The Sunday Morning Talk Shows: The Review


On FOX News Sunday, Claire McCaskill agreed with an Obama commercial which defines John McCain as an unstable, old man, saying that he has been erratic lately. Joe Lieberman, scoffing at Obama’s lead in the polls, pointed out that the Gore/Lieberman ticket had been trailing by 6-points with two-weeks left in 2000 and managed to win that election. At least the popular vote.

Karl Rove did not fault the McCain campaign for pulling out of Michigan, per se, but questioned why they would publicize it. He sees the best strategies as the ones to which you don’t draw attention.

Host George Stephanopoulos had four politicos on ABC’s This Week. Of note, Obama surrogate Ed Rendell said that the disaster facing our country was so great that even the racist voters of Pennsylvania would be compelled to vote for Obama despite the color of his skin. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, another Obama supporter, maintained that Republicans were allowed to have observers for the early balloting in Ohio. (A federal court ruled otherwise, but… ?)

On NBC’s Meet the Press, Paul Begala said that in the early ’80s, John McCain sat on the board of directors of a group affiliated with another group which was condemned by the ADL as anti-Semitics. Mike Murphy said that Obama’s character and associations are irrelevant to this campaign, which is about the economy. Moderator Tom Brokaw referred to Bill Ayers as a “school-reformer in Illinois.” In the roundtable afterwards, Gwen Ifill said that Sarah Palin used Thursday night’s debate to “give a stump speech to the American people” rather than debate.

On CBS’ Face the Nation, Dianne Feinstein said that John McCain is trying to “assassinate” (loaded word) Barack Obama’s character. Roy Blunt brought up that John McCain sought to regulate Fannie/Freddie when the Dems were resisting.

On CNN’s Late Edition, Rahm Emanuel promised host Wolf Blitzer that this bailout package was just a part of what Congress had to do. He promised that “other pieces will follow.” Marsha Blackburn, on the other hand, argued that the cost of the bailout was too high for the taxpayers.

LIEBERMAN & MCCASKILL ON FNS. First up for host Chris Wallace on FOX News Sunday were Senators Joe Lieberman and Claire McCaskill, surrogates for McCain and Obama respectively. Lieberman pointed out that Obama and Joe Biden were running against President Bush, not John McCain. He conceded that Obama was “talented” but said that McCain was “tested” and this is what America needs.

He argued that McCain was not going negative against Obama but stated that questions about Obama are “what political life is about these days.”

He argued that McCain and Palin were “very different from George Bush.”

Wallace played an Obama commercial which portrayed John McCain as a cranky, unstable old man. McCaskill said that there “really has been a lot of erratic behavior” from John McCain of late. She cited his actions during the bailout discussions.

Wallace talked about Sarah Palin’s recent attacks on Obama’s character, and Lieberman kept his distance. McCaskill laid them at the feet of John McCain, saying that he could call Palin and tell her to stop, that “we don’t need character attacks.”

On taxes, McCaskill argued that both Obama and McCain wanted to cut taxes, but the question was for whom each wants to cut them. Lieberman argued that since Obama wants to tax small business owners and “cap gains,” with many investments owned by middle income tax payers, it will only exacerbate the recession “which we are in.” Questioned about this “recession,” Lieberman stipulated that though economists might not call it a recession, the “people of Connecticut” know that it is one.

Asked about McCain being down in the polls, Lieberman noted that the Gore/Lieberman ticket was down by 6-points in 2006 with two weeks remaining before Election Day, and they won the election – “at least the popular vote.”

McCaskill said nice things about Sarah Palin’s style and declared that Joe Biden had won the debate on substance.

KARL ROVE ON FNS. Next up for Wallace was GOP strategist Karl Rove. Rove said that this race is proving to be “susceptible to drastic changes.” It is leaning toward Obama right now, he said, in part because of the recent economic crisis but also because of what McCain did during that crisis.

He see the race as being played on “McCain’s turf,” with Obama active in 9 Bush States and McCain in only 5 Kerry States.

He didn’t fault the McCain campaign for pulling out of Michigan, per se, but he did question why they were so loud about it. It should have been done quietly, he admonished, as the best strategies, you don’t draw attention to.

