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Ditch the Surrogates

I have a different reaction from Jonathan to Carly Fiorina, as much fun as she’s added to the campaign: Both candidates should declare a surrogate cease-fire. Surrogates are the loose nukes of political campaigns, except more likely to detonate. To be precise, more likely to detonate themselves. Campaigns are the collateral damage. The toxic fallout wafts over cable shows for days. Surrogates create an atmosphere of Mutually Assured Embarrassment -- without the deterrent effect.

Surrogates have always played a campaign role, but the 24/7 news cycle of cable TV amplified by the Internet has made them more ubiquitous, and therefore more dangerous, than ever. How many times during this race have candidates’ messages been forced off-track by a surrogate gone astray? As with weaponry, the question becomes: are they worth the risk? Can a rational campaign safely bet that its surrogates are more likely to hit the target than the other sides’?

The 2008 Surrogate Wars suggest not.

Remember Gen. Wesley Clark’s helpful statement denigrating John McCain’s military experience? Remember Charlie Black’s helpful comment that a terrorist attack "certainly would be a big advantage to him"? “Enough already!” we warned in an editorial at the time -- with about as much impact as that statement has in my house when the kids are at each other’s throats, again. “This might sound awfully quaint,” we wrote back then. “It may be pitifully naive. But would it be too much to ask for just a little more focus on what the candidates themselves have to say -- and less on the surrogate bloopers du jour?”

Yes, I hear you saying, pitifully naïve. Given a choice between having a serious discussion about state regulation of insurance and Carly casually mentioning Viagra, we in the media are going to go for the Viagra every time. So out with the appeals to elevated discourse; in with the argument for enlightened self-interest. Campaign managers: You get antsy about outside groups weighing in on their side because it interferes with your message. Well, your surrogates are doing the same. Force cable to focus on what your candidate is saying (not that he’s always on message) or dredge up another “strategist” no one’s ever heard of. Ditch the surrogates.

Except Carly, of course.

By Ruth Marcus  | September 18, 2008; 8:41 AM ET
Categories:  Marcus  | Tags:  Ruth Marcus  
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Next: The Hannity-Palin Infomercial


Hello--though generally fond of your work, you drive me crazy with the kind of casual error you're prone to. Case in point: "General Wesley Clark denigrating John McCain's military service."
NO HE DIDN'T, despite what your Republican colleagues say. Clark was at pains to call McCain a hero before going on to say he didn't think McCain's service necessarily qualified him to be president.
You media guys recoiled in horror at the "slight" to St. John, and though the bloom is pretty much off that rose, the faulty memory remains. Shame on you. Please correct this.

Posted by: Kathleen | September 18, 2008 9:23 AM | Report abuse


WHILE campaigning in public for a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama has tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence.

According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July.

"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari said in an interview.


Posted by: JP Vanderbilt | September 18, 2008 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Anyone can see that Carly's mouth moves faster than her brain. It was only a matter of time until she said something stupid that would get her canned.

Posted by: Dave | September 18, 2008 9:49 AM | Report abuse

This is an interesting though probably unintentional commentary on where much of the mainstream media is these days.

Marcus offers a criticism of campaign surrogates, most though not all of whom are professional campaign operatives whose job is to say relentlessly "on message" -- that is, to say exactly what the campaign they are supporting wants them to say, regardless of the subject or circumstances. Her criticism is directed at the minority of surrogates who occasionally go "off-message" and thereby cause commotion in the media.

Marcus would prefer endless repetition of the message of the day from the candidate himself -- no deviations from the message, no confusion about who is saying what. Most of the press is like that today. They have been absorbed by the culture of the permanent campaign; they expect to be manipulated, and have come to judge campaigns on how disciplined they are about the manipulation.

Posted by: Zathras | September 18, 2008 10:00 AM | Report abuse

After McCain's disastrous interview with Radio Caracol yesterday, where he refused to commit to meeting with the president of Spain (presumably because he didn't know who the president of Spain was), I'd say McCain needs all the surrogates he can get. He's clearly not up to the task himself. Minders like Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham and surrogates like Fiorina are the sole reason McCain is where he is today. Without them, no one would be taking the guy seriously.

Posted by: Mark F | September 18, 2008 10:02 AM | Report abuse

".....Remember Gen. Wesley Clark’s helpful statement denigrating John McCain’s military experience?..."

Spoken like a spinning McCain surrogate

Posted by: Burford Holly | September 18, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Surrogates say a lot about a candidate. The fact that McCain's surrogates seem to tell the truth rather than stick to the campaign "slogans" says a lot about his leadership and whom he chooses to speak for him. It should also give people a peek into how he would govern - frightening.

