Low Expectations For Sarah Palin

The good news for the McCain campaign is that expectations for Sarah Palin are now so low that it would be very difficult for her not to exceed expectations in the upcoming vice presidential debate. The bad news is that evidence of her incompetence is so strong that beating these low expectations wouldn’t be enough to make many Americans comfortable with the idea of her possibly becoming president.

Word came out yesterday that there were even more embarrassing questions filmed during an interview with Katie Couric which were to be used prior to the debate instead of during last week’s televised interview. Further information came out today, along with yet another gaffe.

The first question to be publicized was that Palin was asked about Supreme Court decisions. She could not name a single decision other than Roe vs. Wade. She couldn’t recall any other landmark decisions such as Brown vs. Board of Education. How could anyone in politics not think of the Supreme Court’s decision in 2000 preventing Al Gore’s Florida recount. With her strong belief in gun rights was she totally unaware of the fact that the Supreme Court recently ruled on the subject?

Perhaps she dosn’t know about these things. She was also asked about which newspapers she reads and couldn’t come up with any:

COURIC: And when it comes to establishing your world view, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this — to stay informed and to understand the world?

PALIN: I’ve read most of them again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media —

COURIC: But what ones specifically? I’m curious.

PALIN: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years.

COURIC: Can you name any of them?

PALIN: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news.

It sounds like Palin, like George Bush, does not read the newspapers. We know at one time the newspaper in front of her was The New American, the publication of the John Birch Society. I am impressed that Katie Couric frequently pushed Palin for an answer when she avoided answering. This should be expected from a journalist, but frequently interviewers do let politicians off the hook way too easily.

I was amazed to a report on Morning Edition of Palin speaking in Ohio in which she mocked Joe Biden’s age yesterday. I know that McCain didn’t spend much time with her before choosing her, but she has sure been with him a lot since then (as they are afraid to have her spend too much time on her own). Katie Couric also asked Palin about this, with Palin backing down on any criticism:

Couric: You made a funny comment, you’ve said you have been listening to Joe Biden’s speeches since you were in second grade.

Palin: It’s been since like ’72, yah.

Couric: You have a 72-year-old running mate, is that kind of a risky thing to say, insinuating that Joe Biden’s been around awhile?

Palin: Oh no, it’s nothing negative at all. He’s got a lot of experience and just stating the fact there, that we’ve been hearing his speeches for all these years. So he’s got a tremendous amount of experience and, you know, I’m the new energy, the new face, the new ideas and he’s got the experience based on many many years in the Senate and voters are gonna have a choice there of what it is that they want in these next four years.

I’ll accept that she has more energy than John McCain. She is a new face, but she seems rather empty in the ideas department. If you really want a new face but from someone who has actual ideas and who understands the ideas Palin gives a good reason to vote for Barack Obama.

When Palin does express an idea it often turns out to be an idea which Obama had first. She has taken Obama’s position on Pakistan in opposition to McCain’s, but McCain tried to call this gotcha journalism. (Never mind the fact that Palin said the same in her interview with Charlie Gibson). She also made a suggestion to make it possible to search for wasteful government spending on line, unaware of the fact that Barack Obama has already proposed such legislation.

While I didn’t hear Palin’s portion of the rally until the report this morning, I did turn it on during McCain’s speech yesterday. I wish Couric or another journalist would press McCain more on the tremendous number of lies in his stump speech. These two think they can just say anything without realzing that a shrinking number of voters are falling for what they say.

Obama on Tax Cuts

Obama is running another two minute ad, this time on his plan for tax cuts to the middle class and small business (video above).

AFL-CIO Sends Mailer on McCain’s Health Care Plan


Via Marc Ambinder I find that the AFL-CIO is sending the above mailer criticizing McCain’s plan to more than a million union members in seven states. Now we also need someone to send a mailer to business owners about McCain’s plan to eliminate the tax deductions for health care coverage, and a mailer to non-AFL-CIO employees warning about the consequence if  they lose their group health coverage and have to purchase individual coverage.

