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Quote of the Day - 10.03.08

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 1:45 PM EDT

QUOTE OF THE DAY....From National Review editor Rich Lowry on last night's debate:

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.

I think this goes in the annals of blog posts he'll someday wish he hadn't pressed the "Publish" button on.

UPDATE: Then there's this from Jonah Goldberg: "It is amazing how the press can focus on how Palin's a disaster and then the second she stops being one, the press yawns as if this is a non-story." Huh? The press is supposed to write banner headlines whenever Palin refrains from being a disaster?

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An Inch Deep

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 1:38 PM EDT

AN INCH DEEP....I imagine this point has already been made — in fact, I made it myself after last week's debate — but this is the blogosphere, so I'll make it again anyway. It's this: I'm not surprised that the insta-polls suggest that Joe Biden won his debate against Sarah Palin. (I'm also not sure it matters, but that's a different issue.) Basically, I think the debate-watching public really does appreciate a command of facts and issues. This doesn't mean they want to hear dry recitations and pedantic inside baseball, but as long as it's expressed in an approachable way, they really do want to hear about actual policy. Biden provided that.

At the same time, I'm a little surprised (I know, I know....) that Palin is getting such generous marks for her performance. No, she didn't propose invading Denmark or eliminating the Supreme Court, but she was still painfully out of her depth. She had all the usual Reaganesque phrases and prepackaged zingers at the ready, but she didn't seem to understand that these are meant to be hauled out occasionally as applause lines, not simply strung together over and over and over. By the time she was finished, she had repeated these stock phrases so often that even a dullard could tell that she was just reading off notes.

At least, that's my take. Yes, she's got a thousand-watt smile and a folksy charm, but even people who are attracted to that kind of thing want to sense some depth as well. Palin didn't provide it, and I think the press underestimates Joe and Jane Sixpack when they act as if that doesn't matter.

Sparsely Attended

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 12:58 PM EDT

SPARSELY ATTENDED....Virtually everyone agrees that one of the root causes of the financial system meltdown has been the vast increase in leverage at big financial firms over the past few years. It's a problem that's gotten increased attention since 1998 but one that nobody ever does much about.

In fact, it's worse than that. As the New York Times reports today, four years ago the SEC voted to change the net capital rule for the biggest investment banks — not to decrease allowable leverage or even to make sure it stayed at statutory levels, but to increase it. Pay attention to the last sentence:

Decisions made at a brief meeting on April 28, 2004, explain why the problems could spin out of control....On that bright spring afternoon, the five members of the Securities and Exchange Commission met in a basement hearing room to consider an urgent plea by the big investment banks. They wanted an exemption for their brokerage units from an old regulation that limited the amount of debt they could take on.

....The proceeding was sparsely attended. None of the major media outlets, including The New York Times, covered it.

This is surprisingly typical of how things get done in Washington. In all sorts of areas, decisions that turn out to have enormous impact are made in sleepy little commission meetings or by executive order, with hearings attended only by a few die-hard lobbyists on both sides and — at least under the Bush administration — the final decision practically foreordained in favor of whatever the business community wants. Then, like a cherry on top of an ice cream sundae, the budget for oversight is either cut or eliminated because the business community insists that market discipline will take care of such things far better than a bunch of federal bureaucrats.

Turns out that doesn't always work so well.

"Let's Cover This Nation in Prayer For Sarah Palin"

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 12:39 PM EDT

The Internet brings the world to your fingertips. You can buy books, read news, get directions, reserve a table at your favorite restaurant, listen to music, or any number of other things. But did you know that you can also engage in "a spiritual war in the heavenlies... where battles are won or lost?" So says Vicki Garza, a Dallas advertising executive, who launched a new website where you can direct your prayers—online, virtually—to Sarah Palin and her family.

Here's the idea, according to Garza:

Many people are excited about the thought of having a strong believer like Sarah Palin in office but how many of us can say that we pray for her daily? This website is dedicated to doing just that. Whoever would like to make a commitment to pray for Sarah Palin can go to www.prayforsarahpalin.com and enter their zip code. A marker will automatically be placed on the prayer coverage map, which can be viewed live in Google maps. There are approximately 43,000 zip codes in the United States. Our goal is to have people praying for Sarah Palin in every zip code. I believe prayer changes things.

