Tag Archives: debate

Killing the messenger: Out for Joe’s blood

Predictably enough, the Associated Press and similar outlets have declared war on Joe Wurzelbacher, AKA “Joe the Plumber,” AKA the guy who dared ask Barack Obama an uncomfortable question when people were watching.

Questions have been brought to light about Wurzelbacher’s status as a plumber, his tax returns, his income, his voting history, and the size of the business he wants to buy.  The New York Times had a whole medley of sinister tales from the underbelly of the Wurzelbacher household in yesterday’s edition.  Joe himself has come under more scrutiny in the last two or three days than the press has bothered to exercise on Sen. Obama for two years.  All the result of a question Joe had the temerity to ask Obama before the senator could set up his TelePrompTer and focus-group the potential answers.

The Associated Press and its cohorts have missed the story yet again; they can villainize “Joe the Plumber” to their hearts’ content, but Obama’s response to him in Ohio still has a life of its own.

Looking back, Obama’s off-the-cuff answer to Joe’s worry that his taxes would rise under Obama’s tax plan is one he would doubtless like to “revise and extend.”  The senator slipped smoothly into professor mode and lectured the t-shirt-wearing “average guy” archetype in front of him on the virtues of “spreading the wealth around” through hideously lopsided taxation.  If Obama didn’t know it then, he surely has learned now that a blue-collar worker trying to pull his way up the economic ladder by the sweat of his own brow is probably not the ideal audience for a high-flying ode to the virtues of redistributionism.

The aftermath of Obama’s gaffe was the last thing he needed in the last 24 hours before the final debate.  Joemania — and I don’t mean Obama’s running mate — was front and center at Hofstra University as each candidate fought to yank away the mantle of “Champion of Joe the Plumber” (the man does have a last name, guys, by the way).  John McCain seemed to wear that mantle much more comfortably, as Obama spent most of his Joe-wooing time trying to persuade the audience that he didn’t really tell Joe what the videocamera says he told him in Ohio.  The post-debate consensus that McCain came across as Joe’s better bet of the two was confirmed in the new effort to discredit Joe Wurzelbacher as…well, it’s hard to tell, but the point appears to be that Joe’s question doesn’t matter, or shouldn’t have been asked, or something.

Lost in all of this new personal infodumping about Evil Joe Barackbane is the substance of his original conversation with Obama.  Here’s the thing:  what hurt Obama about that conversation isn’t who Joe is; it’s what Obama told him. His “spreading the wealth around” comment provided a rare insight into Obama’s feelings about the role of government in directing the economy and the relationship of the government to private citizens who work for a living.  Overtaxing businesses and individuals for the purpose of passing on the proceeds to the less fortunate, executed on a governmental scale, is a recipe for economic disaster.  It’s been demonstrated in the past, and it’s part of long-established American conventional wisdom.

The ominous “spreading the wealth” rhetoric was the weapon McCain brought to the debate against Obama, not “Joe the Plumber,” which was no more than a pleasing marketing package.  Tearing down Joe Wurzelbacher doesn’t change a thing about that unscripted glimpse into Obama’s fascination with redistributionist economic doctrine.  In fact, the tarnishing of the “Joe the Plumber” brand will force McCain to rely more on the phrase “spreading the wealth around,” which goes more to the heart of why the home video of that exchange in Ohio went viral so quickly and led to so many second looks at Barack Obama.

It’s not about who likes “Joe the Plumber.”  It’s about who supports the government’s “spreading the wealth around.”

UPDATE: Captain Ed has more insight on the perils of questioning The Anointed.  Miz Michelle christens “Operation Destroy Joe the Plumber” (I’m a little disappointed…she couldn’t have come up with something better?  Operation Rip Out the Pipes?  Operation Plumbing New Depths?  Operation Kitchen Sink?  You’ve got gold here, Michelle, c’mon…)

UPDATE II: Oh, good gawd.  Daily Kos and other leftward blogs (none of whom I’ll dignify with a link) are soiling themselves over unconfirmed reports that some relative of Joe Wurzelbacher’s is Charles Keating’s son-in-law and a GOP donor.  (Joe’s reported response: “I don’t know anything about that.”)  So what would this mean?  That Obama worked his way along a rope line and picked himself a McCain plant for a question?

