LA Times questions McCain’s ability to serve as prez based on ‘nam injuries

File this under “you know it’s a slow news day when”:

John McCain gets tax-free disability pension
The disclosure of the Navy benefit for injuries incurred as a Vietnam POW may raise fitness questions.

Sen. John McCain has long said he is in robust health and is strong enough to hike the Grand Canyon, but he also is receiving what his staff Monday termed a “disability pension” from the Navy.

When McCain released his tax return for 2007 on Friday, he separately disclosed that he received a pension of $58,358 that was not listed as income on his return.

If McCain had to pay taxes on the full amount of the pension, it would have increased his tax bill by about $18,000 based on the percentage of his income he paid to the federal government.

McCain spent 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi. After he was released in 1973, he returned home on crutches and began a painful physical rehabilitation. He later regained flight status and commanded a Navy squadron before retiring from the service in 1981.

McCain would be the oldest man to enter the White House if he is elected president, and questions have been raised about his health.

McCain has twice developed melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer.

The fact that he is legally designated with a disability pension may raise further questions.

“It is a legitimate question to ask about the commander in chief: Is he fit to serve,” said Robert Schriebman, a senior Pentagon tax advisor and tax attorney who recently retired as a judge advocate for a unit of the California National Guard.

If McCain can hike across the Grand Canyon, then why should he be getting disability payments from the government that are tax-exempt, Schriebman asked.

McCain shattered his knee and broke both arms when he was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967.

Dafydd at Big Lizards has the appropriate take down for the LAT here.

I don’t have any issues with the public’s “right to know” about our president’s – or potential president’s – health condition, because we want assurances that he or she can or will be able to physically hold up against the weight associated with holding the highest office in the land, but this article goes off a cliff by suggesting that McCain’s inability to raise his arms over his head “raises further questions” about his fitness to serve as president.

I think if McCain can endure 5 and a 1/2 years as a POW, and go on to serve multiple House and Senate terms, the presidency – though an incredibly tough and trying job, no doubt – should be a walk in the park via comparison. Apparently the LAT believes otherwise.

Attack ads on Obama in NC generate controversy, outrage

There is an emerging storm brewing between the Obama campaign, the national GOP, and John McCain against the North Carolina GOP over an ad the NCGOP created that includes snippets of Obama’s “former” pastor Jeremiah Wright’s “sermons.” Here’s the ad:

As the ad notes, both Democrat candidates for governor, Bev Perdue and Richard Moore (who have been trying to outliberal each other for months on the campaign trail), have endorsed Barack Obama. The intent of the ad is to imply guilt by association: Obama showed extremely poor judgment by silently sitting in the pews of TUCC while Rev. Wright spewed his venom, and Perdue and Moore are showing poor judgment by in turn endorsing the guy with poor judgment.

Next month’s NC primary, of course, isn’t just about the presidential race, but about the governor’s race here as well as other local elections, so the only reason I can think of for the NC GOP to run this ad is in order to raise campaign funds for the general election, because Perdue and Moore have been doing a good job of tearing each other up pre-primary, and the NC GOP has no reason to interfere prior to the primary beyond trying to raise much-needed campaign cash. I don’t have the problem with the ad that others like, unfortunately, John McCain and the national GOP, do. From McCain:

Dear Chairman Daves,

From the beginning of this election, I have been committed to running a respectful campaign based upon an honest debate about the great issues confronting America today. I expect all state parties to do so as well. The television advertisement you are planning to air degrades our civics and distracts us from the very real differences we have with the Democrats. In the strongest terms, I implore you to not run this advertisement.

This ad does not live up to the very high standards we should hold ourselves to in this campaign. We need to run a campaign that is worthy of the people we seek to serve. There is no doubt that we will draw sharp contrasts with the Democrats on fundamental issues critical to the future course of our country. But we need not engage in political tactics that only seek to divide the American people.

Once again, it is imperative that you withdraw this offensive advertisement.

John McCain

Asked today about the ad, Obama relied on John McCain to motivate the state GOP to not run the ad:

“My understanding is that the Republican National Committee and John McCain have both said that the ad’s inappropriate,” he replied, according to The Associated Press.

“I take them at their word,” Obama said, “and I assume that if John McCain thinks that it’s an inappropriate ad, that he can get them to pull it down since he’s their nominee and standard-bearer.”

In other words, he finds the ad ‘offensive’, too – remember, he wants us all to move beyond Rev. Wright anyway, because his “former” pastor is just being used as a ‘distraction.’

And back to McCain, interestingly enough, he finds it perfectly acceptable to go after Obama on his ties to Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers – but Rev. Wright should be off limits? I think not.

