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Framed by the marble memorial to Abraham Lincoln and facing a crowd of more than half a million people, Barack Obama delivered a message of hope last night declaring: ‘Anything is possible in America.’

The President-elect was speaking at last night’s conclusion to Washington’s star-studded ‘We Are One’ concert featuring a string of superstar supporters including Bruce Springsteen, U2, Beyonce and Stevie Wonder.

Two days before he takes office as the first black US president, Mr Obama underscored the challenge ahead, saying: ‘Only a handful of generations have been asked to confront challenges as serious as the ones we face right now.’

Beyonce Knowles performs America the Beautiful flanked by stars (from left to right) Jon Bon Jovi, Marisa Tomei, Shakira, Bono, Betty LaVette and Stevie Wonder

Beyonce Knowles performs America the Beautiful flanked by stars (from left to right) Jon Bon Jovi, Marisa Tomei, Shakira, Bono, Betty LaVette and Stevie Wonder

Barack Obama, wife Michelle and daughter Sasha - pictured with Vice President elect Joe Biden and wife Jill - wave to the crowd through bulletproof glass

Barack Obama, wife Michelle and daughter Sasha - pictured with Vice President elect Joe Biden and wife Jill - wave to the crowd through bulletproof glass

But despite an economy in crisis and a war being fought on two fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said he is ‘as hopeful as ever’.

‘Despite the enormity of the task that lies ahead – I stand here today as hopeful as ever that the United States of America will endure – that the dream of our founders will live on in our time,’ he added.

The huge party on the National Mall – which also included Vice-President Joe Biden, actor Tom Hanks and golfer Tiger Woods as speakers – kicked off a dizzying round of lavish balls, concerts and celebrations to mark Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony.

Crowds gather at the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C. for the opening ceremony of Mr Obama's inauguration

Bird's eye view: Crowds gather at the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C. for the opening ceremony of Mr Obama's inauguration

Barack Obama speaks in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the inaugural celebration

Barack Obama speaks in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the inaugural celebration

The inauguration has also seen the biggest security operation in history being mobilised.

Washington D.C. is being turned into a fortress city with a 45,000-strong force of police, soldiers and secret service officials.

As the first black President prepares to take office, security chiefs were planning for a range of potential assassination scenarios, from a lone gunman to a terrorist attack.

But for a few days at least, the nation’s worst economic slide since the Great Depression was being glossed over in a marathon of spectacle and tradition that dwarfs any past Inauguration Day festivities.

However there was growing unease last night that the estimated £100million bill for the array of events will be just as historic as Mr Obama’s ascent to the White House.

The grandeur of the presidential coronation has some senior Republicans suggesting the incoming Commander-in-Chief has misread the country’s mood.

U2's Bono, right, and The Edge perform In the Name of Love

U2's Bono, right, and The Edge perform In the Name of Love

Shakira and Usher join Stevie Wonder on Higher Ground

Shakira and Usher join Stevie Wonder on Higher Ground

While the capital came alive with excitement on the eve of the inauguration, the rest of the US remains weighed down with problems at home and abroad.

Mr Obama confronted those fears head-on in his rousing speech last night, saying: ‘Our nation is at war, our economy is in crisis. Millions of Americans are losing their jobs and their homes.

‘I won’t pretend that meeting any one of these challenges will be easy,’ he added. ‘It will take more than a month or a year, and it will likely take many. Along the way there will be setbacks and false starts and days that test our resolve as a nation.’

But he said he had faith in a nation that was at its best in times of trial.

The President-elect has been trying to walk a delicate line by mixing celebrity-studded parties like last night’s concert featuring superstar supporters like U2, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen and Beyonce with more statesman-like appearances.

Mr & Mrs Obama get down to the music during Bruce Springsteen's rendition of The Rising

Singalong: Mr & Mrs Obama get down to the music during Bruce Springsteen's rendition of The Rising

Pete Seeger, centre, and his grandson Tao, left, perform with Bruce Springsteen on This Land is Your Land

Pete Seeger, centre, and his grandson Tao, left, perform with Bruce Springsteen on This Land is Your Land

He kicked off with a train journey on Saturday from Philadelphia to Washington echoing George Washington’s ride from Mount Vernon to New York, where the US capital was then located.

Yesterday, a sombre Mr Obama laid a wreath at the Tomb Of The Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery on the Virginia side of the Potomac River before going with his family to the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, where he and his family were greeted with an ovation.

Mr Obama plans to lead commemorations for slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King today, a national holiday in the US in memory of the iconic churchman who was assassinated in 1968, five years after his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

Thousands of people braved the cold to listen to Barack Obama

Thousands of people braved the cold to listen to Barack Obama

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It is a poignant anniversary for Mr Obama, who declared it a day of national service and he plans to visit residents living in some of Washington’s poorest suburbs.

Last night, wife, Michelle and daughters Malia, ten, and seven-year-old Sasha joined him at the free inauguration concert attended by a crowd of up to half a million people.

Among the speakers was Martin Luther King III, the son of the civil rights hero, who introduced a video clip of President John F.Kennedy’s famous ‘ask not’ inauguration address.

Last night’s crowd is expected to grow to an unprecedented two million for the Inauguration Day events on the steps of the US Capitol building – more than double the number for any previous president taking the oath.

Actor Tom Hanks speaks during the celebration

Actor Tom Hanks speaks during the celebration

Mr Obama embraces Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington

Mr Obama embraces Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington

After a giant parade from the Capitol to the White House, the new president will attend at least ten glitzy official balls around the city, with all eyes on the First Lady’s fashions.

‘No-one is begrudging the president a celebration to mark this watershed event, but people struggling to keep their homes are going to be looking at this and wondering what is going on,’ said one senior Republican analyst.

After George Bush’s election victory in 2004, Democrats urged him to be frugal, pointing to President Roosevelt’s 1945 inauguration when he made a short speech and served guests ‘cold chicken salad and plain pound cake’.

During World War I, President Wilson cancelled all parties marking the beginning of his term in 1917, saying festivities would be ‘undignified’.

Actor Samuel L Jackson addresses the crowd

Actor Samuel L Jackson addresses the crowd

But Mr Obama’s inauguration committee says it doesn’t believe Americans will consider the celebrations excessive.

‘That is probably not the way the country is going to be looking at it,’ said committee spokeswoman Linda Douglass.

‘It is not a celebration of an election. It is a celebration of our common values.’

Stephen Hess, a fellow of the Brookings Institute in Washington, said Americans have always loved a party.

‘We broke away from the Brits and we had something to celebrate then, and we’ve really never stopped celebrating,’ he said.

Mr Obama greets actor Jamie Foxx as singer John Mellencamp and comedian Steve Carell look on

Mr Obama greets actor Jamie Foxx as singer John Mellencamp and comedian Steve Carell look on

‘If anything, Americans need reason to celebrate even more during tough times.

‘That’s why movies starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were so popular during the Great Depression, just to name one example. People need an escape, they deserve a good celebration, and Barack Obama’s inauguration more than any other gives people a great reason to celebrate,’ he added.

Adding to the price tag is the cost of a massive security operation.

More than 40,000 police, soldiers and Secret Service staff have been given the task of keeping the new president safe. While officials say they haven’t received any credible threats, they aren’t leaving anything to chance.

Organisers even have an army brigade ready to respond to a chemical and biological attack.

