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First Presidential Debate: What To Watch For

The first presidential debate is finally here and the candidates have likely completed their preparations. Here's what we'll be watching for in tonight's main event.

The debate that almost wasn't is now back on track for 9 p.m. ET tonight at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. John McCain and Barack Obama are on the ground in the Magnolia State -- home to the legendary Burns Strider -- and making their last minute preparations for what is almost certainly the most important moment in the general election to date.

What should you watch for in the 90 minute battle tonight? The Fix spoke with a variety of Democratic and Republican sources to get their viewer's guide to the festivities. Their thoughts -- plus a few of our own -- are below.

And, DO NOT forget that we will be live Twittering the entire night. Want to keep up with our thoughts on McCain, Obama, moderator Jim Lehrer, the cable news coverage, Catholic field hockey, songs we like and any number of other thoughts? Make sure to sign up for The Fix Twitter feed as soon as humanly possible. You can also follow our tweets tonight right here on The Fix.

Temperament: Tone matters in presidential debates -- especially in the general election. Voters don't like seeing the two men competing to lead the country engage in a series of shouting matches. McCain has shown in his political life -- and occasionally in the primary debate -- a tendency to lose his cool a bit, to allow himself to be bated into a nasty exchange when staying above the fray is required. Expect Obama to bait McCain early in tonight's debate in hopes of eliciting an angry -- and impolitic -- answer. Obama, too, has had temperament issues during the primary debates; he was often too cool, too removed from personal side of issues like the economy, health care and the war in Iraq. Obama tonight has to find a happy medium between the coolness that evokes unflattering comparisons to Adlai Stevenson and the heat that does not come naturally to him.

Foreign or Domestic: The more this supposed foreign-policy themed debate is focused on the economic crisis currently roiling Wall Street, the better for Obama. McCain has been playing defense on the issue for the last week or so and his inability to close a deal (or make a deal in the first place) during his trip to Washington makes him look even more vulnerable on the issue. Expect both candidates to channel former senator John Edwards's populist economic message, each touting himself as the person best equipped to fight for the little guy against the big corporation. Neither man is a natural populist, however, so each must be careful not to be seen as trying to pander for votes. The only thing voters dislike more than someone who disagrees with them is someone who they feel is just saying what they want to hear.

Obama and the Surge: The biggest potential pitfall for the Democratic nominee in this foreign policy debate is the contradiction between his initial opposition to the surge in Iraq and his statement earlier this month to Bill O'Reilly that the surge had "succeeded beyond our wildest dreams." For Obama, the most dangerous thing in this campaign are situations in which he appears to be doing the political thing; at the core of Obama's brand is this idea of the Illinois senator as an anti-politician -- the more he hems and haws to explain his contradictory statements, the more potential damage he does to that brand.

McCain and Iraq: The issue of Iraq has taken a backburner for nearly the entire primary and general election campaign to date, a positive development for McCain whose positioning on the issue is out of step with many Americans. McCain has been able to cast his continued support for the war -- and his early advocacy for the troop surge -- as a sign of his willingness to put what's right ahead of what's political. But, neither Obama nor moderator Jim Lehrer is likely to allow McCain to simply dismiss his break with the American public on the issue as a testament to his own patriotism. McCain must find a way to quickly and effectively deal with the issue of his initial and ongoing support for the conflict and pivot to more comfortable ground for him -- like the surge.

Insider vs. Outsider: In an election year in which nearly three quarters of voters disapprove of the job Congress is doing, it's in both candidates' interest to paint themselves as outsiders to the political process. That case is easy for Obama to make since he has spent a relatively short period of time in the nation's capital. But, judging from a memo McCain's campaign sent out earlier today -- dismissing the inability to agree on a bailout package as a "familiar spectacle" -- you can bet that he isn't prepared to cede the outsider image to Obama. Our guess? McCain will use his lack of popularity in Washington ("I wasn't voted Mr. Congeniality...") and his decision to pick Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate as evidence of his commitment to "outsider" principles.

By Chris Cillizza  |  September 26, 2008; 6:31 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: McCain Blinks
Next: The Fix Twitters the Debate


Obama definitely won last night's debate. He not only did a much better job of expounding his position on the issues, but looked and sound much more presidential than McCain. As I listened to McCain speak, I could almost see George W. Bush standing there instead.

Posted by: Don4Obama | September 27, 2008 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Nice to be reminded there's some substance to McSleazy, and not just lies and moralistic posturing. Still, has there ever been a less gracious participant in a presidential debate?

Posted by: Seytom1 | September 27, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: thecannula | September 27, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Does it really matter which party is in charge when it comes to bailing out the Wall Street hustlers whose shenanigans have bankrupted so many ordinary folks? Not if the Democrats roll over and cede power to the former head of Goldman Sachs, the investment bank at the center of our economic meltdown.

What arrogance for Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson—who the year before President Bush appointed him treasury secretary was paid $16.4 million for heading the company that did as much as any to engineer this financial travesty—to now insist we must blindly trust him to solve the problem. Paulson is demanding the power to act with “absolute impunity,” said Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., who admonished the treasury chief: “After reading this proposal, it is not only our economy that is at risk, Mr. Secretary, but our Constitution as well.”

Clearly, it’s a vast improvement to have Dodd in the chairman’s seat of the Senate Banking Committee, asking the right questions, rather than his predecessor, Texas Republican Phil Gramm, who presided over the committee in the years when the American economy, long the envy of the world, was viciously sabotaged by radical deregulation legislation.

Gramm, whom Sen. John McCain backed for president in 1996, pushed through the financial market deregulation that has brought the American economy to its knees. Maybe this time Congress won’t give the financial moguls everything they want, including a bailout for foreign-owned banks like Swiss-based UBS, where Gramm now hangs out as a very well paid executive when he’s not advising the presidential campaign of McCain, his old buddy and partner in crime. Oops, sorry, no crimes were committed because the deregulation laws Gramm pursued and McCain faithfully supported decriminalized the financial scams that have proved so costly.

