Saturday, October 04, 2008

She's not a Hockey Mom with Lipstick ... She's Emily Litella!

By J. Thomas Duffy

We referenced this in our post yesterday.

During the VP Debate Thursday evening, the Republican Candidate for Vice President ended her exercise in delivering talking points by quoting, in her final statement, the ol' Gipper, former President (well, he had the title, anyway), Ronald Reagan;
We have to fight for our freedoms, also, economic and our national security freedoms.

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.

Unlike her running mate, Mommy Moose can't pull out the POW-POW-POW card, so, you go next best, and wave that flag, high and proud, using the forum of the nationally-televised debate to shake a good dose of jingoism all over us.

A Frank Capra moment ...


However, there's only a slight problem with it.

Either the Wasilla Whiz Kid didn't research, and put this together herself (by all accounts of her, that's extremely doubtful), or the Rove Rats in the Dead Campaign Express just pulled it off the World Wide Web and threw it in, believing, as we noted above, end the night waving, verbally, at least, Old Glory.

The problem is Reagan, how, and what he was using that quote for.

The Gipper was rallying the Right Wing troops, jingoistically hamming it up, as part of Operation Coffeecup, to defeat the advent of Medicare.

Reagan was paid by the American Medical Association to make a recording, inveighing against Medicare!

From Larry DeWitt's "Operation Coffeecup: Ronald Reagan’s Effort to Prevent the Enactment of Medicare";
In order to maintain the illusion of spontaneity, the AMA did not announce the existence of Operation Coffeecup or publicize the Reagan recording. The record was to be used, campaign organizers cautioned, only in the groups meeting under the controlled conditions of the informal coffees. Under no circumstances, recipients of the record were warned, were they to permit commercial broadcast of the recording.

(You can go here to listen to the YouTube of the Reagan "Operation Coffeecup" recording)

From Paul Krugman today;
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.

You couldn’t make this stuff up.

I am a bit surprised, Palin, being young, and at a college, didn't pull out the "Ask not what your country can do for you, But ask what you can do for Country First - because, you know, John McCain is the only one in this campaign who can say he would stoop so low as to have me exploit Ronald Reagan and JFK in the same evening, just for the purpose of sucking in a few more votes ..."

Or, maybe, pull up Eisenhower's "Military Industrial Complex" speech, and lift a few passages from that, if only to wink one out to the home base.
Throughout America's adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.

Add a few lines about the son in the Army, and the flags would practically wave themselves.

Ya Betch'ya!

I can't wait to see what Peggy Noonan does with this.

Being the #1 Gipper Groupie, she must have turned even a ghostlier shade of white when she heard Palin dropping the Gipper's' words.

The Stumblin' Bumblin' John McCain Campaign, who she has already dissed in public once, now appropriating the brilliance of Ronald Reagan, for a cheap political stunt?

"How dare they do that to my beloved Ronnie!"

(And you don't want to mess too much with the Nooner ... She's got connections with that that old Iran-Contra gang, and they have the resources to make it look like it was a wolf in a helicopter that does the shootin' of certain nitwits that dare use Ronnie like that.)

It's fascinating, how these people actually work at, go out of their way, to make themselves look ridiculous.

Palin's not a "Hockey Mom with Lipstick" ...

She's Emily Litella!

Can we expect a press release coming soon, succinctly saying "Never Mind"?

Bonus Palin "Brilliant!" Riffs

Wonkette: COMMUNISTS AMONGST US - Palin Quoted Reagan Calling Medicare Communism

John Aravosis: Is Palin against Medicare?

Jonathan Chait: Palin Channels Reagan

Attaturk: Know what you’re quoting

Saturday Night Live - Weekend Update: Emily Litella on Puerto Rico

Gilda Radner - Emily Litela: Substitute Teacher

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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The American Promise

By Michael J.W. Stickings

My apologies for the dearth of posts today -- just one by our old friend Mustang Bobby.

I'm feeling under the weather, as they say. Or, to put it more bluntly, I feel like a pile of crap. Perhaps my insane live-blogging of the debate the other night did me in. Or perhaps I should just chalk it up to an unhealthy amount of Palinmania.

Whatever the cause -- and I generally find myself unwell this time of the year, and the weather's already turned autumnal here in Toronto -- it's been a busy week here at The Reaction. Check out Carol's round-up for some highlights from the past five days.

I'll be back later, or perhaps tomorrow, with more posts, and, no doubt, there will be new posts from the co-bloggers. So keep checking back. In the meantime, watch this wonderful video from the Obama campaign on "The American Promise."

"All across America, something is stirring..."

I cannot tell you how proud I am to be a part of this movement for change -- even as a Canadian, even as one who cannot vote on November 4.

It is because I love America. It is because I believe in America. And it is because of Barack Obama.

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Quote of the Day

By Mustang Bobby

"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."

-- Rich Lowry in National Review

"I may vomit." -- Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came to Dinner.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

The Reaction in Review (Oct. 3, 2008)

A week's Reactions that deserve a second look:


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "The revolt against the punditocracy" -- Insightful analysis of how polls show that people watching the candidates are evaluating content, and the pundits are evaluating style.

By Mustang Bobby: "Instant Analysis -- veep edition" -- A great piece that captures "the most cliche-ridden, corn-pone-spouting character on TV since the cancellation of "The Beverly Hillbillies."

By Capt. Fogg: "Palin Wins!" -- "Nucular Sarah -- ya betcha!" Very well written and insightful critique of the Palin debate performance; of lies, blunders and words from her trainers.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Show me the veeps: Live-blogging the Biden-Palin debate" -- From beginning to end and in between, Michael's tour de force captured the debate, and garnered a lively dialogue of dozens of comments.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Just another day in the life and death of Iraq LXXXIV" -- Linking to an important NYT article, Michael says, "Iraq is still an incredibly violent place . . . more of the same and seemingly without end."

By Carl: "A real bailout" -- A thoughtful bare bones outline about a plan "that rewards human beings for surviving this far, and not faceless corporate entities."

