It was more like 10 AM than 3 AM. Somewhere, a phone was ringing, to announce the news that John McCain had selected Sarah Palin as his running mate. And the immediate response of Barack Obama's operation was intemperate and inappropriate. Obama found himself apologizing, calling the reaction "hair trigger." He and Biden subsequently made the more gracious kind of comment that should have been offered in the first place. Senators get to "revise and extend" their remarks when they've said something dumb on the floor. That's not always the case for presidents. A "hair trigger" reaction to a real crisis could have disastrous consequences.
Said Obama spokesman Bill Burton snidely when the news broke:
Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency. Governor Palin shares John McCain's commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade, the agenda of Big Oil and continuing George Bush's failed economic policies -- that's not the change we need, it's just more of the same
Compare and contrast with the gracious, statesmanlike ad McCain aired on the day of Obama's acceptance speech. Obama eventually realized that his campaign's intemperate reaction was out of line. According to the AP, Obama "blamed the mixed messages about McCain's choice, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, on campaign aides with a "hair trigger."
You might have thought Bill Weir would have learned. Yesterday, CNN's John Roberts was roundly condemned for suggesting Sarah Palin might neglect her Down Syndrome baby while running for VP. But Weir, the weekend co-anchor of Good Morning America, posed a very similar question this morning. Coke Roberts, to her credit, called him out on it. Weir's guest during GMA's opening half-hour was McCain political director Mike Duhaime.
BILL WEIR: I must ask. Adding to the brutality of a national campaign, the Palin family also has an infant with special needs. What leads you, the senator and the governor to believe that one won't affect the other in the next couple of months?
MIKE DUHAIME: In terms of her personal life? You know, to the extent people want to look at her, she's got an incredible life story: five children, the son going into the military, she's got a --
Weir brusquely interrupted, virtually shouting.
WEIR: She has an, she has an infant with special needs. Will that affect her campaigning?
You know the old software programmer's excuse: "that's not a bug. That's a feature!" John Harwood of CNBC/NYT has produced a political variation on the theme to buff up Joe Biden. Biden's gaffes, including the racially-insensitive ones, are actually . . . "a strength."
Harwood was chatting with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on a special Morning Joe edition today, and the topic of Biden's famous "clean and articulate" comment about Obama arose. Biden also made headlines of course with his crack about 7-11s being populated by people with Indian accents.
JOHN HARWOOD: He is not somebody who is infused with political correctness, the verbal equivalent of putting his pinky up when he opens his mouth. So this is what, the way ordinary voters are as well. They're not always worried about sort of calibrating every single word by "ooh, is this racially insensitive?" That's something that Joe Biden brings as an asset to the ticket. The gaffes actually show one of his strengths.
That didn't take long. Exactly five minutes before Obama's official text message went out this morning, Howard Fineman had an article up at Newsweek praising the process by which Obama picked his running mate. He even turned lemons into lemonade, claiming Hillary really didn't want to be considered and that Obama "did her a favor" by not doing so. R-i-g-h-h-t.
First, the praise:
The minute-by-minute story of how Obama handled the selection is interesting, and revealing of the way the Democratic nominee works. He insisted on the utmost secrecy; he paid the losers the courtesy of essentially telling them "no" to their faces--not an easy thing to do. And he swallowed his considerable pride and all but confessed his lack of knowledge of foreign affairs by selecting as his running mate the Senate's senior Democratic leader on that topic.
But then came the challenge for Fineman: finessing Obama's brush-off of Hillary—in which it was reported that he had never paid her the courtesy of considering her—into a plus. The Newsweek correspondent managed to square the circle [emphasis added]:
Is it "wishful thinking" for Republicans to imagine that Obama will take Hillary as his running mate? CNN's Ed Henry thinks so. He made the comment to anchor Heidi Collins in a report on the veepstakes during CNN's 9 AM EDT hour today.
HEIDI COLLINS: Another name keeps bubbling up: Hillary Clinton. Ed Henry is on the VP watch yet again today. Alright, so what do you think today, Ed? Because I know yesterday it might have been different.