Not a fan a Sarah Palin? No problem. Turns out the Internet is brimming with ways to channel your psychic energy to the politician of your choice. Would you prefer to include McCain in your prayers (I mean, the way things are going for him lately, he could use the help)? Well, visit prayformccainpalin.com. Is Obama more to your liking? Worry not. You can pray for him and his friend Joe here. Oh, and at the risk of "pointing backwards again," as Palin put it at last night's debate, you can also offer up your prayers for President Bush.

I can't speak for the one in the heavenlies, but the spiritual battle online is raging.

Economic Report

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 12:06 PM EDT

ECONOMIC REPORT....Your economic report for the day: Factory orders plunged 4% in August; the service sector was stagnant; wages were stagnant; auto sales dropped by a third; jobless claims are up dramatically; the commercial paper market fell nearly $100 billion last week, its biggest drop since 9/11; short-term lending rates remain astronomical; employers cut 159,000 jobs in September; and credit remains so tight that Arnold Schwarzenegger is begging the Treasury for a $7 billion loan for the state of California.

That is all. For now. I recommend the House pass the bailout bill today.

Heavens, Another Must-Watch Palin/Couric Clip

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 11:13 AM EDT

CBS continues its quest to destroy the McCain campaign by releasing another interview clip that makes Sarah Palin look utterly unprepared for the vice presidency. (I was wrong yesterday when I said the can't-name-a-Supreme-Court-decision clip was the final one.) Try to watch this one and not snicker.


Watch CBS Videos Online

Am I crazy or is this the sort of answer Jay Leno might get while questioning a random person in a Jaywalking bit? "Hey buddy, come over here. What's the worse thing Dick Cheney has done in the last eight years?" "Uh, I dunno Jay. I don't really follow the news. He shot that old guy, right? That was pretty bad!"

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Post Debate Snap Polls from CNN Show Little Changes for Palin

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 10:58 AM EDT

Here are some poll numbers CNN aired directly after the debate. Check out the last two.

Who did the best job In the debate?
Biden - 51%
Palin - 36%

Biden did better or worse than expected?
64% - better
14% - worse
20% - same

Palin did better or worse than expected?
84% - better
7% - worse
8% - same

Palin qualified to serve as President?

Before debate:
42% - yes
54% - no

After debate
46% - yes
53% - no

Despite the fact that a vast majority of watchers thought Palin did better than expected in the debate, just 4 percent came away with their minds changed about her qualifications for the presidency. That suggests that the environment is just so poisoned for Palin, or her lack of experience is so thorough and so well-known, that there is simply nothing she can do to convince people she belongs in the game.

Veep Debate: An End to the Sarah Palin Reality TV Show

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 1:36 AM EDT

For the past few weeks, it's seemed as if Sarah Palin has been a contestant in the ultimate version of the reality show America's Toughest Jobs. She passed the first challenge: give a Big Speech. She did fine on the next one: hit the campaign trail. She royally screwed up the third challenge: give a Big Interview. Then came the most difficult one: hold your own in a Big Debate. And she did.

For 90 minutes Governor Palin, who had become a bleeding ulcer for the McCain campaign, stuck to well-crafted talking points, recited them with passion and conviction, and played the part of the spunky, down-home, up-North middle-class-mom-turned-governor well. She did not demonstrate much depth in policy knowledge, but she managed to display treading-water familiarity with the obvious issues of the day. (Media and advocacy group factcheckers will soon be producing the list of her factual misrepresentations.) It helped that moderator Gwen Ifill did not pose questions that might push her off her script. Palin repeated buzz phrases--"greed and corruption of Wall Street," for instance--over and over. (She was obviously coached to use the word maverick repeatedly, former Republican Senator Rick Santorum observed after the debate.) For some viewers, her autopilot replies might be a turnoff. But for conservatives and independents who want to like her, she probably performed well enough--and she probably performed well enough to stop the hemorrhaging she had caused the campaign.

