Gaffe Day at Camp McCain

By Al Giordano

If it was Monday it must have been Gaffe Day…

Three Republican bigshots made comments to the press yesterday that were outrageous enough to step on on virtual Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s own attempts to propose a $300 million US government prize for whoever invents an energy-saving car battery.

The “gaffes” were so boneheadedly off-message that they were the equivalent of dropping three anvils on McCain’s head in a single day. They also served to trip all over each other. The Field therefore concludes that at least two of the three gaffes were not planned as a matter of campaign tactics (as “gaffes” sometimes are).

There was religious right minister James Dobson saying of McCain's rival, Barack Obama:

 

"I think he's deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology... He is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter."

 

This, from a minister (Dobson) whose own interpretation of The Bible leads him to conclude that “spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely,” that women should avoid the workplace and stay home even when their children reach teenage years because “menopause and a man's midlife crisis are scheduled to coincide with adolescence, which can make a wicked soup,” and that “tolerance and its first cousin, diversity, 'are almost always buzzwords for homosexual advocacy.’”

Uh, which US presidential candidate has a “reverend problem”?

We might have spent today chattering about Rev. Dobson but along came Republican political fixer Karl Rove who at a breakfast with "GOP insiders" opined aloud about Obama:

 

"Even if you never met him, you know this guy. He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by."

 

Karl must have two different guys confused. Who’s that guy with the drink and the cigarette and the fabulous date and all that snide commentary? I know that guy, too! That isn’t Obama…

Oh, my.

It’s me!

The richness of the revelation that Rove naturally presumes that those party insiders belong to country clubs that are expensively out of reach or discriminatory against most citizens might have also made for great chatter today, but then top McCain political strategist Charlie Black had to go and drop the A-Bomb on his own candidate.

Black told Fortune magazine that terrorists could save McCain's flagging campaign if they would only strike upon US soil before November:

 

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December was an "unfortunate event," says Black. "But his knowledge and ability to talk about it reemphasized that this is the guy who's ready to be Commander-in-Chief. And it helped us." As would, Black concedes with startling candor after we raise the issue, another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. "Certainly it would be a big advantage to him," says Black.

 

Wow. Just, wow. That’s a pretty scary statement since it telegraphs a message to the sorts of folks that make such attacks. I sure wouldn’t want to be Charlie Black if his dark fantasy ever comes true, because a lot of folks will now be, naturally, viewing him as responsible for inviting such harm and destruction.

A campaign in which key staffers and surrogates believe in their candidate's own message and strategy doesn’t often veer so erratically off-message. Gaffe Day was a consequence of three men who each unilaterally decided that what they had to say was more important than whatever their candidate was saying on any given Monday.

As a reporter, this is very heartening, in a macabre sort of way. If anyone has been missing the searing and off-message drama supplied so regularly by the Clinton campaign and its surrogates during the primaries, and feared that the general election fight would be more controlled and thus boring, McCain’s got a whole herd of Wile E. Coyotes dropping anvils on him and each other to keep us entertained through November. Maybe he ought to offer a $300 million prize to any staffer or surrogate that can keep his mouth shut until then!

Plan Vero Possumus: Yes, We're Going to Denver!

By Al Giordano

Many commenters (and e-mailers) have asked whether The Field can recover from the thefts against it and its supporters and still go to Denver in late August to report from the Democratic National Convention.

The answer: Vero Possumus!

Tomorrow morning, a letter from one of our esteemed Field Hands will appear on this page asking you to chip in to “send and equip Al for Denver.” (Those of you with writing talents - and judging from the talent in our comments section, there are many - please consider penning a similar appeal for the fund drive about to begin.) A graph will go up atop The Field announcing the fundraising drive’s goal. All funds will go through The Fund for Authentic Journalism, a trusted and experienced 501c3 organization that supports my work and that of other journalists, that skims no overhead for paid staff (as an all-volunteer organization, it has none, so as to make sure that all donations go directly to support the work).

