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Please Note: This page is NO LONGER UPDATED.  Please visit my blog for complete, up-to-date coverage.
 Here is where you'll find September and beyond.

October  2008

  • Prez Debate: Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at Hofstra University's Hofstra Arena in Hempstead, New York, moderated by Bob Schieffer, CBS News chief Washington correspondent and host of Face the Nation. This debate will focus on domestic and economic policy.

RockTheVote's list of voter registration deadlines.  Here are some upcoming dates--forward this on to your friends in the appropriate states (swing states in bold):

  • Monday, Oct 6: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, DC, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia.
  • Tuesday, Oct 7: Illinois, New Mexico
  • Wednesday, Oct 8: Missouri
  • Friday, Oct 10: New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma
  • Saturday, Oct 11: Delaware
  • Tuesday, Oct 14: Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon
  • Wednesday, Oct 15: Massachusetts, West Virginia, Wisconsin

If you're voting absentee, you may have to get your ballot in weeks before the Nov 4th Election date. Declare Yourself has links to each state's voter information page where you can find out how to get your absentee ballot.

October 5, 2008 "The Lesions of History Edition"

setstatsSad News from CNN: Joe Biden's mother-in-law, Bonnie Jacobs, died on Sunday. Biden, who had been conferring with doctors as to her care shortly before the bailout vote last week, had already canceled his campaign appearances this weekend to be with her and his wife Jill. Indiana Senator Evan Bayh filled in for him on stops in Virginia.

In Newsweek, Joe Biden talks about that choked up moment during his debate with Sarah Palin: "in the moment, he 'could picture Beau in the bed' after the 1972 car accident that killed Biden's first wife, Neilia, and their baby girl and critically injured his young sons. Now Beau, the 39-year-old attorney general of Delaware, was off to war, a judge advocate general traveling to obscure regions of Iraq, where the road isn't exactly the safest place to be. The memory of being a single parent mixed with worries about Beau to create 'a lot of bundled emotions. It surprised me. I was hoping nobody noticed.' Only 70 million or so did."

The Lesions of History

Palin's disturbingly blithesome reply during the vice-Presidential debate, to the question, "Do you believe as Vice President Cheney does, that he and his army of Necromongers and Quasideads must hold sway over the Universe and all it contains?" has sufficiently moved the NY Times to write in an editorial Saturday, "It is hard to tell from Ms. Palin's remarks whether she understands how profoundly Dick Cheney has reshaped the vice presidency — as part of a larger drive to free the executive branch from all checks and balances. Nor did she seem to understand how much damage that has done to American democracy. Mr. Cheney has shown what can happen when a vice president — a position that is easy to lampoon and overlook — is given free rein by the president and does not care about trampling on the Constitution.Mr. Cheney has long taken the bizarre view that the lesson of Watergate was that Congress was too powerful and the president not powerful enough. He dedicated himself to expanding President Bush's authority and arrogating to himself executive, legislative and legal powers that are nowhere in the Constitution."

In his NY Times blog, Paul Krugman takes us back to the Reagan quote that Palin invoked at the debate: "It was Ronald Reagan who said that freedom is always just one generation away from extinction. We don't pass it to our children in the bloodstream; we have to fight for it and protect it, and then hand it to them so that they shall do the same, or we're going to find ourselves spending our sunset years telling our children and our children's children about a time in America, back in the day, when men and women were free." Krugman notes: "When did he say this? It was on a recording he made for Operation Coffeecup — a campaign organized by the American Medical Association to block the passage of Medicare. Doctors' wives were supposed to organize coffee klatches for patients, where they would play the Reagan recording, which declared that Medicare would lead us to totalitarianism."

On Meet the Press' roundtable, Gwen Ifill had some observations about the debate (after watching a clip from SNL's sendup of the debate --more on that below). Ifill laughs about Palin's averred plan to ignore the moderator's questions, "She blew me off, I think is the technical term..." David Gregory notes that Palin "made a decision to be rhetorical and not substantive on the issues. Her primary job was to excite the conservative base. Joe Biden made a decision not to take her on." It's not on this particular clip, but during the same discussion, Peggy Noonan observed, "I think she showed that she is a woman of great and natural competence about the show-business of politics, if you will: the ability to look over the camera, to think that the camera is your friend, all of that stuff. But there are questions about other areas." The whole episode was pretty interesting, so if you have time, it's worth a watch.

Palin, Footloose and Fancy Free

"Sarah Palin may be making new friends as she campaigns the nation, but at home, she's making new enemies. She better get elected vice president. If she returns to Alaska as governor, the reception will be frosty -- and not because winter has arrived. In the last month, Palin has become something inconceivable during her first two years as the state's chief executive: A polarizing figure rapidly emptying the storehouse of good will she accumulated."

setstatsIn an interview with Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron, Palin claimed that Couric's questions -- which produced a series of staggeringly embarrassing responses -- put her in a lose-lose position. "The Sarah Palin in those interviews was a little bit annoyed," she said. "It's like, man, no matter what you say, you are going to get clobbered. If you choose to answer a question, you are going to get clobbered on the answer. If you choose to try to pivot and go to another subject that you believe that Americans want to hear about, you get clobbered for that too."

Back on the trail, Palin headed onto some dangerous ground by going back again to the nature of Obama's connection with the Vietnam War-era domestic terrorist William Ayers of the Weather Underground. Douglass Daniel at the AP notes that it may backfire on the McCain campaign. "By claiming that Democrat Barack Obama is 'palling around with terrorists' and doesn't see the U.S. like other Americans, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin targeted key goals for a faltering campaign. And though she may have scored a political hit each time, her attack was unsubstantiated and carried a racially tinged subtext that John McCain himself may come to regret."

And the gaffes just keep coming. I think it's sorta just a habit for them now. "Palin regaled the cheering crowd with a story about how she was reading her Starbucks mocha cup yesterday, which featured a quotation from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. 'Now she said it, I didn't,' Palin said of Albright. 'She said, "There's a place in Hell reserved for women who don't support other women."'  The crowd roared its approval, but according to several sources, Albright actually said, 'there's a place in Hell reserved for women who don't help other women.'"

Albright replies: "This is yet another example of McCain and Palin distorting the truth, and all the more reason to remember that this campaign is not about gender, it is about which candidate has an agenda that will improve the lives of all Americans, including women."

 Campbell Brown is fast becoming my favorite TV news anchor: "As journalists, and certainly for me over the last few years, we've gotten overly obsessed with parity, especially when we're covering politics," Ms. Brown said. "We kept making sure each candidate got equal time — to the point that it got ridiculous in a way. So when you have Candidate A saying the sky is blue, and Candidate B saying it's a cloudy day, I look outside and I see, well, it's a cloudy day," she said. "I should be able to tell my viewers, 'Candidate A is wrong, Candidate B is right.' And not have to say, 'Well, you decide.' Then it would be like I'm an idiot. And I'd be treating the audience like idiots."

(I'm not making this up, you know.  Some days this stuff just writes itself...) "Sen. John McCain's senior foreign policy advisor cites a steamy romance 50 years ago with a Brazilian babe among the things that illustrate the candidate's decades-long interest in Latin America. Speaking at an Americas Conference panel discussion Friday on the next U.S. president's Latin American policy, McCain advisor Richard Fontaine started out by mentioning an old Brazilian flame of McCain's, who recently emerged in the press." From the photo she's holding, looks like Maria Gracinda used to be a ballet dancer--and you know about ballet dancers...

''Talking a little about his personal experience, he was famously born in Panama and has traveled all over the hemisphere for many years.'' Fontaine said. ``In fact, I saw, I guess it was last week, that his old girlfriend in Brazil has been found from his early days when he was in the Navy and was interviewed. She's a somewhat older woman now than she was then, but it sorta speaks to the long experience he has had in the region -- in the most positive terms.'' Asked afterward about whether he was suggesting that McCain's fling with a Latin hottie counted as Latin America foreign policy experience, Fontaine said: ''The only thing I was trying to convey was that his experience goes back a long way,'' Fontaine said. ``He was born in Panama, which illustrates a lifetime spent in Latin America. He has known a lot of people. The thing about the Brazilian girlfriend was in his first memoir, and it stuck in my brain. Look at the two candidates and contrast his extensive experience. That's the only point I was trying to make.''

