Tuesday, September 30, 2008

(bad news, updated at the end with much better news)

New Washington Post/ABC poll:

...Negativity about the country's financial prospects continues to lift Obama, but he now has a narrower advantage over McCain in Post-ABC polling than he did last week. Overall, the senator from Illinois holds a slim lead in the new national poll, with likely voters dividing 50 percent for Obama and 46 percent for McCain.

In the last poll, Obama led by a nine-point margin....

Yup -- a 9-point lead drops to 4. More:

...[Independents] favored McCain by 10 points immediately after the Republican convention, swung to Obama last week and stand now at a close division between the two -- 48 percent for McCain, 45 percent for Obama in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll....

White women are [another] of the changeable groups.

Among likely voters they've gone from +7 for Obama before the party conventions to +11 for McCain afterward, then to about an even split last week (+2 Obama) -- but back to +11 for McCain in this poll....

I don't know what's going on. A solid plurality of these poll respondents think Obama won the first debate, and more of them now think Obama would be a "safe" choice for president than feel that way about McCain -- but "McCain has now nudged ahead as the candidate better able to handle international affairs, the war in Iraq, terrorism and an unexpected major crisis." (Obama was ahead on all three in the last poll.)

I think what's happened is that changeable voters saw Republican Warrior Daddy at the debate and went "Oooh! Ahhhh!" They think Obama's the "safe" choice, but now they don't want the "safe" choice -- they want the dangerous choice. These people are a freaking Maureen Dowd column made flesh.

Beyond that, I think last week gave Obama a financial-meltdown bounce -- and now we're getting used to financial meltdown, so the bounce is dissipating. (According to the PDFs of last week's poll and this week's, Obama's advantage on the question of whom respondents would trust more to handle the economy has slipped from 53%-39% to 50%-43%.)

Some of Obama's recent gain does seem to be lingering, but I think a lot of Obama supporters thought he was just going to keep going up and up in the polls -- whereas it seems to me that he's in the process of slipping a bit. I'm not saying there can't be another bounce, but I think this one is over. And I'm getting nervous again.


And you know what else? I'm going to utter a heresy and say that I suspect Sarah Palin doesn't look as much like an idiot to Joe and Jane Average, at least this week, as she does to us.

I know she can't name a single newspaper she reads in the latest Katie Couric interview -- so what? There was no evidence that our last two two-term Republican presidents ever read a newspaper, and did the public give a crap?

As for the rest: yeah, she dodges the question of whether she believes in prosecuting those who perform abortions on rape and incest victims, and she dances around the question of what causes climate change, and she slithers out of answering questions about the morning-after pill and the attempt by a church she's attended to convert gay people through prayer -- but she dodges all the questions artfully, slickly, and without the word salad we've found so entertaining of late.

She BS'd her way through this interview, and that makes me worry that she can BS her way through the debate with Biden. (She certainly had prime BS skills debating in Alaska.) So, yeah, I'm concerned.


ON THE OTHER HAND: Quinnipiac's swing-state polls are pretty terrific:

* Florida: Obama up 49 - 43 percent pre-debate and 51 - 43 percent post-debate;
* Ohio: Obama up 49 - 42 percent pre-debate and 50 - 42 percent post-debate;
* Pennsylvania: Obama ahead 49 - 43 percent pre-debate and 54 - 39 percent post-debate.

I want to believe....

Here's what Sarah Palin said about Joe Biden in Columbus, Ohio, yesterday:

"I'm looking forward to meeting him. I've never met him," she said at a rally here. "I've been hearing about his Senate speeches since I was in, like, the second grade."

Katie Couric subsequently asked Palin,

You have a 72-year-old running mate -- is that kind of a risky thing to say, insinuating that Joe Biden's been around a while?

Good for Couric -- but what I want to know is: Is Sarah Palin actually asserting that she was aware of Joe Biden when she was in the second grade?

If you asked her that, would she react the way her running mate reacted when it was pointed out that he'd lumped Zapatero in with the world's anti-American dictators -- would she say (or would a campaign spokesperson say), Yes, that's meant literally?

And if so, would she care to tell us precisely what her impression of Joe Biden was in the second grade?

Wow, this is kinda shameless: the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal has just published an op-ed by Taylor Stockdale, the son of Ross Perot's 1992 running mate, Admiral James Stockdale:

Debates Don't Always Reveal Character

As Sarah Palin and Joe Biden prepare for Thursday's vice presidential debate, I am pulled back to the last time an unknown candidate appeared on the national stage in such a forum. It was 1992, when my father (John McCain's senior officer in Vietnam), Adm. James B. Stockdale, appeared on stage to debate Al Gore and Dan Quayle.

... In an attempt to introduce himself to the American people, my father began with the philosophical questions "Who am I? Why am I here?" But as the evening wore on, he struggled.

... As everyone saw that evening, he was not a politician. He was a fighter-pilot ace, a Medal of Honor recipient, and a wonderful dad and human being. During his eight years as a POW, he slit his scalp and beat his face with a stool to prevent his captors from parading him in the streets for propaganda purposes. He gave starving men his food rations when he himself was starving.

... And yet on this particular evening in 1992, the country saw someone who looked confused and weak. Without knowing who he was or what he did for his country, most Americans turned off their TV sets and formed an opinion of him based on a 90-minute debate.

So while Mrs. Palin's background and political acumen are completely different from my father's, she and her family are going through an experience I recognize....

Whoa -- wait a minute.

I remember that debate well. Stockdale's affect did seem odd if you didn't know his story. (Those who don't remember can watch those famous opening remarks here, starting at 7:14, and watch him struggle with his hearing aid here.) But that's the point -- Stockdale in '92 had virtually nothing in common with Palin in '08. Let's run through the differences:

Stockdale was an academic; he'd never been a politician. Sarah Palin, by contrast, has been running for office for sixteen years, and before that she was a beauty pageant contestant and a TV sportscaster. Unlike Stockdale, she's spent much of her life crafting a public image for mass consumption.

Stockdale was the running mate of a quixotic billionaire with no party apparatus behind him. Ross Perot, however, was effortlessly, if oddly, compelling on TV. What this meant is that Perot disdained image-crafters -- he wasn't part of an organization that relied on them and he personally didn't need them. That meant Stockdale didn't get professional help either, and it showed in his national-TV debut. Palin, by contrast, has the best image-crafters and media manipulators in politics at her service.

And then there's the most obvious difference: Unlike the candidate to whom he's being compared, a vigorous woman in her mid-forties who's had a pretty good life, Stockdale in '92 was a 68-year old man who'd clearly had some of the stuffing knocked out of him in Vietnam -- seemingly much more than John McCain, and without subsequent decades of wealth and public adulation.

Sorry -- Palin is no Stockdale. If she can't hack it, it's her own damn fault, and the fault of the political pros who thought she was ready for the big leagues, and who now work with her every day.

Paul Krugman:

Just worth pointing out: Henry Paulson's decision to let Lehman fail, on Sept. 14, may have delivered the White House to Obama.


... The [bailout] bill's defeat can hardly be blamed on the GOP presidential nominee, and it's possible that a revised measure might succeed. But by his own actions last week, McCain tied himself far more tightly to the failed bill than did his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama.

... If Congress' impasse leads to a credit crisis, "it's not going to be good for McCain," said veteran Republican consultant John Feehery....

Daniel Gross of Slate:

... Obviously, Republicans [who voted against the bailout bill] were motivated in no small part by political calculations -- short- and long-term. But it's really hard to figure out what those calculations might be.... let's say that the House Republicans manage to draw out the process for a few more weeks. Maybe the final deal will be less costly to taxpayers.... Even in that best-case scenario, is there any reason to think that GOP politicians will be rewarded for their intransigence?