Strange that Marcus mentions "surrogate" Clark. Clark did NOT denigrate John's service he only said that service only does not qualify you to be President.

If you're going to write an article you should get your facts straight.

Posted by: Choice | September 18, 2008 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Why do most people find it hard to give the complete statements of people nowadays? Does that not fit into the little mantra of authors trying to support their own candidate? Palin has been crucified for giving only half a statement and being called a liar for it. Carly was asked a question whether Palin could run a company. She answered no, but then neither could McCain, Biden or Obama. Funny how practically everyone in the media forgets the Biden Obama part in a rush to once again raise faux criticism of the McCain spokespeople. I don't see Obama's newest spokesperson out there being criticized for just last night repeating that McCain believes you are middle class if you earn 5 million, the ridiculous figure he himself joked at and said he would be misquoted for when at Saddleback. I say great to getting all extra people off and focusing on issues, unfortunately the media would never go for it because it would never allow the kinds of articles such as this when they love to broadcast those gotcha moments for days upon end and then blame the candidate on poor judgment.

Posted by: justmyvoice | September 18, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Ruth, but think the 24/7 news cycle and everyone wanting their own unique spin on the issue of the day has paved the way for the use of surrogates.

I'm not voting for the surrogate and frankly I've been surprised at things that come out of the mouths of surrogates on BOTH sides. I wish we could get out of the gotcha brand of newsgathering and any spokesperson is better than none for the shows.

Posted by: annetta | September 18, 2008 10:43 AM | Report abuse




Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2008 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Third parties have been influencing politics ever since the founding fathers used surrogates to write and disseminate pamphlets to slander their political rivals.

If you want to change the rules of the game, then you'd be wise to look into the WaPo's own backyard and ask them to structure their politics website so that it emphasizes POLICIES, and their impact on the people.

Either that or do some serious investigative reporting - for a change - and tell the American people that ***John McCain ditched his first wife to marry into an organized crime family (Hensley-Marley-Lansky) and then used that fortune and network to launch his political career.

Our fine country is currently in the hands of criminals. The Republican party did fine work in its early days. Abolished slavery. Preserved the Union. But ever since the Grant Administration, the vast majority of Republican Administrations have been corrupt machines that have lied, cheated and stolen from the American people, all the while being aided and abetted by the major press of the day.

You people should know better. Let the people know about McCain. Do your job.

Posted by: Deep Blue | September 18, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse

JP Vanderbilt:

Because the story and its author have been thoroughly discredited. Amir Taheri is the same lying boob who pushed the lie that the Iranians were requiring Jewish citizens to wear yellow stripes in order to identify themselves to authorities. Not true. He's the same lying boob who said that Iraqi jihadists were keeping up their fight in Baghdad because they wanted to "strengthen the antiwar lobbies in the United States and Britain." Not true.

The guy is a liar and an idiot and a Bush administration stooge, and his stupidity is infectious. Don't let any rub off on you.

Posted by: Mark F | September 18, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse


The answer to your question is right in your question.

It is from NYPost, dumbass. That's why!

Posted by: Pillai | September 18, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I'm a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight.....

* If you grow up in Hawaii , raised by your grandparents, you're "exotic, different."

* Grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers, a quintessential American story.

* If your name is Barack you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.

* Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you're a maverick.

* Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.

* Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're well grounded.

* If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real leadership experience.

* If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you're qualified to become the country's second highest ranking executive.

* If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian.

* If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you're a Christian.

* If you teach children about sexual predators, you are irresponsible and eroding the fiber of society.

* If, while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state's school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant, you're very responsible.

* If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values don't represent America's.

* If you're husband is nicknamed "First Dude", with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that hates America and advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.

Posted by: politicjock | September 18, 2008 11:14 AM | Report abuse


Please retract your assertion that Wesley Clark denigrated McCain's military record. He did no such thing, and to repeat the untruth that he did is not journalism.

Posted by: Sandra | September 18, 2008 11:31 AM | Report abuse

What if, when they ditch the surrogates, the candidates themselves are not ready?

Head of State

Monday, September 15, 2008
The Cynicism of John McCain and his VP Choice

If you read Jeffrey Goldberg's excellent piece on McCain in the new Atlantic, one fact stands out clearly. McCain's stance on the war is inviolate--it involves what for him are principles of honor that stretch back immediately and directly to his own experiences in the Vietnam war, and to those of his father in World War II. Just one example of many in the first-rate article:

"I told Swindle [a cellmate and friend of McCain's] that McCain had argued to me that he doesn’t think about Vietnam overly much when he thinks about the wars of today.

