William Katz: Urgent Agenda
SNIPPETS, our daily collection of short items and comments, is here.
Our next subscription drive will be in October. However, readers are invited to subscribe at any time. Subscriptions are voluntary, but are critical to keeping us going. Subscribe in the right-hand column.
OUR AUDIO COMMENTARIES HAVE BEGUN. TO LISTEN, GO HERE.
Our audio clip for today, October 2, is now up.
We will be blogging throughout tonight's vice-presidential debate. The debate starts at 9 p.m. ET. We'll start our commentary a little earlier.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2008
We'll now begin our blogging during the vice-presidential debate, which is taking place in St. Louis.
9 P.M. ET: The vice-presidential debate is about to begin. We'll be on live.
9:05 P.M. ET: Biden speaks first. He attacks the economic policies of the Bush administration. Apparently, there was no Congress. I didn't know that.
9:09 P.M. ET: Sarah speaks. Very fluid. Doing well. Makes a gentle attack on the Democrats. Sounds informed. A very different Sarah than we saw in interviews with anchor types.
9:13 P.M. ET: Caught Biden sneering at Palin. Not good. But also not good that Palin ducks Biden's charges that McCain is an anti-regulation extremist.
No one is winning this debate right now. But Palin isn't losing it. She's coming off as aggressive and reasonably knowledgeable.
9:20 P.M. ET: Biden just gave a forceful statement on health care. He was knowledgeable, if boring. Can't deny that he knows his stuff. But minute by minute, he's getting more aggressive, and I hope we see the obnoxious Biden pretty soon.
9:24 P.M. ET: Sarah is holding her own. She tends to avoid specifics, and to get vague, but she's forceful and confident. However, the pattern of not answering questions specifically is starting to hurt. Biden comes off as knowledgeable, but Palin comes off as more passionate and committed.
9:30 P.M. ET: Sarah begins to falter. She just won't deal with the issues presented by the moderator, and keeps going back to the subject she knows - energy. The audience wil notice this, but she makes up for it with a fluid, confident approach. I hope it works.
9:34 P.M. ET: They're now dealing formally with energy. Palin is knowledgeable, whereas Biden recites the global-warming mantra. Palin is winning this one. When she knows the subject, she's great.
9:41 P.M. ET: They're on foreign policy. Palin gave a good answer on Iraq, and now Biden is speaking. This is his area. He speaks with authority. But Sarah answers well. She's holding her own on Biden's turf. That's the key. Palin is not embarrassing herself. No one can laugh at her now.
9:52 P.M. ET: Anyone familiar with the facts knows that Biden is stretching them on foreign-policy issues. You'd think Barack Obama was a super hawk. But Biden knows the details and Palin is not a great authority. But again, Sarah isn't sinking. Right now she's rambling a bit. She went off the track just a little, and she seems in unfamiliar territory as they get into the subject of nuclear weapons. I wish they'd get back on turf that she knows well.
Biden is winning this brief section of the debate because he knows so much. He's pouring it on. I have to admit that he's effective. This is the weakest part of the debate for Sarah.
10:03 P.M. ET: Biden's authority in foreign policy, despite an erratic and often disappointing record, is showing. But Sarah is now striking back. She hasn't got Biden's weight, but she's standing up well to the pressure.
10:15 P.M. ET: About 15 minutes to go. The impressions have been set. No one is winning, but Sarah - who's the main attraction - is coming off respectably. I would imagine that polls might show Biden as the winner because, without question, he has a more authoritative image. But Sarah has the ability to speak to the hearts of the average citizen. Look, you just never know what impact she has. Of the two people up there, she's the more fascinating. You want to hear more from her. Biden, very knowledgeable, sounds like a Washington pol.
10:25 P.M. ET: The debate is winding down. The characteristics of the candidates continue. Biden knows his stuff, but is Washington. Sarah doesn't have the details at hand, but has a sincerity and understanding of people.
Biden is now attacking McCain, and is effective. On balance, he simply comes off as a pro, and we'll have to see how that plays. As I've said, I think polls might show him as the winner because of that polish. He's been around the block. But Sarah is not disgracing herself. The McCain campaign has not imploded tonight, which was the fear.
10:32 P.M. ET: The final statements have been given. Sarah was fine, but I'm afraid Biden was a little more polished.
QUESTION: Were any minds changed tonight? I doubt if there'll be any significant shifts. I think Sarah was helped by a fluidity and sense of comfort. Biden wasn't obnoxious. Beyond that, let's wait for measurements of public opinion.
