DNC Memo: Week Two of the "Relaunch" - More McCain Misfires

Two weeks into the latest "relaunch" of his campaign and it's more of the same for John McCain: more of the same bad news, bad reviews and campaign chaos. While the elevation of Steve Schmidt was supposed to tighten McCain's message and organization, McCain was under fire from all sides this week - taking hits on everything from his incoherent foreign policy agenda and the lack of an economic plan, to his double talk on transparency and accountability, to the lack of enthusiasm for his campaign among key constituencies. Even his sense of humor became a liability for McCain.

With less than 110 days left until the election, is it time to start wondering how many more weeks like this McCain can afford?


Three Town Hall Ticket Holders Wearing NARAL T-Shirts Barred From Event.

Three NARAL Activists Booted From McCain Event Despite Holding Tickets. "The McCain campaign is sharply disputing a claim by the New Mexico arm of NARAL Pro-Choice that it had three of the group's members barred from the Arizona Senator's event in Albuquerque yesterday. A McCain aide, Jeff Sadosky, said hotel security and the Albuquerque police asked the abortion rights activists to leave the event after McCain's campaign had given them passes to enter. Here's part of a release from the New Mexico arm of NARAL Pro-Choice, the abortion rights group: 'Heather Brewer, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice New Mexico, said today that three pro-choice New Mexicans wearing NARAL Pro-Choice New Mexico T-shirts were denied access to Sen. John McCain's town hall meeting at the Hotel Albuquerque on Tuesday even though they had tickets to the event. Several security officers confronted the pro-choice attendees, but gave no explanation for ejecting them as they waited in line with the other nearly 500 participants. Instead the pro-choice ticket holders were simply told that they were trespassing and the officers threatened them with arrest....'" [Politico.com, 7/14/08]

Campaign Misleads About Local Coverage. "Sadosky, however, said the activists had first drawn the attention of hotel security when they were protesting in a parking lot, and were asked to move off the private property. When the security officers saw them on line to enter the event, they reiterated that they'd already been asked to leave, Sadosky said. A hotel security official, Lucas Garcia, didn't immediately return a call for comment. 'We gave these folks tickets,' Sadosky said. He declined to comment on the decision to remove them. UPDATE: An earlier version of this item, citing a campaign source, said the local press didn't cover this incident. In fact, the Albuquerque Journal, the paper of record there, did, among others." [Politico.com, 7/14/08]

REALITY: Three Major Outlets Covered the Incident.
KUNM: http://www.democrats.org/page/-/audio/071508mccainABQ.mp3
Albuquerque Journal: http://www.abqjournal.com/news/metro/16152841mccain07-16-08.htm
New Mexico Independent: http://www.newmexicoindependent.com/view/town-hall-mccain

McCain All Over the Map on Troop Levels in Afghanistan--in the Same Day.

POSITION ONE: Christian Science Monitor Reports McCain "Has Resisted Calls For More Troops In Afghanistan." "McCain has resisted calls for more troops in Afghanistan and has rejected criticism that the Iraq war is detracting from efforts to secure Afghanistan. He labeled Barack Obama 'naïve' for saying he'd strike terrorist targets in Pakistan with or without the cooperation of President Pervez Musharraf. … Aides to the Arizona senator said Wednesday that he continued to view success in Iraq as the best chance for victory in the global war on terror. 'As on many things, Senator Obama is not listening to our commanders, and Senator McCain is,' says Kori Schake, a senior policy adviser to McCain. 'General David Petraeus believes Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. Al Qaeda has even said it is.' … Ms. Schake's comments came about two hours after Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said additional troops were needed in Afghanistan but that too many were tied down in Iraq to send more." [Christian Science Monitor, 7/7/08]

POSITION TWO: McCain Called for Sending Three Additional Brigades to Afghanistan and Suggested They Would Come From Iraq. According to a press release issued by the McCain campaign on Tuesday morning, McCain would announce in a speech that he now supports sending at least three additional brigades to Afghanistan: "The status quo in Afghanistan is unacceptable, and from the moment the next President walks into the Oval Office, he will face critical decisions about Afghanistan. … John McCain Supports Sending At Least Three Additional Brigades To Afghanistan. Our commanders on the ground say they need these troops, and thanks to the success of the surge, these forces are becoming available, and our commanders in Afghanistan must get them." [McCain press release, 7/15/08]

