31 October 2008

Wonk Room: In it for the Music

I like to visit the Think Progress Wonk Room for a pretty well-grounded take on issues of the day. But I also really like the music.

Bush Legacy 2.0

Al Qaeda in Iraq? No Child Left Behind? Politicization of the Justice Dept? The current economic crisis?

If you thought you knew the Bush legacy by now, just wait. There's more coming, in the form of a late-term effort to deregulate just about everything. Literally from the ocean depths to the mountain tops, George W. Bush and his crew of liquidators are working feverishly for faster development, greater exploitation, and less oversight. The administration is putting the finishing touches "as many as 90" deregulatory efforts.

Those and other regulations would help clear obstacles to some commercial ocean-fishing activities, ease controls on emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming, relax drinking-water standards and lift a key restriction on mountaintop coal mining.
Meanwhile, it sounds like a veritable who's who list over at the OMB.
According to the Office of Management and Budget's regulatory calendar, the commercial scallop-fishing industry came in two weeks ago to urge that proposed catch limits be eased, nearly bumping into National Mining Association officials making the case for easing rules meant to keep coal slurry waste out of Appalachian streams. A few days earlier, lawyers for kidney dialysis and biotechnology companies registered their complaints at the OMB about new Medicare reimbursement rules. Lobbyists for customs brokers complained about proposed counterterrorism rules that require the advance reporting of shipping data.
Makes perfect sense to deregulate our Homeland Security rules because they're inconvenient for shippers. Will this at least mean that I can finally quit taking off my shoes and belt at the airport? Because that's really inconvenient and not worth a damn, whereas inspecting shipping manifests is just inconvenient.

Anyone taking odds on whether Jack Abramoff gets a pardon, while we're at it?

30 October 2008

Tancredo in 2010?

From the Denver Post. It leaves one speechless. Needless to say, I'll be happy to beat the streets, knock on doors, make phone calls, whatever it takes, to keep this from happening.

Kevin Drum on China and the IMF

Kevin Drum reminds us there's a whole big world out there beyond the edge of today's tracking polls. And while China and Russia may be watching the US horserace with a genuine interest in the outcome, what they're really watching--cautiously--are all those little nations on the verge of bankruptcy as a result of the spreading economic crisis.

This, in turn, is what the candidates ought to be watching (though Drum doesn't say so), because what happens next between China, Russia, and all those lesser-stans may have decisive effects on us here at home, regardless of who wins this election. And that's where the IMF comes in.

Kevin explains it all much better than I can, so I'll let him. In a nutshell, a positive byproduct of these troubled times (my take) is that the IMF may be learning to move a little more quickly and a little less, shall we say, pompously, to release funds to struggling nations.

Texan Kindness

Texas sort of gets a bad rap. This is classy, and then some. "I just happened to be there and anybody else would have done the same thing."

That's Texan Marilyn Mock, describing how she came to spontaneously buy Tracy Orr's house at auction in order to give it back to Orr.

Denver County Elections: Poll Workers & Election Day Challenges

Just under two weeks ago I posted about poll watchers and election day voter challenges in Denver county. That post was based on my impressions of Denver election law gleaned from a three hour poll worker training course. Today I am happy to report that some of my impressions were wrong.

I wrote at the time that one of the things I learned (seasoned hands will recognize the neophyte here) is that every citizen has the right to challenge any citizen's eligibility to vote. I further wrote that, once a voter has been challenged, his or her only recourse is to cast a provisional ballot and wait for the elections commission to sort out the details within the ten days following the election. This, happily, is not true.

During a second training I received clarification on this issue.

First, there's a limit to the extent to which one person may challenge another's eligibility to vote. The challenger must also be a registered voter in the same precinct as the challenged voter. This would prohibit me from driving into a heavily contested precinct that was not also part of my polling locale and interfering with an election. The notion behind the law, as explained to me, is that if you know your neighbor is not eligible to cast a ballot for one of three reasons, then you can challenge.

Those reasons are quite clear, and quite limited, to the following:

According to Denver Elections officials, those are the only three reasons a voter may be challenged. Interestingly enough, Secretary of State Mike Coffman's "Voter Challenge" form includes a fourth: "Other." Denver Elections officials instructed a group of about forty of us to disregard that "Other." It's the Secretary of State's form, said course supervisor Tom Mann. "We don't like it." Here's the law, he went on: citizenship, residence, or age. Those are the only reasons a challenge may even be considered. Of course, this isn't the first Coffman-designed form that has raised questions and eyebrows in the state.

Taking the challenge process a step further, I was also relieved to learn that it is not incumbent on any poll worker to determine the outcome of a challenge. Both parties are taken aside. Paperwork to report the challenge is begun. The voting process slows down (which may be exactly the point of the challenge, under certain circumstances). If the voter was challenged on citizenship, say, the poll supervisor would ask: "Are you a citizen?"

If the challenged voter says "Yes," then nothing more is needed except a quick extra detail or two on the Voter Challenge form. The challenged voter attests under federal law that she is eligible to vote. She votes a standard ballot (not a provisional ballot). Her information will be checked out by elections officials after the election. If there is any discrepancy between her claim and her actual status, then that will be dealt with appropriately according to federal law. Same for any challenge regarding residence or age. Regardless of the challenged voter's actual status, her vote counts--and counts on election day--on the strength of her testimony.

In the event that a would-be voter says "No," she's not a citizen, an interesting scenario plays out. Either she casts aside her aspirations and leaves, or she insists that she wants to vote. Denver's answer? Okay. She can vote. By provisional ballot. Of course, her vote will be reviewed and disqualified based on citizenship status. But Denver Elections officials are very clear about this point: Everybody votes. Diffuse conflicts in the polling place. Use the provisional ballot as a tool to afford people the vote in the moment, and let the referees figure out afterward which votes were cast eligibly and which were not.

Campaigns and special interest groups may apply to have poll watchers in polling locations citywide to ensure that polls are running smoothly, e.g. to the best interests of a candidate or cause. In some cases, I infer, since it came up in training, those poll watchers may launch inappropriate challenges in order to interfere with the voting process. The poll supervisor does have the responsibility to watch for this abuse and address it should it come up. Poll supervisors can call for a field representative to come to a polling location and remove any poll watcher who abuses the challenge. (I had originally written that it would fall to the poll worker to call the police for removal, which I am also happy to report is not the only recourse. If a supervisor calls a field rep, the field rep may in turn take strip poll watcher's certificate, thus rendering the poll watcher's presence at the polls illegal. The police might then be called as a last resort.)

As we approach November 4, I am happy to report any information that clarifies how Denver poll workers will work to ensure a smooth process this voting day. It sounds like there are quite a lot of us working the polls, according to Denver Elections Director Michael Scarpello. He told the Rocky Mountain News yesterday that the county has overhired poll workers this year precisely to deal with record turnouts.

If you have questions or comments about poll workers, Denver, and this election, please write and share. There's nothing more powerful this year than ensuring that every voter votes, and every vote counts.

29 October 2008

Warchests and Possible Pickups

Matthew Yglesias thinks Senate Dems could afford to spread a little wealth to achieve magic number 60.

Jake Break

Work is winning today. So let's have a Jake break:

Yeah, I've got a uke. And no, I can't do that. Not even close.

Unease Surrounds Early & Mail-In Ballots

I'm not black and I don't live in Florida, but this article in the New York Times gets at the heart of why my completed, mail-in ballot is sitting here in my house, and not in a ballot box with the Denver Elections Commission.

[I]n conversations with about a dozen Jacksonville residents in cafes, outside churches and at their homes over three days, Mr. Jones and many of his black neighbors worry anyway, unable to put aside the nagging feeling that somehow their votes will not be counted.