Originally we had estimated the costs of reporting from Denver in late August to be $5,000, but that was predicated upon making reservations weeks ago that, if they were made, we have no access to them. Lodging in Denver for that week has since become scarcer and thus more expensive, as have other related costs. In addition, my poor abused laptop is frequently overheating and shutting down. It is sputtering valiantly into its final days. Thus, we will set the new goal at $7,400 (a nice round number... that rings a certain bell) to cover the extra costs plus a new laptop to make the work possible.

Some of you have donated, without being asked, since we moved The Field 9 days ago. Those funds – about $1,500 - have been put to good use covering my expenses, the technical help, some additional firepower for this version of the Iron Man suit, and those of quickly and competently transferring The Field to its new home without missing a beat. Many of you have commented that you like the new home even more, as do I. Well, you made all this possible.

Starting now, donations will go to the “send and equip” fund, unless specified otherwise, until we reach the goal of $7,400 (any funds raised over and above that will go to The Fund for Authentic Journalism's work supporting our host site, Narco News, and its journalists). Those donations received online via this link before 9 a.m. ET tomorrow, Tuesday, will be marked on the bar graph that will track the funds raised and will be updated frequently until we reach the goal. Ideally, the graph should start with something on it, right? You can make an early dent in the goal if you contribute tonight.

Contributions can be made online via:

http://www.authenticjournalism.org/

Or can be sent via snail mail to:

The Fund for Authentic Journalism

PO Box 241

Natick, MA 01760 USA

(If you send a contribution via snail mail, please use the comments section to let us know how much; likewise if you do it online, so that others can see and feel the momentum you've created.)

I fear that the petty delays and obstacles being thrown up by those that owe you refunds of what you intended be put to this purpose may in part be driven by the fantasy that if they stall long enough that the clock will elapse, making it impossible that they’ll have the happy happy joy joy of seeing my smiling face – and those of the collaborators in our awesome posse that will swarm upon the scene - working hard in Denver. I can think of no better way to dissuade them from such silly obstructionist thoughts, if they have them, than by going ahead now and raising the funds regardless of how quickly others comply with their legal and moral obligations (or when the boot will come down upon them and they will be forced to do so).

I am also pleased and grateful to report that Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos has invited The Field to be part of The Big Tent: a newsroom that he is co-sponsoring a stone’s throw from the convention center, and we’ve accepted his generous invitation.

Also: On Sunday, August 25, (oops, that's August 24!) - the day before that convention begins - from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in a Field Hand’s very nice home and garden just seven minutes from downtown Denver, The Field will be holding a very special event. Mark your calendars.

As for the Convention credentials that were granted based upon The Field’s high Technorati rating, we’ll have more to announce (and probably more yet unpublished emails that reveal all) in the coming days on that front.

So, kind Field Hand, if you support this idea, give tomorrow morning’s bar graph a head start with your contribution tonight, let us know in the comments section, and it will be reflected when the graph uncloaks mid-morning.

Anyway, I’ll hurry up and post these words before my laptop overheats again…

Update: Twin Cities Field Hands have issued a very welcome invitation that we also report from the Republican National Convention in early September in Minnesota. Once we’ve reached our goal for Denver, we are very favorably inclined to move on to making coverage of the Twin Cities convention as our next goal.

Update II: Hey, all you new donors ($1,665 at three minutes to midnight on Monday) - make sure you sign up for a co-publisher account, which gives you immediate and uncensored commenting privileges. Thank you very much, each and every one.

Round One of a 15 Round Prizefight

By Al Giordano

Dan Balz and Ann Kornblut write in today’s Washington Post about what the Obama campaign is trying to do at this transitional point in the presidential campaign, now that both major parties have a presumptive nominee:

Top advisers point to several factors. First, they acknowledge that the long nomination battle has left scars within the party. Right now, polls show that Obama is winning a smaller share of Democratic support than McCain is winning of Republican support. Campaign officials expect that to change as the summer progresses.

But they also acknowledge that McCain runs better with independent voters than anyone else the GOP might have nominated. By the fall they hope to have drawn enough distinctions with McCain to make those independents think twice about their support for him.

