Review of the Sunday Morning Talk Shows

ImageSunday, August 31, 2008


They don’t know what hit them.

On FOX News Sunday, lone guest John McCain described Sarah Palin as a “partner and a soul mate,” in changing the business of politics-as-usual even if it means taking on some in their own party.

On ABC’s This week, Senator Lindsey Graham said that Sarah Palin was “absolutely” qualified to become President, more so than is Obama: “What’s he done?” Next up was a clearly angry and flustered John Kerry, who declared that John McCain is a “radical,” not a maverick. He added that Sarah Palin is the next Dick Cheney.

On NBC’s Meet the Press, moderator Tom Brokaw made the case that Sarah Palin is unprepared to be President by citing her mother-in-law. Governor Tim Pawlenty, who gave as good an interview as I’ve seen from him, deftly turned the question around on Obama. This raises the question of whether Tom Brokaw was prepared to step in to Tim Russert’s role.

On CBS’s Face the Nation, Rudy Giuliani said that in Joe Biden, Obama had picked “more of the same,” while McCain had opted to select a partner. Joe Lieberman said that the Palin selection was like “opening the door and bringing some fresh, Alaska air into Washington.” Next up, Carly Fiorina said that she has talked to some Hillary supporters who are “ecstatic” of McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin for his ticket.

On CNN’s Late Edition, Fred Thompson delighted in the fact that everyone is comparing the Republican vice Presidential nominee’s preparedness with that of the top of the Dem ticket. Next, Chris Dodd accused President Bush of letting New Orleans drown three years ago, and he added that the Republicans would have held their convention anyway this year if they were certain that President Bush would handle the emergency management properly.

The full, show-by-show reveiw is beneath the fold.JOHN MCCAIN ON FNS. Host Chris Wallace’s lone guest on FOX News Sunday, from St. Paul, was Senator John McCain. And Wallace started in on the Palin pick: is she the best person to have a heartbeat away from the Presidency”? McCain replied: “Oh, yes. She’s a partner and a soul mate.” He pointed out that she is a reformer and posited that though he does not like the term “maverick,” she is one as well. While acknowledging that he has paid a price for taking on his political party, he pointed out that Sarah Palin has taken on hers in Alaska.

McCain said that Palin brings to the ticket “a spirit of reform and change that is vital.”

Wallace asked about Palin’s paucity of foreign policy and national security experience. He asked if she were more unprepared than is Obama. Striking at the Obama campaign on what it plays at is strength, McCain said that Palin has the right judgment to lead on foreign policy. (Judgment over experience was Obama’s line against McCain’s experience.) He said that she knew that Iran was not tiny and insignificant, something Obama had asserted, and that the surge worked, something Obama has stubbornly refused to acknowledge. He cited Palin’s “experience and judgment as an executive, something Obama lacks.

Wallace asked McCain if questions about Palin’s readiness to serve as President reinforced concerns about his age, about his actuarial tables and the chances that he could drop dead at any moment. McCain explained that he understands that he has to make the case that this is not going to happen, that he has to show energy and vigor.

Wallace said that the Veep choice was often called a candidate’s first Presidential decision. What would it say if it looked like he might have made that decision based on politics? McCain answered that choosing Palin was what he thought was best for the nation. It is a new generation of Republican leaders, he said.

Wallace brought up the line from Obama’s Thursday night speech in which he chides McCain for questioning his patriotism and love of country. The senator answered: “I have no doubt about Senator Obama’s patriotism. I have grave doubts about his judgment.”

About the Britney-Paris ad, McCain explained again that it draws up the contrast between the two candidates and it has a healthy sense of humor. Asked about President Bush’s Administration, McCain said that history will judge it. McCain doesn’t like the “spending spree” on which the Bush Administration went, but he pointed out that we have not been attacked since September 11.

As for the difference between a McCain Administration and President Bush’s, McCain said that he would cut spending, work on climate change, secure Afghanistan, build a global coalition to take on Iran, and his first priority will be to fix the economy with job creation and lower taxes.

“Reform, prosperity, and peace.”

LINDSEY GRAHAM ON THIS WEEK. Over an ABC, host George Stephanopoulos’s first guest on This Week was Senator Lindsey Graham. About Gustav vs. the Convention, Graham assured Steph that the GOP can’t do “anything inappropriate” and hinted that they would raise money at the Convention for Gustav’s victims. He said that he would advise McCain to visit the area but not to distract from the efforts down there.

