Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 25, 2008

STILL NOT READY FOR PRIMETIME.... At first blush, the notion that the McCain campaign would go to extraordinary lengths just to draw attention away from Sarah Palin's interview with Katic Couric sounds pretty farfetched. But actually watching the five-and-a-half minute clip from CBS, it's actually fairly reasonable to think campaign aides saw the interview, panicked, and thought, "We need to do something drastic."

Hilzoy tackled the highlights (or the lowlights, depending on one's perspective) last night, but I just wanted to reiterate just how great a train wreck Palin's interview really was. The governor seemed hopelessly lost, offering answers that varied between odd and nonsensical.

After noting just how disastrous some of Palin's answers were -- most notably about the bailout package preventing another Great Depression -- Anonymous Liberal presents a very compelling case that the McCain campaign felt compelled to do something drastic.

"I think the McCain campaign knew the Couric interview would be a disaster as soon as it was done taping and spent much of the day frantically trying to think of a way to push it out of the headlines," A.L. explained. "The clincher for me is the fact that McCain cancelled his Letterman appearance at the last second and instead sat down for an impromptu interview with, of all people, Katie Couric. The hope was to bump the Palin interview even on the CBS Evening News, which otherwise would have hyped and teased the Palin interview all afternoon and used it to lead the broadcast. Instead, CBS devoted most of its coverage to McCain and played segments of the Palin interview almost as an afterthought. Mission accomplished."

I'd just add that the McCain campaign has just about run out of time in rationalizing Palin's inability to ... what's the phrase I'm looking for ... be a candidate for national office. The political world seemed willing to allow for a certain learning curve, giving Palin a moment to get acquainted with the rigors of her chosen task. But she's been a national candidate now for nearly a month, and she doesn't appear to have the foggiest idea what she's doing. Worse, Palin is yet to demonstrate any working knowledge of any subject.

The Couric interview reinforced what many already feared -- the notion that Palin is ready for primetime is ridiculous, and the idea that she's prepared to be one heartbeat from the presidency in four months is literally laughable.

There's a very good reason the McCain campaign wants to delay the Palin-Biden debate, and it has nothing to do with Wall Street.

Steve Benen 7:59 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (45)

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If it weren't for Palin, we might have been talking about the odd comment McCain made in his Couric interview. He said people want to know what is going to be done wih the "700 million, er trillion dollars." I get that he doesn't know how many houses he has, or remember the price of gas the last time he filled one of his 13 cars. But does he even know the word "billion"?

Posted by: Danp on September 25, 2008 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

Letterman's take on being stiffed by McCain was 15 minutes of scathing rebuke. Not a high point of the McC campaign - Dave has a lot of viewers.

Posted by: ptm on September 25, 2008 at 8:07 AM | PERMALINK

The Today show played the Letterman clip 3 times this morning. John wake up - the honeymoon with the media is over. That he thinks he can lie and no one will notice is beyond belief. You can just see the panic in the backroom as they try to manipulate their way to the white house. BTW he looks really fucked up...whats with the droopy eye. I don't think he's going to make it to November

Posted by: John R on September 25, 2008 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK

Dead right, Steve. This whole mess smells very fishy. And I'm detecting overtones of rotting barracuda.

What kills me is that Bush and McCain are the people who have said for months that the economy is sound and that the media and democrats were creating the crisis out of thin air by hyping a failing economy meme.

And now this? Bush on TV saying some of our local banks may close? We're all going to feel it? Dire straits? End of the world as we know it? McCain suspends his campaign?

Wasn't Obama talking about all these potential crises months -- even years ago?

Posted by: chrenson on September 25, 2008 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

Expectations for her are now so low it's possible she could exceed them in the VP debate just by sticking to talking points and sneaking in one or two mean-girl zingers about "liberals".

Posted by: Max Power on September 25, 2008 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately the Couric/Palin encounter will not likely offend average voters nearly as much as it offends Political Animals. She seemed less clueless than this thread suggested.

Posted by: NH Lib Ind on September 25, 2008 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

I did observe during the Couric interview that a voice coach had been working with Palin to slow her delivery, appear to be a bit more deliberative, and reduce the high pitch tones. But a voice coach could not take the battiness out of Palin's head (read Roger Cohen: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/25/opinion/25Cohen.html?hp)

Posted by: lou on September 25, 2008 at 8:27 AM | PERMALINK

*any* working knowledge of *any* subject

Ouch. Of course liberal elitist Katy didn't ask about moose hunting. Which may actually be somewhat useful for us all, as the financier elites look to be blowing up the connections between us working people and our food supply.