“'Bulls--t,' Swindle said. 'He’ll say Vietnam didn’t affect him, that he doesn’t think about it, that he’s aloof from it. But I see it. It’s there.'”

This is the issue on which McCain is inflexible, certain, fully invested, passionate.

It is equally clear that as a result, he views all other issues as malleable, political issues--stances that can be easily taken, and easily changed, tactically-- in order to win a campaign and thus deal with the issue that, to him, matters.

This is utterly clear in his choice of Palin, where his Vietnam-and-since cynicism about political necessities is manifest--one of feeding the bread and circuses desire of the electorate, giving them, so easily fooled, as they were so easily fooled by the media in Vietnam, what they need, in order to be able to deal with the important issue.

The choice of a remarkably unqualified Vice Presidential choice is simply a political necessity. The attitude towards the public, and the media, in this choice, as in many of the public representations and statements of his campaign, is one of an extraordinary, world-weary, cynicism: Feed the beast with whatever fantasies and half-truths it takes. The fundamentals of the economy are sound. We'll take care of it later.


"In my conversations with McCain, however, he never appeared greatly troubled by his shifts and reversals. It’s not difficult to understand why: tax policy, or health care, or even off-shore oil drilling are for him all matters of mere politics, and politics calls for ideological plasticity. It is only in the realm of national defense, and of American honor—two notions that for McCain are thoroughly entwined—that he becomes truly unbending."

This is no doubt rooted in McCain's eternal certainties, drummed in by three generations of such certainty. And there is no doubt strength and decency--as well as these "family values"--that drive this commitment to an ideological core.

The question is this: Do we need another president with such a core of ideological inflexibility, rigidity and unwillingness for self-reflection, linked to a long past conflict--and who is willing to resort to half-truths, deceptions, and distortions in its service?

Head of State

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2008 11:43 AM | Report abuse

The original untranslated English version of John McCain's interview with Radio Caracol Miami has now been released.
When asked about Spain, McCain responded about Mexico and Latin America. McCain was unaware of our relations with Spain, or even the country's geographical and political position. When asked about meeting with Prime Minister Zapatero and the country's relationship with the U.S., McCain ignored the question and went into some boilerplate about America's friends and enemies and analyzing relations (think Palin and the Bush Doctrine). Then, he tried to transition his answer into more friendly territory, discussing President Calderon's government in Mexico. He never really addressed Spain, but pushed right into commenting about Mexico. The interviewer actually tried to redirect him several times (again, think Charlie Gibson and Palin), until she actually stated that she wasn't talking about Latin America anymore, but rather Europe. For whatever reason, McCain responded to this question by repeating what he said before about analyzing America's relationships with our friends and enemies.

This isn't funny. It's actually quite serious. We may have the first evidence, on tape, that McCain's age, or illness, or both are catching up with him and he's losing his mental faculties.

Posted by: | September 18, 2008 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Politijock: I know you are sitting back in your chair feeling proud of your post....but take it from me, it is f-ng stupid and has NOTHING to do with why I would never vote for Obama. believe what you need and whine to your other friends. But you have no clue.

Posted by: Jay M | September 18, 2008 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Politicjock: So well said!

Posted by: tarheelheart | September 18, 2008 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Let me reiterate tarheelheart:

Politicjock: Well said.

Whether I agree with everything about Senator Obama or not, he's been vetted and been trough the public's votes over the course of numerous primaries; the people hav made a significant choice in him; the decision to select Governor Palin to be the Vice President, and first in line to the Presidency, was made by the singular vote of Senator McCain (and perhaps a three person vetting committee that worked short fuse).

Posted by: Washingtonian | September 18, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

If Gen Wes Clark "denigrated" McCain's service, then so did Fred Thompson at the GOP nominating convention:

"Now, being a POW certainly doesn't qualify anyone to be President."

--Fred Thompson at RNC Convention, Sep 2, 2008

Ms. Marcus, please stop propagating the partisan spin (i.e., lie) that Gen Clark EVER denigrated ANYONE'S service.

Posted by: Alan | September 18, 2008 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Democrats for John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008

Posted by: Jennifer | September 18, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to add an endorsement to Kathleen's first post. The media has been, and continues to be, sloppy to the extreme. Generally it tends to just uncritically regurgitating whatever line the boss picked up on their morning conference call with McCain's lobbyists.

