Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Katie Couric

Debateday!

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It’s finally debateday.

* McCain has stepped up his criticism of Gwen Ifill after yesterday’s declaration that he has “confidence” in her fairness. Meanwhile an AP report suggests that she may indeed need to step aside:

The host of PBS'”Washington Week” and senior correspondent on “The NewsHour” said she did not tell the Commission on Presidential Debates about the book. The commission had no immediate comment when contacted by The Associated Press. A spokeswoman for John McCain’s campaign did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages.

There should have been an explicit conversation about this between Ifill and the Commission and another between Ifill, the Commission, and the campaigns; if that didn’t happen because Ifill didn’t disclose the book, that looks to me like a pretty serious breach of journalistic ethics.

Of course, it’s the day of the debate, probably too late to replace her, so at this point the alleged conflict reduces to little more than a bid to work the refs and a preemptive excuse for Palin’s failures. Like the McCain of yesterday, I have confidence she’ll be fair, but it’s really too bad that she handed the Republicans such a nice talking point.

* There’s lots of speculation that McCain’s last ace in the hole is Rev. Wright. Chuck Todd says it’s too little, too late, and I tend to agree.

* Kos had a good post last night about McCain’s strategic dilemma, the fact that any attempt to play offense in the battlegrounds could result in surprise (and devastating) losses in places like Indiana and North Carolina. North Carolina in particular is an interesting case—another poll (Rasmussen’s) put Obama up three here last week, and there’s good reason to think NC is a genuine battleground this year. But any time or money McCain sinks into keeping North Carolina is lost for Ohio and Florida, states he also needs to win. The map at right has Obama at 269, already a likely-if-ugly win for Obama. A loss in any of what’s left will cost McCain the election—he needs the whole slate of swing states just to tie, and right now he’s behind in most.

* More swing-state talk from Chuck Todd.

* The headline reads: “Obama Makes McCain Very Uncomfortable.”

Let the record reflect that Barack Obama made the approach to John McCain tonight.

As the two shared the Senate floor tonight for the first time since they won their party nominations, Obama stood chatting with Democrats on his side of the aisle, and McCain stood on the Republican side of the aisle.

So Obama crossed over into enemy territory.

He walked over to where McCain was chatting with Republican Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida and Independent Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut. And he stretched out his arm and offered his hand to McCain.

McCain shook it, but with a “go away” look that no one could miss. He tried his best not to even look at Obama.

Finally, with a tight smile, McCain managed a greeting: “Good to see you.”

Obama got the message. He shook hands with Martinez and Lieberman — both of whom greeted him more warmly — and quickly beat a retreat back to the Democratic side.

Ambinder explains why these sorts of stories (here’s another from the Washington Post) make Republican strategists very nervous.

* And Jack Cafferty wants to know how anyone, including McCain, can take Sarah Palin seriously. Steve Benen has a good post up at Washington Monthly about the now-infamous Supreme Court question last night, about how (among other things) it eviscerates the justification for the pro-life position through its concession of a right to privacy. She may muddle through tonight’s debate, she may not, but if she survives as a credible national figure after this cycle she certainly doesn’t deserve to.

Couric and Ifill

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The much-hyped Supreme Court section of the Katie Couric interview aired a few hours ago, and it’s just as cringe-inducing as anticipated.

COURIC (to Palin): Why, in your view, is Roe v Wade a bad decision?

PALIN: I think it should be a states issue not a federal government — mandated — mandating yes or no on such an important issue. I’m in that sense a federalist, where I believe that states should have more say in the laws of their lands and individual areas. Now foundationally, also, though, it’s no secret that I’m pro life that I believe in a culture of life is very important for this country. Personally that’s what I would like to see further embraced by America.

COURIC (to Palin): Do you think there’s an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution?

PALIN: I do. Yeah, I do.

COURIC: the cornerstone of Roe v Wade

PALIN: I do. And I believe that –individual states can handle what the people within the different constituencies in the 50 states would like to see their will ushered in in an issue like that.