Presidential Debate Liveblog! v3.0 UPDATE: He DID! He DID! He DID say “Senator Government!”

Final debate, Hofstra University in Long Island.  McCain’s last chance to turn things around, if the Obama campaign’s carefully disseminated talking points memo is to be believed, which it apparently has been by most of its recipients at the networks.

Pundits upon pundits today have piled an avalanche of advice on McCain for tonight:  stay on the economy, stay on Obama’s character, keep Rev. Wright on the table, keep Rev. Wright off the table, and so on.  Frankly, I’ve given up trying to predict what McCain’s going to go with tonight, though I can’t say I’m optimistic about his chances, given that tonight’s debate doesn’t look to be any more spontaneous than the previous two snooze-fests; a condition that favors Obama.  (I’m surfing past Fox News Channel now, on which Bill O’Reilly and Brit Hume are both complaining about how the formats for the other two debates were so full of strictures and constraints that spontaneity of any kind was a practical impossibility.)

No co-livebloggers in DC this evening; this time it’s just me and my flatscreen back home.

Full liveblog, wrap-up, links, and an UPDATE below the break.

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Well, guess we don’t need the debate, now…

The Drudge Report has fired off some Flash Traffic with a bit of good news:  we don’t need to have the debate tonight!

The Obama campaign was kind enough to release a full complement of talking points to the press, 12 hours before the debate has even started.  The talking points memo comes in an email from Sean Smith, the Obama campaign’s communications director for Pennsylvania.  As Drudge notices (and I’ve been noticing all day),

The memo oddly mirrors much of the main press analysis and theme of the current campaign.

Who’da thunk it.  Man, they don’t even try to hide it anymore…they just keep a “marching orders” email list to send to their press contacts, and wait for the parroting to begin.  I’m halfway to hoping Obama loses just for the sake of keeping the press from thinking they can fix an election.

View the text of the memo as reported by Drudge, and further links, below the break.

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Presidential Debate Liveblogging! (Part Deux) UPDATE: “Playing with fire” follow-up

[Click here for the brief back-story on this group liveblog in D.C. for an upcoming PBS documentary.]

Allrightythen, I’m situated in a lovely townhouse in Washington, with the leading lights of the liveblogosphere surrounding me (or at least tonight’s leading lights):  Quin Hillyer (blogging for American Spectator), Leslie Carbone (liveblogging on Twitter), Laura Clawson (for Daily Kos), Lynette Long (who provided the venue for tonight…thanx, Lynette!), and Mary Beth Ellis (of Blonde Champagne), with our documentary host: historian, author, and snappy dresser Rick Brookhiser. Looking around, I think I’m the only one who doesn’t write for a living, at least in part.  Fantabulous.  Pray I don’t embarrass myself.

(Roundup from Instapundit, plus reactions from Power Line, Hot Air, Miz Michelle, Gateway Pundit, The Anchoress, and Ann Althouse.  Don’t forget to check out the work of my fellow Hamiltonian livebloggers linked up top!)

Blow-by-blow liveblogging with after-debate discussion for the cameras (plus a follow-up from a previous post) below the break.

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Playing with fire at the town hall debate?

Miz Michelle raises the specter of the embarrassing YouTube-sponsored debate during the Democratic primary, after which evidence emerged that the Clinton, Obama, and Edwards campaigns had all made use of planted supporters in the question-submitting audience, under the false guise of “undecided” voters.

John Dickerson at Slate is also wary, anticipating a tendency for audience members to grandstand.  He writes an article entitled “Beware of Ponytail Guy,” in a reference to the pony-tailed opening questioner at the town hall debate between George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton in 1992.  The questioner, a “domestic mediator” name Denton Walthall, scolded the two candidates ahead of time against going negative during the debate, imploring them to treat the audience as they would their own children (he actually used the sentence, “Could we cross our hearts?”).  I remember watching that debate 16 years ago, and my gorge still rises at the memory of this man simpering for the cameras as if he were addressing 5-year-olds.