Wow, I guess that means that guy who makes the Girls Gone Wild Ultimate Spring Break DVDs, Joe Francis has TON more experience in foreign policy.  Maybe HE should be running for President. Oh, no wait, he's too busy doing his "community service."  Ah the irony. 

And, of course, "enquiring minds want to know"... when are Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston tying the ole' knot? Apparently, it's not in October, as much as Mommy and that funny Senator McWeird might want it to be...."The two have been considering getting married next summer, 'but that could change,' [Johnston's mother] said during a short interview outside her Wasilla home. The baby is due in late December.'

Sunday Morning Quarterbacking

A round up of some of the best commentary and humor from this weekend:

At the top of the list, as always, Saturday Night Live. Tina Fey should be Palin's biggest fan, seeing as how Fey can expect another Emmy for playing the Contestant #8 to such excruciating perfection. SNL has hit video gold with Palin:

LATIFAH AS IFILL: "Senator Palin. Address your position on global warming and whether you think it's man-made or not."

FEY AS PALIN: "Gwen, we don't know if this climate change hoozie-what's-it is man-made or if it's just a natural part of the 'End of Days.' But I'm not gonna talk about that I would like to talk about taxes, because with Barack Obama, you're gonna be paying higher taxes. But not with me and my fellow maverick. We are not afraid to get maverick-y in there and ruffle feathers and not got to allow that. And also, too, the great Ronald Reagan."

And tell me we're still playing the Drinking Game!  Fey, as Palin, finishes up with: "I liked being here tonight answering these tough questions without the filter of the mainstream gotcha media with their 'follow-up questions,' 'fact-checking' or 'incessant need to figure out what your words mean and why ya put them in that order.' I'm happy to be speaking directly to the American people to let them know if you want an outsider who doesn't like politics as usual or pronouncin' the 'g' and the end of words she's sayin' I think you know who to vote for. Oh, and for those Joe Six-packs out there playing a drinking game at home -- Maverick."

  • I love YouTube mashups. Sarah Palin meets Francis McDormand in Fargo. You betcha, yah. You think I have too much time on my hands?

  • Letterman also gives us her own words.

  • Bill Maher notes that Pakistan's president Zardari got into hot water for gushing over Palin and hugging her, "The people in his home country of Pakistan, the Islamists, they issued a fatwa on him for being too flirty. And when Sarah today was told that Zardari had gotten a fatwa because of her, she said I know I felt it when he hugged me."

  • Maureen Dowd at the NY Times has another go at translating Palin's mushy-mouthed Frontier Baroque back into English: "Sometimes, her sentences have a Yoda-like — 'When 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not' — splendor. When she was asked by Couric if she'd ever negotiated with the Russians, the governor replied that when Putin 'rears his head' he is headed for Alaska. Then she uttered yet another sentence that defies diagramming: 'It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there'... She dangles gerunds, mangles prepositions, randomly exiles nouns and verbs and also — "also" is her favorite vamping word — uses verbs better left as nouns."

  • And then there's Frank Rich, "After the debate, Republicans who had been bailing on Palin rushed back to the fold. They know her relentless ambition is the only hope for saving a ticket headed by a warrior who is out of juice and out of ideas. So what if she is preposterously unprepared to run the country in the midst of its greatest economic crisis in 70 years? She looks and sounds like a winner.You can understand why they believe that. She has more testosterone than anyone else at the top of her party."

It's true, Palin does have her appeal to the people that love her.  This debate review, from Rich Lowry at the National Review, reminds me of that episode of the Partridge Family, the one with that gorgeous blonde girl who can't sing a note, but all the men in the room think she's fantastic.  (The family has to stage an intervention, Keith finally hears her on tape and he realizes that when he isn't looking at her, she's a horrible singer. With Palin, it's the same effect you get when you read her transcript.)

"A very wise TV executive once told me that the key to TV is projecting through the screen. It's one of the keys to the success of, say, a Bill O'Reilly, who comes through the screen and grabs you by the throat. Palin too projects through the screen like crazy. I'm sure I'm not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, "Hey, I think she just winked at me." And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America. This is a quality that can't be learned; it's either something you have or you don't, and man, she's got it."


Author, Author

So I've run into several people now who actually believe that Obama has never authored legislation in the three years he's been in the Senate. It was a crack made by Sarah Palin at the RNC back in early September, if you recall, so one might wonder why ANYone would believe something Sarah Palin said. John McCain should have CRINGED because Obama has co-sponsored legislation with him in the Senate. But the question of authoring legislation actually came up much earlier in the year, during the primaries, and oddly enough in an email forward supporting Obama and levelling an attack on Hillary Clinton's record. Nevertheless, more than one person now has said to me, "Oh, Obama's never written any legislation," and I feel it's up to us to get the truth out there circulating. Again.

While it's true that Obama has not been in Congress long enough to have a list of enacted legislation as long as McCain's or Biden's or Clinton's, he has an extraordinarily impressive and prolific track record.  In just three years in the US Senate, Obama was the sole original sponsor of 129 bills and co-sponsored an additional 427.

Newsweek and covered this issue fairly thoroughly back in February during the primaries, so I'm only including a shortlist of legislation Obama has authored on this convenient wallet-sized version--you can look up a complete list of co-sponsored bills at the Library of Congress. (Feel free to print it out, fold it up and carry it with you.) Charles Peters in the Washington Post also examines how Obama developed  bipartisan support at the state-level for a controversial law mandating videotaping for police interrogation. \

October 3, 2008 Contestant #8 Edition"

The Debate

Palin's best line from the debate: "I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some people out there in our nation don't have maps and, uh, I believe that our, uh, education like such as in, uh, South Africa and, uh, the Iraq and everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uh, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, should help South Africa and should help Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future for our children."

What? Oh.... um... hang on.... oh, yeah.  I guess that wasn't Sarah Palin, that was Ms. South Carolina at the Miss Teen USA 2007. But you really thought it was Palin for a second, didn't you?

Here's video and the transcript of the debate from the NY Times, also in
bite-sized pieces from Also.

So what I saw was in bits and pieces traveling from home, listening in the car, plugged into an old fashioned Sony Walkman with one earbud in discreetly hidden (I was at an event at the Dolby Theater) and finally in the screening booth at Dolby. But from what I witnessed, if your word in the Debate Drinking Game was "maverick," "change," or "nu-kular" you are now recovering from a wicked  hangover. Also if you had the suffix  "-in'"--as in "wishin'" and "hopin'" and "thinkin'" and prayin'" --you are STILL three sheets to the wind. You English majors, if you took a drink every time she incorrectly employed a gerund phrase or preposition, you are now, as to drinking, also to the toilet hanging. Also.

Some random notes from last night:

No, Palin didn't tremble and burst into tears, or flame out as she did her other appearances last week, but she certainly didn't shine either. As I noted to some of you already, Palin is really good at the "Contestant #8, Sarah Palin" Beauty Queen style.  Bright, charming, lots of teeth. Her handlers gave her a tight script, and (I think) crossed their fingers and hoped that the answers would kinda match the questions. But, I thought it was interesting that as the debate wore on, the beauty queen smile and confidence seemed to ebb away.  We lost the charming tics, the smile took on tension, her words came more quickly and less coherently, and there were long pauses before she launched into a response--you could almost see the little rat inside her brain running around in desperate circles. At one point, I thought maybe her little notecards had gotten shuffled, or maybe that my brain had skipped a neuron somehow, the way that old vinyl records would skip.

The 90-second/2 minute time limit helped Palin a lot, in my humble opinion.  She had some good soundbites, and if you loved her before the debate, you probably thought she came over brilliantly. (Did she ACTUALLY wink at Joe Six-Pack?)

Plus, as HuffPo notes, for a woman who says "I didn't blink, you can't blink..." she blinked.  A lot.  Noticeably. Thing is,  frequent blinking is a subtle non-verbal cue that most often is subliminally interpreted as shifty, it's the sort of thing that says to people, "I'm uncomfortable and I'm lying."

At the Post, Tom Shales notes, "Commentators on many of the networks marveled at Palin's insistence on avoiding substantial comment on issues and on simply ignoring questions she couldn't answer convincingly. Palin basically stated early in the debate that this would be her strategy. She said she wasn't necessarily going to respond to the questions of the moderator or charges from Biden, but instead, 'I'm gonna talk right to the American people.' Since this was billed as a debate, not a speech, her remark came across as arrogant, and as an admission she would duck tough questions. " Yup. Yup.

