September 9, 2008
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Biden said that he’s glad McCain “finally realized the idea that this election is about change,” but said that while the message is new, his plans for the country don’t back it up.
“John must have been the last guy in American politics to know this [election] is about change,” he said. “The only problem is that all John’s changing is the rhetoric. And all he’d change as president of the United States in my view is the name at the top of Bush’s policies. That’s the only change that you’re going to see, and all that would do is keep America shortchanged.”
The Delaware senator argued Republicans don’t understand the anxiety most Americans feel about the economy, and certainly have not explained how they’d ease it.
“I’ve never seen so many Americans get knocked down with so little help, so little recognition from their government, from this administration,” he said. “And apparently there’s not going to be a whole lot more recognition of their plight and concern on the part, based on what’s said so far, from the Republican ticket. Ladies and gentlemen, he and Sarah Palin have said nothing about how they’re going to bring about change.”
Biden’s primary attack line on the GOP ticket has been that they offer only glib attack lines and distortions of Obama’s plans, especially on taxes. Biden told several hundred here in Central Missouri that while the Democrats would give tax cuts to 95 percent of those who take home a paycheck, McCain would leave over 100 million families out of his tax plan, while giving $4 billion in incentives to oil companies.
Politifact debunked Biden’s claim that 100 million families would be left out — that it would be more accurate to say about 100 million people or about 65 million families.
“This isn’t change this is more of the same,” Biden said. “I can hardly wait until we get into the details of our respective tax policies.”
This event was the rare one at which Biden took questions that one of them was not about his counterpart on the Republican ticket, Gov. Sarah Palin. But he did refer to her when one woman asked about how he and Obama would help those with disabilities. In her convention speech, Palin said she’d be a voice for parents with children with special needs, noting her newborn son, Trig, who has Down’s Syndrome.
“I hear all this talk about how the Republicans are going to work in dealing with parents who have … the joy and the difficulty of raising a child who has a developmental disability,” said Biden, who’s wife is a teacher. “Well guess what folks? If you care about it, why don’t you support stem cell research?”
Biden’s itinerary today takes him from the heart of Missouri to the Democratic stronghold of St. Louis. He told the audience that he felt good about the campaign, and said the Obama organization here would go a long way to turning the state blue.
September 4, 2008
ST. PAUL, Minn. — No great movement designed to change the world can bear to be laughed at or belittled. Mockery is a rust that corrodes all it touches.
Sarah Palin may come from the backwoods of Alaska, but she has the heart of a street fighter.
So Democrats shouldn’t get entangled in the Republicans’ “experience” ploy.
Palin isn’t on the Republican ticket because she has been the governor of Alaska for two years.
The people who cooked up this scheme don’t care whether Palin will be a heartbeat away from the presidency if something happens to the 72-year-old McCain.
Palin’s on the ticket because she’s a woman and she isn’t afraid to engage in the Republicans’ mean-spirited personal attacks.
On Wednesday night, Palin showed the nation how a female fighter throws a punch:
“They loved their country in good times and bad, and they are always proud of America,” Palin said an obvious dig at Michelle Obama, during her remarks about her small-town roots.
“I love those hockey moms. You know what they say the difference is between a hockey mom and a pit bull — lipstick,” Palin said.
And then she showed us what she means:
“In small towns, we don’t heap praise on working people when they are listening and talk about how bitter they are and they cling to their religions and guns when those people aren’t listening,” she said.
“We prefer candidates who don’t talk to us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco.”
Those are the kinds of jabs the Obama campaign will have a difficult time dealing with simply because Palin is a female, and the campaign will not want to appear to be sexist.
On Wednesday night, Palin introduced her three daughters, including her 17-year-old pregnant daughter Bristol, who was seated with the young man who fathered her baby.
Yet earlier, when reporters reported her daughter’s pregnancy and debated the issues surrounding that pregnancy, we became the problem.
“I’ve learned quickly, these past few days, that if you’re not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone,” Palin said.
“But here’s a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I’m not going to Washington to seek their good opinion — I’m going to Washington to serve the people of this country.”