I think that’s a risk you take in a loose format like this one.  When the audience controls the questioning, the chances of a sideshow, or (as in the YouTube debate) a hijacking by a campaign mole, go through the roof.  If the news is to be believed, it appears the Democrats have a longer track record of plants in town hall debates, but John McCain has been pushing for this format for months now (he is said to thrive in a freewheeling environment), and Obama has been ducking him every step of the way since early summer.  Now that the Democrats have coalesced further behind Obama since McCain first proposed his series of town hall debates (i.e. there’s less chance now of Obama getting unfriendly questions from primary-opponent plants), we’ll see if McCain doesn’t look back thinking maybe he should have watched what he wished for.

However, Dickerson at Slate points out that there’s a factor at play this year that wasn’t present when Denton Walthall reared his pony-tailed head at the town hall in 1992 — the blogosphere:

On Tuesday night, if Son of Ponytail Guy asks a question, he can rest assured that he will receive a thorough going-over in the blogosphere. So I suggest all prospective questioners Google themselves, make sure they’re on good terms with their co-workers, and wipe clean their Facebook page.

May the best troll win!

CNN calls Obama camp on relationship w/Ayers

CNN’s Anderson Cooper and correspondent Drew Griffin have done some digging into the ongoing claim that Barack Obama had a negligible relationship with former Weatherman bomber Bill Ayers.  The Obama campaign’s claim that the 1995 political event at the home of Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn that launched Obama’s public career was a coincidental meeting of Obama and Ayers, arranged by Ayers and Obama’s political patron and predecessor, State Sen. Alice Palmer, and that Obama was simply a bystander, also comes under scrutiny.  The upshot?  CNN is not convinced.

In what Captain Ed calls a “random act of journalism” by CNN, Griffin does the following:

  • puts the lie to the Obama camp’s image of a fleeting relationship between Obama and Ayers, in favor of a documented story of a close collaboration over many years between them on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and the Woods Fund;
  • gives airtime to Stanley Kurtz, the scholar and writer who broke through the wall of bureaucratic red tape thrown up around the CAC archives and found out the true nature and extent of that relationship (including some eyebrow-raising educational approaches spearheaded by Ayers and subsequently funded by Obama, the chairman);
  • relies on witnesses at the 1995 event at Ayers’ and Dohrn’s home, including former State Sen. Palmer herself, in concluding that Palmer played only a peripheral role in the event, having simply been invited and made an appearance for a few minutes, and was not responsible for arranging it as Obama has claimed.  That event was by Obama, of Obama, and for Obama.

Kurtz has had a lot of trouble getting media attention paid to his hard work investigating the connection between Obama and Ayers.  When he was invited onto a radio talk show in Chicago, Obama partisans flooded the phone lines with calls hostile to Kurtz in an effort to shut the interview down. (The station, WGN, had called the Obama campaign office to offer them equal time during the show; they refused, but used the advance notice to email supporters, rallying them to smother the interview.)  To see CNN give time to Kurtz in a setting immune to grassroots thuggery is refreshing, to say the least.

I’m still betting against McCain bringing up this subject at tonight’s debate unless one of the audience members brings it up (the debate will follow a town hall format with audience questions), but the story of Obama and Ayers now has sturdier legs than it had before, now that news organs like CNN are finally starting to take this question seriously.  I’m sure that Hillary Clinton, who also brought up the subject of Obama’s shady friends during the primary, is savoring the bitter irony.

Stay tuned…

Posting will be light Tuesday, as I’ll be trekking down to D.C. to participate in a mass liveblog of the presidential debate.  The livebloggers will be part of a documentary by Manifold Productions about Alexander Hamilton, which will be hosted by eminent historian and columnist Rick Brookhiser, who will be chatting with us for the cameras before and afterward.

The blogging segment is intended to draw a parallel between the upstart journalism and pamphleteering that defined Hamilton’s activism in the Revolutionary era, and the citizen journalism, watchdoggery, and lightning fast back-and-forth of the blogosphere today.  Yes, I am psyched.

Don’t miss the liveblog on WitSnapper, Tuesday at 9pm ET!

Oh, man, I hope Rudy ad-libbed that…

…because if he did, it’s the most memorable impromptu line I’ve heard from any politician, Republican or Democrat, in years.

