What Fresh Hell Is This?

March 30, 2008

Jack Kelly Sunday

As many of you already know, the OPJ (you guys get that that stands for "Other Political Junkie," right?) and I were at the Post-Gazette on Thursday for this interview. It was great fun. We were in and out in about 20 minutes and once it was over, the ever-hospitable Bill Toland took us through part of the newsroom on our way out.

At one point as we were talking through the local outpost of the MSM, I motioned to Maria to one desk in particular on the far side of the room. It was to our right, coincidentally. The man sitting at it was facing away from us, but I knew who it was anyway.

"That's Jack Kelly," I said.

I'd like to think that while we were walking through the P-G, he was working on this column.

It's a piece of work, so let's get started. Jack begins:

Laboring, I suspect, under the erroneous impression that it will hurt him, The New York Times has recycled yet again the "news" that in 2001 Sen. John McCain contemplated switching parties, and that in 2004 Sen. John Kerry asked Sen. McCain to be his running mate.
Notice the initial framing. The word news is in quotation marks letting us know that Kelly doesn't think it is and his description of two events; Senator McCain's contemplated switching political parties and Senator Kerry asking McCain to be his running mate.

Jack then shows us his research. There's this article from the New York Times, and this article from The Hill. Let's begin with The Times - where you'll immediately see Kelly's spin.
What Mr. McCain almost never mentions are two extraordinary moments in his political past that are at odds with the candidate of the present: His discussions in 2001 with Democrats about leaving the Republican Party, and his conversations in 2004 with Senator John Kerry about becoming Mr. Kerry’s running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket.
Notice anything? To Jack, the story is about the "news" that McCain was contemplating "switching parties" in 2001 when Bumiller actually only writes about is his leaving the Republican party.

Big difference, there.

Here's an example. Recently I changed my voter registration from "Independent" to "Democrat" in order to vote in this state's upcoming primary. Once the primary is over, I'll change back. So what will I be doing on April 23? Will I will be leaving the Democratic Party or switching parties to the GOP? See the difference? Jack doesn't.

The part about "switching" comes from the other article he uses. So the main question should be, rather, about whether McCain contemplated switching or just leaving the party. Not, as Jack Kelly seems to be framing it, whether it happened at all.

I mean how can he have as a Presidential candidate a Republican so loyal to the party that he contemplated abandoning it a few as seven years ago? He just can't have it. The "news" must be wrong, then.

Jack tries to shoehorn the story into an untestable Red said/Blue said polarity:
In the course of beating these dead horses, Ms. Bumiller acknowledged "there are wildly divergent versions of both episodes, depending on whether Democrats or Mr. McCain and his advisers are telling the story." The fact that Mr. McCain didn't switch parties or become Mr. Kerry's running mate suggests the McCain camp's account is closer to what happened.

Actually, that McCain remained a Republican and Senator John Edwards became Kerry's running mate really isn't any evidence that there weren't discussions about his (at the very least) leaving the party or discussions about his becoming Kerry's running mate.

Let's outline what happened with information from the stories Jack Kelly's quoting. From The Hill:

In interviews with The Hill this month, former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and ex-Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.) said there were nearly two months of talks with the maverick lawmaker following an approach by John Weaver, McCain’s chief political strategist.

Democrats had contacted Jeffords and then-Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) in the early months of 2001 about switching parties, but in McCain’s case, they said, it was McCain’s top strategist who came to them.

At the end of their March 31, 2001 lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Bethesda, Md., Downey said Weaver asked why Democrats hadn’t asked McCain to switch parties.

Downey, a well-connected lobbyist, said he was stunned.“You’re really wondering?” Downey said he told Weaver.

“What do you mean you’re wondering?”“Well, if the right people asked him,” Weaver said, according to Downey, adding that he responded, “The calls will be made. Who do you want?” Weaver this week said he did have lunch with Downey that spring, pointing out that he and Downey “are very good friends.”

He claims, however, that Downey is grossly mischaracterizing their exchange: “We certainly didn’t discuss in any detail about the senator’s political plans and any discussion about party-switchers, generically, would have been limited to the idle gossip which was all around the city about the [Democrats’] aggressive approach about getting any GOP senator to switch in order to gain the majority. Nothing more or less than that.”