POSITION THREE: McCain Clarifies His Proposal On Increasing the Number of Troops, Saying They Could Come From NATO. "Speaking to reporters on his bus after today's speech, McCain indicated that he'd be open to those additional troops coming from NATO." [MSNBC, 7/15/08]

POSITION FOUR: McCain Campaign Further Clarifies Proposal, Saying The Troop Increase Would Be Comprised Of Both NATO And US Forces. "McCain spokeswoman Nicolle Wallace said later that U.S. troops will compose some of the additional brigades McCain would send to Afghanistan, but not all of them. 'Will we contribute? Of course we will,' she said." [Washington Post, 5/15/08]

McCain Takes Heat from Left and Right on Gay Adoption Flip-Flop

SUNDAY: New York Times Quoted McCain Saying That He Doesn't Believe In Gay Adoption. "Mr. McCain, who with his wife, Cindy, has an adopted daughter, said flatly that he opposed allowing gay couples to adopt. 'I think that we've proven that both parents are important in the success of a family so, no, I don't believe in gay adoption,' he said." [New York Times, 7/13/08]

MONDAY: McCain Campaign Clarified Position; Said It Was A State Issue And That McCain Believes "Caring Parental Figures Are Better For The Child Than The Alternative."
"On Tuesday, as criticism of McCain's comments spread, his campaign elaborated on the candidate's views. 'John McCain could have been clearer in the interview in stating that his position on gay adoption is that it is a state issue. ... He was not endorsing any federal legislation,' a campaign statement said. 'Sen. McCain's expressed his personal preference for children to be raised by a mother and a father wherever possible,' the statement added. 'However, as an adoptive father himself, McCain believes children deserve loving and caring home environments, and he recognizes that there are many abandoned children who have yet to find homes. John McCain believes that in those situations that caring parental figures are better for the child than the alternative.'" [Associated Press, 7/15/08]

Family Research Council Blasts McCain Backtrack. "The FRC, led by Tony Perkins, is now alleging the statement 'muddies the waters,' and warns in an email sent to supporters Tuesday night that the McCain camp 'should not fall into this 'lady or the tiger' trap and should emphasize the need to rebuild the natural family.'" [FoxNews.com, 7/15/08]

McCain References a Country That Doesn't Exist--For the Second Day In A Row

McCain Refers to Czechoslovakia - A Country That No Longer Exists. As MSNBC noted, "For the second time in two days, McCain has made a reference to 'Czechoslovakia.' His answers were about contemporary events, not history. McCain did not use the current name Czech Republic, the country formed in January 1993 when Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The first instance was yesterday during a media news availability and the second today during a town hall meeting." [MSNBC's First Read, 7/15/08, http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/07/15/1200003.aspx ]

ABC News Noted That This Isn't The First Time McCain Has Mistakenly Referred to Czechoslovakia. "In early 2000, then-Gov. George W. Bush told Roger Simon, then with U.S. News & World Report, that he was befuddled by how soft the media was on Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. 'I don't think there is any plot; I hope there isn't,' Bush said. 'But it's an amazing phenomenon, I'll tell you that. It's like the flap over the foreign-leader deal. A guy gets up and quizzes me -- it's my fault for trying to answer -- but John McCain says something about the 'ambassador to Czechoslovakia.' Well, I know there is no Czechoslovakia (there's a Czech Republic and a Slovakia), but yet it didn't make the nightly national news. I'm not going to gripe about it, but the media question is starting to pop up.' Apparently that Czechoslovakia lesson never took, because McCain keeps making that mistake, eight years later." [ABC News' Political Punch, 7/15/08, http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2008/07/mccain-keeps-me.html ]

Politico: McCain Campaign Released Statement "Cleaning Up" The Reference to Czechoslovakia. As the Politico noted, "yesterday, McCain's campaign sent out a statement pointedly referring to the 'Czech Republic,' cleaning up his latest reference to the defunct state of Czechoslovakia." [Politico, 5/15/08, http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0708/Jeste_jednou_Czechoslovakia.html ]

McCain Misled on Education Funding During NAACP Speech

McCain Pledged To The NAACP That He Would "Fully Fund" No Child Left Behind Act And Head Start. QUESTION: "Greetings Senator McCain. I have a question for you. I'd like to know, do you promise to provide full federal funding to the public schools so that we can satisfy the mandates that have been created by the No Child Left Behind?" MCCAIN: "I will. I will make, I will fully fund those programs. But No Child Left Behind has to be fixed, okay? It was, it was a good beginning. It should not, it should not be scrapped, in my view. I think it was a good beginning." [CSPAN Live Online, McCain Q&A at NAACP, 7/16/08]

