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Sep. 4th, 2008

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Community Organizers Respond To Palin’s Attack, Cite Civil Rights Movement

Think Progress: Last night during her speech to the Republican National Convention, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) sought to play up her experience as mayor of a small town in Alaska by mocking community organizing:

PALIN: And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves. I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a “community organizer,” except that you have actual responsibilities.

Today, the nation’s leading organization’s responded to Palin’s attack:

– Center for Community Change: When Sarah Palin demeaned community organizing, she didn’t attack another candidate. She attacked an American tradition — one that has helped everyday Americans engage with the political process and make a difference in their lives and the lives of their neighbors.

– Assn. of Community Organizations for Reform Now: ACORN members, leaders and staff are extremely disappointed that Republican leaders would make such condescending remarks on the great work community organizers accomplish in cities throughout this country. The fact that they marginalize our success in empowering low- and moderate-income people to improve their communities further illustrates their lack of touch with ordinary people.

– USAction: These groups, and the millions of individuals they represent, are dismayed by the recent dismissal of their efforts in the form of political attacks. Community organizations have been at the heart of every major reform in modern history – from the Boston Tea Party to the civil rights movement for example, the quest for civil rights began when community organizers mobilized the disenfranchised.

– Community Organizers of America: The last thing we need is for Republican officials to mock us on television when we’re trying to rebuild the neighborhoods they have destroyed. Maybe if everyone had more houses than they can count, we wouldn’t need community organizers. But I work with people who are getting evicted from their only home. If John McCain and the Republicans understood that, maybe they wouldn’t be so quick to make fun of community organizers like me.
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Steelworkers President To Palin: ‘Stop Using Your Husband’s Membership In The USW As A Prop’

Think Progress: When Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, he trumpeted her husband’s union membership: “The person I’m about to introduce to you was a union member and is married to a union member, and understands the problems, the hopes and the values of working people,” he said. That day, and again last night, Palin also emphasized that her husband is “a proud member of the United Steelworkers Union.”

Conservatives are hoping the reference will play well in Michigan and Ohio. But the United Steelworkers union (USW) isn’t so pleased. USW President Leo Gerard noted that just because Todd Palin is a union member doesn’t mean that Palin is automatically qualified to represent labor interests:

It is important to realize that while the governor’s husband is a member of a union, this does not automatically qualify her for an on-the-job training program to become a heartbeat away from the presidency. And while her husband is one of 850,000 dues-paying members of the steelworkers union, it does nothing to absolve Sen. McCain of his long history of anti-union sentiment and anti-worker actions.

In fact, McCain’s hostility to unions and union priorities runs deep:

– McCain voted to block the Employee Free Choice Act, making it easier for workers to unionize. [6/26/07]

– McCain condemned unions as “serious excesses” and said government workers are “crippled” by union contracts. [10/9/07; 5/21/07]

– McCain voted to filibuster a minimum wage hike last year. [1/24/07]

– McCain voted against a bill protecting discrimination against workers who go on strike, effectively allowing companies to hire permanent replacements for striking workers. [S. 55, 7/13/94]

– McCain voted against an amendment providing more effective remedies to victims of gender discrimination in the payment of wages. [7/17/07]

Last night, Gerard demanded that Palin “stop using USW as a prop.” Noting McCain’s opposition to the top priorities on USW’s agenda, Gerard asked Palin:

Are you with McCain – and against workers – on these issues? If so, you need to stop using your husband’s membership in the USW as a prop, because then his union card cannot possibly cover up your or John McCain’s worker-savaging positions.
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Attacks, praise stretch truth at GOP convention

Associated Press: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her Republican supporters held back little Wednesday as they issued dismissive attacks on Barack Obama and flattering praise on her credentials to be vice president. In some cases, the reproach and the praise stretched the truth.

Some examples:

PALIN: "I have protected the taxpayers by vetoing wasteful spending ... and championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. I told the Congress 'thanks but no thanks' for that Bridge to Nowhere."

THE FACTS: As mayor of Wasilla, Palin hired a lobbyist and traveled to Washington annually to support earmarks for the town totaling $27 million. In her two years as governor, Alaska has requested nearly $750 million in special federal spending, by far the largest per-capita request in the nation. While Palin notes she rejected plans to build a $398 million bridge from Ketchikan to an island with 50 residents and an airport, that opposition came only after the plan was ridiculed nationally as a "bridge to nowhere."