ED HENRY: Well it's interesting. You mentioned Hillary Clinton. This name has been surfacing over the last 24 hours. Some Democrats, but frankly I've also heard it from some Republicans. Because they, strategists in both parties, are saying wait a second. We thought Barack Obama was going to roll this out a couple of days ago, maybe a little sooner. Now it seems to be getting closer to the convention. Is it a surprise? Is it someone with a lot of name ID? Someone he doesn't need to spend a lot of time rolling out and introducing to the American people. Frankly I think some Republicans are spreading this because it's some wishful thinking on their part. Because they know she's also a lightning rod. She did get 18 million votes in the primaries. She brings some real strengths to the table, but she also could really rally conservatives if she was on the ticket and could give conservatives sort of a spark to turn out for John McCain. So there might be some wishful thinking there. We have gotten no new reporting suggesting she's vaulted to the top of the short list.
Everybody see the Saddleback Civil Forum last Saturday night? Well, we all know the candidates went separate for their interviews with Pastor Rick Warren. And even better, Pastor Warren asked them identical questions. But, we didn't really get a good comparison of answers to the same question because we had to wait 45 more minutes after Obama's answer to hear McCain's answer. Well, here's some good news for you!
Don't want to take Rush's word for it? How about Mark Halperin's? The editor of Time's "The Page" thinks the choice by John McCain of a pro-choice running mate would be nothing short of a "disaster." Halperin expressed his view during an appearance today on CNN's American Morning.
KIRAN CHETRY: What about some potential running mates for John McCain? Because there's been a lot of talk all over talk radio. A lot of people are saying if he tries to go with somebody who's pro-choice like a Lieberman, that that would be it for the base: a big deflation for the convention.
MARK HALPERIN: Look, so many of the people who go to the convention in St. Paul are going to be pro-life, and very strongly pro-life. I think it would be a disaster for him to pick someone who was not in agreement with the party platform on abortion.
Wolf Blitzer for one apparently doesn't think Tom Ridge's pro-choice position should disqualify him as John McCain's VP pick. The former Pennsylvania congressman and governor was a guest on this afternoon's Situation Room, and Blitzer began by playing a clip of Rush Limbaugh urging McCain not to pick a pro-choice running mate, saying it would "obliterate all the progress that he experienced" at the Saddleback forum.
Ridge surmised that "Rush and everybody else hopefully can see that there's a clear choice regardless of the vice-presidential candidate. A choice that says that John McCain is needed now as president of the United States in this perilous time."
That's when Wolf made a more muscular case on Ridge's behalf.
WOLF BLITZER: And if he did pick you, he, the president, he'd be calling the shots. You'd be the vice-president. You'd be doing whatever the president asks you to do.
If Barack Obama is looking for an elder statesman with national security credentials as his running mate, my two cents say he should pick Sam Nunn. The conventional wisdom, though, has Obama leaning toward Joe Biden. If the senior senator from Delaware is indeed tapped, we can expect that mere milliseconds will elapse before some MSM outlet labels Biden a "moderate" or a "centrist."
We thought it might be useful to do a little prophylactic exploration of the Biden record. Given his long tenure in the Senate, he's earned literally hundreds of interest-group ratings over the years. But here is a representative sample, as culled from the invaluable Project Vote Smart. Although his "grades" have of course varied from year to year, overall we find—surprise!—that Biden is a garden-variety liberal.
Be with you in a sec. Gotta finish this bag of Cheetos. Man, what a mess down here in Mom's basement. Let's see, where were we? Barnicle. Right. Bloggers. Doesn't think much of us. On this evening's Hardball, decrying the decline of bi-partisanship, Barnicle put much of the blame on the blogosphere.
Subbing for Chris Matthews, Barnicle had as his guest historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. The jumping off point was a clip of Obama saying he could imagine naming McCain as his head of Homeland Security. Barnicle wondered whether that was feasible in what he sees as a hyper-partisan age, and pointed the finger largely at bloggers. Kearns Goodwin suggested that despite the difficulties, she could imagine either of the candidates reaching out to his opponent. That prompted Barnicle to let loose on bloggers, casting them as largely a bunch of loons with too much time on their hands.
