“John Kerry is a close friend of mine. We have been friends for years. Obviously, I would entertain it.”
-Sen. John McCain (Republican-Arizona) March 10 on ABC’s Good Morning America, on whether or not he’d consider an invitation to be John Kerry’s running mate in November.

Sen. John Kerry (Democrat-MA), his party’s presumptive presidential nominee, has hinted in recent weeks that he hopes to pick his running mate well before the party’s July nominating convention in Boston. Among pundits and political junkies the guessing game is in full swing, with a large list of names being batted around.

Sen. Bob Graham of Florida and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico both have national security and foreign policy expertise and, to top that off, are both of Mexican decent. As such, either man would increase the ticket’s chances of winning in November. Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, with his strong labor ties, could help Kerry in the Midwest (especially in Ohio, where hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost since Bush took office). But the former House Minority Leader left much to be desired during his reign as party leader (the Democrats haven’t been able to win back their majority status since 1994). He may get the nod, but it’s doubtful. Wes Clark would bring a certain military gravitas to the ticket. But Kerry may well want to nominate the former NATO commander as Secretary of Defense or Homeland Security.

The number one pick among those playing the guessing game is Sen. John Edwards (Democrat-NC). A “draft Edwards” movement is afoot, but Kerry isn’t too fond of his former primary adversary and will probably ignore those pushing for a “Kerry/Edwards” ticket.

All of them are excellent, safe, non-controversial picks for the vice-presidency. But….

With the nation at war, its citizens deeply divided politically, and the threat of that raw, poisonous partisanship shifting into civil strife at home, I would like to suggest that Sen. Kerry look for a running mate that will arouse passions on both sides of the political spectrum, ensuring bipartisan progress in D.C., and draw independent voters away from the President in large numbers.

He should ask Sen. John McCain (Republican-AZ) to join him as his running mate.

Kerry and McCain (in fact, most Democrats and McCain) have things in common that bind them across party lines. On many key issues – tax cuts, the Bush deficits, pre-war intelligence failures, and cooperation with the 9/11 commission – the two have agreed more than they have disagreed. The two men come from military families where service and duty to country were core values.

I think it is those values that would lead McCain to accept the number two slot with his good friend John Kerry. The maverick from Arizona is a man of great honesty and integrity. He is a patriotic American first and foremost, a member of the Republican Party second. I doubt that he would turn down the opportunity to serve his country as vice-president.

In these times of cut-throat “DeLay vs. Daschle” partisan battles, a bi-partisan national unity presidential ticket would be a breath of fresh air – and very well could be the saving grace of this great country. The only way things are going to get done in D.C. is if a bi-partisan approach is taken. Despite all the rhetoric of the current White House, they have not changed the tone in the nation’s capitol. If anything they have added to the venomous rhetoric. Always negative. Always destructive. The best way – indeed the only way - to jump start cooperation between parties would be with a bi-partisan presidential ticket.

On the March 16 edition of Hardball with Chris Matthews, Sen. Joe Biden (Democrat-DE) endorsed the idea of a Kerry/McCain ticket for the same reason. “I think that this is the time for unity in this country…They do get along, and they don’t have fundamental disagreements on major policies…I’d encourage McCain to say yes…we need some unity here, man. The red states and the blue states – we’ve got to coalesce around here.”

A coalition government? Democrats and Republicans running together? Surely I’ve hit my head, right? Well, no. There is precedent.

In 1864 Republican incumbent Abraham Lincoln selected Democrat Andrew Johnson to be his running mate for re-election. The Civil War was obviously an extraordinary time, and the two men did not run on a Republican ticket. Rather they ran under the “National Union Party” banner, a breakaway coalition of Republicans and Democrats who opposed secession of the South.

Before the current partisan venom turns into another “us vs. them” conflict, perhaps it is time that two patriots like the two Johns lead us back to a more civil tone, where each side treats the other with respect and dignity.

As for the incumbent…well, with McCain as his running mate, John Kerry would force Karl Rove and George Bush to reshuffle their campaign plans. The “anybody but Bush” Democrats are already in Kerry’s corner. With McCain on the ticket, Kerry would solidify whatever support he has among veterans. Conservative Democrats and independents who might not otherwise vote for Kerry would leave Bush without batting an eye. In fact, Kerry/McCain could be lethal enough to become the first ticket since Reagan/Bush to win a true landslide victory.