Posted at 8:11 p.m. ET
Discussion-show host Mike Scully (http://WWW.WVOX.com) alerts us to an excellent piece by Peter Kirsanow at NRO Online's "The Corner." Kirsanow shows how to put a little fight in the GOP, something that's lacking these days. Like many conservatives, he's disgusted by the marshmallow behavior of his fellow Republicans:
The party has become, for some reason, pre-Reagan. It will pay the price.
But, you know, there are friends, Washington pals, some good reporters at lunch...
And that's a rallying cry I can believe in. Wake up, McCain crowd.
October 2, 2008. Permalink
COMMENT: The Dow was down 348 points. The bailout is no cure-all.
Posted at 4:43 p.m. ET
The four trackers out today tell the same story. Slight gains for Obama, building on an already solid lead. Rasmussen: Obama up seven; Gallup: Obama up five; Battleground: Obama up five; Hotline: Obama up five. Other "standard" polls released in the last day or so have Obama up anywhere from three to nine points.
The situation is tough for McCain, but not impossible. However, press bias is, in my view, playing a controlling role in the contest. The press can keep a story alive or kill it, and it will keep the economic story alive, no matter what happens. Should Sarah Palin do poorly tonight, that could be milked. The press tastes blood, and wants more. We have never had a situation quite like this.
You get the sense that McCain is demoralized, having taken a body blow from the financial chaos, which, by coincidence I'm sure, happened to occur right at the moment when it could hurt him most. When McCain gets demoralized, he stops fighting. The wind is taken out of him.
The voter reaction to the economic convulsion is utterly irrational. Democratic mortgage policies had far more to do with this trauma than Republican mismanagement. Some of the "statesmen" in Congress who were applauded last night for their work on the bailout package were the same ones responsible for the mess. But the media won't report it that way.
The Republican cause depends immediately on Sarah Palin. A triumph by her tonight could restart the McCain effort. And because the public would see it, the press couldn't do much to destroy it. But a failure might be fatal.
Tune in. We'll be blogging throughout this crucial night.
October 2, 2008. Permalink
COMMENT: Actually, Obama pulled out of a couple of states recently, and no one described it as a stunning move. Michigan was always problematical. It isn't only the economy, it's the Detroit vote. This election is tough, but it's not over. There's more than a month to go.
COMMENT: Nice that McCain finally noticed there was a conflict of interest, in contrast to his pandering-to-Gwen statement yesterday. And her professionalism is a bit of a joke. She's an intense partisan who's misused her position for years.
COMMENT: The election is clearly Obama's to lose. If present trends continue, and I hope they don't, he can have a landslide victory that will give him unprecedented momentum in January - a young, heady, inexperienced man becoming president at a critical point in our history, boosted to power by a press that will not criticize him. The pressure on Sarah Palin, tonight, is enormous.
At least someone in the McCain camp is fighting.
Posted at 7:18 a.m. ET
We've said before at Urgent Agenda that the word "crisis" is overused. Ronald Reagan used to ridicule the crisis-every-minute crowd, noting that most problems roll into a ditch long before they reach you.
With that in mind, though, we have to be concerned about the current moment. Today may well be the most important day of the current presidential race. Sarah Palin's performance in tonight's debate may well determine whether John McCain's campaign can be relaunched again, as it was when she was first selected, or whether it will sink into mutual accusation, backbiting and fading numbers. Never has the performance of a vice presidential choice been so crucial - largely because it reflects on the person who made that choice. Expectations for Palin are low. We hope for a surprise. We need one.
It is perhaps symbolic of the absurdity of the moment that the proceedings will be presided over by one Gwen Ifill. I'm reminded, as I am often, of Humphrey Bogart's line in Casablanca: "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine." Of Ifill we can say: "Of all the journalists in all the news outlets in all the world, they picked her." As we noted here yesterday, Ifill has a huge conflict of interest - she is publishing a book on inauguration day whose sales depend on Obama being elected. And yet, she is chosen to moderate a debate that may determine if that result will occur. As Greta Van Susteren wrote, in law that would cause a mistrial.
And yet, the profession of journalism seems unconcerned about Ifill's conflict of interest, and Ifill's haughty dismissal of public concern - see yesterday's last story below, "Ms. Ifill Regrets" - is symbolic of the slipshod standards of our time. Why couldn't they simply pick someone else to reassure us that the debates will be held to the highest standard, not the lowest? The first person who should ask for a switch of moderators should be Barack Obama. That would be change we can believe in.
