Posted by: mutantpoodle | November 1, 2008

A few thoughts

oval_officeNo poll obsessions for today; no great wisdom. Just this: Vote. get your like-minded friends to vote. Make a few calls.

Help bring this election home.

That said, here are three things on my mind today.

First, is Sarah Palin simply the least qualified national candidate in American History? Perhaps someone in the American electoral dustbin is worse, but after reading this quote, I’d be hard pressed to say who.

If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations, then I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.

Right. Because the founders were so concerned that the media would infringe on the rights of the government.

Now I think Sarah Palin is a loathsome candidate and a pretty scary human being (Helen at Margaret and Helen is more succinct). But for now, forget whether she’s qualified to be Vice President. Can we get her to pass a seventh-grade civics class, for crying out loud?

Second, there is a difference between temper and irritation. Now, I’ll cut Jay Newton-Small some slack – covering a Presidential campaign must be hell, and even I can recite the boilerplate in Obama’s speeches pretty much word for word. So a grueling schedule with not a lot of new stuff to report about leads to headlines about Obama’s Temper, and how he “snapped” at reporters Friday night.

Read the story, and maybe that’s not exactly true:

Barack Obama had taken a break from the campaign trail for a few hours of Halloween fun at home with his family four days before the election, but ended up visibly annoyed when news crews dogged their footsteps in their Chicago neighborhood.

“That’s enough. You’ve got a shot. Leave us alone,” Obama told reporters as he walked down the block with his 7-year-old daughter Sasha in her costume on the way to a party at a neighbor’s home.

Obama, usually cool in public during a campaign that has turned him into the frontrunner for the White House, did not disguise his irritation when his surprise walk caused news photographers and camera crews to scramble for position on the sidewalk.

He grew especially testy when a Polish television cameraman tried to approach them.

“Come on guys, get back on the bus,” he pleaded with journalists, many of whom had accompanied him from the airport to Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood.

So – a man who gets precious little time with his daughters wants to walk one of them to a party, and gets irritated when, after they’d gotten a picture of the scene, they wouldn’t back off.

Jeez – keep that guy away from the launch codes.

Far more revealing about Obama, I think, is this story from the LA Times Peter Nicholas, talking about a mistake he made while in the Obama pool this summer:

One day in July, I was the pool reporter at an event in Zanesville, Ohio, meaning I was responsible for writing up for the rest of the press corps Obama’s visit to a ministry that was tutoring young students. Again kept at a distance, I watched as Obama chatted with the kids. One boy approached him and held out his fist. Obama drew back. “If I start that . . .” he said. From where I stood, it looked like he was refusing a request for a fist bump — a gesture that had gotten a lot of attention after Obama fist-bumped his wife at a campaign event the month before. A Fox News host had even suggested that it was a “terrorist fist jab.” If Obama was rolling out a no-fist-bump policy, that seemed worth mentioning.

The pool report quickly got around.

Maureen Dowd of the New York Times cited the episode in her column. Obama complained to an aide that it hadn’t happened that way. He was right. A videotape of the conversation would later show the boy was merely asking Obama to autograph his hand.

We heard Obama was steamed. On the plane later, Obama was working his way up the aisle, past reporters. He got to me.

It was no one’s fault but mine, so I told him: “Senator, I was the one who wrote the flawed pool report.” I wanted him to know that, but I was also curious to see how he would react. He looked at me and said he appreciated that I had ‘fessed up. Changing the subject, he asked me about my hat. I wear a big floppy hat on sunny days, and he had seen it at an outdoor news conference.

“I use it to block the sun,” I said.

Does the brim cover your ears? Obama asked.

“Well, my ears,” I said.

He drew back and laughed. You’re making fun of my ears?! he said.

I told him our family has had medical issues with the sun. He quietly took that in. I wasn’t expecting any empathy — and didn’t need any — but I felt surprised nonetheless that he evinced little or no interest. It seemed like a chance to make a human connection, if he wanted one.

In any case, I held out my fist. He looked quizzically at it for a second, then realized what I was doing.

“That’s what I’m talking about!” he said. We fist-bumped, and he moved on. The animation he showed in that instant surprised me; it doesn’t seem that he lets himself laugh much.

Now, in the Times companion piece on the McCain campaign (both were “reporters notebook” type stories), Maeve Reston had a slightly different anecdote:

It wasn’t my intention, but I played a role in shutting down John McCain’s Straight Talk Express.

It happened on a warm July afternoon as McCain traveled from a West Virginia airport to a rally in Ohio.

I had headed to the back of his bus with a small group of reporters, where as always McCain warmly motioned for us to squeeze in beside him on the couch.

The questions meandered across more than a dozen topics, but I asked if he agreed with his advisor Carly Fiorina’s recent statement that it was unfair for some health insurance companies to cover Viagra but not birth control — because McCain generally opposed those kinds of mandates.

Liberals and late-night comedians would later revel in McCain’s on-camera discomfort — the widening of his eyes, the awkward silence while he clutched his jaw and formulated an answer. But I had come to respect McCain’s frankness and his willingness to admit he didn’t always have an answer. Watching the question morph into an embarrassing “gotcha moment” for cable television, my stomach churned and my cheeks grew hot.

Poor Maeve – she asked McCain a legitimate question, and he couldn’t handle it, and stopped talking to the press.

As the Nitpicker said,

This would seem to tell you something about the two candidates. One pouts over a perfectly valid question. The other shrugs off a published falsehood.

Plus, after pointing out that candidates aren’t supposed to be reporters’ friends (and that maybe they shouldn’t be too chummy), he drops this gem:

“Strippers don’t really like you, either.”

Finally, a word to the McCain people complaining about Sarah Palin. The adjectives “diva” and “whack job” have been uttered, and the notion that she’s now somehow a rogue candidate has been pushed as well.

OK, three words.

YOU HIRED HER.

If Sarah Palin is dragging down John McCain, and John McCain hired Sarah Palin (with, as Ken Duberstein points out, less vetting than she’d have gotten were she applying for a job at McDonalds), then John McCain is responsible for this drag on his ticket.

This wasn’t a blind date. It was an impetuous high-stakes gamble and it failed.

Sarah Palin may be a disaster, but she’s John McCain’s disaster, and all you McCain “loyalists” trying to blame her for where McCain is today keep in mind that your hero picked this miserable excuse for a candidate. When asked, if you’re going to leak about what went wrong, the correct answer is this:

John McCain fucked up.

End of story.

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