2008 - %3, October

McCain Campaign Takes the Hard Questions

| Wed Oct. 1, 2008 4:17 PM EDT

Moments ago, Rudy Giuliani took three questions on a McCain campaign conference call for the national press corps.

The first question was about the bailout. It was from a staffer from TownHall.com, a conservative website, but the question itself was not glaringly pro-McCain. Nothing notable.

The second question was from someone named Chuck Pardee. Pardee asserted that Tina Fey and many reporters make their living "embellishing the facts." After criticizing the press for treating Sarah Palin unfairly, Pardee concluded*:

"Do you think embellishing the facts is actually what the concerned voter is after? And specifically, Joe Biden seems to embellish and forget facts just to kind of impress people but when you take Sarah Palin she seems to impress others with her quick study without embellishing the facts. In other words do you think people want a straight shooter or do they want the stuff and fluff?"

Surprisingly, Giuliani said that the American people preferred the straight-shooter and John McCain just so happens to be one. Pardee, by the way, is the "founder and president" of Newsbull.com. He has donated the maximum $2,300 to McCain. It's a shock he didn't ask a tougher question. (And if you're wondering, yes, the McCain campaign knows the affiliations of reporters before they are permitted to ask a question on these conference calls.)

The third and final question came from a woman named Sherry Riggs (sp?). Her affiliation was not announced. She took exception to Giuliani's claim from earlier in the call that Obama had never managed a budget. A hard-hitting question? Not really. Riggs insisted that Obama had indeed managed a budget "with [William] Ayers" when they sat on a board together years ago. According to Riggs, Obama "always spent the money on educational programs that were socialistic in their agenda or their genre."* And, in a real shock, Obama apparently had a $450 billion treasure chest to work with. That seemed a bit high to me, but I'm sure the McCain campaign would only allow legitimate professionals to ask questions on these calls.

Oh, and by the way, Giuliani agreed that more scrutiny ought to be applied to Obama's "hidden" history with Ayers. And with that, the call ended.

* Questions updated with help from the Huffington Post.

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Hugh Hewitt and the Department of Caricatures

| Wed Oct. 1, 2008 3:44 PM EDT

hugh_hewitt.jpg Folks on the interwebs are making fun of the questions right wing blogger and talk show host Hugh Hewitt recently put to Sarah Palin. They are the softest of softballs — they make Sean Hannity look like Edward R. Murrow. You can check them out here.

I want to highlight this one in particular:

"You're pro-life, and how much of the virulent opposition to you on the left do you attribute to your pro-life position, and maybe even to the birth of, your decision, your and Todd's decision to have Trig?"

That's right. Hugh Hewitt think the left opposes Sarah Palin because she decided to give birth to a child with Down Syndrome. Not because she knows nothing about foreign affairs while we're engaged in two wars. Not because she has nothing coherent to say about the government bailout of Wall Street as we face a dire economic crisis. Not because of her retrograde views on science and books. Not because she undermines every feminist accomplishment Hillary Clinton fought for earlier this election season.

The left opposes Sarah Palin because she gave birth to a baby with Down Syndrome. Just think about the misconceptions about the left that need to be in place for someone to make that claim. The left either hates infants with disabilities, or it hates women who refuse to abort unborn children with disabilities. Or it wants to jack up some kind of karmic abortion counter as high as possible and is disappointed when it misses an opportunity.

Has Hugh Hewitt ever met a Democrat?

Debate Fundraising

| Wed Oct. 1, 2008 2:59 PM EDT

DEBATE FUNDRAISING....Tomorrow is another debate, and you know what that means. Fundraising! We can make do with a lot less than $700 billion, but good journalism still costs a lot of money and we could use your help.

So if you can spare a few dollars, hop on over to our fundraising page, leave a donation, and then download our debate drinking game. Believe me, if you thought you needed it for McCain-Obama, you're really going to need it for Palin-Biden. I predict many alcoholic stupors in houses around the country tomorrow night.

On NPR, McCain Exaggerates Past Relationship with Palin

| Wed Oct. 1, 2008 2:30 PM EDT

Is John McCain exaggerating his past relationship with Sarah Palin?

On Wednesday, NPR's Steve Inskeep interviewed McCain, and he started the session with questions about McCain's running mate, Governor Sarah Palin. Noting that Palin had repeatedly pointed to Alaska's proximity to Russia, Inskeep asked what that adds to her foreign policy qualifications. McCain referred to "the fact that they have had certain relationships." Presumably, by "they" he meant Alaska and Russia, but he did not specify what these "relationships" entailed. And Inskeep did not ask him to. (In her interview with Katie Couric, Palin referred to trade missions between her state and Russia--activity which apparently did not involve her.) McCain then changed the subject and maintained that Palin has great expertise on energy issues, inelegantly remarking, "She has oversighted the natural gas and oil and natural resources of the state of Alaska."

Then came a dramatic statement. Inskeep asked, "Is there an occasion when you can imagine turning to Gov. Palin for advice on a foreign policy crisis." McCain replied,

I've turned to her advice many times in the past.

Many times in the past? According to the McCain campaign, McCain first met Palin in February at a Washington meeting of the National Governors Association. Here's how McCain's own campaign on August 29 described the interactions between the two:

Quote of the Day - 10.01.08

| Wed Oct. 1, 2008 2:27 PM EDT

QUOTE OF THE DAY....From Brad DeLong, making the same point about Henry Paulson that I did yesterday, but much more colorfully:

My belief is that if Paulson were to stay on he would treat undercapitalized banks like a Goldman-Sachs honcho treats counterparties in trouble: strip them of everything and send them naked into the blizzard to live or die on their own — that's what he and Bernanke have done to the preferred and common shareholders of Freddie, Fannie, AIG, WaMu, Wachovia, Bear-Stearns, Lehman, and to the bondholders and counterparties of Lehman...