Occasionally, Ifill would remind her that she hadn't actually um.. answered the freakin' question?: "As Vice President, there's nothing you've promised as a candidate that you would take off the table because of this financial issue?" Palin: "There is not, and how long have I been at this? Like five weeks?" Yes, dearie, we know.

Her only major gaffe of the night seem to have been Palin's reference to the commander in Afghanistan.  As usual,  I feel like, sure, it's not a guy whose name I know, but hey, you brought him up, so shouldn't you know his name? HuffPo notes:  "The commanding general in Afghanistan didn't merely state that Surge tactics won't work! He also said that tribal involvement in the COIN strategy wouldn't work either! Absolutely right on infrastructure in Afghanistan though! Know what they really need in Afghanistan to enhance security? ROADS. Palin thinks our commander in Afghanistan is someone named "McClellan." It is, I believe, McKiernan. And Palin is DEAD WRONG. He absolutely said that tribal involvement in Afghanistan COIN strategy would not work."

Biden in my opinion pretty much eviscerated her on the question of  "Do you believe as Vice President Cheney does, that the Executive Branch does not hold complete sway over the office of the vice presidency, that it it is also a member of the Legislative Branch?" Palin perkily answered, "Well, our founding fathers were very wise there in allowing through the Constitution much flexibility there in the office of the vice president..."  But Biden came back in a great, forceful reply with, "The idea he's part of the Legislative Branch is a bizarre notion invented by Cheney to aggrandize the power of a unitary executive and look where it has gotten us. It has been very dangerous." And as Arianna Huffington pointed out, "The loudest ovation of the night -- at least in that ballroom (granted, not the most representative-of-America crowd) -- came when Biden said that Dick Cheney was the most dangerous VP in history."  See, Sarah, people don't so much like Cheney...

At one point, when Biden said "just because I am a man" he didn't understand what it was like to wonder whether or not a child would "make it" in recovering from a life-threatening medical situation, he choked up and I fretted about how people would react to this moment.  All around though,  it was seen sympathetically --everyone seems to know the story of his wife and daughter-- and I thought was a great counterpoint to Palin's confusing and insincere reference to his Biden's wife ("Her reward is in heaven...")

In the end, I think Biden accomplished his goal, which is to focus in on McCain and how he's linked to Bush. "The issue is: How different is John McCain's policy going to be than George Bush's? I haven't heard anything yet," he said. "I haven't heard how his policy is going to be different on Iran than George Bush's. I haven't heard how his policy is going to be different with Israel than George Bush's. I haven't heard how his policy in Afghanistan is going to be different than George Bush's. I haven't heard how his policy in Pakistan is going to be different than George Bush's."

Generally, it's only been a few hours since the debate, but the consensus is a big win for Joe Biden He was crisp, he was informed, and stayed on top of disarming all of her accusations and distortions, which wasn't easy.  Her replies were often scattershot, and if you watched the debate as a whole, it kinda looked as if she had an earpiece in with someone whispering cues, but then halfway through she started tuning in the wrong station.

46% of the CBS Focus group gave the debate to Biden as a win, only 21% though Palin won, and 33% thought it was a tie. Over at CNN, Biden 51%-36%.  James Fallows at the Atlantic tacks this little observation at the end of his quick analysis: "Of course Biden did a far better job -- he answered the questions rather than moving straight to talking points, he drew on a vastly broader range of factual references, he attacked his opponents in ways that were relevant to the subject under discussion. But this is not how the event was being watched or scored." My stars, how cynical we are, James.

Still, Adam McKay at HuffPo marvels that he's found a Dem candidate he COULD have a beer with. "He was masterful tonight. Biden is a stone cold pro in a world where most politicians just become cold or stone-like. But Joe Biden managed to communicate on every issue in a clear and laser focused way. The happiest person on the planet had to be Barack Obama's gastroenterologist. Because when Obama has to go under for his colonoscopy as president this Doctor will not have to rush, lest the VP drop the ball while in charge for those forty-five minutes. Obama's GI will even be able to take a second lap around the large intestine to make sure."

The NY Times analysis leads off with the "first do no harm" approach:"Gov. Sarah Palin made it through the vice-presidential debate on Thursday without doing any obvious damage to the Republican presidential ticket." But John F. Harris and Mike Allen at Politico  were a bit more pointed in their views, "she got out alive, though there were white-knuckle moments along the way."

 setstatsAnd another hilarious vlog intallment from "Sarah Palin," assessing her debate performance.


In other late-breaking news... "Cash for Crap" is now officially headed to the White House for a signature.  Now that EVERYBODY's pet project has been funded amply,  it passed in the House this afternoon, "At 1:21 p.m., applause and cheers echoed through the House chamber as the number of "aye" votes crossed the threshold needed for passage with just seconds remaining in the official 15-minute voting period. The vote was 263 to 171."

Why, oh Why, oh why-oh.  Why McCain SHOULD Leave Ohio

You want to know what I think is the big news? John McCain is pulling up campaign stakes in Michigan. Says Marc Ambinder at the Atlantic, "The move away from Michigan reflects the abandonment of any pretense that McCain can spend freely to expand the map for Republicans this year, and it's a sign that the campaign recognizes how the past two weeks have erased nearly all of McCain's gains since August. Instead, McCain's playing defense in states like Florida, Virginia and North Carolina, although his advisers do not consider the latter state as close as public polling suggests."

And the NY Times' Michael Cooper says," Ceding Michigan is a major blow to the McCain campaign, which had spent heavily on television commercials there and where Mr. McCain had campaigned repeatedly in the hopes that he could appeal to enough blue-collar voters, so-called Reagan Democrats and independent voters, to bring the state back into the Republican column in November."

Sarah Silverman exhorts the Jewish brethren to embark upon the Great Schlep to Florida.  Yes, Sarah's got a potty mouth, but yes, it's soooo funny.

October 2, 2008 "Palindrome Edition"

setstatsBetcha thought we'd never get here.... Yes, it's Thursday, and I am offering a Very Special Sarah Palin Salute to Schadenfreude.

But First, the News... this morning has Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia in Obama' corner, PLUS Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico!  AND McCain is losing ground in Indiana and Missouri!  Even Georgia, Mississippi and TEXAS? 

Over at Real Clear Politics, the more conservative estimator, the news is even BETTER: If you go to the scenario with no toss-up states, they give 353 electoral votes to Obama.

The Princeton Election Consortium show Obama with a "safe" 273 electoral vote today, and Obama is retaining his 6-point lead at Gallup Daily tracking is holding.

I do hasten to remind everyone that Obama's been at this level before, over the summer.  And we've seen this kind of lead take a dip.  However,  we are only 33 days out from the election, AND in some states millions of people have been voting already by absentee ballot -- to avoid the problem of impossible lines at the polls on election day.  Most people assumed this would be an advantage to McCain, but I'm not so sure...

Sittin' Here on Capitol Hill

Well, the Senate passed it.  The bill -- the BILL.  And they passed it with such little drama that you wondered if everyone was alive.  Here's the Roll Call. [Dusts off hands]  Done. What?  That's it.  Just vote, pass, done? Where's my haranguing?  My filibustering? I want my high-drama reality show! House Republicans? Over to you.

France figures, if American's are going to try it, maybe the Europeans might buy it too... "France heaped pressure on Gordon Brown last night by floating an ambitious plan for a 300 billion Euro (£237 billion) bailout fund to rescue crippled banks across Europe. As the world held its breath on the fate of America's $700 billion bank bailout plan, President Sarkozy was seeking the backing of European leaders for his own lifeboat...Amid the confusion and bickering between governments, France denied at first that it had put forward a proposal for a fund at all and then, after admitting that it had done so, denied that it would cost €300 billion. Paris said that the figure had come from the Dutch Government. Officials in The Hague said that they had no idea what the French were talking about." setstats

Debatable, Part Deux

So McCain's new strategy is to discredit Gwen Ifilll:  "On the eve of Thursday's vice-presidential debate in St. Louis, the McCain campaign is voicing confidence in moderator Gwen Ifill's professionalism while simultaneously sowing doubts about her ability to be fair after learning that she is working on a book about a new generation of black leaders called, 'Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.'"  For her part Ifill responds somewhat slyly--maybe it's the painkillers for her broken ankle talking. "Ifill questions why people assume that her book will be favorable toward Obama. 'Do you think they made the same assumptions about Lou Cannon (who is white) when he wrote his book about Reagan?' said Ifill, who is black. Asked if there were racial motives at play, she said, 'I don't know what it is. I find it curious.'"


setstatsThe Long and Winding Road....