McCain Pledged To "Fully Fund" And Head Start. QUESTION (TEACHER): "What are you going to do now, as a Senator, and go back and get the funding that is needed so Head Start workers and families can receive the funds that are needed to educate the poor?" MCCAIN: "I obviously support Head Start programs, I would be glad to full-fund those programs, but there has to be monitoring, there has to be a measurable success, there has to be, there has to be a return on the taxpayers' dollars that these programs actually are beneficial, and we need to review them from time to time as to see how they can do a better job, and there's not reason why you should resent any scrutiny, any oversight..And I'll support the full funding, if you'll agree to that. How's that?" [CSPAN Live Online, McCain Q&A at NAACP, 7/16/08]

McCain Aid Backs Away, Says Senator Would Continue to Fund NCLB; Offers No Plan on Head Start. In a conference call with reporters after McCain's appearance at the NAACP, campaign aides were asked about his pledge to "fully fund" both the No Child Left Behind Act and Head Start. Top advisor Douglas Holtz-Eakin clarified the pledge. First, Holtz-Eakin said McCain was "committed" to "continuing the funding for No Child Left Behind." He then added, "with respect to Head Start we will be providing additional details as the campaign continues." [McCain campaign conference call, 7/16/08]

McCain Budget Would Slow Discretionary Spending; No Exception Included For Education Programs. In a budget proposal submitted to the Washington Post, the McCain campaign claimed that John McCain would balance the federal budget, in part, by "slow[ing] discretionary spending in non-defense and Pentagon procurements." [The McCain Budget Plan, 7/14/08,
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/13/AR2008071301643.html ]

McCain Has Pledged To Freeze All Discretionary Spending For One Year, Except For Military And Veterans Programs. According to the McCain campaign website, John McCain "believes that outside of essential military and veterans programs there should be a one-year pause in discretionary spending growth that should be used for a top-to-bottom review of the effectiveness of federal programs." [McCain campaign website, accessed 7/16/08, http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/4dbd2cc7-890e-47f1-882f-b8fc4cfecc78.htm ]

Shady McCain Bundlers Omitted From List

Campaign Excludes Controversial Clayton Williams from Bundlers List. "There's a glaring omission from John McCain's list of bundlers -- those fundraisers who have raised at least $50,000 in campaign contributions for the Republican presidential candidate. Midland oilman Clayton Williams is nowhere to be found. Williams, 76, was disowned by the McCain campaign last month after the GOP White House hopeful said he had just discovered that Williams had told a tasteless joke about rape during his unsuccessful 1990 campaign for governor…Before the controversy erupted, Williams told the Midland Reporter-Telegram that he had raised more than $300,000 for the Arizona senator's presidential bid. McCain's campaign flatly rejected Democratic demands that he return donations solicited by Williams. The McCain campaign issued a statement saying that Williams 'isn't listed on our list of current fundraisers' because 'he's not raising money for the campaign.'" [Houston Chronicle, 7/17/08]

McCain Scrubs Controversial Bundler from List. "At least one fund-raiser who was originally on the McCain campaign's bundler list was taken off. That was James Courter, chief executive of the telecommunications company I.D.T., who resigned Monday as one of more than 20 national finance committee co-chairmen for the campaign, after I.D.T. was fined $1.3 million by the Federal Communications Commission for failing to disclose contracts it had in Haiti. The fine was first reported by the Web site Portfolio.com. Mr. Courter was listed in April as raising $100,000 or more for Mr. McCain, but campaign officials said he had been taken off because he was no longer raising money." [New York Times, 7/16/08]

Plan for Iraq & Afghanistan Panned

New York Times Editorial Blasts McCain Iraq and Afghanistan Plans. "Mr. Obama's Republican rival, Senator John McCain, is no longer able to ignore the situation on the Afghan-Pakistan border, where Al Qaeda and the Taliban -- the true threats to American security -- are resurgent. But he has not matched Mr. Obama's seriousness on Iraq. Mr. McCain is still tied in knots, largely adopting Mr. Bush's blind defense of an unending conflict. Mr. Obama has a better grasp of the big picture, despite Mr. McCain's claim to more foreign policy experience. For far too long, Mr. Bush's preoccupation with his misadventure in Iraq -- which fostered a presence for Al Qaeda where there was none -- has dangerously diverted precious manpower, resources and high-level attention from Afghanistan and Pakistan. As Mr. Obama correctly asserted in an Op-Ed article in The Times on Monday and in a speech on Tuesday, those countries, not Iraq, are the real frontline of the war against terrorism." [New York Times editorial, 7/17/08]