By Creature: "What I like about Barack Obama" -- Reasons: Editor of Harvard Law Review, single mom upbringing, community organizing. Several comments expand the list.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "BREAKING NEWS: Senate to vote on Bailout Bill" -- Michael brings us up to date on what is happening in the Senate.

By Libby Spencer: "McCranky can't hide his irritation with the press" -- This good post points to John McCain's editorial board rant (includes video).

By Carol Gee: "Activists still in a box" -- Analysis of congressional Dems, Repubs bailout voting dilemmas due to competing constituencies of Wall Street, the people at home, and the country.


By Capt. Fogg: "Is she smarter than a 5th grader?" -- Fogg's fun read on potential debate events: what if Sarah claims that, "the dog ate my homework."

By Dan Tobin: "When life deals Big Mac lemons. . . " -- Find out what Bush 43 really thinks of McCain as Tobin shares his latest frankly hilarious e-mail from Prexy43 to Liberal Jerkwad.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "BREAKING NEWS: House rejects bailout bill" -- Both quick and comprehensive, this post tells the tale.

By Carl: "Gravity sucks" -- Very well written and useful post on our economic crisis, how it came to this, with an easy to understand time line.

By Libby Spencer: "I get mail -- worthy causes" -- Well done round-up of ways to help out: child malnutrition, banning cluster bombs, or exposing the Bush doctrine.

Free Bonus: Michael J.W. Stickings continues his Palin-obsessed series "Painful Palin" -- Corruption, cronyism, Sarah Palin 2.0 (?), Mocking Biden, lying and spewing crap, Stating the obvious, SCOTUS cluelessness, Tearing down Jefferson's wall.

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The revolt against the punditocracy

By Michael J.W. Stickings

What happened last night was very much like what happened last Friday. After the debate was over, many of the leading pundits on CNN, MSNBC, and elsewhere proclaimed Palin if not the outright winner at least the winner of the expectations game. Biden may have been strong, but he was expected to do well, whereas Palin, who was supposed to collapse into a heap of failure right there on the stage, or so we were being told, held her own, or so we were told, and so beat the expectations, and so "won" the debate.

For many in the media, it's not about content, which is too challenging for them, but about their own expectations, their own shifting narrative. For them, the debate wasn't really about what Biden and Palin actually said but about how they said it, about how they performed relative to expectations. Similarly, the first presidential debate wasn't about content but about performance, and the immediate reaction from many pundits was that McCain won, or at the very least managed a draw.

The reaction of the pundits -- some of which I addressed in my long live-blogging post -- last night was nothing if not predictable. As I put it on Wednesday: "[W]hile Biden will need to prove himself worthy by reaching, if not surpassing, the media's lofty expectations of him (in order to 'win' or 'tie'), Palin will just need to show up, look good, and come across as somewhat plausible. If, on top of that, she is coherent and seemingly credible, as she was in her acceptance speech at the RNC, she'll be judged to have surpassed expectations and perhaps to have won the debate even if Biden does well and exceeds her in substance."

But then the people spoke -- or, rather, responded to the pollsters. And what they said amounted to a thorough rejection of the pundits, their expectations game, and the media's obsessive focus on style and performance. For the polls showed a decisive victory for Biden. CNN, for example, found that while Palin was the more "likable" of the two, and while both exceeded expectations, Biden won the debate 51-36. And CBS, polling uncommitted voters, found the Biden won 46-21.

As TNR's Jonathan Cohn notes, it was "deja vu all over again." Polls showed a similar victory for Obama in last Friday's debate. And what explains this? Why the markedly different reactions from the pundits and the people? Again, it may that the people are rejecting not just so much the pundits themselves -- because most people don't pay any attention to them -- as what the pundits are pushing on them, politics as media-driven entertainment. Or, it may just be that the people are actually paying more attention to substance than to style, that content matters -- and that the people ought to be taken more seriously than the self-serving, self-absorbed, over-paid pundits who populate the news media. For in the end, who cares what John King or Gloria Borger thinks? Sure, they've been around, but all they do is filter everything through their own preconceptions and expectations. Does anything they say actually pass for serious analysis? Rarely.


Speaking of pundits, a few conservatives are in fine form today:

NYT's David Brooks: "The Palin Rebound."

WSJ's Peggy Noonan: "Palin and Populism."

Politico's Roger Simon: "You betcha Sarah Palin can debate."

Reading through these columns is like confronting the Matrix. It's like they inhabit an alternate reality that isn't real at all, or real only in the warped conservative mind.

-- "She killed," writes Noonan. "She was the star... Her syntax did not hold, but her magnetism did. At one point she literally winked at the nation."

-- "Sarah Palin was supposed to fall off the stage at her vice presidential debate Thursday evening," writes Simon. "Instead, she ended up dominating it.

-- "There she was, resplendent in black, striding out like a power-walker," writes Brooks. "The race has not been transformed, but few could have expected as vibrant and tactically clever a performance as the one Sarah Palin turned in Thursday night."

I don't have the will to do through the many inanities that litter these three columns. What sort of alternate reality do you have to inhabit to have some away from the debate thinking Palin had "killed" and "dominated"?

Brooks thinks that "[w]ith a bemused smile and a never-ending flow of words, she laid out her place on the ticket -- as the fearless neighbor for the heartland bemused by the idiocies of Washington." Really? It's like nothing that actually happened made its way into Brooks's brain. Her stringing together of talking points, her reading from cue cards or notes, her refusal (inability) to answer the questions, her smear-laced attacks, her smug arrogance even in the face of utter ignorance and incompetence -- what about all that?

What binds these three together is faux populism. There's nothing "mainstream" or "heartland" about them, but in all three columns there is an abundance of venom directed at Washington and the coasts. As if somehow none of them had anything ever to do with Washington or New York or L.A. As if the Times and the Journal were just Main Street papers from small-town Iowa. But this is what they love about Palin, that's she's an outsider, that she took it to Biden last night, that, in Brooks's words, "she made it abundantly, unstoppably and relentlessly clear that she was not of Washington, did not admire Washington and knew little about Washington. She ran not only against Washington, but the whole East Coast, just to be safe."