. . . “They’re going to throw out votes,” said Larone Wesley, a 53-year-old black Vietnam veteran. “I can’t say exactly how, but they are going to accomplish that quite naturally.”
Yeah. I think I know that feeling, albeit minus the spectacular history that must accompany it in a state like Florida and a county like Duval, where the article points out some 26,000 ballots were tossed in 2000. The article goes on to note that as many as 40% of Democratic votes from precincts surrounding Jacksonville were disqualified during that election.

Meanwhile, if Colorado elections officials are concerned about the paucity of ballots that have come back thus far, it could have something to do with the mixed messages Coloradans received from their county clerks offices. In separate conversations with Denver Elections employees, I've heard two different things about what happens to my ballot after I drop it off.

In a conversation at the end of poll worker training, my training facilitator informed me that my ballot would be secured in the Denver Election Commission offices and stored until election day, when it would be counted. In a phone call to the city's 311 line, which routed me to Denver Elections, I was told my ballot would be opened immediately and counted by the machines, and that data (my vote) would be stored until election day. A follow up phone call reinforced that latter conversation. Nothing in the three responses made me exactly confident along the way, however.

I'm not saying I think it's a bad idea to turn votes in early. I know the Democratic campaigns are practically begging us to get our votes in. But I'm not entirely comfortable, either, and Secretary of State Mike Coffman has done very little in recent weeks to ease my sense of concern for the process. So my ballot sits, and I hold out as long as I can before relinquishing control of my vote.

Closing Arguments

If these two ads are indications of the candidates' closing arguments, then I have to say the point goes to Obama. The McCain camp takes a potentially powerful ad--great images, a call back to the "celebrity" ads that hurt Obama over the summer, and strong criticisms of the tax-and-spend liberal--and blows it at the very end. "Yet"? What is that? Does anybody understand why that last word is tagged on the end?

Meanwhile, the Obama camp takes an ad that could have been stronger through the middle, I think, and, saving the best for last, delivers. If there's any question about how the Obama campaign has responded to the Sarah Palin pick, this 30-second spot pretty much puts that to rest. They've let the McCain campaign flail in their own soup, and now come in with the verdict leveled. Sure, it's a pot-shot at Palin, although minor in the scope of the election. But it's an out-and-out roundhouse to McCain.

McCain Could Win Undecided Voters, Lose Election

Nate Silver took a look last night at the inside numbers regarding undecided voters. The takeaway? Even an optimistic break for McCain doesn't add up. In fact, Silver says, if "McCain wins 2/3 of white undecideds" and "100 percent of third-party support collapses" (which I take to mean that all votes cast go for the two, major-party candidates), that would translate to a net gain of 1 point for McCain in the final tally.

Even if John McCain did better than that, taking 77% of undecided whites, 10% of undecided blacks (as opposed to the 5% Silver cites as likely) and 40% of undecided Latinos (as opposed to the 35% likely), it comes out to a net gain of 1.1 points for McCain. Based on yesterday's numbers, that's about as good as it could possibly get, according to Silver.

To put that another way, even if support breaks about as well as it possibly could for McCain, the math doesn't equal a comeback. And Silver thinks that, while remaining undecideds may in fact favor McCain at this point, the actual numbers will come out to about a half-point shift overall for McCain.

It bears noting, at this point, that the undecided voters we're talking about today is not the same group of people it was five weeks ago. Then, we were talking about 18% of the electorate. Today we're talking about 6.72% of the electorate. Looking at that figure, and the position of the race today, it's probably fair to say that Obama has won a majority of the 18%.

Republican Quotes on the McCain Campaign

This is hardly an exhaustive list, but as a freebie from the AP first thing in the morning, we'll take it. Anybody think Tom Ridge is bitter?

28 October 2008

Udall Looking Even Better in CO

I won't steal their image this time, but the boys at FiveThirtyEight have now labeled Colorado a "Safe Dem" state in their Senate projections. This comes as little surprise, at this point, after the RNCC pulled funding from Bob Schaeffer late last week. Udall, remember, had lost his DNCC support even earlier, but precisely because the race appeared to be locking in on the Democratic side.

From the Wonk Room: Igor Volsky and the Politics of Health Care

From the ThinkProgress Wonk Room, Igor Volsky takes a look at some embattled Senate incumbents on the Republican side and notes a trend: they all voted against increasing health coverage for children under the SCHIP program. It's worth pointing out that these are not all the Repubs up for reelection, and these are not all the Repubs in tight races, so it stands that not all Republican incumbents voted against SCHIP. All the same, in an age where "nanny state" issues fall away when we talk about being unable to afford basic health services for our children, Americans appear poised to accept government intervention on this particular topic. And yet, it hasn't been forthcoming. That leaves lawmakers who did support the (unpopular) president's veto in a bind.

As long as we're in the Wonk Room, and as long as we're on the topic of health care, I'll grab another post from Igor to rebut this Robert Carroll op-ed from Monday's Wall Street Journal. I'm afraid I don't have a lot of time between now and Nov 10 for substantive discussion of the issues (I'm cribbing from my favorite VP candidate), so I'll let my surrogates do the hard work for me. Volsky's argument against Carroll's support for the McCain health care tax credit sheds a little light on why I'm currently uninsured: because the alternative, for the time being, is to be underinsured, which means that despite paying my premiums I still wouldn't be able to afford the care I need when I need it. In which case I'd most likely miss out on the services I thought I was buying--or be left to pay for them myself--and be throwing my money away on the insurance that doesn't actually cover me. Yet one more reason I'll be voting for Obama and continuing to look for employer-sponsored health care benefits, because those group benefits are almost always more comprehensive than individual benefits. And let me say this: as a healthy, 32-year-old male, I'd be happy to join the pool of insured Americans and help bring the rates down for everybody. But I can't do that if it's not going to work out well for me, also. There's no invincibility complex here: I worry about this situation for my wife and me every day. But that doesn't mean we can go shell out good money for a bad product that doesn't meet our needs.

25 October 2008

AP: Palin Rigged Pipeline Bid

A new AP report reveals that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin--with apparent input from Vice President Cheney--helped to rig the bidding process on her much-touted natural gas pipeline in order to craft terms that favored the eventual contract winner, a company with ties to the Palin administration.

This, while a second Troopergate investigation continues, cannot be what the beleaguered McCain campaign was looking forward to hearing this afternoon. If there's good news for the campaign in any of this, it's that the AP released the story on a Saturday afternoon. Investigative reports don't get more buried than that, although the Sunday papers do have room to run the long items.

If the campaign's woes can actually get worse, it's that CNN, instead of leading this afternoon with the pipeline story, is flogging anonymous reports from McCain staffers on just what a "diva" Sarah Palin is, that she enjoys no trusting relationships with anybody on the campaign, and that aides fear she may be distancing herself from the ticket in order to position for 2012. Ouch.

Ah, well. All in a slow day's news watching, I suppose. Back to work.

Denver Elections: 11,000 Missing Ballots

I don't want to alarm anybody, but we all saw this morning's Rocky, right?

24 October 2008

Video: Obama Loses By 1 Vote

UPDATE: Seems I neglected to include the link yesterday so that readers could personalize the video and pass along. My neglect is now remedied. Fire away.

I had heard about this spoof going around, but had not seen ituntil this morning. You've got to see it to appreciate it, because it really is spot on. And, as it turns out, I'm the butt of the joke (and so are you, and you, and you, if you don't get out to vote).

Bottom line? No complacency, folks. Polls don't matter and, after 2000 and 2004, we ought to damn well know by now that every vote counts and nothing can be taken for granted. Watch the clip.