From the national GOP:

“Senator McCain has been very clear that he expects to run a respectful campaign based on the critical issues confronting the nation. The RNC has been in contact with the NC GOP and communicated that we do not believe the ad is appropriate or helpful and have asked that they refrain from running it”

In spite of the pleas to not run the ad, the NC GOP is saying they will. But they’re not sure how much they will run it, considering there is not any “real money” behind the ad now. You can help on that front here.

It appears from the tone of the letters that they are treating the NC GOP the way they did the TN GOP for their use of Obama’s middle name and a 2006 photo of him in Somali garb in a news release. I can understand why they came down on the TN GOP because, as I’ve written before, there are plenty of issues to go after Obama on without trying to paint him as a closet jihadi, especially considering there is nothing in his record that would indicate any latent pro-Islamofascism tendencies on his part.

On the other hand, contrary to what McCain and the national GOP have said about the NC ad supposedly being ‘offensive’ and not focused on the issues because it mentions Rev. Wright, Obama’s judgment is an issue, an important one, and everyone needs to keep in mind that the man who has claimed he can help bridge the racial divide is the same man who sat in the pews at TUCC for two decades and said nothing while his “former” pastor – and admitted “spiritual mentor” – spat out racist bile that would get a GOP candidate kicked out of any campaign he or she was in the middle of without hesitation if they had had the same type of long term mentorship with a white reverend “preaching” similar nonsense about white supremacy. It simply wouldn’t be tolerated – nor should it.

Sadly, others, like The Politico’s Jonathan Martin, imply that the ad has racist undertones because it features a picture of Obama with his arm around Perdue, who is white (which will, incidentally, remind Democrat partisans and NC voters of the infamous “white hands” ad Senator Jesse Helms ran against Mayor Harvey Gantt in their 1990 campaign against each other). If you look hard enough to see something that’s not there, eventually you’ll see what you want to see – just ask Obama cultist and MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews.

That said, the only issue I have with the NC GOP ad is that towards the end of it it labels Obama as “too extreme.” When I think of extremists I think of the likes of Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan, Al Sharpton, and those like them who don’t have a lick of common sense between ’em. Obama is clearly a liberal with Socialistic tendencies, to be sure, but “extremist”? No.

Another ad that is generating controversy is one that Time magazine is calling another “Willie Horton”-style GOP attack:

An old right-wing attack dog has returned with a new target: Barack Obama.

Starting Tuesday, a group of conservative activists led by Floyd Brown, author of the famous Willie Horton ad used so effectively against Michael Dukakis in 1988, will begin a campaign to tar Obama as weak on crime and terrorism, a strategy that aims to upend Obama’s relatively strong reputation among Republican voters.

“The campaign by Hillary Clinton has not been able to raise Obama’s negatives,” said Brown on Monday. “It is absolutely critical that Obama’s negatives go up with Republicans.”

Brown says the initial effort, a 60-second spot called “Victims” will be aired later this month in North Carolina and e-mailed to between 3 and 7 million conservatives this week, with a plea for more funding to further spread the message. “All of the efforts I have ever done in my life have been significantly funded,” Brown claimed, though he declined to describe the size of the purchase. “This is going to be the most Internet-intensive effort for an ad debut ever.”

The new ad recounts the deaths of three Chicago residents in 2001 at the hands of criminal gangs. “That same year, a Chicago state senator named Barack Obama voted against expanding the death penalty for gang-related murders,” an ominous female narrator intones. “So the question is, can a man so weak in the war on gangs be trusted in the war on terror?”

Brown is funding the initial ad campaign through a political action committee called the National Campaign Fund, which had $14,027 in the bank at the end of March. Brown said he had established several other front groups to fund a long-range effort to erode Obama’s support, including a second PAC, called The Legacy Committee, a 527 organization called Citizens for a Safe and Prosperous America and a so-called “social welfare” 501(c)4 nonprofit called the Policy Issues Institute.

Here’s the ad:

[Fri 4/25/08 – 12:30 AM Update: Here’s another link to the “Victims” ad, since the above embedded copy was yanked from YouTube (thanks to GWR for the heads up).]

It’s a legitimate attack on Obama’s legislative record that can and should be debated, but, of course, this criticism should be off limits, too, according to the Obama campaign:

Floyd Brown and the garbage he puts on TV represent everything the American people hate about politics, and we look forward to John McCain denouncing this shameful effort to boost his candidacy using Willie Horton ads. The truth is, Barack Obama supports the death penalty for certain heinous crimes, and he led the effort to reform the death penalty system to ensure that it’s administered fairly and that convictions stand in court. Since most gang-related murders already qualified for the death penalty in Illinois, the legislation in the ad wasn’t designed to be tough on crime, but to score political points, and it was vetoed by a Republican governor. If Floyd Brown and his right-wing allies want to talk about who keep us safer in the world, they can start by asking John McCain why he refuses to end a war in Iraq that has only strengthened the recruiting arm of al Qaeda.

