Dismissed without so much as a follow-up question. Another Palin myth bites the dust.
Posts For: September 12, 2008
Watching Sarah Palin on 20/20. Gibson tried to get her on abortion and stem cell research. After her clear and forthright answer, he pretended she was elusive. Well, let’s see: When asked about the ethics of stem cell research, she didn’t say, “That’s above my pay grade.”
In addition, John, I just don’t see where this is going for Barack Obama. He has the unfortunate fate to be running against a guy who claimed ZERO earmarks — in his entire career. And as the McCain camp reminded us just today in its radio ad, Obama asked for almost a billion dollars in earmarks in three years in the Senate. So how does this help Obama? I suspect John McCain would love to have an entire debate devoted to earmarks.
But this is par for the course: in the maniacal desire to stomp all over Sarah Palin, the Obama camp and its media fan club go down paths that lead to greater danger and more complications for Obama. But they can’t resist, they can’t stop themselves.
It seems like a great counterattack: Sarah Palin says she opposes earmarks but has presided over a state government that has sought them. Gotcha.
Only no. Not gotcha. The point about earmarks is not that states and localities seek them. It would be madness for a state not to try and get money from Washington if it’s being handed out. Palin would be a bad governor if she didn’t try and secure some of that lucre for her state. As for her being for the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it, her opposition was in part that the money spent on it was money wasted because no one would use the thing.
The reason the Bridge became notorious wasn’t because it was an earmark per se but because it was insanely stupid to pay $300 million for a bridge that would be used by 50 people a day; it was a nearly perfect example of wasteful Washington spending, with a clear hint that there was graft and fraud involved because why else would it be in anyone’s interest to build it or stick money in the federal budget for it?
Palin’s support for and advocacy of the decision to cancel the Bridge and convert those dollars into a block grant for other transportation projects in Alaska was a neat marriage of politics and principle. Politics, because it gave her authority over a big pot of money. Principle, because the money could be spent wisely instead of foolishly and (probably) criminally.
The issue with earmarks has to do with the conduct of the givers, not the behavior of the receivers. The receivers ask; there’s no crime in asking. The crime comes from the giving of the people’s money for preposterous purposes, and in doing so without a moment’s public debate of these expenditures. They exist for one reason only: To allow senators and congressmen to dole out goodies at home so that they can claim they brought home the bacon.
Everybody knows this is a repugnant system, but it’s just too useful for Washington politicians to give up. The reason that McCain’s stand on earmarks is remarkable is that he is one of a handful of the 535 legislators in Washington to refuse to participate in the system, potentially doing damage to his efforts to convince Arizona voters he’s on their side. He was tempted and refused to give into temptation. Palin was sent a check and she decided she would rather Alaska spend the check wisely. There is no contradiction here.
That wasn’t the only bizarre leap into the political abyss today.
Democrats constantly accuse Republicans of questioning their patriotism. Invariably it is not “patriotism” but a particular Democrat’s judgment and position on an issue of national security (e.g. not supporting the surge even in retrospect or opposing FISA extension) which Republicans are questioning. But today it really happened –only it was Barack Obama doing the questioning.
From Jake Tapper’s ABC report:
“Just ask the machinists in Pennsylvania who build Harley-Davidsons,” Obama said of McCain’s record. “Because John McCain didn’t just oppose the requirement that the government buy American-made motorcycles, he called Buy American provisions ‘disgraceful.’ Just ask the workers across this country who have seen their jobs outsourced. The very companies that shipped their jobs overseas have been rewarded with billions of dollars in tax breaks that John McCain supports and plans to continue.
“So, when American workers hear John McCain talking about putting ‘Country First,’” Obama said, “it’s fair to ask –- which country?”
Um … isn’t that pretty much the dictionary definition of questioning someone’s patriotism?
Well, yeah. There is no banner headline decrying Obama’s descent into the swamps of political negativity or tut-tutting from network anchors, because the only accepted storyline is that John McCain is a no-good, dirty liar. Really.
On a day in which they both questioned a war hero’s patriotism and mocked his lack of physical dexterity, it is clear to the non-Kool Aid drinkers that the Obama camp jumped the shark into netroot land. It’s not pretty but it must be reassuring to the McCain team to see that their opponent is self-destructing. And is it any wonder that Independent voters are fleeing to McCain?