... Just as happened in 1932, it's possible that the Republicans' incompetence and bullheadedness in managing a financial crisis could lead to Democrats controlling both the White House and Congress.

I don't trust this line of reasoning.

I don't trust it because, when a bailout bill is finally passed (assuming one is passed), stock markets will stage a huge rally, credit will start to flow, and most Americans will gradually forget how they feel now and move on to postseason baseball and whatever's up these days with Lindsay Lohan.

Meanwhile, what will low- and medium-information voters have taken away from the crisis? That the final bailout package was, yes, a cow-flop sandwich -- but that House Republicans did ... er, something to make it different. Somehow. That the bill was improved in some way or other by John McCain's party, and that John McCain worked to make the bill better, which we know not because we saw any evidence that he did, but because he and his surrogates keep telling us that he did, and that Barack Obama "played politics" (even though, if you're paying attention, it looks as if what both of them did was work the phones).

I'm operating on the assumption that the public isn't nearly as outraged at the bailout as is generally believed -- in a new Washington Post/ABC poll, "nearly nine in 10 [respondents] expressed concern that the failure of the bill could lead to a more severe economic decline," and in that poll and a new Rasmussen poll there are almost exactly as many supporters of the bailout as opponents.

So I think there'll be relief when and if something is finally done; I don't think it's going to hurt McCain to be associated with the final bill.

And I don't think Obama is helping himself with statements like this:

"One of the messages that I have to Congress is, Get this done," he said in Colorado after the House vote. "Democrats, Republicans, step up to the plate and get this done. Understand even as you get it done to stabilize the markets, we have more work to do to make sure that Main Street is getting the same kind of help that Wall Street is getting. We cannot forget who this is for. This is for the American people. This shouldn't be for a few insiders."

Translation: Hey, you over there -- clean up this mess. Not that McCain is any more hands-on, but I worry that he's fooled people into thinking he is.

At the very least, just getting this crisis moved (as far as the public is concerned) into the past will help McCain. Don't assume that the damage is done and won't be at least partially undone. Don't expect America to still be talking about this exactly the same way it is now on Election Day.


AND NOW: I see, via TPM, that John McCain is being urged by talking heads on Fox News to suspend his campaign again, and says he might do so.

Don't assume this is laughable, folks. Steve Doocy's lead "question" sums up the spin we'll hear if this happens:

... you've got some ideas for what to do. Have you thought about suspending your campaign again? Because you did it last week and it really focused it, focused the nation's consciousness on the problem, and you did wind up, the Republicans did wind up, getting some deals and doing some horse-trading. Are you thinking about suspending again? Because if you do do just that, maybe you'll get a better bill and you can emerge the leader in this.

And if McCain does jump out in front of the parade again (what some of us old-timers call a Rosie Ruiz moment), he can do it on Thursday, the day of the VP debate. Maybe he and Sarah Palin are planning to suspend their campaign together that day!


(Krugman quote via the Mahablog. TPM link via Rumproast.)

Monday, September 29, 2008


Uh, Sarah?

If you're being mocked mercilessly as someone who, when asked a tough question by Katie Couric, says in desperation, "I'd like to use one of my lifelines.... I want to phone a friend" ...

...er, maybe you shouldn't actually confirm the accuracy of the mockery by showing up to your next interview with Couric accompanied by your lifeline, John McCain:

Just sayin'.

A vice president who needs a chaperone -- yeah, that would make me sleep more soundly at night.

Oh, and is it me, or has McCain turned into the bad cop on this ticket -- the thug, the enforcer, the Spiro Agnew? Is that what he'll do if he's elected? He'll be the guy who goes around giving the press-bashing speeches to fire up the base? Um, who exactly will be acting as president?

Although I will say that when McCain brings up the Clinton-Bush race in '92, his twitching seems positively Nixonesque.

House Republicans are whining about Nancy Pelosi's speech before the bailout vote. I don't know why. What did she say that was so very different from what Republicans have been saying about themselves since 2006?

House Republicans blamed the failure of the $700 billion Wall Street rescue plan Monday on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), saying that Pelosi had been too partisan in a floor speech prior to the vote....

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R., Ohio) said that Pelosi's speech "poisoned" the Republican caucus and "caused a number of members we thought we could get to go south."

"I do believe that we could have gotten there today, had it not been for the partisan speech that the Speaker gave on the floor of the House," Boehner said....

OK, this is what upset them?

Seven hundred billion dollars -- a staggering number, but only a part of the cost of the failed Bush economic policies to our country, policies that were built on budget recklessness. When President Bush took office, he inherited President Clinton's surpluses -- four years in a row, budget surpluses, on a trajectory of 5.6 trillion dollars in surplus. And with his reckless economic policies, within two years he had turned that around, and now, eight years later, the foundation of that fiscal irresponsibility, combined with an anything-goes economic policy, has taken us to where we are today....

Why is it bad for Nancy Pelosi to say that when it's an article of faith within the Republican Party that the GOP "lost its way" during its years in power -- specifically on money matters?

Here's John Fund, writing in 2005 for the house organ of the GOP right, the Wall Street Journal editorial page:

With Rep. Tom DeLay's forced departure as majority leader, Newt Gingrich says, the Republican Party stands at a crossroads as important as any it has faced since nominating Ronald Reagan for president in 1980. "It must decide if it is going to be a party that fundamentally reforms government or one that merely presides over existing institutions and spends more money," he says.

...the GOP's love affair with big government has intensified.... [The] Bush White House ... has yet to veto a single bill and [its] officials have apparently adapted the old New Deal slogan "tax and tax, and spend and spend, and elect and elect" into merely "spend and spend." ...

Here's Tom Coburn, one of the most right-wing of GOP senators, writing for the Journal editorial page this past May:

...Becoming Republicans again will require us to come to grips with what has ailed our party – namely, the triumph of big-government Republicanism and failed experiments like the K Street Project....

Regaining our brand as the party of fiscal discipline will require us to rejoin Americans in the real world of budget choices and priorities, and to leave behind the fantasyland of borrowing without limits....

And here's John McCain himself, at this year's Republican convention:

... We were elected to change Washington, and we let Washington change us. We lost the trust of the American people when some Republicans gave in to the temptations of corruption. We lost their trust when rather than reform government, both parties made it bigger....

Yeah, the Republicans are living in a fantasyland where they're actually the budget balancers, or at least the would-be budget balancers. They think it's easy, too: just cut "waste" and we can live in a fiscally responsible low-tax paradise. That's silly. And no, that's not quite what Pelosi is getting at.

Nevertheless, the Republicans' message is that they've had no fiscal discipline. They say this all the time. (It's their way of explaining their 2006 defeats; pay no attention to that war in the corner.)

But God forbid a Democrat should say something similar.

If I understand correctly from a number of articles, John McCain's principal contribution to the bailout effort has been to "work the phones."

But now I see (via Bill Kristol at The Weekly Standard) that Douglas Holtz-Eakin of the McCain campaign is complaining that, in the crisis, Barack Obama "phoned it in."

Um, I've only been speaking English for forty-some years, so maybe I'm just not attuned to the nuances here, but can someone please explain to me what "working the phones" constitutes that "phoning it in" doesn't, given the fact that in this case both seem to involve the actual use of the telephone? And can someone explain to me why one is good and the other is bad?

