David Kirkpatrick

July 15, 2008

Bud deal to affect McCain politically?

I doubt the InBev acquisition of Anheuser-Busch (I blogged on the business end of the deal here) will have any effect on McCain’s campaign, but it is an interesting idea to float out there. Both candidates seem to be enjoying fairly gloves-off press so far.

From the second (Washington Independent) link:

This could be problematic for the McCain campaign in two ways. First, McCain has been railing against Sen. Barack Obama’s calls to raise the capital-gains tax — which taxes stock dividends. The capital-gains tax rate was lowered to 15 percent as part of President George W. Bush’s 2003 tax cut package — which McCain at first opposed strongly but now supports extending. Common sense dictates that Cindy McCain will not cash out her Anheuser-Busch stock while her husband is on the campaign trail talking about capital gains, but the appearance of personal gain from McCain’s favored policies still remains. Later today, McCain is scheduled to visit St. Louis — home of Anheuser-Busch — where he plans to talk to local media and attend a fund-raiser. The InBev deal will surely be a topic of interest to reporters there.

Second, and perhaps more important, the enormous windfall is a stark reminder that the McCains are fantastically wealthy. This flies in the face of the image the McCains have been promoting on the stump — that they are an ordinary couple, in touch with the economic concerns of working-class families.

Update 7/16 — Here’s a bit from the Wall Street Journaloutlining Cindy McCain’s financial take from the InBev deal. This story doesn’t seem to be gaining any current traction and I personally think it has nothing to do with McCain’s presidential abilities or hopes, but these sort of facts could easily come back to haunt the campaign. Anytime he tries to spin himself as a “common man” the Obama team only has to pull out these numbers and maybe toss in Cindy’s all-conceived statement that living in Arizona requires a private plane.

From the WSJ link:

UPDATE:Mrs. McCain’s company owns between $2.5 million to $5 million in Anheuser stock, meaning it will earn $800,000 to $1.6 million premium on the pre-deal stock price. Although Senate personal financial disclosure forms only say that Mrs. McCain’s firm owns at least $1 million, a Democratic Party aide points out that it also reports $50,000-$100,000 in dividends in 2007. With $1.25 dividend per share last year, that means the McCains own between 40,000 and 80,000 shares.

June 18, 2008

More on Bush 43 and torture

With Congress looking into the torture program of the Bush 43 regime, there’s plenty of news and analysis out there.

Here’s Spencer Ackerman at the Washington Independent:

In August 2004, a Defense Dept. panel convened to investigate detainee abuse after the Abu Ghraib scandal issued its much-anticipated report. Interrogation techniques designed for use at Guantanamo Bay, which President George W. Bush had decreed outside the scope of the Geneva Conventions, had “migrated” to Iraq, which Bush recognized was under Geneva, concluded panel chairman James Schlesinger, a former defense secretary. Schlesinger’s panel, however, did not explain which officials ordered the abusive techniques to transfer across continents — or how and why they became Pentagon policy in the first place.

Tuesday the Senate Armed Services Committee answered those questions. In a marathon hearing spanning eight hours and three separate panels, the committee revealed, in painstaking detail, how senior Pentagon officials transformed a program for Special Forces troops to resist torture — known as Survival Evasion Resistance Escape, or SERE — into a blueprint for torturing terrorism detainees.

The committee, chaired by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), released numerous classified documents from the crucial period of mid-2002 to early 2003, when the policies of abuse took shape inside the Defense Dept. “Senior officials in the United States government sought information on aggressive techniques, twisted the law to create the appearance of their legality and authorized their use against detainees,” Levin said. “In the process, they damaged our ability to collect intelligence that could save lives.”

And Scott Horton at Harper’s :

In a series of hearings, Congressional leaders are trying to get to the bottom of a simple question: who initiated torture techniques in the “war on terror”? What was the process by which it was done? On whose authority was it done? The use of torture techniques became a matter of public knowledge four years ago. In response to the initial disclosures, the Bush Administration first decided to spin the fable of a handful of “rotten apples” inside of a company of military police from Appalachia and scapegoated a handful of examples in carefully managed and staged show trials. When further disclosures out of Bagram and Guantánamo made this untenable, they spun a new myth, this time suggesting that the administration had responded to a plea from below for wider latitude.

In fact at this point the evidence is clear and convincing, and it points to a top-down process. Figures near the top of the administration decided that they wanted brutal techniques and they hammered them through, usually over strong opposition from the ranks of professionals.

Yesterday’s hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee helped make that point, and brought a new focus on a figure who has been lurking in the shadows of the controversy for some times: William J. Haynes II, Rumsfeld’s lawyer and now a lawyer for Chevron. Two things emerge from the hearing. First, that Haynes was effectively a stationmaster when it came to introducing torture techniques in the “war on terror,” circumventing opposition from career military and pushing through a policy of brutality and cruelty, by stealth when necessary. And second, that Haynes lacks the courage of his convictions, a willingness to stand up and testify honesty about what he did.