UPDATE: And the computer/email hole which Obama dug is getting deeper. For the poignant explanation of how he functions with war injuries, check this out.
The Obama campaign really does seem to be in a weird Hillaryesque Twilight Zone, the laws of which don’t allow the candidate to get out of the way of his own bad luck. The McCain-as-Luddite meme has been circulating for months and months, and no one dug up the evidence about McCain’s injuries prohibiting him from using a computer. That is until Obama decided to pick up on the meme and have a little fun with it.
But these bad luck spells don’t come out of nowhere. The lipstick comment escaped Obama’s mouth because he’s been utterly rattled, and this ad was intended as a much-needed battery recharge for a campaign sinking beneath the weight of its own seriousness. As such, they went with a silly and popular charge (promoted mostly by the Beagle Blogger, by the way) and got burned when venturing into new territory.
Okay, this was the Democrats’ worst nightmare: singing the praises of gender equality, declaring “of course you can be Vice President and raise a family,” gently chiding people for not recognizing that other Governors had family/work issues which no one questioned (“granted they are men”) and explaining her 19 year history of raising kids while working. There is no ad, no paid media and no Convention Speech that will connect with women better than that bit of TV drama.
Oh and the tease for the Nightline program tonight: “I never banned a book in my life . . . it’s an old wives’ tale.”
The Democrats need to wise up, hope no one in America saw this and figure out how to convince voters to put aside the tremendous personal affection and interest they are developing for and in this woman. Good luck, fellas.
Well, for any doubters, the portion of the Sarah Palin interview that aired on World News Tonight likely put their minds at ease. On what she would do differently from the Bush administration, she gave Charlie Gibson his list: reduce taxes, control spending, exercise oversight of regulatory bodies. (She previously mentioned reform of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.) On the Bridge to Nowhere, Gibson announced that it was established she changed positions. She hedged a bit but navigated fairly well to explain that earmarks had to go. When he reeled off a list of Alaskan budgetary items (seal studies and such) she made the distinction between state agencies requesting items through the normal budget process and midnight earmarks out of view of the public. The latter point showed some finesse.
On social issue she defended her position on abortion, stem cells, and guns in matter of fact tones, conceding that her personal views might differ from the administration in which she served. On homosexuality, she said she “wouldn’t presume to judge” whether it was a choice or genetic. And on Hillary Clinton, as noted before, she deftly put her opponents in a box.
This is all clearly firmer ground for her than national security. Moreover, her demeanor and temperament is really remarkable. I can’t imagine voters seeing this for themselves and seeing any hint of the “extremist nut” she’s been made out to be. The final snippet is coming up shortly.
Earlier today, I praised the Obama campaign’s commercial making fun of John McCain for not using a computer or e-mail. Now I read this from Jonah Goldberg, who quotes Obama spokesman Dan Pfeiffer: “It’s extraordinary that someone who wants to be our president and our commander in chief doesn’t know how to send an e-mail.”
Well, I guess it depends on what you mean by “extraordinary.” The reason he doesn’t send email is that he can’t use a keyboard because of the relentless beatings he received from the Viet Cong. From the Boston Globe (March 4, 2000):
McCain gets emotional at the mention of military families needing food stamps or veterans lacking health care. The outrage comes from inside: McCain’s severe war injuries prevent him from combing his hair, typing on a keyboard, or tying his shoes. Friends marvel at McCain’s encyclopedic knowledge of sports. He’s an avid fan – Ted Williams is his hero – but he can’t raise his arm above his shoulder to throw a baseball.
He can’t use a computer because his arms were repeatedly broken.
ABC is teasing the next installation of the Charlie Gibson interview with Sarah Palin (to be shown later tonight). There is this exchange:
GIBSON: I saw you quoted somewhere as speaking rather admiringly of Mrs. Clinton, Senator Clinton, during the primary campaign. Do you think Obama should’ve picked her?
PALIN: I think he’s regretting not picking her now, I do. What, what determination, and grit, and even grace through some tough shots that were fired her way, she handled those well.
The perfect political zinger is one in which the other side dare not even respond. There is no right answer or comment Barack Obama could possibly make. In fact, Joe Biden agrees.