On that March morning, when McCain appeared on Good Morning America, he said that the Democrats “would have to be on steroids” to let a Republican like himself join John Kerry on the presidential ticket.

Two Vietnam War heroes vs. the Worst President in History? Bring me the steroids!!


The Karl Rove War

Another superb essay from New York Times foreign policy wonk Tom Friedman. He reams the President and his #1 minion:
"...[The war] takes resources and legitimacy, and the Bush team has provided too little of both.

From the start, this has always been a Karl Rove war. Lots of photo-ops, lots of talk about "I am a war president," lots of premature banners about "Mission Accomplished," but totally underresourced, because the president never wanted to ask Americans to sacrifice. The Bush motto has been: "We're at war, let's party — let's cut taxes, forgo any gasoline tax, not mobilize too many reserves and, by the way, let's disband the Iraqi Army and unemploy 500,000 Iraqi males, because that's what Ahmad Chalabi and his pals want us to do...

I know the right thing to do now is to stay the course, defeat the bad guys, disarm the militias and try to build a political framework that will hold the now wavering Shiite majority on our side — because if we lose them, the game is over. But this will take time and sacrifice, and the only way to generate enough of that is by enlisting the U.N., NATO and all of our allies to make the development of a decent state in Iraq a global priority.

Without more allies, without more global legitimacy ... we cannot win in Iraq. We will be building a house with bricks and no cement. In that case, we will have to move to Plan B. Too bad we never really had Plan A."
Sounds like a strong argument for a regime change at home, doesn't it?



Sunshine, Smunshine

Well, least we forget that all crimes are not neccesarily of the Bush variety, get a load of this....
Do You Know Your Place?
Paying people to stand in line eases access to power for the few -- and undermines democracy
by Brian Montopoli

Jim Keegan, reclining in a well-worn folding chair on the sidewalk, was casually flicking chicken salad off the front of his T-shirt. Down the street, a group of men played a nearly silent game of cards, while next to Keegan another man sewed a tear in his backpack.

It was two days until a House Financial Services Committee hearing was scheduled to take place in the Rayburn Building around the corner, and the people lined up at Washington and D streets had settled into stasis for the 48-hour wait.

They were in line for an event they would never see, counting the hours until well-heeled lawyers or lobbyists would show up, 15 minutes or so before the hearing began, and, with a nod, take their places.

Place-holding, a practice that was once derided in the nation's capital, has over the years become an institution. Here's how it works: When a congressional hearing is held, a limited number of seats is made available to the general public. These seats are highly coveted by Washington's army of influence peddlers — the lawyers and lobbyists whose job descriptions entail leveraging personal and professional relationships in order to affect legislation on behalf of their corporate clients.

The desperation is so great to be present at everything from markups of mortgage bills to obscure but potentially lucrative changes in the tax code that one must get in line in advance, or have virtually no chance of getting in. But influence peddlers, of course, would never dream of spending two days in line on the street outside a congressional office building, particularly if it involves unrolling a sleeping bag at night on Capitol Hill. So they pay someone else to do it for them.

Most of the place-holders aren't homeless, but some aren't far from it. Though they often characterize themselves as between jobs, place-holding is a career for a number of the mostly middle-aged men and women in the line. Most dress in ratty clothes, and, at least after the longer waits, they carry the smell of life on the street.

For security reasons — and also, presumably, aesthetic ones — place-holders are only allowed inside in the hours shortly before a hearing is scheduled to begin. Most of the time, they are forced to wait on out-of-the-way sidewalks that get little pedestrian traffic.

Two companies control about 80% of the place-holder market: Congressional Services Co. and the CVK Group, which each maintains a list of on-call place-holders. Congressional Services, which was formed in 1993 by a former CVK employee, charges its clients $32 to $40 per hour for each spot in line, and then passes $10 to $15 an hour on to the place-holders.

"We help maximize the time YOU spend on Capitol Hill, so you can spend your time meeting with the right people and attending the right events, instead of spending your time standing in line," says the Congressional Services website. "But don't just take our word for it: Compare our fees to YOUR billable hours."

Most place-holders look out for each other, protecting spots in line if someone needs to get something to eat or use the bathroom, as long as he or she isn't gone too long. But the work isn't easy. Capitol Hill police sometimes enforce regulations prohibiting place-holders from sitting down on the public sidewalks, making it virtually impossible for them to get any real sleep for days on end. And when the rain or snow comes down, they have little or no protection from the elements.

