Tenaj's Blog

An Honest Republican

FL Republican Crook Tells All About Efforts To Suppress Black Vote

by Jim Newell

ScrewedDo you trust a former Republican muck-a-muck who’s now in a hot legal lava pool and scorned by fellow members of his party when he starts trashing his ex-colleagues? Sure, we do! Here’s delightful former party chairman Jim Greer, in a deposition recorded in late May: “I was upset because the political consultants and staff were talking about voter suppression and keeping blacks from voting.” Ha ha, sure, that must have really upset him, before he was kicked out and indicted on corruption charges. Nevertheless, he denounces the “whack-a-do, right-wing crazies” who have taken complete control of his political party, so let’s offer him the platform for a full explanation.

See, here is why we probably shouldn’t lionize this dick:

In a deposition Jim Greer gave as part of his lawsuit against the party, Greer portrays himself as a victim of a conspiracy against him while painting a picture of a party in turmoil that’s marred by loose ethics. But a secret tape released as part of the criminal investigation also shows Greer was worried about what party leaders knew about Victory Strategies, a company he and his executive director formed to pay themselves 10 percent of major party donations.

He was fine with all of these lunatics, see, when he was able to skim off some o’ that crazy people money for himself. He would tell the crazy parents that they were correct about Obama trying to indoctrinate their children with his address on the opening day of school, and they’d throw money at his party, and he’d steal it.

But anyway, this all sounds completely correct:

“They talked about not letting blacks vote … and minority outreach programs were not fit for the Republican Party,” Greer said.

He also detailed a party in chaos, saying elected leaders tried wrestling control of the party from then-Gov. Charlie Crist while “whack-a-dos” from the party right and tea partiers also tried to grab control. And he portrayed himself as getting caught in the middle as he stayed loyal to Crist

“The wing of the party that does not agree with Charlie Crist considered me a moderate chairman,” Greer said. “As was commonly referred to them, the whack-a-dos, the crazies, the right wingers. As Dean Cannon said to me one time, the people that want to destroy our Party are trying to take it over.”

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Entry #261

"The Problem We All Live With" Rockwell's Painting

"The Problem We All Live With" - The Truth About Rockwell's Painting

Norman Perceval Rockwell (1894-1978) "The Problem We All Live With", 1963, Look, January 1964 Story Illustration Oil on Canvas 36 x 58 inches Collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge Massachusetts
Norman Perceval Rockwell (1894-1978) "The Problem We All Live With", 1963, Look, January 1964 Story Illustration Oil on Canvas 36 x 58 inches Collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge Massachusetts
Working photograph "The Problem We All Live With" 1963
Working photograph "The Problem We All Live With" 1963
Detail: "The Problem We All Live With", 1963, Look, January 1964 Story Illustration Oil on Canvas 36 x 58 inches Collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge Massachusetts
Detail: "The Problem We All Live With", 1963, Look, January 1964 Story Illustration Oil on Canvas 36 x 58 inches Collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge Massachusetts
Norman Perceval Rockwell (1894-1978) Study for "The Problem We All Live With" Oil 1963
Norman Perceval Rockwell (1894-1978) Study for "The Problem We All Live With" Oil 1963
Norman Perceval Rockwell (1894-1978) Study for "The Problem We All Live With" Oil 1963
Norman Perceval Rockwell (1894-1978) Study for "The Problem We All Live With" Oil 1963
 Study III Norman Perceval Rockwell (1894-1978) Study for "The Problem We All Live With" Graphite 1963
Study III Norman Perceval Rockwell (1894-1978) Study for "The Problem We All Live With" Graphite 1963

The Problem We All Live With  done by Norman Perceval Rockwell is arguably the single most important image ever done of an African-American in illustration history. This  piece is the most requested work at the Norman Rockwell museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. What makes this piece so monumental? Why is this piece so popular and even controversial? First and foremost, it was done by Rockwell, the pitchman for conservative imagery for almost fifty years. 

“A painting like this depicting this subject matter, done by somebody who is embraced by the most conservative elements in our country would make these people stop and think that maybe there is a problem. And the problem is racism. Purely and simply.”-Murray Tinkelman, Chairman of the Hall of  Fame Committee, Society of Illustrators

No other artist was as well known by the masses as Rockwell for forty-six years people looked forward to Rockwell’s perfect small town scenarios on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post. All had grown to love Rockwell, as well as his art. He received mail by the bagfuls from adoring fans. "What a shock it must have been to open up Look Magazine and see a double page spread with the words Norman Rockwell paints “The Problem We All Live With.” "The public, as well as the critics, must have been floored." Maureen Hart Hennessey points out with the Norman Rockwell Museum.