We can argue about the amount of substantive knowledge that Palin currently possesses, but who would want to play poker against her?
This may be the simplest and most effective political ad I’ve ever seen. I’m not exaggerating.
Joe Biden today released ten years of his personal income tax returns, drawing further attention to the tax issues raised by Sarah Palin’s tax problems associated with her per diem reimbursements while governor of Alaska. I wonder, though, if the move might backfire because the returns show that the Bidens have been amazingly tight-fisted when it comes to their charitable giving. Despite income ranging from $210,432 – $321,379 over the ten-year period, the Bidens have given only $120 – $995 per year to charity, which amounts to 0.06% – 0.31% of their income.
A handy chart follows. I’m sure this isn’t what the Obama camp had in mind when they refashioned the man who spent three decades in Washington riding to and from home on taxpayer subsidized Amtrak into A Man of The People. Perhaps he could have learned something from all his running mate’s high-minded talk last night at the National Service Forum about helping his fellow man.
This sounds like a set up for a comedy routine: “How bad is the media bias?” “It’s so bad the McCain’s get grilled on The View.” Now, that said, the McCains appeared to have done just fine . And I think McCain actually does himself a world of good when he rebuts over-the-top questions calmly and coolly. But the tone and demeanor of every setting, whether it is The View or Nightline, is strikingly different for the Republicans than anything the Democrats encounter.
Still, I return to my firm belief that the MSM Show (Mark Halperin once used “Freak Show” to refer to conservative media, but how much more appropriate that is now for the MSM) does Barack Obama no favors. The MSM continually creates its own self-defeating story lines (e.g. ABC inaccurately hypes its own interview, the Washington Post becomes the oppo research department for Obama). As a result, Obama’s struggling message (“I am too the Agent of Change!”) gets drowned out. And Palin gets more credit than perhaps is objectively warranted for putting up with an overbearing, snooty interviewer who literally peers down his nose and over his glasses at her.
The MSM operates with the bizarre premise that no one is aware of this imbalance. But a large majority–69% of voters–has figured out the game. Having been “unmasked,” as Peter cogently explains, they now must decide whether to increase their fervor or hedge their bets. If “their” candidate loses, what will it say about their influence and what future will they have covering an administration that they’ve alienated? I suspect that it not just Congressional operatives and Obama staffers who are very, very nervous.
From the Australian:
Key corps commanders of Pakistan’s 600,000-strong army issued orders last night to retaliate against “invading” US forces that enter the country to attack militant targets.
[. . ]
The “retaliate and kill” order came amid reports of unprecedentedly fierce fighting in the Bajaur Agency of Pakistan’s tribal areas, an al-Qa’ida stronghold frequently mentioned as the most likely lair of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Anyone who predicted any other response to U.S. troops fighting inside Pakistan was kidding themselves. There’s a reason the tribal areas have been deemed impenetrable. Which is not to say we shouldn’t be there. To the contrary: Playing an endless game of patty-cake with Islamabad has taken a deadly toll on the coalition for far too long, and it has set back progress in Afghanistan immeasurably. In the War on Terror, it seems inevitable, unfortunately, that we’ll get things disastrously wrong before we get them right. It’s an enervating reality, but if we ever forget that the fight against jihad is a fight to the death, we’ll never get it right again.
David Petraeus is off to CentCom, and a new war is ratcheting up in earnest. It seems nearly impossible that the next president, whoever he is, will not cleave to whatever plans Petraeus puts forth. That’s a no-brainer. The challenge comes in conveying to a dispirited American public the critical importance of a new deadly war. That’s a challenge Bush failed to meet, and the chorus of disapproval has made our fight considerably harder.
Friends and colleagues ask me all the time if I think the Clintons want Barack Obama to lose. I invariably answer, “Of course.” The psychological and political reasons are obvious. For those who doubt that, they should read this interview with former Hillary Clinton campaign chief Mark Penn (h/t NRO). Here is the juicy part:
CBSNews.com: To what extent do you think Palin’s appeal to a lot of swing voters means that they vote for McCain? Or is the old adage still true that people vote for the top of the ticket?
Mark Penn: I think, at the end of the day, people do vote for the top of the ticket. The question is whether or not Palin has given people a better view of the top of the ticket and more and more confidence in terms of what he would fight for.
