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I only heard clips on the radio, and I’ve only just turned on the idiot box to hear the blather, but apparently his speech was well received.

I did see a clip where Obama listed the tax cuts he signed into law last year, and the Republicans were still sitting on their hands with sour looks (McCain was the worst!).  He cracked a joke, “I thought that would earn some applause from you,” and a few of them clapped.

McCain’s on Larry King right now whining about the lack of bipartisanship from Obama.  And I mean whining.  High pitched.

Did anybody watch it?  Yeah, yeah, I know.  It’s all talk.  Doesn’t mean anything.  Blah, blah.  But it’s good political theater, and it does actually means something to a lot of people.

I’d like to see this moment of the speech.  From a TPM poster:

Maybe it’s just because I’m a poli sci major turned lawyer, but that moment when he turned to the Supremes and took them directly to task for Dred Scott II the Citizens United opinion, and then watching the majority look completely taken aback as the other branch of government stood up, looked at them and cheered actually stunned me a bit.

McCain did force a compliment out of his mouth for Obama.  Kind of mandatory since it was McCain’s law which was slapped down.  The old McCain’s that is, but McCain’s nevertheless.

Apparently Alito wasn’t happy.

Chris Matthews delivered an odd comment:  “I forgot he was black tonight.”

And Joe what’s-his-name’s 15 minutes are over.  He obviously took his medication.  No wackoid outbursts tonight.

Addendum: It does appear that the speech did Obama and the Democrats some good.

Second addendum: Mike Thompson commenting on the speech doesn’t really say where he falls on health care at this point, except to say that Obama needs to show “leadership” on the issue.  And he is backing Obama’s call for discretionary spending freezes, which is absolutely amateurish and detrimental policy in a recession where even most conservative economists will tell you that deficit spending is actually necessary to stimulate the economy.  Granted 25 billion a year isn’t that big on the scale of things, but it could make a difference for tens of thousands looking for work.  And exempting military spending from the strategy is even more detrimental as we have seen some of the worst graft, pork, and unaccounted for money in that area than all the others put together.  Anybody remember that 10 billion or whatever which simply disappeared in Iraq a few years ago?  We could use that money right now.

Third addendum: Nate Silver analyzes some numbers in the speech.  Not the ones you’re thinking of.  I hope he’s getting paid for his time!  The graph tallying the buzz words of various SOTUs is a mere sample.

The media consensus seems to give Obama a moderate advantage from the debate. I actually see it as a draw, which I guess ultimately benefits Obama as he’s been climbing in the polls due to some real dumb moves by McCain this week and his campaign’s difficulties with economic issues.

The election now comes down to those 10 to 20 percent of the voters who are just now thinking about the election and who haven’t made their minds up yet. It’s the phase that annoys me profoundly because most of these people really don’t know what they want and they react in a visceral manner. Obama basically “won” last night because he came across as “presidential,” whatever that means, and McCain came across asy a patronizing and grumpy old man. McCain might have earned himself some points with working class white voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio with his dismissive and semi-confrontational attitude, but he probably lost a lot of centrist “soft-Democrats” and independents.

It all annoys me because substantively I would have given at least the foreign policy portion of the debate to McCain, excluding the portion on Iraq where Obama did give McCain a drubbing. Obama made a few points here and there, such as the reference to McCain’s stated refusal to meet with the Spanish president (McCain couldn’t really respond because he was confused during the interview, probably mixing Gonzales up with Chavez), and his ironically more hawkish stance than McCain’s with regard to unilateral actions within Pakistan.

But from my point of view McCain almost made Obama look like a lightweight on the Russian question. He gave a very detailed response showing he understood the situation, dropping names, and referring to hands on experience. When Obama tried to make the connection between the Georgia pipeline issue and energy policy and trailed off into the alternative energy planned he’d already expounded on earlier in the debate, I got quite frustrated and said, “he just lost the debate.” I was watching the debate with neighbors and they were incredulous. His response made sense to them. But to me it looked like a dodge. I expected McCain to pounce on it an imply that Obama had to change the subject because he was in over his head. But McCain let himself get baited into the energy debate. Either he succumbed to a impulse to respond to the immediate argument, or he saw whatever my neighbors saw and calculated that he’d better not dismiss it, even though I felt, and still feel having watched the reruns, that Obama didn’ really elaborate on the nexus between the relationship with Russia energy issues. Maybe the viewers and the pundits made the leap themselves, because I didn’t even see it get discussed on Fox. Does the whole country suffer from ADD?