“What a shock it must of been for the Post as well.”

The African-American, for the first time in Rockwells career, did not take a back seat in order to keep advertisers in a magazine. Norman Rockwell was released from the unwritten law that no blacks should be shown unless in subservient roles and the chains of artistic freedom where taken off in this piece. Norman Rockwell’s beloved and controversial painting will be the focus of this thesis.

My first introduction to this piece came in the early 1980s. Although as a small boy I had no clue what historical significance this piece held, my mother would take me to the public library to visit my favorite book, Norman Rockwell Artist and Illustrator  by Thomas Buechner. This book, that proudly sets on my shelf today, contained a complete three page fold out of this painting. Each time I saw this piece, I vividly remembered feeling sorry for this little girl. My mother, Linda Laird, told me recently while discussing this painting:

“ I could not look at this book without flipping through to see Rockwell’s painting of the little black girl getting tomatoes thrown at her. It is such a heart-provoking piece”

Much debate goes on regarding this most famous Rockwell image. Was the piece inspired by reported story of Ruby Bridges, or directly illustrated based on the words of John Steinbeck in Travels with?Charley? In Ruby Bridges’ own book, Through My Eyes,several indicators lead me to believe Rockwell was all too familiar with this incident that took place at Franz Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana. If this is the case then the wild notion by some in the academic community that Rockwell was actually saying the problem we all live with is the little girl or black people are the problem can be tossed out a window. Even the crazy idea that the white dress held some racist symbology will be dissolved upon this research.

If one educates himself about the historical events of 1960 the assumption could easily be made that Rockwell was simply illustrating a story, as he so powerfully did throughout his career. The main difference is the story illustrated here is bitterly hard hitting and raw. It was not Rockwell’s all so familiar perfect America, but rather a one hundred and eighty degree departure, as he depicts segregation and prejudice in its ugliest form. This reality is more provoking because he uses a harmless, innocent African-American child that just so happens to be wearing a white starched dress that most all children wore in the early 1960s.

In November 15, 1960 The New York Times reported: “Some 150 white, mostly housewives and teenage youths, clustered along the sidewalks across from the William Franz School when pupils marched in at 8:40 am. One youth chanted “Two, Four, Six, Eight, we don’t want to segregate; eight, six, four, two, we don’t want a chigeroo.” 

“Forty minutes later, four deputy marshals arrived with a little Negro girl and her mother. They walked hurriedly up the steps and into the yellow brick building while onlookers jeered and shouted taunts.” 

“The girl, dressed in a stiffly starched white dress with a ribbon in her hair, gripping her mother’s hand tightly and glancing apprehensively toward the crowd.”

Ruby Bridges in her award winning childrens book Through My Eyes writes: “The author John Steinbeck was driving through New Orleans with his dog, Charley, when he heard about the racist crowds that gathered outside the Franz school each morning to protest its integration.?He decided to go see what was happening.”

“He especially wanted to see a group of women who came to scream at me and at the few white children who crossed the picket lines and went to school. (At this time, I didn’t know that there were other children in the building. We were kept apart.) The women were known as the Cheerleaders, and their foul language even shocked a man as worldly as Steinbeck.” 

“I never met John Steinbeck, but he seemed to sympathize with what I was going through. He wrote about me in a book called Travels With Charley.  Steinbeck left his dog and his truck in a parking lot. He didn’t want to take them to Franz, where his dog could get hurt or his car could get damaged. Instead, he took a cab. Fearing that protesters would wreck his car, the driver didn’t take Steinbeck all the way to the school, but left him a few blocks away.” 

“Steinbeck never knew my name. My name and the names of the girls at the McDonough school were never mentioned on television or in the newspapers. The press tried to protect us.”

John Steinbeck wrote: “The show opened on time. Sound the sirens. Motorcycle cops. Then two big black cars filled with big men in blond felt hats pulled up in front of the school. The crowd seemed to hold its breath. Four big marshals got out of each car and from somewhere in the automobiles they extracted the littlest negro girl you ever saw, dressed in shining starchy white, with new white shoes on feet so little they were almost round. Her face and little legs were very black against the white.”