As usual, only a quick nod to the issue itself before the Obama campaign quickly tries to shift the focus to the issue which gains him the most traction amongst his supporters, Iraq. Let’s review the statement, though – specifically the claim that it is a “Willie Horton” ad. First, here’s the 1988 Horton ad a conservative PAC ran against Mike Dukakis:

Here’s a brief outline of who Willie Horton is and the crimes he committed.

Since Horton was black, the DNC cried “racism!!!” like they always do – and they did it in an effort to deflect from the fact that the ad was right on in depicting Dukakis as weak on crime: thanks to Mike Dukakis, Horton (who was already serving a life sentence for murder) was free on a weekend pass and he used it to kidnap a couple, viciously assaulting the man and repeatedly raping the man’s girlfriend.

But let’s just assume for purposes of discussion that the Horton ad was racist. Then go back and view the “Victims” ad both Time and the Obama campaign called another Willie Horton ad. You’ll note that in the ad itself you see no pictures, but it does mention the names of the victims, and two of the three of them are minorities (I assume so by their names): Tamika McFadden-Harris and Severo Enriquez. So the ad is talking about victims of gang violence in Chicago – among them, two minorities – yet we’re supposed to believe it’s “another Willie Horton ad”? Only in a world where the legislative record of a liberal Democrat political candidate shouldn’t be questioned …

VIDEO: “Hill-Rod” versus “baRACK” on WWE Monday Night Raw

A couple of days ago, I wrote about how Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain issued pre-recorded statements in advance of the WWE’s Monday Night Raw show in Greenville, SC, and included a video snippet of their statements. This was all done as a part of WWE’s “Smackdown Your Vote” voter registration effort campaign.

What I didn’t know they were going to do on Monday night was to hold a “match” between “Hill-Rod” and “baRACK” – impersonators, of course, but all the same, I just caught the video of it and literally LOL’d through most of it. Whoever wrote it did their homework on the candidates as well as the “Bill Clinton,” who acted in the role of Hillary’s manager during the match. You’ve got Barack being sensitive about the ref checking behind his ears – in real life, BO’s is indeed sensitive to being teased about his ears. You’ve got Bill trying to steal the limelight from Hillary, “baRACK” acting very much like the real wrestler “Rock” – it’s pretty funny. There are a few things in their that will offend the easily offended, but it is the WWE, so you have to keep that in mind while viewing it. Click below to watch, if you’re in the mood for a little humor :)

I’m not so sure the SC audience appreciated it too much – I don’t get the impression that wrestling fans particulary cotton to liberal Democrats or, for that matter, inserting politics into the sport of pro wrestling, especially considering the fact that they can always see Hillary and Barack wrestling in real life on a daily basis, and don’t have to pay for it – unless one of the two candidates happens to get elected, of course, and then we’ll all be paying, a lot more than we do now …

Thanks to a liberal friend who would probably rather I didn’t mention his name on this blog out of fear of retaliation for the tip ;)

Hillary’s PA victory: The day after

With 99% reporting, I think it’s safe to call last night’s primary in PA as an official double digit victory for Hillary Clinton, which the punditocracy was saying she needed to be able to credibly make a case for staying in the race. If you were like me and watched the returns come in for most of the night, for a while it looked like it was going to be around 8 points, but as the night went on, it increased to 10 and has stayed there.

The NYT leads off with an editorial this morning harshly criticizing La Clinton for the way they claim she ran her campaign in the weeks prior to the primary:

The Pennsylvania campaign, which produced yet another inconclusive result on Tuesday, was even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it.

Voters are getting tired of it; it is demeaning the political process; and it does not work. It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election.

If nothing else, self interest should push her in that direction. Mrs. Clinton did not get the big win in Pennsylvania that she needed to challenge the calculus of the Democratic race. It is true that Senator Barack Obama outspent her 2-to-1. But Mrs. Clinton and her advisers should mainly blame themselves, because, as the political operatives say, they went heavily negative and ended up squandering a good part of what was once a 20-point lead.

On the eve of this crucial primary, Mrs. Clinton became the first Democratic candidate to wave the bloody shirt of 9/11. A Clinton television ad — torn right from Karl Rove’s playbook — evoked the 1929 stock market crash, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban missile crisis, the cold war and the 9/11 attacks, complete with video of Osama bin Laden. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” the narrator intoned.