You know, I'm quite amazed when I think that a month ago we barely knew Sarah Palin. Now we know more than we could ever possibly want to know about Sarah Palin. I know I know,  she shouldn't be the focus in this very important election, she should be beneath focus, but obsessing over her is like a good, juicy trash-novel-- I know I shouldn't waste the time, but it's a nasty, delicious indulgence.   Talking Points Memo did a nice 5 minutes "Greatest Hits" video which is disturbing and I think has damaged my eyeballs.

I thought on this day, of all days, it might be fun to recall how much we've learned about Sarah Palin. A little trip down Memory Lane.

July, 31 2008: The Prologue

  • "As for that VP talk all the time, I'll tell you, I still can't answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day?" says Gov. Sarah Palin, in an interview with CNBC's "Kudlow & Co."
  • Draft Sarah Palin for VP. No...really, John,  this person ISN'T your Vetting Team.
  • "When they were vetting her for this job, like three seconds ago, she said, quote, I'm not making this up, 'What is it exactly that the VP does every day?' Let me field that for you, Sarah. They start wars, they enrich their friends, they subvert the Constitution, and they shoot people in the face. That's what the vice president does." –Bill Maher

August 29: Who?

Sept 1: Getting to know her... getting to know all about her...

Sept. 2: Family (De-)Values

  • Why is there disbelief and speculation about Trig Palin's parentage? Palin's own account of the birth: she says she sensed her water broke while she was in Texas the morning before an important  speech.  Although she was aware the baby had Down Syndrome and she was then only eight months pregnant, she gave her speech and then made a 12 hour trip from Houston, Texas to Wasilla, Alaska.  With two flight connections. I suppose that's to show us how tough she is?  Humorous Palin decision map.
  • Palin, seven months pregnant, in the photo at right... You tell me. (And no, I will not let this go.)
  • Sarah Palin announces that her 17-year old unmarried daughter is pregnant. "Bristol Palin is about five months pregnant and is going to keep the child and marry the father, the Palins said in a statement released by the campaign of Republican presidential candidate John McCain. (UK Independent) 'Cause,see, that PROVES that Trig couldn't be Bristol's baby...
  • THIS is 7 months pregnant.  To the right, Demi Moore --seven months pregnant-- in a Vanity Fair cover shot by Annie Lebovitz. (No, I will not let this go! )
  • McCain's aide says statement should refute internet speculation that four-month old baby Trig is actually Bristol Palin's child. (Daily Kos) Update: The Kos link has been scrubbed and is no more.  Read Gawker for more.
  • Levi Johnston, aka Bristol Palin's fiance, to appear at GOP convention.
  • "Speaking of Sarah Palin, she said she's a life-long member of the National Rifle Association. Which may explain why she's in favor of shotgun weddings." --Conan O'Brien
Sept 3: Conventional

Sept 8: Gaffe-talk Express takes off

Sept 9: Have you seen the little piggies...?

Sept 12: Media Access

  • And speaking of the Palinista--SHE SPEAKS! Palin finally answers questions from what McCain was really, really, really hoping would be a sympathetic and softball Charlie Gibson on ABC.  I know,  Most of you don't even want to watch-- you can read the excerpts.
  • Was Charlie tough enough? Ehn, coulda been more.  Did Sarah stumble? She made Charlie a little testy, it's true, but she also had her lines pretty well memorized.  Still there were some obvious bumps in the road. She kinda declared war on Russia (calling the Georgian invasion unprovoked--um, those Georgians are nice and all, but....even I wouldn't say "unprovoked"), couldn't figure out what Bush's doctrine was, and yes, she STILL says "nukular." 
  • Gloria Steinem compares the Palinista to Phyllis Schlafly.  But she also reminds us "the culprit is John McCain. He may have chosen Palin out of change-envy, or a belief that women can't tell the difference between form and content, but the main motive was to please right-wing ideologues; the same ones who nixed anyone who is now or ever has been a supporter of reproductive freedom. If that were not the case, McCain could have chosen a woman who knows what a vice president does and who has thought about Iraq; someone like Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison or Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine." (LAT)
  • If you watched TV last night, you know that Charlie Gibson did something John McCain has never done: interviewed Sarah Palin.  --Jay Leno

Sept 13: Tina Fey Leads the Multimedia Goldrush

Sept 17: An EXPERT on Energy Policy

  • Heard at a town hall meeting, Grand Rapids, MI--from Sarah Palin's lips:"Oil and coal? Of course, it's a fungible commodity and they don't flag, you know, the molecules, where it's going and where it's not. But in the sense of the Congress today, they know that there are very, very hungry domestic markets that need that oil first. So, I believe that what Congress is going to do, also, is not to allow the export bans to such a degree that it's Americans that get stuck to holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped here. It's got to flow into our domestic markets first."

Sept 20: Speed Dating Diplomacy and Delusions/Illusions of Grandeur

Sept 23: Free Sarah Palin!

Sept 24: Mean Girl

  • And not that we didn't know this about Sarah Palin, but David Talbot at Salon recounts how Palin's mayoral election in Wasilla took on tones of nastiness that echo the current campaign. "According to some political observers in Alaska, this pattern -- exploiting 'old-boy' mentors and then turning against them for her own advantage -- defines Sarah Palin's rise to power. Again and again, Palin has charmed powerful political patrons, and then rejected them when it suited her purposes."
  • Oh, and in case you're not outraged enough about Palin's utter insensitivity as a human being, note that while Palin was mayor in Wasilla, the town began charging rape victims for the costs of their own rape kits.
  • Sarah Palin Troopergate Update:  The Plank pointed out that even the AP newswire is getting snarky, putting out this lead in a story covering the investigation: "Less than a week after balking at the Alaska Legislature's investigation into her alleged abuse of power, Gov. Sarah Palin on Monday indicated she will cooperate with a separate probe run by people she can fire."
  • The National Enquirer, which we never believed, until they nailed the John Edwards story,  releases the next "-gate" on Governor Family-Values: an affair with her husband's business partner.
  • Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic sticks to his guns on the Twelve Lies of Sarah Palin. "Just for the record, I asked an intern to go back and double fact-check the twelve documented lies that Sarah Palin has told on the public record. These are not hyperbolic claims or rhetorical excess. They are assertions of fact that are demonstrably untrue and remain uncorrected."
  • Craig Ferguson pointed out that it is very strange that Sarah Palin had a tanning bed installed in the governor's mansion, because the Republican Party is usually focused on making their candidate as white as possible.

Sept 25: Ow. Hurts Brain.

  • The BIG interview, with Katie Couric of CBS playing "Stump the Candidate." Particularly delicious is the moment when Couric asks Palin to cite "specific examples in [McCain's] 26 years [in the Senate] of pushing for more regulation."
  • More of Katie interviewing Sarah Palin: COURIC: You've cited Alaska's proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that? PALIN: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side, the land-- boundary that we have with-- Canada. It-- it's funny that a comment like that was-- kind of made to-- cari-- I don't know, you know? Reporters-- COURIC: Mock? PALIN: Yeah, mocked, I guess that's the word, yeah. (HuffPo)
  • setstatsHere's the special irony: Alaska's governors DO often enjoy more contact with Russian officials because Anchorage is the base for the Northern Forum, an organization representing leaders and sub-leadership from countries around the Arctic Circle including Russia, Finland, Iceland and Canada, Japan, China and South Korea. The Seattle Times reports: "Yet under Palin, the state government — without consultation — reduced its annual financial support to the Northern Forum to $15,000 from $75,000, according to Priscilla Wohl, the group's executive director. That forced the forum's Anchorage office to go without pay for two months. Palin — unlike the previous administrations of Gov. Frank Murkowski and Gov. Tony Knowles — also stopped sending representatives to Northern Forum's annual meetings, including one last year for regional governors held in the heart of Russia's oil territory." Great. Twenty years of glasnost down the drain. Plus, she doesn't even have the brains to mention that this organization exists when the Russia question comes up.
  • The LA Times reports: "Soon after Sarah Palin was elected mayor of the foothill town of Wasilla, Alaska, she startled a local music teacher by insisting in casual conversation that men and dinosaurs coexisted on an Earth created 6,000 years ago -- about 65 million years after scientists say most dinosaurs became extinct -- the teacher said."  That's TOTALLY true.  I saw it on TV once.
  • Sarah Palin, going for the all-important Sleestack vote. It's paying off: McCain is now polling at 52% among Sleestacks likely to vote.
  • Is Sarah Palin qualified?" poll on PBS NOW's website.  I sent it out, and many of you have sent it to me.  Well, the poll, which only ran a week in early September on PBS' homepage, became the single most viewed page on their entire site, even though nothing links to it now that the homepage link is gone. But it's remained so popular via email that PBS was moved to post this notice.  As many people noticed,  voting "da Chicago way" seemed to be entirely possible, and apparently was until yesterday, when they embedded cookies so you can only vote once per computer.
  • "Vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has many views. She says she's opposed to same-sex marriage. Did you know that? Yeah, Palin says everyone knows marriage isn't for gay people; it's for pregnant teenagers." --Conan O'Brien