What's happening is that you all never bother to call any of the surrogates on lying - and then later repeat the lies they spoke as if they are accepted facts. It happens in McCain's favor way more than Obama's; but it sucks on both sides. I get the impression that it's generally a function of one Candidate being more honest, but the media behavior currently rewards a campaign for creating a false narrative.

I don't know if you are getting played or getting paid - but the effect is the same: you misinform the public.

Posted by: kgb999 | September 18, 2008 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Without commenting on the substance, I say here, here!! Yes by all means ditch the surrogates. I am tired of wolf Blitzer's parade of surrogates. Their purpose is to feed the 24 hours of continuous non-news. Yes, enough with the surrogates!!

Posted by: Guy | September 18, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

What is this? More drivel about Carly Fiorina? The woman is a has been. She was old news when she screwed HP and was canned for incompetence. She is all image and no substance. It amazes me the shallow and empty fascination with image in this country. This is why America has lost its Soul. To even entertain a McCain-Palin presidency is an act of treason.

Posted by: Rob | September 18, 2008 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Cable news could not survive without a whole passel of wobble heads waiting to take their cues to unleash their latest spin into the world.
Here we have the most over the top reality show on tv - the American election - and you want to roll back the conflict?
I trust we're all becoming more sophisticated and discriminating in the messages we're hearing - and the messengers.
Anyone voting on a single issue these days is just plain not enjoying their cable news - there is life apart from this - there is news online and in the papers.
The idiocy can have the paradoxical effect of inviting intelligent voters to actually do a little research on their own, maybe even tempting them to get more directly involved.
Insanity like this might actually have an upside...

Posted by: Reading through the fog... | September 18, 2008 1:07 PM | Report abuse

I want Fiorina front and center, along with Phil Gramm, after all, these are the people who will be in McCains cabinet if people in this country are stupid enough to give the Republcans another 4 years to destroy the country.

Posted by: Michael | September 18, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I agree completely with Marcus here. Every commentator states that this campaign must be about issues and taht each candidate needs to fully explain how he/she will confront the issues. However when was the last time CNN, MSNBC, or FOX carried a candidates entire speech. Usually, they carry the first 2-3 minutes waiting for the attacking one liner and then break away when the candidate actually delves into a policy discussion. Then, it's off to speak with a Democratic operative and a Republican operative to comment on the 2 or 3 minutes just played for us. Of course, they usually leave a helpful box in the corner showing the candidate speaking, but without sound it is utterly useless (last I checked, I think most people know what these folks look like). Ditch the commentary and let us hear what Obama, McCain, Palin or Biden have to say. We are smart enough to figure it out from there.

Posted by: Adam | September 18, 2008 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Marcus was correct when she writes about Clark's statement in which he called into question McCain's readiness. See Below-

On June 29, 2008-
Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, a key military adviser for Barack Obama, dismissed John McCain’s war record as a qualification for readiness to be president.

Appearing Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Clark downplayed the plane crash that led to McCain’s captivity during the Vietnam War, and said the squadron McCain commanded “wasn’t a wartime squadron.”

“He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn’t held executive responsibility,” Clark said.

When asked by host Bob Schieffer how he came to describe McCain as “untested and untried,” Clark said it was “because in the matters of national security policy-making, it’s a matter of understanding risk. It’s a matter of gauging your opponents and it’s a matter of being held accountable. John McCain’s never done any of that in his official positions,” adding, “He hasn’t made the calls.”

When Schieffer noted Obama has not had wartime experiences, Clark said: “Well, I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.”

If we are judging the effectiveness of surrogates, I think it is interesting to note that more retired generals and admirals endorsed Obama than McCain. If you watched the Democratic National convention you will recall that a large number of these former military leaders stood on the stage in a show of support for Obama. I for one will listen to what these "surrogates" have to say.

Posted by: 1armywife | September 18, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Carly comment was extremely more damaging then Gen. Wesley Clark, at least he is a General??? but for Carly to say what she said and she meant it?? That McCain or Palin wasn't qualified to be CEO, and Gramm to call Americans " whiners", nothing can top these.

Posted by: Annette | September 18, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Why don't you do above?

Posted by: Ann Bier | September 18, 2008 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Journalists' hippocratic oath should be to report the truth. You madamn just failed. You are no longer a journalist. Fact: Wesley Clark did not denigrate McCain's war record. He truthfully stated that it did not qualify him to be President of the US. It doesn't.