Rudy Giuliani, my former mayor from my former city of residence, was in Ohio Saturday remarking on Sarah Palin’s performance at last week’s debate.  (Link via Hot Air Headlines.)  He said she did a “terrific job,” that she made conservative columnists that had been calling for dumping her (Kathleen Parker, George Will, David Frum) “look like a bunch of jerks” now, and dismissed post-debate snap polls as stacked against Republicans.  That last bullet point drew the following maxim from the Mind of Rudy:

Republicans never win polls, they win elections.

Even if I were the most die-hard, starry-eyed, cult-enraptured Obama voluptuary ever to traipse across the green, green earth, I would still go to my grave wishing I had thought that one up.

Two can play the Photoshop game

Amanda Carpenter seethes about the recent trend of Palinoiacs doing their utmost to trivialize Sarah Palin in a particularly shabby way:  pouncing on her unabashed femininity to turn her into some kind of slutty, bubbleheaded, bimboized porn star, featuring ample, and extraordinarily tasteless, use of Photoshop and the Internet.  Fairly predictable tactic when the object is a conservative woman (Carpenter recounts having been a target herself).

Well, turns out conservatives can be pretty handy with Photoshop as well.  And in this case, with a considerably sharper sense of humor.  Here’s a picture of the Democrats’ second-in-command in a candid moment at his professed favorite place to “hang out:”

"Hi, my name's Joe!"

"Hi, my name's Joe! Plumbing's in Aisle 7."

Imagine being greeted by this man.  Whaddya think, good for business or bad?

UPDATE: The lovely and talented blogress at LaLaBlahBlah bravely stands up and counts herself among the Palinoiacs plying their Photoshop trade at Gov. Palin’s expense, and defiantly posts a link to an example in my comments section.  I doubt Amanda Carpenter would complain about LLBB’s efforts, though, since her montage is actually kind of funny, and doesn’t come across as painfully vicious, skin-crawlingly creepy, or nastily partisan.  It’s OK, LLBB, I doubt you’d want to be in the company of Carpenter’s Palin “Pornification” Hall of Shame anyway.

UPDATE II: Welcome, readers of Miz Michelle! Please have a look around, if you would.

Is it safe to like Sarah again?

Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, prominent Sarah Palin fan-turned-skeptic-turned-oh-gawd-get-her-off-the-ticket-advocate, has now recovered from her brief spate of the vapors that led her to launch a one-woman “Dump Sarah” movement, and returned to the loving embrace of the pro-Palin fold.

On September 26, following Gov. Palin’s ghastly pseudo-interviews with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric, Parker posted a column to National Review Online that was half rueful lament and half panicky plea.  She reflected on her joy in the first couple of weeks following Palin’s assuming her place on the ticket, and concluded in morose retrospect, “it was fun while it lasted.”  Concluding that Palin was “Out Of Her League” (caps hers), Parker ended her column in an open appeal to Palin to “bow out” and “save McCain, her party, and the country she loves.”

The reaction was inevitable with such a piece from any conservative columnist.  It was snatched up by every mainstream reporter and liberal blogger from sea to shining website, paraded about like a head on a pike as incontrovertible evidence that McCain’s wild gamble on a backwoods hick governor had backfired and fried his campaign.  The schadenfreude was so suffocating that it could have dropped a rutting bull moose faster and with greater finality than the entire Palin family armed to the teeth.  The McCain-Palin bid was pronounced dead (again).

What a difference 90 minutes on a stage with Joe Biden can make!  Today’s column on Townhall.com reveals a “relieved” Parker.  The lead sentence asks in wonderment, “What did they do with the other Sarah Palin?”  If a Web page were capable of facial expressions, this one would be goggle-eyed and slack-jawed.  Parker still sounds a note of residual wariness about Palin’s fitness for office (“once bitten,” and all that) even as she hands her due credit for a satisfying debate performance.  However, while she still wonders whether Palin is able to lead the free world, she duly notes that such a question is no longer less daunting when directed at Barack Obama.

Her fellow columnist on the same site, Matt Lewis, posts his own reaction to the debate, entitled “Still Think She Should Step Down?”  Lewis is too much of a gentleman to mention Parker by name, or to make any churlish reference to her previous column, but then he doesn’t need to.

Biden’s crowning achievement?

Man, Captain Ed is on fire today.  He’s beaten me to the punch in revisiting one of Biden’s statements from last night which I touched on in my liveblog; namely, that he claims “credit” for introducing ideology as a deciding criterion for confirming judges to the federal bench.

