McCain and the Righteous Empire

Following my earlier posting on the Democratic presidential hopefuls, I intend to look at how capable the Republican contenders are in bringing substantive change, if at all.

Here are few facts on McCain:

According to the recent article in the Mother Jones magazine, McCain has extensive ties to eighty-three lobbyists of the financial industry. These include McCain’s chief political adviser, Charlie Black; his national finance co-chairman, Wayne Berman; and his vice-presidential search director, Arthur Culvahouse. This should come as no surprise to those who still remember the Keating Five affaire.

While the economic melt dawn continues to destroy the life of ordinary Americans, John McCain has admitted that economics wasn’t his strong suit. In response to what many economists have called the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the Republican nominee sounded totally, and embarrassingly clueless. If his gaffes on economic policies were not enough, his quick flip-flops should be considered among the classics in the political history. Just last Monday he was talking about how “the fundamentals of our economy are strong” and on Tuesday, he said. “We cannot have the taxpayers bail out AIG or anybody else.” And once within hours of his Tuesday comments, the federal government bailed out AIG to the tune of $85 billion of taxpayers’ money, McCain quickly changed his tune, saying the government was “forced” to rescue AIG because of “failed regulation, reckless management and a casino culture on Wall Street.”

On foreign policy, McCain has always taken the most belligerent stance imaginable. No matter what is the context, Iraq war I, the Balkans, Iraq war II, and even when it comes to developing tensions with Russia – here is a U.S. senator who traveled all the way to the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia to personally intervene  in the Georgian-Russian dispute over the status of South Ossetia. “Not one inch of sovereign Georgian soil shall be ceded to the Russians,” he declared, yet no mention of the sovereign Iraqi soil.

In the McCainiac worldview, there is no corner of the globe that wouldn’t benefit from American boots on the ground. If you liked President Bush’s infamous “fire in the mind” second inaugural address, in which he averred that the proper objective of U.S. foreign policy is “ending tyranny in our world,” then you’ll love President McCain’s world-saving neo-Wilsonianism. This is really the essence of militarism that McCain prescribes to: an ideological commitment to war as an end in itself.

While most people lean toward peace and believe that only dangerous necessity can justify loosing the dogs of war. Not McCain, who appears to be in permanent “yes” mode. If that famous 3 a.m. phone call came into the McCain White House, he is likely to yell “bomb them” into the receiver, then wait until the morning to ask who we had attacked. When asked about Iran, he broke forth with his rendition of “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” set to the tune of the Beach Boys’ hit “Barbara Ann.” Frivolous disdain for consequences characterizes his discussion of war against North Korea. He cheerfully dismissed the concerns of South Korea and Japan, American allies that would bear the worst consequences of any attack on the North.

In a recent comment, Sen. John McCain alleged for the forth time that Iranians are training Al Qa’eda fighters in Iraq. His confusion has been widely characterized as demonstrating his inability to distinguish Sunni al Qa’eda from Shiite Mahdi Army. But more fundamentally, McCain’s gaffes were a reflection of how thoroughly he had internalized a favorite theme of the Bush administration and neoconservatives — that Iran has tolerated and even covertly assisted al Qa’eda agents operating inside Iran.

On Iraq he ignored all of the discordant voices which disputed virtually every administration claim. He failed to ask any probing questions of an administration that clearly wanted war irrespective of the facts and saw no need to plan for any unpleasant contingencies. McCain’s concern about mismanagement of the war didn’t begin for months, until the administration’s botched performance was evident to all. In short, McCain refused to allow his supposed experience and judgment to get in the way of a war that he evidently wanted America to fight. More than four thousand Americans are dead, thousands are maimed, and over a million Iraqis civilian are dead and injured, and four to five million Iraqis are refugees. Yet McCain talks of 100 year occupation of Iraq.

John McCain, who has shelved his lifelong opposition to torture by voting against a bill banning the use of torture by the CIA, cemented his adherence to the bellicose policies of the Bush administration by declaring that the Supreme Court ruling, granting constitutional habeas corpus rights to the prisoners at Guantánamo, was “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.”