Actor Forest Whitaker (left) and golfer Tiger Woods also took the podium

Actor Forest Whitaker (left) and golfer Tiger Woods also took the podium

Actor Forest Whitaker (left) and golfer Tiger Woods also took the podium

Actor Forest Whitaker (left) and golfer Tiger Woods also took the podium

Mr Obama’s inaugural committee has raised about £30 million towards the cost of staging events like last night’s show and they were paid an additional £3 million for the exclusive TV rights to screen last night’s concert and another tonight starring teen stars Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers.

But most of the rest of the costs – including security and transportation – are being covered by the taxpayer.

Although he may not get to bed before 3am after the inaugural balls, Mr Obama plans to make Wednesday, his first full day as President.

He will start Wednesday at Washington’s National Cathedral for the National Prayer Service, which dates to George Washington’s time.

Then he will have to return to the serious business of running the country.

Sheryl Crow teamed up with will.i.am and Herbie Hancock to perform Bob Marley's One Love

Sheryl Crow teamed up with will.i.am and Herbie Hancock to perform Bob Marley's One Love

Mary J Blige and James Taylor also performed at the historic event

Mary J Blige and James Taylor also performed at the historic event

Mary J Blige and James Taylor also performed at the historic event

Mary J Blige and James Taylor also performed at the historic event

Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas was in the crowd, and Oscar winner Queen Latifah spoke from the podium

Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas was in the crowd, and Oscar winner Queen Latifah spoke from the podium

Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas was in the crowd, and Oscar winner Queen Latifah spoke from the podium

Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas was in the crowd, and Oscar winner Queen Latifah spoke from the podium

Source: Daily Mail

Jeff Haynes/Reuters)

Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. at the National Governors’ Association meeting. (Photo: Jeff Haynes/Reuters)

PHILADELPHIA – Vice President Cheney always seemed to relish working in the shadows. After all, he’s the one who popularized the term “undisclosed location.” But that doesn’t seem to suit his successor.

Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. appeared glad to be out in public on Tuesday when he joined President-elect Barack Obama in meeting with the nation’s governors here. In the month since the election, he has been the mostly silent sidekick, joining Mr. Obama in private meetings and standing behind him wordlessly during news conferences.

But this week, Mr. Biden looks to be unleashed, at least a little bit. He was given a speaking role both at the unveiling of the national security team in Chicago on Monday and then again during the meeting with the National Governors’ Association here on Tuesday. By word count, he even had somewhat more to say to the governors than Mr. Obama did.

And then there was that little moment that may or may not have been revealing. At one point during his remarks, Mr. Biden noted the presence of his former opponent, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, and greeted her warmly.

thecaucus75 “Since the race is over, no one pays attention to me at all,” Mr. Biden said. “So maybe you will walk outside with me or something later and say hello to me.”

I agree with those who are concerned that it would have been nice to see more women, said Kim Gandy.

I agree with those who are concerned that it would have been nice to see more women, said Kim Gandy.

Early indications that men might dominate the hierarchy of Obama administration have women’s groups worried, even as a growing chorus of advisers reportedly pushes Hillary Rodham Clinton for secretary of state.

“There’s definitely been a reaction to the few groups that have been named so far,” said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. “I agree with those who are concerned that it would have been nice to see more women.”

Women’s rights advocates acknowledge it’s still early in the transition process, but they say early staff picks and the lists of rumored Cabinet nominees send the wrong signal.

“It’s appropriate that Obama’s vetting Clinton, but she’s one women,” said Amy Siskind, co-founder of The New Agenda, a nonpartisan women’s rights group founded by former Clinton supporters. “We want to see parity in the representation of women in the Cabinet.”

Some women’s rights advocates believe the new administration is conducting a broad search across a diverse pool of candidates.

The Obama transition team asked NOW to send suggestions of qualified female candidates, according to Gandy.

“The transition team is going to take the time to look at and vet the people they don’t know,” she said. “Because frankly, the people who are already well-known in Washington tend to be men and tend to be white.”

The early teams released by the Obama administration have tended to be male-dominated. On Wednesday, four women and eight men were named to Obama’s transition advisory board. His agency review team is headed by seven women and thirteen men. And last week, Obama met with his key economic advisers — four women and 13 men.

So far, Obama has named four members of his top White House staff. Three are men – chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, press secretary Robert Gibbs and chief congressional liaison Phil Schiliro. And one is a woman – senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.

Additionally, Vice President-elect Joe Biden has named Ron Klain as his chief of staff.

The senior staff assisting with the transition is more evenly divided, with Jarrett, a mentor and close friend one of the three top aides overseeing it.

While Obama has not made any Cabinet appointments, the names that are circulating have worried some in the women’s rights community.

“I have been struck by how few women have been mentioned for high-level positions,” said former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin, who worked on the Clinton transition. “It’s still very early, so I don’t want to reach conclusions yet. But the rumors are a flashing yellow light.”

Read it all…

Interview by DEBORAH SOLOMON

Do you see the election results as a repudiation of your politics?
Our new president-elect won one and a half points more than George W. Bush won in 2004, and he did so, in great respect, by adopting the methods of the Bush campaign and conducting a vast army of persuasion to identify and get out the vote.

Karl Rove

Karl Rove

But what about your great dream of creating a permanent Republican governing majority in Washington?
I never said permanent. Durable.

Do you think John McCain attacked too much or not enough?
Dissecting the campaign that way is not helpful.

Have you met Barack Obama?
Yes, I know him. He was a member of the Senate while I was at the White House and we shared a mutual friend, Ken Mehlman, his law-school classmate. When Obama came to the White House, we would talk about our mutual friend.

Did you have lunch together? Talk in the hall?
We sat in the meeting room and chatted before the meeting. He had a habit of showing up early, which is a good courtesy.

Are you going to send him a little note congratulating him?
I already have. I sent it to his office. I sent him a handwritten note with funny stamps on the outside.

What kind of funny stamps?
Stamps.

Do you have any advice for him? You already criticized Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s new chief of staff, as a sharply partisan choice.
I raised a question as to whether this would be the best use of Rahm Emanuel’s talents. If you’re trying to work through a big legislative priority, it is sort of hard if you have a guy who has a reputation as a tough, hard, take-no-prisoners, head-in-your-face, scream-and-shout, send-them-a-dead-fish partisan.

What about you? You were always seen as very partisan.
I wasn’t the chief of staff. And you’d be surprised by the Democrats I actually met, got to know and worked with.

Do you like Joe Biden?
I think he has an odd combination of longevity and long-windedness that passes for wisdom in Washington.

Do you regret anything that happened in the White House during your tenure?
Sure.

You’ve been booed off stages recently.
No, I haven’t. I’ve been booed on stages. I’m a little bit tougher than to walk off a stage because someone says something ugly.

Do you think the era of negative politics is over?
No.

Do you see yourself as being associated with it in any way?
Look, in 1800 the sainted Thomas Jefferson arranged to hire a notorious slanderer named James Callender, who worked as a writer at a Republican newspaper in Richmond, Va. Read some of what he wrote about John Adams. This was a personal slander.

What did he say?
He said he lacked the spine of a man and the character of a woman. Negative politics have always been around.

Do you think you’re negative?
No.

You’ve never repudiated President Bush.
No. And I never will. He did the right things.

What about Iraq and the economy?
The world is a better place with Saddam Hussein gone.

Do you have any advice for him at this point?
With all due respect, I don’t need you to transmit what I want to say to my friend of 35 years.

Remember, attack politics are out. It’s a new age of civilized discourse.
You’re the one who hurt my feelings by saying you didn’t trust me.

Did I say that?
Yes, you did. I’ve got it on tape. I’m going to transcribe this and send it to you.

nyt-logoprinter

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The Vatican has fired a warning shot over the bows of Barack Obama in response to the President-elect’s intention to lift the US ban on embryonic stem cell research.

