There is no There There

The Speech just ended and my immediate reaction is that Obama is the weakest link in an otherwise fantastically smooth-running campaign operation. Sure, he gives/reads a speech well; but the speech itself says very little.

In fact, this speech had a laundry list of clever lines which attempt to make divisive issues i.e. abortion, gun control go away pfffttt...all through the magic intervention of Barack Obama.

Well, these issues are much more complex that Obama portrays them and both sides represent huge chunks of passionate Americans. The gaps between us are real - and are not going to be bridged because of Obama Hype and media fawning.

He came off as an empty suit. A nice guy. A nice smile. Not a bad guy. But not a President and not a leader either.

The media comes off as pathetic. None has the guts to criticize Obama; in fact, most of them have invested themselves in this whole Obama Dream. They don’t want to do anything to get in the way of a potential Obama Presidency.

The smartest thing Obama can do - and he did it in this speech - is to go after George W. Bush and then link McCain to him.

Let’s face it: Bush has been a total, complete and utter failure across the board. And now Obama is going to attach McCain to Bush. Thus the “he supported Bush 90% of the time.” This is going to be the heart of Obama’s campaign from now until November 4th. Soon every TV ad will feature those pictures of McCain hugging Bush.

Obama is like Chinese food: it fills you up and you feel great - for about two hours. Then it wears off and you’re hungry again. Obama is like that: it doesn’t really stick and you’re left wanting something else.

He is the weakest candidate the Democrats could have fielded this year. Yes, he may yet win - because of Bush and because McCain is an awful candidate who looks like he is 175 years old.

But something says Obama is all fluff and hype and is, as Gertrude Stein wrote of Oakland, California, “There is no there there.”

More analysis to come after McCain picks his running mate.


Vietnam vets stirring up a McCain mutiny
Monday, August 25th 2008, 4:00 AM


John McCain
Sen. John McCain commands support at many VFW halls across the country. But a squadron of Vietnam vets and POW/MIA advocates is strafing him with decidedly unfriendly fire.

Two-tour Green Beret Ted Sampley, who helped "Swift Boat" Democrat John Kerry in the 2004 presidential race, is now gunning for the GOP White House hopeful.

The organizer of Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain claims the Purple Heart-winning former POW has "never admitted the full extent to which he cooperated with his captors." Sampley also charges that, in the 1990s, the "unstable" McCain, whom he calls "the Manchurian Candidate," ignored "credible evidence" that American POWs were still alive in Southeast Asia.

"He wanted to normalize relations with Vietnam," Sampley tells us. "He took away the only leverage we had for getting those soldiers back. Why? He was paying back the Vietnamese for keeping quiet about him."

McCain has called Sampley a profiteering "enemy of the truth" and "one of the most despicable people I have ever had the misfortune to encounter." (Sampley was jailed after beating up McCain aide Mark Salter outside McCain's Senate office in 1992.)

Though he's no fan of Barack Obama, Sampley says Fox News producers haven't invited him on to bash McCain the way he bashed Kerry. But Sampley is finding other comrades. Former POW Phillip Butler asserts that McCain "allows the media to make him out to be the hero POW, which he knows is absolutely not true."

Former GOP Congressmen Bill Hendon and John LeBoutillier, who both served on the House Task Force on POW/MIA Affairs, write on Sampley's U.S. Veteran Dispatch that McCain "abandoned American POWs."

"He's totally dishonest," says LeBoutillier, who contends that, to win over the religious right, McCain "cribbed" his recent memory of a kindly guard leaving "a cross in the dirt" from Jeremiah Denton, another POW-turned-senator who told a similar story.

Other POWs have backed up McCain's story. And the senator, who refused Vietnamese offers of early prison release, has called the "evidence" of living POWs a "cruel hoax on their families."

Vice President Hack

Barack Obama’s selection of long-time Senator Joe Biden to be his running mate was a huge political mistake.


Because Biden gives Obama almost nothing to help him in the one and only one thing they ought to be thinking about: accumulating 270 Electoral votes on November 4th.

Biden does not give them a state that they would not have already had. Thus he is like so many other recent - failed - Democrat Veep picks: Lloyd Bentsen, Geraldine Ferraro, Joe Lieberman and John Edwards. None of these selections helped their ticket gather those 270 Electoral votes - or the converse: kept their GOP opponents from getting to that magic number.

