Campaign Trail 2008 »

  • Sarah Palin’s Dan Quayle moment?

    October 22, 2008 @ 2:37 am | by Denis Staunton

    Why don’t politicians just avoid children during campaigns? They can’t vote, they seldom make political donations and they can easily lead you into embarrassing situations. Just think of George Bush continuing to read The Pet Goat to a group of elementary school children after he heard about the 9/11 attacks. Or Dan Quayle’s correction of a boy’s spelling of the word potato.

    On Tuesday, Sarah Palin fell prey to the Curse of the Precocious Child when she answered a question from a third-grader about the role of the vice-president:


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    Palin got it quite wrong, of course. The vice-president has no influence in the senate except to cast a vote in the case of a tie. Then again, if the polls are to be believed, she will not be required to put her constitutional theories to the test any time soon.


    Here, by the way, are a couple of Quayle’s greatest hits:


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  • Rats, Ships and Neocons

    October 21, 2008 @ 4:22 am | by Denis Staunton

    Colin Powell’s declaration of support for Barack Obama prompted some commentators to note the irony of a candidate who owes his party’s nomination in great measure to his opposition to the invasion of Iraq receiving his most important endorsement from the man who made the fraudulent case for war to the United Nations Security Council.

      If Powell was a reluctant supporter of the Bush administration’s adventure in Iraq, the same can’t be said for Obama’s latest groupie from the right – Ken Adelman, a former sidekick of Donald Rumsfeld and one of the noisiest neo-conservative voices in support of the war.

      Along with many of the war’s early cheerleaders, Adelman jumped ship when things started to go wrong, telling Vanity Fair last year:

      “I just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national-security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent. They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era. Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional.”

      Adelman sang a different tune in April 2003, crowing in the Washington Post that analysts who warned that thousands of US troops could be killed in a war in Iraq had been shown to be wrong.

      “Now is not an occasion for gloating,” he gloated.

      “But now is an occasion for pride, and for thanks to our fighting men and women and those leading them. My confidence 14 months ago sprang from having worked for Don Rumsfeld three times – knowing he would fashion a most creative and detailed war plan – and from knowing Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz well for many years.”

      Now Adelman is clambering aboard the Obama caravan, telling George Packer in the New Yorker that the Democrat has the right temperament to be president.

      “When the economic crisis broke, I found John McCain bouncing all over the place. In those first few crisis days, he was impetuous, inconsistent, and imprudent; ending up just plain weird,” Adelman wrote in an email to Packer.

     ”Having worked with Ronald Reagan for seven years, and been with him in his critical three summits with Gorbachev, I’ve concluded that that’s no way a president can act under pressure.”

      Adelman identified McCain’s pick of Alaska governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate as the trigger for his decision to back a candidate who opposes everything the neo-conservative movement stood for:

      “That decision showed appalling lack of judgment. Not only is Sarah Palin not close to being acceptable in high office – I would not have hired her for even a mid-level post in the arms-control agency. But that selection contradicted McCain’s main two, and best two, themes for his campaign – Country First, and experience counts. Neither can he credibly claim, post-Palin pick.”



  • McCain on the possibility of losing

    October 20, 2008 @ 4:29 am | by Denis Staunton


    It’s been a tough weekend for John McCain and a sensational one for Barack Obama, who drew 100,000 people to a rally in St Louis on Saturday and revealed on Sunday that his campaign raised a record-breaking $150 million in September. Then came Colin Powell’s endorsement, which was striking as much for his blistering criticism of the Republican campaign as for the general’s praise for the Democrat:

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    Powell’s intervention will have been painful for McCain but Obama’s financial haul may have a bigger impact on the race. McCain accepted public financing for the general election, a decision that limited what he could spend between the end of the Republican convention and Election Day to just $84 million. The Republican National Committee has been raising money but it can’t compensate for Obama’s huge financial edge.


    In all the battleground states, Obama’s television ads outnumber McCain’s by three or four to one. The Democrat has more offices, more staff and a more thorough and sophisticated organisation. Even after he buys up every remaining advertising slot in the swing states, Obama will have plenty left over to fund a first-class voter turnout operation on 4 November. His team is planning a massive effort in the final four days of the campaign in an effort to counteract the impact of the Republicans’ 72-hour campaign that has proved so successful in recent presidential elections.