Just check out the language of Gramm’s pet projects, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. By preventing mergers between the various branches of Wall Street, the former act reversed basic Depression-era legislation passed to prevent the sort of collapse we are now experiencing. The latter legitimized the “swap agreements” and other “hybrid instruments” that are at the core of the crisis.

The legislation’s “Legal Certainty for Bank Products Act of 2000,” Title IV of the law—a law that Gramm snuck in without hearings hours before the Christmas recess—provided Wall Street with an unbridled license to steal. It made certain that financiers could legally get away with a whole new array of financial rip-off schemes.

One of those provisions, summarized by the heading of Title III, ensured the “Legal Certainty for Swap Agreements,” which successfully divorced the granters of subprime mortgage loans from any obligation to ever collect on them. That provision of Gramm’s law is at the very heart of the problem. But the law went even further, prohibiting regulation of any of the new financial instruments permitted after the financial industry mergers: “No provision of the Commodity Exchange Act shall apply to, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission shall not exercise regulatory authority with respect to, an identified banking product which had not been commonly offered, entered into, or provided in the United States by any bank on or before December 5, 2000. …”

Even some Republicans on the Senate committee expressed exasperation Monday with the swindles that they had voted for with such enthusiasm in the past, as well as with giving Wall Street yet another blank check. Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., condemned Paulson’s proposal as an effort to “take Wall Street’s pain and spread it to the taxpayers.” He added, “It’s financial socialism and it’s un-American.”

He’s wrong on that last point, for what is proposed is not the nationalization of private corporations but rather a corporate takeover of government. The marriage of highly concentrated corporate power with an authoritarian state that services the politico-economic elite at the expense of the people is more accurately referred to as “financial fascism.” After all, even Hitler never nationalized the Mercedes-Benz company but rather entered into a very profitable partnership with the current car company’s corporate ancestor, which made out quite well until Hitler’s bubble burst.

This bailout SHOULD NOT HAPPEN - SHOULD HAVE NOT EVEN BEEN SUGGESTED TO BE PUT ON THE BACKS OF TAXPAYERS! But if Congress does help the Bush Admin. to betray us yet again, smell a rat if Congress approves the Paulson plan without severely curtailing CEO pay and putting a freeze on the mortgage foreclosures that are threatening to destroy the homes of millions of Americans.

Posted by: AJAX2 | September 27, 2008 9:55 AM | Report abuse



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Voted One of the Best Poltical Blogs For the Election of 2008

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Posted by: 37thandOStreet | September 27, 2008 8:58 AM | Report abuse



EVERYONE I have spoken to in the real world believes that McCain threw Obama off balance - McCain was steady.

Obama appeared flustered.

At several times in towards the end Obama was struggling to get a word in - struggling to say something relevant - and struggling to defend himself. Obama kept on talking-over McCain and Jim Lehrer as well.

It seems like Obama was desperate in the second half to score some points because Obama thought he was losing the debate - and he did lose the debate.

McCain won on the issues - this talk about "there was no gaffe" that is sillytalk - McCain slammed Obama on issue after issue last night - McCain looked Presidential.

Posted by: 37thandOStreet | September 27, 2008 8:02 AM | Report abuse

The supposed strength of McCain was not in evidence Friday.

Obama was presidential, calm, and rational.

You can quibble about whether you agree with the points of view of either person, but there was not any great victory for either party and that spells a victory for Obama, since this was supposed to be McCain's strong suit. He was not on his game tonight.
He may have missed his nap.

Posted by: ottothewise | September 27, 2008 1:57 AM | Report abuse

looking forward to the Palin recitation of Rove's talking points in the VP debate.

Probably has two good zingers she has memorized.

So far, all her responses seem to be stringing key word phrases together.

Did you know it is further from her house in Alaska to Russia than it is from New York to Chicago?

Posted by: ottothewise | September 27, 2008 1:54 AM | Report abuse

Obama got his butt kicked. He looked like what he is, The Rookie against The Pro. Obama has no business, with his total lack of experience, running for President of the United States. Where is Hillary?

Posted by: Texan2007 | September 27, 2008 12:37 AM | Report abuse

Your Grand children will be speaking Chinese. China told us 50 years ago that they would destroy the minds of our young with drugs and take over when that generation came to power. Well it's those kids that are running things now. It Won't be long. I just want it happens after I'm gone.
I hope everybody enjoyed looking good at our countries expense.
It's like they say..."when your looking good, your looking bad".

Posted by: dr718 | September 26, 2008 11:56 PM | Report abuse

Hide Pallin! HIDE HER!! McCain too!!!

Posted by: DaveMiner | September 26, 2008 11:34 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone think McCain's claim of Obama not having any foreign policy experience hold water.

Posted by: HemiHead66 | September 26, 2008 11:28 PM | Report abuse

We borrow money from China to buy Saudi Oil. And I think our debt to China is alot highger than they were willing to talk about. Our country is in the toilet because the oil companies set our energy policy. They've kept us in the stone age for years and now we're paying for it. Papa Bush knew we would have oil problems years ago, but did nothing because it hurts profits.

Posted by: HemiHead66 | September 26, 2008 11:21 PM | Report abuse

It found everything from McCain's flop sweat to his floundering over the word "Um" to almost mispronouncing the word "taliban" greatly amusing. I can't wait to see Palin do the same next week.

Posted by: eacorcoran1979 | September 26, 2008 11:08 PM | Report abuse

DDAWD wrote, "The war costs money. We have to borrow money to pay for it. We borrow from China. We are in debt to China."

George W. Bush threw the budget from surplus to deficit while he was still saying that the problem with Bill Clinton was that Clinton was too much into foreign intervention and nation-building. And it is Republican deficit spending that had made our economy hostage to Chinese Communists.

Posted by: officermancuso | September 26, 2008 11:03 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: mtavro | September 26, 2008 11:02 PM | Report abuse

CBS News just had some fairly devastating insta-poll results for McCain. Among undecided voters, something like 40 per cent took an improved view of Obama away from the debate; something like 10 per cent did the same for McCain.

This probably calls for some extensions to McCain-Feingold to outlaw insta-polling.

Posted by: officermancuso | September 26, 2008 11:00 PM | Report abuse

"Our debt to China is a serious issue, though I don't buy the direct connection between that and our war in Iraq."