Anyway, it’s one of those moments where I usually get frustrated for my own candidate, where form is discussed over substance. If form is the issue, sure, Obama looked “presidential.” It looks like McCain finds himself in the same boat Gore was in for 2000, and Dukakis 20 years ago. Nobody remembers the substance. Everybody harps on the images.

Neither candidate really talked about the bailout and they shook off Lehrer’s attempts to get them to go at each other. They didn’t bite because neither of them knows what’s going to happen next, nor what they might be asked to vote for. It was probably a waste of time to ask them about it.

The polls show a moderate victory for Obama, and his “zero” ad may be the best of the season. I think McCain might be making a mistake with his ad which shows Obama saying “John is right” several times then questions his ability to lead. I don’t think most voters will hold those statements against Obama as it looks like somebody “reaching across the aisle” trying to “make consensus,” and contrast sharply with McCain’s refusal to look at Obama and his grumpy demeanor. I bet that ad doesn’t play for more than a day. Probably they should play his response to the Russian question to emphasize his strength – his experience.

Obama missed a few opportunities himself. For instance, McCain didn’t call for Cox’s resignation. He said he’d fire him if he was president, which would take some doing as the president doesn’t have the power to fire Cox. But Obama probably took the strategic (or tactical) view that he didn’t want to reduce the debate to “gotcha” moments, but instead reassure undecided voters about the stature crap. Whatever. He’s the politician, not me.

Here’s “Zero.” I’ll track down and post the “I agree with John” ad later.

Here it is, and yeah, I think it’s a mistake.


And here’s a composition video designed by an Obama supporter to underscore the grumpy old man theme.

Wow! Watching CNN tonight, even GOP operative Ed Rollins thinks McCain messed up with his attitude last night, and lost “young independent voters.” These people have consulted their focus groups. The final verdict – Obama won. I know it because I saw it on TV.

Actually, this anecdote makes a much better case. We’ll see how it plays out in the aggregate, and tomorrow I’m planning to make phone calls to swing voters in Nevada with the Democrats down here in Petaluma. A friend of my mother-in-law roped me in today. I don’t know the format, but I hope to be able to flush out some debate impressions.

Second addendum: Tod Gitlin on the presidential race – A Clash of Myths.

And meanwhile, from James Fallows:

When the details of this encounter fade, as they soon will, I think the debate as a whole will be seen as of a piece with Kennedy-Nixon in 1960, Reagan-Carter in 1980, and Clinton-Bush in 1992

If true, this will show how badly I gauge debates. My viewing of the Kennedy-Nixon debate was colored by historical interpretation by the time I got around to it, and when I watched the 80 and 92 debates I didn’t think Carter or Bush had done that badly. But by all accounts, Obama may have blown McCain out of the water Friday night.

By the way, 57 million watched the debate Friday night, not counting streaming online or subsequent viewings.

No wonder he didn’t feel the need to show. He’s already won. Yep, the campaign has already released the ads.

From the Fix:

“McCain Wins Debate!” declares the ad which features a headshot of a smiling McCain with an American flag background. Another ad spotted by our eagle-eyed observer featured a quote from McCain campaign manager Rick Davis declaring: “McCain won the debate– hands down.”

The ad image comes from Daily Kos. The ads themselves have been taken down.

Addendum: The Ku Klux Klan intends to attend tonight’s debate, basically to hand out pamphlets to audience members. Only in America.

And I guess the implication of this National Review piece is that you can blame Hispanics and homosexuals for the Washington Mutual collapse.

Go ahead. Accuse me of “playing the race card.”

Second addendum: A remarkable moment on television, Jack Cafferty to Wolf Blitzer – “Don’t make excuses for her!”

What is even more remarkable is Couric’s ability to keep a straight face through that answer.

No deal. I guess.