In Palin, Graham said, McCain had been “looking for a partner,” someone who had done in Alaska what McCain wants to do in Washington. She is “absolutely” prepared to be President on Day one, Graham said in response to Steph’s question, more so that is Obama. What about on national security, Steph asked, and Graham pointed out that, well, she’s headed the Alaska National Guard and Obama has done nothing: “What has he done?”

He referred to Palin as “qualified beyond belief.” Obama has been in the Senate for a few years, he said, and he’s been away from the Senate for than he’s been there.

JOHN KERRY ON TW. To answer Senator Graham, Steph had on Senator John Kerry, who is usually condescending beyond his knowledge abilities as well as calm. There was something not-so-nice under his saddle this week, though. He told Steph: “You’ve just heard them attack John McCain’s character!” He meant to use Barry’s name, but he never corrected himself.

A visibly angry Kerry sputtered that John McCain had bought into the “neocon philosophy” that invading Iraq would make the Middle East as safer and more democratic region, which, he said, is demonstrably false. He said that Iran was more dangerous than ever and al Qaeda had expanded from four countries in 2001 to several skillion today.

He said that John McCain is not a maverick: “He’s a RADICAL!”

He said that while John McCain would have brought the third term of George Bush, McCain/Palin would bring the third term of Bush/Cheney. Why is Palin like Cheney? Kerry said that, like Cheney, Sarah Palin has “zero foreign policy experience.” (Uh, Cheney was SecDef under GHWB.)

Kerry fell into the trap, though, and he’s defending his guy in a comparison with the Republicans veep nominee, essentially saying that the adults on the tickets are Joe Biden, the Dems #2, and the top of the Republican ticket, John McCain. He said that Obama has been in the Senate for four years and Palin has been governor for only two. He asserted that Obama had so served in the Senate more than he had been away, though he didn’t seem to be certain.

Steph brought up that Howard Wolfson, Hillary’s old comm. Director, posited that the Palin pick would attract some of Hillary’s female supporters from Obama. Kerry responded by insulting both Wolfson and Hillary’s female supporters. He asked how “stupid” does Wolfson think Hillary’s supporters are. They support Hillary because of the issues, not because of a desire to break any glass ceiling.

Kerry called Palin a climate change denier, a member of the “flat earth caucus.” (He backed his argument with nothing.) He said that McCain had wanted to select Ridge or Lieberman but that Rush Limbaugh and the right wing had vetoes those choices and forced him to pick another Dick Cheney.

TIM PAWLENTY ON MTP. From the site of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Tom Brokaw opened Meet the Press by interviewing Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. The governor said that the contingency plans ranged from slightly modifying the schedule to altering it fundamentally. The convention “has to go forward at least four days,” he added.

Brokaw declared that “we had a thunderstorm of epic proportions” on Friday when McCain named Sarah Palin as his running mate. (Get it? Thunderstorm, hurricane. Get it?) He pointed out that she has been governor for only two years and before that was mayor of a small town, while John McCain is an old man who has survived cancer and thus could snuff it at any moment. This country is involved in two wars, faces a resurgent Russia, a rogue Iran, and the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression (still at it). What has prepared her for this? Pawlenty answered that like McCain, Palin is a “maverick with a record of reform.” She’s smart, strong, capable, dedicated, diligent, with executive experience, he said. He linked the energy issue with national security and noted that she has more experience than has Barack Obama. Brokaw countered that Obama had earned experience by campaigning for the last twenty months and participating in the 20+ Dem primary debates. He’s been vetted by the American people, Brokaw argued, while Palin has not.

Brokaw asked if Palin would be as good on the economy as businessman Mitt Romney or as good on national security as former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge. Or, for that matter, as good at anything as is Joe Lieberman? Pawlenty answered that part of the job was to address the needs of average Americans, and Palin has “lived that life.”

Brokaw recited from a Fairbanks Daily News-Miner editorial in which the writer editorialized that Palin has never been interested in federal issues and foreign affairs. Palin is a “neophyte in comparison to Obama,” the paper insisted. He also quoted from the Minneapolis paper’s editorial decrying Palin and unprepared, and he quoted Sarah Palin’s mother-in-law (!) as suggesting the same thing. Pawlenty turned it around on Obama that while Obama has been running for President, she has been successfully running the large enterprise called Alaska. Brokaw pointed out that it’s a small State which gets most of its money from the oil industry. Pawlenty countered that it is larger than the enterprise for which Obama worked as a staffer in Chicago.

Brokaw sneered that McCain had to pick a pro-life veep nominee. Pawlenty countered that no one would think to assert that Obama had to pick a pro-choice nominee. Brokaw looked uncomfortable and moved on.

And on and on and on. There are doubts about whether Brokaw was prepared to step in and assume Tim Russert’s job.