I think she clearly has energized the Republican Party in a way that they were not energized and that party members were very worried that McCain was going to choose somebody who wouldn’t have the more conservative values that the mainstream of the Republican Party has. Whether or not she’s really going to play or is playing a big role with swing voters, that remains to be seen. I think that’s a lot less clear.
CBSNews.com: Your former colleague Howard Wolfson argued that you all unintentionally paved the way for Palin by exposing some of the unfair media coverage that Hillary Clinton received. And, therefore, a lot of the media may now be treating Sarah Palin with kid gloves. Do you agree with that?
Mark Penn: Well, no, I think the people themselves saw unfair media coverage of Senator Clinton. I think if you go back, the polls reflected very clearly what “Saturday Night Live” crystallized in one of their mock debates about what was happening with the press.
I think here the media is on very dangerous ground. I think that when you see them going through every single expense report that Governor Palin ever filed, if they don’t do that for all four of the candidates, they’re on very dangerous ground. I think the media so far has been the biggest loser in this race. And they continue to have growing credibility problems.
And I think that that’s a real problem growing out of this election. The media now, all of the media — not just Fox News, that was perceived as highly partisan — but all of the media is now being viewed as partisan in one way or another. And that is an unfortunate development.
CBSNews.com: So you think the media is being uniquely tough on Palin now?
Mark Penn: Well, I think that the media is doing the kinds of stories on Palin that they’re not doing on the other candidates. And that’s going to subject them to people concluding that they’re giving her a tougher time. Now, the media defense would be, “Yeah, we looked at these other candidates who have been in public life at an earlier time.”
What happened here very clearly is that the controversy over Palin led to 37 million Americans tuning into a vice-presidential speech, something that is unprecedented, because they wanted to see for themselves. This is an election in which the voters are going to decide for themselves. The media has lost credibility with them.
CBSNews.com: Joe Biden said this week that Hillary Clinton might have been a better pick than he was. Do you think that’s true?
Mark Penn: Ask Joe Biden.
CBSNews.com: Well, that’s what he says. What do you think?
Mark Penn: I’m going to leave that one where it is.
Well, there you have it. The translation? “The media is doing to Sarah what they did to Hillary. And if Hillary were VP this would be a non-issue and we’d be picking out tuxedos for the Inaugural Ball.” It is equal parts self-justification and indictment of the MSM-Obama conspiracy theory. It couldn’t be more off-message from the point of view of the Obama camp. And Penn’s dead right about one thing: the media is less and less a player because its veneer of objectivity has worn off. Mark Penn may not be the most popular man in Clinton circles at the moment, but there is no better way to get back in their good graces than to carry their message out to the masses. And he’s doing a fine job of that.
Yesterday, Hugo Chavez expelled Patrick Duddy, the American ambassador, just one day after his Bolivian ally, Evo Morales, told Duddy’s counterpart in La Paz to return to Washington. Venezuela’s president also recalled his top diplomat from DC. “When there is a new government in the United States, we’ll send an ambassador,” he said. The expulsion came at the same time Chavez stated he would reduce the number of flights by U.S. carriers to his country. He also issued his latest threat to stop selling oil to America.
These developments came just after announcements that Chavez will play host to Russian forces. On Monday, Moscow said it will send a nuclear-powered cruiser, along with other ships and planes, for a joint naval exercise with Venezuela in November. On Wednesday, two Russian strategic bombers landed in Venezuela in the first such deployment of Moscow’s forces in the Western Hemisphere since the end of the Cold War.
The planes, which are scheduled to return on Monday, are supposed to take part in exercises over the Caribbean, but Chavez attempted to turn their presence into a joke by saying “I’m going to pilot one of these.” Vladimir Putin, however, had a more serious purpose for sending the nuclear-capable bombers thousand of miles from home. The projection of the Kremlin’s forces in Latin America was apparently the initial installment of Russia’s payback for Washington using American warships in the Black Sea to deliver assistance to beleaguered Georgia.
The U.S. Navy was seemingly unimpressed by the Russian planes. “In my mind if the Russians flew those aircraft down to this region because of a threat from the U.S., then I think they wasted gas,” said Rear Admiral Joseph Kernan, commander of the Fourth Fleet, yesterday.
