Source: Telegraph

John McCain’s campaign has accused Barack Obama of consorting with terrorists, the first shot in a calculated programme of character assassination designed to revive his flagging presidential prospects.

The Republican candidate’s running mate Sarah Palin attacked Mr Obama for his links to Bill Ayres, the former terrorist-turned-education professor, whose Weather Underground group bombed the Pentagon in the 1960s, and with whom Mr Obama worked on community projects in the mid-1990s.

Mrs Palin said: “This is not a man who sees America as you see America and as I see America. Our opponent is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country. Americans need to know this.”

Her comments, at a fundraiser in Colorado, marked the first time the McCain campaign itself, rather than his allies in the wider conservative community, have questioned Mr Obama’s patriotism.

Mrs Palin was echoed by McCain ally Mike Huckabee, the former presidential candidate, who said: “If you hang out with somebody who has never apologised for bombing the Pentagon and the Capitol and is proud of something he should have been ashamed of, then it calls into question your judgment.”

They spoke out after the New York Times ran an article saying Mr Obama had “played down” his links with Mr Ayres.

A spokesman for Mr Obama camp condemned what they called Mrs Palin’s “shameless attack” and pointed out that the same story concluded that Mr Obama “is not close to Bill Ayres, much less pals and that he string condemned the despicable acts Ayres committed 40 years ago when Obama was eight.”

The move comes amid growing panic in the McCain campaign and signs that Mr McCain’s closest aides do not believe he can win the race for the White House in a “fair fight”.

The Sunday Telegraph knows of at least three occasions in the past month when members of his inner circle have said they fear he is doomed. Voters have flocked to Mr Obama in the economic crisis, and Mr McCain has lost the lead in several key swing states that he must win if he is to have any chance of victory in November.

A former McCain strategist, familiar with the senator’s tactical discussions, told The Sunday Telegraph he would pursue the “nuclear option”, attacking Mr Obama personally in the campaign’s last four weeks.

He said: “We were doing well when this election was all about Obama. The last two weeks have been more about John and we need to shift the focus back. There are real questions for Obama to answer. Also, it’s the only way we win. It’s the nuclear option but votes are firming up. It’s now or never.”

In the second presidential debate on Tuesday, Mr McCain will “take the gloves off”, seeking to brand Mr Obama as an old fashioned tax-and-spend liberal.

Greg Strimple, a senior adviser to Mr McCain, confirmed the change of direction. “We’re looking for a very aggressive last 30 days. We’re turning the page on this financial crisis and getting back to discussing Mr Obama’s liberal record and how he will be too risky for Americans.”

Mr Obama has a six-point national poll lead and has moved ahead in Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Colorado, North Carolina and Missouri, all won by George Bush in 2004.

Behind the scenes a mood of grim pessimism has gripped McCain staff. Mrs Palin’s perky television debate performance was the one bright spot of Mr McCain’s week, but polls show her folksy charm did little to win over floating voters. The strategist said: “Everyone’s saying she stopped the bleeding. But you’ve got to do more than stop the bleeding when your leg’s already fallen off.”

But the onslaught against Mr Obama’s patriotism, a move Mr McCain said he would never countenance, will revive claims that his campaign is a series of impulsive outbursts by an increasingly desperate man.

McCain biographer Matt Welch said: “McCain’s all over the map. What we see from McCain is anger and incoherence and publicity stunts.”

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Source: Link

In the run-up to what is the most anticipated vice presidential debate in history, both Democrats and Republicans have reason to be nervous about the high stakes, performance and potential pitfalls their candidates face.

Delaware Sen. Joe Biden is a veteran of 14 debates during the 2008 presidential primary contest. So all eyes will be on the newcomer political phenom, GOP Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has far less debate experience and whose supporters had been already trying to lower pre-emptively expectations about her performance.

Already, Team McCain has complained that Palin has been jammed this week by “gotcha” questions from “media elite” like CBS’ Katie Couric, become the punch line on comedy shows like “Saturday Night Live,” – and could be sandbagged by the debate moderator, PBS’ Gwen Ifill, who has a book coming out on Obama next year.