Palin showed that she could be as sarcastic as the most experienced politician.
She skillfully used one-line zingers and attacked Obama without ever using his name.
“In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers, and then there are those who use their careers to promote change,” she said.
Palin energized the Republican convention. No doubt about that.
She’s a fighter, all right.
While McCain’s big gamble that put Palin on the ticket as his vice presidential pick might be a scheme — the battle is real.
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The furore surrounding McCain’s running mate is a return to the old American politics of red state versus blue state.
A race that began as the West Wing now looks alarmingly like Desperate Housewives. Six months ago, you couldn’t help but notice the striking similarity between Barack Obama and Matthew Santos, the fictional but charismatic ethnic minority candidate who promised to heal America’s divide. Now, you can’t help but feel you’re watching an especially lurid episode from Wisteria Lane, as the real-life Sarah Palin fends off rumours of a fake pregnancy – and the accusation that her son is actually her grandson – by revealing that her unmarried 17-year-old daughter is expecting a baby and will soon marry the father, a young hockey player. Meanwhile, Palin has hired a lawyer to beat back a state investigation into claims that she abused the power of her office to remove her sister’s ex-husband from his job as a state trooper, a man who has admitted tasering his own 10-year-old stepson! Would even America’s trashiest daytime soaps dare squeeze that much action into just the first four days of a new storyline?
The McCain campaign has done it, thereby achieving in an instant one of its key objectives. At last people are talking about the Republicans, after months in which all the excitement had been on the other side. Ever since McCain introduced Palin to a stunned, unprepared political world last Friday, Obama has barely had a look-in. From conservative talk radio to celebrity gossip websites, there is only one topic: it’s all Palin, all the time.
In these reams of commentary, there is uncertainty about the only question that really matters: how will this saga, and Palin herself, play in the November election? Ultimately, will she hurt or hinder John McCain?
If it’s hard to tell, that’s because almost every new nugget we discover about Governor Palin can be viewed in radically opposite lights. The “family values” brigade might be shocked by the admission of premarital sex in the Palin clan; or it might be heartened that young Bristol – even the names sound like they come from a TV soap – has chosen to carry her baby to term and marry the father. So far, the latter reaction seems to have prevailed, with the Christian right, already smitten by Palin’s anti-abortion, pro-guns, anti-gay marriage stances, standing by its woman. Some McCain backers have even tried to turn the episode into a net positive: talkshow host Michael Graham wrote yesterday that Palin, with one son off to Iraq, another with Down’s syndrome and now a daughter set to become a teenage mom, had undergone experiences that millions of American women could relate to: “Sarah Palin is as accessible as Obama is exotic.”
Or take what was, until the soap suds started lathering up, Palin’s most obvious weakness: her inexperience. To political veterans, it’s ludicrous to propose that a 20-month governor of a state with a population of under 700,000 is ready to take over as president (not such a remote possibility, given that John McCain is 72 and has a history of cancer). They note that when Palin visited Kuwait last year, she reportedly had to apply for a passport: she had never travelled outside North America before. How could she possibly be ready to lead the world’s greatest military power?
But Democrats who make these points risk doing the Republicans’ work for them, falling into the wearily familiar trap of sounding like condescending coastal elitists, who look down their noses at ordinary Americans like the Palins. The blue-collar Republican base is already wild for the governor: every time they see a New York talking head say how absurd her candidacy is, they’ll like her even more.
Besides, the McCain camp is already hard at work spinning that all this inexperience is a good thing. It means, they say, that Palin will be a “breath of fresh Alaska air” in stale Washington, an outsider who had already dared take on politics-as-usual in her own state. Viewed that way, Palin has restored to McCain what always used to be his USP: his status as the reformer, fearlessly standing against the machine.
So she will go into the vice-presidential TV debate against the seasoned senator and foreign policy sage Joe Biden cushioned by subterraneanly low expectations. If she manages to utter several coherent sentences in a row, it will be declared a draw. If he so much as looks patronising or if he does an Al Gore-style sigh of impatience, she will be declared the winner. He’s a bruiser who would have been eager to crush any male opponent. Now he’ll be holding himself back lest he looks like a sexist pig.