    At a McCain rally in Northern Virginia on Saturday, many of the supporters I met appeared to be in denial about the state of the race. Many claimed that the polls were either rigged or flawed and most blamed the media for boosting Obama. The crowd booed whenever McCain mentioned the media and one man charged up to the cameras to berate reporters for not applauding the candidate’s remarks.


    “That man nearly gave his life for you,” he roared.

    “All he’s looking for is a fair shake.”


    In an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, McCain sounded wistful as he spoke about the possibility of losing the election:


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  • Candidates turn comics at Al Smith dinner

    October 17, 2008 @ 4:50 am | by Denis Staunton

    John McCain and barrack Obama took an evening off the campaign trail on Thursday to deliver comedy turns at the annual Al Smith dinner in New York.  The charity event for needy children is run by the Catholic archdiocese in memory of the four-term governor of New York and the first Catholic to run for the White House on behalf of a major party.


    McCain’s comic tour de force was a reminder of what a refreshing politician the Republican can be, full of self-deprecation and jibes at his colleagues that went right up to the line:


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    Obama seemed a little less comfortable with the after dinner format:


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  • A Star is Born – Meet Joe the Plumber

    October 16, 2008 @ 7:03 am | by Denis Staunton

    The star of last night’s presidential debate was neither the candidates nor the moderator, CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer but an Ohio plumber called Joe Wurzelbacher. Both Barack Obama and John McCain addressed “Joe the Plumber” directly a number of times during the debate – although Joe was sitting at home in Ohio watching on TV:

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    After weeks of Republican ads highlighting Obama’s association with former urban guerrilla William Ayers, McCain finally confronted the Democrat about it directly in their final debate:

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    Both candidates promised at the start of the presidential race that they would run lofty campaigns that avoided personal attacks. It hasn’t worked out that way but each feels that he has been the more unfairly maligned:

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    Obama and McCain offered starkly different views on abortion and the Republican upset some women with his dismissive reference to their health halfway through this clip:

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    Finally, here’s that exchange in Ohio between Obama and Joe the Plumber that has now become the stuff of legend:


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  • Keeping up the attack

    October 15, 2008 @ 3:27 am | by Denis Staunton

    John McCain and Sarah Palin have wound back their attacks on Barack Obama in the past few days and McCain has scolded supporters who overstepped the line in criticising his opponent. McCain won praise from across the political spectrum – and from Obama – when he corrected a woman at a town hall meeting who described Obama as an Arab.

    “No, he’s a decent family man,” McCain said – as if the two categories were mutually exclusive.

    Conservative talk radio hosts are still highlighting Obama’s association with former urban guerrilla William Ayers and Rush Limbaugh frequently treats his listeners to a loop of the Rev Jeremiah Wright’s greatest hits.

    A political action committee called Our Country Deserves Better has gone a step further with a new television ad linking Obama with every enemy of America you can think of.

    “Barack Obama seems to have different values from most Americans,” the ad begins.

    “His supporters put up Cuban flags with the murderous leftist Che Guevara in Obama’s campaign offices. Obama’s campaign received $33,000 in illegal donations from Palestinians living in the Middle East. A top official of the terrorist group Hamas endorsed Obama’s campaign.”

    YouTube Preview Image is taking a gentler approach in this ad running in North Carolina, which encourages young people to have a frank talk with their parents if they suspect them of supporting McCain:

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  • Hank Williams Jr serenades Sarah Palin

    October 14, 2008 @ 1:51 am | by Denis Staunton

    At a Sarah Palin rally in Virginia on Monday, Hank Williams Jr performed a new song in honour of the Republican ticket. It’s called The McCain-Palin Tradition and the chorus goes like this:

    John N Sarah tell ya

    Just what they think

    And they’re not gonna blink

    And they’re gonna fix this country

    Cause they’re just like you N ole Hank

    Yes John is a maverick

    And Sarah fixed Alaska’s broken condition

    They’re gonna go just fine

    We’re headed for better times

    It’s a McCain – Palin tradition

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  • They’re back! Bill and Hillary on the stump.