Sept. 26: Out of the Tank for Palin.

  • Even the National Review's Kathleen Parker, once "in the tank"  for Sarah Palin, now says, "As we've seen and heard more from John McCain's running mate, it is increasingly clear that Palin is a problem. Quick study or not, she doesn't know enough about economics and foreign policy to make Americans comfortable with a President Palin should conditions warrant her promotion."
  • Over on Leno, Wanda Sykes goes OFF on Sarah Palin. "They say, 'Oh, she's meeting with the world leaders.' But there's no reporters. I'm like, is she meeting with the world leaders, or did you take her to the Epcot Center? Let her drink around the world? You know, because I've done that. Maybe I should be Secretary of State..."
  • "Well, it's a very strange political campaign. I mean, out on the campaign trail, John McCain and Sarah Palin are talking about how they stood up to the Republican party, they fought the Republican establishment, and they battled Republicans. Their message: vote Republican." --Jay Leno

Sept 28: Point/Counterpoint

  • Whoopsie.  McCain appeared on George Stephanopoulos' show on Sunday on ABC, and um... had to retract the statement his esteemed running mate made the night before: "Saturday night, while on a stop for cheesesteaks in South Philadelphia, Palin was questioned by a Temple graduate student about whether the U.S. should cross the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan. 'If that's what we have to do stop the terrorists from coming any further in, absolutely, we should,' Palin said." 
  • Hmmm, that sounds familiar... wait, what was it Barack Obama said during Friday night's debate? "If the United States has al Qaeda, bin Laden, top-level lieutenants in our sights, and Pakistan is unable or unwilling to act, then we should take them out." 
  • At that point, McCain, you might remember, said testily, "Now, you don't do that. You don't say that out loud. If you have to do things, you have to do things, and you work with the Pakistani government."
  • McCain, gently corrected Palin's statements: "She would not…she understands and has stated repeatedly that we're not going to do anything except in America's national security interest," McCain told ABC's George Stephanopoulos of Palin. "In all due respect, people going around and… sticking a microphone while conversations are being held, and then all of a sudden that's—that's a person's position… This is a free country, but I don't think most Americans think that that's a definitive policy statement made by Governor Palin."
  • Palin is still PERKY [read, "adorably catty"] saying of Thursday's debate with Biden. "I'm looking forward to meeting him, too. I've never met him before, but I've been hearing about his Senate speeches since I was in, like, second grade.''
  • Joining in on the growing chorus of aghast conservatives, Ron Dreher, the Crunchy Conservative, says, "Palin is mediocre, again, regurgitating talking points mechanically, not thinking. Palin's just babbling. She makes George W. Bush sound like Cicero"
  • "Palin and McCain are a good pair. She's pro-life and he's clinging to life." - Jay Leno

Sept 29: Pre-Debate

Sept 30: She's An [Nearly Illiterate, Below-Average] American Girl (but she plays flute)

  • As part of their "media  blitz" this week, Palin went on the radio telling America about how she's just average working class..."Todd and I, heck, we're going through that right now even as we speak, which may put me again kind of on the outs of those Washington elite who don't like the idea of just an everyday working class American running for such an office.
  • As HuffPo notes, it was the bastion of conservativism, The Washington Times, that pointed out that Palin is hardly working class: "A check of financial records, though, shows the Palins live anything but a common life when compared with their fellow residents of their hometown of Wasilla. Their combined income of nearly a quarter-million dollars last year was five times the median household income for Wasilla's 7,000 residents. They own a single-engine plane, two boats, two personal watercraft and a half-million-dollar, custom-built home on a lake that is worth three times the average of other homes in town. For the future, they also have a 401(k) retirement account compliments of Todd Palin's years as an engineer with oil giant BP." Hmmm, that wasn't what I meant by "above average."
  • ANYway. Yes, it's true, just by reading my daily rant, YOU can become More Qualified to Be Vice President than Sarah Palin. From HuffPo: "Asked what newspapers and magazines she reads, Palin - a journalism major in college - could not name one publication. "I've read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media," she said at first. Couric responded, "What, specifically?" "Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years." "Can you name a few?" "I have a vast variety of source where we get our news," Palin said. "Alaska isn't a foreign country, where it's kind of suggested, 'wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?' Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America." Vast variety,eh?  No, honey, _I_ have a vast variety of sources.  You have People Magazine.
  • But with all the trash-talking about elitist media,  Palin had a little problem embedded in that question (besides the obvious problem of being completely incurious about anything): 

Oct 2: Gotcha.

Post Turtle
  • While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75-year old rancher whose hand was caught in a gate while working cattle, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man.  Eventually the topic got around to Sarah Palin and her bid to be a heartbeat away from being President.

    The old rancher said, 'Well, ya know, Palin is a post turtle.' Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a post turtle was.

    The old rancher said, 'When you're driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a post turtle.'

    The old rancher saw a puzzled look on the doctor's face, so he continued to explain.

    'You know she didn't get up there by herself, she doesn't belong up there, she doesn't know what to do while she is up there, and you just wonder what kind of dumb ass put her up there to begin with.'

Memories...hurt the corners of my mind...

Beyond the Palin

ABC's recent poll indicated that 60% of Americans think Palin does not have the experience needed for the job. 46% think she "understands complex issues," while 49 percent think she doesn't.  Who--WHO are you, you 46% who thinks she understands complex issues???? Even in her home state, America's most popular governor is slipping, as everyone begins to figure out that she's ignorant AND obnoxious. "McClatchy reports today that her approval rating in her home state has tumbled to 68% -- still high but surely not the country's best. The poll by a local firm that works for both parties was taken Sept. 20-22."

One more time before we go... I just LOVE looking at that electoral map.

It occurs to me again, and with greater force how well Obama has picked his team and how poorly McCain has chosen his.  In the last four weeks, Obama has sent his wife Michelle Obama to Allentown, PA with Jill Biden, to Saginaw and Clinton townships in Michigan, to Greensboro, NC. And of course, while he and Joe Biden have been campaigning together in Virginia, he's also sent Joe out to major swing states by himself -- because he can.  I haven't seen Sarah Palin (forget Todd) or Cindy McCain out there in Wisconsin stumping for John--I don't think the campaign could possibly trust any of them out by themselves.

So actually, it's no surprise (although it is really, really pleasant to see) that Obama is opening leads in key swing states. As reported yesterday, he's over 50% in Ohio, Pennsylvania and FLORIDA according to Quinnipiac, but new polls from CNN/Time reflect the same trend.

  • Florida: Obama 51%, McCain 47%
  • Minnesota: Obama 54%, McCain 43%
  • Missouri: Obama 49%, McCain 48%
  • Nevada: Obama 51%, McCain 47%
  • Virginia: Obama 53%, McCain 44%

Plus, Obama is polling at his highest ever in the CBS/NYTimes poll: 49% to McCain's 40%. This is the first statistically significant lead he's taken in that poll. "The election cycle is entering a time when voters historically begin to make final judgments; this year, in fact, many of them are actually beginning early voting in states."