On Sunday's The Chris Matthews Show on NBC, during a discussion of how well a President McCain might work with a Democratic Congress, host Matthews seemed to generalize about the political opinions of women as he contended that "one of the biggest fears women especially have" is that McCain would appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices, whom Matthews branded as "hawkish" on abortion: "One of the biggest fears women especially have is that we'll have a Supreme Court judge retirements or deaths or whatever, need to [be] replaced. McCain could come in there, he's a pro-lifer, pick some real hawkish people on the topic of a pro-life anti-abortion stance." He also euphemistically referred to the Democratic majority's ability to block pro-life appointments as being a "safety net." Matthews: "Would one of the safety nets be for the Democrats, they've got almost 56, almost 60 Democratic Senators that would say no way?" (Transcript follows)
There's no current wisdom more conventional than that which has Hillary Clinton entirely out of the veepstakes. Take the opening of yesterday's Hardball, for example, with Mike Barnicle sitting in for Chris Matthews.
MIKE BARNICLE: It didn't get much notice in the media and it didn't show up in any newspaper obituary pages, but the idea of a Democratic ticket of Obama and Hillary Clinton died a very quiet death this week. How did the dream-team ticket disappear so fast and so quietly?
Introducing a later segment, Barnicle displayed a statement from a group that had been pushing the idea of Hillary for veep now saying that it's abandoned its effort "because it seems that Senator Obama has made his decision to offer the slot on the ticket to another candidate." The subsequent schmoozefest with Dem consultant Steve McMahon and Air America honcho Mark Green took it as a given that Hillary would not be the VP candidate, focusing instead on what other role she might play in the campaign.
UPDATE: The original version of this item reported Joe Scarborough's statement, as transcribed below, that there were no Republicans on his MSNBC staff, with executive producer Chris Licht confirming Joe's assertion. Joe has been in touch to say he and Chris Licht were speaking tongue in cheek and that the remarks about there being no Republicans on the Morning Joe staff were a joke.
Mika Brzezinski is appalled to learn that the Bush Justice Department had a hiring preference for politically simpatico people. And Mika apparently believes Joe mischaracterizes her as a liberal.
The jumping off point on today's Morning Joe was Mika's reading of a news item on an article in today's New York Times about an internal Justice Department report concluding that "senior aides to former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales broke Civil Service laws by using politics to guide their hiring decisions." Scarborough saw this as SOP in Washington.
The New York Times sent veteran Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse into retirement in grand style on Sunday, turning over to her the front page of the Week in Review for "2,691 Decisions," a title marking the number of court cases she had covered during her tenure.
Unmentioned were her off-the-clock denunciations of conservatives, such as her infamous speech at Harvard in June 2006 when she tore into the Bush administration. What was included: Her clear belief that the world is a better place with Anthony Kennedy on the Court and Robert Bork not.
First, some of what Greenhouse told Harvard students in 2006:
...our government had turned its energy and attention away from upholding the rule of law and toward creating law-free zones at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Haditha, and other places around the world. And let's not forget the sustained assault on women's reproductive freedom and the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism."
If there's one person in the NBC news stable who combines solid analytical skills with a commitment to fairness, it could be political director Chuck Todd. Evidence thereof comes from no less a certified conservative source than Tom DeLay. Appearing on this evening's Hardball just after Todd had offered his breakdown of the electoral map, DeLay allowed that he "can't dispute" any of Todd's analysis, prompting Chris Matthews to exclaim "that's a development for us here: objective truth for you!"
So what was that Todd analysis that DeLay didn't dispute? There was much to it, but for present purposes let's focus on this: Todd can't see how Obama wins without Pennsylvania, and that having former governor Tom Ridge on the McCain ticket would help deliver the Keystone State. The catch is that Ridge is pro-choice, which in turn poses the question of whether pro-life Republicans would revolt if McCain chose him for the veep slot.
As a deeply divided Supreme Court issued 5-4 rulings the past few weeks bouncing from liberal to conservative interpretations of the law, something was woefully missing from the coverage: journalists apologizing to the nation for regularly insinuating that the Court's December 2000 decision concerning Bush v. Gore was politically based.
After all, for seven and a half years, a regular media meme has been that a "conservative Supreme Court" gave George W. Bush the presidency by stopping the recounting of votes in Florida.
