More than a week ago, during John Edwards' visit to Dartmouth College (an event I keep trying and failing to write about), I had the opportunity to talk with Elizabeth Edwards. Then, just when I had a version of this post ready to go, the controversy over the Edwards campaign bloggers broke out, and I thought I'd wait. Although she answered questions about Iraq and about her husband's work on unionization campaigns, some of which I'm putting in a diary so that it's available if you're interested, here I focus on the large part of our conversation that focused on self-presentation during a campaign, especially online. As Micah Sifry writes
Of all the figures on the national political scene, there is only one person who I think we can genuinely say is participating in the blogosphere, as opposed to just using it: Elizabeth Edwards.
Edwards returned several times to the question of how much control campaign staff would have over what she says publicly, focusing on her efforts to resist such control. However the behind-the-scenes debate over whether to fire or stand behind Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan played out days later, we have to assume that it was at least in part shaped by the presence of a powerful figure who understands blogs and who habitually works against excessive homogenizing.
Speaking of the filter imposed by campaign communication staff and other handlers, she says
There’s a process, they want to make certain everything is on message...They want to run it through this sieve and the sieve takes all the life out of it, all the life out, and it’s dreadful. So I don’t do it.
While Elizabeth Edwards certainly doesn't employ the same tone and rhetorical strategies as Amanda Marcotte does at Pandagon, through her the campaign was already accustomed to unedited blogging.
I don’t edit. I suppose I go back and do a little editing, but not the sort that you’d expect a handler to do: "oop, can’t say that, can’t say that." Because I think it’s important. First of all, that’s what the medium demands, in my view. But also, I think it’s important. And honestly, if people don’t like you, they don’t like you. But at least they don’t like me and not some concoction that I’ve created I think is supposed to appeal to people. That would be the worst, to be disliked and it wasn’t even you, it was something you’d dreamed up or some handler had dreamed up.
She is equally insistent that, although "John actually is not much of a typist" and dictates his responses to questions posed in his Daily Kos diaries, his answers to questions here are his own, not filtered through anyone else. Of which questions they end up answering, she said
You hate for there to be a hard question stuck in the middle and it looks like you avoided it. In fact, this is one of John’s things, he said "I want to find the hard questions to answer." He actually did something the other day and someone else had culled the questions and I got really mad, I said "you culled only the easy questions, you cannot do that in the future. You think this is not a sophisticated crowd? You are completely wrong - they know the easy questions from the hard questions. You cannot do that." It’s treating them with disrespect to do that, but he didn’t know that, he only had the questions he had been handed.
But the thing that maybe most made her seem like one of us, someone you'd run into on a thread at Daily Kos, was how she expressed exasperation at the need to refrain from responding to criticisms she felt were unfair.
There are some things you want to respond to. John Solomon did a piece in the Washington Post that was just, first of all he had been told things that he knew would undercut his story and he left them out. It was really aggravating, so I wanted to respond, but the question was, do you keep it alive by responding?
That’s really the only time I (edit myself). Not what I say or how I say it, but whether it makes sense to even try. Archpundit I thought it was worthwhile to respond, but in general, most of the attack stuff – in fact I think I even said in there, usually when I read stuff like this I just leave it alone. That doesn’t mean you don’t draft something because you’re really aggravated (laughing), but then – you probably do the same thing – don’t press send!
None of this is to say that there's no strategic thinking involved in her blog participation. Surely there is. We should want there to be, as part of the broader development of politicians and campaigns taking blogs seriously. As we've seen, there are likely to be dust-ups along the way. Having people central to campaigns who understand the netroots will be crucial to the continued forward movement of campaign-netroots relationships.
It's kind of funny: President Bush announces in his speech on the surge that he's moving a second naval carrier group to the Persian Gulf just after he finishes talking about the malfeasance of Iran. Everyone understands that this movement...
Yesterday, the White House released an “Open Letter” on President Bush’s views on climate change. A portion of the letter argued Bush has “consistenly” acknowledged “humans are contributing” to global warming:Yet on three occasions last year, Bush claimed there was still a “debate” among scientists over whether global warming is manmade or natural:– “I think [...]
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Sometimes Jonah Goldberg reminds me of Felix Carbury, the spoiled and pampered young swell from Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now:It is hardly possible that any training or want to training should have produced a heart so utterly incapable of[...]
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Anna Nicole Smith is dead.
Now this is a real news outlet.
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Wolf Blitzer is on the story, non-stop, well into its second hour. You'll recall that this is the same Wolf Blitzer who on Monday said that the homophobic Snickers Web site controversy was a non-story. Yet we're now devoting the entire politics show on CNN to a former Playboy playmate mess of a woman who is now dead.
I can't wait for the six o'clock hour, when Lou Dobbs blames Anna Nicole's death on Nancy Pelosi and the Mexicans.
(guest blogged by Logan Murphy)On his radio show, Ed Schultz interviewed Lloyd Chapman, President of American Small Business League. Chapman accused CNN and Lou Dobbs of scrubbing a story produced months ago about the Bush administration giving away billions of dollars in loans to Lockheed Martin and Boeing that were meant to go to [...]