October 1, 2008 "Social Life Edition"

So with the House of Representative in disarray, the Senate has decided to give things a go today. Obama, McCain and Biden will be headed back to DC to vote on their version of the bill I so carefully outlined yesterday.  "I'll see your $700 thousand million and raise you an FDIC limit of $250,000.

Media funnies

A few of my favorite items for today-- always knowing there will be more tomorrow!

Jon Stewart on The Daily Show grabs the conch and goes OFF about Congress' inability to get this bill done and that they're out for the Jewish holiday:  "Listen up, Congress! Get the F**K back to work!  For the 'Jewish holiday' for God's sake? How many Jews are even in Congress?  Wall Street is open-- I'll guarantee you they got more Jews on Wall Street than in Congress. I'm here, The Daily Show is on, and I guarantee we have more Jews at The Daily Show than Congress.  So, get back to saving the economy and if you have to do it without Feingold and Lieberman so be it. How about this?  The Congressional delegations from Florida and New York can sleep in. How about that? I mean seriously--Utah?  You're not coming in for Rosh Hashanah?  Wyoming? My rabbi doesn't even have the balls to take two days for Rosh Hashanah."

If you're looking for a little "laughing while I'm crying moment, here is McCain, versus McCain.

setstatsAnd for flat out sputtering outrage, watch Cenk Uygar go off on Palin's answer to Katie Couric regarding Hamas. Cenk--who's admittedly on the biased side,  like me--is convinced Palin has NO IDEA who the Hamas is, and dontcha know, I'm inclined to agree. He also suggests that if you put a map in front of her, she couldn't tell you where the Gaza Strip is.  Entirely possible.  Cenk wishes selecting a VP candidate were more like gymnastics where you get a big ZERO score if you flub your vault.  Don't we wish.

Here's a YouTube nugget I missed earlier this year, a consumer calls up customer service to ask about the Iraq War Charge on her bill.

And this morning Paula Poundtone put a homespun touch on the financial crisis: "Gee, this stuff is hard to follow. I don't think I even know how many zeros are in a trillion. But after listening to the candidates, I realized I can't count on the powers that be to explain the nature of the financial crisis, and it will be up to me to inform myself. So I turned to It's A Wonderful Life for background on liquidity and solvency, which would have filled me with hope if I didn't have a bad feeling that we've already spent George and Mary Bailey's honeymoon funds"

Okay, this one's not really funny, per se,  but it is very very interesting. Five economists discuss the crisis at Princeton. (Hyun Shin, Markus Brunnermeier, Harrison Hong, Paul Krugman, Alan Blinder) It's an hour long, so don't click on this if you're in a hurry.  But it's extremely enlightening and well worth the time...

Hoisted with Her Own Petard

Rescue the post turtle.  No, no, no, not Sarah Palin, he mean the poor little turtle in the picture.  I love the joke. ('You know she didn't get up there by herself, she doesn't belong up there, she doesn't know what to do while she is up there, and you just wonder what kind of dumb ass put her up there to begin with.') But even so, it's becoming clearer and clearer that the problem with comparing the turtle with Palin is that the turtle didn't put herself up there... Sarah Palin did. Free the Real Post Turtle.

setstatsA little advance taste of the Thursday's event: a photo of Palin in Sedona, prepping for the debate with a practice run with Randy Scheuneman. In my fertile imagination, I picture this photo being snapped in the long silence after a Palin answer, and then Randy saying, "What the hell was that? Okay, okay [shakes head] ya gotta focus, Sarah, ya gotta frackin' FOCUS IN."

Princeton Election Consortium points us to a site where some technological whiz has created a Markov chain-based model of Sarah Palin's interview answers. It uses her existing public statements to construct a computer model of what words/phrases would be likely to follow one another, then uses that model to generate random answers. Kind of like a Sarah Palin Mad Lib.

It's frighteningly good. Ask her a question! But beware of falling down the rabbit hole...

So the real question, though, is how will Palin "play" in her debate with Biden tomorrow? So far, consensus is that her performance in interviews has been someplace between abysmal and disastrous. BUT The New York Times has an interesting look at her previous debates. (They also examine Biden's style, noting he'll have to guard againt being "overbearing or condescending." Sorry, Joe, I know that's nigh-on impossible given Palin's utter lack of any brains, but please try.) While they see echoes of the peripatetic blather we've seen before ("I can't tell you how much that will reduce monetarily our health care costs, but competition makes everyone better, it makes us work harder, it does allow reduction in costs, so addressing that is going to be a priority."), there also hints of an "average person who understood the average person's needs and would not be expected to have detailed policy prescriptions." Lord help us.  Why would we WANT an "average person"?  Should we want an ABOVE average person? Or is that too intimidating?

Still, Andrew Halcro, who debated Palin in the governorship race in Alaska, warns ,"she's a master, not of facts, figures, or insightful policy recommendations, but at the fine art of the nonanswer, the glittering generality."

As part of their "media  blitz" this week, Palin went on the radio telling America about how she's just average working class..."Todd and I, heck, we're going through that right now even as we speak, which may put me again kind of on the outs of those Washington elite who don't like the idea of just an everyday working class American running for such an office.

Up is down. Black is white. Thursday is Tuesday. As HuffPo notes, it was the bastion of conservativism, The Washington Times, that pointed out that Palin is hardly working class: "A check of financial records, though, shows the Palins live anything but a common life when compared with their fellow residents of their hometown of Wasilla. Their combined income of nearly a quarter-million dollars last year was five times the median household income for Wasilla's 7,000 residents. They own a single-engine plane, two boats, two personal watercraft and a half-million-dollar, custom-built home on a lake that is worth three times the average of other homes in town. For the future, they also have a 401(k) retirement account compliments of Todd Palin's years as an engineer with oil giant BP." Hmmm, that wasn't what I meant by "above average."

Former Dem strategist Paul Begala offers his ten rules about debates on CNN (Thanks, Jackie for sending that along!) It's a sobering reminder that actually knowing something isn't necessarily a prerequisite oto good debating in this case.  He observes: "Politicians are a lot like Little Leaguers (although I don't think I'd trust them with aluminum bats). They crave confidence. And the more confident they are, the better they're likely to do." To me, the question is not if Palin has confidence--she has start with.  But in just about every interview she's done thus far, we see the same thing.  At the outset, she's just dumb enough to think she's smart, but then as you watch her keep on talking, you can also see that she's just smart enough to gradually realize that she's dumb.

ANYway. Yes, it's true, just by reading my daily rant, YOU can become More Qualified to Be Vice President than Sarah Palin. From HuffPo: "Asked what newspapers and magazines she reads, Palin - a journalism major in college - could not name one publication. "I've read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media," she said at first. Couric responded, "What, specifically?" "Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years." "Can you name a few?" "I have a vast variety of source where we get our news," Palin said. "Alaska isn't a foreign country, where it's kind of suggested, 'wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?' Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America."

But with all this trash-talking about elitist media,  Palin had a little problem embedded in that question (besides the obvious problem of being completely incurious about anything): 

See, the problem with being your kind of maverick is that you don't have any friends now--no lifelines, no one to help you, no one whose name you'd be allowed to mention.  Hoisted with your own petard.

(By the way, about "seeing" Russia from Alaska. That's true, but there's only one place in Alaska that you can do that from: Little Diomede island in the Bering Strait. Gary Tuchman on Anderson Cooper 360 visited it --which Palin has never done. "No American mayor resides in a city closer to Russia than Andrew Milligrock, and he says being two miles from Russia doesn't give him any foreign policy expertise."

And is the McCain Campaign going "Jeff Gillooly" on this debate? "PBS' Gwen Ifill has broken her ankle after tripping and falling down stairs at her home last night, a NewsHour insider tells TVNewser. We're told Ifill had been walking up a staircase, carrying research related to her moderating duties at Thursday's Vice Presidential debate in St. Louis, when she took a wrong step.We are also told the show will go on: Ifill is planning to travel to Missouri for the big event." Stay tuned-- if someone takes a whack at Gwen's knees, you know what happened.


Meanwhile,  in the "Keep Your Eye on the Ball" Dept.:

Voter Fraud-- it's not just a slogan."You know it's going to be a heated election when a state attorney general sues his own state agency for not cracking down on voter fraud. But that's just what's happened in Wisconsin. It's indicative of the kinds of legal challenges now being brought in hotly contested states around the country. The outcomes of those challenges will decide whose votes get counted and whose don't — and in a race as close as this one, that could make all the difference."