Which means that perhaps John McCain will return to center stage, as Palin--and her uninformed responses to Katie Couric's questions--becomes less of an issue.

VP Debate: Working Moms For Palin? Not These 400

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 1:12 AM EDT

Many of the 400 working mothers who watched the VP debate in a San Francisco hotel ballroom live Thursday night grimaced as Sarah Palin leaned awkwardly into Joe Biden onstage, then sailed over to her podium. "After all, this is a historic night for working moms," noted the work/life conference wrangler. Not even the many liberals in attendance wanted her to fail outright. Thus, there was a collective groan at Palin's first response to Gwen Ifill: "You know, I think a good barometer here, as we try to figure out has this been a good time or a bad time in America's economy, is go to a kid's soccer game on Saturday, and turn to any parent there on the sideline and ask them, "How are you feeling about the economy?"

These parents know when they're being pandered to. The faint charms of Palin's mommy group charisma, her overuse of the word 'darn'? Oh, how the shine has worn off. There were catcalls at Palin's use of the phrase "respect for women's rights." Cheers when Biden finally took off the kid gloves.

"I'm a registered Democrat, and I have to admit, the first time I saw her speak I was nervous," said a redhead named Kacy, standing near the open bar and the cupcake table after the first hour of the debate. "She seemed witty and strong." Kacy adjusted the sleeping one-month-old on her shoulder. "But now that I've seen her speak more, I've lost my admiration for her," she said.

A blonde at the book table, by titles "Porn for New Moms" and "The Three-Martini Playdate," planned to watch the recorded debate at home with a Palin Bingo card in hand and another glass of wine. "Really, it's just like any other reality show, isn't it? Two people looking like idiots on TV?"

After an hour of Palin and Biden, star work/life speaker Lisa Belkin took a vote. Option one, "watching the rest of the debate," lost by a few cheers in favor of extended panels on blending life and work. They'd TiVoed it. They knew what they were missing in the Veep debate—and what they weren't.

Debate Liveblogging - VP Edition

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 9:59 PM EDT

DEBATE LIVEBLOGGING — VP EDITION....It's Biden vs. Palin. The Kid From Scranton vs. the Hockey Mom From Wasilla. Are you ready?

Wrapup – I'll be honest: I genuinely didn't understand about 50% of what Sarah Palin said. She pretty overtly didn't even pretend to address a lot of Ifill's questions — probably because she couldn't — and a lot of her filibustering ended up sounding like random strings of phrases from the Hockey-Mom-o-Bot 3000. This was especially true as time wore on. If nothing else, this makes it almost impossible to judge the substance of what she believes, and despite the fact that she "connects" with ordinary people, I have a feeling that an awful lot of ordinary people weren't impressed with this.

On grounds of style and affect, Biden seemed fine to me. He had good energy, made his points pretty sharply, and didn't make any mistakes. He was also very good on substance. Palin, conversely, seemed wound up like someone on her tenth cup of coffee, and I just don't know if that seems very presidential (or vice presidential). I think she would have been better off with a lower key style. On the other hand, she had no big gaffes, and we all know that's what we were really waiting for.

As usual, I don't really have a strong idea of how other people will react to tonight's performance, but I think Biden won pretty convincingly. He didn't overdo things, but he did demonstrate a good command of the issues as well as a good command of working class folksiness. He defended himself well without seeming overbearing. For her part, Palin probably seemed friendly enough, but her obvious lack of command of the issues combined with her obvious reliance on stale talking points can't have been very impressive.

UPDATE: CNN snap poll says Biden won 51%-36%. CBS poll of uncommitted voters says Biden won 46%-21%.

UPDATE 2: Dodgers win 10-3. Hooray!

UPDATE 3: Nielsen says 45% of all households watched the debate compared to 31% for the first Obama-McCain debate.

10:26 – Palin says she's never had to change her view on anything. Good to know.

10:25 – Interesting to see Biden take on the "maverick" thing directly. I think Palin has called McCain a maverick about a hundred times so far.

10:21 – In fairness, Biden isn't answering the question either, though at least he knew what it was. But he's not babbling.