From Daily Kos – no campaign suspension in effect:

But, what – exactly – did he “suspend”? His surrogates are all over television, attacking Obama. His campaign ads are still running and his Internet fundraising is still operational. McCain’s press crew is fully operational. He spent the day with Rick Davis, his lobbyist campaign manager. And all of his campaign offices are still open and fully operational.

And now comes word via Jonathan Martin at The Politico that McCain will spend the evening doing interviews on ABC, NBC, and CBS.

Dodd is accusing McCain and the GOP of derailing negotiations.

Mark Armbinder reports on the White House meeting:

During the White House meeting, it appears that Sen. John McCain had an agenda. He brought up alternative proposals, surprising and angering Democrats. He did not, according to someone briefed on the meeting, provide specifics.

I can’t make any sense out of the online media reports. I’ll see if the broadcast media does any better tonight.

Addendum: Paulson agrees that the Republicans derailed the agreement, for what it’s worth. Barney Frank blames McCain.

As Democrats met afterwards in the White House’s Roosevelt Room, Paulson told them, “Please don’t blow this up,” after which angry Democrats are said to have argued House Republicans were jeopardizing the deal, according to sources.

Sources say Frank was livid, saying ‘Don’t say that to us after all we’ve been through!’

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., reportedly said, “We’re not the ones trying to blow this up. It’s the House Republicans.”

Paulson is said to have replied, “I know, I know.”

The House Republicans have come with a new proposal that Paulson opposes.

Democrats involved in the negotiations are reportedly very upset that the nearly-agreement now appears to be in jeopardy.

Second addendum: Yup. McCain pulled a stunt. I don’t know if he has ideological objections to whatever was in the bailout plan, or whether he wants to delay matters to showboat and/or dodge the debate, but it looks like his presence undid the process. Chris Dodd was obviously pissed off, but trying to keep it positive in this interview.

“It was a rescue plan for John McCain. This was theater for the last two hours.”

“The Paulson Plan is dead.”

Third addendum:
Obama – “It’s amazing what you can get done when you aren’t looking to take credit.”

Watch CBS Videos Online

As for the mythical campaign suspension, from MYDD:

As Jonathan noted earlier, John McCain’s suspension of his campaign is a complete sham. Cribbing from Scout Finch:

  • Surrogates and advisors on the teevee attacking Obama? Check.
  • Campaign ads still on the air? Check.
  • Online fundraising still operational? Check.
  • Still meeting with campaign manager? Check.
  • Campaign offices open for business? Check.
  • VP running mate still out campaigning? Check. Check.

The Obama campaign is on it. This from a campaign memo:

So make no mistake: John McCain did not “suspend” his campaign. He just turned a national crisis into an occasion to promote his campaign. It’s become just another political stunt, aimed more at shoring up the Senator’s aimed more at shoring up the Senator’s political fortunes than the nation’s economy. And it does nothing to help advance this critical legislation to protect the American people during this time of economic crisis.

A pretty obvious conclusion to make, right? Now if only the press would report on it.

Here is part of the summary. The whole thing can be found at

John McCain suspended his campaign, stopped running ads, and said he would not participate in the first debate scheduled for tomorrow at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, MS. He said that the nation is on the brink of a serious recession and this is no time for politics. McCain has been in the Senate 25 years. He knows precisely what will happen if he barges into the office of Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), chairman of the Senate banking committee and announces: “OK, Outta here, I’m taking over now. Dodd’s reaction would not be printable on a family Website like this one and McCain would be instantly and unceremoniously shown the door. There are two people responsible for writing banking bills: Dodd and his House counterpart Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA). If Dodd wants input from the Republicans on this, he will ask the ranking member on his committee, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). McCain and Obama play no role and McCain knows that very well.

So why did McCain propose cancelling the debate? In a word: politics. By flying into D.C. as the savior he might appear as a man of action to people who don’t know how the Senate works. The reality of course, is that Obama and McCain’s appearance in Dodd’s office would instantly turn the entire event into a political circus. If left alone, Dodd can come up with a bill a lot faster than with McCain, Obama, and the entire national press corps in the room “helping.” A second point is that by pulling all his TV ads, he saves money, something Obama has more of. McCain may need that money at the end of October, so a penny not spent now is a penny available in October.