What McCain must now do, he said, is to go after Obama on his lack of qualifications and give voters and alternative on which to hang their hats.

FOUR POLITICOS ON TW/ Host George Stephanopoulos, on ABC’s This Week, spoke to Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (for McCain), Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (for Obama), Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown (Obama), and Florida Senator Mel Martinez (McCain). Pawlenty, who came off as the best of the four, pointed out that Bill Ayers is an unrepentant domestic terrorist with whom Barack Obama chose to associate when Obama was in this 30s, not when he was eight-years-old. Rendell grumbled about the “politics of personal destruction” and asserted that the issues were too important for such destruction. Sherrod Brown declared that McCain was just like George Bush. Pawlenty countered that he was not, and he began citing the many areas in which the two disagreed.

Steph confronted Pawlenty with a poll that shows Obama leading McCain by 18-points in Pawlenty’s home State of Minnesota. The governor pointed to a recent SurveyUSA poll which had McCain leading by a point, but conceded that Minnesota trends Democrat but is amenable to a maverick Republican like John McCain.

Steph asked Rendell how Obama would fare in a racist State like Pennsylvania. Rendell said that when even a racist is drowning in a river, he’ll accept assistance from anyone, regardless of skin color. He said that the nation was in so much trouble that even the racist voters of Pennsylvania would vote for Obama.

Sherrod Brown, a former Ohio secretary of State, said that the law need not be changed to allow observers to witness polling. They can already do so. (A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati has ruled that they cannot, but what is that to a dolt like Brown?)

MURPHY, BEGALA, AND TODD ON MTP. On NBC’s Meet the Press, moderator Tom Brokaw had Paul Begala and Mike Murphy on to argue. “Keeper of the Scorecard” Chuck Todd first did the NBC electoral map, which shows Obama leading by 5 or more points in enough previously red States to be beating McCain in electoral votes, 264-174. He added that to him, “it feels as if Obama is a little bit ahead in Florida,” despite disputes to the contrary. He told Brokaw that Virginia and North Carolina were becoming Obama States because his campaign organization had “changed the electorate.”

McCain has a difficult path ahead.

Brokaw asked Murphy when looking at Todd’s map, “What strikes terror in your heart.” Murphy answered that “McCain’s barn is on fire.” He said that McCain is on a “losing path” and his campaign has to “look in the mirror” and change strategy. He said that attacking Obama is fine, but “they have to fix McCain,” get him connecting with voters.

Brokaw, with a little grin on his face, asked if there were a danger that Obama’s peeps could become complacent, given their huge lead. Begala said it was a danger but the Obama campaign “is a reflection of their guy, he’s just a very low-blood pressure guy. He doesn’t get too high; he doesn’t get too low.”

Brokaw described William Ayers as a “school-reformer in Illinois.” He played a clip of Palin talking about Ayers and smirked afterwards. Begala said that the guilt-by-association tactic would backfire on McCain. He pointed out that in the early ’80s, McCain had sat on the board of the U.S. Council for Freedom, which he described as an “extreme right wing” outfit which was anti-communist and was affiliated with an organization which had been criticized by the anti-defamation league as anti-Semitic. Another member of the board, Begala sneered, was General John Singlaub, who was “involved in Iran-Contra.” Begala said that this was so bad that he didn’t even use it in his anti-McCain novel. “He does not want to play guilt-by-association, or this thing will blow up in his face.”

Murphy said that Ayers has gotten off easy in Chicago and “the one guy who hasn’t condemned William Ayers enough is William Ayers.” Ultimately, though, Murphy contends that Obama’s character and associations are irrelevant to this campaign, as it will be “about the economy.” Murphy added, “Obama’s going to take some damage on this, but then he will pivot back to real life.” He wants McCain to run against the concept of the Democrats controlling everything in Washington. He referred to the questions raised about Obama’s character as “dubious.”

[In the roundtable afterwards, Gwen Ifill said that Sarah Palin used Thursday night’s debate to “give a stump speech to the American people” rather than debate. Ifill added that she was powerless to call Palin on her lies or when she tried to change the subject.)