Economic Plan (or Lack Thereof) Panned

McCain: What Economic Plan? "At the very moment when the economy looms larger in Americans' consciousness than it has in decades, McCain comes before the electorate doctrinally adrift. By his own admission, McCain has never been a student of the economy -- but neither have any number of American presidents… But as McCain tries to balance the tattered libertarianism of Reaganomics with the financial exigencies of the moment, he and his campaign have moved beyond inconsistency into utter incoherence. He vows to balance the budget while also cutting corporate taxes and making permanent the Bush tax cuts for the rich -- even though the rich and corporations made out like bandits during the Bush "prosperity," while everyone else's incomes stagnated. McCain squares this circle by vowing to cut entitlements, a move that would reduce, rather than enhance, consumer purchasing power at a time of economic downturn (or any other time, for that matter). Whether Americans are even experiencing a downturn has been a matter of some dispute in the McCain camp, since former senator Phil Gramm, until last week one of McCain's chief surrogates on economic issues, deemed America a nation of "whiners" mistaking subjective insecurity over the economy for an objective economic fact." [Washington Post column, 7/17/08]

Linked to Jack Abramoff

McCain Bundlers Linked to Jack Abramoff. "Now, as Mr. McCain releases the names of hundreds of 'bundlers' -- his top money collectors -- one person who popped up is Juan Carlos Benitez, a lawyer and lobbyist whom Mr. Abramoff had championed for a Bush administration post. According to a 2006 report of the House Committee on Government Reform, Mr. Abramoff had urged the appointment of Mr. Benitez as special counsel for immigration-related unfair employment practices. He was named to the position in 2001. The committee's report said Mr. Benitez's job at the Justice Department 'gave Benitez authority' to conduct investigations into unfair labor practices that were 'issues of importance to Abramoff clients.' After leaving the administration, Mr. Benitez joined the K Street lobbying firm Cassidy & Associates, whose Web site says he "has exceptionally close ties to the White House." [New York Times, 7/17/08]

Takes Heat from Evangelicals AND Catholics

Catholic Activists Ask McCain to Boot Faith Adviser. "Tensions are heating up among politically-minded Catholic activists after a group of left-leaning Catholics today publicly asked Sen. John McCain to boot a faith adviser who resigned from the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004 because of allegations he sexually harassed a college student. 'Deal Hudson is not the type of Catholic leader you want publicly associated with your campaign,' read the letter from Catholics United to McCain. The allegations against Deal Hudson are not new and their reappearance reflects the nasty back-and-forth among Catholic activists as the election draws closer. Hudson, a member of the Catholics for McCain National Steering Committee, resigned as publisher of the conservative Catholic magazine Crisis after the allegations first surfaced in 2004 in the pages of the National Catholic Reporter." [Washington Post, 7/17/08]

AP: McCain Hasn't Ignited The Passions Of Evangelicals. "In the ongoing AP-Yahoo News Poll, only 10 percent of white evangelical Christians say they are excited by this election, compared with 20 percent of Americans overall. A third of these evangelicals said they were interested in the election, but half said they were frustrated by it." [AP, 7/17/08]

Sense of Humor Panned

Politico: McCain's "Offensive" Jokes Could Carry "Political Risks." "McCain's humor, by contrast, makes him the political counterpart of the radio host Don Imus (whom he has defended): It's sharp, unrehearsed, and at times, way, way over the line. This cycle, he's drawn winces, and worse, for everything from a joking reference to domestic violence to a now-notorious little ditty about bombing Iran. Earlier in his political career, the Arizona press reported that he'd cracked a rape joke that would now probably end any politician's career, a joke his aides then and now say he doesn't recall making…To his detractors, some of the jokes are offensive and out of touch with contemporary mores. What's undeniable, though, is that the humor, with its political risks and, to some, its charm, is intrinsic to John McCain." [Politico, 7/17/08]