COURIC: What other Supreme Court decisions do you disagree with?

PALIN: Well, let’s see. There’s –of course –in the great history of America rulings there have been rulings, that’s never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are–those issues, again, like Roe v Wade where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know–going through the history of America, there would be others but–

COURIC: Can you think of any?

PALIN: Well, I could think of–of any again, that could be best dealt with on a more local level. Maybe I would take issue with. But you know, as mayor, and then as governor and even as a Vice President, if I’m so privileged to serve, wouldn’t be in a position of changing those things but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today.

Transcendentally bad. But Matt makes the point that Palin’s Couric problem has come from the fact that Couric asks follow-up questions—indeed, that she is gently insistent on getting a substantive answer to every follow-up—and that Ifill will have far less opportunity to do the same tomorrow, especially given the last-minute criticism of Ifill’s long-announced book:

Meanwhile, if you watch Palin’s interviews you’ll see that she’s perfectly capable of parrying an initial question with some nonsense and then shifting to her pre-prepared talking points. What was so devastating about the Katie Couric interview is that Couric would gently — very gently — prod Palin with follow-ups that revealed she doesn’t know anything about anything. But with this cloud of suspicion hanging over her, Ifill will probably treat Palin with kid gloves and she’ll be able to turn in the sort of competent performances she offered on the Hugh Hewitt and Sean Hannity shows.

For this reason I want to remind everyone that a Palin meltdown is by no means guaranteed tomorrow—it depends on her ability to spontaneously improvise non-answers to tough questions and Ifill and Biden’s willingness to let those non-answers stand. Biden in particular is in a tough spot—he can’t allow himself to look like a bully, which means he’ll either have to point out that she’s speaking nonsense very carefully, with kid gloves, or else hope the comparison speaks for itself.

So Palin may muddle through with nonsense, or she may completely implode. We won’t know till it happens.

Written by gerrycanavan

October 2, 2008 at 12:32 am

Morning Politics

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Morning politics.

* Landslide ascendant? New polls from Quinnipiac show Obama breaking away in Florida (51-43), Ohio (50-42) and Pennsylvania (54-39). Lots of reasons for this; in addition to the economic crisis that Ben Smith highlights, there’s also McCain’s increasingly erratic behavior and the snowballing unpopularity of Sarah Palin. Nate Silver of 538.com was on Countdown last night trumpeting a predicted 330-207 Electoral College blowout—an opinion Dick Morris of all people would call conservative—and OpenLeft has a great chart from the Princeton Election Meta-Analysis showing the distribution of all possible outcomes.

* Which means it’s time for McCain to get nasty. Again.

* Speaking of Palin, I’m reserving judgment on the debate until I actually see it. It’s very hard to say how the expectations game is going to work; traditionally, the candidate perceived as unimpressive benefits from asymmetric expectations and thereby “wins,” and in that sense Palin can’t lose. But I’m not sure there’s ever been a candidate as manifestly unprepared as Sarah Palin—and basically any mistake she makes, even relatively trivial ones, will serve to ratify the Tina-Fey caricature that has achieved critical cultural mass. In that sense she can’t win. So I have no idea what’s going to happen. Her recent interviews with Katie Couric have been no better than the early ones—she famously reads all newspapers but won’t admit or has no idea what pro-life actually means and it’s now been confirmed she couldn’t discuss any court decision beyond Roe v. Wade—and the Republicans are working overtime both to prep her and to pre-spin the debate. They’re now strongly attacking Gwen Ifill all over. If they’re going to cry about it, fine, let’s replace Ifill—is Katie Couric available?

* Explosive breaking news from Troopergate probably won’t help Palin’s popularity.

* What is it about being mayor of New York City that causes people to lust after emergency powers? Now Bloomberg wants an emergency third term.

* And Google endorses marriage equality.

Noon

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News at noon.

* Domestic terrorism at a Dayton mosque. More at BeliefNet.

* Now McCain will (apparently) show up to vote on the bailout after all. But will he suspend his campaign beforehand?