The war costs money. We have to borrow money to pay for it. We borrow from China. We are in debt to China.

Posted by: DDAWD | September 26, 2008 11:00 PM | Report abuse

I wonder how many years it will take McCain to win the iraq war. He don't understand that the Iraqi's need to take care of their own country at some point. Obama spent the whole night talking our long term position and how Bush spent all our resources in Iraq, and FOX has the nerve to say it was McCain that's looking at the whole picture.

Posted by: HemiHead66 | September 26, 2008 10:51 PM | Report abuse

I don't think I ever once saw McCain look at Obama.

Posted by: meatus | September 26, 2008 10:39 PM | Report abuse

McCain ends, characteristically, playing the POW card. It seems dated in this context.

McCain is Johnny One-Note. Obama is at least a concerto.

Posted by: officermancuso | September 26, 2008 10:38 PM | Report abuse

John McCain has waved the flag too many times. It's as old and tired as he is.

Posted by: officermancuso | September 26, 2008 10:35 PM | Report abuse

Our debt to China is a serious issue, though I don't buy the direct connection between that and our war in Iraq.

Posted by: officermancuso | September 26, 2008 10:33 PM | Report abuse

Obama doing exceptionally well. McCain is nervous, testy, old.

Posted by: wpost4112 | September 26, 2008 10:32 PM | Report abuse

Hey John
YOU WERE WRONG WRONG WRONG about IRAQ and KIssinger your own adviser.
In an interview with Bloomberg TV last March, Kissinger was asked whether the United States should negotiate directly with Iran and said, “Yes, I think we should.”

Posted by: gjacobs1 | September 26, 2008 10:30 PM | Report abuse

Did Obama prove that he can play at least as well as the old man on the same stage?

To ask the question is to know the answer.

Winner: Obama

Game almost over.

Posted by: officermancuso | September 26, 2008 10:29 PM | Report abuse

We have 3 per cent of world's oil, consume 25 per cent, can't drill our way out...


Posted by: officermancuso | September 26, 2008 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Obama: vs Russia: "We have to affirm all the fledgling democracies in that region".

This is the sense in which the USA is a one-party state.

Keep that rhetoric up, and watch Russia get ever more involved in Latin America.

Posted by: officermancuso | September 26, 2008 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Obama want's to take out Pakistan if they don't extradite Bin Laden. LOL!!

Posted by: dr718 | September 26, 2008 10:15 PM | Report abuse

Obama's "your advisor Kissinger agrees with me about meeting with Iran" is a nice point deflecting what the old man obviously thought was going to be a killer point.

Posted by: officermancuso | September 26, 2008 10:11 PM | Report abuse

Big bonus points for Obama for suggesting that stopping Iraq involves working with Russia.

Posted by: officermancuso | September 26, 2008 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Obama Is Using Cocaine "Good Judgement"?


Posted by: 37thandOStreet | September 26, 2008 10:02 PM | Report abuse

John McCain seems not to understand that the Afghan "freedom fighters" that we supported against the USSR are the very Taliban that we face today.

It's tough when you've got to be "pious" about every military action this nation has taken over the past twenty years.

And by the way...folks say the Dems make Obama into a "Messiah".

It sure seems to me that Republicans worship at the altar of Petraeus.

Posted by: officermancuso | September 26, 2008 9:56 PM | Report abuse

What to watch for when John McCain bragged about Iraq:
1. John never brought back any Iraq's WMD.
2. McCain always had bullet proof vest on when he's there.

Posted by: scooterlibre | September 26, 2008 9:51 PM | Report abuse

This nation is beyond hope if what we need to be paying attention to right now is the effect of candidate height on candidate success.

Posted by: officermancuso | September 26, 2008 9:49 PM | Report abuse

I love Obama and detest McCain, but I will take McCain's mention of Senator Kennedy as genuine.

Posted by: officermancuso | September 26, 2008 9:44 PM | Report abuse

In a TV debate between a tall man and a short one, the tall guy usually wins - we haven't had a short president since Harry Truman. Young man vs. older one? The younger usually wins.

Handsome, charismatic candidate against a man who's neither? Well, you get the point: John McCain will have three strikes against him as he enters the first presidential debate tonight (assuming it goes ahead).

But McCain will have two things going for him. The subject will be on national security, his strong suit, and he'll be coming off a bounce driven by his dramatic intervention this week in the financial-rescue package.

Zogby's Interactive poll showed McCain gaining five points on Wednesday, going from a three-point deficit to a two-point lead. (Other polls aren't one-night samples because they're conducted over the phone and, so, take longer to field.)

McCain speaks in commands and sound bites. He abhors nuance as something to cut through. Barack Obama, a law-school professor, loves to explore subtle distinctions and prides himself on keeping his grounding and cool at all times. Without a teleprompter, Obama has a hard time rising above complexity and seems allergic to declarative sentences.

Obama has a John F. Kennedy-like distrust of passion, while McCain is more like Bobby Kennedy - embracing passion and using it to empower him.

All of this is to McCain's advantage. But it will be hard to overcome the electorate's innate tendency to want a Democrat in the White House. And the contrast between an old, short man and a young, dynamic, charismatic hero will be more than evident on TV.

The late, great media consultant Bob Squier used to analogize candidates' first meeting in debate to grade-schoolers' first day in the schoolyard. Just as kids rapidly decide on a pecking order based on who can beat up whom, so the candidates take one another's measure and get elated or depressed based on their conclusions. That psychological hangover lasts for the entire campaign.

It was clear that Hillary Clinton had Obama's measure in the Democratic debates. His policy answers were fumbling and elusive, while hers' were wonkish and detailed. The contrast always worked in Hillary's favor. Doubt it? Then why did Obama turn down additional debates when Hillary suggested them as the race entered its last phases? Winners don't turn down debates.

Of course, McCain lost most of his debates in the GOP primaries. He lacked Mike Huckabee's wit, Mitt Romney's aggressiveness, Rudy Giuliani's clarity. He was inclined to mumble, and his weak, soft voice too often failed to command attention.