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan of Mexico, who acts as the Vatican health minister, said that stem cells taken from human embryos and involving the destruction of the embryos “serve no purpose”.

Asked whether the Vatican was concerned about reports that Mr Obama might reverse the Bush Administration’s ban, the cardinal said that embryonic stem cell research had not resulted in any significant health cure so far and was “good for nothing”.

Research on adult stem cells and umbliical cords had been shown to have “positive value”, by contrast, although even that was not “a panacea for everything.”

He said the Vatican would seek clarification of the new administration’s position on stem cells, and he himself was not “fully aware” what it was.

Aides to Mr Obama indicated this week that he will reverse Mr Bush’s stand on stem cell research. The US Senate voted in July to remove restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, but the President vetoed the legislation the following day.

Mr Obama has supported stem cell research to find cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s. His views are supported by Joe Biden, the Vice-President-elect, who is a Roman Catholic.

John Podesta, who is handling the President-elect’s preparations to take over in the White House on January 20, said Mr Obama wanted “all the Bush executive orders reviewed”.

He added: “I think across the board, on stem cell research, on a number of areas, you see the Bush administration even today moving aggressively to do things that I think are probably not in the interest of the country.”

Writing in the National Catholic Reporter, John Allen, a leading American Vatican watcher, said the Vatican would have “deep differences” with the Obama administration over abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

These, however, must not be allowed to impede US-Vatican co-operation in promoting “religious freedom and human dignity worldwide” or on issues such as immigration, economic justice, peace, and environmental protection, he said.

Carinal Barragan, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers, made the remarks at a press conference on childhood disease and illness and infant mortality.

He called for an intensive effort to improve “both medical and pastoral” aid to children, saying that four million babies in the world died each year in their first 26 days of life.

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11-10-2008-5-56-15-pm A few days before the election, a Democratic strategist privately worried that a Vice-President Joe Biden was destined for a White House career of dissatisfaction and idle-hands mischief.

“You can’t just have a guy like him at loose ends, he’d go crazy,” said a Democratic consultant who knows the affable, bright and mercilessly quotable soon-to-be ex-chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “They need to keep him busy. Nobody over there wants him getting into the Secretary of State’s [business].”

Harnessing Biden’s considerable talents and containing his flaws will be an ongoing challenge for Obama. But Democratic insiders say the appointment of tough-guy Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff—and the administration’s need to forge a governing coalition that includes some Republicans—has brought Biden’s upcoming role more clearly into focus: He’ll play the good cop.

The Democrats’ apparent failure to win the 60 Senate seats necessary to halt a GOP filibuster has created the need for inter-party ambassadors like Biden who are practiced at the art of aisle crossing. In his 36-year Senate career, Biden was never considered a bomb-throwing ideologue, and he still has plenty of chits to cash in with Republicans on the Hill.

“He’s probably got more friends among Senate Republicans than John McCain does, and that’s a huge plus for Barack Obama, who is committed to breaking the partisan roadblock of recent years,” said Biden spokesman David Wade shortly before Election Day.

And while Emanuel’s bad-cop reputation may be overstated, all those F-bombs and threats to pulverize GOP incumbents during his tenure of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee boss create an opening for Biden, who maxes out on the Mr. Nice Guy scale.

“I really have genuine relationships with Republican leaders in the House and the Senate. I mean, I—I hope this is not self serving, but I’ve gained the respect,” Biden told an Ohio campaign rally in late October. “I’ve been able to literally work with the Republican leaders, of the committees as well as, as well as the Senate,” he added. “And Barack knows that, Barack has served there and sees that… I’m confident that I’ll be spending a fair amount of time [in Congress].”

In an interview with the New Yorker last month, Biden selected a lofty, if somewhat dubious role model: Lyndon Johnson, who plunged into a deep depression when John F. Kennedy assigned him the role as emissary to a Senate he had bullied, cajoled and utterly dominated as majority leader in the 1950s.

Former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Democrat who’s fond of Biden, painted a different picture: “I can see Joe in his room [just off the Senate chamber], smiling, slapping people on the back, making his points, working the members.”

Indeed, Biden told the New Yorker that his style would be more honey than sting: “I have never ever, ever screwed another senator,” he said.

On top of that, Biden could not be more different than the outgoing vice president, who never visited the weekly Democratic caucus lunches in the Senate and had virtually no relationships with the other side of the aisle. It’s unlikely that Biden will ever be caught telling another senator to “Go [expletive] yourself” as Dick Cheney famously said to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy. Unless he’s kidding.

Biden’s best Republican friends in the Senate are centrists, including retiring Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel and the top Republican on the Foreign Relations committee, Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar, with whom he’s forged a close working partnership.

Biden is equally popular with some GOP staffers, drawing top-level Republican aides into free-ranging discussion on nettlesome policy problems, even setting up secure computer forums where aides can swap ideas without partisan recrimination, according to a person who participated in one of the chat groups.

The veep in waiting is not a favorite with Republicans hard-liners, though, who still hold grudges over his tough questioning of former Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The conservative bloc in the Senate remains unified, and could still engineer a filibuster of Obama priorities.

“Joe’s really well liked—and he can be a real stand-up guy—but it’s going to be tough for him,” said an aide to a top Senate Republican, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“We’re not in the mood to make deals. People like him, sure, but people are going to change their votes on defense or health care or taxes just because Joe Biden’s a great guy?”

Biden may find it even tougher with Democratic senators—thrilled to have one of their own in the White House again—who may want to simply bypass the vice president and forge a relationship directly with Obama.

“He will carve out a role for himself, the problem is that he’s going to have a lot of competition—and it’s competition that won’t be willing to step aside for him,” says Jennifer Duffy, who covers the Senate for the non-partisan Cook Political Report.

Obama hasn’t served a full term in the Senate but he’s got plenty of friends in the Democratic caucus: Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, up-and-coming Missouri freshman Claire McCaskill and an ailing but still powerful Ted Kennedy. Obama also has a unique relationship with one of the most conservative senators, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, with whom he shares a passion for government reform.

Then there’s former Majority Leader Tom Daschle—a well-connected kitchen-cabinet Obama adviser who is likely to play some kind of role in the administration.

But Biden’s biggest competition may come from the president-elect himself.

“Obama already has his own relationships in the Senate so, in a sense, he doesn’t need an emissary,” Duffy adds. “He’s his own go-to guy.”

Obama has gone to great lengths to establish personal relationships with legislators, creating direct lines of communication that will be handy even if he runs into problems with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

“Barack’s been seriously keeping touch with the [fiscally conservative Democratic] Blue Dogs and all the other foot soldiers—he’s intent on not making the same mistakes we did,” said a former aide to Bill Clinton, who worked his congressional transition team in the early 1990s. “We thought all we had to do was to keep in touch with the leaders and we left the members and committee chairs alone. That was a huge mistake and it killed us on the health care… Barack’s not making that mistake.”

politico-logo

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The Presidential Transition Project is the enormous effort of hundreds of people coming together to lay out the agenda and priorities for the Obama Administration. Led by President-Elect Barack Obama, Vice-President Elect Joe Biden, a transition advisory board, and respected leaders from both the public and private sector, the transition is responsible for ensuring that the transfer of power from the current administration to the Obama Administration is smooth and that the continuity of leadership is preserved.

Key Staff
John Podesta
Valerie Jarrett
Pete Rouse

Board & Staff

The Transition Project is also tasked with reviewing hundreds of agencies and programs in the federal government and selecting new personnel to manage these important offices. Among the personnel that will be selected will be new Cabinet members, national security and federal law enforcement officials, non-career appointments, and other heads of agencies across the Executive Branch.