But after a series of recent TV interviews in which Palin has stumbled – from being unable to name the publications she regularly reads to failing to identify any Supreme Court decision she had opposed – she Alaska may no longer win just by getting through the 90-minute match-up, political insiders say.

With her negative poll ratings on the rise, she must adhere to the first rule of a vice presidential candidate – do no harm to her ticket. But she must also repair a tarnished image that has some leading conservative commentators, such as the Washington Post’s George Will and the National Review’s Kathleen Parker have questioned her credentials to be on the ticket.

“The expectations have never been lower … but the idea that she wins simply by not falling over the podium is misleading,” says Rosemary Joyce, professor and chairwoman of the Department of Anthropology at UC Berkeley. “There is a line – and Sarah Palin crossed it. Because of the national interviews in which she so clearly uninformed … she has a higher bar than just showing up. She has to make sense,” said Joyce, an authority on sex and gender issues.

With just over a month to the election and the nation’s economic troubles dominating the headlines, Palin’s political troubles come at a challenging time for the GOP ticket. The most recent CNN/Time and Quinnipiac polls, released Wednesday from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Nevada, Virginia and the bellwether state of Missouri – long viewed as in McCain’s win column – show Obama now up in all those battlegrounds. They also show McCain suffering from a growing gender gap problem with women voters.

But Palin can hardly be counted out.

“Palin is a fresh face, an attractive executive and certainly she is the only one of the four (presidential and vice presidential candidates) who has been able to connect with the rank and file voters,” said author and speech communications expert Ruth Sherman. “She hasn’t done that well in those interviews … but anybody who underestimates her is making a mistake,” she said. “She’s a masterful communicator. She knows how to connect. And that is huge from people who are getting their information from TV.”

Patrick Dorinson, a Sacramento-based GOP strategist and commentator, said the headlines of a stalled national economic bailout package and the current populist anger at Wall Street might work in Palin’s favor.

“Given the revolt against the governing class in Washington, she is going to say, ‘I’m one of you,’ ” he said. “The foreign policy stuff will be difficult – and she won’t do well on it,” Dorinson predicted. “But right now, people are focused on their family stuff. She can’t make a big gaffe, but if she can get back to who she is.”

Already, there are some broad hints about how Palin may approach the debate – her recent media appearances have unveiled potential lines of attack.

In her recent interviews with Couric, Palin argued that she provided a “fresh face” and contrast to Biden, whom she tagged a tired Washington insider. “I’ve never met (Biden) before. But, I’ve been hearing about his Senate speeches since I was in the second grade,” said Palin this week.

“People may think it’s funny,” said Sherman. But, “it does call attention to her youth and vigor. … She’ll make mention of that over and over.”

Palin also has previewed a sales pitch that she may reprise tonight.

“It’s time that normal ‘Joe Six Pack’ American is finally presented in the position of the vice presidency,” she told conservative radio commentator Hugh Hewitt, adding that her populist approach has gotten Washington elites “ticked off about it.”

The argument that Americans want a Joe Six Pack a heartbeat from the presidency is a tough sell among voters, says Joyce.

“The idea of being uninformed, being unable to name a newspaper you read … that goes beyond populist,” said Joyce. “It’s one thing to say Harvard shouldn’t dictate what the country believes, but (the McCain-Palin team) is perilously close to arguing that ignorance is good.”

For his part, Biden has a tougher challenge in a rare debate that pits male and female candidate.

“He has a very fine line to tread,” said Sherman. “He has to show respect, but can’t be too solicitous too paternalistic. He has a habit of holding forth. … He’s been in the Senate for a long time and they pontificate from 30,000 feet.”

Dorinson said Biden’s chief challenge might be putting a lid on his own verbosity.

“Biden is an embellisher who likes to think he’s the smartest guy in the room,” he said. “If I was (Palin), I’d smack back and say that the scrapper from Scranton has no idea how people live in this country.”

But the spotlight may not be on just Palin and Biden tonight.

PBS’ moderator Ifill has taken shots from conservatives for being the author of “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,” which is to be published on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day.