This morning The Washington Post told us what Steve Schmidt of the McCain campaign says his side is going to do to regain the momentum:

Schmidt said the campaign will press two arguments as forcefully as possible in the coming days. One is that Obama is not ready to be commander in chief and that, in a time of two wars, "his policies will make the world more dangerous and America less secure." Second, he said, McCain will argue that, in a time of economic crisis, Obama will raise taxes and spending and "will make our economy worse."

I'm a little bit puzzled by this. Isn't this exactly what the McCain campaign has been doing? Isn't this precisely what isn't working, particularly according to post-debate polls?

But that's the way of the McCain campaign -- when a strategy doesn't seem to be working, or is criticized, the McCain team just sticks with it. Only when it becomes glaringly obvious that the strategy is a millstone does the campaign seem to change course.

Remember how Team McCain kept sending Sarah Palin out to repeat statements about her record ("I said thanks but no thanks") long after they were debunked? And remember McCain's insistence that "the fundamentals of the economy are strong" was a reference to workers,? Nobody believed that, and yet the McCain campaign still has this ad, which startes with McCain saying "You, the American workers, are the best in the world" in heavy rotation on national television -- as if he can't bear to concede that his upbeat talk was a gaffe.

I think these may be signs of a stubbornness, a tendency to dig in heels, that pervades the McCain campaign.

It makes me think that McCain in the last two debates will probably be just as rude and contemptuous as he was in the first one, and will keep trying to argue that Obama "doesn't understand." Common sense suggests he'll change his talking points and his tone, but I'm not so sure. I think he may be too muleheaded to do that.

At the end of his column in today's New York Times (entitled "How McCain Wins"), William Kristol suggests a possible future line of attack for John McCain:

... On Saturday, Obama criticized McCain for never using in the debate Friday night the words "middle class." The Obama campaign even released an advertisement trumpeting McCain's omission.

The McCain campaign might consider responding by calling attention to Chapter 14 of Obama's eloquent memoir, "Dreams From My Father." There Obama quotes from the brochure of Reverend Wright's church -- a passage entitled "A Disavowal of the Pursuit of Middleclassness."

So when Biden goes on about the middle class on Thursday, Palin might ask Biden when Obama flip-flopped on Middleclassness.

Answer: he didn't.

I'm looking at the passage in question in Obama's book -- this righty blogger has transcribed it -- and it's not a critique of being middle-class at all.

There was one particular passage in Trinity's brochure that stood out, though, a commandment more self-conscious in its tone, requiring greater elaboration. "A Disavowal of the Pursuit of Middleclassness," the heading read. "While it is permissible to chase 'middleincomeness' with all our might," the text stated, those blessed with the talent or good fortune to achieve success in the American mainstream must avoid the "psychological entrapment of Black 'middleclassness' that hypnotizes the successful brother or sister into believing they are better than the rest and teaches them to think in terms of 'we' and 'they' instead of 'US'!"

Are you materially successful? Fine. Go for it. Just don't get to the point where you think you're better than someone who's less successful, or where you imagine that poorer people aren't your concern. That's what Reverend Wright is saying here.

Sounds Christian to me.

What follows is more of the same. It's about breaking down class barriers to build a community:

...there was no denying that the church had a disproportionate number of black professionals in its ranks: engineers, doctors, accountants, and corporate managers....

At some point, though, they all told me of having reached a spiritual dead end; a feeling, at once inchoate and oppressive, that they'd been cut off from themselves. Intermittently, then more regularly, they had returned to the church, finding in Trinity some of the same things every religion hopes to offer its converts: a spiritual harbor and the chance to see one's gifts appreciated and acknowledged in a way that a paycheck never can; an assurance, as bones stiffened and hair began to gray, that they belonged to something that would outlast their own lives -- and that, when their time finally came, a community would be there to remember.

... the redistribution [of values] didn't run in just a single direction from the schoolteacher or the physician who saw it as a Christian duty to help the sharecropper or the young man fresh from the South adapt to big-city life. The flow of culture now ran in reverse as well; the former gang-banger, the teenage mother, had their own forms of validation -- claims of greater deprivation, and hence authenticity, their presence in the church providing the lawyer or doctor with an education from the streets. By widening its doors to allow all who would enter, a church like Trinity assured its members that their fates remained inseparably bound, that an intelligible "us" still remained.

"The teenage mother"! You mean like, er, Bristol Palin?

Listening to people who haven't led exemplary lives -- you mean like Jesus hanging out with Mary Magdalene?

Yeah, go ahead, Johnny Mac -- ask about that passage. Please.

Sarah Palin yesterday:

Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin met yesterday with a group of military mothers at a Center City Philadelphia eatery, the third day of her visit to the city.

... they sat at a table at Di Bruno Bros. gourmet food shop....

Excuse me? Palin went to a shop that sells $180 tins of caviar, $130 foie gras, and triple-cream goat cheese at $50 a pound?


Sunday, September 28, 2008


In the last post, I mentioned the story from The Sunday Times of London about a possible wedding for Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter, timed to occur just before the election. I don't know if it's really going to happen, but if it does, I think I know when we'll hear more about it.


Yup -- if it happens, I think the announcement will come right before the VP debate.

Perfect, right? It'll be just like McCain's alleged shutdown of his campaign -- Team McCain will time it to steal the headlines from what's expected to be an embarrassing Palin TV appearance.

And maybe the campaign hopes that Palin will be asked about the wedding at the debate -- a question that will eat up a few precious minutes that could otherwise be devoted to subject areas Palin can't really handle. (At the very least, there'll be the hope that it will seem rude for Joe Biden or Gwen Ifill to be too tough on the mother of the bride.)

Just a hunch....

In comments to an earlier post, nepat pointed out this article from London's Sunday Times. I don't know if it's true, but if it is, McCain and Palin are exceeding the Bush White House in shamelessness:

McCain camp prays for Palin wedding

...Inside John McCain's campaign the expectation is growing that there will be a popularity boosting pre-election wedding in Alaska between Bristol Palin, 17, and Levi Johnston, 18, her schoolmate and father of her baby. "It would be fantastic," said a McCain insider. "You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week."

...McCain is expected to have a front-row seat at Bristol's wedding and to benefit from the outpouring of goodwill that it could bring. "What's the downside?" a source inside the McCain campaign said. "It would be wonderful. I don't know that there has ever been a pre-election wedding before." ...

I don't have many good things to say about George W. Bush, his advisors, or his family, but give them a bit of credit -- neither Jenna's engagement (announced in the summer of '07) nor her wedding (which took place this past May) was a huge, publicity-grabbing attempt to boost the popularity of Bush or the GOP. The wedding was in Crawford rather than at the White House, and the Bushies didn't pump up the story -- certainly not "for a week." In fact, Jenna was married by a minister who has endorsed Barack Obama. Give them their due -- there was didn't seem to be any exploitation of this for partisan political purposes.

But, if The Times is right, you can't say the same about McCain and Palin -- everything is about partisan politics now for them.

Third Bush term. Maybe not. Maybe worse.

(Sorry, there doesn't seem to be a clip of the original Julie Brown version.)

Here's Dowd:

Given the past week, the debate should have been a cinch for Obama. But, just as in the primaries, he willfully refuses to accept what debates are about. It's not a lecture hall; it's a joust. It's not how cerebral you are. It's how visceral you are. You need memorable, sharp, forceful and witty lines.

When Obama took quiet umbrage at McCain's attack about troop-funding, he could have pounded the lectern and said with real anger....

Obama did a poor job of getting under McCain's skin.... Obama ran out of gas.