First Wardrobe, Then Cosmetics

Via TPM, Sarah Palin's makeup artist is the highest paid worker (in a two week period) on the campaign. All one can say is "Wow."

23 October 2008

All Growed Up

Via Andrew Hudson (sorry, no direct link), Ron Howard points out that it's been decades since he played these characters on TV, but for this election it's worth channeling a couple oldies but goodies to drive the point home.

John McCain: Miserable Old Bastard?

John McCain sounds perfectly miserable. It cuts through his voice even when we can't actually hear his voice, as in this AP write-up on the candidate's responses to questions about Sarah Palin's shopping spree, Obama's spending advantage, and the prosecution of illegal immigrants who commit crimes. At every turn, anguish, resentment, and misery.

The Game: "Maple Story" Claims a Real Victim

My feeble brain can't quite wrap itself around the real-world ramifications of this virtual divorce-turned-homicide. But somebody actually went to jail over the thing, albeit not on murder charges.

Campaigning CO

Via TPM this morning (last night), the NRCC can no longer support Marilyn Musgrave in her bid for reelection in Colorado's 4th District. The NRCC ad buy that came this week on Musgrave's behalf will run until Oct 28, then go off the air. That leaves Musgrave on her own in the crucial last days until the election.

Not sure how early voting factors in here, and whether or not Betsy Markey and the DNCC can capitalize on this late breaking bit of good news for Dems. The Denver Post today characterizes the race succinctly: "Internal polling from both campaigns has the congresswoman breaking even, at best." That should encourage the Markey campaign, but this has been a tough race through and through, including a surprising endorsement from the Post for the embattled Musgrave.

I'm no campaign strategist, but I'm betting now may be a good time to make a donation (or an extra little donation) to the Markey campaign and see if they can't capitalize on this recent news. Musgrave is, politically speaking, a cousin of the Michelle Bachman breed, and as such may actually polarize voters (and electrify donors) more than Markey herself can in the final days of the race. If you want an up to the minute ticker on the leaning of that race, I'd say watch the numbers. If Markey can effectively outraise Musgrave in the final days--and put that money to good use--then Markey's schedule may be intensely busy in District 4 and in Washington starting November 5.

The Denver Post further predicts today that "Colorado's days as a battleground state for the Nov. 4 election may be waning." In the closely watched Senate campaign, Mark Udall leads Bob Schaffer by a broad enough lead to inspire the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to pull its funding for the Democratic candidate in Colorado, probably to direct resources to tighter races in Oregon, North Carolina, Alaska (keep an eye on deliberations in the Stevens trial for indicators in that race) and Minnesota. The Udall campaign is likely feeling quite exposed in the closing weeks of an intensely bitter campaign, but has to be happy with their current standing.

One last Colorado campaign note: The McCain campaign continues to insist that "We are not pulling ads and will be on the air in Colorado through Election Day." That's campaign spokesperson Tom Kise, but the numbers tell a different story. The Post report today indicates that McCain dollars spent this week on airtime have dropped off 46% from last week and 54% from two weeks ago. For the final week of the election, McCain has purchased approximately 1/7 the airtime that the Obama campaign has reserved in Colorado. In an interesting aside, the McCain campaign has not purchased any advertising time from Channel 7. Not sure if that bodes poorly for the campaign, or for the ABC affiliate, a bit of an also-ran (like McCain?) in the Denver market.

22 October 2008

Sean Quinn in Richmond, VA

The FiveThirtyEight traveling roadshow is still putting on the miles. Sean Quinn & Co. got largely boxed out of McCain ground game action in Richmond, VA, but were able to grab a few bleak pics all the same. The real highlight of this post focuses on the effects of McCain/Palin comments on the "real America." Not surprisingly, VA governor Tim Kaine (D) thinks it's a bad strategy to go dividing up the country. Slightly more surprisingly (if you're a stereotyping curmudgeon like me), a former Miss Virginia has some pretty astute thoughts on the matter. She gave Quinn the face time he couldn't get with McCain's people, and also got in a pretty good dig at another former beauty queen, but you'll have to read to the end of the post to catch it.

Palin Sizes Up the Race

Maybe the McCain campaign can take a breath, just relax, and trust in fate. After all, the election is in God's hands now.

Report: RNC Shells Out on Palin Family Wardrobe

UPDATE: Steve Benen (and others) have already picked up on this. He points out a few reasons why it's important, and takes a guess or two at why it's not helping the Republican brand right now. Short, sweet, and worth a read.

I have no idea what the status quo is for these types of things. For example, I don't know how much, if any, Dems have spent to doll up the Obamas during Barack's campaign. This may all be perfectly normal in the course of the most expensive campaign season ever. That said, the number $150K seems pretty . . . noteworthy. That's how much the RNC has reportedly spent to make over the Palin family for prime time.

21 October 2008

Palin in Larimer, El Paso & Mesa Counties

I met a protester yesterday who was removed from the Sarah Palin appearance in Loveland. Basically, he was invited off the road and had to watch from a little further away, probably on account of his t-shirt picturing McCain and Bush in that awkward embrace . Nothing particularly newsworthy there.

What did strike me about the tale was that Palin campaigned in Loveland. And Colorado Springs. And Grand Junction. I'm no whiz on Colorado math, but I'm betting those are counties the McCain campaign had hoped to make Obama stretch for, not the other way around. Seriously? Grand Junction? In the final two weeks of the race?

When the Denver Post headline reads "Palin visit energizes Colorado supporters," you can practically hear the groan go up from the McCain camp. They don't need to energize supporters, they need to turn new votes red. And that means reaching undecideds, if there are still any left. At the height of my optimism about this election I'm not sure I believed McCain would be defending the Western Slope in the final two weeks of the campaign.

Monday Night Football: Denver Debacle

In a bizarre and disheartening turn of events last night, I actually found myself thinking by the mid third quarter "At least I've got Detroit to root for as a backup."

20 October 2008

McCain Ceding Colorado?

No time to comment, but don't miss this CNN Ticker post.

Jeffrey Goldberg on the TSA and Security Theater

This Jeffrey Goldberg article is fascinating, which sort of means I wish I hadn't read it. But my friend Brien posted it on Facebook all the way from Krakow, and I figure that means it includes information worth knowing. Like confirmation that all the unpleasantness of TSA lines at airports really just amounts to "security theater."

19 October 2008

McCain Fiercely Defends Robocalls to Chris Wallace

Toward the end of today's installment of Meet the Press, Newsweek's Jon Meacham related a story about Walter Mondale's ill-fated bid for the presidency in 1984. When it was obvious that nothing Mondale could do would win him the election, an advisor suggested that the candidate spend the last days campaigning as he wanted his grandchildren to remember him.

John McCain, by all accounts, did not get that memo. And I'd go so far as to say it's noteworthy to see FOX's Chris Wallace, of all people, go after McCain so aggressively.

18 October 2008

Poll Watchers and Election Day Challenges

UPDATE: This post contains errors and inaccurate reporting--indicated by asterisk (*)--which have since been corrected. Clarification here.

Via TPM, this Milwaukee news clip regarding GOP efforts to recruit veterans, police officers, firefighters and security personnel as certified poll watchers in inner city precincts smacks of potential voter intimidation efforts.

Fresh off a poll worker training held yesterday by the Denver Elections Commission, I can report that I learned a couple of essential new things. First of all, at least in Denver, the bottom line should be that everybody votes. Elections officials yesterday emphasized the need to minimize conflict at voting locations and to allow people to walk away happy. This may be a stretch. The plan is to resolve any disputes, disagreements, or uncertainties by furnishing a provisional ballot to any person who for any reason may not meet eligibility standards on election day. It is not the poll worker's responsibility to determine, in cases of questionable eligibility or citizen challenge (which we'll come to in a moment), whether the voter is eligible. Instead, the provisional ballot is voted, and elections officials will make the final determination of eligibility within ten days of the election. At that time, a person's vote will either be counted toward the official election result that is submitted to the federal government 30 days after the election, or the vote will be tossed.