Dorinson said that has given conservatives ammunition to say that however the debate turns out, the media were “all in the tank” for Obama and “they’ll question her fairness.”

But Joyce said Palin will still have to stand on her own.

“I don’t see that works with anybody except the real, ardent, right-wing GOP core,” she said. “There is already a demonization of the media … but it only works with those people who already think there is a huge liberal conspiracy.”

McCain v. Obama – Let Us Know Who You Want To Win

Source: Chron

Before most presidential campaign debates, the rivals compile “to-do lists” of things they hope to accomplish. But when it comes to tonight’s vice-presidential debate, Sarah Palin and Joe Biden are more concerned about what they don’t want to do.

Palin, the Republican nominee, doesn’t want to commit a major gaffe.

Biden, the Democratic candidate, doesn’t want to talk too much.

Palin doesn’t want to look too inexperienced.

Biden doesn’t want to look like a sexist bully.

Palin doesn’t want to seem pre-programmed and robotic.

Biden doesn’t want to seem arrogant and condescending. Or to make a major misstatement.

Tonight’s encounter at Washington University in St. Louis has attracted a bright international spotlight because of the historical nature of Palin’s candidacy and the controversies swirling around her. But both candidates have plenty of flaws that will only be exaggerated in high-definition national television.

The challenge for both of them is not to overplay the perceptions of their weaknesses,” said Jeff Eller, an Austin-based consultant and former Clinton administration official.

Nonpartisan debate experts have a simple message to both candidates: Do no harm, make no headlines, commit no gaffes.

“Don’t stick your foot in your mouth,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a University of Houston political scientist.

That could be a problem for two candidates who have been plagued by mistakes in recent weeks.

Biden, a six-term senator from Delaware, said that Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation on television after the 1929 stock market crash. (FDR wasn’t president yet and commercial TV didn’t exist at the time.) He told a TV interviewer that paying higher taxes was “patriotic.” And he called an Obama campaign ad ridiculing Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s computer skills “terrible.”

Make a case for McCain
Alaska Gov. Palin, for her part, has appeared unsure of herself in a series of TV interviews. Describing the proximity of her state to Russia, she told CBS’s Katie Couric, “it’s very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where, where do they go? It’s Alaska.”

Palin’s greatest challenge is to avoid the widespread public perception that she’s a policy lightweight. An Associated Press poll released Wednesday found that just 25 percent of likely voters say she has the right experience to be president — down from 41 percent a month ago.

“Ultimately, what Sarah Palin needs to avoid is talking about her experience, her positions (on issues) and her worldview,” said Republican consultant Kevin Madden. “Instead, she should make the case for John McCain’s worldview, positions and experience.”

Go for the zingers
Analysts across the ideological spectrum counsel Palin to return to the folksy banter and clever zingers that wowed conservatives and independents in the weeks after her surprise selection.

“What Sarah Palin needs to do is to be herself and not pretend to be someone else,” said independent pollster John Zogby. “She needs to be authentic and not pretend that Alaska is guarding the U.S. from Russian attack.”

The loquacious Biden needs to hold his tongue — something he has had trouble doing during his 36 years in office.

“He needs to avoid Senate-speak, long soliloquies with highly complex arguments that sound like a lecture,” said GOP consultant Madden.

Biden’s penchant for rambling rhetoric often leads to his most damaging gaffes.

“Mr. Biden can be an effective debater when he remains succinct and does not go off on tangents and shoot from the lip, so to speak,” said University of Texas government professor Bruce Buchanan.

Don’t be condescending
But the greatest danger facing the Democratic nominee is to act condescending or dismissive.

“It’s going to be absolutely fatal if he’s even perceived as being too tough on her,” said Texas A&M University political scientist Judith Baer. “However tempting it is, he cannot risk making the kind of crack (Texas Sen.) Lloyd Bentsen did when he said (to Dan Quayle in 1988), ‘You’re no Jack Kennedy.’ ”

Baer said Biden “must convey the impression that he takes Palin seriously. If he’s too critical, he risks creating sympathy for her.”