Posted by: dbl06 | September 18, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Today's surrogates are tomorrow's cabinet officers. Therefore, the American people can and should be exposed to them as early in the election season as possible. If the American people had paid closer attention to the people who surrounded George W. Bush, this nation would have been spared a great deal of heartache.

There is a long sad history with the Republican party favoring loyality over competence and this nation has paid a high price for the actions of unqualified political appointees.

Sadly, John McCain has already shown the voters that he will not seek the best and brightest if the voters were foolish enough to give a man bordering on senilty the keys to the White House.

Final note, General Wesley Clark did NOT denigrate John McCain's military service. Gen. Clark's accurate statement was that being a POW does not qualify one to be an effective Commander-in-Chief. John McCain deserves the respect of the nation for the manner in which he represented the US in Viet Nam. However, there is nothing from that experience or anything subsequently done by John McCain that demonstrated real leadership skills.

John McCain has a long resume as a legislator and as a staff person serving those with policy responsibilities. There is, however, no relevant experience that John McCain has shown to demonstrate his managerial skills. The manner in which he has run his own campaign has been a disaster and his thoughts about the current economic problems do not lead any voter to have confidence that he could provide the leadership now so urgently needed.

Posted by: Fl Voters | September 18, 2008 1:25 PM | Report abuse

More than once I've heard Obama come out and chastise his campaign surrogates when they've said something he thought was impolitic or over the line. A case in point would be the press release his campaign put out upon McCain's selection of Palin as his running mate. Obama rebuked the statement, commenting that campaigns often develop a hair trigger.

While I agree wholeheartedly that the rhetorical bombshells campaign surrogates are constantly dropping end up doing more harm than good most of the time, and seriously diminish the level of discourse on the issues, much of the blame belongs with the press that's only too happy to repeat every ridiculous thing they say in order to feed the endless desire for snappy and salacious headlines.

Loathe to cover actual issues, the press continues to cover the presidential race like a horse race, focusing on campaign strategy and the endless cycle of attack and counter-attack. That the idiotic lipstick on a pig flap dominated several days of press cycles is proof of just how complicit the press is in allowing such vacuous idiocy to overshadow actual issues and positions. At least the McCain campaign was soundly ridiculed for their disingenuous manufactured outrage.

Posted by: Chip_M | September 18, 2008 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Why would America REWARD complete Republican failure ?

We wont.

Posted by: PulSamsara | September 18, 2008 1:39 PM | Report abuse

1armywife, calling into question someone'e readiness to be POTUS is not the same as denigrating their military record. As a servicemember myself, I can assure you there are many outstanding men and women serving courageously and admirably in the military who will readily admit to you they don't have the skillset to be POTUS. There's nothing shameful or denigrating about that fact.

Ms. Marcus is wrong.

Posted by: Alan | September 18, 2008 1:55 PM | Report abuse

If you get rid of surrogates, then the candidates are stuck with having to put their own views or attacks out there and then stuck having to defend what they said. I think Marcus is right.

Posted by: Pam | September 18, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Ditch McCain's surrogates? But that would wipe out half the Washington press corps.

Posted by: JLE | September 18, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse


WHILE campaigning in public for a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama has tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence.

According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July.

"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari said in an interview.


Posted by: JP Vanderbilt | September 18, 2008 9:37 AM


I would suspect it is because the source of this information is unreliable..or should we say..he is as reliable as "Curveball"...

Posted by: goodcake4 | September 18, 2008 2:25 PM | Report abuse

What did Clark actually say?

Many in the media have cropped Clark's June 29 Face the Nation interview to the short soundbite: "I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president." Those cropping the interview make two serious errors. First, they ignore that Clark was repeating Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer's words in response to Schieffer's statement that, unlike McCain, Obama has not "ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down." Second, they ignore that shortly before that part of Clark's exchange with Schieffer, Clark praised McCain's service: "I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands of millions of others in the Armed Forces as a prisoner of war. He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and he has traveled all over the world." Clark continued: "But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in Air -- in the Navy that he commanded, it wasn't a wartime squadron. He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn't seen what it's like when diplomats come in and say, 'I don't know whether we're going to be able to get this point through or not. Do you want to take the risk? What about your reputation? How do we handle it publicly?' He hasn't made those calls, Bob."

From Media Matters

Posted by: Michael | September 18, 2008 2:40 PM | Report abuse

If the campaigns got rid of all its "surrogates," you, Ruth, would have to quit writing your column along with majority of the so called journalist at the Washington Post.

Most of you are practically running Obama's campaign from your writer's desk. WaPo has more Obama “surrogates” on staff than real Journalist.

