Tuesday, September 23, 2008


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.

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