PALIN: "There is much to like and admire about our opponent. But listening to him speak, it's easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform — not even in the state senate."

THE FACTS: Compared to McCain and his two decades in the Senate, Obama does have a more meager record. But he has worked with Republicans to pass legislation that expanded efforts to intercept illegal shipments of weapons of mass destruction and to help destroy conventional weapons stockpiles. The legislation became law last year. To demean that accomplishment would be to also demean the work of Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, a respected foreign policy voice in the Senate. In Illinois, he was the leader on two big, contentious measures in Illinois: studying racial profiling by police and requiring recordings of interrogations in potential death penalty cases. He also successfully co-sponsored major ethics reform legislation.

PALIN: "The Democratic nominee for president supports plans to raise income taxes, raise payroll taxes, raise investment income taxes, raise the death tax, raise business taxes, and increase the tax burden on the American people by hundreds of billions of dollars."

THE FACTS: The Tax Policy Center, a think tank run jointly by the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, concluded that Obama's plan would increase after-tax income for middle-income taxpayers by about 5 percent by 2012, or nearly $2,200 annually. McCain's plan, which cuts taxes across all income levels, would raise after tax-income for middle-income taxpayers by 3 percent, the center concluded.

Obama would provide $80 billion in tax breaks, mainly for poor workers and the elderly, including tripling the Earned Income Tax Credit for minimum-wage workers and higher credits for larger families.

He also would raise income taxes, capital gains and dividend taxes on the wealthiest. He would raise payroll taxes on taxpayers with incomes above $250,000, and he would raise corporate taxes. Small businesses that make more than $250,000 a year would see taxes rise.

MCCAIN: "She's been governor of our largest state, in charge of 20 percent of America's energy supply ... She's responsible for 20 percent of the nation's energy supply. I'm entertained by the comparison and I hope we can keep making that comparison that running a political campaign is somehow comparable to being the executive of the largest state in America," he said in an interview with ABC News' Charles Gibson.

THE FACTS: McCain's phrasing exaggerates both claims. Palin is governor of a state that ranks second nationally in crude oil production, but she's no more "responsible" for that resource than President Bush was when he was governor of Texas, another oil-producing state. In fact, her primary power is the ability to tax oil, which she did in concert with the Alaska Legislature. And where Alaska is the largest state in America, McCain could as easily have called it the 47th largest state — by population.

MCCAIN: "She's the commander of the Alaska National Guard. ... She has been in charge, and she has had national security as one of her primary responsibilities," he said on ABC.

THE FACTS: While governors are in charge of their state guard units, that authority ends whenever those units are called to actual military service. When guard units are deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, for example, they assume those duties under "federal status," which means they report to the Defense Department, not their governors. Alaska's national guard units have a total of about 4,200 personnel, among the smallest of state guard organizations.

FORMER ARKANSAS GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE: Palin "got more votes running for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska than Joe Biden got running for president of the United States."

THE FACTS: A whopper. Palin got 616 votes in the 1996 mayor's election, and got 909 in her 1999 re-election race, for a total of 1,525. Biden dropped out of the race after the Iowa caucuses, but he still got 76,165 votes in 23 states and the District of Columbia where he was on the ballot during the 2008 presidential primaries.

FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOV. MITT ROMNEY: "We need change, all right — change from a liberal Washington to a conservative Washington! We have a prescription for every American who wants change in Washington — throw out the big-government liberals, and elect John McCain and Sarah Palin."

THE FACTS: A Back-to-the-Future moment. George W. Bush, a conservative Republican, has been president for nearly eight years. And until last year, Republicans controlled Congress. Only since January 2007 have Democrats have been in charge of the House and Senate.

Aug. 27th, 2008

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McCain Will DOUBLE Bush's Tax Cuts For The Rich

Think Progress: In 2001 and 2003, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) opposed President Bush’s tax cuts, arguing that he couldn’t “in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us.” But since then, McCain has ditched his concern about policies tilted towards the wealthy and now wants to double Bush’s tax cuts.

Examining McCain’s shifts on taxes today, the Wall Street Journal’s Martin Vaughan writes that "the wealthy would benefit most.” In fact, as the Cato Institute’s Chris Edwards points out, McCain’s proposals are aimed at the wealthy “even more so than Bush’s.”

Earlier this year, the non-partisan Tax Policy Center found that McCain’s economic plan “would primarily benefit those with very high incomes.” In fact, under McCain’s plan, John and Cindy McCain would get a $300,000 tax break while middle class Americans would save only $319. The McCains save $60,016 more under McCain’s tax plan than under Bush’s.