We will keep this transition process transparent, so that you will know which officials are being selected to serve in this administration and lead the country for the next four years. All staff appointments chosen for this administration will be committed to fulfilling Obama’s campaign promises, to rebuilding our government, and to serving the American people again.

Source: Change.gov

Here Karl Rove was left defending his own ethics ~ possibly evidence of a conscience?

Here’s when someone thought they would go up and arrest Rove – all on the same day!

As voters have gotten to know Senator Barack Obama, they have warmed up to him, with more than half, 53 percent, now saying they have a favorable impression of him and 33 percent saying they have an unfavorable view. But as voters have gotten to know Senator John McCain, they have not warmed, with only 36 percent of voters saying they view him favorably while 45 percent view him unfavorably.

Even voters who are planning to vote for Mr. McCain say their enthusiasm has waned. In New York Times and CBS News polls conducted with the same respondents before the first presidential debate and again after the last debate, Mr. McCain made no progress in appealing to voters on a personal level, and he and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, had alienated some voters.

Mr. Obama’s favorability is the highest for a presidential candidate running for a first term in the last 28 years of Times/CBS polls.

Personal appeal is an intangible element in voters’ decisions. Each voter has a personal reason for connecting with a candidate or not. But the percentage of those who hold a favorable opinion of Mr. Obama is up 10 points since last month. Opinion of Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mr. Obama’s running mate, is also up, to 50 percent last weekend from 36 percent in September.

In contrast, favorable opinion of Mr. McCain remained stable, and unfavorable opinion rose to 45 percent now from 35 percent in September. Mrs. Palin’s negatives are up, to 41 percent now from 29 percent in September.

Mr. McCain made no progress in appealing to voters on a personal level, and he and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, had alienated some voters.

Mr. Obama’s favorability is the highest for a presidential candidate running for a first term in the last 28 years of Times/CBS polls. Mrs. Palin’s negative rating is the highest for a vice-presidential candidate as measured by The Times and CBS News. Even Dan Quayle, with whom Mrs. Palin is often compared because of her age and inexperience on the national scene, was not viewed as negatively in the 1988 campaign.

The nationwide telephone poll was conducted Sept. 21-24, with re-interviews completed Friday through Sunday of 518 adults, 476 of whom are registered voters. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus five percentage points for all adults and voters.

Of those who said their opinion of Mr. McCain had been tarnished, many cited his attacks on his opponent, the choice of Ms. Palin as his running mate and his debate performance.

Among the voters who said their opinion of Mr. Obama had improved, many cited his debate performance, saying they liked his calm demeanor and the way he had handled the attacks on him from the McCain campaign.

Of those who said their opinion of Mr. McCain had been tarnished, many cited his attacks on his opponent, the choice of Ms. Palin as his running mate and his debate performance.

“Even though I am a Democrat, there was a strong possibility I would have voted for McCain,” said Yolanda Grande, 77, a Democrat from Blairstown, N.J. “What pushed me over the line was McCain’s choice of vice president. I just don’t think she is qualified to step in if anything happened to him.”

At one point in the debate McCain says congratulations Joe – you’re rich. The embarrassing truth is that the man is far from that. He certainly doesn’t have 7 homes (or was that 8). McCain is clueless! And worst he is arrogant.

Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden questioned whether Joe “the plumber” Wurzelbacher is a “real” plumber Thursday after the Ohio citizen vaulted to the front of campaign dialogue during the final presidential debate.

“John [McCain] continues to cling to the notion of this guy Joe the plumber,” Biden said on NBC’s “Today” show. “I don’t have any Joe the plumbers in my neighborhood that make $250,000 a year.”

“The Joe the plumbers in my neighborhood, the Joe the cops in my neighborhood, the Joe the grocery store owners in my neighborhood, they make, like 98 percent of the small businesses, less than $250,000 a year.”

A video that shows Wurzelbacher telling Barack Obama earlier this week that the Democrat’s tax plan would prevent him from buying the business he currently works for became an instant YouTube sensation and popular fodder for conservatives.

Obama told the plumber that it was time to “spread the wealth around,” a phrase McCain and his campaign have been reciting frequently.

Biden said he isn’t worried that Wurzelbacher would not get a tax cut under Obama’s plan.

“We think we should give that to the real Joe the plumbers, who make $65,000, $70,000, $80,000 bucks a year,” Biden said on CBS’s “Early Show.”

Source: Politico

Biden on ‘The McCain I knew.’

Senior members of the Republican party are in open mutiny against John McCain’s presidential campaign, after a disastrous period which has seen Barack Obama solidify his lead in the opinion polls.

And as disputes raged within the McCain camp yesterday, Democrats took another symbolic step towards healing the party after their bitter primary battles, as Bill and Hillary Clinton made their first joint appearance in support of Mr Obama.

From inside and outside his inner circle, Mr McCain is being told to settle on a coherent economic message and to tone down attacks on his rival which have sometimes whipped up a mob-like atmosphere at Republican rallies.

Two former rivals for the party nomination, Mitt Romney and Tommy Thompson, went on the record over the weekend about the disarray in the Republican camp. And a string of other senior party figures said Mr McCain’s erratic performance risks taking the party down to heavy losses not just in the presidential race but also in contests for Congressional seats. Mr Thompson, a former governor of the swing state of Wisconsin, said he thought Mr McCain, on his present trajectory, would lose the state, and he told a New York Times reporter he was not happy with the campaign. “I don’t know who is,” he added.

Mr McCain’s erratic performance risks taking the party down to heavy losses not just in the presidential race but also in contests for Congressional seats.

Some Republicans seeking election to Congress have begun distancing themselves from Mr McCain. In Nebraska, a Republican representative, Lee Terry, ran a newspaper ad featuring support from a woman who called herself an “Obama-Terry voter”.

The McCain camp was reportedly considering launching a new set of economic policies last night, on top of the plan for government purchases of mortgages which he unveiled in a surprise move at last week’s presidential debate. Possible options include temporary tax cuts on capital gains and dividends. Mr Romney said he should “stand above the tactical alternatives that are being considered and establish an economic vision that is able to convince the American people that he really knows how to strengthen the economy”.

With just over three weeks to go to election day, a new Reuters/Zogby tracking poll showed the Democratic candidate gaining momentum during the past week. From a two-point lead four days ago, the latest reading has Mr Obama up 6 points. A Gallup poll yesterday put him at plus-7 per cent.

The Clintons took to the stage yesterday in Scranton, a down-at-heel Pennsylvania town that has taken on outsize significance in the presidential election. The town, which has become symbolic of the decline of industrial America, was childhood home of Joe Biden, Mr Obama’s vice-presidential running mate, and is where Hillary Clinton’s father grew up and is buried.

“This is an all hands on deck election,” Mrs Clinton declared, adding that only a Democrat could put the interests of struggling working families at the centre of policy. John McCain sees the middle class as “not fundamental, but ornamental,” she said.

“This is an all hands on deck election,” Mrs Clinton declared, adding that only a Democrat could put the interests of struggling working families at the centre of policy. John McCain sees the middle class as “not fundamental, but ornamental,” she said.

Her husband praised Mr Obama as having the best ideas, best instincts and best team for the White House. However, he focused most of his speech on his wife and Mr Biden, and quickly disappeared for a campaign appearance in Virginia, raising eyebrows among those who worry he has still not fully reconciled himself to the Obama candidacy and is still smarting from the bitter reaction against his contributions to the primary race.