“The big marshals stood her on the curb and a jangle of jeering shrieks went up from behind the barricades. The little girl did not look at the howling crowd, but from the side the whites of her eyes showed like those of a frightened fawn. The men turned her around like a doll and then the strange procession moved up the broad walk toward the school, and the child was even more a mite because the men were so big. Then the girl made a curious hop, and I think I know what it was. I think in her whole life she had not gone ten steps without skipping, but now in the middle of her first step, the weight bore her down and her little round feet took measured, reluctant steps between the tall guards. Slowly they climbed the steps and entered the school.” -Travels With Charley

One must wonder if Rockwell was influenced by these recorded incidents. He must have been. It would be hard to believe that the elements he shows are just coincidence. It also would be totally out of ignorance not to factor in this story of Ruby Bridges either from print or television, as inspiration. Rockwell’s piece includes four marshals, a yellowish colored building, a little black child in a starched white dress, and the final detail of the bow in her hair. It would be fair, however, to say that Rockwell took artistic license and was able to take the given historical elements and mold them, into his own interpretation. Just as Howard Pyle, who had in “the golden age” depicted historical events, Rockwell was America’s favorite story teller and as show, his earliest concept was to depict the incident as it had happened with the little girl in a white dress and he never changed this. Why are the suits of the marshals not black or dark grey as they were at this time? Rockwell had to take the darkness away from them not only for effect but to pull off a good painting. It is obvious that Rockwell wants the emphasis to be on this little black girl and her story, not on the marshals. He uses a old trick used by his contemporaries to solve the problem. Murray Tinkelman states:

“The cropping of the marshals’ heads I think is inspired. These guys become symbols of all law enforcement and how law enforcement stands above racism.”

Norman Rockwell does not name the little girl, nor does he use a model that is a mirror image of Ruby Bridges, so yes, he was not one hundred percent accurate. I do, however, feel that he used Ruby Bridges story as his inspiration with no doubt in my mind. Rockwell might have died not even knowing the child’s name because it is said that they kept Ruby Bridges name out of there media to protect her. Travels With?Charley  cannot be found in the Rockwell library, so one may discredit the notion that he used this novel as inspiration. I conclude that he might have heard of the story on the news or read about the incident through the earlier excerpt from The New York Times. 

Walter Cronkite reported the incident in 1960 for the evening news so the national coverage gave the American people, including Rockwell, all the horrible details. Including eggs being thrown by segregationalist housewifes, words that were so bad that the sensors had to muffle the crowd noise and blot these hurtful, horrible words out of their coverage.

“No newspaper had printed the words these women shouted. It was indicated that they were indelicate, some even said obscene, On television the sound track was made to blur or had crown noises cut to occur. But, I heard the words, bestial and filthy and degenerate -John Steinbeck. Travels With?Charley 

To be so dead set on believing that Rockwell meant anything other than showing the terrible problem of racism in America in 1964 would mean you could not believe the story of Ruby Bridges and her plight four years earlier. Rockwell’s painting is probably the mostly widely used image in school books today as Mareen Hart Hennessay quoted earlier. 

“One should note that it is not -necessarily -Norman Rockwell’s politics or religious views that are so often attacked or disdained. He was what in any milieu one would have to call ‘a decent man,’ and in many instances, courageous. His painting, The Problem We All Live With  appeared on the cover of Look  magazine on January 14, 1964. It infuriated some, heartened the hopes of others, shamed many, and was met with indifference or scorn by the Art Establishment. The Problem We All Live With strikes directly at the heart and exemplifies Rockwell’s hallmark approach: strong horizontals, close foreground, and, especially, telling details which draw the viewer into concluding a narrative, one orchestrated to move him. The perceptive viewer notes not only the confident posture and countenance of the young girl- her escorts are cropped and anonymous agents of the law -but the writ in the pocket of the advancing guard, the contrast of schoolbooks with the graffiti on the wall, the smashed tomato (the least of projectiles launched in those times). It is an approach common to centuries of fine art, emblematic and immediate. But Rockwell’s concern at this date is not doctrine, or delight: he stirs a decent empathy, a quietly powerful outrage.”

“Further, none in the Art echelons particularly condemn art when it scrapes the ‘political,’ at least, not if it supports their brand; nor are artists generally disdained for being ‘apolitical,’ which, in many senses, Rockwell was not. He was most assuredly a Constitutionalist, certainly by sentiment. (That latter term is important.).” -From The Norman Rockwell Museum Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People 

I will conclude by again sighting these words by Dr. Manning Marable:

 “It would be better to feel ourselves unsettled by the full truth of these historical horrors before we commend ourselves for having buried the past. As we peer into the unmarked graves of the ghosts that haunt America still, perhaps the path to peace lies not only in dreaming a better future for black children but in awakening white Americans to their own history . . . .” -

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Entry #260

Sequestration and national security: What you need to know

Sequestration and national security: What you need to know

Mitt Romney and Republicans are attempting to mislead Americans by attacking President Obama for ensuring “massive defense cuts.” They’re basing this false attack on a “sequestration” passed by Congress last August—a policy that is supposed to force Congress to reach a deal to reduce the deficit. Here is what you need to know about the sequester and where each candidate stands on preventing the cuts:

What is sequestration?