Of course, this is what the coastal conservative elite often does -- masking its elitism by playing up its own brand of resentment populism. The thing is, the people, including those who actually live in the Heartland, evidently don't agree and aren't playing along. Conservative populism, however phony, may have worked in the past, but it isn't working this year. And so where pundits like King and Borger and David Gergen often get it wrong because of an inability to see past their own preconceptions and expectations, these conservatives just get it plain wrong. In this case, Brooks even praises Palin on substance.

In 2008, the people are rising up against the punditocracy. They may not know that they are, and it may not be their intention to do so, but they are simply rejecting them -- or, more specifically, what they represent and push on the people: an entertainment-oriented understanding of politics that puts style before substance, that focuses on performance, and that emphasizes the horse race before all else.

In 2008, content matters, the issues matter. Which is why, once the people spoke, it was abundantly clear that Obama and Biden had won the debates.

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It's funny because it's true

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From Aden Nak, via Sullivan, here's the hilarious Sarah Palin Debate Flow Chart:

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The House comes to the rescue

By Carol Gee

Just a short time ago the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (H.R. 1424). The vote was 263 yes and 171 no.

Democrats voted 172 yes and 63 no. Republicans voted 91 yes and 108 no.

No longer termed a Wall Street bailout bill, U.S. Representatives have passed legislation that everyone hopes will rescue the U.S. economy. When I last looked, the Stock Market was "in the black."

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)


UPDATE: For a useful summary of the bill, see here. The bill's Wikipedia entry, which is also useful, is here -- MJWS.

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The next day debate musing

By Creature

Well, with a night to sleep on it, I want to give Joe Biden greater props. Focused as I was on Sarah Palin I really did not pay enough attention to Joe. I guess I'm so used to seeing Biden do his thing that I didn't appreciate, in real time, how knowledgeable and likable he is. I suspect there is a big swath of America that does not know Biden very well, and for those people the contrast between Biden's knowledge and Palin's canned answers must have been crystal clear.

Sarah Palin may have exceeding expectations (which wasn't very hard to do considering how low they were going in) but Joe Biden shined. There were two people standing on that stage last night and only one of them proved they were ready to be vice president, and, more importantly, president, and that was Joe Biden.

For a ton of debate stuff, see Meme.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Biden soars, Palin bores

By Libby Spencer

I don't have a whole lot to say about the debate. I put up my requisite post debate analysis at Detroit News so all I'd add here is that Biden did great under difficult circumstances. He had to dance a fine line between shredding Palin on her still obvious ignorance and appearing too aggressive in doing so. I think he rose to the occassion admirably and managed to keep the focus on the top of the ticket rather than take the numerous cheap shots Palin offered up as targets.

Palin for her part managed to meet the sub-zero expectations of her perfomance but didn't manage to exceed them, not even by a subatomic particle. Her fan club will praise her as the winner, the rest of America will yawn at hearing the same talking points she's been pimping since the day McCain dragged her on stage. The only point that really resonated was her open admission that she wants the office of VP to accrue even more unlimited power than the wildest of Cheney's wet dreams. Low info voters probably won't pick up on that point, but if this debate changed anything, it will be to energize the Obama supporters to work even harder to prevent the disaster that a McCain administration would bring.

Bottom line, Biden came across as a serious candidate for a serious office at a critical time in our country. Palin came off as a vapid beauty queen with a fake, fixed smile and a badly hidden mean streak, running for Miss America. I don't think it will affect the polls much at all. It may reenergize the base for a while, but to the extent that the debate was any kind of game changer, it's that Palin showed she has nothing new to say and the media may start ignoring her and put the focus back on Obama and McCain, where it belongs. On those terms, it's a win for Obama.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Instant analysis -- veep edition

By Mustang Bobby

Joe Biden isn't the most polished debater, but Jesus Jumping Christ on a pogo stick, Sarah Palin is the most cliche-ridden, corn-pone-spouting character on TV since the cancellation of
The Beverly Hillbillies.

I don't know where to start. Gov. Palin was nothing but a fount of soundbites, and if that was the goal of the McCain campaign -- to talk over the questions that Gwen Ifill put up and let her come across like a finalist in a beauty pageant -- than she was wildly successful, if not grating. Facts, truth, and reality be damned; she spouted lies about the Obama tax plan, distortions about his health plan, she doesn't know the name of the general leading the troops in Afghanistan (McClellan was the general in the Civil War; the one in Afghanistan is McKiernan), she pulled neo-con talking points out of the air (move the capital of Israel to Jerusalem?), and she coated it with enough high-fructose corn syrup to give everybody an insulin shock.

It started out shaky for Mr. Biden, and at times he seemed flustered and unfocused. His answers about Iraq and taxes sounded too inside baseball. But at about the 45 minute mark, he got his footing and he started to really sell his points, and he began to turn the table on her. He sounded like he was speaking from his experience and knowledge rather than rote memorization.

At the same time, Ms. Palin's folk festival began to sound hollow, then creepy; did she actually wink at the camera? She made a point of not answering questions put to her. I guess this is part of being mavericky, but it came across as petulant and childish, and it conveyed a sense of her not being able to answer a question that was actually put to her... or answering questions that were not asked. I don't know if that was the game plan of the McCain campaign, but if it was, they were counting on the audience to fall for rhetoric and bullshit rather than substance, which she can't offer. And as much as she complained about Joe Biden "looking back," there was nothing that she said that was substantially different than the last eight years, right down to the corny cliches and droppin' those ends of the words like Mr. Bush... and saying "nucular." That's a reason right there to vote against her, not to mention her wholesale endorsement of Dick Cheney's attempt to take over the government.

I don't think this changed the race. It may stop the slide of the McCain poll numbers for a little bit, but in the end people are going to look at this and realize that she's not ready for prime time, and it may have turned off independents and moderates who were looking for some substance. To quote Joe Biden, if it was there, I didn't hear it.

Further thoughts: A lot of the talking heads are saying that Sarah Palin "met expectations" in the debate. Well, I should hope so; the McCain campaign did everything they could to tilt the playing field in her favor, from insisting on changing the rules of the debate format to working the ref by trying to intimidate moderator Gwen Ifill. So with all the gimmes, all Ms. Palin had to do was come out on stage, not trip over the rug, and not lose her note cards to "meet expectations."