RUDY AND JOEMENTUM ON FTN. Rudy Giuliani and Joe Lieberman were Bob Schieffer’s guests on Face the Nation. (When talking about Gustav, Lieberman called himself a “Democrat visiting the Republican Convention,” not an Indie. They are “1,000% better prepared,” he said, than they were for Katrina.)

First Rudy (from Sag Harbor, NY). Rudy said that they had to make sure that the focus is on the south, where Gustav would hit. Things have to be scaled back, he said, and McCain would do it. He added that one can’t have better preparations for dealing with an emergency than being a governor and a mayor, as Sarah Palin has been.

Schieffer played a clip from tonight’s 60 Minutes of Obama answering a question about his own preparedness vs. that of Sarah Palin by saying that he picked Joe Biden so he can “push back” and tell him that he’s wrong. Rudy answered that Obama had to say those things because he has never had an executive experience, and it took him three different responses to get the proper reaction to what happened in Georgia. Senator Obama opted for the past in choosing his veep – more of the same – while McCain chose the future.

Schieffer asked if he really thought Palin were more qualified to be President than is Obama, and Rudy said “absolutely.” He added, “She’s made decisions.”

Lieberman up next. He was in Washington. He said that McCain “made a bold choice,” right to the heart of “what people want.” Change in Washington. Taking on lobbyists, big corporations, own party. He called Palin a “maverick” who has done in Alaska what McCain has done in Washington.

Bringing her onto the ticket was like “opening the door and bringing some fresh, Alaska air into Washington.”

Schieffer said that this sounded like John McCain’s own choice. Lieberman said it was, pointing out that John McCain doesn’t need to fill any gap behind him with foreign policy experience.

CARLY FIORINA ON FTN. Schieffer told Fiorina that “clearly, this was a bid” to get the disaffected Hillary voters. Fiorina said that she’s talked to some of them, and “they are ecstatic” over the Palin pick. Schieffer posited that the hardcore Hillary voters were as staunchly pro-abort as one can be, but Fiorina said that most women are not single-issue voters. She said that all voters, men and women, appreciate “authenticity and consistency.”

Schieffer asked her if she thought Palin were the best woman he could have picked, and Fiorina answered that she was a “wonderful pick.”

FRED THOMPSON ON LE. Fred’s due to double his speaking time after California Governor Ahnold backed out to deal with a budget crisis. Fred agreed with Wolf that he’s never seen anything like this happen at convention time, though he is impressed with the way we’re preparing. He agreed with Blitzer that it’s not a good time for Republicans to be seen partying, but he said that the deeper reality is that convention attendees are concerned.

It’s unfortunate that so much work and planning is being pushed aside, “but you’ve got to keep your priorities straight.”

Fred said he was surprised “and delighted” by McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin. He described her as the kind of person whom the people in the Beltway say they want. Blitzer pointed out her lack of foreign policy and national security experience, and Fred pointed out that you don’t get such experience through coming on the Sunday talk shows or sitting in the Senate. “She has more experience than Barack Obama, and as long as we’re comparing” the top of the Dem ticket with the Republican veep pick, “we’re going to be fine.”

Wolf cut it off at this point. Hard break.

CHRIS DODD ON LE, Blitzer next spoke to Senator Chris Dodd, who was wild and repulsive in his attacks. Dodd accused the Bush Administration of murder, of “letting this city [New Orleans] drown three years ago.” He said that McCain has “said repeatedly that he wanted to have four more years of the eight years of the Bush/Cheney Administration.” He said that he hoped FEMA had learned its lesson, but he was concerned. He has no illusions, because Bush/Cheney had failed miserably.

John King asked him if he actually thought that McCain would have a four day party with Gustav destroying New Orleans. Dodd said that the only reason Republicans were talking about possibly cancelling their convention is that no one trusts Bush to handle it correctly. (No mention of Louisiana Governor Jindal’s preparation and readiness compared to the cluelessness Kathy Blanco, or the learning curve of such as New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Jefferson Parish president Aaron Broussard.)

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A lot was made of Sarah Palin’s inexperience, but the Republican guests turned this around to question Barack Obama’s lack of same. Like Fred Thompson points out, this is not a winning strategy for the Dems and the media. Between this and a hastily-written, easily refutable, and absolutely sophomoric piece by Harris and Vendehei in Politico.com Saturday, I can see where the Dems and the media are trying to take this. It will be irritating, to be sure, and almost mind-numbing, but there is little way John McCain and Sarah Palin can lose this part of the game unless Barry dedicates more of his money than he can afford to pushing the meme and people resume absorbing and believing the narrative of the partisan media.