Ross Ramsey, editor of Texas Weekly, a nonpartisan political newsletter, said Biden must be polite but — most of all — concise.

“The less people remember Biden was there, the better he does,” Ramsey said. “You want to give her the whole spotlight and hope she trips.”

Ramsey likens the two debaters to accident-prone drivers.

“He needs to drive with his seat belt on,” Ramsey said. “She has a ‘student driver’ sticker on the side of the car. She needs to drive the thing like a pro and keep it between the lines.”

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Source: AFP

ST. LOUIS, Missouri (AFP) — US voters braced for the most anticipated vice-presidential debate in history on Thursday amid speculation that Republican Sarah Palin could stumble before millions of viewers.

Concern about Palin’s readiness has mounted in recent days following a series of cringe-inducing interviews in which Palin, a first-time Alaska governor, has been sometimes lost for words when faced with tough questioning.

Accusations have flown that Palin was overhandled and underexposed on the campaign trail and expectations are low as she prepares to square off against her Democrat rival Joe Biden in their sole clash ahead of the November 4 election.

The governor burst onto the national scene when John McCain picked her as his running mate, energizing the conservative Republican base with her positions on abortion, gun rights and her background as a moose-hunting, deeply Christian mother of five from the northern frontier.

But the bloom is fading and some Republicans are fearing a fiasco.

On Wednesday Palin spent the final full day of intensive training at McCain’s Arizona ranch.

In recent days she has faced widespread ridicule for the few interviews she has granted, including for citing Alaska’s proximity to Canada and Russia as giving her foreign policy experience.

At least two renowned conservative columnists — keen to back Palin when she was announced as McCain’s running mate — are in open revolt and calling her unqualified for the job.

Writing in the conservative National Review, columnist Kathleen Parker said Palin should step down, while Dallas Morning News editorial columnist Rod Dreher wrote that he is no longer backing McCain-Palin.

Some political analysts and experts said Palin was facing her most crucial test just 34 days before Americans head to voting booths.

“It’s make-or-break for her in the sense that, in a three-game series, her record so far is one and one: the convention and the interviews,” Washington University history professor Peter Kastor told AFP.

Her speech brought the house down at the Republican convention at the beginning of September.

“This (debate) could be what seals the deal. If she does extremely well or extremely poorly, obviously it will be the debate that people say defines Sarah Palin’s candidacy,” Kastor said.

Joel Goldstein, a presidency scholar at St. Louis University, said the Biden-Palin debate has a “unique level of fascination,” primarily because there has been “so little exposure so far of Governor Palin.”

Goldstein and other experts described it as the most anticipated vice-presidential debate since they debuted back in 1976.

In the build-up to Thursday’s showdown, Palin acquaintances from Alaska framed the candidate as an effective debater.

Anchorage Daily News editor Larry Persily described how Palin “flummoxed her rivals like Muhammad Ali around the ring.”

Tony Knowles, former governor of Alaska, said Palin “is an attractive candidate with a unique ability to emotionally connect with the audience.”

This week McCain has sought to help Palin navigate a media minefield.

In response to the attacks, McCain struggled Wednesday to convincingly answer a National Public Radio reporter’s question on whether he would ask for foreign policy advice from his running mate.

“I’ve turned to her for advice many times in the past,” McCain told a journalist from NPR, without specifying on what subjects.

Ahead of the debate, Palin, 44, told a rally in Ohio that she had never met Biden. “But I’ve been hearing about his Senate speeches since I was in, like, second grade,” she quipped.

When asked by CBS interviewer Katie Couric if that was a risky thing to say considering Palin’s own running mate is 72, the governor replied: “Oh no, it’s nothing negative at all.”

“He’s got a tremendous amount of experience and, you know, I’m the new energy, the new face.”

Biden, a 35-year veteran of the Senate, is known for being gaffe-prone, and he runs the risk of sounding condescending or patronizing when he faces off against Palin.

Last month he told a campaign rally that he will not let things get personal at the debate.