So Downey made some phone calls and ended up with Senator Tom Daschle:
Daschle said that throughout April and May of 2001, he and McCain “had meetings and conversations on the floor and in his office, I think in mine as well, about how we would do it, what the conditions would be. We talked about committees and his seniority … [A lot of issues] were on the table.”
After noting the McCain campaign's recent denial, the article notes:
Some of the meetings Daschle referred to are detailed in the former senator’s 2003 book.
If Weaver is right and the discussion was about a Seinfeldian nothing, then why did Downey rush home to involve the then head of the Senate Democrats? Perhaps Downey got it wrong. But if that's true, why didn't the story end there? Why were there discussions between Daschle and McCain (as detailed in Daschle's book two years later)? Is everyone lying by John McCain?

Later on in the same article, however, we read this:
McCain consistently shot down the rumors, though Weaver acknowledged this week that the senator did talk to Democrats about leaving the GOP.
Oh, so he DID talk to the Democrats about leaving the GOP!

Imagine the hell out of that.

I'll ask the question outright: How can the Republican party have any faith in a Presidential candidate so loyal that he actually discussed leaving it seven years ago?

On being Kerry's running mate, according to the Times it was Weaver (again) who approached the Democrats with the idea:

But less than three years later, Mr. McCain was once again in talks with the Democrats, this time over whether he would be Mr. Kerry’s running mate. In an interview with a blog last year, Mr. Kerry said that the initial idea had come from Mr. McCain’s side, as had happened in 2001.

Mr. Kerry, reacting to reports in The Hill newspaper last year about Mr. Weaver’s 2001 approach to Mr. Downey, said he saw a pattern. “It doesn’t surprise me completely because his people similarly approached me to engage in a discussion about his potentially being on the ticket as vice president,” Mr. Kerry told Jonathan Singer of MyDD.com, a prominent liberal blog, in remarks that are available in an audio version online and that Mr. Kerry’s staff said last week were accurate. “So his people were active — let’s put it that way.”

Two former Kerry strategists said last week that Mr. Weaver went to Mr. Kerry’s house in Georgetown a short time after Mr. Kerry won the Democratic nomination in March and asked that Mr. Kerry consider Mr. McCain as his running mate. (Mr. Weaver said in his e-mail message that the idea had come from Mr. Kerry.) Whatever the case, both sides say that Mr. Kerry was so enthusiastic about the notion that he relentlessly pursued Mr. McCain, even to the point of offering him a large part of the president’s national security responsibilities.

McCain, of course said:
I am a conservative Republican. So when I was approached, when we had that conversation back in 2004, that’s why I never even considered such a thing.
However we do have this. Mark Salter, one of Mr. McCain’s closest advisers, is quoted as saying to John Kerry:
What if something happens to you? Your party’s going to be pretty surprised about the kind of president they’re going to have.
Far cry from never having had a conversation about being Kerry's running mate, isn't it?

Jack then goes wild with speculation and spin:
However, many independents and Democrats who will be unhappy if the candidate they prefer does not win the increasingly bitter fight for the Democratic nomination, do read The New York Times. How better to reassure them that Mr. McCain is a safe alternative if their preferred candidate doesn't win than to suggest that Mr. McCain contemplated becoming a Democrat?
Really? Jack Kelly thinks that the reason The Times published the article was to reassure independents? In spite of everything said in the articles mentioned, McCain remains a pro-life, free-marketer who has actively endorsed a war that two thirds of the American people feel is not worth it (so?).

Then there's this:
President Bush won two elections through base mobilization.
Uh, no. I don't think anyone can say that Bush won two elections.
Sen. McCain's credentials on national security policy are unassailable. But if there are no attacks on our homeland and Iraq remains relatively quiet, domestic economic concerns will dominate the fall campaign.
McCain's security credentials? He's the guy who doesn't know who the major players are in Iraq:

Senator John McCain’s trip overseas was supposed to highlight his foreign policy acumen, and his supporters hoped that it would showcase him in a series of statesmanlike meetings with world leaders throughout the Middle East and Europe while the Democratic candidates continued to squabble back home.

But all did not go according to plan on Tuesday in Amman, Jordan, when Mr. McCain, fresh from a visit to Iraq, misidentified some of the main players in the Iraq war.

Mr. McCain said several times in his visit to Jordan — in a news conference and in a radio interview — that he was concerned that Iran was training Al Qaeda in Iraq. The United States believes that Iran, a Shiite country, has been training and financing Shiite extremists in Iraq, but not Al Qaeda, which is a Sunni insurgent group.

And this is the guy the Republicans are pinning their hopes on?