This is especially true for people with pre-existing medical conditions who will have trouble obtaining insurance, or obtaining coverage at an affordable price if they can find anyone willing to offer them coverage. McCain claims that high-risk pools will take care of this problem. NPR’s Morning Edition had a report on high-risk pools yesterday, finding that they have not been a successful solution in the states where they are currently used. They cover a limited number of people, are extremely expensive, and have waiting periods before the pre-existing condition which forces people into high-risk pools is covered.

McCain Can’t Win A Debate Because He Can’t Get Away With His Lies

The cable networks are covering a McCain rally in Columbus, Ohio. It is noting but lie after lie about Obama’s positions and records, followed by cheers from his supporters. This helps explain why McCain is losing and why he lost the debate. McCain even lied about what Obama said during the debate. I think part of their strategy is to tell so many lies that people give up trying to even list all the lies that they hear from McCain.

McCain can do this and receive cheers from his supporters at a rally, but this doesn’t work in a debate when Obama is right there. Rather than having supporters hear distortions of Obama’s positions at a rally they hear Obama’s actual views from Obama himself. McCain can’t lie about what Obama said earlier at the debate or that clip would be repeated endlessly in the post-debate coverage.

As I discussed earlier, Republicans can no longer succeed by resorting to such dishonest campaigns. Having seen the failure of Republican policies voters are more interested in hearing what Obama really has to day as opposed to believing all the lies people such as McCain spread.

Today’s News Quiz: Identify The Governor

Which governor of a border state is a  beauty pageant winner, is a sports mom with children living at home, and is preparing for a debate this week?

Two governors fit this description so far. Which one has not been blessed to be free from witchcraft?

The answer is under the fold.


Bill Kristol Shows Why The Republicans Are Losing

William Kristol has an op-ed today speculating on How McCain Wins. With all the twists we have seen this year it certainly is not impossible that unexpected events could again change the race, but the mindset displayed by Kristol shows why it will be hard for McCain to win this year. Kristol is being mocked the most in the blogoshpere for his advice on Sarah Palin in which he writes, “He needs to free her to use her political talents and to communicate in her own voice.” This is not Kristol’s only mistake.

Kristol’s primary argument is to return to the same types of demonization of liberals which Republicans have used with success for years:

The core case against Obama is pretty simple: he’s too liberal. A few months ago I asked one of McCain’s aides what aspect of Obama’s liberalism they thought they could most effectively exploit. He looked at me as if I were a simpleton, and patiently explained that talking about “conservatism” and “liberalism” was so old-fashioned.

Maybe. But the fact is the only Democrats to win the presidency in the past 40 years — Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — distanced themselves from liberal orthodoxy. Obama is, by contrast, a garden-variety liberal. He also has radical associates in his past.

The problem in following this course is that it has already failed in this election year. If people still fell for the conventional attacks on liberals Obama would not be in the lead at this moment. People are looking for a change from the failed policies of the Republicans and are no longer afraid of the word liberal. Those who have followed Obama also know that he is not really a “garden-variety liberal” and that the smears based upon “radical associates in his past” are nonsense and have already been debunked many times.

Marc Ambinder, while not specifically responding to Kristol, provides a good explanation as to why this strategy is no longer working in his explanation of why Obama won the debate:

There was something Pat Buchanan said that night that is at once blindingly obvious and yet very important; Obama’s debate performance placed him solidly in the American political mainstream.

Think of the “bitter” comment, his middle name, the flag pin, the Chicago connections.  Low information voters wouldn’t be out of line if they had a pretty strong impression of Obama formed by these attributes.

The sober performance and the congeniality towards McCain worked so well because so many people expected to see someone dangerous. Obama, in the debate, just did not read as an Ayres-Wright Chicago Elite Radical. Even the throwaway line: “we’d lower everybody’s taxes if we could” quietly undercuts the notion of old-school liberalism.

It’s possible that this weird racial/ideological caricature was priced into our (campaigns, media) debate expectations, and with Obama coming off as a sensible, middle of the road senator actually did him a world of good as far as the reassurance of sensibility.

Obama supports a middle tax class cut, not tax increase. He has a long history of working with members of both parties, both in the Illinois legislature and in the Senate. He demonstrated that the difference between himself and Bush/McCain style politicians by both discussing areas of agreement as well as disagreement during the debate while McCain appeared overly partisan with his unsubstantiated claims of lack of understanding on Obama’s part.