McCain campaign staffers lashed out at the media for focusing on a minority of supporters at some rallies in the past week who have gone beyond booing and hissing at Mr Obama’s name, and begun calling out “terrorist” and “kill him”.

Senior Republicans have sharply conflicting views about the direction the McCain campaign should take, with some arguing that their candidate has not hit Mr Obama hard enough on the shady associates from his past. The issue of the Rev Jeremiah Wright, Mr Obama’s former pastor, whose incendiary speeches about white racism almost derailed the Democrat’s primary race, should be brought back on to the table by Mr McCain, many are counselling. Mr McCain, however, has ruled that issue off-limits, for fear of being accused of playing a race card.

The Republican candidate appeared keen to cool the temperature at rallies over the weekend, at one point snatching the microphone from a woman in Minnesota who declared Mr Obama was an “Arab”. He chided her, and another man who said he was “scared” of an Obama presidency, and told a booing crowd to be respectful. “He is a decent family man, a citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues,” said Mr McCain.

McCain campaign staffers lashed out at the media for focusing on a minority of supporters at some rallies in the past week who have gone beyond booing and hissing at Mr Obama’s name, and begun calling out “terrorist” and “kill him”.

Reining in the party’s supporters may be harder. A minister delivering the invocation at a rally on Saturday asked Christians to pray for a McCain win. “There are millions of people around this world praying to their god – whether it’s Hindu, Buddha, Allah – that his opponent wins, for a variety of reasons,” said Arnold Conrad, the former pastor of Grace Evangelical Free Church in Davenport. Those comments earned a rebuke from a McCain spokesman, and both sides this weekend had to slap down supporters for stirring issues of religion and race.

The Obama campaign disassociated itself from comments by Democratic congressman John Lewis who compared Mr McCain to the late Alabama segregationist George Wallace. “Senator McCain and Governor Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division,” he said. “George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights.”

Source: Independent London

IF you think way back to the start of this marathon campaign, back when it seemed preposterous that any black man could be a serious presidential contender, then you remember the biggest fear about Barack Obama: a crazy person might take a shot at him.

Some voters told reporters that they didn’t want Obama to run, let alone win, should his very presence unleash the demons who have stalked America from Lincoln to King. After consultation with Congress, Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, gave Obama a Secret Service detail earlier than any presidential candidate in our history — in May 2007, some eight months before the first Democratic primaries.

At McCain-Palin rallies, the raucous and insistent cries of “Treason!” and “Terrorist!” and “Kill him!” and “Off with his head!”

“I’ve got the best protection in the world, so stop worrying,” Obama reassured his supporters. Eventually the country got conditioned to his appearing in large arenas without incident (though I confess that the first loud burst of fireworks at the end of his convention stadium speech gave me a start). In America, nothing does succeed like success. The fear receded.

Until now. At McCain-Palin rallies, the raucous and insistent cries of “Treason!” and “Terrorist!” and “Kill him!” and “Off with his head!” as well as the uninhibited slinging of racial epithets, are actually something new in a campaign that has seen almost every conceivable twist. They are alarms. Doing nothing is not an option.

All’s fair in politics. John McCain and Sarah Palin have every right to bring up William Ayers, even if his connection to Obama is minor, even if Ayers’s Weather Underground history dates back to Obama’s childhood, even if establishment Republicans and Democrats alike have collaborated with the present-day Ayers in educational reform. But it’s not just the old Joe McCarthyesque guilt-by-association game, however spurious, that’s going on here. Don’t for an instant believe the many mindlessly “even-handed” journalists who keep saying that the McCain campaign’s use of Ayers is the moral or political equivalent of the Obama campaign’s hammering on Charles Keating.

By the time McCain asks the crowd “Who is the real Barack Obama?” it’s no surprise that someone cries out “Terrorist!” The rhetorical conflation of Obama with terrorism is complete.

What makes them different, and what has pumped up the Weimar-like rage at McCain-Palin rallies, is the violent escalation in rhetoric, especially (though not exclusively) by Palin. Obama “launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist.” He is “palling around with terrorists” (note the plural noun). Obama is “not a man who sees America the way you and I see America.” Wielding a wildly out-of-context Obama quote, Palin slurs him as an enemy of American troops.

By the time McCain asks the crowd “Who is the real Barack Obama?” it’s no surprise that someone cries out “Terrorist!” The rhetorical conflation of Obama with terrorism is complete. It is stoked further by the repeated invocation of Obama’s middle name by surrogates introducing McCain and Palin at these rallies. This sleight of hand at once synchronizes with the poisonous Obama-is-a-Muslim e-mail blasts and shifts the brand of terrorism from Ayers’s Vietnam-era variety to the radical Islamic threats of today.

That’s a far cry from simply accusing Obama of being a guilty-by-association radical leftist. Obama is being branded as a potential killer and an accessory to past attempts at murder. “Barack Obama’s friend tried to kill my family” was how a McCain press release last week packaged the remembrance of a Weather Underground incident from 1970 — when Obama was 8.

We all know what punishment fits the crime of murder, or even potential murder, if the security of post-9/11 America is at stake. We all know how self-appointed “patriotic” martyrs always justify taking the law into their own hands.

Obama can hardly be held accountable for Ayers’s behavior 40 years ago, but at least McCain and Palin can try to take some responsibility for the behavior of their own supporters in 2008. What’s troubling here is not only the candidates’ loose inflammatory talk but also their refusal to step in promptly and strongly when someone responds to it with bloodthirsty threats in a crowded arena. Joe Biden had it exactly right when he expressed concern last week that “a leading American politician who might be vice president of the United States would not just stop midsentence and turn and condemn that.” To stay silent is to pour gas on the fires.

No less disconcerting was a still-unexplained passage of Palin’s convention speech: Her use of an unattributed quote praising small-town America (as opposed to, say, Chicago and its community organizers) from Westbrook Pegler — who in the ’60s, Pegler had a wish for Bobby Kennedy: “Some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow falls.”

It wasn’t always thus with McCain. In February he loudly disassociated himself from a speaker who brayed “Barack Hussein Obama” when introducing him at a rally in Ohio. Now McCain either backpedals with tardy, pro forma expressions of respect for his opponent or lets second-tier campaign underlings release boilerplate disavowals after ugly incidents like the chilling Jim Crow-era flashback last week when a Florida sheriff ranted about “Barack Hussein Obama” at a Palin rally while in full uniform.

From the start, there have always been two separate but equal questions about race in this election. Is there still enough racism in America to prevent a black man from being elected president no matter what? And, will Republicans play the race card? The jury is out on the first question until Nov. 4. But we now have the unambiguous answer to the second: Yes.

McCain, who is no racist, turned to this desperate strategy only as Obama started to pull ahead. The tone was set at the Republican convention, with Rudy Giuliani’s mocking dismissal of Obama as an “only in America” affirmative-action baby. We also learned then that the McCain campaign had recruited as a Palin handler none other than Tucker Eskew, the South Carolina consultant who had worked for George W. Bush in the notorious 2000 G.O.P. primary battle where the McCains and their adopted Bangladeshi daughter were slimed by vicious racist rumors.

Imagine if Obama had quoted a Black Panther or Louis Farrakhan — or William Ayers — in Denver.

No less disconcerting was a still-unexplained passage of Palin’s convention speech: Her use of an unattributed quote praising small-town America (as opposed to, say, Chicago and its community organizers) from Westbrook Pegler, the mid-century Hearst columnist famous for his anti-Semitism, racism and violent rhetorical excess. After an assassin tried to kill F.D.R. at a Florida rally and murdered Chicago’s mayor instead in 1933, Pegler wrote that it was “regrettable that Giuseppe Zangara shot the wrong man.” In the ’60s, Pegler had a wish for Bobby Kennedy: “Some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow falls.”