“The way I was raised is: I never, ever, ever attack the other person,” Biden said. “I will take issue with her as strongly as I can.”

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Source: Link

The first half of the Katie Couric interview with Sarah Palin did not start off well. It was a complete disaster in fact.

It’s like watching a train wreck, she seems to have no idea what she is talking about.

But hey, people sometimes get off on the wrong foot. It couldn’t get any worse right? She just probably needed to find her rhythm, right?

Well, no. If the first half of the interview was bad, well then the second half of the interview was much, much worse.

From Ryan Powers over at Think Progress:

During the interview, Couric asked Palin why she believes the Wall Street bailout is needed. Palin responded incoherently by claiming that the bailout would “help those who are concerned about health care reform.” Palin then appeared to look down at her notes and said, “Oh, it’s got to be all about job creation”:

COURIC: Why isn’t it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries? … Instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

PALIN: Ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up the economy- Oh, it’s got to be about job creation too. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions

“She’s not always responsive when she’s asked questions,” Couric said of Palin. “It was a really interesting experience for me to interview her yesterday,” she added.

Well, people make mistakes. But that has to be the worst of it right? Nope, as Steve Benen over at the Washington Monthly reported:

Earlier, I suggested Sarah Palin’s response to Katie Couric’s question on the bailout was a low point in Palin’s brief career as a candidate for national office. I spoke too soon.

As regular readers know, almost immediately after Palin was added to the Republican ticket, a number of conservatives, including McCain himself, argued Alaska’s proximity to Russia necessarily amounts to foreign policy experience. I’ve been having some fun with this, because, well, it’s the dumbest argument I’ve ever heard.

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Source: AJC

In her interview with Katie Couric to be aired tonight on CBS, Sarah Palin complains that she should not have been mocked for claiming that Alaska’s proximity to Russia gives her insight into foreign policy.

So Couric gently asks Palin to explain again how proximity enhances her foreign policy credentials. Here’s the exchange, verbatim:

PALIN: “It certainly does, because our next-door neighbors are foreign countries there in the state that I am the executive of….”

COURIC: “Have you ever been involved in negotiations, for example, with the Russians?”

PALIN: “We have trade missions back and forth. We do. It’s very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It’s Alaska, it’s just right over the border. It’s from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right there next to our state.” (TRANSCRIPT CORRECTED AS OF 4:46)

And so they are.

Palin is living, breathing proof that John McCain lies when he claims to put this country first over politics. She makes Dan Quayle look like Albert Einstein with a better haircut.

Here’s the clip. Go horrify yourself. Seeing it is worse than reading it.

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4478156n

McCain v. Obama – Let Us Know Who You Want To Win

Source: Link

NEW YORK – Sarah Palin met her first world leaders Tuesday. It was a tightly controlled crash course on foreign policy for the Republican vice presidential candidate, the mayor-turned-governor who has been outside North America just once.

Palin sat down with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. The conversations were private, the pictures public, meant to build her resume for voters concerned about her lack of experience in world affairs.

“I found her quite a capable woman,” Karzai said later. “She asked the right questions on Afghanistan.”

The self-described “hockey mom” also asked former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for insights on Georgia, Russia, China and Iran, and she’ll see more leaders Wednesday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meetings.

It was shuttle diplomacy, New York-style. At several points, Palin’s motorcade got stuck in traffic and New Yorkers, unimpressed with the flashing lights, sirens and police officers in her group, simply walked between the vehicles to get across the street. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, three hours behind Palin in seeing Karzai, found herself overshadowed for a day as she made her own rounds.

John McCain’s presidential campaign has shielded the first-term Alaska governor for weeks from spontaneous questions from voters and reporters, and went to striking lengths Tuesday to maintain that distance as Palin made her diplomatic debut.

The GOP campaign, applying more restrictive rules on access than even President Bush uses in the White House, banned reporters from the start of the meetings, so as not to risk a question being asked of Palin.

McCain aides relented after news organizations objected and CNN, which was supplying TV footage to a variety of networks, decided to pull its TV crew from Palin’s meeting with Karzai.

Overheard: small talk.