How many more hit pieces you have coming that will try to damage Gov Palin and Senator McCain? Shame on you.

Posted by: D10 | September 18, 2008 2:57 PM | Report abuse

D10: Just because the majority of WaPo columnists have seen the light and realize the true worth of the McCain/Palin campaign, why should they not be allowed to express themselves, this is democracy isn't it ?
By the way, I have a correction about the 100 years in Iraq remark made by McCain. What he actually meant to say was that it will take 100 years to clean up the present Bush/McCain financial mess. Aren't we lucky that we'll all be long gone before the debt is paid !!!!!!

Posted by: aredee | September 18, 2008 3:07 PM | Report abuse

politicjock: you got it all right. Obama obviously has excellent qualifications, Rove etal couldn't dig up any dirt so they make up "elite", "celebrity", "narcissist" - quite exotic. Field dressing a moose is good and graduating from Harvard with honors is suspect (?). The attack of the Giant Tomatoes are coming true. The Republicans are crooks that ruined the economy and they accuse the Democrats (who have out of power for 7 years) of doing those shenanigans. Hand it to the REpublicans - they are scum and don't even hide it.

Posted by: M. Stratas | September 18, 2008 3:45 PM | Report abuse

General Clark never denigrated John McCain's military service. Your statement is outrageously false and should be retracted. Stop continuing the McCain campaign smears.

Washington Post should be fact-checking these statements before inflicting them on readers.

Posted by: somerseten | September 18, 2008 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Hey, justmyvoice. Warren Buffett would put Obama or Biden in charge of one of his companies. Notice, he still runs them unlike Carly who blew up HP, got $40 million, then thinks she knows business? Don't know if she could get a job from the wizard of Omaha.

Posted by: Mike from the D | September 18, 2008 3:51 PM | Report abuse

JP the reason no one cares about this story is because they are considering the source....Rupert Murdoch.

Posted by: H. Simon | September 18, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

The surrogates are at best predictable, and at worst, a disaster. I've been a backer of Obama for months now and think he is the only one who should speak on behalf of his campaign. The underlings simply cannot match him for articulation and excitement.

Posted by: highwayscribery | September 18, 2008 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Frankly, I wish Carly Fiorina were the VP nominee. Far more qualified for running a company and the government.

Posted by: amaikovich | September 18, 2008 4:11 PM | Report abuse

JP Vanderbilt,

Well the first clue should be the paper you are referring to, the NYPOST, nothing but a gossip rag. I unfortunately got stuck on Pill Head Limbaughs radio show and he was squawking about it. Problem is all the sources are GOP funded....

Posted by: American First | September 18, 2008 4:12 PM | Report abuse

. . .

Republican For Obama / Biden 08!

. . .

Posted by: | September 18, 2008 4:12 PM | Report abuse

"The chairman of the SEC serves at the appointment of the president and, in my view, has betrayed the public's trust," McCain told the crowd at a rally in this battleground state. "If I were president today, I would fire him."

Dear Mr. McCain,
The president can't fire the Chairman Christopher Cox. Talking about playing politics. Stop putting your foot in your mouth McCain

Posted by: McCains Populist Message | September 18, 2008 4:22 PM | Report abuse

A vote for McCain-Palin means Hillary will be sailin' to a win in 2012!!!
VOTE McCain-Palin '08
Hillary 2012!!

Posted by: Francisco Cardenas | September 18, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

By trotting out the narrative concerning Wesley Clark's statements, you prove yourself to be more of a surrogate than the hired surrogates.

The painful irony is that the general was actually trying to make a serious statement but the press, acting as surrogate for the opposition, and in its own self interest to gin up a controversy/horse race, created a firestorm that in itself was a denigration of the general's service and intelligence.

Gimme a break.

Posted by: eddie | September 18, 2008 4:33 PM | Report abuse

"Dear Mr. McCain,
The president can't fire the Chairman Christopher Cox. Talking about playing politics. Stop putting your foot in your mouth McCain"

........ the President can't fire him out right ... but he can get rid of him ... Bush did!

Posted by: Cassandra Washington | September 18, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

How many more McCain gaffes will there be?

Even worse, the McCain campaign meant McCain MEANT to reject a meeting with Spain. Wow, that's some belligerent foreign policy!

McCain is more anti-diplomacy than Bush!

Posted by: Jeanine in OH | September 18, 2008 6:14 PM | Report abuse

"Gen. Wesley Clark’s helpful statement".