If that was supposed to bolster Mrs. Clinton’s argument that she is the better prepared to be president in a dangerous world, she sent the opposite message on Tuesday morning by declaring in an interview on ABC News that if Iran attacked Israel while she were president: “We would be able to totally obliterate them.”

By staying on the attack and not engaging Mr. Obama on the substance of issues like terrorism, the economy and how to organize an orderly exit from Iraq, Mrs. Clinton does more than just turn off voters who don’t like negative campaigning. She undercuts the rationale for her candidacy that led this page and others to support her: that she is more qualified, right now, to be president than Mr. Obama.

If anything, this editorial proves beyond a shadow of a doubt just how, well, ignorant (deliberately?) the editorial board at the NYT can be sometimes. They’re admitting here, essentially, that they are embarassed that they have endorsed a candidate who will duke it out with every tool in her disposal to win, but unless they were asleep at the wheel in the 1990s when she was First Lady, and haven’t paid any attention to her two terms in the Senate, they had to have known before endorsing her for the Dem nomination for president, and before endorsing her twice in her two Senate runs, just how driven Hillary Clinton is to get what she wants – even more so than her husband, who as we all know was willing to say just about anything to get elected president – and did, twice.

They demonstrate their ignorance even more when they chide Obama for going negative by ‘rising’ to her bait:

Mr. Obama is not blameless when it comes to the negative and vapid nature of this campaign. He is increasingly rising to Mrs. Clinton’s bait, undercutting his own claims that he is offering a higher more inclusive form of politics. When she criticized his comments about “bitter” voters, Mr. Obama mocked her as an Annie Oakley wannabe. All that does is remind Americans who are on the fence about his relative youth and inexperience.

Earth to the NYT: Well before the PA primary, going all the way back to January, Barack Obama has repeatedly used his surrogates to make attacks that he waits days later to “denounce” – a tried and true tactic politicians both Democrat and Republican alike have successfully used over the years when they want to make themselves appear “above the fray” while in actuality they are right in the thick of it. While it’s true Senator Obama’s legislative experience and accomplishments leave a lot to be desired, he is not inexperienced when it comes to knowing and utilizing the tactics he needs to in order to win an election.

Ed Morrisey has video of Hillary responding to the NYT editorial this morning on the Today show, and notes:

It’s almost a pitch-perfect response. She does sound an odd note by blaming Obama for running negative ads after the debate in almost the same breath in which she defends her own advertising as part of the normal electoral process, but her answer to the Gray Lady has the elegance of the obvious. If people keep voting for her more than they do for Obama, why should she stop?

Also, the Clintons are now going to press the “popular vote” argument, which she outlines deftly here. She has surpassed Obama, as Don Surber noted, if Michigan and Florida count — and she tells Lauer that the votes are official, even if Democrats decline to assign delegates based on the results. Team Obama, which sang the “popular vote” song themselves until just recently, may have to start arguing against the popular vote as a deciding factor, and that should be very interesting to watch.


And now, the Democratic race for the nomination makes it’s next two tour stops in my beloved NC (115 delegates, not including supers), and Indiana (72 delegates, not including supers) – both of those primaries are on May 6th. Obama is expected to win in NC, but I expect the Clinton campaign will launch an all-out ad assault and media blitz as well as visit and send surrogates to the state in an attempt to close the gap a bit and make the outcome respectable. I suspect in Indiana, where the poll numbers show the two candidates trading the lead back and forth, with Obama having a “neighboring state” edge, the competition will be even more fierce.

All of which, of course, is good news for the Republican party. The Democrat party is deeply fractured at the moment, and if this thing goes all the way to August, with Hillary desperately trying to seat Florida’s and Michigan’s delegates, that would leave about two months for the Democrats to re-present themselves to the American people as serious contenders before the election – while McCain has had since late February to make his mark and lay out his creds, all the while enjoying the fact that Hillary and Obama have basically done his general election opposition research for him.

All things considered, in a year that was supposed to belong to Democrats – especially considering the strong likelihood that they will increase their majorities in the House and Senate, McCain has been holding steady in national polls which show head to head match-ups with both Clinton and Obama. Right now, the person who is in the driver’s seat is not Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, but John McCain. If he plays his cards right and continues to wage the positive campaign he’s run since winning the nomination, a well-rested and ready Mc just may have what it takes to win in November over either of the battle-weary candidates, the winner of which will come out of the Democrat National Convention in August bruised and scarred, with not a lot of time to make up for lost ground – especially amongst supporters of the losing primary candidate in his or her own party.

Stay tuned …

Still hangin’ around.

Cross-postd to Jules Crittenden’s blog, while he is taking a mini-vaca.