This is the writer who found his way into a speech by a potential vice president at a national political convention. It’s astonishing there’s been no demand for a public accounting from the McCain campaign. Imagine if Obama had quoted a Black Panther or Louis Farrakhan — or William Ayers — in Denver.

The operatives who would have Palin quote Pegler have been at it ever since. A key indicator came two weeks after the convention, when the McCain campaign ran its first ad tying Obama to the mortgage giant Fannie Mae. Rather than make its case by using a legitimate link between Fannie and Obama (or other Democratic leaders), the McCain forces chose a former Fannie executive who had no real tie to Obama or his campaign but did have a black face that could dominate the ad’s visuals.

There are indeed so few people of color at McCain events that a black senior writer from The Tallahassee Democrat was mistakenly ejected by the Secret Service from a campaign rally in Panama City in August, even though he was standing with other reporters and showed his credentials.

There are no black faces high in the McCain hierarchy to object to these tactics. There hasn’t been a single black Republican governor, senator or House member in six years. This is a campaign where Palin can repeatedly declare that Alaska is “a microcosm of America” without anyone even wondering how that might be so for a state whose tiny black and Hispanic populations are each roughly one-third the national average. There are indeed so few people of color at McCain events that a black senior writer from The Tallahassee Democrat was mistakenly ejected by the Secret Service from a campaign rally in Panama City in August, even though he was standing with other reporters and showed his credentials. His only apparent infraction was to look glaringly out of place.

Could the old racial politics still be determinative? I’ve long been skeptical of the incessant press prognostications (and liberal panic) that this election will be decided by racist white men in the Rust Belt. Now even the dimmest bloviators have figured out that Americans are riveted by the color green, not black — as in money, not energy. Voters are looking for a leader who might help rescue them, not a reckless gambler whose lurching responses to the economic meltdown (a campaign “suspension,” a mortgage-buyout stunt that changes daily) are as unhinged as his wanderings around the debate stage.

The McCain campaign has crossed the line between tough negative campaigning and inciting vigilantism, and each day the mob howls louder.

To see how fast the tide is moving, just look at North Carolina. On July 4 this year — the day that the godfather of modern G.O.P. racial politics, Jesse Helms, died — The Charlotte Observer reported that strategists of both parties agreed Obama’s chances to win the state fell “between slim and none.” Today, as Charlotte reels from the implosion of Wachovia, the McCain-Obama race is a dead heat in North Carolina and Helms’s Republican successor in the Senate, Elizabeth Dole, is looking like a goner.

But we’re not at Election Day yet, and if voters are to have their final say, both America and Obama have to get there safely. The McCain campaign has crossed the line between tough negative campaigning and inciting vigilantism, and each day the mob howls louder. The onus is on the man who says he puts his country first to call off the dogs, pit bulls and otherwise.

Source: NYT

At the vice presidential debate in St. Louis, the McCain campaign rented out a stadium to re-energize the conservative base in light of Sarah Palin’s recent gaffes. Despite the revival feel, zeal for Palin isn’t translating in the polls. While some would argue Palin exceeded expectations, unregistered voters seem unimpressed.

Source: ANP

One could mention – that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones – but I don’t think Sarah Palin would listen.

While Palin digs into – Barack Obama’s “palling” around with Vietnam protesting terrorists – others look at her relationship and seeming support for an Alaska secessionist group and her patriotism.

Palin’s Attack On Obama’s Patriotism Legitimizes Questions About The Palins’ Association With Group Founded By America-Hating Secessionist

Sarah Palin attacked Obama’s patriotism today over his association with former Weatherman Bill Ayers — a move that makes it perfectly legitimate to raise questions about the Palins’ associations with a group founded by an Alaska secessionist who once professed his “hatred for the American government” and cursed our “damn flag.”

In Colorado today, Palin seized on the big front-page New York Times story about Ayers and Obama, which concludes that the two men “do not appear to have been close,” to launch her most vicious attack yet on the Illinois Senator — a harbinger of what’s to come.

“This is not a man who sees America as you and I do — as the greatest force for good in the world,” Palin said. “This is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country.”

If Palin is going to say this, it is now perfectly legitimate to point out that she repeatedly courted a secessionist group founded by someone who openly professed hatred of the American government, cursed our flag, and wanted to secede from the Union. Sarah’s husband, Todd Palin, was a member of this group, which continues to venerate that founder to this day, for years.

As you already know, the group is the Alaska Independence Party, which sees as its ultimate goal seceding from the union. Todd was a member, with a brief exception, from 1995 until 2002, according to the Division of Elections in Alaska.

And though Sarah Palin herself was apparently not a member of this group, there’s no doubt that she repeatedly courted this secessionist organization over the years. In 1994, Palin attended the group’s annual convention, according to witnesses who spoke to ABC News’ Jake Tapper. The McCain campaign has confirmed she visited the group’s 2000 convention, and she addressed its convention this year, as an incumbent governor whose oath of office includes upholding the Constitution of the United States.

Sarah Palin addresses the Alaska Independence Party (AIP) convention.

The founder of the AIP was a man named Joe Vogler. Here’s what he had to say in a 1991 interview, only a few years before Palin attended its convention: “The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government.”

He also said this: “And I won’t be buried under their damn flag. I’ll be buried in Dawson. And when Alaska is an independent nation they can bring my bones home.”

Vogler has also said: “I’m an Alaskan, not an American. I’ve got no use for America or her damned institutions.”

McCain apologists will argue that Sarah Palin was not a member of this group. But Obama wasn’t a member of any Ayers anti-American group, either. And again, Palin repeatedly courted the AIP, and her husband was a member for years.

The main takeaway from today’s Times story is that Obama’s ties to Ayers are, if anything, less substantial than commonly alleged. So if the Ayers association means Obama “palled around” with “terrorists,” as Palin put it today, surely Palin can be said to have “palled around” with a secessionist party whose founder openly professed hatred of America.

If Palin is going to directly question Obama’s patriotism over his association Ayers, surely all these facts are now fair game and freshly relevant

Source: TPM

See earlier Sarah Palin Vlogs here

Source: 23/6

Source: AM 1090

First of all we have to congratulate the moderator Gwen Ifill – for running a fluid VP debate – that encouraged more natural to and fro – almost seamlessly without the restrains of time.

Sportscaster Sarah Palin, who I suspected – would emerge today did – filled to the brim with all the notes that her minders could commit to the paper – pulled as many punches as she could – Joe Biden never missed one in return.

Hungry energy markets – as in hunger babies – getting fed at the pumps?

While Sarah Palin’s minders had it set up for her to smear Joe Biden and Obama’s records – Joe Biden was out to present the facts – any smears were easily put down – with a grace and a forcefulness that brought both men and women audience members in (if you were watching it from CNN – there was a line on screen that rated how viewers saw it. When Palin got nasty – with her winking and forced beauty queen – her ratings actually went down – it was clear both men and women were turned off by it.)

The VP in training – also tried her folksy tales to nowhere – but Biden instantly picked up on this with – what are you saying – I haven’t heard anything.