McCain not only cancelled his ads, he also cancelled his appearance on David Letterman’s show. Letterman wasn’t so happy. Here is a video of his reaction.

It’s been suggested that if McCain doesn’t show for the debate that Obama should offer Biden in his place. Personally, I think they should bring in the Saturday Night Live guy.

Addendum: Here’s a collection of media reactions to McCain’s move. Here are some more.

Slightly different subject, here’s a net-ad with clips of Israeli citizens heaping praise on Obama. I’m not quite sure what the point is. I’m not sure if the target audience is American Jews or foreign policy moderates. Either way, it’s pure propoganda, but an interesting watch.

And getting back to the topic at hand, gee, it looks like McCain’s already done some good work. A deal is reportedly near. Can’t tell for certain, but it does look like public equity is in the works. Basically, they are partially socializing the banking system, and not just the losses. I have no idea whether this will work. Apparently none of the experts do either. We just have to do “something” goes the mantra.

Meanwhile, on the poll front, Obama has taken a lead in North Carolina for the first time, though recent polls had them close. Rasmussen is a Republican outfit by the way. Obama has pretty much gained in every state over the past week except New Hampshire, which has trended McCain. Minnesota is also too close for comfort for Obama. But Obama has consolidated the Hispanic vote and consequently opened up large leads in Colorado and New Mexico. It’s very close in Nevada, and Obama’s California volunteers have been asked to bombard Nevada with phone calls – not sure if that’ll benefit Obama or backfire. Obama is also very close in Indiana, in theory due to the Chicago airwave media, but McCain is not yet spending money there. He has reportedly given up on Iowa however where Obama has big leads. Meanwhile, Obama has moved most of his people out of South Dakota. They’re heading for Minnesota and Wisconsin. He will leave a residual force in Montana, though those polls have pretty much consolidated for McCain since the convention.

Second addendum: McCain has apparently suspended his suspension. He has not yet even read Paulsen’s report, and he is not a member of the banking committee, so it’s not clear what he actually intends to do if and when he gets to Washington.

Third addendum: A tentative bailout agreement has been reached. Presidential politics aside, I’m shuddering a little bit in anticipation of details. It sounds like there were serious compromises and I’m all for reinstating regulations, but from my point of view letting one or two major banks fail wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing either. Of course, I’m no expert.

Meanwhile, Stephen Colbert suspended his show, and called upon Jon Stewart to do the same.

And Survey USA polling indicates that 90 percent of Americans want Friday night’s debate as scheduled.

Fourth addendum: Okay, I don’t know why the Colbert video isn’t showing up on my screen. I’ve got the embed codes in. I’ll look into it later.

Meanwhile, PEW Research has a poll comparison analysis which suggests that landline-only polls are skewing towards McCain as cell-phone only users tend to be younger. Thing is, I heard this argument in 2004, that the polls were all going to be proven wrong. But the cell-phone cavalry never arrived.

By email from the Obama campaign:

At 8:30 this morning, Senator Obama called Senator McCain to ask him if he would join in issuing a joint statement outlining their shared principles and conditions for the Treasury proposal and urging Congress and the White House to act in a bipartisan manner to pass such a proposal. At 2:30 this afternoon, Senator McCain returned Senator Obama’s call and agreed to join him in issuing such a statement. The two campaigns are currently working together on the details.

Good news? Let’s wait to see what they actually say.

Addendum: McCain says he will suspend his campaign as of Thursday, and has requested that Friday night’s debate be delayed. I can understand the suspension of the campaigns, but why not hold the debate? Just hold it in Washington DC.

Second addendum: Obama is going to speak on the networks shortly. From MSNBC:

An Obama campaign official told ABC News the Democratic presidential candidate called McCain this morning to suggest a joint statement of principles.

McCain called back this afternoon and suggested returning to Washington.

Obama is willing to return to Washington “if it would be helpful.” But reiterated Obama intends to debate on Friday.

Third addendum: Harold Reid to McCain – We have a process, don’t inject presidential politics into this. Apparently there was a telephone call.

Chuck Schumer: “What McCain did was just weird.”

So what is McCain’s game, bipartisanship or showboating?

And Obama thinks they can chew gum and walk at the same time:

“This is exactly the time when the American people need to hear from the person who in 40 days will become responsible for this mess. It will be part of the president’s job to deal with more than one thing at once.”

Third addendum: Ooops. The McCain campaign let slip to the media their talking points memo about suspending the campaign. The memo is posted above.

Told by a reporter that the e-mail had been sent to him and others in the media, Kise said, “F*ck, tell me I didn’t send it to the wrong list.”

Kise said the talking points were meant for McCain volunteers.

Meanwhile, President Bush has called for a meeting with Obama tomorrow, which Obama has accepted.

Meanwhile in Mississippi:

Andrew Mullins, special assistant to university Chancellor Robert Khayat, told ABC News that the Ole Miss campus has been transformed to accommodate the candidates and the press. Road blocks are in place on campus and in the community and the debate television set for the candidates has already been constructed. He said the university has spent roughly five and half million dollars getting ready for the debate.

Mullins also noted that if the Commission on Presidential Debates asks the campus to hold the debate at a later date, he is not sure the university would be able to accommodate them.

“It’s huge. You cannot just say that you’re not going to do this thing,” Mullins said. “I don’t have any idea whether we do the debate” at a later date. “(We) probably wouldn’t do it.”

For now, Mullins, says the university is proceeding like they’re still having the debate until the commission makes a decision.

Fourth addendum: Katherine Jean-Lopez, arch-conservative National Review writer, says:

Some of this is a lot of nonsense, but if I’m just getting home from work and I only pay casual attention to these debates, Obama sounds reasonable and less gimmicky than McCain.

He says that there is no reason why we can’t do more than one thing at once. Obama says it is “more important than ever” to have a debate.

Obama says he called McCain this morning and announced that he wanted to do a no-politics-as-usual joint statement about addressing the market mess. He says that McCain wanted to insist on meeting with the president and congressional leaders too. Obama says Obama said: Let’s do the statement, go from there. Obama says he thought McCain was thinking about the joint statement, working on with staff, when McCain went on TV. So now Obama is on TV.

Obama says he’s told Pelosi, Reid, and Paulson that “if I can be helpful, I am prepared to be [in dc] anytime” but I don’t want to infuse presidential politics on the hill and goes on about how presidents need to be able to multitask.

Obama may win this campaign moment yet. If McCain protests, he looks petty.

I guess Sarah Palin expected the media to take pictures of her shaking hands with certain foreign and international leaders at the U.N. today. But she refused to answer questions, basically expecting to use them for her own P.R. Apparently some of the press wouldn’t play. From Yahoo News:

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who has not held a press conference in nearly four weeks of campaigning, on Tuesday banned reporters from her first meetings with world leaders, allowing access only to photographers and a television crew.

CNN, which was providing the television coverage for news organizations, decided to pull its TV crew, effectively denying Palin the high visibility she had sought…

Those sessions and meetings scheduled for Wednesday are part of the Republican campaign’s effort to give Palin experience in foreign affairs. She has never met a foreign head of state and first traveled outside North America just last year.

The campaign told the TV producer, print and wire reporters in the press pool that follows the Alaska governor that they would not be admitted with the photographers and camera crew taken in to photograph the meetings. At least two news organizations, including The Associated Press, objected and were told that the decision was not subject to discussion.

In the face of a boycott, the McCain campaign relented slightly. From TVNewser:

TVNewser has learned all the networks were prepared to ban the use of pictures and video from Gov. Sarah Palin’s meetings at the UN today. The ban was in protest of the McCain campaign’s restriction on editorial presence.

We hear the networks had arranged for a pool camera to cover all the meetings, and at least three journalists were to be present as well (one print, one radio, one TV). Earlier today, the McCain campaign said it would allow just one editorial person inside. Later, the campaign limited it to a camera only.

Within the last few minutes, the campaign reversed course

This was the product, from CNN:

This was the only exchange that was heard:

“What is his name?,” Palin asked.

“Mirwais,” Karzai responded. “Mirwais, which means, ‘The Light of the House.’”

“Oh nice,” Palin responded.

“He is the only one we have,” remarked Karzai.

At this point, the pool was hustled out the room and down to the hotel lobby. Pool was in the room for a grand total of 29 seconds.