Finally, they argue, they have not yet begun to compete for Republican support, particularly among women who favor abortion rights or GOP voters disaffected with President Bush. In the end, they believe that whichever candidate wins the highest percentage of voters in the other party is likely to be the next occupant of the White House.

Gee, how many words can be dedicated to saying, “Obama needs to solidify his Democratic voter base, drive up McCain’s negatives among Independent voters and then go after moderate (pro-choice, anti-war) Republican voters”?

I mean, like, duh.

I'm not really critiquing those two excellent political reporters. They have to produce copy on a daily basis whether or not there is real news to report.

I’ll add some other obvious tasks ahead in the near future of this campaign: Obama and McCain each have to choose a running mate and also must raise boatloads of money for the expensive Autumn ahead.

And in Obama’s case, the big question mark for the summer is to what extent his grassroots organization (including the 3,600 Obama Fellows that have now been trained and have fanned out across 17 states, with more to shortly be added) will really succeed in expanding the electorate in key states through an ambitious voter registration drive. Again, we won’t really be able to draw conclusions until September: that will have a huge impact (or not) on the electoral map and any projections to be accurately made.

All of that is so basic and fundamental that it’s hard to squeeze authentic news (that which can be reported as “new”) out of most of it.

The US presidential campaign at present is like the first round of a prize fight: two boxers circling around each other, probing the rival for weaknesses, each setting up his game plan for the duration of the 15 rounds.

The hitting doesn’t begin for real until August and, really until, the two party conventions in late August and early September.

Only then will this numbers cruncher begin analyzing aloud the state-by-state polls and Electoral College map because until each campaign settles on its overriding themes and messages, and makes certain calls as to which sectors of voters it might have to cut loose in order to win others in key Electoral College states (because the most important rule in politics is that you can’t please everyone), the current red-blue map is drawn in sand: winds and waves will wipe it away and a new map will have to be drawn come Labor Day.

So, kind reader: I’m not going to jerk you around by the nose ring this summer and offer bells and whistles for the sake of fooling the crowd and making you all emotional about stuff that really won’t matter. But here are some factors that do matter that I’ll be posting on shortly:

I view the contest for Hispanic-American votes between the two candidates to be outcome determinative of how electoral swing states like Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada will vote in November, and in a whole different way in Florida (because the GOP’s traditional Cuban-American base there is brittle and subject to fracture), and it will be a factor in Virginia and maybe even in Texas or McCain’s own state of Arizona. There are some key moments upcoming – like the mid-July conference of the National Council of La Raza conference in San Diego, at which both candidates have accepted invitations to speak – that will answer a lot of questions particularly this one: How will McCain walk the tightrope of trying to woo Mexican-American voters (for whom immigration reform is the most important issue) without angering the anti-immigrant crazies of his party’s base.

A related and very important question for the Obama campaign is whether it can resist the temptation to play both sides of the immigration issue, which may be the only thing that could blow his current 60 percent to 23 percent advantage over McCain among Hispanic-American voters. The anti-immigrant crazies are gnashing their teeth – the sky really has fallen for them because they have no boxer of their own in this presidential ring (even Libertarian Bob Barr, they convincingly accuse, has plagiarized much of his own immigration stance, word for word, from Obama.) Again, I’ll be posting more on this tremendously important factor shortly.

But in terms of the boxing match, kind readers, what questions are on your mind that you’d like me to investigate and report back to you this summer?

There will be plenty to talk and blog about: We're just not going to take the bait on every light and transient or sensationalist matter that the rest of the media (and too often following it’s lead, the blogosphere) will be hyping in order to try and keep your attention. While others might burn you out so that by September you’ll be sick of hearing about any of it, my job is to stick to only what really matters and thus arm and prepare you for the September-October sprint to the finish line, which will be exciting to say the least.

Consider this thread – in addition to commenting on anything above – as an invitation for questions about other strategic and tactical factors facing the campaigners in the opening rounds this summer.