The other key thing I learned is that any citizen can challenge any other citizen's eligibility to vote.* This frankly scares the hell out of me. The idea is that if you see your next door neighbor at the polls and know for a fact that he or she is ineligible for any reason, you have the right to raise the issue with a poll worker on the spot. In Denver, the response should be for a poll worker to call a supervisor over, and the supervisor will evaluate the challenge. Since it will be impossible to determine on site and beyond doubt whether or not the voter in question is definitely eligible, that voter will likely end up voting a provisional ballot*, to be assessed for eligibility and, assuming the voter is in fact legit, counted in the days after the election.

This is where poll watchers, and the above news clip, come in. Poll watchers are individuals sent to ensure that election day activities are fair. In order to watch the polls, individuals must apply for and receive special accreditation, and also swear to an oath not to abuse the privilege of watching. Poll watchers are different from observers who may include city, state, or federal officials, as well as members of the media, who monitor the activities in a polling location throughout the day. Poll watchers are citizens who represent the interests of the candidates, the campaigns, special interests, or the initiatives, proposals, or amendments that pepper a ballot such as Colorado's. And this is where the soup gets pretty thick.

Poll supervisors have the ultimate say* on whether or not poll watchers are behaving appropriately or crossing any lines. If, as the media picked up on in Milwaukee, there's a concern that poll watchers may be in place to intimidate voters, then the poll supervisor will be tasked with making the final determination on election day. A poll supervisor can ask a poll watcher to leave, if need be, and I strongly suspect that the majority of poll watchers understand this and will not be so overt in their actions as to push a supervisor to that point. If, however, poll watchers are also local law enforcement or connected with local law enforcement, then that creates a unique situation for the poll supervisor, who's only recourse* to insist that a poll watcher leave an election site is to call the police. Of course, we all assume it will never come to that. And yet the last two elections cast a shadow of a doubt.

According to the City and County of Denver Poll Worker Manual, poll watchers may only interact with a supervisor at the polling place. If I understood the Milwaukee news cast correctly, poll watchers there may ask voters any of four questions to determine eligibility, and then presumably challenge that eligibility to the poll supervisor at the front of the line. There are also clear rules that no poll watcher or observer may encroach within six feet of a voter at the voting station or voting machine. Regulations about activities in the line, or immediately outside a polling place, are however not so clear to me.

I have more questions than answers right now about what actually happens between supervisors, poll workers, poll watchers, and the voting public on election day. I also have another training pending before November 4, so this whole process will be a bona fide civic education, I'm sure. I like to think that with all the federal laws involved around the voting process, that all this concern amounts to nothing, since nobody wants to risk ending up in court over election day antics. And yet I wonder how enforceable those laws are, and who will be watching for bad faith practices in lines or immediately outside polling locations.

After the last two elections, I am convinced that party officials will stop at nothing to achieve their desired results (and that cuts both ways, though Democrats appear to be on the receiving end of more of these efforts than Republicans). The single biggest problem, I worry, is the over-aggressive local party chair who organizes some monstrous guerrilla election day effort to disrupt the process and challenge specific voting blocs, say Hispanics, African-Americans, or single, working moms, in an attempt to affect the outcome in a specific precinct. I'm not sure how any poll worker with 3 hours of training will be expected to deal with a challenge like that. I am reminded of the saying we heard routinely in Oaxaca: Vamos a ver. We will see.

On a final note regarding Denver procedures, I was wildly pleased to discover yesterday that electronic voting machines will not be used except by persons who request them. All voters will be issued a paper ballot unless they specifically ask for the touch screen voting machine. Also, according to Denver Elections officials, 50% of registered voters have requested mail-in ballots. That promises to alleviate at least some of the challenges possible on election day.

*Indicates inaccurate information. See here for clarification.

17 October 2008

Final Debate in a Minute

Via HuffPost, the final debate in 1 minute. Frickin' hysterical.

Bob Schaffer: Just as Unpleasant in Real Life

TPM has footage up from Denver's Channel 7 News. The film was shot moments before U.S. Senate candidates Bob Schaffer and Mark Udall squared off Thursday for an on-air debate. Apparently, the understanding was that the format would be very off the cuff, and that neither candidate would have notes during the debate. Schaffer balked, and Udall scored his first point before the debate even started.

"I got the letter I signed. It said no notes, no props . . . . If Bob needs to have a few notes with him, fine. But I'm here with an empty pad and let's go. Let's debate."

Politicker CO has more.

Washington Post Endorses Obama

The debates are over. Let the newspaper endorsements begin. Via TPM, WaPo glowingly endorses Obama for pres. Of course, the media is "in the tank" for Obama, so who could be surprised?

CO: Top 10 Least Prepared for Election

Oh boy. Colorado ranks among the 10 least-prepared states in the nation for this year's election day vote. The Denver Post reports today on a study released by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU. The state flunked 3 out of 4 categories involving voting day contingency plans, ballot accounting, verifiable paper trails, and post-election audits. Yikes. Add to that the length of Colorado's ballot, with 14 initiatives (down from 18 in a late-breaking deal between business and labor groups) and we're bound to have some turbulence and technical difficulties.

Secretary of State Mike Coffman, however, is not worried.

"Fact is, Colorado is much better prepared than the 2006 election," said Coffman, a Republican. "These groups have an obvious agenda, and the timing of the report is definitely suspect.
Nice. I feel reassured already.

It just so happens that I'm heading off in a couple hours for poll worker training. With any luck I'll be able to comment afterward about Denver's readiness and how the city will handle the mighty flood come election day. Here's to voting early and voting by mail.

16 October 2008

Shocking: Sacramento County Republican Party Official Site

We've heard some ugly in the past week, but this takes the cake. Newser's got the screenshots.

Hockey Moms, Plumber Dads, and the Greatest Hoax Ever

Joe Wurzelbacher thinks people who earn $250,000 are middle class, and that Obama's tax policy represents a "slippery slope." Have a listen. C'mon. Even John McCain said last night "Hey, Joe, you're rich, congratulations."

What's amazing about this is the great hoax, the impression left by all of last night's pandering on this particular meme, that Joe the Plumber represents average American workers. He does not. I can appreciate that he works hard, that he supports his family and has invested time and sweat in the business he wants to buy, and that he has not always been wealthy. But by his own acknowledgment he is poised to accede into the richest echelon of Americans. Candidates' personalities and politics aside, this guy Joe the Plumber is protecting his bottom line. And you can bet we're gonna hear Sarah Palin, who's worth $1.2 million, on the stump pronto talking about America's commitment to hockey moms, plumber dads, and the American dream. The biggest myth the Republican Party ever successfully perpetrated is convincing so many of the middle class that Republicans are on the side of the American worker.

15 October 2008

The Last Gasp

I had an engagement earlier tonight, so I missed the live debate broadcast and had to settle for watching the video in installments afterward on ABC News. After all was said and done, I strongly suspect the two candidates will agree on this: thank goodness the debates are over.

Both candidates had a fairly strong debate, inasmuch as they each showed up like savvy politicians. McCain's chronic blinking belies his extreme discomfort, but the root of that discomfort is still a mystery. Is it Obama? Is it the format? Is it knowing how far he's down and how much he needs to accomplish? Is it shame?