Palin is studying foreign policy ahead of her one debate with Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden, a senator with deep credentials on that front. More broadly, the Republican ticket is trying to counter questions exploited by Democrats about her qualifications to serve as vice president and step into the presidency at a moment’s notice if necessary.

There was no chance of putting such questions to rest with photo opportunities Tuesday.

But Palin, who got a passport only last year, no longer has to own up to a blank slate when asked about heads of state she has met.

She also got her first intelligence briefing Tuesday, over two hours.

Karzai generated light laughter when he told an audience at the Asia Society that, in addition to Rice and Norway’s prime minister, he had seen Palin on Tuesday. Thomas Freston, a member of the society’s board, drew loud applause and laughter when he responded: “You’re probably the only person in the room who’s met Gov. Palin.”

Randy Scheunemann, a longtime McCain aide on foreign policy, was close at hand during her meetings. Another adviser, Stephen Biegun, also accompanied her at each meeting and briefed reporters later.

Karzai and Palin discussed security problems in Afghanistan, including cross-border insurgencies. They also talked about the need for more U.S. troops there, which both McCain and Democrat Barack Obama say is necessary, Biegun said.

With both Karzai and Uribe, Palin discussed the importance of energy security. With Uribe, the conversation also touched on the proposed U.S.-Colombian Free Trade Agreement that McCain and Palin support but Obama opposes.

Her meeting with Kissinger, which lasted more than an hour, covered a range of national security and foreign policy issues, specifically Russia, Iran and China, Biegun said.

“Rather than make specific policy prescriptions, she was largely listening, having an exchange of views and also very interested in forming a relationship with people she met with today,” he said.

Before Palin’s first meeting of the day, with Karzai, campaign aides had told reporters in the press pool that followed her they could not go into meetings where photographers and a video camera crew would be let in for pictures.

Bush and members of Congress routinely allow reporters to attend photo opportunities along with photographers, and the reporters sometimes are able to ask questions at the beginning of private meetings before they are ushered out.

At least two news organizations, including AP, objected to the exclusion of reporters and were told that the decision to have a “photo spray” only was not subject to discussion. After aides backed away from that, campaign spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said the reporter ban was a “miscommunication.”

On Wednesday, McCain and Palin are expected to meet jointly with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko. Palin is then to meet separately with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Palin, 44, has been to neighboring Canada and to Mexico, and made a brief trip to Kuwait and Germany to see Alaska National Guard troops.

McCain v. Obama – Let Us Know Who You Want To Win

Palin on Thin Ice

September 24, 2008

Source: Link

With today’s kerfuffle over the media being kept away from Sarah Palin’s meetings with foreign leaders — like there was a risk she’d answer their shouted questions? — I’ve been mulling over Colby’s post about the Hannity-Palin “100 percent pure infomercial” interview. I watched both nights, then read the transcripts, and I think the interview hasn’t gotten nearly the attention it deserved. While I agree with Colby’s assessment that the audience was “treated to a political advertisement aimed at serving the interests of the Republican presidential ticket,” I think the Hannity love-fest offered a valuable look at Palin, perhaps more revealing because she was on such friendly territory. For all the softballs Hannity tossed her way, Palin did not come off very well, in my view. If this was a political commercial, I wasn’t buying the product.

The way she answers questions brings to mind — I have Alaska on the brain, admittedly — the image of a polar bear, jumping from rhetorical ice floe to ice floe, drifting some but eventually managing to get safely to dry land. No flubs, but you get the sense that she could plunge into the icy water at any moment. Palin has an odd tendency to use the same word twice in a sentence, as in, “The people of American realize that inherently all political power is inherent in the people,” or, about John McCain, “He can surpass the partisanship that must be surpassed to deal with an issue like this.” Or, combining word repetition with another Palin verbal tic, word dropping, this about the economic meltdown: “Well, you know, first Fannie and Freddie, different because quasi-government agencies there where government had to step in because the adverse impact all across our nation, especially with homeowners, is just too impacting.”