The sickening thing is the Bushian level of obtuseness to her own shortcomings. Didn't that "play stump the candidate" sound a lot like "See, I can speak French, too"?

Posted by: doesn't matter on September 25, 2008 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

That interview was really sad. I thought she was supposed to be "bright" and "a quick study."

One of the benefits to John McCain of announcing that he's "suspending" his campaign (haven't seen any signs of it so far) is it distracts attention from Rick Davis' sinecure with Freddie Mac and the transition manager's ties to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. The national news media, again, have been distracted by a shiny object.

I think the thing with McCain's eye indicates a serious neurologic problem. He will, indeed, be lucky if he lasts until November.

Posted by: Helena Montana on September 25, 2008 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK


Posted by: Eric Blair on September 25, 2008 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

I'll take a partially dissenting view...I think if you follow the issues, you come away thinking how unprepared and unaware she is. But if your only source of info is Fox, or Rush, or maybe even other evening news shows, she comes across as measured, even if her responses are trite and meaningless.

Posted by: orion on September 25, 2008 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

I'm pretty sure that Katie was just "picking on poor little Scarah"...and GEORGE SOROS/Liberals/Clinton...just to throw them in there as that's what REPUGS try to do to distract folks...

Posted by: Dancer on September 25, 2008 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

Palin's appearance on the Couric show was enough to convince the McCain campaign that a vice-presidential debate would finish them. After weeks of intensive coaching Palin turned in a performance that could have been easily surpassed by any of the regular commenters on this blog - including the trolls. It was, as Steve observed, necessary to push the interview to the back of the news. Either that or have Steve Schmidt accuse Couric of being sexist and in the tank for Obama.
My guess? McCain is seriously ill. He needs to buy time for himself and his VP while he attempts to recover and his campaign attempts to make her look like a functioning adult. Look for further stunts and excuses. Outside chance? Palin will, at the last minute, withdraw "for family reasons" and Joe Lieberman goes on the ticket.

Posted by: Dennis - SGMM on September 25, 2008 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

The highlight of this interview has to be the silence and stammering following Couric's question about Davis, "...isn't this a conflict of interest?"

It's apparent that after these Bush years, Republicans simply do not understand the term "conflict of interest". Because everything Bush and Cheney have acted upon, from the war in Iraq, to this latest financial crisis is just one big conflict of interest.

Posted by: Capt Kirk on September 25, 2008 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

McC is a joka and a disgrace - McP is worse. CBA should air the interview and all media should focus alot on it because it is very important for people to see the stupidity in the decisions McC has made.

His "suspend" crap is just that CRAP. He has not been in Wash since April and was not needed then - so this is all a political stunt and the media and Obama need to call him on this and hard.

Posted by: wom78 on September 25, 2008 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

wow -- that could have been mistaken for an SNL skit... woefully inept.

Posted by: entheo on September 25, 2008 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

Sweet christ, in that first segment where they're walking and talking, when Katie asks again if Rick Davis has a conflict of interest, you can see the deer in the headlights even though you're not getting a full-on view of her face...and then she launches back into a repetition of what she's just said! How obvious could it be that she's just repeating what she's been programmed to say? The other classic moment is the last one, the cutesy "I'll try to find some and I'll bring 'em to ya." That might have worked with the press back home in Alaska, but with national media figures, it's just pitiful.

As soon as I heard the "suggestion" from Lindsey Graham yesterday that Friday's debate be rescheduled for Oct. 2, I knew what all the flailing yesterday was all about. They are desperate to cancel that vice presidential debate. Little Sarah can't stand up to any level of scrutiny.

Posted by: Jennifer on September 25, 2008 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

In many parts of the interview she does not even sound like she understands what she is saying. When she is walking with Couric her voice sounds so shaky about the Davis issue. Like when you are cramming for a speech in High School and you memorize lines but have no idea what you are saying.

Posted by: Kelly on September 25, 2008 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

This wasn't solely a stunt to draw eyes away from Caribou Barbie. That's a side-effect.

We've had a steady parade of financial neocons: Paulson, Jack Welch, McCain, and Bush, coordinate their downward thrusts on the fear button. This is a hard sell of hot fear.