I lean toward an amalgam of all of the above, and possibly a dose of chagrin, too. I can't help listening to McCain speak, and even on his strong points, like linking Obama to Hoover ("from a deep recession to a depression") and repeatedly pushing Ayers and ACORN (neither of which will decide the election), I thought "Now here's a man who's swallowed the bitter pill."

John McCain, to put it mildly, looks out of his element. That said, I also think tonight was his best debate, but that it doesn't matter. Nothing that came up tonight improved McCain's position among the people he most needed to impress. If he didn't outright lose the debate on the topic of Sarah Palin's qualifications, then the health care discussion did him in.

Tonight may not have been Obama's overall strongest performance. We may have seen that in the second debate. But Obama scored two important victories tonight on health care and on the people he pals around with. On the former topic, he really distanced his plan from the McCain plan in a way that voters can relate to. During the second debate I thought Obama missed several opportunities there. He explained his plan but didn't expose the incredible weakness of McCain's plan. Tonight he did both, and I felt a different tone throughout that conversation than previously. After the second debate, voters who had just tuned in may have been aware only of two different but more or less equally political plans on the table. Tonight there is a clear plan from Obama, and a clear sense that McCain's health care plan will do less to support those in need than Obama's. "Hey, Joe, you're rich, congratulations." That's McCain's rebuttal. Seriously? Did anybody understand the lateral move McCain attempted to make?

On health care, though, this takes the cake:

Now, 95 percent of the people in America will receive more money under my plan because they will receive not only their present benefits, which may be taxed, which will be taxed, but then you add $5,000 onto it, except for those people who have the gold-plated Cadillac insurance policies that have to do with cosmetic surgery and transplants and all of those kinds of things.
That's McCain making zero sense at the top of the quote, because how taxing benefits works out as "more money" for Americans under McCain's plan is a complete mystery to everyone, including I think the candidate. But John McCain also revealed a telling tendency to trivialize huge issues. People who get transplant coverage--or people who want transplant coverage--are the lucky ones, the ones who have or want more than they need. They're the ones who get gold-plated Cadillac insurance policies. For "cosmetic surgery and transplants and all those kinds of things."

It takes the breath away. I have a couple acquaintances I'd like to touch base with about the triviality of transplants and those kinds of things.

On the second point, who the candidates surround themselves with, which wasn't actually a question so McCain dodged a bullet, Obama made good on the opportunity to spin the Ayers attack into a mention of Joe Biden, Warren Buffet, Paul Volcker, Dick Lugar, and Jim Jones. This may well be lost on many voters, but these guys are heavyweights. We're not talking Phil Gramm and Rick Davis. Obama's team reflects a level of seriousness and thoughtfulness that the McCain campaign can't touch. You want to compare finance management credentials between Warren Buffet and Phil Gramm? How about international security credentials between Jim Jones and Randy Scheunemann? Oh man. That doesn't win the debate for Obama, but it further emphasizes the distance between the two candidates and how they will govern.

The Obama campaign no doubt wishes they could hold the election tonight, right now, immediately. Three weeks is an eternity, and a lot can happen. But I wonder if the McCain folks, and perhaps John McCain himself, aren't also ready to finally get out the vote, if only to put an end to what has become a palpably unpleasant experience for the candidate and for those of us fortunate enough to watch this chapter of history unfold. I'm not saying it's over, but except for the ads and a few highly orchestrated "news breaks," tonight may have been John McCain's last gasp to prove that he's the man for the job. He needed to stage a brilliant coup to topple Obama, and he fell short of that mark.

14 October 2008

Obama on X-Box: Candidate Campaigns in Video Game

UPDATE: "If it's in the game, it's in the game." That's the EA Sports slogan (or at least it was when I was still playing Sega hockey), and it seems pretty apt right about now. (H/T Ben Smith.)
Via Facebook friend Luke, Obama campaign debuts product-placement strategy in video game. Pretty cool.

Udall Carrying Colorado

More good news for U.S. Senate candidate Mark Udall today. FiveThirtyEight.com likes Udall's chances in Colorado so much that they're forecasting a 91% chance of a Udall win on November 4.

FiveThirtyEight cites new Public Policy Polling (Colorado Poll October 11, .pdf page 10) and Quinnipiac numbers that give Udall 10-14 points on his opponent Bob Schaffer, which means watch for this race to get even uglier.

Voter Registration Questions in Colorado

To follow up on yesterday's post about CO Secretary of State Mike Coffman, I've been informed by a Larimer County source (aka my mother-in-law) that voters who did not check the "I-don't-have-a-CO-driver's-license" box will be advised of the incomplete status of their paperwork and provided an opportunity to fix this or cast a provisional ballot.

Here's a link to the Secretary of State website where Colorado voters can check their registration status.

If you think you may be ineligible to vote as a result of Secretary of State Coffman's interpretation of the form, call (303) 894-2200 to learn about your options. Revising your paperwork now greatly increases the likelihood that your ballot will be counted. Provisional ballots should be considered a last resort.

13 October 2008

Drum on Troopergate Report

Kevin Drum reads the Troopergate report so you don't have to.

State of CO

The Denver Post endorsed Mark Udall for Senate over the weekend, which comes as good news for the embattled but leading Udall campaign. I must admit that after I read the Musgrave endorsement last week I was not certain how the Post would break. I'm glad to see reason and responsibility trump whatever blind insanity prompted them to herald Musgrave along on her quest for a fourth congressional term.

In other news from CO, Secretary of State Mike Coffman has thrown out over 6,000 new voter registration applications, citing them as incomplete because registrants who provided social security numbers did not also check the box indicating that they have no driver's license or state ID. This on the heels of Colorado's citation last week in the New York Times for illegally removing registered voters from voter lists within 90 days of the election. Reading Coffman's account of how he came to design the current registration form pretty well reveals the planned sabotage inherent in the process. As if back in 2006 state GOP leaders got together to figure out how to make certain that forms would be invalidated.

I have to say, unfortunately, that from my view as a canvasser this almost certainly nullifies a majority of the new registrations I helped eligible voters complete, since the last four of a social security number was much more popular than the registrant's license number. Much to GOP glee, I'm sure, no voter registration drive organizer ever pointed the box out to me in advance of a registration effort. I was not aware that a check mark in the box was mandatory, and never passed that info along to a single registrant. It seems logical to me that if the options are a CO driver's license OR a CO state ID OR a social security number, then there's no problem simply choosing the one the applicant wants to use. Logic, however, as we said down in Mexico, can get you killed. Alas, I fell into the trap.

My question, since Coffman is also running for Congress in Colorado's 6th district, is how the hell is all this not a huge conflict of interest? He's also the guy, by the by, who resolved the investigation into CO voting machines by authorizing their use for 2008 without any changes to the machines themselves, after himself acknowledging that problems with the machines plagued the 2006 elections and cost Coloradans votes. Arggggh. It's garbage politics like this that prompted me to muse, two weeks ago, on the need for a landslide victory for Obama just to keep the results close.

On a separate note, blogging is likely to be quite light in coming weeks as I work under a looming deadline. Thanks for reading, and please do check back as I'm sure I'll become so enraged by what I read at some point that I'll have to mash some words online just to figure out how I feel about a thing.

10 October 2008

Updating Troopergate

The report is out. Trouble is, it's not out, out. Special investigator Steven Branchflower released abridged copies to 14 Alaska legislators, and they've yet to vote on whether to share the findings of that report with the public. It has been well documented that the legislative council, comprised of 4 Democrats and 10 Republicans, voted unanimously back in August to hold this inquiry into Palin's actions. What is not clear is whether or not those 10 Republicans are still as committed to rooting out the truth as they were before the embattled governor became nominee to the second-highest post in the land. Stay tuned.