Ok, not everyone is Daniel Webster. Palin isn’t the first politician to dwell in the land of anodyne clichés such as, “We sort of have a do-nothing Senate right now where nobody is really wanting to pick up the ball and run with it.” Yet I always got the sense listening to George W. Bush tying himself up in rhetorical knots that his problem was more in the nature of getting the words to come out of his mouth correctly, not so much that he didn’t know what to say. Palin — I’m not so sure.

An Alaska friend tells me that Palin has always benefited from being underestimated. Maybe I’m doing that. Maybe I’ve been around polished politicians too long to appreciate the unvarnished authenticity that obviously appeals to many voters. But there’s no Palin interview I’ve listened to, before or after her selection, that gave me the sense that she had anything but a millimeter-thin understanding of the issues facing the country she hopes to help lead.

Consider this exchange.

Hannity: What is our role as a country as it relates to national security?

Palin: Yes. That’s a great question, and being an optimist I see our role in the world as one of being a force for good, and one of being the leader of the world when it comes to the values that — it seems that just human kind embraces the values that — encompass life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that’s just — not just in America, that is in our world.

And America is in a position because we care for so many people to be able to lead and to be able to have a strong diplomacy and a strong military also at the same time to defend not only our freedoms, but to help these rising smaller democratic countries that are just — you know, they’re putting themselves on the map right now, and they’re going to be looking to America as that leader.

We being used as a force for good is how I see our country.

Whew. Made it to the other side of that one.

Can’t wait for the debate. I bet it will be impacting.

McCain v. Obama – Let Us Know Who You Want To Win

Source: Link

September 22, 2008 (Computerworld) The man who traced the IP address of the hacker who accessed Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s e-mail account last week confirmed today that it belongs to an Illinois company that provides Internet service to the Knoxville, Tenn., apartment complex where the FBI served a search warrant early Sunday.

Gabriel Ramuglia, the webmaster of Ctunnel, an Athens, Ga.-based proxy service used by the hacker to mask his or her identity, acknowledged that the IP address he found in his server logs belongs to Pavlov Media, an Internet service provider based in Champaign, Ill.

According to its Web site, Pavlov Media provides Internet, television and phone services to The Commons at Knoxville, a complex that specializes in apartments for students of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

Early Sunday, WBIR, Knoxville’s NBC affiliate, reported that FBI agents had searched the apartment of David Kernell, 20, at The Commons. David Kernell is the son of Mike Kernell, a longtime Democratic state legislator from Memphis.

Last week, David Kernell was linked to the hack of Palin’s e-mail account on blogs and message boards after someone identified only as “Rubico” claimed to have accessed Palin’s account by using Yahoo Inc.’s password reset feature. Others subsequently connected the Rubico handle to the e-mail address rubico10@yahoo.com, which was in turn linked to Kernell through Internet searches that uncovered connections between him, the username and the e-mail address on sites such as YouTube.

Rubico claimed that the online research needed to reset Palin’s password took just 45 minutes.

Ramuglia said Sunday that the IP address he found in the proxy service logs didn’t “look consistent” with reports identifying Kernell. By today, however, he had changed his mind.

“It became clear that the ISP, in addition to serving Illinois, also serves Tennessee, which means that the IP address could actually be consistent with the news reports,” Ramuglia said today.

Ramuglia had been asked by the FBI to save the proxy service’s log — logs are usually purged after seven days — and to search for a specific IP address that authorities provided. The IP address was one in a block assigned to Pavlov Media.

Before the account break-in, Palin, the Republican nominee for vice president, had come under fire for using private e-mail accounts to conduct state business. Some critics had accused her and others in her administration of using private accounts rather than state-provided ones to skirt message-retention and public-records laws.

McCain v. Obama – Let Us Know Who You Want To Win

Source: PC Mag

How can you prevent a Palin webmail hack from happening to you? The short answer: you can’t.

Yahoo has no immediate plans to overhaul its e-mail security procedures after a hacker last week gained access to Sarah Palin’s private Yahoo Mail account, the company said Monday. Instead, it is reviewing security processes on an industry-wide basis.