Students of American democracy know that place-holding is a rare find: a window into the workings of money in politics, something both ubiquitous and maddeningly difficult to pin down. Because ostensibly public hearings have been transformed into more-or-less private affairs, representatives of nonprofit organizations, protesters and average citizens have been effectively shut out of one of the few participatory aspects of the political process. And, sadly, it is Washington's most disenfranchised — those forced to find whatever work they can in a city racked by poverty — who make such a system possible.

That's particularly dispiriting because the place-holders represent the archetypal aspiring American. They help one another and endure demeaning work in harsh conditions in order to make ends meet. The companies that have sprung up around the practice reward reliable workers with management positions. The "by your bootstraps" mentality mythologized by Horatio Alger is more vital in the world of place-holding than it is in many other aspects of American life.

But the unapologetic embrace of place-holding by lawyers and lobbyists reflects a nation very different from the one celebrated by Alger. The place-holders I've spoken to view their job as nothing more than a mutually beneficial exchange of dollars for services. They've become so accustomed to the pervasive influence of money in politics that they see nothing inherently objectionable about access to the democratic process — seats, almost literally, at the table — effectively becoming a salable commodity.

Place-holding provides a stark reminder of just how far removed everyday citizens have become from the political process and how automatically wealth confers proximity to power.

Eliminating the practice would be a small step in defense of democracy but a meaningful one, a message from legislators that they don't hold in contempt those constituents who lack means.

Shouldn't access to the workings of public officials be in the public domain, available to whoever is willing to sacrifice his or her time?

Unlike money, it's a resource we all share in equal measure.
And I must add, wouldn't ANYTHING that made access more difficult for corporate lobbyists be good for America? With the GOP in charge of everything, I'm sure this has become an even further entrenched practice. Where is the moral right when faced with such morally outrageous behavior on their front porch? Ah yes, that's right, defending marriage from the queers! Despicable, despisable, disgusting -- regardless of party, this totally sucks.

Brian Montopoli, whose writing has appeared in the Washington Monthly, Slate and Legal Affairs, is a reporter with Columbia Journalism Review's media watchdog website: www.campaigndesk.org.


In Iraq, Without Options

Courtesy of Josh Marshall, by way of Atrios, comes the most common-sense remark I've heard all week regarding Iraq.
"The only unequivocally good policy option before the American people is to dump the president who got us into this mess, who had no trouble sending our young people to Iraq but who cannot steel himself to face the Sept. 11 commission alone."
The rest of Harold Meyerson's Washington Post column can be read here.


Mission Accomplished

Details here,

....well....you get the idea.


The War on Porn

Upon becoming Attorney General in early 2001, Sen. John Ashcroft (Fascist-MO) - who had just lost re-election to a dead guy - hoped to wage a war on porn. (Apparently those pesky terrorist guys learning to fly planes and not land them had to be put on a back burner. First things first. We must rid the world of all that vile nudity! Cover Lady Justices breasts immediately!)

Well, Ashcroft's Justice Department is at it again. And this time they're planning to go beyond the hardcore stuff.
"In this field office in Washington, 32 prosecutors, investigators and a handful of FBI agents are spending millions of dollars to bring anti-obscenity cases to courthouses across the country for the first time in 10 years. Nothing is off limits, they warn, even soft-core cable programs such as HBO's long-running Real Sex or the adult movies widely offered in guestrooms of major hotel chains."
Glad to see our government priorities are in order.

John Ashcroft's religious zealotry should have kept him from being confirmed to the A.G. post in 2001. Not only that, but he had just lost his Senate seat to a dead guy! The administration is full of losers. In addition to Ashcroft there is Spencer Abraham, the Energy Secretary who lost his 2000 Senate re-election bid in Michigan; and let's not forget George Dubya, himself. You remember him...the guy who came up over half a million votes short nationally.

A bunch of losers want to dictate what we watch - and what we do - in the privacy of our own homes. As I said yesterday, we're moving swiftly toward Fascism.

Yet another reason why the current regime must be ousted in November.

Update: CNN reports this morning on a new study that shows how frequent ejaculations - whether through sex or masturbation - reduces the risk of prostate cancer in men. Come on, Johnny Loser! A li'l bit o' self-lovin' is just good public health policy!


The War on Choice

In today's New York Times, Nicholas Kristof helps us understand what might happen in the United States if President Bush is able to install a justice on the Supreme Court.

Scary, to say the least. Another example of why Bush must be defeated this November.