Can bin Laden Win the Election for McCain?

You wouldn't immediately think that a baseball geek would have such a keen read on American politics unless you'd checked into Nate Silver's bio. That said, I shouldn't be surprised when Silver digs up another gifted writer from the baseball world to make some predictions about the late stages of the election cycle. Right?

I turn to FiveThirtyEight.com almost daily for a dose of the numbers and a good bit of accessible analysis. I've come to expect a level of insight as sharp as any on the Internet (or anywhere else, for that matter). I'm consistently impressed by Silver's summaries, and also by the road musings of cowriter Sean Quinn, who's currently on a wide-ranging, cross-country tour to take the pulse of the candidates' respective ground games. If we judge the blogger by the company he keeps (and please do--my wife is so much smarter, nicer, and prettier than I am!), then Silver is doing pretty well.

So I should not be surprised when Silver gives guest space to another quality blogger. Nevertheless, this piece from Silver cohort (and fellow baseball geek) Rany Jazayerli stuns me. If he runs a little alarmist, Jazayerli also supports his assertions with cogent historical details at every turn. In a nutshell, Jazayerli, a Muslim American, explains why Osama bin Laden has a vested interest in the outcome of this election, and how that could play as the clock ticks down. October surprise? Let's hope not. But should it come to pass, you can no longer claim to be surprised after reading Jazayerli's post.

Palin (Preemptive) Ethics Report

Steve Benen comments on an AP headline:

In all sincerity, I saw this headline this morning, "Palin pre-empts state report, clears self in probe," and assumed it was satire. Those under investigation don't get to clear themselves. I have this image in my mind of Nixon, in July 1974, issuing a statement: "I've looked into this whole Watergate thing, and I've decided I've done nothing wrong. Time to move on."
Turns out it's not satire. The McCain-Palin campaign has seriously issued a Troopergate report that relies on evidence from a blog post in Alaska to exonerate Sarah Palin from any wrongdoing.

You cannot make this stuff up. The party that decries the "liberal blogosphere" anytime a writer strikes a nerve has found a connection between Palin's former brother-in-law, Mike Wooten, and Andrew Halcro, a former opponent of the Palin campaign. This is thin, folks. Thinner even than Palin's resume.
"It is tragic that a false story hatched by a blogger after drinks with Trooper Wooten led the legislature to allocate over $100,000 of public money to be spent in what has become a politically driven investigation," the 21-page report concludes.
The goal, I suppose, is to preempt today's release of the report of the independent investigator in Alaska. Special investigator Stephen Branchflower's role in all this remains murky, as it is tough to tell whether or not he'll issue a decisive comment on the abuse of power investigation since he never actually subpoenaed Sarah Palin to testify.

That said, the campaign must be pretty damn nervous about the pending news cycle to draw more attention to the thing by releasing its own report on Thursday. Conventional wisdom has it that bad news is best delivered on Friday afternoon when no one's watching, to be hashed out on Saturday when no one commutes or reads the paper. The preemptive move on the part of the campaign suggests that the campaign hopes to blur the reporting on the report, so that Thursday's listeners and Friday morning's readers will head into the weekend with one idea about what happened, and that by Monday there will be a new campaign narrative launched to eclipse the lingering effects of any real bad news released Friday afternoon. Bristol Palin wedding announcement, anyone?

Interestingly enough, I didn't catch the AP story until I hopped over to Steve's site, which makes me wonder if it's getting the exposure the campaign hoped for. So far I've found FOX News carrying the story on their homepage, but no one else, not even CNN. Makes me think that the media doesn't even care to play into the transparent ploy.

Strong Words

Via TPM, former McCainiac Frank Schaeffer unleashes his strongest words directly to the candidate in a letter today in the Baltimore Sun.

John McCain: In 2000, as a lifelong Republican, I worked to get you elected instead of George W. Bush. In return, you wrote an endorsement of one of my books about military service. You seemed to be a man who put principle ahead of mere political gain.

You have changed. You have a choice: Go down in history as a decent senator and an honorable military man with many successes, or go down in history as the latest abettor of right-wing extremist hate.

. . . Stop! Think! Your rallies are beginning to look, sound, feel and smell like lynch mobs.

John McCain, you're walking a perilous line. If you do not stand up for all that is good in America and declare that Senator Obama is a patriot, fit for office, and denounce your hate-filled supporters when they scream out "Terrorist" or "Kill him," history will hold you responsible for all that follows.
Take a moment to read this one straight from the source. It's a doozy.

Tim Dickinson on John McCain: A Blistering Biography

It's fun to say "My mother-in-law reads Rolling Stone." Especially since she passed along this incredible link. The nickel version, if I may be presumptuous enough to reduce some 10,000 words, is that the real John McCain biography dramatically undermines the generally accepted mythology of John McCain.

The thesis rests on two key points. A) The pampered flyboy never grew up, never actually underwent that pivotal coming to Jesus that the campaign touts as McCain's revelatory moment, from which point he knew that his life everafter was dedicated to his country first; and B) the Keating-croney politician never truly adopted the philosophies he has espoused since his near political ruin over the savings and loan debacle in 1989. John McCain found a political lifeline in running hard for campaign finance reform and denouncing a system that allowed so much soft money to determine political discourse and policy making in our country; simultaneously, however, the foundation he built to sustain his presidential candidacies was fueled--illegally, since he applied for and got 501(c)3 status as a nonprofit--by those same soft monies and political cronies he so artfully decried.

In telling the back story of the John McCain we see today, Tim Dickinson appears to have done his research. He cites former classmates and POWs, and McCain's colleagues from the Navy, the Arizona Republican Party, and the U.S. Senate. Taken individually, the accounts amount to slightly-more-critical-than-average beefs against a career politician. Put together, however, the criticisms advance an increasingly consistent biography of a John McCain that the campaign wants voters to be desperately ignorant about.

As Dickinson points out, the candidate himself likes to point to his own past weaknesses and mistakes as evidence of his personal and professional growth. Dickinson takes it a step further, though. McCain seems to be aware of the power of the story of his youth to affect political gain. Beyond that, however, the candidate on whom Dickinson reports has little to no use for the lessons that the self-proclaimed maverick claims to have learned the hard way. He is not cool and calm in the face of direct fire; he is not a hero who selflessly puts his own well-being on the line to protect or save others; he does not value the role of coalition building to achieve political goals; he is not the candidate who puts integrity of character and loyalty to truth above personal ambition.

Dickinson backs these statements and many more with disheartening amounts of personal testimonies from the people who know McCain and have worked with McCain since his earliest career in the Navy. More of these statements are made on the record than provided as background, and more are adjoined to a name than delivered anonymously. In an age when sources-who-cannot-be-named-because-they-have-not-been-cleared-to-speak-with-the-media appear to be those most often turned to, Dickinson's determination to rely on named sources to support the bulk of his article is noteworthy.

From crashing three Navy planes to commandeering aircraft to carry out his adulterous affair with now-wife Cindy; from chasing tail across three continents (while married to his first wife) to pulling strings to keep his career afloat; from distorting the actual events surrounding his captivity and torture to distorting the actual events around his second coming as the maverick leader of the Straight Talk Express; from being maliciously smeared and run out of the 2000 presidential race to hiring those very same tacticians to run his 2008 bid, Tim Dickinson devotes every single word to debunking the great McCain mythology that Americans have been asked to swallow whole this election year.

Bookmark the page or buy the issue, and settle in to read a blistering account of the John McCain that only McCain's lifelong familiars could tell.