In their more candid moments, McCain’s supporters admit that he is doubling down on Bush’s tax policies. In May, House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) said that McCain’s “tax policies” would “be in effect a third Bush term.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told ABC News in June that McCain’s policies would “absolutely” be an “extension” and “enhancement” of Bush’s.
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If McCain Thinks The VA Isn’t Working, ‘It’s In Part Because He Hasn’t Funded It’

Think Progress: Yesterday, Sen. John McCain promoted his veterans private health care “plastic card” in a speech to the American Legion. Though he insisted the “card is not intended to either replace the VA or privatize veterans’ health care,” veterans groups aren’t buying it. AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars all argue McCain’s scheme may undermine the VA.

Today ThinkProgress spoke to Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director and Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, at the Democratic National Convention. When we asked him what he thought of McCain’s private health card plan, Rieckhoff slammed McCain for blocking funding for the VA:

"Basically every major veterans group is opposed to it so far, so I think that pretty much says it all. We’ve got to come up with a comprehensive solution to VA health care, and that starts with VA funding. Sen. McCain has consistently voted against expansion of VA funding. So if he says the VA’s not working, it’s in part because he hasn’t funded it properly. … A lot of vets groups are going to push back against the card because it may be on the path toward privatization. So we’ve got to really make the VA as strong as it can be, and that should be our priority."

Despite his repeated claims to the contrary, McCain’s record on veterans health funding is disappointing to say the least:

– Voted AGAINST providing $430 million to the VA for outpatient care “and treatment for veterans,” one of only 13 senators to do so. [4/26/06]

– Voted AGAINST increasing VA funding by $1.5 billion by closing corporate loopholes. [3/14/06]

– Voted AGAINST increasing VA funding by $1.8 billion by ending “abusive tax loopholes.” [3/10/04]

McCain can try to convince veterans groups that he opposes privatization, but considering his disdain for government-sponsored health care, it’s no surprise he wants to put veterans health into the hands of private business.
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Know your McCain - Iraq edition

Senator John McCain on record:

Before The Iraq War:

McCain echoed Bush and Cheney's talking points that the U.S. would only be in Iraq for a short time. McCain: "It's clear that the end is very much in sight. ... It won't be long...it'll be a fairly short period of time." [ABC, 4/9/03]

McCain said winning the war would be "easy." "I know that as successful as I believe we will be, and I believe that the success will be fairly easy, we will still lose some American young men or women." [CNN, 9/24/02]

During The War:

Senator McCain has constantly moved the goal posts of progress for the war—repeatedly saying it would be over soon.

January 2003: "But the point is that, one, we will win this conflict. We will win it easily." [MSNBC, 1/22/03]

March 2003: "I believe that this conflict is still going to be relatively short." [NBC, Meet the Press, 3/30/03]

June 2004: "The terrorists know that this is a very critical time." [CNN, 6/23/04]

December 2005: "Overall, I think a year from now, we will have a fair amount of progress [in Iraq] if we stay the course." [The Hill, 12/8/05]

November 2006: "We're either going to lose this thing or win this thing within the next several months." [NBC, Meet the Press, 11/12/06]

Senator McCain opposed efforts to end the overextension of the military that is having a devastating impact on our troops.

McCain voted against requiring mandatory minimum downtime between tours of duty for troops serving in Iraq. [S. Amdt.. 2909 to S Amdt. 2011 to HR 1585, Vote 341, 9/19/07; S Amdt. 2012 to S Amdt. 2011 to HR 1585, Vote 241, 7/11/07]

McCain was one of only 13 senators to vote against adding $430 million for inpatient and outpatient care for veterans. [S Amdt. 3642 to HR 4939, Vote 98, 4/26/06]

The Future:

Senator McCain now says he sees no end to the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq.

McCain: "[M]ake it a hundred" years in Iraq and "that would be fine with me." [Derry, New Hampshire Town Hall meeting, 1/3/08]

McCain on how long troops may remain in Iraq: "A thousand years. A million years. Ten million years. It depends on the arrangement we have with the Iraqi government." [Associated Press, 1/04/08]
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McCain Admits That He Will Flip-Flop For Radical Right, But Ignore Public On Iraq

Fox News’s Hannity and Colmes aired an interview with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). During the segment, McCain confirmed that he turned against comprehensive immigration reform after receiving pressure from the right wing.