Debates mattered little in the primaries, in part because there were so many. In the general election, however, they'll count for everything. In 2000, Al Gore led George Bush by 10 points after the conventions, but his shoddy performance in the debates gave Bush the lead.

(John Kerry won the first debate in 2004, putting him back in that race - but Bush gained strength with each match and ultimately won.)

If McCain can use his momentum and foreign-policy expertise to defeat Obama in this first contest, the Democrat may find it hard to recover. The concerns about his lack of strength and absence of a killer instinct will resurface, feeding doubts that he's all celebrity, no substance. Others will take his penchant for complexity and see a Hamlet figure paralyzed by his own analysis.

Posted by: rtfanning | September 26, 2008 9:40 PM | Report abuse

sad news?

Kennedy had a medicine reaction, he's not dead.

more drama.

McCain looks and sounds just weird.

Posted by: wpost4112 | September 26, 2008 9:09 PM | Report abuse


They called in the EM people to checkup McCain's sweating and short breath symptoms.

It turned out that he's just bit nervous.

Posted by: JC_VA | September 26, 2008 8:54 PM | Report abuse

I predict a knock out punch tonight. McCain can win the election with this one debate. "Bubba Obama" will be on his butt cheeks and down for the count.

Posted by: dr718 | September 26, 2008 8:50 PM | Report abuse

McCain's poor performance in the past three days (and the web ad that he prematurely put on the site of the Wall Street Journal, declaring debate victory), means the Republican "desperately needs to win this debate in a big way.

The centerpiece of John McCain's campaign has been his more than a quarter century of experience in Washington learning about and debating foreign policy, the memo reads. "If he slips up, makes a mistake, or fails to deliver a game-changing performance, it will be a serious blow to his campaign. Given his unsteady performance this week, he desperately needs to win this debate in a big way in order to change the topic and get back to his home turf.

Posted by: JC_VA | September 26, 2008 8:49 PM | Report abuse


I don't believe that Obama was being arrogant when he said "if they need me..." I think he was being respectful of the hard work that the Finance members of Congress had been doing all week without either his or McSame's interference. McSame's "suspending" his campaign and "rushing" back to DC does not make him look like a concerned-for-America presidential candidate, but like a meddlesome scaredy-cat who knows he hasn't done his homework.

Posted by: FSUWindgoddess | September 26, 2008 8:39 PM | Report abuse

There's a great Republican AD right on the front page of the WP...incredible.
In the picture on the front the empty suit is caring another empty suit. Playing in the background would be the old song, "He ain't heavy he's my brother"

Thanks WP editorial staff for the idea.

Posted by: ekim53 | September 26, 2008 8:31 PM | Report abuse

we don't need a george bush the third in office.
our country doesn't deserve that for 12 years in a row, we didn't deserve it for this long

Posted by: shaylyn127 | September 26, 2008 8:28 PM | Report abuse

"His arrogant response yesterday “If they need me...They'll call me" didn't go over too well.
Well they didn't call him did they?"

Actually, they did call him, and McCain is the one who made the first call to Bush.

Posted by: stopthestunts | September 26, 2008 8:28 PM | Report abuse

How about this headline: "OBAMA makes smart-ass remark, McCain gives him the finger."

Posted by: gengar843 | September 26, 2008 8:26 PM | Report abuse

McCain's Called Shot: WINS DEBATE by adding up the score in advance.

Posted by: Uoughtano | September 26, 2008 8:23 PM | Report abuse

Obama better pack a big lunch if he thinks he is going to make McCain look bad tonight. He still has a lot to learn …something that obviously hasn’t come easy for him. His boyhood arrogance is the very thing that stands between him and the education he needs to be president.
His arrogant response yesterday “If they need me...They'll call me" didn't go over too well.
Well they didn't call him did they? But I guess he felt he better show up and act like he least until after the election.
Talk about someone looking like an outcast in a room full of politicians last night.
Junior Obama is in way over his head.

Posted by: dr718 | September 26, 2008 8:20 PM | Report abuse

McCain tonight will announce that he is NOT voting for the bailout and that anyone who does is bankrupting the country.

He will name names. He will call out Dodd, a DISGUSTING choice to try to fix an area in which his hands are dirty!

He will tell us that he went to Washington to show everyone that the Democrats HAVE the votes to pass their bill, but since they don't have the confidence in it, they don't want to go in alone!

He will tell us there is NO "financial crisis" but a "political crisis." The ONLY reason these people are doing anything is because it's election season.


Posted by: gengar843 | September 26, 2008 8:14 PM | Report abuse

John will follow bin Laden to the gates of hell, and will bring his own private army of lobbyists with him. He will use special GOP economic warfare techniques pioneered in Ohio and Michigan. Before al-Qaeda knows it, their RPGs will have been repossessed and their command structure outsourced to China!

John McCain '08! Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what YOU can do for Lockheed Martin!

Posted by: bourassa1 | September 26, 2008 8:09 PM | Report abuse

PROMINENT CONSERVATIVES BEG PALIN TO STEP DOWN!!!!--(File this under "Better late than NEVER)".....

(CNN) – Prominent conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, an early supporter of Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin, said Friday recent interviews have shown the Alaska governor is "out of her league" and should leave the GOP presidential ticket for the good of the party.

The criticism in Parker's Friday column is the latest in a recent string of negative assessments toward the McCain-Palin candidacy from prominent conservatives.

It was fun while it lasted," Parker writes. "Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who is clearly out of her league."

Palin's interview with Couric drew criticism when the Alaska governor was unable to provide an example of when John McCain had pushed for more regulation of Wall Street during his Senate career. Palin also took heat for defending her foreign policy credentials by suggesting Russian leaders enter Alaska airspace when they come to America. Palin was also criticized last week for appearing not to know what the Bush Doctrine is during an interview with Charlie Gibson.

“If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself," Parker also writes. "If Palin were a man, we’d all be guffawing, just as we do every time Joe Biden tickles the back of his throat with his toes. But because she’s a woman — and the first ever on a Republican presidential ticket — we are reluctant to say what is painfully true."