This is the last best chance for the kleptocracy to paper their Ponzi scheme with the promise of future middle class tax dollars. It is a twofer: Enrich the overwhelming republican financial services sector, and drown the future Barack government in a bathtub of debt.

You ought to be pissed red about it.
You ought to be calling your congressperson today and raging at the republican poverty-making machine...

Posted by: koreyel on September 25, 2008 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

"Unfortunately the Couric/Palin encounter will not likely offend average voters nearly as much as it offends Political Animals. She seemed less clueless than this thread suggested."

I disagree completely. She looked absolutely clueless and has in each of the interviews she has sat for. The "base" won't abandon her, they're the Bush deadenders. The entertainment factor has really dimmed as far as Palin is concerned. I don't think the general public is quite as amused by her now. She's being looked at a serious now, and she's not holding up on any level. Maybe it the economic crisis that's snapped alot of people back to reality.

I've noticed McCain's eye as well. I've thought for a while that he seems like he's had a stroke. We really do need his complete medical records released. He looks ghastly, he seems out of it, and I think alot of people are looking at Palin (and his judgement in choosing her) with a much sharper eye.

And don't underestimate David Letterman. He's never been very political, but he does hold the public's attention.

Posted by: Saint Zak on September 25, 2008 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK


Posted by: Eric Blair on September 25, 2008 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

Expectations for her are now so low it's possible she could exceed them in the VP debate just by sticking to talking points and sneaking in one or two mean-girl zingers about "liberals".

No, that's exactly what kind of performance I expect from Palin in the Veep debate -- if her handlers let it happen.

I also expect the dead-ender Republicans to go into ecstacies, and loyal Americans you shrug and say "meh." Palin loses another few approval points, her negatives exceed her positivies and she becomes a net negative for McCain. Ultimately, her fire-up-the-base factor is drowned by the widespread perception that she isn't something new, but more of the same Republicanism voters can't wait to reject in November -- and so they will.

Posted by: Gregory on September 25, 2008 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

On the debate issue,
Obama should announce that he is still ready to debate Friday night.
And also announce that Biden is ready to step in against Palin, if McCain can not make it.
In short, both Obama and Biden are ready now.
Strong contrast against the run and hide Repubs.

Posted by: JimK on September 25, 2008 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

Palin's conflict of interest response was one of the lamest responses ever, but it was clearly topped by "I'll try to find ya some [examples of McCain favoring regulations] and I'll bring 'em to ya".

And, by the way, Couric asked her question perfectly, "and he has almost always sided with regulation". It's true, there are a couple of examples of McCain pushing for regulations (e.g., McCain-Feingold campaign reforms), and Couric clearly knew it. So she avoided a simplistic question whose premise could be attacked and thereby gave Palin a little honest wiggle-room, but Palin didn't know enough to be able to use it.

ALso, Couric's "one more step and I've got you" smile reminded me of medieval bear-traps and man-traps in European museums, except that Couric looked entirely more lethal and less friendly.

Posted by: N.Wells on September 25, 2008 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

I don't ready anything into Palin's delayed answer to the Davis question.

Of course not. So what?

Politicians - good ones - are only smart to delay their answers.

But politicians -- good ones -- have their answers make sense when they deliver them. Palin, not so much.

But hey, "Eric Blair," don't take my word for it -- the McCain campaign is clearly desperate to minimize the exposure this right-wing religious extremist has to the American public.

Posted by: Gregory on September 25, 2008 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

Someone needs to put a video together that cuts back and forth between Palin's performance on Katie Couric's show and that performance by Miss South Carolina...then make it part of an ad asking; can you tell the difference between these two?

Posted by: Alex Kirby on September 25, 2008 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

I don't ready anything into Palin's delayed answer to the Davis question.

Because you are a shameless hack trolling the liberal blogosphere. I can't blame you for wanting to deflect attention from the Rick Davis fiasco, the Sarah Palin fiasco, and the John McCain fiasco. But did you have to be so vulgar as to pull out the old Clenis™?

Posted by: Lucy on September 25, 2008 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Would you guys LAY OFF Palin for a while? Sheesh. Bush's boys report the ear mold and power pack won't be ready till next week.

Posted by: Five Feet High n Rising on September 25, 2008 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

It strikes me that no one asks Palin any questions in order to get insight or understanding about a situation because everyone knows her views on, say, the economy, are worthless. The point of questioning her is to find out something about her and to gauge her level of ignorance.