Evan Bayh would have automatically made Indiana - a traditional GOP lock - a competitive state and hurt McCain by stretching and stressing his limited campaign budget.

Mark Warner or Jim Webb would similarly vault Virginia - a longtime GOP bastion - into the undecided column.

Bill Richardson would have guaranteed New Mexico for Obama and maybe locked up Nevada and Colorado, too.

But Joe Biden’s Delaware is a solid Democratic state anyway. So - as far as the Electoral map - Biden does not do much.

The sycophants in the media - and the performance over the weekend was downright disgraceful as everyone inside the DC Beltway rushed forward to praise Biden. Where is the objectivity? Where is the balance? Where are stories about his alleged law school plagiarism as part of the 1987-1988 pattern of plagiarism? Where is a recounting of the brutal way he assaulted Judge Clarence Thomas?! Instead we are told how this life-long political blowhard and hack is the Third Coming (the Second is Obama himself). The fawning by the MSNBC Talking Heads was unbelievable!

How about some objectivity? How about the fact that, as a Catholic, he is pro-choice? Did anyone bother to mention that? No! All they said was that he is a Catholic and thus will help Obama in heavily Catholic states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. Oh, really? Do all Catholic go against Church doctrine?

Hmmmm.... How come Biden - after years of campaigning and national TV appearances - could not get even one per cent of the vote in this year’s Iowa caucuses?

How come the inside the DC Beltway media love this motor mouth so much - but the voters in Iowa didn’t buy his act one bit?

Did anyone bother to mention that?


This just points out the incestuous relationship between the media and the people they cover; they trade leaks for access and puffery for access. What a disgrace they all are!

Conclusion: Biden does help flesh out the weaknesses in Obama’s (thin or nonexistent) resume. He has DC experience and foreign policy knowledge. And he will be an aggressive attack dog against Mccain and a Bush Third Term (the Obama fall campaign theme).

But he is a self-important, puffed-up liberal blow-hard who talks and talks but seems to know very little.

Obama may regret this selection, not because Biden will do badly but because someone else could have helped him get to that magic 270.


Ex-Reps. Warn Troops: As Senator He Abandoned American POWs Trapped in Indochina; as President He'll Abandon You


Bill Hendon & John LeBoutillier

Ed. note: This message from former U.S. Congressmen Bill Hendon (R-NC) and John LeBoutillier (R-NY) is being posted today on numerous military blogs and websites.


He [McCain] has told me several times over the years that the myth of live POWs was a cruel hoax on the families. He chaired hearings into the issue in the 1990s and found nothing. “The committee … pored over thousands of records and every claim of a sighting, no matter how outlandish,” says Salter. “It was all untrue.”

Jonathan Alter, When Ross Perot Calls..., January 16, 2008

Senator John McCain's heroic and inspiring wartime service in Vietnam notwithstanding, we know from personal experience he is not fit to serve as Commander-in-Chief of America's armed forces. Here is how we know this:

In mid-summer 1991, the U.S. Senate created the Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs and charged it with conducting a no-holds-barred investigation into the long-festering matter of American POWs reportedly still held captive by the Communist North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao. On the day the legislation creating the Select Committee was passed, August 2, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted nationwide showed that 69% of Americans surveyed believed that Americans were still held captive in Southeast Asia and 75% believed the U.S. government wasn’t doing enough to get them home.

Following months of negotiations between the committee and a very reluctant George H. W. Bush administration, committee intelligence investigators were finally able to obtain the postwar intelligence files relating to live POWs. Committee investigators spent some 2,700 man hours vetting, analyzing and crosschecking the postwar intelligence. They found it a textbook blend of human intelligence (HUMINT); intercepts of secret enemy radio traffic (SIGINT), and images taken by unmanned reconnaissance drones and U.S. spy satellites (IMINT). The committee's intelligence investigators told the senators that collectively the intelligence indicated the North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao had held back hundreds of POWs at Operation Homecoming in 1973 and that many were still alive in captivity during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

By the time committee investigators finally began briefing the senators in secret sessions in early spring, 1992, the issue of live POWs had become, as McCain later described it, "white hot;" this not only because of intense public interest in the plight of the POWs, but also because Texas businessman and longtime POW advocate H. Ross Perot had entered the presidential race, and had done so amid press accounts that he thought President Bush was not doing enough to bring the POWs home. By late May Perot was in first place in the national polls, ahead of President Bush, who was in second place, and the presumptive Democratic nominee, Governor Bill Clinton, who was in third. What would the committee find? Might a ruling that 69% of the American people were right and that, in fact, there were live POWs still held half a world away throw the election to Perot? How could it not?