Parker, who praised McCain's "keen judgment" for picking Palin earlier this month and wrote the Alaska governor is a "perfect storm of God, Mom and apple pie," now says Palin should step down from the ticket.

“Only Palin can save McCain, her party, and the country she loves," Parker writes. She can bow out for personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her newborn. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first. Do it for your country."

Parker's comments follow those by prominent conservatives David Brooks, George Will, and David Frum who have all publicly questioned Palin's readiness to be vice president.

"Sarah Palin has many virtues," Brooks wrote in a recent column. "If you wanted someone to destroy a corrupt establishment, she'd be your woman. But the constructive act of governance is another matter. She has not been engaged in national issues, does not have a repertoire of historic patterns and, like President Bush, she seems to compensate for her lack of experience with brashness and excessive decisiveness."

Posted by: misssymoto | September 26, 2008 8:08 PM | Report abuse

No Names Necessary

He inspires hope and makes us want to rise
They try and kill it with a bouquet full of lies.

He has specific plans, laid out in writing
They just use distractions, but he isn’t biting!

He was scrutinized thoroughly under the microscope
Their records are so dirty, there isn’t enough soap!

He has let his values and intelligence be his guide
They have led with greed and promises empty inside

He wants what is best for the many, not just the few
They want to be even larger at the expense of YOU!

He has said enough to Lobbyists and Corporate disgrace
They sleep with the Lobbyists and lie right to your face

He has shown us nothing but honor, strength and the truth
They have continually been deceptive, irresponsible and aloof

He has no legal scandals, he has lived a good life
Their values are as fake as his VP and 2nd wife

He has insight that is true and ideas that are smart
They have the same old policies that made it fall apart

He is not for BIG Government, but a Government that works
They are part of a house where division always lurks

He has no lobbyists, yet ran a record-breaking campaign
They have many lobbyists, and not one single OZ of change

He DOES have a record that matches his talk
They do NOT have a record of walking the walk

Have I said enough, can you now guess their names!?
Vote for him and tell them to quit playing games!!

PS. There is a reason PITBULLS are illegal in many states - they are unnecessarily aggressive and tend to attack without being provoked!!! Actually, that should replace the elephant!
Obama is more of a well tempered, intelligent, rational German Shepherd - they make the best guard dogs!!


Posted by: AmyleaC1 | September 26, 2008 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Temperament: Obama wins.

Foreign or Domestic: Obama talks about 'checks and balances', using his ten years of teaching constitutional law as the hook. Soundbite: The Republicans are anorexic when it comes to government. This isn't healthy for any of us.

The Surge: Obama explains (once again) that the *military surge* was indeed successful, but it can only be the means to an end (Iraq's government getting its act together), not the end in itself. In THAT sense, the surge remains a failure.

Iraq: Invading Iraq was a mistake. We can't undo it, but in future we can fix the problems that got us into this in the first place: Lack of foreign intelligence. Misuse of the intelligence we did have (single-sourced, Chalabi-fed imaginings and wishful thinking rather than fact). Again, it all comes down to rational checks and balances.

Insider vs. Outsider: Obama points out the better question is 'beholden to special interests and lobbyists - or not'.

Posted by: TomJx | September 26, 2008 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Hire the president of Harvard Law Review? Because he's articulate, because he thinks before reacting?

Paulson admitted the Republicans shot the torpedo.

Those who aren't getting it aren't paying much attention.

"Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds and little statesmen..." You want four more years of this train wreck? Where is your intellect?

Posted by: donnewt | September 26, 2008 8:04 PM | Report abuse



Posted by: 2008Election | September 26, 2008 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Obama looks like McCains chauffer. "Clean those windows while the boss takes of business.

Posted by: dr718 | September 26, 2008 8:03 PM | Report abuse

I hope they ask McCain about Charles Keating and Phil Gramm.

McCain knows all about bailing out rich bankers and screwing over middle class and poor people, he's been doing it for years:

McCain - Founding Member of the Keating Five:

McCain was one of the "Keating Five," congressmen investigated on ethics charges for strenuously helping convicted racketeer Charles Keating after he gave them large campaign contributions and vacation trips.
Charles Keating was convicted of racketeering and fraud in both state and federal court after his Lincoln Savings & Loan collapsed, costing the taxpayers $3.4 billion. His convictions were overturned on technicalities; for example, the federal conviction was overturned because jurors had heard about his state conviction, and his state charges because Judge Lance Ito (yes, that judge) screwed up jury instructions. Neither court cleared him, and he faces new trials in both courts.)

Though he was not convicted of anything, McCain intervened on behalf of Charles Keating after Keating gave McCain at least $112,00 in contributions. In the mid-1980s, McCain made at least 9 trips on Keating's airplanes, and 3 of those were to Keating's luxurious retreat in the Bahamas. McCain's wife and father-in-law also were the largest investors (at $350,000) in a Keating shopping center; the Phoenix New Times called it a "sweetheart deal."

Here's some more straight-talk, my friends:

Posted by: DrainYou | September 26, 2008 8:03 PM | Report abuse

If McCain can't wave a flag and talk about being a POW at the debates then he's going to be in big trouble. He is no intellectual match for Obama,not even close.

I really wish that he'd get asked how in the heck he's trying to pass that Palin fraud off on the people.

Obama has the capacity and temperament to run this nation, McCain and Palin do not. It's really that simple.

Posted by: F7711 | September 26, 2008 8:03 PM | Report abuse

McCain supporters are not voting for McCain for president, they're voting for Palin. She can't make it through an interview, how will she govern? Her foreign policy experience is 'Alaska is close to Russia and Putin may fly in her airspace'? I wish republicans would study issues and positions, not strictly rely on feelings.

Posted by: grumps | September 26, 2008 8:03 PM | Report abuse

I hope McCain is finally exposed for the FAKE that he is. I am so sick of his sleezy political tactics-his distasteful ads that are full of lies, his very irresponsible Palin Gimmick, him trying to steal Obama's CHANGE platform. His platform was EXPERIENCE, remember?? Yea I don't think ANY American want's to EXPERIENCE the last 8 years again!! No matter how you try and run from it - you voted with the Man 95% of the time! Can't shake that. But this last theatrical tactic of "suspend my campaign, here I come to save the day!" was downright harmful. I am insulted by McCains tactics -he sure doesn't think much of the American voter, if he thinks these tricks aren't completely transparent - and will be the ONLY transparent thing about his administration.