If I hear the term "game changer" again, I'm going to throw something.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Nucular Sarah -- ya betcha

By Capt. Fogg

They told Sarah Palin to say Maverick as much as possible, and she did. As apparently contradictory as it is to call two people a "team" of mavericks and as questionable as maverick status may be in someone who is supposed to lead and to unify disparate interests, She continued to work the metaphor into every misrepresentation she made in her backwoods dialect.

Much is being made this morning of her "misstatements" such as denying that Gen. David McKiernan, says the "surge principle" won't work in Afghanistan. Not enough has been said about her calling him McLellan, a Civil War general often at odds with Abe Lincoln. Of course there is a bottomless well of humor in the very phrase. What after all, is a "surge principle" other than a very belated recognition that the generals who told Bush we needed a lot more troops were right -- and only after years of bloodshed and needless destruction. In retrospect, Powell's doctrine of massive and overwhelming force would seem to have been wise and would have saved a great many lives on both sides of the conflict.

Of course, Palin was "in error." McKiernan did say it. Palin lied when she said Obama can't admit that "the surge" worked. He did. She raised sales taxes in Wasilla to finance a stadium and left the town in heavy debt.

The fact is that she either lied or heavily misrepresented the facts in everything she said, and she did it with ebullient conviction because she was parroting, in most un-maverick fashion, the words of her trainers. Only an ignorant person can be so convincingly convinced. But that's Sarah Palin. Even with the new hair and the professional makeup and the wardrobe selection, we still have the 44-year old woman who talks like a child, lies with a smile, and who pronounces you as "ya" and nuclear as "nucular"

Most of all, we have the candidate who can't afford any reference to the past lies, blunders, misrepresentations, failings and crimes of her party, John McCain, and herself. She absolutely has to convince us that past performance is irrelevant to trusting them for the future.

I'm sorry to say, Sarah, when what we have from you today is a department store window dressed with dummies and props, it's essential to look at your past and your party's past, witches and all. You betcha.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Joe being Joe

By Creature

Maybe this Biden debate moment, getting choked up over his kids, was a game-changer.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Show me the veeps: Live-blogging the Biden-Palin debate

By Michael J.W. Stickings



8:51 pm - Okay, here we go. Less than ten minutes before the debate. Keep checking back. I'll be updating this frequently over the next couple of hours.

8:53 pm - First observation: CNN is populated with fools. In response to Jeffrey Toobin's poing that Palin's interview with Couric was a disaster, John "Magic Board" King said that everyone has a bad day now and then. Really? Palin's utter incompetence can be chalked up to a bad day? And don't get me started on Gloria Borger, who has yet to say a single intelligent thing in all my time watching CNN throughout this entire campaign -- okay, I'm exaggerating, but she's just so... trivial.

8:56 pm -- Here's the problem going in: expectations. According to Toobin, generally a solid Obama supporter and Democrat, Palin just needs to look competent. See how low the expectations are for her? I wrote about this yesterday. David Gergen at least argued that she needs to look like a leader -- in other words, much more than merely competent.

9:00 pm - By the way, I'm drinking Yamazaki single malt whisky (aged 12 years). The Japanese tend to like their whisky watered down, but I'm having it straight, with just a trickle of cold water. I prefer my whisky a bit smokier than this, but it's good stuff. Hopefully -- if I may take from my favourite song of all time by my favourite band of all time -- it'll keep me going through the show. (Hello, hello, hello... is there anybody in there, just nod if you can hear me...)

9:04 pm - Palin asks if she can call him Joe. Nice, populist touch, even if her plan is to attack him. And Biden's off to a good start: very sober and restrained, but hitting Bush hard. Yes -- focus on homeowners, talk about Main Street. He's making good points while contrasting Obama-Biden from McCain-Palin.

9:05 pm - Palin, predictably, is playing the populist card, but she's doing okay so far. There's no real substance to what she's saying, but at least she's speaking coherently and is looking straight into the camera. But praising McCain for the bailout bill? Putting politics aside? Bullshit.

9:07 pm - This is good. Biden talking about his record and bipartisanship. And calling out McCain for his stupid comment about the fundamentals of the economy. This is what Biden has to do: focus on McCain. Make this about McCain. And McCain wasn't talking about the workforce, which is Palin's defence. "A team of mavericks." More bullshit.

9:09 pm - Palin: Americans want something different? Yeah, Obama. Really, how are McCain and Palin going to stop the greed on Wall Street? Hockey moms, Joe Six-Pack. Yup, she's trying to be the folksy all-American.

9:11 pm - Biden is being so careful. Taking it to McCain -- on McCain's love of deregulation, for example -- but, again, being very restrained. Let Palin look like she's trying too hard. And here she is, attacking Obama and Biden on taxes. So predictable.

9:14 pm - My friend and co-blogger J. Thomas Duffy just sent me a post he's done. Check it out.

9:15 pm - Palin won't answer the questions the way the moderator wants? She'll talk straight to the people? Thankfully, Ifill cut her off. It's because she's just a wellspring of hollow talking points.

9:17 pm - Biden is right. This is about class. Higher taxes for the wealthy, who have already had their taxes slashed, doesn't equate to higher taxes for the middle class.

9:18 pm - Oooh, Palin has details of McCain's health-care plan. Biden needs to go after her on this. It's a market-oriented plan, with Americans required to find their health care on their own in the market. How does that sound at this time of financial crisis?

9:20 pm - Biden: solid. Tax breaks not for Exxon but for people from places like Scranton. Good job. He has such command. "The ultimate bridge to nowhere." Cheap, but a nice touch -- and one that drew a laugh from the audience.

9:23 pm - Stay in control, Joe, stay in control. She's just trying to taunt you. Really, though, she's attacking him for supporting Big Oil? She basically wants to allow Big Oil to rape Alaska.

9:24 pm - She didn't answer the question, by the way. What would she take back from her promises? She can't think of one friggin' thing? They'll keep all their promises? Bullshit.