 

Field Hands: It's About the Organizing

By Al Giordano

I’m convinced after having watched the bad-to-pathetic behavior over the past week by the former aspiring Mall Cops of the Ex-Field that much more threatening to them than my innocuous mention of deceased community organizers and journalists was the creation – five days prior to the censorship – of an independent platform for the living organizers and communicators over at the independent Field Hands site.

It now counts with 399 members (who will be Field Hand number 400?) in 15 Field Hand Locals each with 10 members or more, plus many more regions rolling toward that threshold. We’ll update here when Field Hand 400 arrives!

Update: Julie of Norman, Oklahoma is Field Hand #400! Congrats to her and to Peter Bratt (Field Hand #401) of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and Randy H (Field Hand #402) of Reno, Nevada, who have signed up in the past few minutes.

If it was sadly too much of an opportunity for politically-retarded control-freaks to suffer the collapse of an illusion that they could wield control or veto power over what I wrote, it must have been a nightmare to suddenly find themselves unable to imagine control over the autonomous words and activities of hundreds of you now able to meet each other and organize together without going through them or anyone else.

But I know greatness when I see it, and know that a self-organizing sensation that grows this fast deserves all the support and attention that I can muster.

So, sign up there, meet your fellow and sister Field Hands in person (we already have one wedding to report, see below), and here is a round-up of the first days of activity over there…

The Denver Field Hands Posse is organizing to find places to stay in Denver during the Democratic National Convention in August.

Twin Cities Field Hands are organizing to report from the Republican National Convention there in early September.

New York City Field Hands are organizing their first face-to-face meeting. 

(Note: Any Field Hands Local that sets a meeting date and wants it publicized here, please send me the info at narconews@gmail.com )

Field Hands Abroad are organizing to get refunds for its members contributions from the host of the Ex-Field, with very different results reported by individual members.

Some Chicago Field Hands are organizing an “Interactive Video Webcast” for the November elections in the US. 

As the Chicago Field Hands (Local #1) is organizing voter registration.

Bluegrass Field Hands has launched in Kentucky.

And congratulations to Allan Brauer and Norberto Laboy-Brauer who were married on Tuesday in Sacramento, California!

Finally, would those Field Hands that have not yet uploaded a photo or an image to represent them please do so (if you don’t know how, post a message there or here and other Field Hands will help guide you through the simple steps).

As always, Field Hands is self-organized and independently so. Any activity its members or groups engage in is autonomous and requires no permission or approval from The Field or from me, and neither The Field nor I are necessarily responsible for them. Likewise, Field Hands are not necessarily responsible for anything I say or do.

Meanwhile, if you want instant commenting privileges here at The Field, you can apply for your co-publisher account – the backstage pass that comes with some other very neat whistles and bells - at this link.

Also: That very handsome Field Hands banner up top was designed by Susan Kitchens.

Update: Here’s an interesting analysis of The Field’s sudden change of location by DKos diarist TheWurx

Update II: San Diego Field Hands has now qualified as Local #16!

Update III: Field Hands site founder Susan is asking for help and feedback. Specifically, she could use a few more hands on deck to welcome newcomers and keep the site humming along. Please read her words at this thread and volunteer.

A Message from John Scagliotti

Dear Al : thanks for the kind words of support for Andy's journalism. Is this woman, Debra Kozikowski, losing funders because of Andy Kopkind? I am bit confused how Andy is involved with any of her concerns.

But does that mean we who run the Kopkind Colony are getting a bum rap from those who give money to good causes like ours because people think Andy is a weatherman? Not sure if I understand her argument but thanks for clearing it up a bit. Kind of ironic that she seems to be a supporter of Obama who is being falsely smeared as a Muslim.

I do know, as you point out, there are many facts wrong in her thinking. But it is true that Andy was not a member of SDS or the Weather Organization. Like many journalists in that time he covered them but then he covered Conrad Hilton for the cover of Time Magazine too and he never was party of the Hilton Hotels and never received any money or support from Mr. Hilton or his fine granddaughter Paris. Do you think this tangential connection to Paris Hilton would be more damaging for this woman than his journalism covering radicals in the 60's?

warm regards,

John Scagliotti

Kopkind Administrator

Also: Barry Crimmins receives a "joking" offer to cross a picket line and give up his press freedom.