And here's Broder, taking the argument explicitly into the realm of the sexual and the sociobiological:

...It was a small thing, but I counted six times that Obama said that McCain was "absolutely right" about a point he had made. No McCain sentences began with a similar acknowledgment of his opponent's wisdom....

That suggests an imbalance in the deference quotient between the younger man and the veteran senator -- an impression reinforced by Obama's frequent glances in McCain's direction and McCain's studied indifference to his rival.

Whether viewers caught the verbal and body-language signs that Obama seemed to accept McCain as the alpha male on the stage in Mississippi, I do not know....

Well, of course Broder and Dowd see it this way -- for thirty years, Republicans have played this game of dominance (in every sense of the word) the way McCain did on Friday night, and by doing so they've persuaded the entire Beltway community, and the press corps more than most, that their posturing and chest-thumping is a sign that they've earned top-dog status.

The press still wholeheartedly believes this nonsense. The public, however, is losing patience with it -- the guy who's leading in the polls is Barack Obama, who's tough enough to be angry about the status quo (Bush, McCain) but steady enough to seem like the clearheaded guy who could get us out of the bar brawl the Republicans started and back out to safety, rather than getting us into more bar brawls, which is what McCain wants, and what would clearly give Dowd and Broder a thrill.


UPDATE: In comments, Aimai points out this critique of Broder's article by the primatologist Frans de Waal. Short version: McCain is a scared older alpha, and Obama's "a remarkably confident junior one." In chimp world, the former doesn't win.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I can't embed the video, but, about a third of the way through, watch Sarah Palin, at a bar in Philadelphia last night, say the words "City of Brotherly -- and Sisterly -- Luuuuve."

Yikes. This is the potential forty-fifth president of the United States?

No. This is a sidekick. This is someone who comes on at the top of the hour to do traffic and weather and read a few headlines on a Stern-wannabe drive-time radio show.

Or an overly enthusiastic waitress -- the kind who incessantly asks, "Hey, how you guys doin' over here?" In fact, Politico has Palin's full statement at the bar -- it's 210 words total, yet it includes the phrase "you guys" four times. ("Thank you for being here for rooting on John McCain tonight in the debate even, you guys, thank you. Yeah.")

As Steve Benen and Ezra Klein note, Joe Biden was on TV right after the debate, but Palin wasn't -- Rudy Giuliani was substituting for her. Palin wasn't taking questions at the bar in Philly before the debate, and then, as noted in the video clip linked above, she left before the debate began. And that was a private party full of her supporters. Were her handlers afraid to have her take questions even there?

McCain had gains in favorability after the debate, but Obama had huge gains, according to a CBS poll of undecideds:

Nearly half of those uncommitted voters who watched the debate said that their image of Obama changed for the better as a result. Just eight percent say their opinion of Obama got worse, and 46 percent reported no change in their opinions.

The same was true in Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg's focus group of undecideds, most of whom were '04 Bush supporters:

Obama went from a 6-point net favorability to plus-45, a shift of 39 points that placed him higher than McCain at the end of the debate (69% versus 62%).

Why? Well, the GOP playbook has one play in it: Make your opponent seem scary and dangerous and utterly unfit to serve. The Republicans have had quite a bit of success in doing that to Obama. (They would have run the same play against Hillary Clinton or John Edwards or Biden or Richardson or Dodd or whatever candidate emerged from the primaries, and they would have kept running it until they'd done serious damage.)

Alas for them, the real Obama is a hell of a lot more impressive than his caricature. He's prepared. He's sharp as a tack. He's gracious but persistent. And he's not a secret-Muslim-whitey-hating-flag-non-pledger.

If you set the bar in the gutter, don't give your opponent a chance to jump over it, because he'll clear it by a mile.

Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard tries to play gotcha:

Henry Kissinger believes Barack Obama misstated his views on diplomacy with US adversaries and is not happy about being mischaracterized. He says: "Senator McCain is right. I would not recommend the next President of the United States engage in talks with Iran at the Presidential level. My views on this issue are entirely compatible with the views of my friend Senator John McCain. We do not agree on everything, but we do agree that any negotiations with Iran must be geared to reality."

Here's what Kissinger actually said two weeks ago:

In a foreign policy forum on Sept. 15, Kissinger said: "I am in favor of negotiating with Iran." He went on to say, "I actually have preferred doing it at the secretary of state level" and the U.S. should go into the talks with "a clear understanding of what is it we're trying to prevent. What is it going to do if we can't achieve what we're talking about? But I do not believe that we can make conditions for the opening of negotiations. We ought, however, to be very clear about the content of negotiations and work it out with other countries and with our own government."

Also go here, here, and here if you doubt that he favors high-level talks without preconditions.

Obama was careful not to say last night that Kissinger advocated talks on a presidential level (he used the word "we," saying Kissinger believes "we should meet with Iran -- guess what -- without precondition" and "we should have contacts without preconditions").

OK, fine. Kissinger now says his position and McCain's are "entirely compatible."

The Obama campaign knows how to play this hand. If the McCain people persist in making an issue of this, the Obama camp's next question is: "So, if your position is 'entirely compatible' with Kissinger's, does that mean you also favor face-to-face talks at the secretary of state level without preconditions?"

Friday, September 26, 2008


"You don't scare me. I've got chunks of guys like you in my stool!"

Seriously, I don't know who won. Obama was solid, vigorous, knowledgeable, direct, and fearless -- but McCain was engaged and scrappy. I guess it's a question of whether you favor sharp-witted maturity (Obama, the grown-up) or the sneering contempt of a wily old bastard (McCain). My guess: McCain gains a bit, just because he's been looking like a buffoon lately and he didn't look like one tonight, but any bounce dissipates soon.


McCain goes for cheap sentiment:

MCCAIN: Well, thank you, Jim. And thanks to everybody.

And I do have a sad note tonight. Senator Kennedy is in the hospital. He's a dear and beloved friend to all of us. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the lion of the Senate.

Christ, I thought Kennedy was near death. In fact, he "was examined and released from a Massachusetts hospital" after a mild seizure probably brought on by a change of medication. He "was awake and alert when the ambulance arrived," and he "returned home and planned to watch the presidential debate."

Tacky to bring that up, John. You were squeezing drama out of this as a cheap stunt to gain a leg up at the outset of the debate.


Um, does this really work?

A brief golf clap to the McCainiacs for getting this out two seconds after the debate ended but, um, we saw the debate -- we know that Obama, showing some manners, and showing that he's not a snarling mad dog who hates his opponent, conceded certain points before explaining where he forcefully disagreed with McCain. And now McCain responds to what seemed steadfast but civil in the debate by saying, "Neener-neener-neener, you said I was right!!!"


I'm sure it's impressing the pundits (on TV the talking heads were discussing this point even before the ad appeared, which means they were hearing about this from the McCain spinners), but I'm not at all convinced it would impress the public. I bet it never airs except on the Net.


Nate Silver notes that Obama seems to be winning every snap poll and focus group; here are results he cites from CBS and Media Curves.

Part of this, I think, was McCain's nastiness. But here's a thought: For a couple of weeks we've been watching Sarah Palin -- and everyone in America knows that she's supposed to be the analogue to Barack Obama, i.e., allegedly no less experienced and therefore no less qualified. But we've seen her, and she's a jittery, ill-informed gibbering idiot. By contrast, the Obama we saw tonight was a calm adult who knows his stuff inside and out. He knows what he needs to know and he has ideas that aren't just Mad Lib catchphrases. Maybe people think he won the debate, in part, because he's clearly not her. It's clear that he is ready to be president.