10:19 – Now Palin is just babbling. I don't think she even understood what the question was. (It was something about what her real Achilles heel is.) (Via email: "She is being very meta by actually demonstrating her Achilles heel rather than just telling us.")

10:16 – Palin: "Our founding fathers were wise in allowing so much flexibility in the position of the vice president." What the hell?

10:13 – Email from a friend: "Palin is just hyper. It's weird. She's making more sense than not, which I'm sure NRO is high-fiving about. But she is so keyed up, it's frightening. Monotone, snarky, relentless verbiage for her alotted time. Wonder if the perma-smile will wear. No dynamic in her tone. She's cramming."

10:12 – Palin: "There you go again, Joe." Oh please. Palin is desperate to insist that McCain just has nothing at all in common with Bush.

10:08 – Ifill asks how a Biden administration would differ from an Obama administration. Biden uses this as an opportunity to deliver a basic stump speech. The CNN focus group loves it.

10:02 – Palin is grinning like the cat who caught the canary while Biden talks about Iraq. Why? Because she's just waiting for the chance to say that Biden supported the war before he was against it. Childish stuff.

10:00 – McClellan? Who's that? Is Palin talking about General McKiernan? Did I hear her wrong?

9:55 – Palin: "There have been huge blunders with this administration." Glad we can all agree on that. Hopefully we'll get some specifics on that after the debate.

9:52 – I guess the format of the debate is set in stone, but Ifill really isn't pressing either Biden or Palin to actually address her questions. I guess there's a limit to what she can do.

9:48 – Not a strong response from Palin. She's just regurgitating old soundbites about meeting with the Castro brothers et. al. without preconditions.

9:46 – Biden's doing a pretty good job on Afghanistan and Pakistan being the central front in the war on terror.

9:43 – Audience reaction to Biden's "We will end this war" is off the charts. Reaction to Palin's "That's a white flag of surrender" is deep into negative territory. Interesting.

9:41 – Biden isn't always the easiest guy to understand, but Palin's statement on Iraq was just an astonishing string of soundbites and miscellaneous, unconnected phrases. I have almost no idea what she was talking about. (Except that we have to "win in Iraq.")

9:34 – Hmmm. "Drill baby drill" decidedly didn't go over well with the women in CNN's focus group.

9:31 – Wow. Palin's statement on climate change was spectacularly incoherent, even by her standards. And she still doesn't think it matters whether human activity is to blame. But she thinks we need to cut back emissions anyway. Even though we don't know if that's the cause. Sheesh.

9:29 – Biden could have done a better job defending his support for the bankruptcy bill. Or, better yet, he should have said even less and just jumped straight to his statement that we should allow bankruptcy courts to reset mortgages.

9:27 – Palin is really rambling. Biden is doing a little better, but he could stand to be even more pointed, just as a counterpoint.

9:25 – Biden wants a windfall profits tax on oil companies just like they have in Alaska! Possibly a decent attack.

9:23 – Palin: The nice thing about McCain is that he doesn't say one thing to one group and another thing to another group. Huh? What was that all about?

9:15 – Well, that's original. Palin just said outright she's not going to bother answering the questions if she doesn't feel like it.

9:13 – Biden: "The middle class needs tax relief." Palin: "Darn right we need tax relief."

9:10 – Palin: "We need strict oversight of those entities in charge of loaning us our dollars" — or something like that. "Never again will we be taken advantage of." Okey dokey. But it went over great with the CNN focus group!

9:08 – Palin is making lots of eye contact with Biden. No condescension for her!

9:06 – On the financial crisis, Biden starts off very much in Obama style, with a laundry list of policy distinctions (oversight, CEO pay, equity shares, etc.). Palin goes straight for a soccer mom story.

9:04 – According to the audience-o-meter, women really, really want to punish Wall Street CEOs.

9:02 – "Can I call you Joe?" I guess I wasn't expecting that.

8:59 – So what do I expect tonight? Honestly, I have no idea. Basically, I figure that Biden will do OK because he's not an idiot and Palin will do OK because this is a format that allows her to get away with easy soundbites and folksy homilies. Still, it does have sort of a NASCAR quality to it, doesn't it? You just never know if suddenly someone is going to crash and burn.