Enter John McCain.

Given his wartime experiences as a POW in Vietnam, Sen. John McCain was by default the most powerful and influential member of the Select Committee. Members on both sides of the aisle deferred to his judgment; reporters hung on his every pronouncement. And so when McCain, his chief of staff Mark Salter and their allies on the Select Committee joined forces with top Bush administration officials to assail, ridicule, attack, discredit, photoshop, retouch, manipulate, massage and/or “cherry-pick” the intelligence in order to destroy its intelligence value and keep the matter of live POWs from becoming an issue in the 1992 election, the live POWs never had a chance.

How McCain and Salter and the others went about doing this is a case study in how powerful government officials can manipulate intelligence to make it say what they want it to say - and the main reason we believe that John McCain must not be Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces.

During that spring and summer of 1992, McCain and the other members of the committee were briefed on some 925 HUMINT reports the investigators had deemed plausible, credible. These intelligence reports were some of the several thousand reports the U.S. government had received from human sources who testified they had personally observed or had been told or had otherwise learned about American servicemen in captivity after Operation Homecoming. Many of the reports corroborated one another as to location, time and circumstance, e.g., independent sources repeatedly reported seeing American POWs being held in the same area; in the same town or village, and/or at the exact same prison at the same time or over a period of time – and, of course, absent IMINT and/or SIGINT, corroboration by independent human sources is the best lie detector ever devised by man. But what did McCain and Salter make of this crucial intelligence? Not one of these reports of American POWs held prisoner after Operation Homecoming was credible, they loudly declared; instead, all 925 sources were either (1) lying, or (2) confused about what he or she had actually seen. Not one report, McCain and Salter declared, related to American POWs trapped in Indochina after Operation Homecoming.

The SIGINT – the half-dozen or so postwar intercepts of secret Pathet Lao radio transmissions where the PL were heard describing how, when, where and/or why they were holding and/or moving American POWs from one point to another inside their country - got the same treatment. When analyzed carefully by committee intelligence investigators and cross-checked with the HUMINT, it was clear these postwar radio intercepts alone collectively described the confinement and/or movement of well over 100 American POWs inside Laos. McCain’s and Salter’s ruling? Same as with the POWs described in the HUMINT, “nothing to any of it. All radio intercepts are false."

Finally came the IMINT – the priceless postwar satellite images showing missing pilots' names, their official secret four-digit authenticators, secret USAF/USN escape and evasion (E&E) codes given to them and/or other “I’m alive, get me the hell out of here” messages our men had laid out on the ground in hopes U.S. spy satellites would image their plea and rescue forces would be dispatched - and the similar, shocking result. A missing USAF flight officer’s name along with a valid USAF/USN escape and evasion code imaged in a field adjacent to a prison in northern Vietnam on June 5, 1992 – photoshopped right out of the image, disappeared, gone! Nineteen four-digit authenticators matching those of missing airmen imaged in rice paddies along Route 4 in northern Laos - similarly photoshopped right out of the satellite image! The name of another USAF pilot and four digit number laid out beside a jungle road in northern Laos - "naturally occurring shadows on the ground," they said. A valid E&E code followed by the four-digit authenticator of another USAF flight officer in a field adjacent to a prison in northern Vietnam – “natural shadings in the field … not man-made intentional signals.” The letters "USA," each 12 feet tall and together stretching over 37 feet across, and below them a huge 24 foot tall by 19 feet across valid secret USAF/USN E&E code imaged in a rice paddy in northern Laos - "a young Laotian boy's handiwork that he had copied off an envelope," McCain and Salter "explained" in McCain's 2002 memoir Worth the Fighting For. And on and on it went. (See two versions of map of Indochina showing the 925 postwar HUMINT reports [pins color-coded by DOI] and how they cluster and corroborate one another, and the postwar SIGINT and IMINT hits [yellow squares] at ). Also see An Enormous Crime, cover photo and Chapter 31, "1992, The Fragging."