If Congress cannot reach a deal to reduce the deficit by the end of the year, a “sequester” will trigger $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts evenly split between defense and non-defense spending. Democrats and Republicans in Congress created this mechanism in order to pressure its members to reach a compromise on deficit-reduction. The potential defense cuts, which passed Congress with a majority of Republican support in both the House and the Senate, will only go into effect if Congress cannot agree on a deficit deal.

Why is this plan in place?

After House Republicans refused to support President Obama’s deficit-reduction proposal—a compromise that could have cut the deficit by $4 trillion over ten years—Congress had to find a way to address our country’s rising levels of debt from two wars, the Bush tax cuts, and the effects of the worst recession since the Great Depression. To reach a long-term deal, Democrats and Republicans in Congress reached an agreement with President Obama: $1 trillion in spending cuts and a pledge to reduce the deficit by an additional $1 trillion. Congress established the threat of sequestration as an enforcement mechanism: the automatic and indiscriminate spending cuts were designed to be so damaging that Congress would have no choice but to reach a deficit-reduction deal in order to prevent their implementation.

What are the consequences of the sequester for national security?

Congressional Republicans are risking serious consequences in order to launch a political attack. President Obama understands that the effects of such massive spending cuts would undermine our national security. The reductions would indiscriminately slash the Pentagon’s funding by nearly 20% over the next decade, threatening to undermine America’s military. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta noted that sequestration would drastically shrink the military and diminish its ability to keep us safe.

What is President Obama’s plan to avoid these cuts?

President Obama made it very clear that Congress “can and must act to avoid the sweeping impacts of the sequester” and provided several blueprints for balanced deficit reduction to avoid these cuts. His deficit reduction package, for example, offered more than $4 trillion in deficit reduction while making sure we continue to invest in education, job creation, and long-term economic growth. The package “would achieve more than enough deficit reduction to avoid the sequester,” and would provide our military the support they need to keep America safe. Fiscal commission co-chairs Erksine Bowles and Alan Simpson both called the President’s plan “a balanced, comprehensive approach to deficit reduction.” But Republican leaders “walked away from negotiations” because they refused to accept any revenue increases.

Does Mitt Romney have a plan that would prevent these cuts?

No. Romney has refused to support any proposal that would include additional government revenue, saying “I don’t believe that raising revenues is the right answer to balancing our budget.” He even backed Congressional Republicans who refused to raise revenue as part of a deal to avoid government default. Romney said that he didn’t want Congress to take any actions that might prevent these cuts before inauguration day in January 2013, even though the country faces looming defense cuts.

Why hasn’t Congress voted to pass a solution yet?

Republicans in Congress have apparently decided to stall legislation and “put off striking deals on major legislative issues” like deficit reduction in hopes that Romney wins the White House. Republican leader Rep. Jim Jordan even said that some Republicans were willing to see major fiscal decisions postponed until next year, because they are bullish about Mr. Romney winning.

In fact, with buy-in from the Romney campaign, Congressional Republicans have laid out month-long plans “in painstaking detail” that attack the President on defense cuts rather than attempting to find a solution. As Politico notes, “the main goal” of these attacks is “to boost the party’s prospects on Election Day.”

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Entry #259

Protecting early voting in Ohio

Protecting early voting in Ohio

In a blatant attempt to mislead Americans, Mitt Romney is falsely accusing the Obama campaign of trying to restrict military voting in Ohio. In fact, the opposite is true: The Obama campaign filed a lawsuit to make sure every Ohioan has early voting rights, including military members and their families.

What happened to early voting in Ohio?

  • In the 2008 presidential election, more than 93,000 Ohioans utilized early voting in the three days before the election.

  • Earlier this year, Ohio’s GOP-controlled legislature passed an election reform law that cut off early voting three days before the election.

  • More than 300,000 Ohioans signed a petition to secure a referendum on the November 6th ballot in order to repeal this law. Rather than face the referendum, the legislature, at the urging of Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, decided to repeal the law.

  • However, “in an unusual turn of events,” Ohio Republicans managed to keep a technical provision of the bill that shortens the early voting process and eliminates the last three days of early voting for all citizens except military personnel and their families.

What does that mean for voters?