The part I liked was when Palin – compared the Obama Biden tax cut to 95% of Americans – to wealth redistribution (who told her to say that) – then follows that up with an example which counters this – of how she ‘fought’ the oil companies in the state of Alaska to see that some of the oil wealth was shared out among the people there. On the one hand McCain wants to specifically – set aside a part of his budget to give the oil companies – already making record profits – billions more – while on the other hand Palin is telling the American people – in Alaska I worked against this measure and saw to it that – the oil profits were shared out. Joe Biden seized the moment – nicely – by pointing out how Palin actually agrees with himself and Barack Obama’s plan.

Joe Biden’s ability to pick up detail was masterful. Very little gets by this guy. If he couldn’t be President – than he should be sitting next to the President – wise choice Obama!

When Palin spoke of going to war – one of the areas that is worrying a lot of people is her talk of Russia – Palin seemed to move into extreme when she needed to make her point – her voice became strange – which indicates – this lady’s eagerness to go to war – and perhaps there would be something a little too irrational and unmeasured about her consideration. And she was somewhat flippant on the trigger for the use of a nuclear weapon question. Palin frightening!

And in closing when asked if something should happen – God forbid – to John McCain – I thought can this woman contain her pleasure – she started smiling – through each of the statements that followed.

When asked Joe Biden role once he gets into the White House would be to sit in all meetings and to be an integral part of the Presidency – whereas under a McCain administration Palin would be given a souped-up title and moved to deal with energy issues – something perhaps we should be worried about – with her Drill Baby Drill ethos – it is unlikely that much of the energy budget will be devoted to new energy sources – in her debut statement at the GOP Convention Palin said we can drill our way out of our energy difficulties. Maybe this is another area her and John McCain disagree on (or do they) – besides drilling in ANWR. She also mentioned dealing with the needs of special needs children or families – strangely I thought I heard women’s issues – which would be so haram – but then she did not say women’s issues – and those issues on charging for rape kits – slashing funding for teen pregnancy and the women’s right to choose are still there. Also that John McCain voted against equal pay for equal work and the protection of women from spousal abuse.

Joe Biden came across as smooth as silk – where on listening to Palin debate a second time – begins to have a hacksaw quality about her voice or persona – I sure wish we don’t have to see this for the next four years.

Biden is gracefully intelligent – and seems to have a nothing to prove bottom line – he works from another place – which could have something to do with his own personal tragedy which he touched upon in this debate – but he has a wonderful way about him – that I am sure will serve the country well.

Down to the wire now. Sarah and Dina are up early cramming and jamming for tonight’s big face-off. They’re finding Sarah’s weak spots and plugging holes. If Mr. Joe Biden tries to slap Sarah’s face with her own rape kit, she’ll be ready.

See earlier Sarah Palin Vlogs here

Source: 23/6

Back to Palin’s folksy tales – if Sarah Palin is good at telling a story so is Joe Biden – the only difference is he actually thinks the facts matter. He would not tell a story to conceal the fact that he knows nothing about the issues – but besides oil – that’s all Palin has been doing.

For all the speculation over how Sarah Palin will fare in the vice-presidential debate Thursday night, her Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, faces a challenge of his own: taking on the Alaska governor without coming across as sexist or a bully.

Barack Obama’s campaign has assembled a team of top advisers, including several prominent female debaters, to help prepare the Delaware senator, known for his tough attacks and candor, to debate the Republicans’ first female vice-presidential nominee. Since Sunday, the team has been hunkered down at the Sheraton Suites hotel in Wilmington, Del.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has been playing the role of Gov. Palin. “I want to beat him up a little, so he does well,” Gov. Granholm told reporters. One Biden aide said Gov. Granholm was chosen to portray Gov. Palin in the preparations because she ran as an outsider and reformer in Michigan in 2002 and 2006. Like Gov. Palin, Gov. Granholm is a former beauty queen and sports mom.

Sen. Biden also has received advice from Democratic primary opponent Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, and a number of top campaign aides.

Aides say Sen. Biden will emphasize issues rather than attacks, and debate preparations have centered on making the case for Sen. Obama rather than tearing down Gov. Palin. “I think this will come down to bigger questions than who can throw a sharp elbow. This is a much bigger election” than that, says Patti Solis Doyle, Sen. Biden’s campaign chief of staff.

Sen. Biden recently said reporters are in a “time warp” if they think he will prepare any differently to debate a woman than a man. He cited debating Sens. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Olympia Snowe of Maine and other women in the U.S. Senate. Sen. Biden debated Sen. Clinton 12 times during the Democratic primaries.

“It seems like the only people in the room that think that debating a woman is going to be fundamentally different are people who don’t hang around with smart women,” Sen. Biden said aboard his campaign plane.

Sen. Biden’s 30-plus years in the Senate could open a line of attack from Gov. Palin, who left the campaign trail Monday to prepare for the debate at Sen. McCain’s ranch in Sedona, Ariz., McCain aides said. She could also use Sen. Biden’s experience to portray him as the Washington status quo.

While Biden aides insist gender isn’t an issue, it is rare for a woman to be on the ticket. The last time — and the first time — a woman was on a major-party ticket was in 1984, when Democrat Walter Mondale picked Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate.

Ms. Ferraro debated then-Vice President George H.W. Bush in an encounter that was widely interpreted as having sexist overtones. “Let me just say, first of all, that I almost resent, Vice President Bush, your patronizing attitude that you have to teach me about foreign policy,” Ms. Ferraro replied to one attack. At the same time, strategists say Sen. Biden can’t soften his approach or appear to be changing his tactics because he is debating a woman; that, too, could be perceived as sexist.

Aides say Sen. Biden can counter some of the Alaska governor’s down-home appeal by playing up his working-class roots in Scranton, Pa. Sen. Biden, consistently ranked as one of the least-wealthy senators, still lives in Wilmington and takes the train to work in Washington. “I think Biden should use his sense of humor and really turn this into a debate about who’s folksier,” says Democratic strategist Donna Brazile.

Source: WSJ

Sarah Palin Vlog #1: Katie Couric Interview

Sarah Palin Vlog #2: Debate Prep

Sarah Palin Vlog #3: Cramming for the Economics Debate

Source: 23/6

Spilling the beans – Palin is quoted as saying – facts and figures don’t matter!

Monitor opinion editor Josh Burek talks with former Alaska state representative and gubenatorial candidate Andrew Halcro about Gov. Sarah Palin’s debating abilities.

Anchorage, Alaska – When he faces off against Sarah Palin Thursday night, Joe Biden will have his hands full.

I should know. I’ve debated Governor Palin more than two dozen times. And she’s a master, not of facts, figures, or insightful policy recommendations, but at the fine art of the nonanswer, the glittering generality. Against such charms there is little Senator Biden, or anyone, can do.

On paper, of course, the debate appears to be a mismatch.

In 2000, Palin was the mayor of an Alaskan town of 5,500 people, while Biden was serving his 28th year as a United States senator. Her major public policy concern was building a local ice rink and sports center. His major public policy concern was the State Department’s decision to grant an export license to allow sales of heavy-lift helicopters to Turkey, during tense UN-sponsored Cyprus peace talks.

On paper, the difference in experience on both domestic and foreign policy is like the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing a bullet. Unfortunately for Biden, if recent history is an indicator, experience or a grasp of the issues won’t matter when it comes to debating Palin.

On April 17, 2006, Palin and I participated in a debate at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks on agriculture issues. The next day, the Fairbanks Daily News Miner published this excerpt:

“Andrew Halcro, a declared independent candidate from Anchorage, came armed with statistics on agricultural productivity. Sarah Palin, a Republican from Wasilla, said the Matanuska Valley provides a positive example for other communities interested in agriculture to study.”