Yet, as the Washington Post reported Sunday, today's Court, though "sharply divided ideologically on some of the most fundamental constitutional questions" as well as being "roughly balanced," is probably more conservative than it was in 2000 as a result of recent appointments (emphasis added throughout):
Michael Smerconish is thinking of voting for Obama. The Philly talk radio host let it be known while subbing for Dan Abrams on tonight's "Verdict" on MSNBC. He actually did so, chatting with Ron Reagan, while criticizing Obama's flip-flops. But the bottom line is the bottom line.
SMERCONISH: I want to think big picture, and I want to do so by showing you a piece of that which was published in today's Washington Post by Charles Krauthammer, if we can put that up on the screen:
The truth about Obama is uncomplicated. He is just a politician . . . When it's time to throw campaign finance reform, telecom accountability, NAFTA renogiation or Jeremiah Wright overboard, Obama is not sentimental. He does not hesitate. He tosses lustily . . . By the time he's finished, Obama will have made the Clintons look scrupulous.
That's Charles Krauthammer. Ron, I voted for the first time in 1980 for your dad. I have never voted for a Democrat for president. I voted for plenty of Democrats, but never for president. I've not ruled it out in this cycle, because I like this guy. But the events of the last 10 days or so make him seem status quo, make him seem like just a run-of-the-mill politician.
Washington Post: GOP tool? Might sound a tad far-fetched to you. But you're not Howard Dean.
Appearing on today's Morning Joe, DNC Chairman Dean claimed a Washington Post article about Jim Johnson, whom Barack Obama has chosen to head up the vetting of potential VP picks, was "planted" by the McCain campaign. Johnson's appointment has become an embarrassment to Obama because the former CEO of Fannie Mae has been linked to the mortgage crisis. As WaPo reported:
The questions about Johnson began after the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that he received more than $2 million in home loans that might have been below average market rates from Countrywide Financial, a partner of Fannie Mae and a leading purveyor of the kind of subprime mortgages that spawned a national housing crisis.
In America, you need to show identification to buy alcohol, get into a bar, or apply for a job. Yet, for some reason, liberal media members think that Republicans who advocate voter ID laws do so exclusively to prevent Democrats from going to polling booths.
Such was clearly evident Friday evening when Bill Moyers discussed some recent Supreme Court rulings with CNN and New Yorker magazine's legal affairs analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Better strap yourself in tightly, for the following from "Bill Moyers Journal" on PBS is guaranteed to offend all that actually believe voter identification should be required in every state (video embedded right):
At least they're open about it: the New York Times disdains Supreme Court justices who hew to the principles upon which this country was founded. The Times's admission came in the course of an editorial calling on Obama and Clinton to put aside their bickering and focus on beating John McCain. That is vital, in the Times's view, given McCain's pledge to nominate Supreme Court justices in the mold of John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
Writes the Times [emphasis added]:
Mr. McCain predictably criticized liberal judges, vowed strict adherence to the Founders’ views and promised to appoint more judges in the mold of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. That is just what the country does not need.
During Morning Joe's opening segment today, Joe Scarborough, in an apparent allusion to the ambitions Chris Matthews has expressed, facetiously wondered whether the panel should start calling the Hardball host "Senator."
But just a bit later, Scarborough seized on a question Matthews posed to John McCain yesterday to illustrate a classic bit of MSM bias: the way the liberal media only speak of a "litmus test" when it comes to Republicans choosing pro-life nominees, never in regard to Dems picking pro-choicers.
It's bound to be overlooked by the media at-large in large part due to the Iowa caucuses, but a court ruling that burdens the U.S. Navy with yet another environmentally-driven restriction was handed down from a federal district court judge yesterday. That judge, the Hon. Florence-Marie Cooper, is a Clinton appointee, a fact unreported by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Robert McClure (emphasis mine):
A federal judge forbade the Navy on Thursday from using a powerful form of sonar within 12 miles of the California coast and slapped other restrictions on naval war exercises in a ruling that could have repercussions in the Pacific Northwest.
U.S. District Judge Florence Marie-Cooper [sic] said noise from the Navy's midfrequency sonar far outstrips levels at which federal rules require ear protection for humans on the job. Whales' hearing is extremely sensitive.
"The court is persuaded that the (protection) scheme proposed by the Navy is grossly inadequate to protect marine mammals from debilitating levels of sonar exposure," Marie-Cooper wrote in her ruling.