John McCain could have saved these men but chose not to. For that reason - and because one can photoshop pleas for help out of desert sand and/or rocky, mountain terrain just as easily as one can photoshop them out of jungle terrain, fields and rice paddies - he must not be accorded the highest and most sacred of all honors - that of serving as Commander-in-Chief of America's armed forces.


Former Congressman Hendon is co-author with attorney Elizabeth Stewart of the 2007 New York Times bestseller, AN ENORMOUS CRIME; The Definitive Account of American POWs Abandoned in Southeast Asia (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press). Ms. Stewart’s father is missing in action in northern Vietnam. In reviewing their book, Publisher’s Weekly declared “Controversial former North Carolina congressman Hendon and attorney Stewart make the case that the U.S. knowingly left hundreds of POWs in Vietnam and Laos in 1973, and that every presidential administration since then has covered it up.” (Publishers Weekly, week of April 9, 2007) Kirkus Reviews wrote that An Enormous Crime is “[a] sprawling indictment of eight U.S. administrations. Hendon and Stewart…appear nonpartisan in their disdain for governmental inaction and double-dealing. A convincing, urgent argument.” (Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2007) An Enormous Crime is currently available at some 400 libraries in the continental U.S. and overseas. (See list of libraries at ). You can read almost 100 pages of the book free of charge by going to Google Book Search at:

Hendon served two terms on the U.S. House Task Force on POW/MIA Affairs; as consultant on POW/MIA Affairs with an office in the Pentagon in 1983, and as an intelligence investigator assigned full-time to the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs during 1991 and 1992. He has appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes, ABC’s 20/20, Dateline NBC, ABC’s Good Morning America, the NBC Today Show, Saturday Today, CNN’s Larry King Live and on a number of network news and talk shows.

Former Congressman LeBoutillier served on the U.S. House Task Force on POW/MIA Affairs and is the author of VIETNAM NOW; The Case for Normalization (Praeger). He is a pundit and a nationally recognized political commentator. Mr. LeBoutillier rose to national prominence in 1974 when, as a college student at Harvard, he raised over a quarter million dollars for a former Republican challenger against South Dakota Senator George McGovern. Mr. LeBoutillier's efforts caught the notice of President Ford's re-election campaign and in 1976 he was appointed regional coordinator, responsible for all field activities in New Jersey.

After graduating Magna Cum Laude from Harvard College, Mr. LeBoutillier completed a master's degree at Harvard Business School.

Mr. LeBoutillier has been a prolific writer, beginning with his best-selling book Harvard Hates America (October 1978). Later he authored Vietnam Now (September 1989) and co-authored Primary, a novel (September 1979). He has contributed to many major newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal, among others.

In 1980, Mr. LeBoutillier was elected to represent New York's 6th District. He defeated a 16-year Democrat incumbent and became the youngest member of the 97th Congress. In the House, Congressman LeBoutillier served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and as a member of Special House POW/MIA Task Force.

After leaving Congress, Mr. LeBoutillier continued to be active in POW/MIA affairs. He currently runs Account for POW/MIA Inc., dedicated to recovering living American POWs in Southeast Asia. He also has been a frequent commentator and host of several media programs. He is a frequent guest on radio and television shows. In 1981 he conducted an exclusive interview with Alexander Solzhenitsyn for NBC's Tomorrow show. He has hosted radio talk show programs on WMCA radio and WABC radio. In 1984, Mr. LeBoutillier interviewed Richard M. Nixon for the ABC Network radio in his first live network radio appearance since leaving the White House. He has been a frequent guest on many national talk show programs, including the Today show, ABC's 20/20, Nightline and CNN's Crossfire.

Both men have traveled extensively to South and Southeast Asia on behalf of America’s POWs and MIAs. Hendon has visited the region some 33 times; LeBoutillier a dozen times.