Addendum: The Humane Society has endorsed Obama.

And remember last week when the McCain campaign was trying to tie Obama to Freddie Mac? Man did that ever backfire!

Meanwhile, conservative columnist George Will slammed McCain yesterday, criticizing his temperament over the past week’s financial crisis. Will he endorse Obama?

On the other side, Joe Biden broke ranks with the campaign and called that lame ad about McCain’s computer ignorance “terrible.” I bet he got a yelling at this morning.

Second addendum: CNN’s Campbell Brown comments on the sexist treatment of Sarah Palin.

It’s a keeper. For those of you on dial-up, here’s the transcript.

“Tonight I call on the McCain campaign to stop treating Sarah Palin like she is a delicate flower that will wilt at any moment,” said Brown. “This woman is from Alaska from crying out loud. She is strong. She is tough. She is competent. And you claim she is ready to be one heart beat away form the presidency. If that is the case, then end this chauvinistic treatment of her now. Allow her to show her stuff. Allow her to face down those pesky reporters… Let her have a real news conference with real questions. By treating Sarah Palin different from the other candidates in this race, you are not showing her the respect she deserves. Free Sarah Palin. Free her from the chauvinistic chain you are binding her with. Sexism in this campaign must come to an end. Sarah Palin has just as much a right to be a real candidate in this race as the men do. So let her act like one.”

Third addendum: Palin almost took a question, but the big guy shut her down. From politico:

This is what happens when campaigns let reporters into photo ops. They get all uppity and ask questions.

From the pool report account of what happened after McCain and Palin’s meeting with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvilli and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko:

McCain then looked around the room and gestured as if to welcome questions. The AP reporter shouted a question at Gov. Palin (“Governor, what have you learned from your meetings?”) but McCain aide Brooke Buchanan intervened and shepherded everybody out of the room.

Palin looked surprised, leaned over to McCain and asked him a question, to which your pooler thinks he shook his head as if to say “No.”

I got this video from this Kos post about a conference call McCain held today.

Sen. John McCain’s top campaign aides convened a conference call today to complain of being called “liars.” They pressed the media to scrutinize specific elements of Sen. Barack Obama’s record.

But the call was so rife with simple, often inexplicable misstatements of fact that it may have had the opposite effect: to deepen the perception, dangerous to McCain, that he and his aides have little regard for factual accuracy.

The errors in McCain strategist Steve Schmidt’s charges against Obama and Sen. Joe Biden were particularly notable because they seemed unnecessary. Schmidt repeatedly gilded the lily: He exaggerated the Biden family’s already problematic ties to the credit card industry; Obama’s embarrassing relationship with a 1960s radical; and an Obama supporter’s over-the-top attack on Sarah Palin when — in each case — the truth would have been damaging enough.

“Any time the Obama campaign is criticized at any level, the critics are immediately derided as liars,” Schmidt told reporters.

But as he went on to list a series of stories he thought reporters should be writing about Obama and Biden, in almost every instance he got the details wrong.

Yesterday on my way to the blogger’s picnic I heard Counterspin report on a discussion with a CNN media panel on whether the media is bound to make McCain’s lying look “symmetrical” with Obama’s. When asked if McCain was lying more than Obama, CNN’s Candy Crowley responded “I’m not prepared to be the one to say that.” Fortunately, others on the same panel (about a week and a half ago) were willing to say that McCain’s lying has gone beyond the threshold of what is expected in campaigns, and two of them did what Crowley wouldn’t. They said that McCain is lying more often and more profoundly than Obama.

It’s a sad state of affairs when you have to measure the rate of lying, but apparently taking things out of context, stretching the implications, and flat out misleading are prerequisites for winning elections these days. Voters claim they hate it, but like negative campaigning, they reward it. The difference here is that McCain is lying almost with a sense of entitlement about it.

If reported accurately above, this conference call probably didn’t help McCain. Not only is it reminiscent of Kerry’s whining in 2004, but it doesn’t help when you make up facts to justify your argument. Fortunately for him we’re slipping into a depression and that’s probably going to be on the minds of voters more than misleading ads about teaching sex in kindergarten, lies about Obama’s tax plan, and stretches of the truth about Rezko, Ayers, and Wright.


July 2020