On April 18, 2006, Palin and I sat together in a hotel coffee shop comparing campaign trail notes. As we talked about the debates, Palin made a comment that highlights the phenomenon that Biden is up against.

“Andrew, I watch you at these debates with no notes, no papers, and yet when asked questions, you spout off facts, figures, and policies, and I’m amazed. But then I look out into the audience and I ask myself, ‘Does any of this really matter?’ ” Palin said.

While policy wonks such as Biden might cringe, it seemed to me that Palin was simply vocalizing her strength without realizing it. During the campaign, Palin’s knowledge on public policy issues never matured – because it didn’t have to. Her ability to fill the debate halls with her presence and her gift of the glittering generality made it possible for her to rely on populism instead of policy.

Palin is a master of the nonanswer. She can turn a 60-second response to a query about her specific solutions to healthcare challenges into a folksy story about how she’s met people on the campaign trail who face healthcare challenges. All without uttering a word about her public-policy solutions to healthcare challenges.

In one debate, a moderator asked the candidates to name a bill the legislature had recently passed that we didn’t like. I named one. Democratic candidate Tony Knowles named one. But Sarah Palin instead used her allotted time to criticize the incumbent governor, Frank Murkowski. Asked to name a bill we did like, the same pattern emerged: Palin didn’t name a bill.

And when she does answer the actual question asked, she has a canny ability to connect with the audience on a personal level. For example, asked to name a major issue that had been ignored during the campaign, I discussed the health of local communities, Mr. Knowles talked about affordable healthcare, and Palin talked about … the need to protect hunting and fishing rights.

So what does that mean for Biden? With shorter question-and-answer times and limited interaction between the two, he should simply ignore Palin in a respectful manner on the stage and answer the questions as though he were alone. Any attempt to flex his public-policy knowledge and show Palin is not ready for prime time will inevitably cast him in the role of the bully.

On the other side of the stage, if Palin is to be successful, she needs to do what she does best: fill the room with her presence and stick to the scripted sound bites.

Andrew Halcro served two terms as a Republican member of the Alaska State House of Representatives. He ran for governor as an Independent in 2006, debating Sarah Palin more than two dozen times. He blogs at http://www.andrewhalcro.com .

Will looking good be enough!! Without a teleprompter how will Palin communicate the facts?

She’s clearly good at making up a story or two – perhaps this might be one of her solutions.

But we should all look to getting behind Joe Biden – so far every reporter that Palin has had an interview with has been accused of beating her up – it’s the workman who blames his tools for the Republican spin artists.

Joe Biden when asked how would he deal with Palin – he said “respectful” – what more can she hope for – but this in no way should mean he should give her an easy ride.

The only easy ride she should get is from McCain!!

*

Not since Dan Quayle took the stage in 1988 have debate expectations for a major party candidate been as low as they will be on Thursday for Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.

A newcomer to the national scene, Ms. Palin has given little indication that she has been engaged in a serious way in the pressing national and international issues of the day.

But a review of a handful of her debate performances in the race for governor in 2006 shows a somewhat different persona from the one that has emerged since Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, named Ms. Palin as the vice-presidential nominee a month ago.

Ms. Palin, a former mayor who had become a whistle-blower about ethical misconduct in state government, held her own in those debates. (There were almost two dozen in the general election alone; she skipped some, and not all were recorded.)

She staked out a populist stance against oil companies and projected a fresh, down-to-earth face at a time when voters wanted change. That helped her soundly defeat Frank H. Murkowski, the unpopular Republican governor, in the primary and former Gov. Tony Knowles in the general election.

Her debating style was rarely confrontational, and she appeared confident. In contrast to today, when she seems unversed on several important issues, she demonstrated fluency on certain subjects, particularly oil and gas development.

But just as she does now, Ms. Palin often spoke in generalities and showed scant aptitude for developing arguments beyond a talking point or two. Her sentences were distinguished by their repetition of words, by the use of the phrase “here in Alaska” and for gaps. On paper, her sentences would have been difficult to diagram.

John Bitney, the policy director for her campaign for governor and the main person who helped prepare her for debates, said her repetition of words was “her way of running down the clock as her mind searches for where she wants to go.”

These tendencies could fuzz her meaning and lead her into linguistic cul-de-sacs. She often used less than her allotted time and ended her answers abruptly.

When questioned about the nuts and bolts of governing, Ms. Palin tended to avoid specifics and instead fell back on her core values: a broadly conservative philosophy and a can-do spirit.

“My attitude and my approaches towards dealing with the complexities of health care issues,” she said in an AARP debate in October 2006, “is a respectful and responsible approach, and it’s a positive approach. I don’t believe that the sky is falling here in Alaska.”

These patterns could help explain why the McCain campaign negotiated for less time for discussion in her debate Thursday with Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware than the presidential candidates had in their debate last week.

Ms. Palin was not always at her best when questioned by her opponents in the governor’s race.

In the AARP debate, Mr. Knowles and Andrew Halcro, an independent, double-teamed her to press her about how she would pay for health care.

In response to Mr. Knowles, she mentioned “certificates of need” and said they had been inflexible, “creating an environment where a lot of folks are lacking the receiving of their health care that is needed in some of the areas, especially in some of our larger markets.” She added, “The State of Alaska needs to be looking specifically at that inflexibility that exists today in order to fill some of the market needs that are out there in Alaska in our larger markets.”

She then added, “I can’t tell you how much that will reduce monetarily our health care costs, but competition makes everyone better, it makes us work harder, it does allow reduction in costs, so addressing that is going to be a priority.”

Mr. Knowles was nonplussed, saying that he did not understand her answer and that Ms. Palin had missed the point.

Mr. Halcro asked how she would pay for critical health care programs.

“Well, the point there, Andrew,” she said, “is that these are critical, and again it’s a matter of prioritizing and it’s a matter of government understanding its proper role in public safety, is health care, so it’s a matter of priorities.”

Mr. Halcro called her answer “political gibberish.”

But other times, she gave direct answers that appealed directly to her audience. The candidates were asked in a debate on Aug. 17, 2006, by a rural resident via video whether they would restore a longevity bonus for senior citizens, a payment intended to keep them from leaving the state.

“No,” Mr. Murkowski said gruffly. John Binkley, a third candidate, said yes. Ms. Palin’s response was filled with emotion.

“Yes, our precious, precious elders,” she said, looking into the camera. “For those who were prematurely lopped off, I am so sorry that that has happened to you.”

But generally, her voice carried surprisingly little affect.

“In tone, manner and sometimes even language, she treated every issue exactly the same,” Michael Carey, the former editorial page editor of The Anchorage Daily News, wrote in an essay about Ms. Palin. “She gave no suggestion that some issues are of higher priority than others. Her voice was cheerful, up-tempo, optimistic, never off key but always in the same key.”

Perhaps her strength in debating was coming across like an average person who understood the average person’s needs and would not be expected to have detailed policy prescriptions.

She also neutralized some of her conservative social views. She said intelligent design should be taught in schools — along with evolution. She said she favored the teaching of abstinence — along with the teaching of sex education. “Let the kids debate both sides,” she said.

She was not a particularly aggressive debater, and she rarely took an opportunity to challenge her opponents. But when pressed, she could be tough. In a roundtable discussion in October on the “Bob and Mark Show,” Mr. Halcro suggested that Ms. Palin had not attended enough debates.

“It’s been a year today that I’ve been on the campaign trail,” Ms. Palin responded, “attending many, many more forums, more debates, than either one of you, Tony and Andrew, because I had a primary opponent. You know, you got to have the balls to take it on in the early part of a campaign, and not just go right to the big show.”

Source: NYT

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