Bram Reichbaum said...

A very reasonable column by Jack Kelly. John McCain should start making his own news.

What did I learn from this piece? Stay the HELL away from Chris Cox at all costs.

Anonymous said...

A Message From the President of City Council, Doug Shields

We need the blogging communities help! The Council of the City of Pittsburgh believe mandatory reporting of lost or stolen handguns to the police is a common sense reform whose time has come in Pennsylvania.

Law enforcement and police across Pennsylvania strongly support a lost or stolen handgun reporting law as a key tool to help police crack down on straw buyers of illegal handguns. The Pittsburgh Police Department, led by Chief Nathan Harper, supports a lost or stolen handgun reporting requirement. The PA Police Chiefs Association supports this law. So does the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

The bill in question is an amendment to HB1845, and the amendment is sponsored by Rep. David Levdansky, D-Allegheny County. The Levdansky Amendment, simply, requires people who buy a handgun to report the handgun if lost or stolen to the police within three days of discovering the loss or theft. Violating this law brings penalties ranging from a summary offense for a first violation to a felony for repeat violators.

The Levdansky Amendment (A06178) is to be voted on Monday!!!!!! March 31, 2008 in the House.

But opponents of this simple, common sense reform, led by the NRA, don’t want this amendment to ever be brought up for a vote in the House. They want it to just go away. We cannot let them do that.

Opponents in the House, led by the NRA, are raising a host of procedural objections.

We need Allegheny County residents, elected officials and others to call their local state representatives and urge them to do the following when the House returns next week:

1. Vote NO on any procedural motion to defeat the lost or stolen handgun reporting bill sponsored by Rep. Levdansky.

2. Vote YES on the Levdansky Amendment (A06178) to H.B. 1845. This amendment is the lost or stolen handgun reporting law at issue.

What follows is a list of Allegheny County House members, by party and district #, along with a thumbnail of where they stand on the issue (according to telephone surveying of all House members conducted by CeaseFirePA.

Phone calls to House members NOW (leave a message) can absolutely make a difference.

Let your representative know you care about growing handgun violence in Allegheny County and across Pennsylvania and you want them to act – now – to address this problem.

Support the Levdansky Amendment and vote YES for a reporting requirement for lost or stolen handguns.

See the next page for the call list.

CALL LIST/Allegheny County House members


Rep. Sean Ramaley, Leaning yes. D-16th, Allegheny/Beaver. 724-266-7774.

Don Walko, D-20th. Undecided. PLEASE CALL. 412-321-5523

Lisa Bennington, D-21st. Leaning yes. Call anyway. 412-361-2040.

Joe Preston, D-24th. Yes. Call anyway.

Joe Markosek, D-25th. Allegheny/Westmoreland. Undecided. "Interested but noncommital." 412-856-8284.

Tom Petrone, D-27th. Leaning yes. Give a quick call. 412-928-9514

Frank Dermody, D-33rd. Leaning No. PLEASE CALL. 724-274-4770.

Marc Gergely, D-35th. Undecided/leaning No. 412-754-3500.

Harry Readshaw, D-36th. Undecided/Leaning No. PLEASE CALL 412-881-4208

Bill Kortz, D-38th. Leaning No. "Opposes gun control." 412-466-1940.

Dave Levdansky, D-39th. Yes. Rep. Levdansky is the prime sponsor of the Amendment. Call him and thank him for his leadership on this important issue. 412-384-2258

Matt Smith, D-42nd. Undecided. 412-571-2169.

Nick Kotik, D-45th. Leaning Yes. Please call. 412-264-4260.

Jesse White, D-46th. Alleghny/Beaver/Washington. Undecided. 724-746-3677

John Pallone, D-54th. Allghny/Armstrong/Westmoreland. Undecided. 724-339-1990


Mike Turzai, R-28th. Undecided/Leaning No. PLEASE CALL 412-369-2230

Randy Vulakovich, R-30th. Undecided. 412-487-6600

John Maher, R-40th. Leaning Yes. CALL HIM. 412-831-8080

Mark Mustio, R-44th. Undecided. 412-262-3780

Anonymous said...

John K. says: Sen Clinton has foreign security creditianals. She was sniped at in Bosnia. LOL LOL LOL LMAO

Anonymous said...

John K. says: Maybe I can't spell kradentshalls, but I can sure spell weenee, and thats w-e-e-i-n-e-i! Lookie!