Creature: "He has command, but he's coming across a bit too strong. I'm not sure he's playing well.

J. Thomas Duffy: "Palin just threw a Shout Out to the base conservatives, when she called on people to 'step out of the way and let the Private Sector handle it' ... She hasn't flubbed anything yet, but she's sounding awfully canned."

Creature: "Though her folksy shtick make me sick." I hear you, my friend. (Thankfully, this whisky is really good.)

9:28 pm - Come on, let's get to social and foreign policy...

9:29 pm - Palin just wants to read from her mental script, avoiding pretty much every question. It's crazy for her to defend her and McCain's record on alternative energy. Come on, Joe. Don't let her get away with it. Obama's the one with the viable plan for energy independence.

9:31 pm - Ah, climate change. As she told Couric, she doesn't think it's all man-made. No one says it's all man-made. But she clearly doesn't get it. You have to know and understand the causes in order to do anything about it. What an idiotic response.

9:33 pm - Yes! Biden makes that point. It's man-made. And you have to know the causes. McCain has voted repeatedly against funding alternative energy. Invest in clean technology, export that technology. Good stuff. All the Republicans have is more and more drilling.

9:34 pm - "Drill, baby, drill," says Palin. Insane. Drilling won't make much of a difference in the short-term, if any at all. We're looking decades into the future. Oh, and she neglected to answer the question (about clean coal). Again.

9:36 pm - "How do we deal with global warming with additional carbon emissions?" asks Biden.

9:37 pm - Social policy... Same-sex benefits. Good answer from Biden. Constitutional benefits. And Palin? -- no change to "traditional definition of marriage." Oh, but she'll be "tolerant." Thanks. "I have a very diverse family." Uh-huh. She she may be for equal treatment in terms of benefits, but... her answer is about marriage. Damn. This is where I can't stand Obama and Biden. They say they aren't for same-sex marriage. Come on. Let's get past this.

Creature: "She's not answering the questions and Gwen's letting her get away with it. What's up with that? I'll agree with JTD very canned (but it may work)."

9:40 pm - Foreign policy. Iraq. Palin's pro-surge talking points are, once again, predictable. "We have got to win in Iraq." Okay... and how? And what is victory? Where's Katie to ask some follow-up questions? "We're getting closer and closer to victory." Really? Evidence?

9:41 pm - Biden: Obama's plan is Maliki's plan. It's what the Iraqis want. Palin attacked Obama for voting against funding the troops, but, of course, that was a bill without a timetable. McCain voted against funding the troops on a bill with a timetable. Good for Biden for making that distinction. Biden: "We will end this war." For McCain, "there is no end in sight." Solid. Solid. Solid. And Palin's playing the surrender card. Bullshit. Backed into a corner, all she has left are inartful smears.

9:44 pm - Palin thinks she's got Biden and is so smug about it (about Biden once saying nice things about McCain). She makes the "cutting off funding" point again. She's running out of talking points. Good, Joe. Going after McCain for being so utterly wrong in Iraq from the beginning.

9:47 pm - Biden certainly knows his foreign policy. His discussion of Pakistan is pretty good. Palin: "central war on terror" is in Iraq? Right, sure. So she doesn't think Iran should be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. But it's not like she actually has a plan or anything. It's all hollow rhetoric.

9:49 pm - Oh, Palin had a nice conversation with Kissinger. Great. We're back to last Friday's debate. Palin is making the misleading point that Obama wants to meet with America's enemies without pre-conditions. "Simply not true," responds Biden. He's clarifying. Talk, talk, talk -- this is diplomacy. Good point: McCain won't even sit down to talk with foreign leaders.

9:52 pm - Seriously, what does Palin know about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Let along a two-state solution? "We should never allow a second Holocaust." Obviously. Again, there's no substance to anything she's saying.

My friend T-Steel from TMV: "I'm trying to remain impartial but Governor Palin is just to general and sweeping. She is working her notes hard."

J. Thomas Duffy: "The longer this is going, the more Palin is going into the Tina Fey/Katie Couric mode, that she's splaying all over the place, almost that we can hear the words in her head being lifted on to the conveyor belt, going into the "Out" tube..."

9:54 pm - "The only thing on the march is Iran." -- Biden. Well said. Bush's policies have been abject failures. "We both love Israel." -- Palin. Fantastic.

9:55 pm - Jesus. Palin's not even coming close to answering the question. She's all over the place. Reform, McCain the maverick, yadda, yadda, yadda... There are blunders in every administration? Bush's blunders have been rather more significant, no? And Biden makes a good point in response: McCain's policies would be just like Bush's. I'd say: likely even worse.

9:57 pm - Wait, did Palin just say there's a safe way to use "nuclear weaponry"? Huh?

9:58 pm - Biden's confident. Maybe a bit too strong. But he's right that an Iraq-like surge won't work in Afghanistan. Which was Palin's point. She wanted desperately to talk about Afghanistan, but all she could say was that there should be a surge there.

9:59 pm - Biden on nuclear proliferation, one of Obama's strongest issues. Palin's back to the surge, though -- not answering the question. She's reading her notes. Stay in control, Joe. Biden: We've been calling for more money and more troops for Afghanistan, not McCain.

10:01 pm - Biden on Bosnia/Kosovo, Iraq, and Darfur. He's a hawk, there's no denying that. But he was right about Bosnia. He's a bit shaky on his support for the Iraq War, though: he was for it, but not really. Hmmm. But he does have a workable plan on Darfur.

10:03 pm - And Palin plays the outsider card. "Straight talk." Bullshit. But this is a weak spot for Biden, who has disagreed with Obama on Iraq. She gives a decent answer on Darfur, but without much substance. Divestment, that's it.

10:05 pm - Good. Biden's tying McCain to Cheney on Iraq. His own views may be somewhat contradictory, but he can get around that by focusing on McCain. In response, Palin is waffling. McCain know this and that. "He will know how to implement the strategies... He will know how to win a war." That's all she's got, folks. And I'm out of whisky. Damnation.