I suspect the Russians burned extra jet fuel to make an important geopolitical point. Putin and Chavez are turning up the heat on the United States. By himself, Chavez is a clown who can endanger only his own country. With Putin at his side, however, he can become a menace. The Kremlin leader sees an opportunity to create problems for Washington to prevent it from standing in the way of his pursuit of ambitions on his nation’s periphery. So now would be a good time to punish Chavez to send a message to the Russian prime minister. The Bush administration took the first step in that direction today by imposing sanctions on aides to the Venezuelan president. Yet much more severe measures will be needed.
The White House has yet to raise the stakes for Moscow’s border aggression. Our own hemisphere would be a good place to start.
In a Huffington Post piece entitled “Enough!: Why Barack Obama Should Release His Righteous Rage,” proprietor Arianna Huffington offers her candidate counsel so sage that all Republicans should be quaking at the possibility he might listen. And not only is the advice hers; it comes as well from that noted political genius, John Cusack, with whom she has been sharing e-mails. Yes, that John Cusack. The subject of these e-mails is how Barack Obama should emulate Abraham Lincoln. Oh, wait, sorry, not Abraham Lincoln, who was, after all, a real person. He should, rather, emulate Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird.
Now, as the crises facing our country intensify, and the campaign McCain is running becomes sleazier and more trivial, it’s time for Obama to unleash his inner Atticus — or at least the key element of Finch that Obama seems reluctant to embrace: righteous rage.
“Finch had the riotous fire of all the great prophets in the Judeo-Christian tradition,” John Cusack told me during our back-and-forth email conversation of the last few days. “He unleashes that fire in his final, great courtroom speech. If he didn’t, if he refused to unleash his anger and contempt at the horror and immorality of racism, he would prove himself to be an unemotional man unworthy of our love and respect. Obama has waited long enough to show us this side of himself. Besides, we need to know that he can be a mean m—-rf—-r if he wants this job.”
Two teeny tiny little points. First, Atticus Finch isn’t real. Never was. That courtroom scene never happened. It was first in a novel and then in a movie — a sweet, if overlong, novel and a good, if bombastic, movie.
Second, after his fiery courtroom speech, Atticus Finch loses the case.
But wait. John Cusack has more. He could also be…Mr. Tibbs! Yes, Mr. Tibbs, the Sidney Poitier character from In the Heat of the Night! The one who says, “They call me Mister Tibbs,” and slaps the white racist who slaps him first! “From Sidney Poitier to Denzel Washington, Will Smith, and Morgan Freeman — these are men who have the inherent dignity to express the kind of cosmic rage that comes from being human and responding to injustice,” declares John Cusack, who ought to know, because he once played a deputy mayor of New York City, so politics is in his blood. “They are perceived as authentic and powerful precisely because they show us their anger as they fight for what is right and true and good. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t respect them.”
Yes, Senator Obama. Be Atticus Finch, Mr. Tibbs, Denzel Washington, Will Smith — oh, and throw a little Peter Finch/Howard Beale in there, from Network, says Arianna, the one who yelled, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.”
Being likeable is obviously a good thing in politics. So is being analytical and thoughtful and composed. But the last seven-plus years demand more than a detached analysis — and certainly more than a beaming smile.
They demand indignation. Outrage. Fury….As a leader fighting for fundamental change in this country, Obama has to be willing to show us that kind of righteous anger. I don’t know about you, but when I think about what George Bush has done to this country — and what John McCain wants to keep doing — I consider outrage the only rational and legitimate response. So why don’t we see this outrage from Obama?
I’ve known Arianna Huffington for 20 years, and even with her sharp break from the politics she once held so passionately and the instant 190-degree turn she took into leftist fever swamps, I’ve had a soft spot for her. Now I know why. This piece proves it: She never actually moved left. She’s still on the Right, but as a deep-cover agent. She has been spending a decade establishing her bona fides so that she could build influence and then knowingly and with malice aforethought give Democrats like Barack Obama the worst possible advice anyone has ever given anyone else.
She’s working for John McCain! Why would anyone else advise the most important black politician in American history, a world-changing historical figure, to emulate…Will Smith? And a performance by Gregory Peck given 46 years ago?