What is really sad is that John Q. Dummy didn't understand the TRUTH of General Clarks' statement, i.e. Being a POW doesn't in itself bestow ANY expertise in the area of Foreign policy!

That is a TRUE statement, but McCain/Rush ditto heads immediately put dishonest spin on it.

Posted by: Lu Franklin | September 18, 2008 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Seconding Kathleen's post. Wesley Clark did not denigrate McCain's military experience, but observed (correctly) that being a POW was not something that prepared a person to be the president. For this, Clark was pilloried. But for her snide misstatement, Marcus owes Clark an apology and a public retraction.

The real surrogate who should be muzzled is Tucker Bounds, who is incapable of opening his mouth without slandering Obama.

Posted by: beaujames | September 18, 2008 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Real Brother here.

Pillai, I wouldn't have a problem if what you are saying and what the story alleges about Barack Obama asking the Iraqi's to delay the withdrawl of the troops until Obama is elected and takes office is true.

Why in the HELL should George Bush who's against the withdrawal and was until Obama came up with a plan, get all the credit for Obama's plan?

Bush or McCain could have called for a draw down of troops in Iraq and an increased prescence in Afganistan instead but they weren't with it so again, they shouldn't be able to take credit for it because they were TOO DAMN DUMB to think of it. I don't blame Obama for wanting Iraq to wait until he's sworn in.


Posted by: Realbrother | September 18, 2008 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Real Brother here.

And I totally disagree that Campaign Surrogates should be censored. The fact that Racists, White Supremacists and Black man hating lesbians may put their foot in their mouths in trying to support McCain is very relevant as to who is supporting John McCain(David Duke the former clan memeber).

Just as Barack Obama has Pastors who rightfully DAMN America for its Racism and White Supremacy and Black man hating lesbians I think McCain's surrogates too should be allowed to spew their Racism, White Supremacy and Black man hating lesbian agenda.

So no, let the surragates do what they do, we need to weigh all factors to make an informed decision.


Posted by: Realbrother | September 18, 2008 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Look. The McCain campaign is not allowing McC himself OR Palin to speak for themselves except for the well scripted speeches they give. They have NO press conferences. Infomercials with Palin on the Hannity show. Scripted. So who then is going to go out and speak for them? People like Fiorina, who quickly became very self important, thus self destructing.

Posted by: Lynne | September 18, 2008 8:16 PM | Report abuse

Ditch McCain's surrogates? But that would wipe out half the Washington press corps.

Posted by: JLE | September 18, 2008 2:24 PM

Right on. Marcus First!

Posted by: katman | September 18, 2008 10:00 PM | Report abuse

It's sad to see McCain at the point that he needs Sarah Palin to be along to get someone to show up to see him. He needs her ,though. because she remembers her lines better than he does. He can't remember what he said yesterday about the economy. "In crisis" or "fundamentally strong"? Please prompt me, Sarah!

She and Todd need to stay near McCain and his team of lawyers and lobbyists to avoid the supoenas for the investigation of abuse of power that might send them to jail. So they all need each other.
Given the circumstances we've come to, I suggest they rename the " Straight Talk Express" the "Hospice Express". Seems more fitting for this phase of the campaign.
Who can McCain or Palin fire tomorrow? I hope they find some "Hater" to fire.

Posted by: slickwillly | September 18, 2008 11:03 PM | Report abuse

Well said! Politijock! I notice that Jay M does not take issue with any detail of your post, but simply resorts to bad language and general disapproval. More than ever as an Australian observer who is vitally interested in the outcome of this election, given our close relationship in the past, I seem to feel that Obama is by far, the more intelligent of the two candidates, and it would be nice to have an intelligent President for a change! We have elected a bright, smart, experienced diplomat this time after a decade of government by a moron. Let us all agree--no more idiots in top jobs!
Good luck America

Posted by: valart | September 20, 2008 4:24 AM | Report abuse

Referring to comments by BOMBSHELL - the first one displayed - this was even mentioned by Fox as NOT TRUE.
Obama did NOT ask for a draw down of troops before the election; yet, FIX NEWS ran the mistruth as a banner on screen.

TURN OFF FOX....for its mistruths!

Posted by: dinnylou | September 20, 2008 8:14 AM | Report abuse

Check out his rise to glory below:

Obama 1996 - 2000
Senator Obama: promoted to Senior Lecturer in constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School. Elected to the Illinois Senate. Sponsored more than 800 bills. In 2000, lost a Democratic primary run for the U.S. House of Representatives to four-term incumbent Bobby Rush by a margin of two to one.