And the McPalin campaign isn't even pretending anymore that she's anything other than-- dare I say it?-- a pig in a poke.

Posted by: Tomm on September 25, 2008 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

Pathetic pit-puddy!

After watching her interview through my fingers, I was so angry at McCain and his campaign that I was literally too upset to fall off to sleep.

Get rid of these two - now! I sincerely hope that this time the Democrats can count on minority and student voters to actually show up in reasonable numbers.

Posted by: colonpowwow on September 25, 2008 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

I tuned in to local right wing radio as well as national right wing radio after Bush last night. Locally the the bailout is a non starter with Republicans running and hiding behind hatred of Bush and Barney Frank. The recent hatred of Bush from Republicans is really giving me a laugh because it seems only a hatred born out of his being unpopular as they still echo every last thing on the Republican platform.

More interesting were the attempts in Bush's speech to inextricably link the economic woes to mortgage default and foreclosures. This was then picked up both locally and nationally by right wing radio and talking points were surely sent out as the hosts were blaming the meltdown on inner cities and towns that were black, brown, and hispanic. The national host was a stand in for Savage and he then kept repeating a drug dealer analogy.

Basically race is going to be it from here on out. No surprise there but it seems that an undertone of Bush's plan last night was to push back against the hatred of Wall St. and try and pin it on MLK Blvd.

Also of note was the Franklin Raines meme has not been debunked at all.

McCain was clearly trying to get his lies about Rick Davis out of the news cycle yesterday. This can't be let down and we should be keeping this above the fold.

Obama could win the election by just saying no way, no how, no bailout loud and proud.

People hate the fucking thing.

Posted by: grinning cat on September 25, 2008 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

I thought there was a small improvement in her delivery compared to Gibson, but quick study she is not. She is simply unable to speak in anything but run on sentences, and has no command of the issues. She makes Bush sound articulate. In comparison, in my state, there are several dozen local politicians that are constantly on the tele offering opinions re national issues that sound far more convincing than Ms. Palin. At this point, I don't even think she's a rising star in the Republican party not to mention whether she's qualified to be vice-president.

Posted by: Scott F. on September 25, 2008 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

I second the comment about the Letterman rant being the real game changer. Everyone across the spectrum watches Letterman -- unlike Stewart or Colbert, who are mostly 'preaching to the choir' -- and he made Palin into a national joke. And if TODAY repeated it for the ones who go to bed early, believe me, it probably cost McCain a million votes.

As for the Couric interview with Palin, I can just quote Mudflats, the wonderful Alaska blog that has been out in front on the Palin story right along. The entire text of the article on the interview:
"Just for fun, see if you can watch this without putting your palms on your face. Other than that, I am rendered speechless."


(If you check this out, be sure to see the video of the entire Pastor Muthee speech where he prayed over Palin that Rachel showed segments of. Unlike the Wright video, that only is scary -- for Republicans -- if you look at 10 seconds of it, this whole thing will give you nightmares. It is at http://mudflats.wordpress.com/2008/09/25/palin-and-the-witch-hunter-chapter-ii/
It's long, so Mudflats gives the highlights:
"5:00 - We need God to ‘take over the education system.’

5:27 - We need God to ‘take over the media’ and Hollywood itself.

6:08 - We need the government run by born-again Christians."

(As I was writing this, my wife called me away to watch the McCain 'speech' at the Clinton Global Initiative. She was right about how he was babbling, but as soon as I heard the words 'if I am elected...' I realized that he was giving a version of his standard stump speecg as he argued that he was 'suspending his campaign.

Again my wife was right. "This campaign is a circus." Only the old-fashioned 19th Century kind with geeks biting heads off chickens and other sadistic entertainments for the masses.

Posted by: Prup (aka Jim Benton) on September 25, 2008 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

What is really fucking scary is that according to the last NBC/WSJ poll 40%, yep 40%, of Americans 'think' that she is ready and prepared to be the President. Contemplate that for a moment ... what a testimony to the underlying stupidity of the American population as a whole ..........

Posted by: stormskies on September 25, 2008 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

She wore a nice suit. Her hair looked good. She didn't run crying from the studio, or projectile-vomit onto Couric's blouse. That's the most anyone expects of her at this point, so I'm guessing most viewers thought she did just fine!