Fascism Unleashed

I have mentioned in previous postings that the long, slow right turn toward fascism in the United States has taken on tremendous speed, thus making the coming presidential election the most important of our lifetime.

In the current American Prospect , former labor secretary Robert B. Reich gives us glimpse into what a Bush second term might look like, should the President be victorious on November 2nd. (Hat tip: Sharon.)
Musings about a second Bush term typically assume another four years of the same right-wing policies we've had to date. But it'd likely be far worse. So far, the Bush administration has had to govern with the expectation of facing American voters again in 2004. But suppose George W. Bush wins a second term. The constraint of a re-election contest will be gone. Knowing that voters can no longer turn them out, and that this will be their last shot at remaking America, the radical conservatives will be unleashed.

A friend who specializes in foreign policy and hobnobs with subcabinet officials in the Defense and State departments told me that the only thing that's stopped the Bushies from storming into Iran and North Korea is the upcoming election. If Bush is re-elected, "[Dick] Cheney and [Donald] Rumsfeld are out of the box," he said. "They'll take Bush's re-election as a mandate to wage the 'war on terror' everywhere and anywhere."

The second term's defense team will be even harder line than the current one. Colin Powell will go. Condoleezza Rice will take over at the State Department. Rumsfeld will consolidate power as the president's national-security adviser. Paul Wolfowitz will run the Defense Department.

Domestic policy will swing further right. A re-election would strengthen the White House's hand on issues that even many congressional Republicans have a hard time accepting, such as the assault on civil liberties. Bush will seek to push "Patriot II" through Congress, giving the Justice Department and the FBI powers to inspect mail, eavesdrop on phone conversations and e-mail, and examine personal medical records, insurance claims, and bank accounts.

Right-wing evangelicals will solidify their control over the departments of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services -- curtailing abortions, putting federal funds into the hands of private religious groups, pushing prayer in the public schools, and promoting creationism.

Economic policy, meanwhile, will be tilted even more brazenly toward the rich. Republican strategist Grover Norquist smugly predicts larger tax benefits for high earners in a second Bush administration. The goal will be to eliminate all taxes on capital gains, dividends, and other forms of unearned income and move toward a "flat tax." The plan will be for deficits to continue to balloon until Wall Street demands large spending cuts as a condition for holding down long-term interest rates. Homeowners, facing potential losses on their major nest eggs as mortgage rates move upward, might be persuaded to join the chorus.

In consequence, Bush will slash all domestic spending outside of defense. He will also argue that Social Security cannot be maintained in its present form, and will push for legislation to transform it into private accounts. Meanwhile, the few shards of regulation still protecting the environment and the safety of American workers will be eliminated.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor will surely step down from the Supreme Court, possibly joined by at least one other jurist, opening the way for the White House to nominate a series of right-wing justices, a list that could easily include Charles Pickering Sr. and William Pryor Jr. After Chief Justice William Rehnquist resigns, Bush may well nominate Antonin Scalia for the top slot -- opening the way for Scalia and Clarence Thomas to dominate the Court. Such a court will curtail abortion rights, whittle down the Fourth and Fifth amendments, end all affirmative action, and eliminate much of what's left of the barrier between church and state.

...Nothing is more dangerous to a republic than fanatics unconstrained by democratic politics. Yet in a second term of this administration, that's exactly what we'll have.
In 1964 this sort of ideology was defeated soundly by voters in the 61% to 38% defeat of the Republican ticket. (The thing of it is, putting George W. Bush in the same category as Barry Goldwater is an insult to the late Arizona Senator.) This election is the most important of our lifetime and as such I hope the voters of 2004 reject such hardline right wing politics; because I shudder to think of another four years of this President.



After Falluja

For the first time more Americans disapprove of the way President Bush is doing his job than approve, according to a new poll released today by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press. 47% of those surveyed disapproved of Bush's job performance while only 43% approved. Also for the first time, approval for Bush's economic policies has slipped below 40%, to an anemic 39% (proving that as hard as it tries, the administration really can't count on any positively spun economic news). A solid majority (53%) disapprove of Bush's fiscal stewardship.

Those on the right will whine that we here at Points West are harping on about polling numbers again...that they don't mean anything right now...yadda yadda yadda.

It's APRIL, my friends. While Bush may be ahead 2 points in one re-elect poll or behind 2 points in another, it's the job approval numbers that offer insight into how the campaign may turn out.

43% approval with only seven months to go has GOT to have Karl Rove poopin' in his Texas britches.

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