It’s no secret that John McCain has been a longtime friend of the telecom industry.  Indeed, the Arizona Senator has had important historic ties to big corporations like AT&T, MCI and Qualcomm.  In return for their financial contributions, McCain, who partly oversees the telecommunication industry in the Senate, has acted to protect and look out for the political and economic interests of the telecoms on Capitol Hill.  Just log onto the website of the Center for Responsive Politics to get a sense of the sheer scope of McCain’s incestuous relationship with the telecoms.

And for his services, the telecoms have rewarded him generously. In the 1998 electoral cycle, AT&T gave $34,000 to McCain.  In the 2000 cycle, the telecom giant provided $69,000, in 2002 $61,000, in 2004 $39,000, in 2006 $29,000 and in 2008 $187,000.  Over the course of his career, AT&T has been McCain’s second largest corporate backer.

AT&T has donated handsomely to McCain’s International Republican Institute (IRI), a private/public organization that carries out the far right’s foreign policy agenda in Iraq and elsewhere. In 2006, the company gave the IRI $200,000.  AT&T spokesman Michael Balmoris declined to elaborate on why the international telecommunications provider wrote such a big check for (IRI).  “AT&T contributes to a variety of charitable organizations,” he said dismissively.

If all that money was not enough to secure the Arizona Senator’s allegiance, AT&T may also count on an army of lobbyists who are now allied to the McCain campaign.  Take for example campaign adviser Charlie Black, whose lobbying firm BKSH has represented AT&T for the past decade.  Then there’s Mark Buse, McCain’s Senate Chief of Staff, who worked as a lobbyist for AT&T Wireless from 2002 to 2005.

Other companies such as MCI and Qualcomm have also played a role in the Arizona politician’s Senate career.  Take for instance Tom Loeffler, McCain’s campaign co-chairman and former Congressman of Texas.  Loeffler, through his lobbying firm Loeffler Group, has represented Qualcomm since 1999.  All told, Qualcomm employees, spouses and political action committees have given tens of thousands of dollars to the McCain campaign.  Meanwhile Kirck Blalock, a McCain campaign fundraiser, lobbied MCI from 2002 to 2005 through his firm Fierce, Blalock and Isakowitz.

The Arizona Senator being a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the telecom industry and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has repeatedly pushed industry-backed legislation.  McCain’s efforts to eliminate taxes and regulations on telecommunications services have won him praise from industry executives.  In the late 1990s, the Arizona Senator wrote the FCC, urging the agency to give serious consideration to the idea of allowing AT&T and MCI to enter the long-distance market.  Four months later, AT&T wrote a check for $25,800 to McCain.

In return for these generous contributions, high-up McCain officials such as Charlie Black secretly lobbied Congress to approve a measure wiping out all private lawsuits against the telecoms for assisting the U.S. intelligence community’s warrantless surveillance programs.  McCain himself became an “unqualified” supporter of telecom immunity, claiming in a statement to the National Review that “neither the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate.” Needless to say, McCain voted in favor of granting amnesty to AT&T and other telecoms at exactly the time that his close adviser Black was taking money from AT&T to influence Congress on its behalf.

In the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, the telecoms scrambled to get a piece of the action as Iraq was opened up for business.  Cellular giant Qualcomm managed to exert political influence over the Pentagon which in turn pressured the Coalition Provisional Authority to change an Iraqi police radio contract to favor Qualcomm’s patented cellular technology. What’s more, the Pentagon hired MCI—the former World Com, which had declared bankruptcy amidst an accounting fraud scandal in July, 2002—to build a small wireless phone network in Iraq.

So are we suppose to believe that a man who supports torture, believes in manifest destiny, the ‘White man’s Burden’ and militeristic foregin policy, who has no clue about economics, who asserts that granting constitutional habeas corpus rights to the prisoners at Guantánamo is “one of the worst legal decisions in the history of US, wants to continue occupying Iraq for 100 years and intends to “Bomb, Bomb Iran”, who is manipulated by AIPAC and financially supported by the Defense and Telecom Industries, who claims that warrantless surveillance programs of ordinary Americans is constitutional, is going to radically change the system and bring real hope?

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