And Steve, "literally laughable"? Ladies and gentlemen, is Joe Biden ghosting for you today?

Posted by: gradysu on September 25, 2008 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

Koreyel wrote: "It is a twofer: Enrich the overwhelming republican financial services sector, and drown the future Barack government in a bathtub of debt."

You've got it.

Dick Cheney and George W. Bush are demanding that the taxpayers hand over a blank check for a trillion dollars that they can give to their cronies and financial backers on Wall Street. They are hardly even making any effort to pretend that this is about anything other than looting the Treasury on their way out the door.

What the CheneyBush cronies of Wall Street need is not a bailout, but to be remanded without bail.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 25, 2008 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

As for the '40%' -- Biden or Obama HAVE to make it plain to people that she isn't like previous 'pro-life' Republicans -- who 'talk the talk' but won't 'walk the walk.' She will walk faster than anyone but Dobson, and a lot of 'middle American women' don't realize how different she is on this.

But I think the number is dropping anyway as her incompetence and lying gets focused on. There's still a lot of time for the Alaskan Bubble Gum to leave a sticky mess on McCain's face. (The one trouble is that she has so MANY problems its hard to decide whether to hit her on Muthee, Troopergate, ignorance, lying, or religious fanaticism. But one way bloggers can help is to link to Alaskan blogs like Mudflats and "Alaska Real" -- which does a great job on her blindness on sexual abuse, to name another target.)

Posted by: Prup (aka Jim Benton) on September 25, 2008 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Obviously I'm a liberal inclined to take the dimmest view of Palin, but I really think she looked amateurish and out of her depth at at least three specific moments:

1. the "I'll get those examples to you" at the end.

2. the part about Rick Davis. Couric asked her about Davis, and she gave her pat answer. Couric refuted part of it...and Palin gave, word for word, the exact same answer.

3. "People know of him as a maverick", like 'maverick' is just this magic word that will make McCain's anti-regulation history disappear.

I can't imagine anyone not being puzzled or alarmed by those lapses, unless they are already on the snowmobile.

Posted by: kth on September 25, 2008 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Shoot, are either of them ready for presidency, let alone the campaign?
McCain/Palin (Country Last. The Ticket to Nowhere.)

Posted by: AgentX on September 25, 2008 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

God damn... It's like watching Ben Stiller in "There's something about Mary".. Embarrassing is not funny! I just viewed the little stroll (and question about Davis) outside the UN and I had to shut it off. As an abomination in the eyes of Sarah's god, I have to say I have great pity for Palin and I have wrongly labeled her and evil, divisive culture war harpy. She's just a clueless and pathetic, divisive culture war harpy.

Posted by: The Galloping Trollop on September 25, 2008 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Oh dear,

I just cringed through the rest..


Posted by: The Galloping Trollop on September 25, 2008 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

So let me get this straight:

* McCain people feared Palin would look ridiculous speaking with Katie Couric.

* Therefore, McCain -- citing the economic crisis -- "suspends" his campaign and declines to appear with David Letterman.

* McCain tries to minimize Palin's appearance by speaking with Couric...but Letterman finds out and shows footage of the interview. Letterman is ticked off. (Given cultural impact and demographics, whose audience would you diss -- Couric's or Letterman's?)

When it comes to taking a molehill and building your own mountain, Stan and Ollie couldn't do a better job than John and Sarah.

Posted by: Vincent on September 25, 2008 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, it worked here in Dallas. The Morning Snooze has nada about Palin's latest goof. We'll see if the op-ed pages have anything tomorrow on McCain's attempt to eliminate the Veep debate.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on September 25, 2008 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

I hate to be like this, but I think it's a legitimate question to ask, is McCain well? His left eye is distinctly drooping. He seems confused and defensive. How long has it been since he's taken questions from reporters? A 'gaffe' is one thing. But the only consistency from McCain since the first week of August has been his totally erratic behavior.

Posted by: Terrorist Fist Jab on September 25, 2008 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

I hate to be like this, but I think it's a legitimate question to ask, is McCain well? His left eye is distinctly drooping. He seems confused and defensive. How long has it been since he's taken questions from reporters? A 'gaffe' is one thing. But the only consistency from McCain since the first week of August has been his totally erratic behavior.

Posted by: Terrorist Fist Jab on September 25, 2008 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK



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