Folks, I'm happy to see more and more projections turning North Carolina in Obama's favor.  The vaguely right-leaning RealClearPolitics has quietly flipped it over to Obama with a 0.3 point lead, but I think given Wachovia's fire sale to Citigroup last week, he may take a more sizable lead in coming weeks.  Wachovia's headquarters were in Charlotte, and with 20,000 employees, they were the second largest employer in the region.

And the Quinnipiac poll numbers are up in the most delightful way in three big swing states: Ohio (50-42 Obama), Pennsylvania (54-39 Obama) and Florida (Sit down for this, 51-43 Obama).  But all this only says to me that depserate parties will be working on desperate measures.  It's time for vigilance.

I leave things with this head-shaking moment from PunditKitchen:

September 30, 2008 "Oy Gevalt! Edition"

Welcome to the madhouse. setstatsAbsolute topsy-turvy chaos Bush is irrelevant. McCain is irrelevant. Conservative Republicans are running wild like an uncontrollable flash mob. The Dow is in freefall. US  lost $1.2 trillion in market value. The Nikkei plummeted 544 points on opening.  House Minority Leader John Boehner blames Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for her "partisan" speech. John McCain blames Barack Obama. I'm thinking that I need to start looking for John Galt's hidden valley in Colorado.  I hope it's not on a McCain property.

Oh, and McCain was all too happy to take the credit for "saving" the bailout... until the vote failed and the Dow took a death dive 777 points. "Shortly before the vote, McCain had bragged about his involvement and mocked Sen. Barack Obama for staying on the sidelines. 'I've never been afraid of stepping in to solve problems for the American people, and I'm not going to stop now," McCain told a rally in Columbus, Ohio. "Sen. Obama took a very different approach to the crisis our country faced. At first he didn't want to get involved. Then he was monitoring the situation.' McCain, grinning, flashed a sarcastic thumbs up."

Well, sadly for McCain, it seems Obama's demeanor is actually um... gaining him points...Liz Sidoti of the AP weighs in with her analysis: "Barack Obama's calmly assured response to the economic crisis and solid debate performance have bolstered the view among voters that he is ready to be chief executive, a crucial threshold he needs to cross to win the presidency.

Bedfellows, bugaboos and bailouts

As usual, the New York Times comes up with a terrific graphic that pretty much gives you all you need to know about who voted "no" and where they come from. Scroll down to the recall, and note where the "no" voters' districts are, and then compare to this subprime meltdown and foreclosures map. I don't see as much correlation to "swing states" as others do.  I think it's more a matter of how the bailout would play with your nearly-homeless constituency.  On the hand, those voters don't have permanent addresses now and can be challenged at the polls, so who cares what they think?

In the accompanying article they say ominously, "The collapse of the proposed rescue plan for the teetering financial system was the product of a larger failure — of political leadership in Washington — at a moment when the world was looking to the United States to contain the cascading economic crisis."  Great.  The whole world was waiting for us and we screwed it up AGAIN.

So of course, like everyone else, I've been wondering about the behind-the-scenes dealing.  Andrea Mitchell reports that Newt Gingrich may have been up to his old shenanigans (and Mike Barnicle hints perhaps "Turned-Him-into-a-Newt" is thinking about a 2012 Presidential campaign...?) but can we believe Andrea?  I mean, she's obviously "in the tank" for Alan Greenspan...oo-oof. I still think that matchup is so weird.  Even Ayn Rand called Greenspan "The Undertaker."

Man, I am so confused about this bailout bill.  I'm American.  Ordinarily, I don't pay attention to actual details with more than .05% of my brain. Usually, I can use the "Oh, I love/hate that movie critic" method.  You know, "Mick LaSalle loves that movie, so I know I'm going to hate it..."  So, call me knee-jerk, but that's how I generally grok political positions too:  Bush is "ag'in" it? I'm for it. Newt Gingrich is for it? I'm against it. But this whole financial bailout issue has blown my logic circuits. Here's a sampling of what I've gathered so far about this bailout proposal:

For it:

Against it:
Labor Unions
Conservative, free-market Club for Growth
Ultra-progressive grassroots
Dennis Kucinich (Rep D-OH)
Sheila Jackson Lee (Rep D-TX)
John Boehner (House Republican leader R-OH)
Rush Limbaugh
Michael Moore
Newt Gingrich
I am so confused.

Where is this bill?  Where's the text? [heavy sighing and eyerolling.]  Aw dang. I'm going to have to actually read the thing, aren't I? Where are the Cliff Notes?

From Reuters, a summary of financial rescue legislation that circulated among lawmakers on Sunday:


  1. Stabilizing the Economy: The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA) provides up to $700 billion to the Secretary of the Treasury to buy mortgages and other assets that are clogging the balance sheets of financial institutions and making it difficult for working families, small businesses, and other companies to access credit, which is vital to a strong and stable economy. EESA also establishes a program that would allow companies to insure their troubled assets.
  2. Homeownership Preservation: EESA requires the Treasury to modify troubled loans - many the result of predatory lending practices - wherever possible to help American families keep their homes. It also directs other federal agencies to modify loans that they own or control. Finally, it improves the HOPE for Homeowners program by expanding eligibility and increasing the tools available to the Department of Housing and Urban Development to help more families keep their homes.
  3. Taxpayer Protection: Taxpayers should not be expected to pay for Wall Street's mistakes. The legislation requires companies that sell some of their bad assets to the government to provide warrants so that taxpayers will benefit from any future growth these companies may experience as a result of participation in this program. The legislation also requires the President to submit legislation that would cover any losses to taxpayers resulting from this program by charging a small, broad-based fee on all financial institutions.
  4. No Windfalls for Executives: Executives who made bad decisions should not be allowed to dump their bad assets on the government, and then walk away with millions of dollars in bonuses. In order to participate in this program, companies will lose certain tax benefits and, in some cases, must limit executive pay. In addition, the bill limits "golden parachutes" and requires that unearned bonuses be returned.
  5. Strong Oversight: Rather than giving the Treasury all the funds at once, the legislation gives the Treasury $250 billion immediately, then requires the President to certify that additional funds are needed ($100 billion, then $350 billion subject to Congressional disapproval). The Treasury must report on the use of the funds and the progress in addressing the crisis. EESA also establishes an Oversight Board so that the Treasury cannot act in an arbitrary manner. It also establishes a special inspector general to protect against waste, fraud and abuse.

Okay, I'm with you so far.  What are the objections? 200 economists signed a letter outlining the following problems with the bailout bill:

  • 1) Its fairness. The plan is a subsidy to investors at taxpayers' expense. Investors who took risks to earn profits must also bear the losses.  Not every business failure carries systemic risk. The government can ensure a well-functioning financial industry, able to make new loans to creditworthy borrowers, without bailing out particular investors and institutions whose choices proved unwise
  • 2) Its ambiguity. Neither the mission of the new agency nor its oversight are clear. If  taxpayers are to buy illiquid and opaque assets from troubled sellers, the terms, occasions, and methods of such purchases must be crystal clear ahead of time and carefully monitored afterwards.
  • 3) Its long-term effects.  If the plan is enacted, its effects will be with us for a generation. For all their recent troubles, America's dynamic and innovative private capital markets have brought the nation unparalleled prosperity.  Fundamentally weakening those markets in order to calm short-run disruptions is desperately short-sighted.

  Other objections to the bill:

  • No enforcement provisions for the oversight group that would monitor Wall Street's spending of the $700 billion
  • No penalties, fines or imprisonment for any executive who might steal any of the people's money. No salary caps for executives of firms that take taxpayer money
  • Not enough protections for homeowners in this bill--it would not force banks and lenders to rewrite people's mortgages to avoid foreclosures
  • Ambiguous language, using words like "suggested" when referring to the government being paid back for the bailout. Vague language around taxpayers getting equity; my guess is that many firms would get taxpayer money without giving up equity.
  • Automatic additional funding unless blocked by a supermajority. If this is a bipartisan solution, why not require affirmative Congressional action for additional funds?