Political Predictions

OK. The Olympics are dominating things but let us ‘run a few trial heats’ of upcoming political events:

1) Veep Choices:

Because the polls show that the race could go either way, neither McCain nor Obama needs to throw a Hail Mary desperation pass such as picking someone from the other party (Hagel or Lieberman). So they will both play it safe. Predictions: Obama will pick Indiana Senator Evan Bayh and McCain will pick former Mass. Governor Mitt Romney.

Bayh is a bore, but a good-looking, moderate safe bore who will not make mistakes. He puts normally safe-for-the-GOP Indiana in play and thus stresses McCain’s electoral map and limited campaign budget. Bayh was for the War in Iraq and chaired Hillary’s campaign in the Hoosier State so he should help bridge the gap within the Democratic Party. He also is a moderate which will take the Leftist Edge off Obama a bit.

Romney solidifies the GOP and gives McCain a real shot at stealing normally-Democratic Michigan. Romney was vetted during the primaries and improved as a candidate. He is not a great choice - some on the Right will object over his Mormonism and flip-flopping - but there are no perfect choices this year for McCain. Romney will follow the script that Steve Schmidt gives him. He is a total political chameleon; he was once against McCain and now will become his most enthusiastic supporter.

Neither Bayh or Romney will hurt their tickets and both may give them a state their ticket would not have otherwise won (Indiana for the democrats and Michigan for the GOP.)

Democratic Convention:

1) Hillary is still looking to cause trouble. She and her hubby simply cannot fathom that they lost to an upstart like Obama; they are reveling in Obama’s poor poll performances since June. They are hoping McCain wins in November. Thus their speeches in Denver - while having some pro forma praise for Obama and condemnations of Mccain - will really be the Clintons’ first campaign speeches of the 2012 presidential campaign.

And the media will love this discord!

Obama needs to get on this and prevent trouble - or else show he is a helpless incompetent who cannot even run his own party.

2) Team Obama needs to create the right atmosphere and TV image in Denver. What should that be?

At the 2000 the GOP Convention in Philadelphia Team Bush set out to “sell” Compassionate Conservatism. How? By putting dozens of little African American kids on the stage. This was not an attempt to get the black community to vote for Bush; that constituency always votes 90% for the Democrats. No, this was a reach-out to moderate suburban whites and to show that Bush wasn’t a harsh, hate-filled conservative, as the so-called MSM always portrays them/us to be.

Similarly this year the Democrats need to craft an image aimed at their weakness: middle-class and working class white voters who are resistant - so far - to Obama’s sales pitch.

So they need to aim at that audience in Denver.

They need to calm down middle-of-the-roaders who have grave doubts about Obama, his exotic background, his wife and preacher and all the Muslim stuff floating around.

He needs to assure people that he is a mainstream guy - not some whacky Ivy League Affirmative Action Egg Head who cannot relate to average people.

So they need a stage filled with those voters. They need the media to interview those voters in Denver and to hear enthusiasm for Obama. They need to stage-manage this thing - all aimed at so-called Reagan Democrats - and to convert a high percentage of them into Obama Democrats.

If he can do it, he will win in November. If, however, he fails to do this he will lose in a year that almost any other Democrat would have won.

3) The GOP Convention: McCain needs to give a better-than-expected speech. You can bet Schmidt and crew will drill this into McCain through multiple rehearsals until he gives a - for him - damn good speech.

That is all he has to do.

Because it is now becoming clear: 2008 has become a referendum on Obama when it should have been a referendum on Bush/McCain.


Since the 2000 presidential race I used the "Five Tools of Politics" as a template by which to gauge the two major parties’ presidential candidates. This is simply - and only - a way to measure their 'candidate skills' - not a way to measure the content of their political philosophies. Issues - also crucial to a campaign - are not the subject here; skills as a presidential candidate are. So let us examine an Obama-McCain race.

Baseball's greatest talent evaluator was St. Louis Cardinal and Brooklyn Dodger general manager Branch Rickey. He taught his scouts to grade aspiring players on five baseball skills: 1) hit; 2) hit with power; 3) run; 4) field; 5) throw. Any player who combined these skills was a sure-fire major leaguer. To this day, baseball people salivate when they find a "five-tool" player.