Posted by: AmyleaC1 | September 26, 2008 8:03 PM | Report abuse

I hear Mccain is not showing now and is rushing to the bed side of Ted Kennedy.

Posted by: popasmoke | September 26, 2008 7:58 PM | Report abuse

McCain cant decide the next day bombing the hell out of Iran was a mistake when he erratically decides too.

By the way, the fact that dems say McCain didnt help and Reps he did prooves MCCains decision was injecting politics.

Posted by: Dano111 | September 26, 2008 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Dano: Fine with me! Let's vote out the entire bunch who vote for this bomb! Any Dems and Republicans who vote against it, I say VOTE for that person.

We NEED an economic shakeout so that house prices can come down to affordable levels.

Posted by: gengar843 | September 26, 2008 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: basementfrog | September 26, 2008 7:55 PM | Report abuse

INDICT Barney Frank! INDICT Chris Dodd! INDICT Chuck Schumer! INDICT all of the idiots who said we needed to loosen the rules so that people who couldn't afford houses could buy them.

I am not paying for their mistakes!

WE NEED A TAX REVOLUTION! Refuse to pay your taxes. Don't pay for this craziness!


SIDE BAR-In the picture above, did you notice the empty suit caring another empty suit? I'm reminded of the old song, "He ain't heavy he's my brother"

Posted by: ekim53 | September 26, 2008 7:54 PM | Report abuse

"Say Anything McCain" is at it again. So who and what will he be tomorrow? A Conservative? A Democrat? A Populist? A Maverick? Or maybe just aptly, Bozo The Clown?

McCain is too frantic, jittery and erratic. Too reckless and political. He make me feel very uneasy.

His campaign is all tactic not ideology. Thats called "politics first" not country.

Posted by: Dano111 | September 26, 2008 7:53 PM | Report abuse

>INDICT Barney Frank! INDICT Chris Dodd! INDICT Chuck Schumer! INDICT all of the idiots who said we needed to loosen the rules so that people who couldn't afford houses could buy them.

>I am not paying for their mistakes!

You do realize Senate Republicans support the bail out right?

Posted by: Dano111 | September 26, 2008 7:51 PM | Report abuse

I have been to three Mccain town hall meetings over the years. He is not a shadow of the man I saw in 2000. He looks like death warmed over. It was reported just last week he now travels with his own make up artist. Believe me he needs it. His drooping left eye may be Bells Palsy or even a mini stroke. He is a sick man who will not let anyone see his complete medical record. He is reported to take 7 different unspecified medications on a daly basis. Something is being covered up.



YOU are a sick man - you need to go to a doctor - FIRST you need to start showing some respect - everyone is still of the Obama people and their antisocial behavior.


Posted by: 37thandOStreet | September 26, 2008 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: popasmoke | September 26, 2008 7:51 PM | Report abuse

John McCain and the Economy:- Straight Talk, Real Solutions

Although you may have heard John McCain insisting that Americans have become better off under George Bush, John really understands that a lot of people are worried about the economy right now.
Did you know John McCain is a war hero? That recession hasn't got a chance.

And should the recession persist in its refusal to disarm, then yes, ALL options are on the table, includiong our strategic arsenal ... John McCain will not flinch in his duty to protect Americans from the menace of Islamo-stagflation.
Because he is resolute, damn it. Not a white-flag waver.

My friends, I promise you this: John McCain will never surrender until Iraq is free of WMD!

John McCain '08! Because when fear brings Americans together, the whole military-industrial complex benefits!

Posted by: bourassa1 | September 26, 2008 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Palin was so sad to watch on the Katie interview that I almost felt sorry for her....NOT!!!

Laughing like I was watching George Calin.

You couldn't write this stuff.

Posted by: basementfrog | September 26, 2008 7:50 PM | Report abuse

It amazes me that there is so much focus on calling Obama "professorial".

I guess we just accustom to have a loose cannon red-neck in office.

I love to fish, bbq and shoot skeet as much as any one, but I had my fill of hicks and hill billys in the white house for a lifetime.

We need some brains and culture to restore America. Scrappy my ass. Leave that for Mexico.

Posted by: Dano111 | September 26, 2008 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Yea Dems.... It was your boy Obama that completely lost it and started ranting during the meeting with the president today. McCain sat there and watched him make a complete fool of himself. He didn't even know what to say...they had to email his questions to him. Duh!! Were in for a good show tonight.
Obama knows he's in trouble.
Hillary announced last her support for McCain last night. Dems everywhere are jumping ship and he knows it....See ya

Posted by: dr718 | September 26, 2008 7:49 PM | Report abuse

INDICT Barney Frank! INDICT Chris Dodd! INDICT Chuck Schumer! INDICT all of the idiots who said we needed to loosen the rules so that people who couldn't afford houses could buy them.

I am not paying for their mistakes!

WE NEED A TAX REVOLUTION! Refuse to pay your taxes. Don't pay for this craziness!

Posted by: gengar843 | September 26, 2008 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Glad you encourage users to use some common sense and courtesy. You sill manage to get out of control rants posted like the yelling by 37thandOStreet.

Posted by: GrannyCarol | September 26, 2008 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Dear 37thandOStreet,

Are you kidding. McCain shows up to try and be the hero only to scuttle what amount to a done deal and that is leadership. You need to understand that Bush set the bar very low and you shouldn't use him as a standard in judging McCain.

McCain is doing this for POLITICAL REASONS. Not for anything else. The reasons are clear.

First, the issue of avoiding debates. McCain has no legislative role in the committees reviewing the bailout. He could easily do as much from the road as in DC. He is using this STUNT to avoid a much larger issue. That of Rick Davis' company, owned by his campaign manager, taking millions from Freddie Mac while working for McCain.