Also, of course, when the Republicans and the PUMAs and the spammers are portraying you as a half-crazed America-hating terrorist from hell, reality is obviously going to be a vast improvement on disinformation.

David Brooks tells us today that the John McCain we're seeing now isn't the one who'd be president if he's elected:

...when people try to tell me that the McCain on the campaign trail is the real McCain and the one who came before was fake, I just say, baloney. I saw him. A half-century of evidence is there.

If McCain is elected, ... he will run the least partisan administration in recent times. He is not a sophisticated conceptual thinker, but he is a good judge of character. He is not an organized administrator, but he has become a practiced legislative craftsman. He is, above all -- and this is completely impossible to convey in the midst of a campaign -- a serious man prone to serious things.

Please remember that this is same David Brooks who, writing for Salon in 2000, told us what to expect from a Bush presidency:

I am planning to vote for George W. Bush because he is a nice guy. As a nice guy he will attract and retain the loyalty of outstanding administration officials, and together they will promote policies that are smarter and bolder than we ever would expect, just from looking at Bush himself. As a nice man, he will prove remarkably adept at working with Congress, with Democrats, with the media and with all the other different people you need to handle as president. He will set a tone of bonhomie that will grease the machinery of government; things will actually get done in Washington again.

Good grief -- has anyone ever made a worse prediction?

George W. Bush, of course, has run a nakedly partisan administration -- and yet many pundits argued for years that the partisan side of Bush would someday fade and "the real Bush," the one who got along so swimmingly with the (quite conservative) Democrats in the Texas legislature, would emerge.

And hell, even Dick Cheney was supposed to be easy to get along with. This is from a 2000 CNN story, written just before the Cheney pick was announced:

...A collegial conservative in Congress

Cheney's supporters bill him as a conservative but not an ideologue....

Republicans say Cheney's record was unlikely to make him vulnerable to Democratic accusations of extremism....

They were all supposed to be nice and non-partisan and convivial. What happened?

Well, maybe they can all be real sweethearts under certain circumstances. But obviously they're also all capable of profound, abiding hatred of their enemies.

Bush still bears a deep grudge against the left-leaners he met at Yale, and much of what he's done as president suggests that he's still trying to fight them, by proxy. The same can be said for Cheney and his bitter resentment of the Democrats who placed limits on executive-branch power in reaction to the administration of his old boss Dick Nixon. And McCain's temper, of course is legendary.

So these guys can get angry. And then, as party standard-bearers, they lead a GOP that thinks all its enemies are pure evil, and that focuses on marginalizing, if not destroying, all opponents 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Bush and Cheney and McCain head the party of Rush Limbaugh and Grover Norquist and Karl Rove. Hate is part of the job description, and there are no days off from the job of hating.

Non-partisan? They're at the head of the Republican Party. Partisan combat is the most important part of the job.

I was out on a limb arguing that McCain would remain a holdout and not debate, but I guess my crystal ball is cloudy:

Senator John McCain's campaign said Friday morning that he will attend tonight's debate with Senator Barack Obama at the University of Mississippi, reversing his earlier call to postpone the debate so he could participate in the Congressional negotiations over the $700 billion bailout plan for financial firms.

I assume this means the House Republicans were dead serious about their alternative plan, and McCain found he couldn't just use it to screw up the earlier compromise, then abandon it to look like a hero today.

Also, ducking the debate was polling very, very poorly.

This also means that the McCain campaign isn't going to be able to shift the debate schedule and postpone the VP debate, as the McCainiacs were hoping.

I assume they now realize that they shouldn't try to weasel their way out of that debate either. But I bet they'd still like to find a way. Palin does have a newborn, and a pregnant daughter, and a son in the military serving in Iraq, and two other kids, and an outdoorsman husband who works in the oil business, and older parents ... lotta opportunities there for sudden emergencies, no? Hell, maybe Team McCain will announce that October 7 is the only time the Troopergate investigators can question her -- not the real Troopergate investigators, but the ones running the separate probe who can all be fired at her discretion.

Seems like a stretch. But I bet it's being discussed in McCainland.

What's McCain up to? Basically this:

The term "Munchausen syndrome by proxy" (MSBP) was coined around twenty years ago.... In most cases, a mother either claims that her child is sick, or she goes even further to actually make the child sick. This "devoted" parent then continually presents the child for medical treatment, all the while denying any knowledge of the origin of the problem--namely, herself. As a result, MSBP victims may undergo extraordinary numbers of lab tests, medication trials, and even surgical procedures that aren't really needed....

Why would anyone do such a thing? ... Typically, it seems, the MSBP parent is on a misguided mission to feel "special," to garner attention from people--family, friends, and community--as the heroic caretaker of a tragically ill child.... And virtually all have personality disorders that lead them to behave in odd and even destructive ways, especially when they feel under stress.

That's the syndrome. Here's the case study of McCain:

... Early on Wednesday afternoon, [McCain] dramatically announced the "suspension" of his candidacy so that he could return to Washington and play the hero role in the congressional negotiations over a bailout of the financial system.

But by the time he finally made his way to nation's capital a full day later ... a deal ... had been struck.

...What was McCain to do? Well, here's what it looks like he did: Ally himself with conservative Republicans in the House and encourage their resistance to the deal in an effort to blow it up -- and, thus, create the kind of drama and suspense necessary for McCain to assume the heroic role he carved out for himself on Wednesday.

... McCain on Thursday afternoon -- after the deal was announced -- met with John Boehner, the House G.O.P. leader, and, according to one report, began gauging support in the House for the Study Committee's plan. In other words, he breathed new life into the House conservatives' bailout opposition.

...And now McCain has the drama that he came to Washington to capitalize on....

The economy had a treatable illness, and treatment was being readied. Then McCain huddled with Boehner and made sure the patient stayed sick.

That's Munchausen's.

New York Times:

But a few blocks away, a senior House Republican lawmaker was at a luncheon with reporters, saying his caucus would never go along with the deal. This Republican said Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the chief deputy whip, was circulating an alternative course that would rely on government-backed insurance, not taxpayer-financed purchase of mortgage assets.

Fox News reported in August that Cantor, a McCain surrogate who had a great deal of support on the right as a potential running mate, including the endorsement of Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention (yes, even though Cantor's Jewish), was undergoing "intense" vetting as a possible McCain running mate. Politico also reported on the vetting. At one point, Cantor even touted himself as a potential running mate on his own blog.

Cantor's not Lieberman or Graham -- he's not part of McCain's entourage. But he's young and ambitious, and I assume that, whatever else he had in mind, he was looking out for McCain's interests.
(but Americans don't dig Palin's foreign policy)

Barack Obama has a 5-point lead in the new CBS/New York Times poll, and Sarah Palin's approval rating continues to drop (somewhat):

Palin's favorable rating is 37 percent, a slight decline from last week, while her unfavorable rating is 29 percent.

(Her favorable rating last week was 40%, according to the PDF of the poll results.)

Women are split on the Alaska governor, with 34 percent viewing her favorably, 33 percent unfavorably, and the remainder undecided or not sure.

The male numbers aren't there, but if half of the poll respondents are male, I think, to get that overall number, she'd have to have a 40%-25% favorable-unfavorable rating from men.

So, yeah, women are just about evenly split, but dudes still dig her.


By the way, whether they realize it or not, the American people think Sarah Palin's foreign-policy proclamations are a crock.

Palin to Katie Couric:

Couric: When President Bush ran for office, he opposed nation-building. But he has spent, as you know, much of his presidency promoting democracy around the world. What lessons have you learned from Iraq? And how specifically will you try to spread democracy throughout the world?