In addition to reducing Ohioans’ access to the polls, the legislature created inequality between military voters who can cast early ballots in person through the day before the election and all other voters who only have until 6 p.m. on the Friday before the election to vote in-person absentee.

Why is there a lawsuit?

These restrictions are a violation of the equal protection guarantees in the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit seeks to make sure that all Ohioans, including military members and their families, can exercise their right to vote early. “This lawsuit seeks to treat all Ohio citizens equally under the law,” said Obama for America attorney Bob Bauer. “We want to restore the right of all to vote before Election Day.”

The facts show that Romney’s claim about restricting military voting is a blatant distortion. The purpose of the lawsuit is to ensure that every Ohioan—including military voters—has the right to make their voices heard at the polls.

Entry #258

What would you do if you were president?

What would you do if you were president and had control over congress and they couldn't block anything and you weren't going to seek a second election to hinder when you did something.  I'm going to unblock, ridge and jarasan and maddog just so they can put in their two cents.  Please state what you would do about jobs, the economy, etc, why and what effect it will have on the people.  I got this theory that whatever your politics is, it's who you are.  No lying.

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Entry #252

CNN Tells the Stark Truth About Rising College Costs

CNN Tells the Stark Truth About Rising College Costs

I'm going to get this out of the way right up front: the time-honored American Dream of parents sending their kids off to college so they can get a higher education that will allow them to live better than they did is dead as doornail. Just how bad is it? CNN reports in an article entitled "Stop the Tuition Madness":
For parents with college-bound kids, it seems like a no-win situation. Your child is eyeing the grassy quads and Gothic dorms of Dream U., while you're staring down at a too-small 401(k), a shaky job market, and a house worth a lot less than a few years ago.

Meanwhile, colleges are bidding up tuition prices faster than a hedge fund manager at an art auction. Over the past 10 years the cost of private college has jumped more than 60%, nearly three times as much as incomes over the same period, and will now set you back $42,000 a year on average.

Prices at public colleges have shot up even more, nearly doubling to $21,000 for in-state students. Got younger kids? By 2020 you're looking at a four-year bill that's likely to top $240,000 for private schools and $155,000 at public universities. Sure there's financial aid, but scholarships aren't keeping up with tuition inflation. So long, retirement hopes; hello again, boss.

Your children will suffer, too, if they're forced to start their adult lives with onerous debt. "Student loans can affect every decision young adults make: whether they can go to graduate school, buy a house, even start a family," says Patrick Callan, president of the Higher Education Policy Institute.
I actually have one nit to pick with that excerpt from the story. There is no way college tuitions are going to rise from their already lofty heights to those insane levels by the year 2020. It should be obvious that we are already reaching the point of Peak Higher Education, in which the mounting price tag for even a Bachelor's Degree at a public university is rising beyond what's affordable for most people even with student loans. The $155,000 figure cited as the future cost for a four-year degree is about three-and-a-half times the current median annual household income (around $45,000).

At some point, the growing consciousness that a college education no longer guarantees a good salary or even any employment at all upon graduation is going to reach critical mass, and enough students (and their parents) are going to balk at taking on a six figure debt only to end up at best waiting tables at Applebees five years later. Once that happens, the higher education system in its current form is going to collapse.

Many will lament its passing, but it really is for the better. Except in rare instances, universities long ago largely stopped being places where students could learn for knowledge's sake and expand their minds to become better citizens. Instead, a university degree had become merely a ticket that needed to be punched to gain admittance into the white collar corporate world.

The rapid rise in tuition costs, which for well more than a decade have greatly exceeded the rate of inflation, very much encouraged the transformation of our universities into mere job factories. Even if obtaining a high paying job wasn't a student's first motivation for attending college, it likely moved high on the list once they started to realize how much debt they were going to have to take on to obtain that degree. As for the colleges themselves--beyond enabling big, fat pay raises for administrators, professors and football and basketball coaches--the need to keep their cash cows from dropping out no doubt also greatly contributed to the grade inflation that has turned, for example, attaining a "B" average from a genuine academic achievement into a complete joke.

The CNN article actually goes on to propose a list of potential solutions for curbing college costs, which wouldn't be half-bad if we were still living in "normal" times. I particularly like the idea of cutting way back on the expensive college football programs. Sadly, however, like most mainstream media articles this one assumes that the system can be "saved" by making a few tweaks here and there, when in truth the effects of peak oil and resource depletion and the fact that we have now entered the age of permanent contraction means that the system itself is soon going to follow the old Communist bloc into the dustbin of history.
Entry #251

The Wealthy hoard money, while holding the middle class hostage

The Wealthy hoard money, while holding the middle class hostage

Tom Hartmann

Published: 19 July, 2012, 19:26

­The heirs of the Wal Mart fortune – the Walton family – have gotten a lot wealthier since the Bush recession began in 2007, while the rest of us have gotten a lot poorer.  According to data from the Federal Reserve, median family wealth in America dropped by nearly 40% between 2007 and 2010.  But, during that same, the wealth of the Walton family increased 22% to nearly $90 billion.