Secondly, McCain's polling numbers are in a free fall due to all the bad press about Palin. She came with a huge amount of baggage that Schmidt can lie under the rug. The press has reacted by getting tough on their campaign which McCain did not expect as he has had them all snowed. He had to change the narrative or the race would be lost in the next week. Thus, "CRISIS" and a trip to DC along with suspending campaign.

Third, McCain is losing this as he tries newly spun creations on us every day and just can't get traction. His inept campaign needs the time to regroup and he is going to DC to distract attention from that fact.

The list goes on and keeps getting worse. There is Carly Fiorina with her huge CEO golden parachute of over 20 Million and Keating Five comparisons waiting in the wings. McCain is toast and his antics won't stop that. They just dig the hole deeper.

I think you should examine your own biases and how you seek to find facts to support what you WANT to believe. Consider how much you are ignoring to justify your beliefs and how much rational thought you apply... or not.

George Will is an intellectual and a Republican. It is possible to be both and he even manages to look at the facts and still be rational. He states that McCain is not fit to be President. Given all the stupid antics I believe him.

Posted by: mbshults | September 26, 2008 7:46 PM | Report abuse

just a note to the GOPers here

we all recognize that there is corruption in the US politcal culture, but to imply its just the DEMs with their nose in the trough is ludicrous.

37thandOStreet - the GOP has enough broken windows in its glass house already, you should be careful with those stones you are throwing

Do these guys ring any bells?
Tom DeLay
Bob Ney

Posted by: woolly64 | September 26, 2008 7:46 PM | Report abuse

So now we have the surge, otherwise known as the staffing level we should have had from the beginning. It works,duh. Couldn't get Rummy and Cheyney to provide proper troop levels until Rummy left. Now our republican deregulated financial system is failing, Bush & company want regulation and taxpayer debt without accountibility. I'm ready for a change. McCain is not change; it's a meltdown. He is not the candidate of 2000.

Posted by: grumps | September 26, 2008 7:45 PM | Report abuse

37thandOStreet asks "Would any businessman even hire this guy. . ?" The answer is yes, absolutely. Obama could have written his own ticket after Law School -- there's only one President of the Law Review, and everyone in the public and private sectors would have rolled out a red carpet for him. His achievements since then have been in the areas of public service and governance. We need some public service and governance, as opposed to what we've had over the past 8 years. No more Bush/McCain.

Posted by: jmls1 | September 26, 2008 7:44 PM | Report abuse

My friends, John McCain understands that the American people want change; they want a new direction.

That's why John is planning a new and completely different set of wars.

John McCain believes that with American optimism and can-do spirit, we can reach out and grab hold of a bigger dream. A bolder dream. Like the dream of fighting three wars at once.

Or perhaps you're one of those who thinks America's best days are behind her. You think three wars is too many? Unlike some, John McCain is not a man who sells America short. It's all about integrity, you know?
John has lots and lots of integrity.

My friends, I hope you'll join me and others who believe with John McCain that YES WE CAN fight three wars at once. Or four.

McCain '08! Because 189 countries still remain unconquered by our mighty legions!

Posted by: bourassa1 | September 26, 2008 7:44 PM | Report abuse

At the end of the day, these two are politicians.

Lots of promises and little to come

Posted by: basementfrog | September 26, 2008 7:42 PM | Report abuse


Ole' FivePlane is a known hothead.

Pete Dominici, Chuck Grassley, and many others have all publicly described fistfights that magoo started with other Senators.

They are all on record as saying that they would NOT trust magoo to have his finger on the button.

Everything magoo has done thus far; naming hillbilly palin, 'postponing' the debate, etc is designed to draw attention away from his rabid temperment (and palin's latent stupidity and lack of education).

Magoo was a bad pilot because he would eject whenever he got scared. He is ill tempered and nasty.

Posted by: FivePlaneMcCain | September 26, 2008 7:41 PM | Report abuse

37thandOStreet, I'd just love to hear, just once, a ranting irrationalist like you provide evidence to support your claims.

Do you think he got through Harvard as an empty suit, hmmm?

Oh, of course, affirmative action. Gee, I didn't know affirmative action is applied to class standing and becoming the editor of the most prestigious academic law journal in the country.

Yup, what do millions of Obama supporters know. We're so stupid. Just like Obama. Being black, his resume must be so ridiculous, why bother read it?

Posted by: pasc1 | September 26, 2008 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Obama looks so much like a President in that photo but who is that old tired looking gray haired guy next to him

Posted by: smorrow | September 26, 2008 7:40 PM | Report abuse

"McCain's campaign has become so lame I hear they are applying for handicapped plates for the Straight Talk Express bus.

Posted by: TigerPaw1 |

LMAO!!! - I think they have actually had to move it to a little yellow short bus

Posted by: AmyleaC1 | September 26, 2008 7:40 PM | Report abuse

We all know that rednek Alaskan politicians like Palin are as crooked as a dog's hind leg. However, Palin simply reinforces the notion by not cooperating in Troopergate. What does she have to hide? Controversies about candidates' on the top of a presidential ticket are commonplace. However, VP candidates typically aren't supposed to make waves. Sarah's and her radial rednek husband's failing to heed ANY sopoena when she's a VP candidate, is hardcore. If she had any honor and respect for US laws, she'd let due process take its course. If she did not lie and did not abuse her power as governor, then she should show up and get the GD thing over worth before November. Again, Palin and other wingnut Republicans are trying to underplay their crooked ways. Then again, Alaskan Repuglicans didn't seem to have the sense not to support indicted Ted Stevens' reelection bid. Like "duh"! Stupid is as stupid does.

Posted by: con_crusher | September 26, 2008 7:40 PM | Report abuse

37th&OStreet - During the Democratic primaries you were an avowed Hillary-backing Democrat. Now you have jumped ship to another loser. Let me know who you are picking for the Super Bowl - I will go to Vegas and bet the house on the other team.

Posted by: bondjedi | September 26, 2008 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Did anybody else notice that magoo's right eye is bulging...kind of like popeye the sailor.

That's it! Magoo IS Popeye the sailor man!

Droopy jowl, bulging eye.

Eat that spinach popeye!