10:08 pm - If necessary, Biden would carry out Obama's policies -- and he does well to provide an overview of them. "There are such stark differences" between the two tickets. Palin: "What do you expect? A team of mavericks." Bullshit. Seriously. Bullshit. "Putting government back on the side of the people." Really? Like Bush's tax cuts? Like the ongoing Iraq War? Like more deregulation anywhere and everywhere. And she's folky again: Wasilla's Main Street. Oy. And, once more, she shows she's a good Republican by smearing Obama and Biden on taxes.

10:11 pm - Solid rebuttal from Biden on the middle class. Palin: "Say it ain't so, Joe." Well, I guess you knew that was coming. Oh, good, she winked at her dad. She doesn't know what she's talking about.

10:14 pm - What does a vice president do? Hey, everyone, it's civics class with Sarah Palin. Needless to say, Biden's response is much more substantive.

10:16 pm - Palin keeps reading her notes. Really weak. She's sounding like she did with Couric. Biden: "Dick Cheney is probably the most dangerous vice president we've had in our history." Something like that. Nice. And he understands the VP only presides over the Senate in case of a tie.

10:18 pm - What's Palin's Achilles heal? The CW is lack of experience, says Ifill. Palin, again, is not answering the question. She's talking about how great her experience is. "Beacon of hope." "Shining light." "We represent a perfect ideal..." Wow. So incredibly banal. So incredibly empty.

10:20 pm - Biden. The CW is lack of judgement, says Ifill. Biden acknowledges that, and moves on. Well done. And he's talking about his personal story, about being a single father. This may be Biden't best moment of the entire debate. He knows what it's like to sit around the kitchen table, he knows that people need hope. He's a passionate man. He is what he is. He won't change. And what do we get from Palin? More maverick talk, as if she and McCain are all about change. Come on. "Change is coming and McCain is the leader..." Bullshit. Biden: McCain is no maverick. He voted for Bush's tax cuts. He voted against health care for children. He didn't support tax cuts for people who want to send their kids to college. He hasn't been a maverick on the war. Kitchen table stuff again... very strong. "Maverick he is not," said Biden of McCain. Excellent.

10:24 pm - Biden's reading his notes. Stop it. And he's talking about judicial appointments. Good to bring up the Supreme Court, given Palin's appalling non-answer to Couric on SCOTUS cases. Palin says she's never had to compromise on anything important. But now she's talking about bringing both sides together. Oy. More bullshit.

10:27 pm - Biden needs to look directly in the camera. But he's making a strong, if convoluted, case for reaching out in a bipartisan way. And Palin's talking about her "diverse" family. But she's all over the place, like she's plucking out talking points, patching one-liners together.

10:29 pm - Final statements.

10:30 pm - Palin attacks "the mainstream media" as a "filter." We'll fight for the middle class, she claims. "We are so blessed... We have to fight for our freedoms... It was Ronald Reagan who said... There is only one man in this race who has fought for you..." Such mindless drivel.

10:31 pm - Good. Biden's looking into the camera, talking about paying the mortgage, sending kids to college... the bread-and-butter issues on Main Street. "It's time for America to get up together." Very well done.

10:33 pm - Alright, that's it.


Creature: "This is disappointing. Palin played the agreeable role Barack Obama played Friday night and Joe Biden played the surly old man. She was canned, she was overly folksy for my taste, she spoke in generalities, she didn't answer the questions but she's was prepared and far from the ditsy caricature that she's been portrayed as recently. Unfortunately, a rejuvenated Plain will be the new narrative after tonight."

Well, this is what I feared going in, that, with such low expectations, a decent performance by Palin would be spun as a "comeback." And she certainly did... okay. But "rejuvenated"? We'll see. She did much better early on, discussing economic issues. I thought she was rather weak on foreign policy, and it showed. And, towards the end, her answers seemed canned, like talking points stitched together. And so much of what she said involved taxes, the usual Republican attack on Democrats. It doesn't work this year.

As for Biden, I think he did fairly well. He was strong on the issues and he avoided a major gaffe, and avoided coming across as arrogant and condescending.

10:37 pm: Gergen thinks Biden gave the best debate performance of his life. But the overall assessment seems to be that Palin held her own. Again, she beat expectations. Oh, so Borger does say something mildly perspective, if obvious: Palin didn't answer the questions. No substance, says Hilary Rosen. "On Iraq, she wandered all over the place." No game-changer, says Ed Rollins.

All so predictable. There was really nothing Biden could do to win, nothing he could do to stand out. It was all about Palin: Would she flounder and embarrass herself? Would she single-handedly sink the McCain campaign tonight. Obviously, that wasn't going to happen. As so many people were saying going in, myself included, she was bound to give a decent performance. And, well, she did -- in superficial debating terms. But she lagged far behind Biden on the issues, on substance, and I thought Biden had some particularly excellent moments.

So who won? Well, let me think about it for a moment...

10:44 pm - More Creature, from his post-debate post: "[Palin] was prepared and far from the ditsy caricature that she's been portrayed as recently. I think Biden did fine. He certainly ended very strong and I think he was genuine (and right on the issues, BTW). But, unfortunately, a rejuvenated Plain will be the new narrative after tonight."

10:55 pm - Yup, here's the spin. Rollins: "She's back." This is the point Creature and I are making. Palin may have won this debate simply by not embarrassing herself. The expectations for her were that low. Forget that she failed miserably on the issues. All she wanted to talk about was energy and taxes. On pretty much everything else, she was just regurgitating the talking points, often stringing them together incomprehensibly. No, it wasn't nearly as bad as her Couric performance, but that's the point. By doing better, she triumphed.

10:57 pm - But let's not look past Biden, even though all the talk is about Palin. He did very well. He did what he had to do. He showed a commend both of himself and of the issues, he didn't fuck up, didn't have to extricate his foot from his mouth, and, again, on substance, won easily. The problem is that media (and many voters) don't judge debates on substance. For them, it's about style and expectations.

10:59 pm - So who won? I'll call it a slight "win" for Palin -- and especially for McCain, who should get a boost from this. If nothing else, the media have something else to talk about other than Obama's surge in the polls and McCain's ridiculous behaviour in response to the financial crisis. And it's sad to say that it's a "win" for Palin -- a perceived win, that is. It's sad that this is what American politics, even at the highest level, has been reduced to.

11:05 pm - "Sarah Palin had a pretty good night tonight." Republicans will be energized again. See? Gergen agrees, but "it doesn't change the dynamic of the race." Let's hope not. Toobin agrees. This debate won't bring independents over to McCain. Hold on, I need to switch over to MSNBC. (I can't believe I just typed that.)

11:08 pm - Howard Fineman on Palin: "a wolverine attaching herself to the pantleg of a passerby." Something like that. Good line. And Olbermann's calling her out for not answering the questions. But, Fineman again: "She was more than ready for prime-time." Sure, if prime-time is pre-packaged excrement. Oh, wait, it is. Come on, talk about the substance... and they are. Fineman: "I don't think she helped at all."

11:11 pm - Ah, Rachel Maddow... finally, some intelligence. "She hammed it up" on the folksiness. "Joe Biden was boring." She comments on Palin's suggestion that the veep's powers be expanded: "the legacy of Cheney."

11:13 pm - Initial poll, reported by Olbermann: Biden victory on content, but not much moved in terms of the race itself. And we'll have to wait to see what the polls say. Remember that many pundits were calling the first presidential debate a tie or even a slight McCain victory. It wasn't until the polls came out that it was clear that it was a solid victory for Obama.

LindaBeth: "My big gasp came at the end, and I just got finished debating it with my b/f's dad: in her closing statement, Palin called herself a 'middle class family'. I was almost certain that wasn't at all true, considering that the Tax Foundation cites that $122,000 is the max family income that can be called 'middle income' (it's the top figure for the middle 60% of American families' incomes). Huff-Po cites her economic resources, including her $250k income, here."

11:29 pm - Newshoggers' Fester: "Gov. Palin played to her strength of being a nasty talking point repeated with a kindergarten teacher's voice. She also managed to string words in forms that resembled sentences and the occassional sentence group into paragraphs. Sen. Biden kept his feet firmly on the ground and out of his mouth while his fire was aimed straight at McCain."

An update from Creature: "The spin has begun and maybe I was wrong. Bob Schiffer gave huge props to Biden. Rachel Maddow also says Biden was more human. Though, Pat Buchanan -- speaking for the base, of course -- was head over heels for Palin... Early polls, according to CNN, give the debate to Biden. Maybe my first impression, pre-debate, was right after all. Interesting. Maybe the bloom is so off the McCain/Palin ticket that there's no going up for them."

12:23 am - Sorry, just took a break to decompress -- with some tea, some dessert, and Jon Stewart.

12:24 am - The Politico's Roger Simon, a guest on Hardball, thought Palin was amazing. Breaking news: Roger Simon is an idiot.

12:25 am - I thought Keith Olbermann did a fantastic job on Palin's Afghanistan blunder. First, she referred to the U.S. commander in Afghanistan as "McClellan." Actually, the current commander of the International Security Assistance Force is Gen. David McKiernan. Second, McKiernan did say, contrary to Palin's claim, that an Iraq-like surge wouldn't work in Afghanistan.

12:30 am - The polls -- CBS and CNN -- have Biden as the winner. Once again, the pundits are wrong.

12:32 am - Although, this headline from the AP could be the dominant spin tomorrow: "Palin stands her ground in VP debate with Biden." See, the expectations game. That's what Palin won.

12:33 am - For some other live-blogging of the debate, now in the past (so, according to McCain-Palin, it no longer matters), see Think Progress and Andrew Sullivan. Kos has some post-debate thoughts here: "Sarah Palin won! Actually, she survived, since she had no 'deer in headlight' moments... On the merits, Biden won easy. On the things that debates are scored on, it was a draw. And for us Democrats, that's the same as victory." (On another matter, Kos thought Gwen Ifill was "excellent." I thought she was just okay. Sullivan thought she was "intimidated, peripheral, neutered."

12:39 am - Sullivan has additional debate reaction here. He also makes some good points here, including: "Palin's inability to answer real questions, her capacity to avoid follow-ups, her slightly manic quality, and her inability to relate to working class voters came across... What we need now is a press conference with Palin. She needs to be forced to answer follow-ups. She needs to be made accessible to the press and thereby the American people." Indeed she does.

12:41 am - By the way, CNN has a transcript of the debate here. I'm sure it's a fantastic read.

12:42 am - And that's it for me for tonight. It's been long, but fun. Thank you all for stopping by, and especially to all of you who took the time to share your thoughts. (I encourage you all to read the comments. There are quite a few of them, and many of them are excellent.)

And thank you to Creature for his fantastic contributions throughout the evening, as well as to JTD and LB. I'll be back tomorrow, along with the co-bloggers, with more reaction. I'm sure there will be a lot more to say. Stop by and read us again.

Good night, everyone, and take care.

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Pre-debate musing

By Creature

It's pretty clear that Sarah Palin will stay far away from issues and anything resembling deep thought tonight. She'll play the role of middle class attack dog for sure. The only question that's really up in the air is how the media will spin her predictable performance. I suspect they will eat it up in order to appear "fair." I also suspect, after Friday's presidential debate, that the American people will see through her attacks and the media spin of them. I smell backfire, and the end of the McCain campaign, in the air.

We shall see.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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McCain gives up on Michigan

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The Politico's Jonathan Martin has the news:

John McCain is pulling out of Michigan, according to two Republicans, a stunning move a month away from Election Day that indicates the difficulty Republicans are having in finding blue states to put in play.

McCain will go off TV in Michigan, stop dropping mail there and send most of his staff to more competitive states, including Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida...

A McCain aide confirmed the move and chalked it up to the state's Democratic tilt and the resources Obama had put in place there."It was always a long shot for us to win," said the aide.

That's true, but it's also a sign of -- and response to -- Obama's recent surge in the polls. Contrary to what some in the media are still saying, after all, the race is not, at the moment, close. It's not even close to being close. Polls both nationally and in key battleground states show Obama well ahead.

Clearly, McCain is on the defensive. There is still time for him to recover, but his campaign has obviously decided that it can only win by concentrating its efforts on a few states.

Martin's colleague Mike Allen is reporting that the McCain campaign thinks it "must win Pennsylvania, Wisconsin or Minnesota in order to get enough electoral votes to win the presidency," and that Maine may also be in play -- although Maine allocates its electoral college votes by district; at most he should be able to win one of them.

Notice the difference here: While Obama is looking to bring red states like Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia over to his side, McCain is hoping that everything breaks his way: Ohio, Florida, and one of those three, and one of Maine's districts. It's that desperate for him now, that much of a squeaker. But Obama is doing extremely well in all three of those states -- PA, WI, and MN. He's also pulled ahead in Ohio and Florida, as well as in Nevada, New Mexico, and Virginia. And McCain's up by just one in Indiana. And he's ahead in every national poll, too.

See all the latest poll numbers here. As Nate Silver puts it, "the McCain campaign now seems to be aware that their electoral map is falling apart."

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Just so you do not forget

By Carol Gee

Tonight is the vice presidential Debate between Senator Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) and Governor Sarah Palin (R-Alaska.) Most of us think it could produce some headlines. We are all waiting to chalk up another Palin favorite moment.

Prior to the first debate between Senators McCain and Obama, Rand Beers at The Huffington Post said that it was a commander-in-chief test for them both. And most of the critics agree that, in some ways both passed the test. My own bias is that Obama passed with an "A" and McCain passed with a "D." Each of the candidates for vice president also has to pass the commander-in-chief test,# because that could conceivably be their role in the future. So think about what Beers said that still applies:
• Into this cauldron come two non-incumbent candidates, each of whom must pass the commander-in-chief test and demonstrate that he [or she]:
• Offers real change from the past eight years;
• Understands foreign policy beyond simplistic soundbites and tough talk, by providing serious solutions;
• Is ready to grapple with the complexities that link our security and our economy; and most importantly
• Has the temperament and judgment to lead.

If we are to believe Senator Obama, and I do, Senator McCain, and, by extension, Governor Palin represent more of the same out-of-control militarism and intelligence abuses as during the past eight years. Here are a few random news bits from my newsletter CQ Behind the Lines, just to remind:

"Senior White House officials played a central role in determining whether the CIA could use harsh interrogation techniques, The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti learns from newly released documents."
Terror tech -- from CQ Behind the Lines (9/24/08). Each edition of this handy little newsletter reveals the latest developments in our surveillance state. Do you have any question whatsoever that it would not continue under McCain-Palin? To quote:

U.S. intel agencies are unable to share info about foreign cyber attacks against companies for fear of jeopardizing intelligence-gathering sources, The Washington Post has an official testifying last week. DHS researchers “have previewed new technology that they promise will help rout out terrorists and other dangerous people in public places by covertly bio-scanning subjects as they walk past sets of cameras,” Revolution Radio reacts — and see FOX News: “Homeland Security Detects Terrorist Threats by Reading Your Mind.” DHS has many other such projects, “the descriptions of which are so impenetrable, there must be some way to use them for actual protection. If only we could wear jargon like armor,” The Everett Washington Herald harrumphs.

From the vice president's office we give you, ladies and gentlemen -- Think also about this Bush administration left-over from After Downing Street: "A war criminal in academia."* To quote:

The Miller Center on Public Affairs at the University of Virginia has invited a war criminal to speak on October 27, 2008, on the topic of "War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism." Georgetown University employs the very same war criminal as a "Professor and Distinguished Practitioner in National Security Policy." Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government has made him a "Belfer Center Visiting Scholar." And to Stanford University he's a "Distinguished Visiting Fellow of the Hoover Institution." The man's name is Douglas Feith.

. . . Feith's work after September 11, 2001, quickly became the manufa[c]ture of pseudo-evidence pretending to link al Qaeda to Iraq. Feith created, cherry picked, and distorted information, and pressured others to do the same, to help build a false case for an illegal war of aggression. And he didn't even do so from within an agency legally permitted to engage in so-called intelligence work. He did so from within the Pentagon where he set up a parallel intelligence operation with the role of producing what Cheney and Bush wanted but couldn't get from the other intelligence agencies. Feith's operation was called the Office of Special Plans.
Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of links to leads are "betmo"* and Jon#.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Palin Wins!

By Capt. Fogg

Style often trumps substance in debates, says MSNBC. It's very true, at least in terms of public opinion. We can see it illustrated in the extreme in the TV coverage of the crowds already forming in St Louis: wildly enthusiastic young women are waving "Palin Wins" signs hours before the event is to begin. To them it's a fait accompli. What actual words, what answers, what debate can change a mind like that?

I would go further and say prejudice trumps everything. Partisanship trumps everything. Reality means nothing. In a world where a truck can have the "soul of a sports car," it's about style.

There is far too much speculation going on about tonight's Punch and Sarah show. Will she make a fool of herself? Will she demonstrate nearly total ignorance of all the things a chief executive is expected to have mastered even to be considered for office? It won't matter. If she breaks down and cries, if she begins to writhe on the floor, spouting glossolalia, and moaning about witches, it won't really matter. We'll be told that Biden was condescending for knowing what the First Amendment says or who the chief justice is, and that will be that. She will have shown attitude and edge and poise or any number of nebulous and irrelevant attributes, and that will be that.

Palin Wins!

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Obama on iPhone

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The Obama campaign is incredibly smart, incredibly creative, and incredibly cool:

Obama releases iPhone recruiting, campaign tool,

reports CNET News.

Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign launched an iPhone application on Thursday that turns the vaunted device into a political recruiting tool.

The most notable feature "organizes and prioritizes your contacts by key battleground states, making it easy to reach out and make an impact quickly," according to the software.


A "get involved" feature uses the phone's GPS-based location sensing to find the nearest Obama campaign headquarters, and "local events" likewise pulls up a list of activities sorted by proximity.

A "media" section provides links to video and photos, but beware: YouTube showed errors following some of the links. Perhaps the newer videos hadn't been prepared for iPhone display yet.

The application also shows Obama statements to the news media and a guide to Obama's positions on various issues.


(And, remember, McCain doesn't even know how to use e-mail.)

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