motto ought to be there at all. Between arguments like this and flag burning amendments, it’s no wonder that the vast middle of the political spectrum thinks the extremists on both sides shouldn’t be allowed near sharp instruments.

It’s get a clue time. In this case, God simply doesn’t matter. The money will be worth just as much with the motto on the face, on the side, or not at all. God will not perish from Heaven. Torch-carryi ng minions of an evil theocracy won’t burn down any houses. Our pockets will just clink. Our pants will just fall down from the weight of James Madison. And, the republic will go on - unless someone doesn’t muzzle that loon from the bayou. If not, we’ll be $600 million deeper in the deficit hole.

It’s like they say, “$600 million here, $600 million there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.


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