This occurs against a backdrop of economic trauma. It occurs against a din of threats, some of them dire, coming from abroad. None seems as important to our journalistic guardians as whether Sarah Palin once accepted a small gift as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska.
Victor Davis Hanson, the resident historian of the age of terror, sums up brilliantly the condition in which we find ourselves. With all due respect to the Gipper, some of these problems don't seem headed for any available ditch:
And, the implications:
We are seeing the result:
Hanson is right.
Our historic role:
And who will we choose to lead us through this chaos? We will decide a month from Saturday. Will we choose a devoted, if somewhat eccentric public servant whose dedication to his country cannot be questioned? Or will we choose a kid from the Chicago machine whose dedication to his own ambition also cannot be questioned? On that choice will depend our fate for the next four years.
October 2, 2008. Permalink
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2008
Posted at 9:02 p.m. ET
Gwen Ifill, master journalist and Washington monument, has condescended to comment on the controversy surrounding her participation in tomorrow's vice-presidential debate. To review, it has been revealed that Ms. Ifill is writing a book, to be published on inauguration day, dealing with black politics in the age of Obama. The book could be huge if Obama wins. It could sell three copies if he loses. One publishing authority estimated that Ifill has about $350,000, or more, riding on the outcome of the election. And here she is moderating a vice-presidential debate.
The term is conflict of interest. In the real world that's serious. In journalism it seems to be a minor issue.
Let me get this straight: We shouldn't worry because she hasn't written the Obama chapter yet? Yeah, that makes sense - if you're 12.
The problem, my dear, is your reputation.
By that time the damage will have been done. And, by the way, how do you define your job? I hear silence.
The book is called "Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama." And Obama is a small part? Why is his name in the title?
That should disqualify her right there. Nothing more need be said.
How do you respond to anything that silly? And why aren't journalists held to the same ethical standards as other public figures?
This diminishes the journalistic profession. It can't be diminished much more this year.
October 1, 2008. Permalink
I would have preferred something more neutral, rather than the "highly-respected professional" bit. She's highly respected only by some. I would have preferred McCain expressing annoyance that he had not been told about Ifill's book deal, but that it was too late to make a change and that the public would judge.
I want Ifill to be seen as the damaged goods she is. Rush is shouting it out. A bit more shouting from the McCain side would have helped.
Posted at 3:42 p.m. ET
The polls seem to have stabilized. The problem is, they've stabilized with McCain in the worst position since Obama's Democratic convention boost.
Today's trackers: All four are out. The only surprise is Gallup, which has Obama up four, as opposed to six yesterday, and eight the day before that. However, please note that Gallup's tracker has a reputation for swinging more widely than others. We reported earlier that Rasmussen has Obama up six, no change, Hotline five, with Obama down one point, and Battleground two, no change.
Three other polls, completed on September 29th, have Obama up four, six, and seven points.
So, with all these numbers, what can we say? Obama is probably up around five points nationally. However, so many states were so close before this latest runup in Obama's numbers, that some have tipped into his column. The Real Clear Politics electoral college estimate has Obama up 86 EVs (electoral votes).
Caution: These are just snapshots. Some of the polls reflect conditions over the weekend. Some of the state polls may even extend back into last week.
So much depends on the vice-presidential debate tomorrow night, moderated by leading Obama supporter Gwen Ifill. It will be seen as a referendum on John McCain's judgment. If Sarah Palin bombs, there could easily be a further slide in the polls, possibly making the election out of reach for McCain. But if Sarah holds her own, McCain can begin the climb back. If she triumphs, and puts the focus back on McCain's "brilliant" choice, anything is possible.
The election is a calendar month from Saturday. We can't know if economic conditions will settle down. And we can't know if Al Qaeda has some gift waiting for us.
October 1, 2008. Permalink
Big story here, if the McCain camp exploits it. They should be very loud about this today. They've been treated outrageously. Ifill should offer to withdraw as moderator of tomorrow's vice-presidential debate, but won't. The McCain people, though, should not try to force her out. Gwen Ifill has been deceptive, and is now damaged goods. If she tries to trip up Sarah tomorrow night, it will show. In a way, this whole thing is good news for McCain. The press bias is obvious. The deception is obvious. They can use this moment.
COMMENT: This lead is impressive, and can lead to an electoral-college landslide. But it's a lead that can be overcome. A lot is riding on the vice-presidential debate tomorrow night. If McCain can finish the week four or so points behind, with a month to go to election day, he can turn this around. But he's got to come out fighting and stop being just one of a hundred senators.