Obama showed he was the more presidential and the more moderate of the two. Name calling won’t alter the reality that voters saw during the debate. The Republicans have had a long run based upon smears, but with the failure of their policies now exposed they need to come up with policies which actually work, not more name calling.

Update: McCain Can’t Win A Debate Because He Can’t Get Away With His Lies

The Science Debate

While the candidates are not going to participate in a live Science Debate, they did respond to fourteen questions on science in writing. The answers from Barack Obama and John McCain on science questions are posted here.

AP Investigation Demonstrates Palin Received Special Benefits as Mayor

AP shows why it is a mistake to ask someone to run for vice president with vetting. The provide examples which show that Palin was no maverick:

Though Sarah Palin depicts herself as a pit bull fighting good-old-boy politics, in her years as mayor she and her friends received special benefits more typical of small-town politics as usual, an Associated Press investigation shows.

When Palin needed to sell her house during her last year as Wasilla mayor, she got the city to sign off on a special zoning exception – and did so without keeping a promise to remove a potential fire hazard.

She gladly accepted gifts from merchants: A free “awesome facial” she raved about in a thank-you note to a spa. The “absolutely gorgeous flowers” she received from a welding supply store. Even fresh salmon to take home.

She also stepped in to help friends or neighbors with City Hall dealings. She asked the City Council to add a friend to the list of speakers at a 2002 meeting – and then the friend got up and asked them to give his radio station advertising business…Some of her first actions after being elected mayor in 1996 raised possible ethical red flags: She cast the tie-breaking vote to propose a tax exemption on aircraft when her father-in-law owned one, and backed the city’s repeal of all taxes a year later on planes, snow machines and other personal property. She also asked the council to consider looser rules for snow machine races. Palin and her husband, Todd, a champion racer, co-owned a snow machine store at the time…

Two months before Palin’s tenure as mayor ended in 2002, she asked city planning officials to forgive zoning violations so she could sell her house. Palin had a buyer, but he wouldn’t close the deal unless she persuaded the city to waive the violations with a code variance…

McCain Lies On Obama’s Record and Immigration Reform

John McCain was interviewed on This Week With George Stephanopoulos and continued to be dishonest in his portrayal of both his record and the record of Barack Obama. One lie which I found particularly irritating was this: “Senator Obama has not been involved in reforms. In fact, he walked away from the immigration reform issue.”

Obama has been involved in passing reform legislation both in the Illinois legislature and in the Senate.  The votes which contributed to Obama’s liberal rating from The National Journal, which McCain cited in the debate, included support for reform legislation.

It is bad enough to deny this important part of Obama’s record, but I was particularly annoyed by the claim Obama walked away from immigration reform. As I’ve noted in the past, parts of Michigan and  other tourist areas have had problems this year since visas for seasonal workers could not be renewed  because John McCain was afraid to have immigration come up during an election year. McCain didn’t walk away–he ran away from the issue.

LA Times Poll Shows Debate Watchers Find Obama More Presidential

I’ve previously noted (here and here) how the polls have consistently showed that Barack Obama won the first debate, with this leading to a greater lead for Obama in the national tracking polls today.  Marc Ambinder observes that, “Not a single post-debate poll gave the advantage to Sen. McCain.”  He specifically notes advantages for Obama reported in a poll from The Los Angeles Times:

Forget the top-line numbers — note that the poll “indicated that the younger, less-experienced Obama has made strides since last week in convincing Americans that he can handle the toughest challenges facing the country, including the economy and international affairs. Obama was seen as more “presidential” by 46% of the debate watchers, compared with 33% for McCain. The difference is even more pronounced among debate watchers who were not firmly committed to a candidate: 44% said they believed Obama looked more presidential, whereas 16% gave McCain the advantage.”

Even some conservative pundits agreed that Obama won. Crooks and Liars has a video of Dick Morris getting Sean Hannity upset by saying favorable things about Obama such as that, “Obama came across as really knowing and caring about the problems of the average person. I also thought McCain blew it by not focusing on why he suspended his campaign, why he wasn’t going to go to the debate.”