Google’s Gmail and Microsoft’s Hotmail also have existing processes in place to enable password recovery. But those too can be exploited by a hacker patient enough to sniff through personal data that might already be available online.

Yahoo, however, is being forced to reconsider its own security practices.

“While federal law and our privacy policy prevent us from commenting about specific user accounts, Yahoo takes security and privacy seriously and we are continually working on improvements to our account security processes,” according to a spokeswoman. “We’re also participating in industry-wide discussions on how to better protect users.”

A hacker gained access to the Republican vice presidential hopeful’s gov.palin@yahoo.com account last week after successfully navigating Yahoo’s password recovery feature. That process required the hacker to enter Palin’s login name, date of birth, ZIP code, and to answer the question, “Where did you meet your spouse?”

Palin, who currently serves as governor of Alaska, is now widely known to be a lifetime resident of Wasilla, Alaska, so the ZIP code was easily deciphered. A quick Google search revealed her date of birth, and any of the approximately 40 million people listened to her GOP convention acceptance speech were informed that she met her husband in high school. An amateur who fiddled with the wording a bit – “Wasilla high” being the correct response – had access within minutes.

Yahoo is trying to strike a balance between providing a secure user experience while also ensuring a process for accessing lost account information, according to a source familiar with the situation. The company last week issued a memo to users on how to create more secure passwords, though the Palin hacker did not know her password.

Naturally, a typical user’s personal Webmail accounts are not going to generate as much hacker interest as Palin’s account, but security remains a concern. What is your best option?

When signing up for Yahoo, the company asks for standard personal information – name, gender, date of birth, country, and ZIP code – and then asks users to answer one of nine possible secret questions: where the user met his or her spouse; the first school the user attended; his or her childhood hero, favorite pastime, favorite sports team, father’s middle name, or high school mascot; the name of the user’s first car or bike; or the name of the user’s pet.

Once you select one of these questions, however, you cannot change it. You can also not change your date of birth. Had Palin recovered her own account, hackers could have just as easily gained re-entry given that they had the answer to her secret question. Yahoo does allow users to change their gender and/or location, so switching her ZIP code to a random city might have done the trick.

Microsoft’s Hotmail has a similar set-up situation, asking for personal information, and the answer to one of six secret questions: the user’s mother’s birthplace, the user’s best childhood friend, the name of the user’s first pet, the user’s favorite teacher, favorite historical person, or the occupation of the user’s grandfather.

Unlike Yahoo, Hotmail users can change their secret question once they set up their account. This might have helped Palin if she’d acted fast, but it also means that if the hacker had successfully accessed a Hotmail account, the hacker could have changed the secret question immediately and locked the proper owner out of the account indefinitely.

Microsoft also has no immediate plans to change its Hotmail security processes, according to a spokeswoman.

“Microsoft is always working to strengthen the security of its products and services and is committed to helping consumers have a safe, secure and positive online experience,” she said. “We know our customers’ needs are constantly evolving based on changes in the security landscape and we are always working to meet these new threats and to help protect our customers from them.”

Gmail might have the most secure password recovery process at this point, but it is a potentially lengthy process.

Gmail also requires personally identifiable information, but lets users either create their own question or answer one of four Google-selected questions: primary frequent flyer number, library card number, first phone number, or first teacher’s name.

If a user forgets his or her password, Google will send password reset information to the secondary e-mail address a user provided when signing up. But if the user lost the password to that account, no longer had access to it, or did not provide a second e-mail address, Google requires a waiting period of five days before resetting the password.

“To prevent someone from trying to break into an account you’re actively using, the security question is only used for account recovery after an account has been idle for five days,” according to Google. “The Gmail team cannot waive the five day requirement or access your password under any circumstances.”

The FBI and Secret Service are now investigating the Palin hack. Authorities reportedly searched the home of a 20-year-old University of Tennessee student over the weekend, but no arrests have been made. The hacker could face felony charges for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, but could also avoid prosecution thanks to a Department of Justice loophole, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Palin and the now erased Yahoo account have also made headlines over allegations that the governor used her personal account for state business.

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