So now, the six Walton heirs have more wealth than 48 million American families – or more than 41% of all American families – COMBINED.  And yet, despite the incredible wealth disparity – Republicans in Congress are pushing for even more tax breaks for the Wal Mart heirs – and other millionaires and billionaires who fund Republican candidates.

This is a make-or-break moment for the American middle class, as Democrats try to extend tax cuts for working Americans, while cutting them off for the Walton heirs.  We’ll see if Republicans go along with this common sense solution, or if they hold the middle class hostage so that their billionaire buddies can hoard even more wealth.  Stay tuned.

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Entry #250

Justice Dept: Fast and Furious report distorted

Justice Dept: Fast and Furious report distorted

Published - Jul 31 2012 07:26PM EST

PETE YOST, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department said Tuesday that Republican lawmakers are engaging in distortions by asserting that Operation Fast and Furious arose from a strategy created by the Obama administration.

In a report following an 18-month probe of the flawed gun-smuggling investigation, Rep. Darrell Issa of California and Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said that the administration shifted the emphasis in fighting Mexican drug cartels from merely seizing firearms to identifying the networks that traffic them.

Operation Fast and Furious "was born from this strategy," the report concluded.

In Operation Fast and Furious and at least three earlier probes during the administration of Republican President George W. Bush, agents in Arizona employed a risky tactic called gun-walking — allowing low-level "straw" buyers in gun-trafficking networks to leave with loads of weapons purchased at gun shops. The goal of the tactic was to track the guns to major weapons traffickers and drug cartels in order to bring cases against kingpins who had long eluded prosecution under the prevailing strategy of arresting most low-level purchasers of guns who were suspected of buying them for others.

In Operation Fast and Furious, many of the weapons weren't tracked and wound up at crime scenes in Mexico and the U.S., including at the site of a shootout on the U.S. side of the border that resulted in the death of a border agent, Brian Terry. Fast and Furious identified more than 2,000 weapons suspected of being illicitly purchased. Some 1,400 of them have yet to be recovered.

Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said that the Republican report "reiterates many of the distortions and now-debunked conspiracy theories that Rep. Issa has been advancing for a year and a half, including the fiction that the flawed tactics used in Fast and Furious were somehow the brainchild of the current administration as opposed to the reality that the pattern of flawed tactics dates back to 2006 and the prior administration."

The gun-walking tactic that Issa and Grassley are linking to the Obama administration has long been against Justice Department policy.

The Justice Department did adopt a strategy in 2009 for fighting Mexican cartels that said merely seizing firearms through interdiction would not stop firearms trafficking to Mexico. And records show that more than 68,000 guns reached Mexico from the U.S. over the last five years despite the long-standing policy of arresting low-level participants in suspected gun-running. "We must identify, investigate, and eliminate the sources of illegally trafficked firearms and the networks that transport them," the department stated.

Issa's report says that federal agents and William Newell, head of the Phoenix division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, may have viewed the Justice Department strategy statement as "the green light they had been waiting for" to engage in what became Operation Fast and Furious.

The report says that "Newell had an audacious goal. He intended to dismantle the U.S.-based gun trafficking network that supplied the formidable Mexican Sinaloa Cartel" led by Joaquin "EL Chapo" Guzman.

The Republican draft report on Operation Fast and Furious says that Newell and four other ATF officials share much of the blame for what went wrong with the Arizona gun-smuggling probe.

All five were removed from their jobs and reassigned a year ago. Attorney General Eric Holder has said further personnel changes could be made, depending on the findings in an upcoming review of Fast and Furious by the Justice Department inspector general.

Schmaler said the report does signal a notable shift in that the Issa-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee "finally acknowledges what the attorney general and other department officials have been saying from the beginning — that the flaws in this operation, and in previous ones, had their origins in the field in Arizona and occurred, in part, due to weak oversight by ATF leadership."

A second still-unreleased report by Republican congressional investigators on Operation Fast and Furious will deal with the roles of the deputy attorney general's office and the Justice Department's criminal division. A third report will deal with the roles of the attorney general and other top officials at the Justice Department in responding to the controversy after it erupted publicly in early 2011.