Frankly, I'm exhausted. It's a good thing it's Rosh Hashanah.  I need the time just to catch my breath!  I'm also really tired of sorting through the lingo and the numbers and trying to wrap my brain around the whole enormity of the concept.  So I have some proposals of my own.

Mary Ellen's Emergency Financial Language and Concept Stabilization Act

Section 1. ORDER OF MAGNITUDE CLARIFICATION: We shall no longer refer to 1,000,000,000 dollars as $1 billion.  This word has been so casually tossed around that I believe the concept of a "billion" has become conflated with a "million" in many peoples' minds. Going forward, "billions" shall be called "thousand millions," so that we are all clear that a "billion" is a MUCH MUCH larger number than a "million."

Section 2. MEANINGLESS NAMES MAY NO LONGER BE BESTOWED UPON RIDICULOUS CONCEPTS: For example, "Credit Default Swaps", "Collateralized Debt Obligations."  If the "thingie of value" that you are talking about is not actual paper money or coins, but is instead theoretical, then you must name it using words that I can understand.  Conceptual thingies of value will now be termed "Woo-Woo Money."

Section 3.  DON'T RUSH ME: If I need time and further explanation to fully understand what's going on, Congress, the Preident and any elected officials shall take HOWEVER MUCH TIME IT REQUIRES to explain it until I understand. All night if need be.  And into Rosh Hashanah.

Some of the many cool interactive graphics I found at on my way through this rant:


Sarah Palin Salute to Schadenfreude

setstatsKatie Couric's ratings at CBS MUST be going up. This time, she gets Palin AND McCain -- and it's EVEN WORSE. McCain says, "But, look, I understand this day and age of "gotcha" journalism. Is that a pizza place?" A pizza place. See? He shows that he understands "gotcha" journalism by giving us a "gotcha" moment.   I take it that they're going to keep going on Katie's show until Sarah correctly connects a subject with its appropriate predicate. Or at least until she can connect any subject and predicate, forget about the right ones.

So, apparently, Katie Couric has even more footage of Palin and she's holding out!  Politico reports: "Of concern to McCain's campaign, however, is a remaining and still-undisclosed clip from Palin's interview with Couric last week that has the political world buzzing. The Palin aide, after first noting how "infuriating" it was for CBS to purportedly leak word about the gaffe, revealed that it came in response to a question about Supreme Court decisions. After noting Roe vs. Wade, Palin was apparently unable to discuss any major court cases. There was no verbal fumbling with this particular question as there was with some others, the aide said, but rather silence."  Oh COME ON!  Free Sarah Palin!

setstatsAnd while you're thinking about how TOTALLY READY Sarah Palin is to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, consider Paul Krugman's 3 A.M. phone call scenario.  "It's 3 a.m., a few months into 2009, and the phone in the White House rings. Several big hedge funds are about to fail, says the voice on the line, and there's likely to be chaos when the market opens. Whom do you trust to take that call?"  Well, apparently you can't even trust Sarah Palin to order a cheesesteak.

Ruth Marcus at WaPo thinks maybe McCain should debate Palin. "McCain's fundamental argument in pursuit of the presidency is that he has the background to do the job. He made this point again and again Friday night. 'I've been involved, as I mentioned to you before, in virtually every major national security challenge we've faced in the last 20-some years. There are some advantages to experience, and knowledge, and judgment.'...And so therefore I picked a running mate who didn't have a passport two years ago? Asked about that by Katie Couric, Palin explained that 'I'm not one of those who maybe come from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduated college and their parents get them a passport and a backpack and say, "Go off and travel the world.'"'

And now, a Sarah Palin Vote of No-Confidence Lightning Round

  • David Frum, conservative columnist: "I think she has pretty thoroughly — and probably irretrievably — proven that she is not up to the job of being president of the United States...Dan Quayle never in his life has performed as badly as Sarah Palin in the last month."
  • Jim Greer, the Republican chairman in Florida: "I think the Katie Couric interview shows that she needs to be briefed more on certain aspects."
  • Ron Carey, chairman of Minnesota's Republican Party: "Thanks to the mainstream media, quite a low expectation has been created for her performance." 
  • Mike Murphy, former McCain adviser: "She has the opportunity to undo some of the damage with a very strong debate performance," he said. "That's plausible. We'll just have to wait and see."
  • Rick Wilson, a Republican consultant: "I think they ought to toss her into the deep end from the outset; let her get it over quickly. Everything else after that is, you've seen the elephant."

setstatsRebecca Traister at Salon and I agree: "I guess I'm one cold dame, because while Palin provokes many unpleasant emotions in me, I just can't seem to summon pity, affection or remorse...When you don't take your own career and reputation seriously enough to pause before striding onto a national stage and lying about your record of opposing a Bridge to Nowhere or using your special-needs child to garner the support of Americans in need of healthcare reform you don't support, I don't feel bad for you. When you don't have enough regard for your country or its politics to cram effectively for the test -- a test that helps determine whether or not you get to run that country and participate in its politics -- I don't feel bad for you....I don't want to be played by the girl-strings anymore. Shaking our heads and wringing our hands in sympathy with Sarah Palin is a disservice to every woman who has ever been unfairly dismissed based on her gender, because this is an utterly fair dismissal, based on an utter lack of ability and readiness. It's a disservice to minority populations of every stripe whose place in the political spectrum has been unfairly spotlighted as mere tokenism; it is a disservice to women throughout this country who have gone from watching a woman who -- love her or hate her -- was able to show us what female leadership could look like to squirming in front of their televisions as they watch the woman sent to replace her struggle to string a complete sentence together."


Happier news from the LA Times.  "Though more voters still see McCain as more knowledgeable, Obama was seen as more "presidential" by 46% of debate-watchers, compared with 33% for the Arizona senator. The difference is even more pronounced among debate-watchers who were not firmly committed to a candidate: 44% said they believed Obama looked more presidential, whereas 16% gave McCain the advantage. The Republican candidate also has lost ground on several measures of voter confidence, including trust. After the debate, 43% of registered voters who saw the event said Obama had more "honesty and integrity," compared with 34% for McCain. A week ago, the same voters were evenly divided, with each candidate winning the trust of 40% of respondents."


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Morning Cup of Sadness, but laughter too...




Media Bits
(in their own voices)


  • Plan for Change Ad: "For many of you, our troubled economy isn't news."
  • DNC Acceptance 2008: "What the naysayers don't understand is that this election has never been about me; it's about you."
  • Speech in Berlin: "People of the world – look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one."
  • On Racism: "I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together - unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes."
  • Launching his campaign: "By ourselves, this change will not happen. Divided, we are bound to fail. But the life of a tall, gangly, self-made Springfield lawyer tells us that a different future is possible.  He tells us that there is power in words. He tells us that there is power in conviction. That beneath all the differences of race and region, faith and station, we are one people. He tells us that there is power in hope."
  • DNC Keynote 2004: "There's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America."

DNC Speeches

  • Al Gore: "We have a candidate whose experience perfectly matches an extraordinary moment of transition."
  • Joe Biden: "Like millions of Americans, they're asking questions as -- as ordinary as they are profound, questions they never, ever thought they'd have to ask themselves."
  • Bill Clinton: "People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power."
  • Hillary Clinton: "We cannot let this moment slip away. We have come too far and accomplished too much."
  • Michelle Obama: "All of us driven by the simple belief that the world as it is just won't do, that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be."
  • Ted Kennedy: "The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on."


RNC Speeches

  • Cindy McCain:  "From its very birth, our party has been grounded in the notion of service, community, self-reliance..."
  • Sarah Palin: "I've learned quickly, these past few days, that if you're not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone... Here's a little newsflash for those reporters and commentators: I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion."
  • Mitt Romney: "What do you think Washington is right now, liberal or conservative? Is a Supreme Court liberal or conservative that awards Guantanamo terrorists with constitution rights? We need change all right — change from a liberal Washington to a conservative Washington."
  •  Mike Huckabee: "Heck, I was in college before I found out it wasn't supposed to hurt to take a shower."
  • Rudy Giuliani: "At exactly the right time, John McCain said, "We're all Georgians."
  • Joe Lieberman: " The Washington bureaucrats and power brokers can't build a pen strong enough to hold these two mavericks."
  • Fred Thompson:  "She has run a municipality and she has run a state. And I think I can say without fear of contradiction she is the only nominee in the history of either party who knows how to properly field-dress a moose."
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