Who else would pass along advice from…John Cusack?
Sorry to have blown your cover, Arianna. I guess it’s time to reveal that your actual name is Bessie Shapiro.
As Jen noted below, and Bill Kristol did last night, the Washington Post apparently thought it had caught Sarah Palin in what liberals believe (besides lying us into war) is one of the great swindles of the past half-decade, the idea that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. As Kristol wrote,
Palin is evidently saying that American soldiers are going to Iraq to defend innocent Iraqis from al Qaeda in Iraq, a group that is related to al Qaeda, which did plan and carry out the Sept. 11 attacks. It makes no sense for Kornblut to claim that Palin is arguing here that Saddam Hussein’s regime carried out 9/11–obviously Palin isn’t saying that our soldiers are now going over to Iraq to fight Saddam’s regime. Palin isn’t linking Saddam to 9/11. She’s linking al Qaeda in Iraq to al Qaeda.
Tony Badran at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies must have perfect timing, because he has just translated a collection of recently-intercepted communiqués between (drum roll please) the senior leadership of Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and the leadership of Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).
The main theme of this correspondence relates to AQI leader Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, a.k.a. Abu Ayyub al-Masri. It details criticism of his performance, and complaints about his capability to continue in his role. The complaints and criticism come from Judge Abu Sulayman al-‘Utaybi, the former head of the legal system of AQI’s Islamic State. Abu Sulayman had traveled to Pakistan/Afghanistan to personally voice his concerns regarding al-Masri, attesting to the urgency he felt about this issue. We know that al-‘Utaybi was indeed in the area, as he was killed by a U.S. strike in Afghstnian’s Paktia province in May 2008.
Read the whole thing here. It is hard to escape an obvious conclusion, which is that the inexperienced backwoods lightweight Republican VP nominee understands what’s happening in Iraq quite a bit better than do certain reporters and editors at the Washington Post. Over to you, Ms. Kornblut.
Everywhere you turn these days, you find the press in an agitated-to-furious state about the McCain-Palin campaign. Many reporters are downright angry, according to the Washington Post’s media critic Howard Kurtz, in part because of the “lipstick on a pig” controversy. That’s obvious to anyone who has watched the news this last week. Many in the press are lacerating themselves for covering this story, and they blame the McCain campaign for having done it to them.
Read the rest of this COMMENTARY web exclusive here.
John, like Sarah Palin and John McCain on ANWR, we’ll have to agree to disagree on the latest ad from the Obama team. But several things are noteworthy. First, none of the three ads out today have anything to do with Palin. That seems to confirm the view that conservatives and well-meaning Democrats have put forth: the Obama team can’t win against her and they need to get back to McCain. Second, I think many who have seen these campaigns play out again and again suspected that now would be the time for Obama to do something “new” =– a scandal drop or a new policy shift. This time of year is when a lot of these are done (after Labor Day, before the debates) to be followed by one last “October Surprise.” What we got today was a retread: McCain=Bush, McCain=No change. I think the reaction from many conservatives is: that’s all they got?
Perhaps one more time will convince voters. But for now McCain seems to have diffused the potency of “change” with his mavericky speech and VP choice. From Gallup:
One reason John McCain has taken a modest lead over Barack Obama among registered voters nationally may be his ability to share the mantle of “change agent.” More than half of Americans now see each candidate as potentially effective in changing the way the government works in Washington. At the same time, about two in three see each as potentially effective in addressing problems in the U.S. economy. . . [I]t appears that one successful outcome of the Republican National Convention and the selection of Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate has been to allow McCain to become surprisingly competitive with Obama in Americans’ perceptions of not only his ability to change the way government works in Washington, but also his capability to address U.S. economic problems.
Now certainly repeating Obama’s side of the argument in sort of a What’s My Line? contest (“No, I’m the real agent of change. No I’m . . . “) is one way to go about regaining his footing. Perhaps it will work. But I think he’ll have to do more than say what he’s been saying for two years. And counting up years in the Senate and talking about lobbyists while Joe Biden is on his side may not be the best move. (Sure enough, Biden figures in this just-released RNC radio ad.)
One thing we know for sure: Obama doesn’t want to talk about Palin any more.