The "Maverick" is willing to switch his positions for the radical right, but unwilling to do so for everyone else. For example, the senator has repeatedly advocated staying in Iraq, despite opposition from the majority of Americans. In 2007, McCain told CBS’s 60 Minutes that he didn’t care what the American public wanted:

"I believe that we can succeed and I believe the consequences of failure are catastrophic. Those who say just withdraw, then you say, ’What next?’" McCain asked in the 2007 interview.

"I wonder at what point do you stop doing what you think is right and you start doing what the majority of the American people want?" Pelley asked.

"Well, again, I disagree with what the majority of the American people want," McCain said.

In addition to the Iraq war, McCain switched his position for conservatives on President Bush’s tax cuts, the economic stimulus package, and even his opinions of Karl Rove.

So, to recap: When it comes to hard right conservatives, McCain’s strategy is to cave in to their demands, even if it means switching his own positions. When it comes to the American public, McCain’s strategy is to ignore their opinions and tell them what he (and the right wing) think is best.
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Can’t Keep Up With McCain’s Flip-Flops!

On May 5th McCain was asked whether he would support a windfall profits tax. McCain responded by talking about the oil companies "obscene profits":

"I don't like obscene profits being made anywhere–and I'd be glad to look not just at the windfall profits tax–that's not what bothers me–but we should look at any incentives that we are giving to people, that or industries or corporations that are distorting the market."

But a month later, McCain went before the oil industry to attack Barack Obama's energy program - including a proposal for a windfall profits tax!

"So what does Senator Obama support in energy policy? ... He wants a windfall profits tax on oil ... all a windfall profits tax will accomplish is to increase our dependence on foreign oil ... "

Don't expect any straight talk from John McCain.

John McCain added two other flip-flops on energy and the environment.

McCain made a major shift in his global warming agenda on cap and trade and redefining the word "mandatory." In a press conference, John McCain said, "I believe in the cap-and-trade system, as you know. I would not at this time make those -- impose a mandatory cap at this time."

Which is, of course, completely out of line with his own proposal for a cap-and-trade scheme, which would by nature, be mandatory -- hence the "cap" in the name.

This isn't the first time McCain has misunderstood his own policy on cap-and-trade. In the Republican debate in Florida in January, he also denied that his cap-and-trade program included a mandatory cap on carbon. [It did].

McCain has now announced that he will lift the federal moratorium on drilling exploration, even though -- in the past -- he opposed drilling off the coast of Florida, North Carolina, Oregon, and Maine. Via Think Progress, the Washington Post's Dana Milbank notes:

During his last run for the presidency, in 1999, McCain supported the drilling moratorium, and he scolded the "special interests in Washington" that sought offshore drilling leases. Yesterday, he announced that those very same "moratoria should be lifted" and proposed incentives for the states "in the form of tangible financial rewards, if the states decide to lift those moratoriums."

McCain caved, once again, to the special interest.
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After Trying To Steal Credit For Webb’s GI Bill, McCain Skipped The Vote

Think Progress: Earlier this year, House leaders struck a deal to push forward with Sen. Jim Webb's (D-VA) GI Bill, which expanded generous educational benefits for veterans. The House deal also included a provision allowing troops to transfer the benefits to family members.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was one of the MOST vocal opponents of Webb's bill. Yet when the House deal was announced, McCain tried to take CREDIT for it:

"With the addition of the transferability provisions sought by Senators Graham, Burr, myself and others to give service members the right to transfer earned G.I. Bill benefits to spouses and children, we will have achieved in offering vastly improved educational benefit."

As if trying to steal credit for Webb's GI Bill wasn't bad enough, McCain skipped the Senate vote on the legislation, which passed 92-6. The only other senator not present for the vote was Ted Kennedy (D-MA), who is battling a brain tumor.

What was McCain doing instead? In addition to holding a town hall meeting at Xavier University in Cincinnati, he also took some time to chow down at Skyline Chili.

McCain has not voted in the Senate since April 8 and has missed 367 votes (61.4 percent) during the current Congress.
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McCain confuses Sudan and Somalia?

Think Progress: John McCain confused his African countries while talking to reporters on the Straight Talk Express today. This time, he was bailed out not by Joe Lieberman, but by his close aide Mark Salter. "How can we bring pressure on the government of Somalia?" McCain asked, which prompted Mark Salter to correct him. "Sudan," Salter said. "Sudan," McCain repeated. "There's a realpolitik side of my view of the conduct of American foreign policy."

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