Similarly, in elective politics, there are five attributes that, when combined, almost guarantee that a candidate will rise to the political "major leagues" known as the presidency:

1. Fire-in-the-belly. This over-riding hunger borders on the obsessive. Virtually all successful political candidates, no matter how well they disguise it, would "walk over their mothers" to win, as Nixon White House aide Charles Colson once put it.

2. Self-discipline. The ability to rein in one's own worst instincts, habits and weaknesses. Both President Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich ruined their legacies through a lack of personal self-discipline. The Speaker couldn't keep his mouth shut; the President couldn't keep his fly shut.

3. Authoritative presence. Especially in the television era, candidates must project an air of gravitas and weight. Dan Quayle's "deer in the headlights" look undercut anything he said or did.

4. Raise money. All successful candidates find a way to raise enough money to win. Some, like JFK, merely asked their father to pay. Others spend years developing a network of donors; others cultivate special interests. However they do it, winning candidates always come up with "the mother's milk of politics".

5. Communicate a positive vision. Derided by President George H.W. Bush as "that vision thing", it is this singular ability that elevated Presidents Kennedy, Reagan and Franklin Roosevelt into the political Hall of Fame. The skill to speak in a way that inspires voters is invaluable - and very rare. (No wonder so many campaigns today resort to "negative campaigning"; their candidate is incapable of painting with voice and words a believable picture of a better future.)

With these Five Tools in mind, let us examine the November match-up of John McCain versus Barack Obama:

1. Fire in the belly: this is not an issue with either man. John McCain has repeatedly proven how badly he “wants it” - by morphing his political persona from GOP Maverick in 2000 to GOP Mainstream Bush Acolyte in 2008. In other words, McCain wants it “so bad” that he will sell out his so-called political soul to win. His recent hiring of Karl Rove’s Political Team to run his campaign shows that this former Bush opponent has the fire in the belly.

Obama? Well, clearly, this fellow has been plotting this presidential run since he made overt political moves in Chicago: joining the most politically active church, running for State Senate, and carefully avoiding taking controversial positions - by voting ‘present’ 160 times!

No one can say these two candidates aren’t hungry for victory - and thus we can count on them doing anything and everything to win in November.

2. Self Discipline: this has been a McCain weakness as a candidate for years. Sitting on the Straight Talk Express and swapping jokes and tales with the traveling press corps ends up stepping on the campaign’s Message of the Day. But, in the last month McCain has agreed to follow the more disciplined routine of his new campaign manager, Steve Schmidt, a former Rove deputy.

Obama is running perhaps the single most disciplined and efficiently run campaign since Jimmy Carter in 1974-1976. Obama does not make many mistakes, stays on message - and only adjusts positions after the campaign heirarchy carefully weighs the consequences.

3. Authoritative presence: McCain’s presence is under-whelming. He looks older than his 71 years. He is a poor speaker. When he walks into a room, does anyone really take notice? He is short, stiff and bland.

Obama is tall, thin, and charismatic and has a million dollar smile. To the young, he is a Rock Star. He has - for some voters - that certain indescribable ‘something’ that makes him stand out.

4. Raising Money: No one has ever - EVER - raised as much money as the Obama Campaign. He has revolutionized political fund raising. His 1.6 million donors show the power on the ‘Net in politics.

McCain’s fundraising has been anemic, signaling a lack of enthusiasm from the GOP base. This is why McCain has decided to accept the $84 million at the GOP Convention to pay for his fall campaign. Obama has declined this public financing, banking on his ability to raise $200-300 million for a two-month sprint to November 4.

5. Communicate a positive vision: this is the gold standard that makes candidates into leaders. McCain seems devoid of any type of vision. His communications skills are lacking - but what he communicates is even more lacking. Look for his GOP Convention acceptance speech - penned this month in Maine during a working vacation by his alter ego, Mark Salter - to correct this problem and suddenly provide McCain with a lofty vision of where he wants to take the nation.

Obama is already the Vision Candidate. He has specialized in just this style since announcing his candidacy in February 2007. His post-racial picture of one America inspires many. The question is: is he too lofty, too visionary - and is he projecting a vision which turns off more people than it excites?