Posted at 9:03 a.m. ET
I've always liked Fred Thompson. He wasn't at his best as a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, but he's a feisty, clear-headed commentator who writes and speaks his mind.
Here, going against the current conventional "wisdom," he makes a compelling case for Sarah Palin. I'm glad someone did it. Agree or disagree, he makes some excellent points, and gets in some deserved swipes against the political and journalistic establishment:
Love it already, don't you?
And, more good stuff...
But they didn't want her, Fred. She's a threat to their world.
Glad someone brought that up. Fred quotes Palin critic David Brooks as wondering whether Sarah has the prudence for high office. He counters:
Ah yes. Wasn't "prudence" the rallying whisper of Bush 41, who left no fingerprints? Finally...
Oh, do I wish the McCain people could write like that. Or think like that.
Unleash Fred. Maybe he should be coaching Sarah.
October 1, 2008. Permalink
NOTE AT 7:41 A.M. ET: Another classic of biased reporting. Please go to the New York Times website and compare the pictures of Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, printed side by side. Biden looks the determined statesman, standing, vigorous, making a point. Palin is sitting down, looking clueless and vacant. Sarah may not be the greatest interviewee on Earth, but she's proved in her career that she's sharp, capable and respected. Not by The Times, though. These side-by-side photos are entirely inappropriate.
Posted at 7:14 a.m. ET
I'm so glad that Drudge has made this his major story this morning. If this isn't a conflict of interest, I don't know what is. It turns out that Gwen Ifill, the PBS "journalist," and moderator of tomorrow's vice-presidential debate, has a book coming out on inauguration day titled "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama." Clearly, that book is vastly more valuable if Obama wins. In addition, Ifill's behavior on the air in covering Sarah Palin's acceptance speech at the GOP convention was the subject of complaints to the PBS ombudsman.
I've looked at Ifill's work for years. An objective reporter she is not. I recall that, after radical leftist Cynthia McKinney lost the Democratic nomination for her congressional seat one year, Ifill went on the air, two nights in a row, to talk about "groups," read that Jews, who financed her opponent. She never once mentioned that McKinney had been heavily financed by Muslim groups. She's that kind of "reporter."
Greta Van Susteren discusses the conflict-of-interest issue at her website, here:
Well, the book certainly won't be unfriendly to Obama. So the question is, "What did the McCain team know and when did they know it?" If they knew about this conflict and still approved Ifill, they're too incompetent to be alive. If they're learning about it now, they should be in an uproar. But I doubt if they will, because Ifill is African-American and, you know, they don't want to make an ugly scene.
Sometimes you make an ugly scene. This is an outrage. Ifill should withdraw herself, but I can't imagine her doing so. It would make it look as if she did the right thing only once exposed. After all, she knew she was writing this book.
The story must be played. If Ifill moderates, people will look at any slight toward Sarah Palin very differently if they know of Ifill's conflict.
The level of in-the-tank-for-Obama journalism going on has been stunning. This one is in a class by itself.
You can hear my audio commentary on press bias by going here.
October 1, 2008. Permalink
COMMENT: Watch this one very carefully. Soros is a shadowy international operator and a hard leftist. Any proposal of his should be suspect . It may go nowhere, but it would seem to lead to government control over private institutions. Soros is the first man Barack Obama went to for financing when he started his presidential campaign. I'm not liking this.
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
Subscriptions to URGENT AGENDA are voluntary. Why subscribe to something you're getting free? To help guarantee that you'll continue to get it at all. Subscriptions sustain us. Payments are through PayPal and are secure, but you do not have to sign up for a PayPal account. Credit cards are fine.
FOR A ONE-YEAR ($48) SUBSCRIPTION, CLICK:
FOR A SIX-MONTH ($26) SUBSCRIPTION, CLICK:
IF YOU DON'T WISH A SET SUBSCRIPTION, BUT PREFER TO DONATE ANY OTHER AMOUNT TO SUSTAIN URGENT AGENDA, CLICK:
It's a privilege for me to post periodic pieces at Power Line. To go to Power Line, click here.
To link to my Power Line pieces, go here.
THE CURRENT QUESTION
Last week we asked,
How would you explain to an angry, disillusioned foreigner why Barack Obama lost the election?
You can view the answers here.
How should Sarah Palin be used for the remainder of the campaign?
YOU CAN E-MAIL US, AS FOLLOWS:
If you have wonderful things to say about this site, if it makes you a better person, please click:
If you have a general comment on anything you see here, or on anything else that's topical, please click: