Friday, October 31, 2008

Eagleburger: Palin's Unprepared

Former Secretary of State Larry Eagleburger (and a McCain supporter) was on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" yesterday (audio here), and was asked about Sarah Palin's preparedness to be commander in chief.

Here's how Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post blogs his response (I agree with his characterization of Eagleburger's answer):

"'It is a very good question,' he said. He paused, and then added: 'I'm being facetious here. Look, I don't think -- of course not.

'I don't think at the moment she is prepared to take over the reins of the presidency,' he continued. 'I can name for you any number of other vice presidents who were not particularly up to it either. So the question, I think, is, can she learn and would she be tough enough under the circumstances if she were asked to become president, heaven forbid that that ever takes place?'

Give her some time in the office and I think the answer would be, she will be' -- Eagleburger paused here, searching for the right word -- 'adequate. I can't say that she would be a genius in the job. But I think she would be enough to get us through a four year -- well, I hope not -- get us through whatever period.'" He added "And I devoutly hope that it would never be tested."

McCain, asked about Eagleburger's comments this morning on "GMA," reportedly "smiled and chuckled," then said "I love Larry Eagleburger. Larry has never had a chance to meet Sarah."

I haven't met her either, but I know she's unqualified too.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Today's Recommended Read

Senator Chuck Hagel is one of the most sensible, thoughtful people left in today's Republican party. Connie Bruck's profile of him in this week's New Yorker is a must-read. His reservations with what John McCain has come to represent in this campaign are serious, deep, and well-considered; they should be enough to give anyone pause before casting their ballot next week (or today, if you live in one of those early-voting states).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Yes We Can!

(From the Boston Pumpkin Festival, 18 October 2008)

Monday, October 13, 2008

McCain Loses Hitchens

Another conservative Christopher for Obama: Christopher Hitchens writes in Slate that the McCain-Palin campaign has lost his support. And in true Hitchens fashion.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Today's Recommended Read

Christopher Buckley, the son of well-known conservative William F. Buckley, endorses Obama. What he says about John McCain certainly rings true for me, as I'm sure it does for others who once held the man in great respect and admiration:

"John McCain has changed. He said, famously, apropos the Republican debacle post-1994, “We came to Washington to change it, and Washington changed us.” This campaign has changed John McCain. It has made him inauthentic. A once-first class temperament has become irascible and snarly; his positions change, and lack coherence; he makes unrealistic promises, such as balancing the federal budget “by the end of my first term.” Who, really, believes that? Then there was the self-dramatizing and feckless suspension of his campaign over the financial crisis. His ninth-inning attack ads are mean-spirited and pointless. And finally, not to belabor it, there was the Palin nomination. What on earth can he have been thinking?

All this is genuinely saddening, and for the country is perhaps even tragic, for America ought, really, to be governed by men like John McCain—who have spent their entire lives in its service, even willing to give the last full measure of their devotion to it. If he goes out losing ugly, it will be beyond tragic, graffiti on a marble bust."

Monday, October 06, 2008

Enough, Again

Call it Mudsling Monday. What a disgusting display of desperation we're seeing from the McCain-Palin campaign. As their poll numbers sink, out comes every sleazy, dishonest, and offensive attack against Obama and Biden, no matter how tangential, outdated, or just plain stupid. Palin started complaining today about that doggone "filter of the mainstream media," which has apparently kept her from discussing the issues ... and yet when given the chance, she offers up nothing but her usual policy platitudes before launching into more attacks on Barack Obama. Neither McCain nor Palin talked much about what voters say is their new top concern (the economy), or about any other real issues at all, for that matter. They just attacked. They're trying to change the subject, and I hope every voter sees this ploy for the transparent scheme it is.

Obama and Biden ought to stay out of the dirt, hitting back without diving into the muck themselves. Stick with ads like this one, and keep pointing out the obviousness of the bait-and-switch McCain and Palin are trying to pull.

James Fallows, an eminently sensible writer, had this to say about the new strategy: "Grow up. If John McCain has a better set of plans to deal with the immediate crisis, and the medium-term real-economy fallout, and the real global problems of the era -- fine, let him win on those. But it is beneath the dignity he had as a Naval officer to wallow in this mindless BS. I will say nothing about the dignity of a candidate who repeatedly winks at the public, Hooters-waitress style. A great country acts great when it matters. This is a time when it matters -- for politicians in the points they raise, for journalists in the subjects they write about and the questions they ask of candidates. And, yes, for voters."

This is, indeed, one of those times. If you're not registered to vote, register. If you're not sure, check. Every vote, in every state, is going to matter on 4 November. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Oops. It Does Get Worse

One of Palin's answers that actually came close to impressing me last night was her comment on Darfur (I say 'came close to' because I think we need to do much more than this, as Biden and Obama do). Anyway, here's Palin: "America is in a position to help. What I've done in my position to help, as the governor of a state that's pretty rich in natural resources, we have a $40 billion investment fund, a savings fund called the Alaska Permanent Fund. When I and others in the legislature found out we had some millions of dollars in Sudan, we called for divestment through legislation of those dollars to make sure we weren't doing anything that would be seen as condoning the activities there in Darfur. That legislation hasn't passed yet but it needs to because all of us, as individuals, and as humanitarians and as elected officials should do all we can to end those atrocities in that region of the world."

Seems like a pretty good move. Too bad it's a total lie, as ABC notes in a report tonight. A bipartisan group of Alaska legislators "co-sponsored a resolution early this year to force the Alaska Permanent Fund ... to divest millions of dollars in holdings tied to the Sudanese government." Palin's administration openly opposed the bill: in fact, her deputy revenue commissioner said in a February public hearing on the measure "The legislation is well-intended, and the desire to make a difference is noble, but mixing moral and political agendas at the expense of our citizens' financial security is not a good combination." ABC's report adds "a search of news clips and transcripts from the time do not turn up an instance in which Palin mentioned the Sudanese crisis or concerns about Alaska's investments tied to the ruling regime."

Democratic State Rep. Les Gara, one of the original sponsors of the measure, said that the Palin administration's opposition to the legislation kept it from being voted on by the relevant committee, dooming it. His Republican co-sponsor Bob Lynn, meanwhile, says Palin did support the bill, but when asked to explain why her administration would send someone up to speak against it replied (rather lamely, in my view) "We don't all work in lockstep here. People have different opinions". (Fine, but if the governor's in support of the bill, shouldn't her aides at least be singing the same tune?). Lynn said he and the governor agreed to re-introduce the bill this coming January, after the administration's position "softened" toward the end of the most recent legislative session (once it was too late to pass the legislation this year).

Shady. And untruthful. But coming from Palin, that seems to be just more of the same.

On Winking

Two debates down, two to go.

Sarah Palin survived. She recovered from the disastrous Katie Couric interview by not completely freezing up, falling down, or going completely off the reservation. She exceeded expectations. But when expectations are as low as they were, that's not saying much. She answered no questions directly. She ran out of talking points and started repeating them. She renamed the general commanding the troops in Afghanistan, seriously misstated the McCain campaign's position on a provision to allow bankruptcy judges to rewrite mortgage payment terms (they oppose it) and wrongly said that the number of troops in Iraq were "down to presurge numbers." Worse than her non-answers, however, was the obnoxious way she delivered them. The moose-in-the-headlights stare into the camera was one thing, but the winking, the "folksisms" (you betcha, doggonit, say it ain't so, nucular, &c.) were enough to make my blood boil. She may want to channel Joe Six-Pack, but I certainly don't want Joe Six-Pack running the country (or even a heartbeat away from running the country).

Joe Biden gave one of the best debate performances we've seen since the beginning of this election cycle. He handled Palin deftly (which is to say amiably and without making a big deal of the fact that she wasn't actually answering the questions), and exhibited a clear grasp of what he was out there to do. He drifted occasionally into Senate-speak, and a few times fell into the trap of talking about himself too much and Obama too little. He made a few minor errors, but he closed very strongly and had a really "on" night overall.

The stagecraft and family dynamics at the end of the debate worked very well. It was nice to see the children and adults mingling - apparently comfortably - on stage, and pleasant that Biden and Palin engaged in what appeared to be a spontaneous conversation for several minutes. McCain could learn a thing or two from his VP on how to behave around other people, that much is clear.

Gwen Ifill did poorly. I don't know if it was purely a product of the debate rules, or what, but her failure to follow up on anything made it seem as though she wasn't even listening to the responses. The debate didn't flow well: this was partly caused by Palin's reversion to her talking points on every single question, but also because Ifill's questions didn't follow each other in any logical way. Again, this may have been a product of the rules, but if so, they were pretty silly rules.

Overall, I suspect this was like most of the VP debates (even if many more people watched this one): important for a day or two, but with no lasting effect. Palin's performance may have stiffened the spines of a few waverers on their side, but I find it difficult to believe that her words swayed undecided voters. The fact that this go-round wasn't a game-changer is good news for Obama-Biden; there is no reason to suppose that their current momentum will be slowed.

One more point about Palin today: last night's "Ask the VP" segment on CBS featured the following question from Katie Couric: "What do you think is the best thing and the worst thing that Dick Cheney has done as vice president?" Palin: "Worst thing, I guess, that woulda been the duck hunting accident, where, you know, that was, that was an accident. And that was made into a caricature of him, and that was kind of unfortunate." Video here. It's sad when shooting a guy in the face isn't the worst thing the current vice president has done, but Biden was closer: " think he's done more harm than any other single high elected official in memory in terms of shredding the constitution. You know, condoning torture, pushing torture as a policy. This idea of a unitary executive, meaning the Congress and the people have no power in a time of war, and the president controls everything. I don't have any animus toward Dick Cheney but I really do think his attitude about the constitution and the prosecution of this war has been absolutely wrong."

The differences in these answers says much about Palin and Biden, and perhaps reveal far more than the debate did.