Palin: Specifically, we will make every effort possible to help spread democracy for those who desire freedom, independence, tolerance, respect for equality. That is the whole goal here in fighting terrorism also. It's not just to keep the people safe, but to be able to usher in democratic values and ideals around this, around the world.

Couric: You met yesterday with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who is for direct diplomacy with both Iran and Syria. Do you believe the U.S. should negotiate with leaders like President Assad and Ahmadinejad?

Palin: I think, with Ahmadinejad, personally, he is not one to negotiate with. You can't just sit down with him with no preconditions being met. Barack Obama is so off-base in his proclamation that he would meet with some of these leaders around our world who would seek to destroy America and that, and without preconditions being met. That's beyond naive. And it's beyond bad judgment.

The American people, according to the CBS/Times poll:

Just one in ten Americans believes Iran requires military action now, however; sixty-one percent say the threat posed by the country can be contained with diplomacy.

Nearly three in four Americans say it is a good idea for the president to meet with leaders of unfriendly nations; 20 percent say it is a bad idea.

Only 15 percent of Americans believe the United States should try to change a dictatorship to a democracy when it can.

That's exactly the opposite of the McCain talking points Palin is parroting.

Why does virtually everyone in America hate America?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

(updated below)

So congressional negotiators reached a general agreement on a bailout plan today. Also today, the Obama campaign announced that Senator Obama will go to Oxford, Mississippi, tomorrow night and hold a town-hall meeting at the debate site if John McCain doesn't show up. But now members of Congress have had their meeting at the White House, and that general agreement didn't lead to a deal:

The White House and congressional leaders pledged to continue working together to finalize a $700 billion plan to rescue the financial markets, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Thursday.

The statement came after President George W. Bush, congressional leaders from both parties and presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain met at 4 p.m. to discuss the plan. But no final agreement was reached....

So here's what I think is going to happen: Negotiations are going to continue. At some point tomorrow, Obama's going to go to Mississippi. But McCain's going to stay in Washington. (If today is any indication, he won't be doing anything constructive on the bailout plan, but he'll be around.)

And then the White House and GOP congressional leaders -- McCain prominent among them -- are going to announce that they've agreed to whatever terms are on the table.

They're going to announce this during or just before the debate-turned-Obama-town-meeting.

Message: McCain saved the country while Obama went off to do some politicking.

Argh -- is that the trap?


UPDATE: The scenario above probably doesn't seem likely, given the fact that John McCain seems to have been part of the problem rather than part of the solution:

During the White House meeting, it appears that Sen. John McCain had an agenda. He brought up alternative proposals, surprising and angering Democrats. He did not, according to someone briefed on the meeting, provide specifics.

One the proposals -- favored by House Republicans -- would relax regulation and temporarily get rid of certain taxes in order to lure private industry into the market for these distressed assets....

But I think he felt he had to do that to buy time. He had to queer the deal however he could. He couldn't let this be resolved before debate time, along lines worked out without his input.

And then tomorrow, when the stock market plummets, he'll ride to the rescue, opposing the very ideas he was advancing today -- he'll be putting country first, taking on members of his own party, blah blah blah.

But not early in the day. Late -- late enough to embarrass Barack Obama as he's about to take the stage in Oxford.

I see that Sarah Palin, playing Britney Spears to Hillary's Madonna, or Lenny Kravitz to her Hendrix, is going to watch tomorrow night's debate (if there is one) at an Irish pub in Philadelphia called, um, the Irish Pub.

The optics aren't perfect -- old-school beer-and-a-shot establishments generally don't serve Magic Hat on draft, and the "fresh garden & baby greens" mentioned on the salad menu could conceivably include arugula -- but I'm sure it will read reasonably well on TV.

I'm assuming the McCain campaign isn't springing for the private party spread that includes raw veggies. I'm also sure that if you decide to take a swig tomorrow night every time Governor Heartbeat makes a joke about the burger menu's absence of moose, they'll have to carry you home on a stretcher.


By the way, Bronko's, the pizza place in Indiana where Hillary had her famous beer and a shot, apparently (unlike the Irish Pub) doesn't even have its own Web site. Now, that's old school.

On the home page of Lucianne.com today:

I'm fond of the idea of chasing McCain and Palin around with chicken costumes because they won't debate and because Palin won't talk to the press except by appointment -- but maybe, if the Great McCain Debate Shift really happens (which I think is quite likely), a better idea would be to stage phony demonstrations outside McCain campaign offices, with chanting (phony) Paliniacs yelling "Let Sarah debate! Let Sarah debate!"

Really -- take one of those Obama's-a-Muslim e-mails your right-wing cousin sends you and send everyone on the recipient list the time and date of a "LET SARAH DEBATE!" demonstration. The real Paliniacs might actually show up. It might turn into a groundswell. McCain might find himself under genuine pressure from the base to let Palin out of the cone of silence. Wouldn't that be fun?


MEANWHILE: Palin actually answered questions from the press today at Ground Zero in Manhattan -- she took a whopping five (5) questions, answering four. (And I don't mean she gave an evasive answer to the fifth -- when she was asked if she planned to vote for Senator Ted Stevens this fall, the transcript records that she gave "[no answer].)" The session confirmed what I've long suspected: that she actually grew up not in Idaho and Alaska, but on another planet, where she learned human language excusively from satellite transmissions of Dana Carvey's George H.W. Bush imitations:

POLITICO: Do you think our presence in Iraq and afghan and our continued presence there is inflaming islamic extremists?

A: I think our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan will lead to further security of our nation, again, because the mission is to take the fight over there. do not let them come over here and attempt again what they accomplished here, and that was some destruction. terrible destruction on that day. but since September 11, Americans uniting and rebuilding and committing to never letting that happen again.

"Since September 11, Americans uniting and rebuilding and committing to never letting that happen again." Verbs are for wussies and liberals.


And holy crap, this clip from Part II of the Couric interview is just mind-boggling.


MORE: Worse and worse.

There's been a lot of blog attention devoted to Max Blumenthal's story about a witch-fighting Kenyan preacher (and that's meant literally) named Thomas Muthee, who stood over Sarah Palin at the Wasilla Assembly of God church in 2002 and called down a blessing on her during a series of sermons.

Blumenthal attended the services and says that Muthee warned those attending about "the spirit of witchcraft" and "the python spirit" of unbelievers. Blumenthal filmed these sermons; his films haven't survived, but another video, showing Muthee asking God to guard Palin against "every form of witchcraft" (at 8:36) while blessing her, is here:

I don't really care about "python spirits" -- just about every statue of the Virgin Mary I remember growing up as a Catholic kid in an Italian neighborhood in Boston showed Mary crushing a snake (Satan) underfoot. Please don't imagine that that will upset East Coast Catholic voters.

But there are voters in America who'll be upset by what Kagro X notices on the video -- this part of Muthee's sermon, starting at about 1:20:

The second area whereby God wants us, wants to penetrate in our society is in the economic area. The Bible says that the wealth of the wicked is stored up for the righteous. It's high time that we have top Christian businessmen, businesswomen, bankers, you know, who are men and women of integrity running the economics of our nations. That's what we are waiting for. That's part and parcel of transformation. If you look at the -- you know -- if you look at the Israelites, that's how they work. And that's how they are, even today.


That's Kagro's transcription. I hear the end as "if you look at the Israelites, that's how they were. And that's how they are, even today" -- but the essential meaning is the same: The Jews sure know how to make money. We Christians should be more like those money-making Jews.

If Barack Obama had been blessed by Muthee, a video of that part of the sermon would be on TV as an attack ad every twenty minutes.