The Navy offered to reduce the sonar's intensity when whales approached within about 1,100 yards and power down further before shutting the sonar off when the creatures got within 200 yards. The judge ordered sonar shut off when marine mammals are within 2,200 yards.
It was waterboard Wednesday in the New York Times, as Philip Shenon and Scott Shane filed separate articles on the issue of waterboarding and "torture" in general.
Shenon's article on the positive outlook for Michael Mukasey's attorney general nomination tsk-tsked:
"Even some of Mr. Mukasey's supporters said at the hearing to vote on the nomination that they were troubled by the way Mr. Mukasey handled questions about waterboarding, which the United States has fiercely condemned when carried out by other nations and had prosecuted as a war crime after World War II."
On Firday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith began a segment on the controversy over Attorney General nominee, Michael Mukasey’s stance on water boarding with a report from Capitol Hill Correspondent Chip Reid, who exclaimed that:
Water boarding is a highly controversial interrogation technique that simulates drowning...It's been used by interrogators since the Spanish Inquisition. Reportedly, it's been used by the CIA in real life, too, on a small number of Al Qaeda suspects.
In addition to this exaggerated characterization, Reid also made it seem as though the issue of water boarding was a sudden, shocking controversy, rather than an instance of a consensus nominee, well-liked by Democrats and Republicans, being attacked by those who once welcomed him:
Michael Mukasey looked like he was sailing along to easy confirmation as attorney general, until he ran aground on the issue of water boarding...If he is defeated, water boarding will be the issue that made the difference, something no one could have predicted when the hearings began.
CNN’s Jack Cafferty, in his regular "Cafferty File" segment on Thursday’s "The Situation Room," disdainfully criticized the appointment of a birth control skeptic to head a "family planning" agency at the Department of Health and Human Services by President Bush. "The question this hour is -- how much does it matter if the Bush Administration's appointee to head family planning programs has -- (LAUGHS) has been critical of birth control? This stuff is right out of ‘The Twilight Zone.'"
Cafferty’s comments came in response to the appointment of Susan Orr to the post in HHS, and aired just before the quarter-past-the-hour mark, and at the end of the 4 pm hour of "The Situation Room." Normally, "The Cafferty File" airs 5 minutes earlier at about 10 minutes past the hour, but coverage of the bombing in Karachi, Pakistan near the motorcade of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto pushed it back.
Cafferty began his "Question of the Hour" commentary bouncing off the breaking news about the bombing. He was so "taken aback" by this appointment that he read the introductory remark twice. Cafferty then "frowned upon" (easy for him) the fact that Orr’s position is "acting" director of the agency.
The media predictably went into full frenzy mode in reporting the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. But leave it to the Cable News Network to interject its own brand of social commentary into the discussion. On CNN.com's Political Ticker, contributor Roland Martin openly suggests that it is "[t]ime for a black attorney general."
In the article, Martin praises PepsiCo executive Larry Thompson as an ideal candidate for nomination.
In his recent blog ("Making Headlines: The Law, Summer 2007"), CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen describes his midsummer night's dream of legal headlines he would "like to see, but probably won't." In the tradition of another more-famous CBS employee, Cohen lists his "top ten" legal headlines - a wish list with an obvious liberal slant.
Here are some of Cohen's headlines, along with the necessary translation.
Liberals love to decry the Bush administration's alleged undermining of the rule of law. The lead editorial in today's New York Times, for example, demands Congress "not capitulate in the White House’s attempt to rob it of its constitutional powers."
But ironically, just below the editorial appears a column by one Jean Edward Smith brazenly entitled "Stacking the Court." Far from condemning the possibility, the author, a Marshall University professor, endorses the prospect as a means of coercing the Supreme Court into issuing rulings more to his, and his fellow liberals', liking.
Threatens Smith, with all the subtlety of a mobster telling a mark he'd hate to see anything happen to his kids:
If the current five-man majority persists in thumbing its nose at popular values, the election of a Democratic president and Congress could provide a corrective. It requires only a majority vote in both houses to add a justice or two. Chief Justice John Roberts and his conservative colleagues might do well to bear in mind that the roll call of presidents who have used this option includes not just Roosevelt but also Adams, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln and Grant.