09 October 2008

Palin's Mug on Newsweek Leaves FOX Asking Questions

If a picture is worth a thousand words, FOX News has 999 of them. This hilarious point/counterpoint is so worth checking out, if only to take the temperature on election season news coverage.

Troopergate Report Due Tomorrow

Lest anybody forget, the independent counsel's report on Sarah Palin's possible ethics violations in an abuse of power investigation and ensuing cover up will hit the streets tomorrow. Granted, it will be a much diluted document, since the once cooperative governor grew noticeably less enthusiastic about participating in the affair since becoming VP nominee. Thankfully for our reading edification, we've got the First Dude's written testimony as fodder for speculation. Despite GOP efforts, though, Alaska's Supreme Court decided today that the investigation will continue.

The courtroom today sounded like an Olympic ping pong match between judges and lawyers. From the ADN:

Clarkson, who was up first, didn't speak long before the justices began firing questions at him.

Justice Daniel Winfree asked how Clarkson figured his clients had any standing to sue based on the notion an unconstitutional investigation violates the individual rights of others, chiefly Palin's.

Because this is a case of "public significance," Clarkson replied.

"Is this one of public significance or just one of public interest?" Winfree shot back.

"It's both," Clarkson said.

Later, Justice Robert Eastaugh asked, "What are we to make of the fact" that a bipartisan panel voted unanimously to conduct the investigation?

. . . As with Clarkson, justices soon were questioning Maassen.

"Who's doing this investigation?" Winfree asked. Is it the Legislative Council, which ordered the probe, the Senate Judiciary Committee that issued subpoenas to the governor's husband and aides, or who exactly?

The legislative branch, Maassen replied.

Maassen argued that if the governor's rights or those of other people were somehow violated, it's up to them to go to court for protection, not the Republican legislators acting as citizen taxpayers.

. . . Clarkson acknowledged he's also working with, though not receiving payment from, the McCain-Palin campaign.

"Have I talked to them? Sure. Do they tell me what to do? No," he said, adding: "Sometimes they don't know what they're talking about."
Ah, to have been a fly on the wall. Stay tuned.

McCain Condescends, Debate Participant Responds

Via Benen, anybody remember the McCain line "You probably never heard of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac before this"? McCain used that line while fielding questions on stage Tuesday night. The question asker was not amused.

What's more, NBC's Michael Levine posted a number of questions to the debate participant, Oliver Clark, and Clark was not afraid to answer candidly. Most striking was that Clark was not really an uncommitted voter, and had been forthcoming with that information.

Sunday before last, I received a call from the Gallop Poll [sic]. They asked a few questions regarding my choice in the Presidential election. They asked who I would vote for. I said most likely I would be voting for Barack Obama. They followed with, “is there any chance that you would change your mind“? I said “Of course anything is possible.” They then asked me as an uncommitted voter would I like to participate in the Town hall debate. I said “Of course!”
Very. Interesting. Makes me wonder how much integrity there is to any of the "undecided" polls. Also puts me in mind of this article from the LAT six weeks ago. How many truly undecided voters are there, really?

Great Pumpkin? This Ain't Your Usual October Special

My first thought was "Holy sh*t, that must cost a fortune." And my second thought was "That's pretty friggin' smart." Can McCain afford to buy 30 minutes of primetime air?

Obama scores points for reaching out to the electorate and forcing his opponent to either concede ground or expend dear resources just to keep up. While McCain looks more desperate by the day, Obama continues to steadily increase pressure. Anymore I just look for the pulsing vein in McCain's forehead. (Just kidding. We all know he clenches his teeth when he's really miffed.)

¡Viva Obama!

Now I'm not even waiting for readers to send links to me. My friend Susy posted this to her Facebook page, and I just had to grab it for plavwriter.

Take me back, Dorados del Norte, and sing it like we're politicking banda style.

Politicians as Trains

While we're picking up quick hits off assorted links, I got a version of this in an email from my father in law and laughed out loud.

RFK Jr. Points up Palin's Very Current Secessionist Ties

Here's another good one from Uncle Mark, though as a general rule I can't promise to be so prompt with the links.

While I think RFK Jr. definitely makes a clear, defining argument, he's gonna have to bring the reading level down a couple notches if this is ever going to run in the major media outlets. Huff Post? Seriously? The guy is preaching to the choir.

Let's get the reading level down to something we can put in USA Today. Just so happens I can help with that sort of thing, since my day job involves writing and editing content for sixth graders. Lexile score of 1620? Graduate work. Hey, Jr: Let me bring that down to a nice, even 1000 for you. Whaddya say?

Rednecks for Obama

Here's the link. Requires no analysis.

Keillor: Where's the Outrage?

From Uncle Mark. Garrison Keillor on the nature of crisis.

Got a good link? Want to share what you're reading? Feel free to pass the good words along and. If they seem about right, I'll be happy to post links here for others to enjoy.

McCain Renegs on Mortgage Plan

Via TPM, this is probably old news already. McCain has already rewritten the mortgage buy-up plan he introduced Tuesday night. And the quick gloss doesn't look good for taxpayers, but banks are probably happier.

Whistleblowers on Surveillance: "Hey, check this out . . . good phone sex"

ABC News has an article up on NSA whistleblower accounts into surveillance of Americans in the Middle East. An Army Reservist listened to calls from 2001-2003 and reported what she heard.

Kinne described the contents of the calls as "personal, private things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything to do with terrorism."

. . . US military officers, American journalists and American aid workers were routinely intercepted and "collected on" as they called their offices or homes in the United States.
In a separate and uncoordinated release of material from a Navy Arab linguist, the account cuts a little closer to tawdry.
Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of "cuts" that were available on each operator's computer.

"Hey, check this out," Faulk says he would be told, "there's good phone sex or there's some pillow talk, pull up this call, it's really funny, go check it out. It would be some colonel making pillow talk and we would say, 'Wow, this was crazy'," Faulk told ABC News.
Read the whole thing.

Denver Graffiti Artists Inspire, Violate Zoning, and Spark Controversy

If Denver and Oaxaca have one thing in common aside from the paleta man and tacos al pastor on city street corners, it's the spray painting. In Oaxaca the tags, almost always political in nature, would go up over night and in some cases be painted over the very next day. In Denver the tagging is almost always gang related, and a call to 311 routes the caller to a special city department specifically for paint complaints.

I'm not naive enough to be surprised by the city response to this mural. You'd think, however, that with Denver's ongoing struggle to contain the graffiti here, city officials would seize on the power of a positive message as a community outreach tool to get kids involved in healthy activity wherever possible.

From the Post: "The mural violates the city's laws governing political signs,
said Assistant City Attorney Kerry Buckey. Those laws restrict political signs on private property to no more than 8 square feet."

Does anybody have any idea whether there's a free speech violation there? And does this mean that large-scale art in public view must be apolitical? Because I can see an argument where this is not a "political sign" but an artwork on private property. One of the comments on the Post article suggest that if the kids get rid of the word "Vote," then they'll be alright. But would that in fact be enough?

More here from the LAT.

Cook County Evictions Denounced

Lending scams and illegal evictions spell trouble in Cook County, IL. Sounds like the worst may be over, but I wonder in how many other places around the country renters are being evicted for the sins of their landlords.

08 October 2008

The Debate that Wasn't

I was pretty pleased to see McCain keep it civil last night, and equally pleased that Obama didn't try to bait him or go in for any over-the-top political jujitsu. At the same time, I was disappointed in both candidates at the inability to answer simple questions. I'd hoped direct questions from real people on the stage would keep the candidates on point. It didn't. Also, Brokaw was annoying.