There are some straightforward negatives for Palin that are not susceptible to even the most energetic spin. It’s not good that she turns out to have been for the notorious “bridge to nowhere” – a $400m project in Alaska that has come to symbolise wasteful, “pork-barrel” spending – before she was against it. It dents her image as a reformer and shows she flip-flops as much as any other politician. Not helpful, either, that in the 1990s she was a member of the Alaskan Independence party, which seeks a referendum on breaking away from the US. The firing of her brother-in-law, and the outstanding request that she give a deposition on the matter, under oath, will linger through the campaign. And the fact that the McCain camp seems to have started seriously vetting Palin after nominating her, only now sending lawyers and researchers to Alaska, reflects especially badly on McCain himself. (He met her properly for the first time last week, according to the New York Times.) It suggests the downside of all that maverick brio is a recklessness that is hardly suitable in a commander-in-chief.
What no one can know is whether that cost will be outweighed by the gains Palin brings, galvanising a socially conservative base that had been previously lukewarm towards McCain. What we can know already is that this election will share a depressing feature with the contests of the past 40 years: that America will plunge again into the never-ending culture wars.
For Palin cannot help but polarise the electorate. Everything that liberal, blue-state America can’t stand about her makes conservative, red-state America swoon. It’s not just about “Jesus babies and guns,” as Rush Limbaugh pithily put it. Palin also wants “intelligent design” – creationism – taught in school. When she was mayor of the small town of Wasilla, “she asked the library how she could go about banning books,” according to a local official quoted by Time. Palin was worried about “inappropriate” language. “The librarian was aghast” – and was later threatened with the sack.
In his stirring speech last week, Obama urged America not to “make a big election about small things”. Yet here we are, discussing not Sarah Palin’s record or programme but Jesus, guns, and as one feminist blogger put it yesterday, “the uterine activity of her family”. This is a setback for women, especially in a year that seemed to promise a breakthrough, but it is also a setback for America itself.
Obama made his name four years ago with a speech that called for an end to the civil war of red against blue. In 2008, he urged a different kind of election, one that would match the gravity of the hour. But the naming of Sarah Palin, and the reaction it has provoked, has dashed that hope. Americans are, once again, fighting over the questions that politics can never really settle – faith, sexuality – and pushing aside the ones that it can. And which it must.
September 1, 2008
MONROE, Mich. – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said on Monday the pregnancy of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s daughter was not relevant to the campaign and reporters should back off of it.
Obama also said he was offended by a suggestion from an unidentified McCain aide that his campaign might have had a hand in spreading rumors about Palin and her family.
“People’s families are off-limits and people’s children are especially off-limits,” Obama told reporters following a campaign event in Monroe, Michigan. “This shouldn’t be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Gov. Palin’s performance as a governor or potential performance as a vice president. So I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories,” he added.
There was no evidence Obama’s campaign had any role in stoking a rumor that Bristol Palin was actually the mother of Palin’s four-month-old. Reporters traveling with the campaign had been fascinated by the talk for days. Obama’s press aides even told reporters the rumors seemed far-fetched and they would have nothing to say about them.
Palin has been the subject of a rumor mill among liberal bloggers who have speculated that Palin faked her own pregnancy in order to cover up for her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol. These bloggers speculated that Sarah Palin’s fifth child, born in April with Down’s syndrome, was actually Bristol Palin’s child and that Sarah Palin was the grandmother. To rebut those rumors, Palin and her husband released a statement, first reported by Reuters, saying that Bristol was five months pregnant.
A senior McCain campaign aide was quoted in the Reuters story as suggesting that Obama’s campaign was linked to the bloggers who were spreading the rumors.
“I am offended by that statement,” Obama said when asked about it by a reporter. “There is no evidence at all that any of this involved us. Our people were not involved in any way in this and they will not be,” he added. “And if I ever thought there was somebody in my campaign that was involved in something like that, they’d be fired.”