The Dangers of "Synchronized Flip-Flopping"

By Al Giordano

“Synchronized Flip-Flopping.”

That’s the phrase that Jonathan Alter of Newsweek used on Keith Olbermann’s program to describe the simultaneous change in stances on offshore drilling by Senator John McCain and Florida Governor Charlie Crist:

Olbermann also pointed out in that broadcast that the synchronization between the presumptive Republican nominee’s flip from opposing offshore drilling to now favoring it and President George W. Bush’s press conference yesterday to push that stance trips up another big theme that McCain has been trying very hard to promote: that he is somehow independent from the unpopular US president of his party.

Not all Republicans on coastal states threatened by offshore oil drilling are signing up for duty, though.

The Press of Atlantic City, New Jersey, reports:

“New Jersey lawmakers and candidates from both parties Tuesday criticized Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain's proposal to lift the federal ban on offshore oil and gas drilling. U.S. Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo, R-2nd, was among those who suggested shifting the focus to the nation's 68 million acres leased for drilling that hasn't happened. ‘We must not gamble with our beaches and tourism industry,’ LoBiondo said. He and fellow Rep. Jim Saxton, R-3rd, last year voted against an unsuccessful attempt in the House of Representatives to allow natural-gas drilling offshore…"

 

The Asbury Park Press reports that former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, Republican and former director of the US Environmental Protection Agency, is likewise “cool to McCain’s plan.”

The Newark Star-Ledger notes that Republican US Senate candidate in New Jersey, Dick Zimmer, put out a hurried press release to disassociate himself from the synchronized flip-flop:

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dick Zimmer issued a statement this afternoon saying he opposes Bush's effort and is "strongly against any drilling or exploration off the New Jersey coast or in any area that poses a risk to our beaches."

 

The South Jersey Courier-Post chronicles Republicans distancing themselves from McCain on the offshore drilling issue:

Several New Jersey Republicans also have expressed opposition, including Reps. Chris Smith, R-Hamilton; Jim Saxton, R-Mount Holly, and Frank LoBiondo, R-Ventnor. 

They argue that exploring for oil and natural gas fewer than 100 miles from New Jersey’s southernmost point could wreak environmental havoc in case of an oil spill.

 

McCain has not only undercut, with this gambit, his previous efforsts to distance himself from Bush, but he’s provoked downticket Republicans to begin to distance themselves from him.

As for some of the “Chicken Littling” that going on in some corners about polls that show Americans are suddenly in favor of offshore drilling due to high gas prices, such clucking reveals an especially shallow reading of polling data and what it means.

People vote all the time for candidates with whom they may disagree on an issue. Almost no voter agrees with either candidate on every matter of policy. The real question is which voters see a particular issue as “outcome determinative” for their votes, and that usually involves intense self-interest or ideological passion. For property owners along the shores of some traditionally Republican presidential swing states like Virginia, Florida and North Carolina, where the Democrat Obama is playing to steal the ball, and also in some traditionally Democratic swing states where the Republican McCain needs to pull off a surprise or two in order to win the Electoral College majority - New Jersey, Oregon and Washington (not to mention California) – the matter of offshore drilling is more outcome determinative in that those voters have home, vacation home, and business interests in preserving the shoreline and the tourism and other industries that depend on it. Many of them are Independents and Republicans. In his attempt to pander on gas prices with a proposal that won’t lower them one penny (nor create new oil productions for at least five years), McCain risks pushing away sectors of voters that might otherwise cast their ballots for him.

And since coastal dwellers and business owners are easily targeted and reachable through zip-code based direct mail campaigns, door-to-door volunteer canvassing, and telephone phone-banking, the campaign with superior organization and funding will have the advantage in pulling these swing voters into his camp.

Update: Perhaps this is related: Readers here from Florida have now reached the threshold strength of membership to become Field Hands Local #15. ¡Salud!

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