What mattered was that, beginning on Jan. 2, 1996, his campaigners began challenging thousands of petition signatures the other candidates in the race had submitted in order to appear on the ballot. Thus Mr. Obama would win his state Senate seat, months before a single vote was cast. Note that when he finished he was the ONLY democrat on the ballot. Republican candidate had to step aside for political reasons.

The 800 bills he ALLEDGEDLY sponsored were actually submitted by other democrats and all OBAMA did was date and stamp. He voted present 130 times on bills that would require him to step out of the box. Gained a reputation that the ‘then’ governor would make him a United States Senator.

2001 - 2004
Obama: reelected in 2002 and became chairman of the Illinois Senate's Health and Human Services Committee.
Initially the committee was looking at Health Care for all residents of Illinois. After accepting funding from insurance lobbyists he insured that universal healthcare became merely a policy goal instead of state policy, Basically learned how to again use his power to benefit himself at the expense of doing what was right for the residents of Illinois.

Publicly spoke out against the invasion of Iraq BEFORE the congressional authorization in 2002, and then again before the actual invasion in 2003. This was a given speech that sounded great but was actually a speech that was critical of the war BECAUSE it was distracting from the real issue regarding the black community in the United States. (Note he was given ORDERS by one of his Wealthy Supporters in Chicago to SPEAK OUT AGAINST THE WAR. Being a good Chicago Politiocian, he naturally followed the orders and took credit for speaking out.. but not on his own.)

Wrote and delivered the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
The Black Elite in the DNC decided along with the good ole boys… that to put a Democrat President in the White House in 2008 that they needed to attract the black vote… and that a Black Harvard Lawyer named Obama was the one that they needed. He was seen as an upcoming star because he won the Illinois US Senate Seat. (See the real facts of how he won by such a large number.) No one knew the Republican Candidate)

November 2004: elected to the US Senate, receiving over 3.5 million votes, more than 70% of total.

Now this is an interesting election even by Chicago standards. Seems that the front runner (Hull) mysteriously become involved in a domestic abuse trial and withdrew his name from the race. (Sounds like the Chicago Political Machine may have dropped a dime on Blair.) So Obama had a cake walk to get the democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate Seat. (Reminds me of how he won his State Senate seat by having his legal team disqualify his opponent’s signature petitions. At the same time Jack Ryan won the Republican Nomination, but announced his withdrawal from the race — four days after the Chicago Tribune succeeded in persuading a California court to release previously-sealed child custody records containing embarrassing allegations by Ryan's ex-wife. Now how is that for being one LUCKY politician. Obama walked into the US Senate Seat, when the Republicans brought in the little known Keyes to run as a Republican. Now it looks like the Chicago Political Machine along with Ayers, Jackson, Rezko Wright and the rich and wealthy Black community in Chicago loaded the deck in Obama’s favor.

Also note that for a 'white middle-class individual to be considered for entrance into Harvard' they would have to be number one in their High School class. Be the top student at Occidental just to get into COLUMBIA, and the odds of them getting into HARVARD LAW school ARE SO GREAT.. they probably would win the lottery first.

Yet Obama has us believe (on FAITH) that he performed so brilliantly that he (had a 'B' average in High School) performed so brilliantly at Occidental, that he got into Columbia, and that he EARNED a slot into Harvard Law School. Then he and HARVARD expect us to believe that he PERFORMED SO BRILLIANTLY ACADEMICALLY that he EARNED his right to be EDITOR of THE HARVARD LAW REVIEW. (Now I challenge the Obama Campaign and any supporter to valid that he was the BEST CANDIDATE excluding the fact that he was BLACK instead of BI-RACIAL.)

Amazing that there are no thesis papers, no legal briefs, no academic records, no scholarships received, no national test scores, no IQ scores, no legal briefs from his teaching in Chicago, or ANY LEGAL writings that was required of Editors of the Review... UNTIL Obama was selected.
I suspect that he received 'special' grants, scholarships, academic treatment not because he was brilliant... but because of the fact that these institutions... needed to promote black scholars at the expense of better qualified female, and white male candidates. ( I would hope that somewhere, someplace there would be documentation that would prove me wrong. )

And the amazing thing is... the MSM does not question any of this.

Shame on the MSM and shame on the Obama Supporters that BELIEVE in his Lies.

Remember he is spending over 600 million of YOUR dollars to BUY each and every American Vote that he recieves. Amazing to think that you are being BOUGHT and selling out OUR Country to the RICH AND POWERFUL.

Posted by: Bob Miller | September 24, 2008 12:01 AM | Report abuse

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