* Is this a ‘victory’? Peter Galbraith takes a sober look at Iraq in the New York Review of Books. Via MeFi.

* Nancy Gibbs in Time tries to puzzle out whether the problem is Sarah Palin’s handlers or Sarah Palin herself, while Howard Kurtz says that CBS is still sitting on even more damaging footage from the interview with Katie Couric. (UPDATE: CBS says they’re not. 2ND UPDATE: The footage Kurtz was referring to is actually from a different interview.)

* All this comes at a time when the McCain camp is increasingly, visibly concerned about Palin’s ability to perform in the debates, even taking the highly unusual step of trying to lower expectations for her opponent.

* And the evidence continues to suggest that Obama’s debate performance was better than even I thought at the time. James Fallows has received a bunch of links for this post comparing the debate to 1960, 1980, and 1992:

In each of those cases, a fresh, new candidate (although chronologically older in Reagan’s case) had been gathering momentum at a time of general dissatisfaction with the “four more years” option of sticking with the incumbent party. The question was whether the challenger could stand as an equal with the more experienced, tested, and familiar figure. In each of those cases, the challenger passed the test — not necessarily by “winning” the debate, either on logical points or in immediate audience or polling reactions, but by subtly reassuring doubters on the basic issue of whether he was a plausible occupant of the White House and commander in chief.

Steve Benen elaborates with a round-up of polling data and analysis supporting this basic claim. For high information voters, Obama may have seemed to merely draw (though I thought at the time and still think he won on the merits)—but for lower information voters expectations were significantly lower for Obama than McCain, and so Obama seemed to those viewers to be much more clearly the winner.

Written by gerrycanavan

September 29, 2008 at 4:01 pm

Couric & Palin

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The fringe theory that John McCain’s campaign suspension gimmick was designed purely to distract attention from Palin’s interview with Katie Couric gains some credibility with the previews CBS is putting out: Palin on Russia and Palin on the bailout. This is just ridiculous—for one, you can see her look at her notes in the bailout clip, and two, what she’s saying doesn’t make any damn sense at all.

That’s why I say I, like every American I’m speaking with, were ill about this position that we have been put in. Where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh, it’s got to be about job creation, too. Shoring up our economy, and getting it back on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions, and tax relief for Americans, and trade — we have got to see trade as opportunity, not as, uh, competitive, um, scary thing, but one in five jobs created in the trade sector today. We’ve got to look at that as more opportunity. All of those things under the umbrella of job creation.

Ready on Day 1.

Written by gerrycanavan

September 25, 2008 at 6:19 pm

After the Flood

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Trying to puzzle out John McCain’s motive for the campaign suspension stunt is proving rather difficult. A lot of people are looking to Palin, both her disastrous Katie Couric interview and the repeated suggestion that hey, you know, we could just cancel the VP debate. (On the margins, Palin’s so-called “preacher problem” is also showing up in these discussions; she definitely loses the secular progressive swing vote with this one.) Or maybe, others venture, he’s trying to cover up his own lack of debate preparation. Still other people think he may be trying to keep the Rick Davis story out of the papers, as there’s now word that Rick Davis didn’t sever his relationship with his lobbying firm and is in fact still listed as one of its only two officers. And a lot of people just point to the polls—witness as just one example a Rasmussen poll that now puts Obama ahead right here in North Carolina (!). Or maybe we should just bring it all back, as Steve Benen does, to the fundamental question that recurs about so much of John McCain’s gambles: cynicism, or risk addiction?

Whatever it is, it’s worth noting that McCain has pulled this very stunt at least twice before.

Reactions have been legion, almost all of them negative, but Noam Scheiber in particular is on fire with posts that suggest just how badly this may backfire on McCain, comparing it first to a form of political hari-kari and then pointing out elsewhere the way in which the gambit automatically defeats itself:

“Tomorrow morning, I will suspend my campaign and return to Washington after speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative.”

Clinton Global Intiative > financial crisis > longstanding-to-the-point-of-sacred tradition of nationally televised presidential debate? This will not stand.