The question from Gwen Ifill went as follows:

…Can you think of a single issue, policy issue, in which you were forced to change a long-held view in order to accommodate changed circumstances?

Biden’s answer, in part:

When I got to the United States Senate and went on the Judiciary Committee as a young lawyer, I was of the view and had been trained in the view that the only thing that mattered was whether or not a nominee appointed, suggested by the president had a judicial temperament, had not committed a crime of moral turpitude, and was — had been a good student.

And it didn’t take me long — it was hard to change, but it didn’t take me long, but it took about five years for me to realize that the ideology of that judge makes a big difference.

That’s why I led the fight against Judge Bork. Had he been on the court, I suspect there would be a lot of changes that I don’t like and the American people wouldn’t like, including everything from Roe v. Wade to issues relating to civil rights and civil liberties.

First of all, Biden cleverly shifted the focus of the question.  He wasn’t “forced to change” his criteria for a qualified federal judge “in order to accomodate changed circumstances.”  He decided on his own to use his position on the Judiciary Committee to impose those criteria on the rest of the Senate, for purely ideological reasons (i.e. to head off “a lot of changes I don’t like”).  President Reagan was famous for railing against what he called the “imperial judiciary;” Senator Biden is to be congratulated, in a sense, for introducing the imperial Judiciary Committee.

More important, however, is what I alluded to during the liveblog:  specifically, that politicizing the federal bench, especially the Supreme Court, to the degree that Biden confesses to have done is more something for which he might be run out of town on a rail than something to brag about.

Barack Obama, the self-described post-partisan candidate, has chosen one of the most nakedly and appallingly proudly partisan politicians in Washington as his running mate.  That’d make a great ad to rally the GOP base, which is still sensitive to Democratic skullduggery on court appointments, for much of which Biden has just pronounced himself responsible.  Or at least it’d be less lame an ad than one complaining about Biden’s sighing.

What does the Vice President do, Joe?

Joe Biden — lawyer, senator, constitutional scholar, Judiciary Committee chairman, vice presidential candidate — flubbed the question he should know more about than anything else:  the job description of Vice President.

After Gwen Ifill’s question about the VP’s role (which she gift-wrapped to Sen. Biden with a gilt-edged invitation to trash Dick Cheney, and Biden did not disappoint her), he replied:

Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we’ve had probably in American history. The idea he doesn’t realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that’s the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.

And the primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there’s a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.

Where does one start?

  • Article I of the Constitution lays out the structure and nature of the legislative branch, not the executive.
  • Article II, the actual Article about the executive branch, establishes the office of Vice President and states he/she shall serve “together with the President.”
  • To be fair, Article I does define one role of the Vice President, namely that he/she “shall be the President of the Senate.”
  • Speaking of which, the Vice President votes in the Senate only in case of a tie.  Contrary to Biden’s assertion, the VP presides over the Senate any time he/she pleases.
  • The question was based on VP Cheney’s assertion that the VP’s role is not restricted solely to the executive.  Based on the fact that the VP is given mention in both Articles I and II, and that the VP is one of only two officials in the entire federal government (the other being the Solicitor General) with offices in two branches, that’s hardly an unreasonable interpretation.

Shannen Coffin at NRO posts a brief and excellent historical discourse on this major gaffe by Biden.  Coffin points out that for the first 150 or so years of American history, the VP’s role was primarily legislative, having virtually no executive authority at all:

The Executive Role of the Vice President, which is not delineated in Article II, has only developed in recent decades. Indeed, Vice President [Lyndon] Johnson was so concerned about certain delegations of Executive authority to him by President Kennedy that he asked the Justice Department whether he could constitutionally accept that delegation, given his concern that it would be inconsistent with his role as President of the Senate.

Read the whole thing.  Power Line, Captain Ed, and Instapundit have more (plus a paper by Prof. Reynolds on Dick Cheney’s vice presidential role and the constitutional legitimacy thereof).

So given that tradition, executive precedent, and black-letter constitutional law give the Vice President footholds in two branches of government, I’d say VP Cheney has a better handle on the job than Sen. Biden, who might make use of a pocket Constitution for the occasional self-administered pop quiz.  At least before a debate.