The third report will follow what is likely to be a lawsuit against the attorney general by the Republican-controlled House seeking Justice Department documents detailing how Justice officials decided to respond to the congressional investigation.

The House voted June 28 to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress for withholding material sought by Issa's committee. President Barack Obama invoked executive privilege to order Holder not to turn over the documents on grounds that they reveal internal executive branch advice and recommendations.

Entry #249

McCain is talking

McCain again in spotlight over Romney tax returns, Bachmann

Posted by
CNN's Kevin Liptak

(CNN) – Sen. John McCain seems to be confirming his "maverick" nickname this week.

The Vietnam war hero, longtime Arizona senator and 2008 Republican presidential nominee made headlines in recent days both for bucking members of his own party and for staunchly defending the current GOP nominee against attacks. And Thursday, he pushed back against both parties for their reliance on big dollar donors who he says are corrupting the American political system.

– Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

"I promise you there will be scandals, and there will be major scandals," McCain told CNN's Piers Morgan in an interview set to air Thursday at 9 p.m. ET. "There's too much money washing around for there not to be scandals. If you think Watergate was big, if you think Abramoff was big, just wait and you'll see what happens in this thing."

McCain has long advocated campaign finance reform, including sponsoring the McCain-Feingold legislation in 2002 that overhauled campaign spending laws. Since then courts have struck down various aspects of that measure.

Earlier this week McCain voted with fellow Senate Republicans to block the DISCLOSE Act, a piece of Democratic legislation that would require greater transparency into who is behind much of the secretive, often negative campaign advertising filling the airwaves this election season.

McCain said he was opposed to the bill because it had different rules for labor unions, which he said were getting off easy.

Later in the week, however, McCain hit back against members of his own party, including Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, for their requests that various government agencies investigate whether the government has been infiltrated by Muslim extremists.

Among the issues they raise is a claim that long-time aide to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin, has three family members connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, and is at risk of being influenced by her family members. The members of Congress want to know how she holds a high level security clearance.

McCain made a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday criticizing the call for an investigation and defending Abedin.

Asked by Morgan if the floor speech meant "we've got the real John McCain back," McCain said he'd argue "I never left."

"The point is that I know Huma. I know her from travelling with her, I know of her reputation, I know this great story that we love - the immigrant who comes to, you know, to our country and does so well. And it was really unfair to do what was done to her," McCain said, adding he wasn't only targeting Bachmann in his speech.

"I hope that this sends a message to other people on both right and left that we shouldn't attack people's character unfairly," McCain said.

Bachmann, who refused to answer questions from CNN about the letter on Wednesday, said in a statement that her and her colleagues' request was being "distorted."

"I encourage everyone, including media outlets, to read them in their entirety," Bachmann wrote. "The intention of the letters was to outline the serious national security concerns I had and ask for answers to questions regarding the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical group's access to top Obama administration officials."

McCain also finds himself in the unique position of being one of the few Americans who has seen more than two years of Mitt Romney's income tax returns. Romney, who made his own bid for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, reportedly provided 20 years of tax returns to the team vetting potential vice presidential picks for McCain. That's significantly more than the two years of information Romney has made public this cycle.

Romney has released his 2010 tax returns and an estimate for 2011, with a promise to release the official documents for last year once they're ready. He filed an extension with the Internal Revenue Service, meaning he may not put out his returns until the October filing deadline.

Democrats, in their effort to get Romney to release more tax returns, now ask why Romney was willing to give so many documents to McCain, but won't do the same publicly this year. Some have questioned whether McCain saw something in Romney's tax information four years ago that discouraged him from picking Romney as his running mate.

McCain says that's not the case.

"I can personally vouch for the fact that there was nothing in his tax return that would in anyway be disqualifying for him to be a candidate. Okay?" McCain said Wednesday.

"We're getting into areas now that are improper for me to talk about," McCain added. "Because when people gave us all those records we agreed to confidentiality. The only reason I'm saying what I'm saying now is because of the scurrilous, scurrilous Chicago style sleaze intimations with no basis in fact that there might have been something wrong with his tax returns, which is disgraceful."

CNN's Ashley Killough and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

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Entry #248

Romney now seeking to introduce himself to voters

Romney now seeking to introduce himself to voters

Published - Jul 31 2012 06:22PM EST

BETH FOUHY, Associated Press

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney visits the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes in Warsaw, Poland,...

(The Associated Press)

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney visits the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes in Warsaw, Poland, Tuesday, July 31, 2012 (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

NEW YORK (AP) — Mitt Romney has been on the national political stage for nearly a decade — through two presidential bids, countless campaign events and millions spent on TV ads. But the likely Republican presidential nominee still isn't well-known to most voters.