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The Palestinians may have come to an agreement for their country, Libby is closer and closer to prison, the French President may not run for a 3rd term, and the news that shocks me the most is that Anna Nicole Smith, the intellectual equivelent to George[...]
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Tomorrow, the Pentagon's Inspector General will release a declassified version of a long-awaited report on the Office of Special Plans, a Pentagon office that's been accused of manipulating prewar Iraq intelligence, particularly on the question of Iraq's ties to al-Qaeda....
Join the dots, please.
The US sent $12 billion in cash - 363 metric tonnes - of cash into iraq in the days of Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority and saw much of it dissapear due to insufficient oversight and outright corruption.
The memorandum concludes: "Many of the funds appear to have been lost to corruption and waste ... thousands of 'ghost employees' were receiving pay cheques from Iraqi ministries under the CPA's control. Some of the funds could have enriched both criminals and insurgents fighting the United States."Yet US administration officials involved in the debacle - carelessly tossing around cash the equivalent in weight of 38 London buses - seem to be very uncaring, on the basis that it was Iraqi money not American.
According to Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, the $8.8bn funds to Iraqi ministries were disbursed "without assurance the monies were properly used or accounted for". But, according to the memorandum, "he now believes that the lack of accountability and transparency extended to the entire $20bn expended by the CPA".
To oversee the expenditure the CPA was supposed to appoint an independent certified public accounting firm. "Instead the CPA hired an obscure consulting firm called North Star Consultants Inc. The firm was so small that it reportedly operates out of a private home in San Diego." Mr Bowen found that the company "did not perform a review of internal controls as required by the contract".
Paul Bremer, the head of the CPA, reminded the committee that "the subject of today's hearing is the CPA's use and accounting for funds belonging to the Iraqi people held in the so-called Development Fund for Iraq. These are not appropriated American funds. They are Iraqi funds. I believe the CPA discharged its responsibilities to manage these Iraqi funds on behalf of the Iraqi people."The same careless ease with other people's money seems to be endemic to the military/industrial complex. For instance:
Bremer's financial adviser, retired Admiral David Oliver, is even more direct. The memorandum quotes an interview with the BBC World Service. Asked what had happened to the $8.8bn he replied: "I have no idea. I can't tell you whether or not the money went to the right things or didn't - nor do I actually think it's important."
Q: "But the fact is billions of dollars have disappeared without trace."
Oliver: "Of their money. Billions of dollars of their money, yeah I understand. I'm saying what difference does it make?"
A US court has charged three reserve army officers and two civilians with using millions of dollars of Iraq reconstruction money for personal gain.But the corruption and theft isn't only about Iraqi money. Remember the various scandals surrounding defense contractor Brent Wilkes and his friends Dusty Foggo and Duke Cunningham? Or Stephen Potoski? If you weren't paying attention you would definitely have missed this yesterday:
The group are accused of directing at least $8m (£4m) to a construction firm run by a US businessman in return for luxuries such as cars and jewellery.
The officers were responsible for supervising how some $26bn was spent on reconstruction projects in Iraq.
One man has already been jailed and another awaits sentence over the scam.
A National Security Agency employee from Severna Park has been charged with conflict of interest in the funneling of money from a government contract to a family-run business, authorities said yesterday.However it isn't until you get into the higher realms of the military/industrial complex that you find the really big money and flagrant self-appropriation by major corporations of someone else's (taxpayer's) money.
Wayne J. Schepens, 37, was charged yesterday with one count of an act affecting a personal financial interest in U.S. District Court for Maryland.
Schepens was responsible for directing a cyber-defense exercise designed to grade cadets and midshipmen at military service academies on their ability to protect computer networks from attacks by hackers, according to the charge filed in court.
The government alleges that in 2004, Schepens directed that a sole-source subcontract for $340,000 be awarded to CDXperts Inc. The corporation was based at Schepens's home, and his wife served as chief executive, according to the charge.
Whistle-blowers told how the company charged $45 per case of soda, double-billed on meals and allowed troops to bathe in contaminated water.Or this:
Halliburton officials have denied the allegations strenuously. Army officials yesterday defended the company's performance but also acknowledged that reliance on a single contractor left the government vulnerable.
"After 10 years and $1.7 billion, this is what the Marines Corps got for its investment in a new amphibious vehicle: A craft that breaks down about an average of once every 4 1/2 hours, leaks and sometimes veers off course. And for that, the contractor, General Dynamics of Falls Church, received $80 million in bonuses,"Go on, join all those dots. You're left with an inescapable feeling that the Bush administration has presided over a slide into a culture of corruption for the military/homeland security/industrial complex which has turned that massive conglomerate of power into a third world cesspool.
...Despite reforms meant to rein in costs, it is not unusual for weapons programs to go 20 to 50 percent over budget, the Government Accountability Office recently found. Among the offenders is the Army's sprawling modernization program, which aims to update everything from tanks to drones and is now expected to cost $160 billion [or much more -- ed.], up from $90 billion, and a Lockheed Martin missile-warning satellite program, which is projected to cost more than $10 billion, up from $4 billion...