WILSON, BLUNT, GRANHOLM, AND FEINSTEIN ON FTN. On CBS’ Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer talked to Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-New Mexico), Congressman Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), Governor Jenn Granholm (D-Michigan), and Senator Diane Feinstein (D-California).

Schieffer first compared Sarah Palin to Spiro Agnew, playing a clip of Palin speaking yesterday. He asked Heather Wilson if she agreed that Obama did not see America as a force for good. Wilson pointed out that Obama marched over to Berlin and “talked down about America.” Obama thinks America is the problem, while Sarah Palin thinks we are the solution. Schieffer wasn’t buying it, so she asked Dianne Feinstein, who pointed out that Obama was a little tyke when Ayers was a terrorist. Feinstein said that Obama was winning in the polls, and “John McCain is trying to assassinate Barack Obama’s [pause] character.” It’s difficult to listen to this, Feinstein grumbled, when the nation is facing terrible problems.

Schieffer played the Obama commercial about John McCain being an erratic, cranky, old man. Roy Blunt explained that he did not think that McCain was erratic; rather, he suggested that it was in a “selfless way” in which McCain had worked for this bill. He explained that McCain was very purposeful and selfless in bringing this bill together. Schieffer turned to Jen Granholm, who said that Palin was not a maverick and was not, so far, winning Hillary voters to McCain. She said that Palin and McCain were just like George Bush. She said, “He’s decided to pull out of Michigan in the same way that George Bush has pulled out of Michigan for the last eight years.”

After a commercial, Schieffer asked Granholm – for whom George Will wants to amend the Constitution – if McCain had to change the subject from the economy. Wilson calmly laid out some differences between the two candidates on the economy. Wilson thinks McCain made a difference in getting the bailout bill passed. Feinstein argued that McCain has “parachuted in” and caused the negotiations to fall apart “at that very moment.” She credited Obama with laying the parameters for the agreement. She said that McCain was “very erratic in his behavior.”

Schieffer asked Blunt if Palin had rehabilitated herself and asked him if he thought Palin were qualified. Blunt thinks she is. He said that she is not “business as usual in Washington.” The ticket, he said, is about change. He pointed out that McCain had been pushing regulation for these financial institutions when the Dems in Congress were fighting against it.

Granholm said that the people of Michigan do not want folksiness when they are in such trouble.

RAHM AND MARSHA ON LE. On CNN’s Late Edition, host Wolf Blitzer talked to Representatives Rahm Emanuel and Marsha Blackburn. Wilson said she voted against the bill “because it was too much of a bailout and too little a workout”; however, she credited McCain with moving things along. Blitzer asked her why McCain was wrong. Blackburn argued that for her and for her district, it was too expensive. Blitz interrupted and argued how high the debt has risen under Bush and the Republican Congresses, so why, he asked, were the Dems to blame? Blackburn argued that Congress was to blame and that there are free market solutions to the current problem.

Blitzer asked Rahm about the pork in the bill. Rahm said that Marsha did not say that under Bush and the Republicans, the national debt increased by 65%. That, he said, is George Bush’s legacy. Rahm said that the economic disaster was a reflection of the Bush policy. He said that the some of the pork was good, but the Senate stuff should not have been a part of the bill.

Blitzer asked Blackburn about the job losses, and did her vote against the bill only made the crisis worse. Blackburn said that something needed to be done, but that they disagreed on what this should be. She feels that this should have been handled by the private sector, not by the taxpayers.

Rahm said that this was only one piece of something they have to do, with other pieces to follow.

Blitzer stipulated that Obama was arguing that McCain would bring more Bush disaster and he dared Blackburn to defend “the economic policies of John McCain.” She contended that Obama would raise taxes. She said that McCain was going to reduce taxes and reform spending, and this would make a difference. Rahm said that there would be a tax cut, but the question was who will benefit. Rahm said that “this time under George Bush will be known as ‘The Great Recession.'”

Emanuel said that if Obama was associated with Bill Ayers, John McCain was associated with Charles Keating.

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According to Adam Nagourney of the New York Times:

His [Obama’s] aides said they were looking to the news media to debunk the image of her as a blue-collar reformer.

Axelrod entrusted the media with the duty of attacking Sarah Palin. That might be his smartest bit of strategy to date.