So now he's trying to fix that.

With less than 100 days until the Nov. 6 election, Romney is starting to introduce himself to them in earnest — through a combination of carefully selected media appearances and biographical ads — before President Barack Obama's efforts to define him in a negative light cripple his candidacy.

"I got the chance to start my own business ... I went off to have the chance at running the Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002 ... The real experience was in Massachusetts," the former governor says in a new television commercial released Tuesday that features him on the campaign trail, in factories and with his wife, Ann, by his side. "I want to use those experiences to help Americans have a better future."

Until now, Romney has emphasized his record at the private equity firm Bain Capital, giving Obama and other Democrats the chance to portray him in their ads as an out-of-touch corporate raider and job killer. The new ad is an effort to deflect that barrage by letting him round out that biography by touching aspects of it that he hasn't stressed in the past.

The ad marked the start of a new phase for the Republican presidential candidate as he looks to move from a seven-day, three-nation trip abroad and into a period where the media glare will shine even brighter as he prepares to announce his vice presidential running mate in the run-up to the GOP convention where he'll accept the party's presidential nomination.

In what may be his most extensive series of national broadcast interviews this campaign, Romney and his wife spent much of the trip answering questions from TV anchors on everything from her part ownership of a horse competing in the Olympics to whether they were each other's true love (The answer? Yes.)

In one appearance, Romney touched on the challenge he faces in introducing himself to voters as the clock ticks down on the campaign and he runs against an incumbent who is universally recognized and generally liked by most voters.

"You know, I've been on 'The Tonight Show' and Letterman and 'The View' and I do some of those things to get better known," Romney said when NBC anchor Brian Williams asked if he was a "hidden man." Romney said he expected voters to tune in more after Labor Day. "Most folks won't really get to see me until the debates and will get a better sense of the character that I have," he said.

It was an unusual acknowledgement for a major party's presidential standard-bearer this late in a campaign, but one borne out in recent polling.

A CBS News/New York Times poll conducted in mid-July found that 31 percent of registered voters were either undecided or hadn't heard enough about Romney when asked if they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of him.

The new ad is meant to boost those numbers. It's a striking shift from the negativity that has marked much of the TV advertising in the campaign so far this year.

Romney granted wide-ranging interviews on the trip to many news organizations the campaign has largely avoided until now. He spoke to the three major broadcast networks and CNN after spending months favoring venues like the conservative-friendly Fox News over other cable and network TV outlets.

Even so, he's only going so far.

Romney gave no interviews to American-based print media and largely avoided most of the U.S.-based reporters who accompanied him on the trip, taking just three questions from them in London and none during his subsequent stops in Israel and Poland. The lack of access produced a dust-up between the traveling press corps and campaign staffers, with a spokesman at one point telling a reporter to "shove it."

Romney got some favorable coverage, especially from CNN's Piers Morgan, who asked softer questions to the Romneys outside London's scenic Royal Naval College. ("Was your best deal the moment you asked this lady to marry you?" was one such query.) But the rest of the interviews were a mixed bag, contributing to a string of gaffes that came to characterize the trip.

For one, Romney's controversial musings about London's preparedness to host the Olympics came during the interview with Williams. Romney also disclosed information in other interviews that undoubtedly will provide fodder for Democratic operatives.

Romney continued to insist he would not release more of his income tax returns and told ABC News that he had been audited by the IRS in the past. Romney also ducked when asked whether he had paid less than 13.9 percent of his income in taxes, saying he hadn't calculated that but would be "happy to go back and look." Earlier this year, Romney released his 2010 tax return, which indicated he had paid just 13.9 percent tax on income of $21.6 million — a rate substantially lower than what most Americans pay on far less income.

On CBS News, Romney was asked to respond to a Newsweek magazine cover that referred to him as a wimp.

"If I worried about what the media said I wouldn't get much sleep. I sleep pretty well," he said.

The Obama campaign, for its part, happily distributed information about media access when Obama, then an Illinois senator and the likely Democratic presidential nominee, took a major international trip in the summer of 2008. The campaign said Obama held four news conferences in four countries with a total of 25 questions and did seven network television interviews and a number of print interviews.

Romney campaign strategist Stuart Stevens, who traveled abroad with Romney, promised the candidate would do several print interviews before the general election. "He gave a lot of interviews over here," Stevens said.


Associated Press writers Kasie Hunt in Warsaw, Poland, and Steve Peoples and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius in Washington contributed to this report.


Follow Beth Fouhy on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/bfouhy

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Entry #247