I'm trying to imagine President John McCain on September 11, 2001. It scares the hell out of me.

He would have felt the attackers had the momentum -- so he'd have been looking for a "game-changing" "Hail Mary" to turn the momentum around instantly. What would it have been?

Suspend the Constitution? Disband Congress and the Supreme Court? Impose martial law on the entire United States? Nuke every Arab and Muslim country on the planet?

All of the above?

John Dickerson in Slate:

The beneficial effects of the Palin Hail Mary lasted only a few weeks, and another adrenaline injection was needed. If this one doesn't work, that's OK -- in due time they can try another razzle-dazzle play. And if it does work, that's great -- in due time they can still try another razzle-dazzle play. It all makes the prospect of a McCain White House very exciting.

"Adrenaline injection" -- that's what he'd have wanted on 9/11. Can you imagine? His reaction would have made Bush and Cheney seem sane and rational by comparison.

From Politico:

Palin may also suspend campaign

John McCain's campaign has floated the possibility that Sarah Palin may also suspend her campaign, matching McCain's announcement that he would cease campaigning for president to return to Washington to try to hammer out a fix for the nation's financial meltdown.

..."We're going to take the ads down. They won't be traveling. There won't be rallies," Schmidt said when asked about Palin's campaign, according to a rough transcription provided to reporters....

She's doing this too? For what? She's not a member of Congress or the Executive Branch or the financial community -- she can't do anything. Is she going to do some sort of political version of remote prayer?

What's she going to do? Stand at McCain's side and beam at the financial crisis? Really, really intently?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Added to the blogroll: Break the Terror, Betty Cracker, The Jed Report, and The November Blog. Welcome aboard....


McCain camp to propose postponing VP debate

McCain supporter Sen. Lindsey Graham tells CNN the McCain campaign is proposing to the Presidential Debate Commission and the Obama camp that if there's no bailout deal by Friday, the first presidential debate should take the place of the VP debate, currently scheduled for next Thursday, October 2 in St. Louis.

In this scenario, the vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin would be rescheduled for a date yet to be determined, and take place in Oxford, Mississippi, currently slated to be the site of the first presidential faceoff this Friday....

Is that the whole point of this pathetic stunt? To give Gidget a few more days (weeks?) to cram, or possible spare her a debate altogether? In my last post, I speculated that that might be a reason, but is it the reason?

Shouldn't the Obama campaign be asking that question out loud?


UPDATE: As it turns out, I wasn't completely crazy to suggest in the previous post that this bizarro campaign suspension by John McCain was an attempt to draw attention away from the Palin interview by Katie Couric -- not only did McCain choose today to suspend his campaign, he gave an exclusive interview to Couric, which led her broadcast and relegated the Palin interview to secondary status. (And he blew off an appearance on David Letterman's show to do that.) I'm not sure the Palin interview was that bad, but it sure seemed as if McCain thought it was, and desperately wanted it not to be the lead story of the evening, even on one network.

The transcript is here; the video follows:

Best moment: Palin gives a prepared answer to a question about the relationship of Freddie Mac to the firm run by McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, then is pressed on the subject by Couric. She is struck speechless for four long, agonizing seconds, with a grimacecof pain on her face (this is at 0:53) -- then gives the same answer again, although the answer in this case degenerates into word salad.

It's relatively smooth sailing until the end:

Couric: I'm just going to ask you one more time -- not to belabor the point. Specific examples in [McCain's] 26 years of pushing for more regulation.

Palin: I'll try to find you some and I'll bring them to you.

There's an Obama ad just begging to be made.

I'm trying to figure out why the hell John McCain is suspending his campaign and proposing a postponement of Friday's debate. I assume it's just another high-risk move from a guy who may or may not be overly fond of gambling. But I wonder if the decision to propose this, or at least propose it this afternoon, also at least partly a way to reduce the attention given to Sarah Palin's interview with Katie Couric tonight, especially given Palin's plummeting approval ratings.

(I'll grant that the brief excerpt that's been released looks unremarkable, if a bit vacuous.)

Funny -- I was watching the cone-of-silence shenanigans yesterday by Palin's handlers and wondering what the odds were of her declaring that she'd have to take a rain check on that Biden debate next week, probably with an explanation involving "family matters." I wasn't expecting McCain to be the one to go AWOL.

Or maybe the campaign is hoping this crisis will drag on and let them back out of both Friday's presidential debate and the (only) VP debate -- and hell, if Obama maintains his lead in the polls, maybe the McCain campaign will keep this farce going and ask for an incomplete on the whole voting thing in November.


UPDATE: Look, I'm only half-serious about what I wrote above -- although with this campaign, you never know. Meanwhile, via The New Republic, there's this from National Review's Corner:

Since Obama Seems to Want to Go On with the Debate

Many readers relay that they'd like McCain to just offer Palin step in for him.


Obama should propose that -- right now. She is ready to step in for him at a moment's notice ... isn't she?


AND: As phleabo says in comments, now really might be the time to subject the McCain campaign to the people in chicken suits.


MORE: Pollster.com has this sidebar headline:

17:42 Breaking: Fox News; McCain camp wants to shift VP debate

The link goes nowhere, however, and I can't find the story elsewhere. Meanwhile David Letterman is mocking this, according to Drudge (and proposing Palin as a substitute). Not good, Johnny Mac.

But here's something Fox does have up, in a desperate attempt to change the subject:

Biden Dropping Out? Rumor Thrives on Internet

It's almost certainly just a case of the telephone game gone high-tech, but there's an Internet rumor surging through inboxes and discussion boards that Joe Biden will drop out as Barack Obama's running mate after his Oct. 2 debate with Sarah Palin -- and that he'll be replaced by Hillary Clinton on the Democratic presidential ticket.

The story line goes as follows: John McCain's selection of Palin has generated so much interest in the Republican ticket that Obama needs to make a radical move to regain momentum....

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I don't care how many gaffes Biden is responsible for, that's just ridiculous.


AND: I love it that while McCain was allegedly Putting Country First™, he was meeting today with the zillionaire queen of the PUMAs, Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild.

On the off-chance that you haven't already seen the angry commentary by CNN's Campbell Scott Brown calling for Sarah Palin to be removed from the Running Mate Protection Program so reporters can ask her a few questions, go here for the video and a partial transcript. It's well worth it.

I think the press's anger at the McCain campaign is real -- and I think what it shows us is that the campaign's chief thug, Steve Schmidt, didn't really learn all the tricks he could have learned from his mentor, Karl Rove. We know what Schmidt's doing now. What was Rove doing a little more than four years ago?

Bush's aides were upbeat as they traveled to Wisconsin to launch their postconvention tour. Normally inaccessible to the press, a succession of senior Bush advisers chatted freely while Karl Rove, the president's strategic mastermind, offered cream puffs to sweeten the mood among reporters.

Cream puffs, people. Cream puffs. Rove was offering tasty, fattening treats to the press pack -- along with increased access to top-tier Bushies.

This doesn't mean that GOP flacks weren't all over talk radio and cable television declaring that the press was monolithically liberal and therefore wanted Bush to lose. The difference is, four years ago Rove made sure that journalists realized that that was all for show.

Schmidt doesn't understand this. Schmidt thinks you're actually supposed to treat the press the way your wingnut rhetoric says the press should be treated.

Rove knew better.

Amazing news this morning: Barack Obama has a 9-point lead -- 52%-43% -- in the latest Washington Post-ABC poll.

The economy is the big reason, of course. But I want to point this out, from ABC's write-up of the poll results:

White Women Back to Even Support for McCain, Obama

Then there are white women.