It's worth noting that when Paulson submitted the initial 3-page bailout bill that gave him czarlike authority to do anything he wanted with his $700 billion, it was a huge tactical mistake. He was treating Congress the way he'd treat a Wall Street adversary, and that was a very bad move. But it doesn't mean that he wanted unfettered authority to make sweetheart deals. It's actually more likely that he wanted unfettered authority to rape and pillage. Nor does it mean he wouldn't have demanded equity stakes in the companies he bailed out. He demanded 80% of AIG, after all, and no one forced him to do that.

But it was still a very, very bad misjudgment. Hopefully he's learned from his mistake.

Palin Knows How To Debate

| Wed Oct. 1, 2008 2:22 PM EDT

Sarah Palin's Katie Couric interviews have made her look like a goofball, but maybe that was the idea. Noodling around with the media certainly has depressed expectations for her performance tomorrow night in the debate with Joe Biden, but perhaps the campaign was hoping to downplay the fact that the former TV sportscaster, according to the Wall Street Journal, is a damn good debater. During the Alaska gubernatorial debates in 2006, Palin trounced her opponents with her folksy nature, which trumped her utter lack of specific policy knowledge. The Journal says:

"her métier was projecting winsomeness -- making a virtue of not knowing as much about the minutiae of state government because, for most of her adulthood, she was immersed in small-town life and raising a family. The candidates she squared off against, and the reporters who posed questions in several debates, recall that she related high gas prices to the difficulties her family had buying a car. She explained that she was in tune with environmentalists because she named a daughter, Bristol, for Alaska's Bristol Bay. She demonstrated her affinity for Native American culture by citing the teachings of her husband's Yu'pik Eskimo grandparent. "

The old guys at the table didn't have a chance. You can watch the video clips here and decide whether Biden is in big trouble.

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Debate Impressions

| Wed Oct. 1, 2008 2:13 PM EDT

DEBATE IMPRESSIONS....From the latest Pew poll, John McCain doesn't seem to have done well in the first debate. The good news for both candidates is that the top impression they left was a positive one: 50 respondees thought Obama was "confident" and 61 thought McCain was "experienced." The bad news for McCain is that noticeable minorities also thought he was old, condescending, aggressive, and angry. Obama, by contrast, left audiences with only two negative impressions.

Easy come, easy go. That's the price you pay for acting like a jerk, I guess. In other Pew news, Obama's stock has gone up almost across the board. Not only does he lead McCain in their general election polling by seven points, but he's improved his standing in the areas of crisis judgment, personal qualifications, and handling the economy. McCain has dropped in all three areas.

UPDATE: The "Impressions" part of the Pew survey measured raw numbers, not percentages. I've corrected the text to reflect this.

Gas Shortage Update: Southeast Still Suffering

| Wed Oct. 1, 2008 2:09 PM EDT

2892569352_8e69bf7ec5_m.jpgThe Citizen-Times reports that while Asheville's gas problems are improving, similar shortages throughout the Southeast mean that supplies could decline again over the next few days. In Atlanta things are so bad that Georgia's governor wrote to President Bush to ask him to step in. Even Newt Gingrich has noticed, telling the AP that the Southeast is "like a Third World country."

Speaking of politicians, here's something else: Barack Obama is apparently going to be hanging around Asheville over the next few days as he preps for his second debate with John McCain, scheduled for next Tuesday in Nashville, Tenn. The debate will be town-hall style, which means residents of Nashville—another city hard-hit by the gas shortage—will be asking the questions. Though the crisis has gained national attention over the past week, the candidates haven't weighed in yet. What solutions will they offer Tuesday night?

Photo used under a Creative Commons license from abbyladybug.

Question: Can Biden Query Palin Tomorrow Night?

| Wed Oct. 1, 2008 1:43 PM EDT

Here's a question. Will it appear condescending if Joe Biden asks Sarah Palin for specifics at tomorrow night's debate in St. Louis? For example, here are two scenarios that I image would lead to trouble for Palin:

Palin: Senator McCain and I are understand that force is the last option. We believe in exercising soft power in order to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world.
Biden: With respect Governor, can you tell me, specifically, how you would do that?

Or another:

Palin: Senator McCain had the foresight to see the crisis on Wall Street coming.
Biden: Again, with respect. Name one way in which he did.

If you saw my blog post from two days ago, you know I believe Joe Biden will win the debate by shutting up and letting Palin stumble. Asking questions fits perfectly in that strategy. And it's not like Biden needs to make the case for himself. All the Obama campaign really needs out of this debate is one bad moment from Palin that will be played over and over in post-debate coverage, lampooned on SNL, etc. That will go a long way in solidifying the emerging consensus that Palin is not ready for the vice-presidency.

But the tactic can easily appear patronizing and disrespectful, especially if Biden does it too many times. I'm interested in your thoughts.

Mission Creep Dispatch: Nick Turse

| Wed Oct. 1, 2008 1:32 PM EDT

turse.jpg As part of our special investigation "Mission Creep: US Military Presence Worldwide," we asked a host of military thinkers to contribute their two cents on topics relating to global Pentagon strategy. (You can access the archive here.)

The following dispatch comes from Nick Turse, associate editor and research director of Tomdispatch.com, and author of The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives.

The Pentagon's Mad Scramble for Africa

On October 1, according to the Defense Department, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) will finally become an "independent unified command." And while recently proposed budget cuts may hold the new command's ambitions somewhat in check, they aren't likely to significantly alter the Pentagon's ambitions for Africa and an increasingly permanent US military presence on the continent in the years ahead.