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CounterPunch Diary

How Bush is Wiping Out McCain

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN

Amid these very bad weeks for Republican John McCain’s hopes for victory in November, the cruelest blow of all is surely that President George Bush has decided to let McCain sink, without even pretending to toss a life belt to his fellow Republican.

Two mean-spirited men by nature, Bush and McCain have never liked each other much and this natural animosity was fanned by the vicious nomination fights of 2000, when Bush routed McCain with salvoes of slurs, including one about a black “love child” supposedly disfiguring the senator’s  escutcheon.

Both are now in poor political shape, with contradictory strategies for rehabbing their fortunes.

The president is saddled with an approval rating bumping along in the 20s. Each day he is served   another platter of contemptuous stories about “the worst presidency of modern times”, the lack of any enduring “legacy”, the approaching Democratic landslide that will put the Republicans in the wilderness for at least two terms.

For his part, McCain trails Obama by anywhere from 4 to 9 points. Often he seems a forgotten candidate. Only one reporter turned out to cover his arrival at an airport in New Hampshire last week. He flails wildly, whining that it’s Obama’s fault that the price of oil is bankrupting Americans. He is cursed with misfortune. A scheduled photo-op flight to an oil rig to call for more offshore drilling had to be cancelled because of a tropical storm. His plea for more refineries had to compete with news reports of a catastrophic  oil spill on the Mississippi. Supposedly versed in foreign affairs, he refers to “Czechoslovakia” and the “Iraq-Pakistan border.”

Reporters with McCain realize gloomily that their candidate will probably not be leading them into a coveted slot in the White House press corps. So their reports get splenetic and morose, in distinction to the ecstatic bulletins from Obama’s campaign planes.

Aside from the race card, McCain’s last best hope has always been a steady pounding of the war drum against Iran. Then he could strut about on the poop deck as a man seasoned in the grim business of putting Americans in harm’s way, in contrast to his wimpish opponent.

And indeed all through the first half of this year the drum rolls were unceasing. But then, in the last ten days, to McCain’ mortification, they stopped. Suddenly the air has fragrant with talk of a possible new dawn in relations between the US and Iran. Bush sent a senior State Department official, William Burns, to join Washington’s allies at a negotiating table with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator (though Burns was told to keep his own mouth shut).

In step with this shocking demonstration of sanity , the White House made no serious attempt to upend Obama’s trip to Iraq or excessively ridicule the harmonies from the Democratic candidate and Iraqi prime minister Maliki on schedules for US withdrawal. Indeed noises that could be construed as acceptance of an accelerated schedule emanated from the White House.

If it had so desired, the White House could easily have made Obama’s trip extremely uncomfortable. All it would have taken was something such as a provocative overflight of Teheran, with subsequent flexing of muscles.

As final testimony to the huge disaster for the McCain campaign of Obama’s trip to Iraq, the floundering Republican candidate managed to shoehorn himself into talk about a rate of withdrawal from Iraq a good deal brisker than the 100 years of occupation he was talking about in the spring, or even the 2013 deadline he subsequently settled on.

The fact is that the peace lobby in Washington has scored another victory over the war party, just as it did with the joint assessment of the intelligence services last year that war on Iran was a rotten idea. This time, wiser heads than Dick Cheney’s have acknowledged the fact that the price rises for fuel are savaging an already weak economy and tottering credit system. War on Iran would be the coup de grace.

At the Republican convention in St. Paul at the start of September, Bush is being given the first day. Of course he could use it as a trumpet blast, draping the warrior’s mantle around McCain’s venerable shoulders. But it’s more likely now that Bush will  announce yet again, “Mission Accomplished”. What does that leave McCain with, against the candidate of hope and change?

Unlucky John Edwards

The lack of spice and scandal in this campaign – the theme of my last Diary – has thrust John Edwards into an unwelcome spotlight. Last October the National Enquirer offered a well reported story on an alleged affair conducted by the well-coiffed populist and a somewhat rough-looking blonde videographer named Rielle Hunter. The Enquirer said their furtive union had been blessed with a love child – at that point an imminent arrival.

Charged with being an adulterer stealing precious seconds from the bedside of his dying wife to cavort with his paramour, Edwards denied all. His nose deep in Shakespeare’s earlier comedies, an Edwards aide said that the love child was his.

At the start  of last week the National Enquirer ambushed Edwards emerging from a side door at the Beverly Hilton, apparently have paid a clandestine visit to mistress and love child. Spotting the Enquirer’s jackals, Edwards attempted to flee. It looks as though everything the Enquirer reported last year was true and the wealthy lawyer-populist was lying through his well-polished  teeth. In a reprise of its refusal to report on the Enquirer’s great and conclusively documented  scoop back in 1992 on Bill Clinton’s affair with Gennifer Flowers, the press – both corporate and “alternative” — has almost unanimously declined to advertise Edwards’ discomfiture – even though it has a political consequence, in the form of a severe downgrading of Edwards’ chances of getting a job in any Obama administration.  The Los Times Times’ online editor, Tony Pierce, sent a message dated July 24 advising the ailing paper’s bloggers not to mention Edward’s afflictions, even though they occurred only a few miles from the LAT’s hq. Pierce said snootily that “because the only source has been the National Enquirer we have decided not to cover the rumor or salacious speculation, so I am asking you all not to blog about this topic until further notified.”

It’s All About the Price of Diesel

I drove a Ford 7.3 diesel Econoline some 1450 miles between Petrolia and Los Angeles last week, to pick up heavy objects including 200 bricks that once formed part of Frank Bardacke’s chimney in Watsonville, before the Loma Prieta earthquake toppled them in 1989. Since the Econoline gets about 10.5 miles to the gallon and diesel costs about $5.05 per gallon in California the jaunt cost me about $700 in fuel.

So I’ve been thinking even more intently that usual about the great oil price scam being conducted by Bush and Cheney, with the connivance of Congress. You want to understand why this is happened to us? Our latest CounterPunch newsletter has a marvelously concise article by the economist Michael Hudson which lays out the relationship between Bush, the oil lobby and the current high price of gasoline and diesel. I urge you to seize this opportunity to subscribe to our newsletter where Hudson’s piece is currently featured.

You will also have the bonus of yet another monstrous parable of corporate greed, this time involving that hardy standby-by, the Congo, in dirty business since King Leopold of the Belgians. And there’s also an unsparing assessment by me of that energetic toady to power, Fareed Zakaria. Click here and enjoy!

Footnote: a slightly shorter version of the first item currently runs in http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/