They've been a changeable group this year, shifting, for example, from +7 Obama to +11 McCain among likely voters from late August (before the conventions) to early September.

They're back to a dead heat now, precisely where they were in mid-July....

In fact, that understates the turnaround. If you check the PDF of the poll results, you see that McCain had a 16-point lead among white women in mid-June, just after Hillary Clinton ended her campaign; Obama is now up by 2.

But the story we keep hearing is about results such as the notorious 20-point swing to McCain among white female registered voters just after the Republican convention. That became the story all the journalists liked.

And so we had the Today show's Matt Lauer on Monday asking Obama this:

LAUER: Prior to the conventions, according to a lot of polls, you had about, between an 8- and 10-point lead among white women.

OBAMA: Right.

LAUER: After the conventions, according to one of the latest polls, that lead now stands with John McCain by about 8 percent.

How can you not sit around in a room with your top advisers and rethink the idea of putting Hillary Clinton on this ticket?

Lauer, of course, couldn't have known about today's poll -- but he had every opportunity to look at the CBS/New York Times poll that was released last Wednesday, which showed a 21-point swing in Obama's favor among white women.

But, just like Maureen Dowd on Sunday, he went with the story he likes, not the story that was clearly developing -- the end of McCain's bounce and the end of his temporarily Palin-driven advantage with white female voters. (The Post notes today that Palin's favorable rating among independent women has dropped 22 points since the last poll.) And by the way, aren't women the voters who are usually said to care about the "checkbook issues" that now seem to be driving this race?


OH, AND: Just another reminder that John Kerry lost white women by 11 points in 2004, though he lost the overall popular vote by only 3%. (Kerry did win among women of all races by 3%; he lost among men by a much larger margin.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


The economy is in meltdown, we're immersed in two wars, but John McCain thinks we should vote for president based on endorsements like this:

MEDIA, Pa. - John McCain picked up a surprise gift Tuesday, an Orange County Chopper motorcycle, courtesy of the stars of the "American Chopper" reality TV series who roared in to present it to the Republican presidential hopeful.

Father and son co-stars Paul and Paulie "Junior" Teutul, whose show about building custom bikes together is a popular Learning Channel staple, appeared at McCain's rally in this Philadelphia suburb to honor him with a special bike they'd built to recognize Vietnam-era prisoners of war....

Paulie's brother Mikey was also in attendance.

Yeah, this seems appropriate -- steady, even-tempered John McCain being endorsed by these similarly even-tempered guys:

Senior and Junior's philosophy of life? "It's always funny to destroy something."

Wonder if that's Johnny Mac's philosophy of life as well.

After working out an agreement with the media that a TV producer would be allowed to provide a standard-issue pool report on Sarah Palin's meetings with world leaders in New York today, the McCain campaign reneged on the deal -- then, after CNN (which was scheduled to provide video for the press pool) threatened to pull its cameras in response to the banning of the reporter, the McCainites reversed their decision, allowing CNN's Peter Hamby a whopping 29 seconds to witness the meeting of Palin and Afghan president Hamid Karzai. (Hamby watched as they chatted about Karzai's son.)

Meanwhile, according to ABC's Kate Snow:

... Reporters-- save for one producer from CNN who was let in for a few minutes-- were not allowed to enter the hotel. We have been promised a pool report, which will cover those minutes that our camera and producer were allowed in the room. After we figured out we'd missed our shot and she was already inside the building we ran around to the side and awaited her exit, hoping maybe we could shout a question about how the meeting had gone. As we set up to get the shot from across the street- the only place we were allowed to be- a police cruiser pulled up and blocked our view of the entrance, followed by a large blue US Secret Service expedition. He told me he was "under orders". We moved to a spot further from the door but with a clearer view. And Palin emerged. Too far away to hear our shouted questions....

This is ridiculous.


So I'm reading about this, and about the extraordinary effort to shield Palin from difficulties in her debate with Joe Biden...

At the insistence of the McCain campaign, the Oct. 2 debate between the Republican nominee for vice president, Gov. Sarah Palin, and her Democratic rival, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., will have shorter question-and-answer segments than those for the presidential nominees, the advisers said. There will also be much less opportunity for free-wheeling, direct exchanges between the running mates.

McCain advisers said they had been concerned that a loose format could leave Ms. Palin, a relatively inexperienced debater, at a disadvantage and largely on the defensive.

And you know what? I want to see some chicken costumes, dammit.

You remember the 1992 campaign:

For more than a week now, at his campaign appearances, [George H.W.] Bush has faced hecklers costumed as giant chickens, bearing signs that mock the Republican candidate for his refusals, until now, to debate Bill Clinton.

The chivying may stop after Mr. Bush challenged the Democratic nominee to four debates today, but in recent days it seemed to have worked itself a surprisingly far way under Mr. Bush's skin, and recently the world has been treated to the novel sight of the President of the United States getting testy with a fake fowl.

From the rear of a train on a Midwest whistle-stop tour Monday, Mr. Bush spoke sharply to an ersatz hen waving a poster proclaiming, "Chicken George Won't Debate."

... The Chicken Georges that have so bothered Mr. Bush are volunteers from Clinton campaign state offices, working under the planning and with the direct encouragement and approval of the Clinton campaign headquarters in Little Rock.

(Actually, according to Alan Schroeder's book Presidential Debates, the first chicken was "a single freelance protester" in East Lansing, Michigan, which was to have been the site of a debate that had to be canceled as a result of Bush's stalling. The Clinton campaign ran with the idea, however.)

The younger George Bush also faced chickens in 1999, before the Republican primaries, when he was ducking debates.

I know "Chicken Sarah" doesn't have the ring of the Roots-inspired "Chicken George." But Palin's fear of the press, and of a real debate with Biden, dovetails nicely with the colorful ways she talks about herself. A couple of possible slogans:




Somebody, please: challenge her to face the press, or to have a freewheeling debate with Biden. And do it in costume.

This is on the front page of the print New York Times today, top left corner, well above the fold. Please read it (click to enlarge):

Yeah -- that's how the Times shows the deep abiding love for Obama and hatred for McCain that Steve Schmidt was complaining about yesterday.

Shorter New York Times:

McCain is the guy on the right; Obama is the guy on the left.

The full stories are no better. The Obama article is here, and it's 29 paragraphs of almost unrelieved negativity. I'll edit it down for you:

uneven ... vulnerabilities ... a tendency to overintellectualize and to lecture ... disdain ... earnest and humorless ... shaky start ... never really mastered the form ... rambling ... on the defensive ... coldly ... exasperated ... testy ... an upstart with no record to run on ... aloofness and windiness ...

Go read it and see if I'm distorting the tone of the piece. I'll wait.

Meanwhile, here's an edit of the companion article about McCain:

scrappy combatant ... instincts of a fighter pilot ... willing to take risks ... aggressive competitor ... grins when he scores ... handy with the rhetorical shiv ... comfortable and authentic when the subject is foreign policy ... Voters give higher marks to Mr. McCain as a potential commander in chief ... triumphantly ... The audience roared with approval and rose to its feet for an extended ovation ... overwhelming display of affirmation ... flair ... short, active verbs that project strength ... connect with audiences on a visceral level ... vivid ... relishes direct confrontation... righteous fury ...

There's some negativity in the McCain piece, but basically it's a marriage proposal.

Oh, but the McCain people will say that the evil, sinister, in-the-tank Times is just trying to help Obama lower expectations.

Somehow, though, I doubt that's what they'd say if the analysis of McCain were unremittingly awful and Obama got a glowing review.