Posted by: FivePlaneMcCain | September 26, 2008 7:37 PM | Report abuse

McCain will probably get nasty -- that's his character -- an angry man. Too angry though, and he's sunk. But he's sunk anyway unless he wins the debates because he is falling further behind. So the pressure is on him.

The voters want to see someone who walks the fine line between standing up for principle and going ballistic -- assertive (e.g. able to handle Putin) but not angry. Obama must do the same.

Posted by: hangdogit | September 26, 2008 7:35 PM | Report abuse

I would like to ask about the health insurance problem. I am unemployed right now and looking for a job, When a job offers to pay $10.00 dollars an hour but you must buy health insurance here in Massachusetts which will cost at most company's $140.00 dollars a week or more which leaves you with $240.00 dollars or less a week to live on. This is impossible to live on this amount of money unless you live some where that you do not have to pay rent, buy food, or pay bills. What is the new President going to do to relieve this hugh problem.
John from Massachusetts

Posted by: jhadha | September 26, 2008 7:34 PM | Report abuse

When people say Bush is dumb they mean he makes self-interested and ill-conceived decisions. But Sarah Palin is in a class of DUMB all of her own. She is so dumb and McCain is so old (McCain's father died at age 70, now McCain is 72) that his age and her stupidity combine to make a potent reason not to vote for McCain.

Posted by: elena2 | September 26, 2008 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Can't we just watch for what we want to watch for? A Presidential debate is not like a football game where there are rules and scores. A candidate wins if the particular viewer thinks he wins. These debates are really only for the uncommitted voters. If you are already sure who you are voting for then it makes no difference what happens in the debate. I suppose that if McCain anounces that he is leaving his wife and having an affair with Palin, that might change some committed voter's minds, but short of this it is about that 15% or so of voters still trying to decide. Those voters are going to make up thier minds based on what matters to them, not what matters to the Washington Post.

Posted by: bjuhasz | September 26, 2008 7:32 PM | Report abuse


The Paulson plan was 3 pages long if that - McCain read it in about a minute - it basically said that Paulson had $700 Billion that he could give to his friends, I mean Wall Street firms in need of assistance, and no one could say anything and no court or any agency could review anything - Paulson could have spent the money on clowns and no one could have objected - even though the whole thing is a circus anyway.


Posted by: 37thandOStreet | September 26, 2008 7:26 PM | Report abuse

McCain's campaign has become so lame I hear they are applying for handicapped plates for the Straight Talk Express bus.

Posted by: TigerPaw1 | September 26, 2008 7:25 PM | Report abuse

If McCain is a leader....I would rather have Putin.

Posted by: alcorngirl | September 26, 2008 7:22 PM | Report abuse

McCain hadn't even read the Paulson plan as of yesterday.
He called the White House meeting and then sat there like a potted plant, while the whole meeting disintegrated!

Republicans have nothing to lose in this election, so they figure they'll just slime up the whole process.

Posted by: VetsforObama | September 26, 2008 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Who's rooting for a meltdown?

Posted by: irishredder | September 26, 2008 7:16 PM | Report abuse

MSNBC has been ranting and raving all day long ever since McCain announced that he was going to debate that an agreement has not been reached. They are pissed if he does not debate and they are pissed if he does. What a bunch of loser whiners.

Posted by: Verrazzano | September 26, 2008 7:16 PM | Report abuse


YOU are a sick man - you need to go to a doctor - FIRST you need to start showing some respect - everyone is still of the Obama people and their antisocial behavior.


Posted by: 37thandOStreet | September 26, 2008 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Watch Mccain very closley. I believe him to be a sick man and they have done everything they could do to hide it. Mostly watch his face and facial tics as well as hid hand gestures and inflection in his voice.

Posted by: popasmoke | September 26, 2008 7:10 PM | Report abuse

So will McCain claim to be the saviour of the American economy?
Obama will be ever so hesitant to push back on this issue as he is a great deal more reserved.
Now this will be interesting.

PS - I had to laugh when listening to Rachel Maddow a few moments ago carrying on as if it was finally christmas day "Ooo it's debate day, debate day, I'm really excited"

America has come a very long way!
Congrats on your coverage so far Chris, as an interested Aussie observer I appreciate you the WaPo blogs and threads as they actually contain some considered content. Politico has degenerated into a mud wrestle and on HuffPo it is often difficult as the discussion is rarely bounded by reality.

Posted by: jamesmoylan | September 26, 2008 7:06 PM | Report abuse

McCain showed himself to be a Leader this week.

Obama was a non-entity (what about me? I was preparing for a debate)

Obama clearly showed he was more concerned about the campaign than he was concerned about the HEALTH OF THE ECONOMY.

McCain looked PRESIDENTIAL this week.

McCain actually was able to get massively better provisions for the American taxpayer inserted into this agreement - Obama just sat there and did nothing. Obama looked totally out of place in the White House with the Congressional Leadership.

Obama looked really horrible - he did not even lead his own party in the negotiations this week instead it was Barney Frank and Chris Dodd out front (well they took all the money from the Wall Street lobbyists in the first place so why shouldn't they be the ones to funnel $700 BILLION TO WALL STREET ??? )

McCain is the Leader that will make American strong.


Posted by: 37thandOStreet | September 26, 2008 6:55 PM | Report abuse

37thandOStreet you are a neocon, believe anything, dirt-slinging, republican, racist redneck - keep your ugly CAPITLIZED crap to yourself. You are an empty head.

Vietnam Veteran for Obama in New Mexico

Posted by: NMremote | September 26, 2008 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Obama gets a chance to relax here and not worry about foreign policy gaffes. All of the attention will be on McCain and how he handles himself after the economic meltdown and his own campaign meltdown these last two days.

Posted by: parkerfl1 | September 26, 2008 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Harry Reid is the one who torpedoed the negotiations this week - because he wanted Obama to get credit for something Obama did not do.


Obama has always had some senior legislator putting Obama's name on legislation to assist Obama in building up his resume - please research EMIL JONES IN THE ILLINOIS LEGISLATURE.




Posted by: 37thandOStreet | September 26, 2008 6:46 PM | Report abuse

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