    October 13, 2008 @ 3:27 am | by Denis Staunton

    Bill and Hillary Clinton were back on the campaign trail on Sunday, making their first joint appearance on behalf of Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Bill introduced Hillary and she introduced Biden at an event in the north-eastern Pennsylvania city of Scranton. Biden was born in Scranton and Hillary’s father came from there and the city backed her over Obama in the Democratic primary by a margin of more than three to one.

      Bill was lavish in his praise of Biden and he had a lot to say about Hillary but although he urged the crowd to vote for Obama, he couldn’t quite bring himself to praise the candidate’s personal qualities.

      “In addition to the fact that Joe Biden understands you and your lives, I think it’s worth pointing out that if you had a secret ballot of all the Republicans and Democrats in the Congress – all of them – and you asked them to put two or three names down of the people in the entire Congress who do the most about the economic, political, and security challenges of America and the world, his name would be on every single secret ballot,” he said.

      “I really like that because sometimes you hear some people talk about people from places like Scranton and Arkansas. They act like we’re by definition “rubes,” and we’re not and he’s not and Barack Obama could not have made a better choice. So we’re proud of you.”

      That last bit was a fairly transparent dig at Obama’s “bitter” comments, when he explained to a group of San Francisco donors that rural Pennsylvanians didn’t vote for him because they clung to guns and God out of bitterness at their economic misfortune.

      “You have to understand,” a loyal Clinton supporter told me the other day, “that this is a very difficult time for us.”

      It was not, of course, a difficult time for them when Obama was slipping in the polls – that was “I told you so” time. But the prospect of an Obama landslide makes some of Hillary’s admirers simply ill with resentment.

      Hillary herself has put a brave face on it but it must be especially galling for her to watch the campaign become a contest over domestic economic policy, which was always her strongest suit. Hillary would have been in her element now, producing detailed plan after plan for reforming the mortgage market, helping householders to stay in their homes, getting their grass cut and their windows cleaned.

      Still, she managed yesterday to be both gracious and persuasive, something I’m not sure her husband pulled off:

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  • Troopergate: Palin abused power

    October 11, 2008 @ 4:19 am | by Denis Staunton

    Sarah Palin unlawfully abused her power as Alaska governor by pushing for her former brother-in-law to be fired from the state police force, according to a report approved unanimously by a bipartisan group of Alaska legislators. The report found that Palin violated the Alaska’s executive branch ethics act, which says that “each public officer holds office as a public trust, and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust.”

    Investigator Steve Branchflower concluded that Palin’s family feud with her former brother-in-law, state trooper Mike Wooten, wasn’t the only reason she sacked public safety commissioner Walter Monegan. But Branchflower said Palin acted unlawfully by failing to rein her husband’s efforts to use the governor’s office to contact state employees in his attempts to have Wooten fired.

    “Governor Palin knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda … to get Trooper Michael Wooten fired,” Branchflower’s report says.

    “Compliance with the code of ethics is not optional. It is an individual responsibility imposed by law, and any effort to benefit a personal interest through official action is a violation of that trust. … The term ‘benefit’ is very broadly defined, and includes anything that is to the person’s advantage or personal self-interest.”

    The McCain campaign claimed that the report showed that Palin was within her rights in firing Monegan but added that the investigation was politically motivated:

    “The report also illustrates what we’ve known all along: this was a partisan led inquiry run by Obama supporters and the Palins were completely justified in their concern regarding Trooper Wooten given his violent and rogue behaviour. Lacking evidence to support the original Monegan allegation, the Legislative Council seriously overreached, making a tortured argument to find fault without basis in law or fact. The Governor is looking forward to cooperating with the Personnel Board and continuing her conversation with the American people regarding the important issues facing the country.”

    You can read the full report here

  • Ayers and Graceless

    October 10, 2008 @ 4:24 am | by Denis Staunton

    As Barack Obama talks about jobs during a swing through Ohio, John McCain and Sarah Palin are still plugging away at Obama’s association with former urban guerrilla William Ayers. Conservative talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh are also pushing the Ayers connection, convinced that voters remain uncertain that Obama is the right man for the White House.

    McCain insists that questions about Ayers are legitimate because there are doubts about Obama’s account of the history and extent of the relationship. A new ad from the Republican National Committee goes further, suggesting that Ayers is one of a number of disreputable Chicago characters who shaped Obama’s political identity:

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