On the whole I'd say of last night night that the country wins big for not being subjected to 90 minutes of absolute filth. A lot of what I heard was rhetorical garbage, from both sides (and this is part of my chagrin that nobody would answer questions; dammit, Obama, the correct answer to "Should health care be a commodity?" is unequivocally "NO"). But last night did not hark back to McCain's frozen countenance nor Obama's overweening caution of the first debate.

McCain was genteel and made inroads on his mortgage buy-up plan and maybe also on taxes and spending cuts. I'm pretty sure though that the senior Republican errs when he suggests not raising taxes on anybody (because the voters he's courting are probably ready to see the richest 1% pay more) and in suggesting a spending freeze. I don't know how it plays in homes nationwide, but when McCain singles out defense budgets and some vague "other" programs to continue to get funds, he leaves out schools and infrastructure, which to me signals bad times coming. Obama was expressive, articulate, and engaged, though he missed an opportunity to explain exactly what it means to tax health benefits as income (McCain's plan). And I don't believe Obama will fine parents who don't insure their kids; I think those parents will simply not be eligible for a tax credit come April 15. Not sure why Obama didn't clarify when McCain pushed. Perhaps I've got it wrong. Is there a plan to actually impose fines?

What we definitely didn't see was the grudge match largely predicted by midafternoon yesterday. Don't know whether to chalk that up to McCain actually listening to his old pal Mike Murphy, who pointed out on tv Monday morning that McCain would be better served by connecting with voters on the issues, his former strength, than by attacking the guy who largely seems the more steady and focused of the two. Alternately, McCain may have decided that it was too risky to invite Obama to play the Keating card on national TV. If a few papers mention it, big deal. But upwards of 40 million viewers and you've got a whole different ball of wax.

It seems pretty definitive that if there was a gaffe it was when McCain referred to Obama as "that one." Not sure what to think, though it felt pejorative, whether McCain meant anything by it or not. I don't assume there's anything racial about it, which is what it felt like Jeff Greenfield went out of his way to avoid saying to Katie Couric after the show. Mostly it seemed the impatient elder, jerking his head in the direction of a mischief-making child. That's just no way to regard an opponent on a national stage, no matter what you may think of him.

I'd like to take a minute to thank John McCain for showing up as a decent guy last night, even if he is still a conniving scumbag politician. I think by being boring he maybe saved a little face. To be sure, he showed off his mortgage buy-up scheme to good effect, though I wonder if conservatives freaked out a little bit when they heard it. As far as undecideds go, I'm not sure he made enough mention of the plan, a result of not wanting to piss off traditional, small government Republicans. After the first mention of it, I turned to Jenna and said "If he's smart, he'll come back to that all night." He didn't, and I'm left to think it was just too calculated a move to resonate with enough voters to move the election in McCain's direction.

I've mostly been trying to figure McCain out last night. Steve Benen pointed up an article yesterday on McCain's sabotage of his own brand, and the candidate may have decided it's not worth destroying what credibility he may have left. Or he may be maneuvering for a graceful endgame to preserve the relationships he'll return to when this is all over. Or he's playing the national message on the high road while still sending out surrogates and buying air time to do the dirty work in less visible markets on the ground. The interesting thing is, the McCain camp is probably right that unless they can destroy Obama's character in the public eye, they aren't likely to catch up. Which is why the attitude on display last night was so . . . surprising. McCain can make a point or two in the polls this week on his debate performance alone, but that's not enough. So what motivates the sudden, issues oriented approach?

I'll wait to see how the week plays out to try and answer that question, to see if the debate falls into a greater, McCain campaign context. It really seems like if McCain still wanted to go nuclear, last night was the night to do it for two reasons. The first is that he simply has to check Obama's momentum. The second is that if the attack strategy backfired, McCain would have one more debate before election day to show up as the kindly and engaged persona we saw last night. Not enough, to be sure, to win an election, but saved for the third debate that kind of performance would soften the rancor surrounding McCain's campaign going into November 4. If he's still thinking about playing to the savage negatives, but saving it for the last debate, I think it would be a terrific mistake. He'd only leave undecided voters with a sour taste in their mouths three weeks before the election.

Obama's performance meanwhile reinforced his presidential appeal. He appeared completely at ease in "McCain's format," and never lost the presence that has attracted so many supporters. I complained after the first debate that Obama came off as just a politician. Last night he fared slightly better. And he expressed his world view quite well--that we should sit down not just with our friends but with our enemies, and not be afraid to tell them where we stand--which spells bad news for the McCain campaign. Foreign policy is supposed to be McCain's strong suit, but he just can't connect on promises that he knows how to get Bin Laden.

As a viewer last night, I have to say that I came away refreshingly bored. And that, in an increasingly unpredictable and distasteful campaign cycle, strikes me as a blessing.

07 October 2008

WaPo: 20% Decline in Retirement Savings

More bad news on the economic front. The Washington Post reports a 20% decline in value to Americans' overall retirement savings over the past 15 months. When Brokaw asked the candidates tonight whether the economy would still get worse before it got better, neither said "Yes." I wonder whether Americans bought it?

Judge Orders Release of 17 Guantanamo Prisoners

Forget tonight's presidential debate. The big news has to be the federal court ruling to release 17 Guantanamo detainees by the end of the week.

The Bush administration has, predictably, expressed disappointment and concern over the ruling, despite the fact that, according to the NYT article, the government was no longer attempting to prosecute a case against the men in questions as enemy combatants. It remains to be seen whether the government will seek to delay or interfere with Judge Ricardo Urbina's ruling.

Says lawyer P. Sabin Willet, for the detainees: “We’ve had so many hearings where we didn’t even get half a loaf, we got a little crumb . . . I’m emotionally unprepared for this.”

Obama Releases New Ad Today

Great ad. Doesn't even have to call names to be wildly effective. This pretty much nullifies any sane argument for McCain. If the guy had a platform to run on, he would. He doesn't, so he's got insults, accusations, and lies.

If Obama can channel this tone tonight, then I think he'll still look pretty good after the slimefest draws to a close. To take it a step further, if the Democrat can manage to hit back from a position of strength, consistently tying McCain's negatives to the issues McCain is desperately trying to avoid, then I think Obama will come off as the stronger, more serious, more presidential looking candidate.

Denver Post Endorses Musgrave

I try to keep it professional around here, but are you fucking kidding me? "Marilyn Version 2.1"? That's weak sauce. In referencing Musgrave's supposed, newfound commitment to the day-to-day concerns of Yuma County and other "local issues," the Post seems to have willfully forgotten Musgrave's 6 year history of ignoring local needs to wage a one woman culture war from the comfy environs of her congressional office.

A chief example the Post cites to indicate Musgrave's redoubled efforts to help Coloradans is her 2005 vote to support expanded US exports under CAFTA. I find the Post's tune here highly bizarre, since that 2005 vote was not enough to soften the Post's scathing critique of Musgrave's tenure in time for the last congressional election.

Here's what the Post said about Musgrave in 2006, when the paper endorsed Angie Paccione:

In Congress, Musgrave has pursued an extreme agenda and has offered all-too-predictable support for the president on issues ranging from restrictions on embryonic stem cell research to tax and war policy. Her largest burden, though, is that she simply hasn't much to show for her four years in Congress.
The Post can now cite an outdated vote and two politically expedient achievements, and that's enough to woo the paper? Well I got a bottle of Boone's and a coupon for free custard at Good Times if the Post is gonna be such a cheap date.

McCain-Palin Stoking Hatred

Just a few minutes ago, Steve Benen posted links to reports of separate rallies held yesterday by McCain and Palin. The only reasonable conclusion? McCain/Palin appear perfectly comfortable stoking hatred as a campaign tactic.

Straight Smear

I just need to say that, after a quick trip to the slower side of Colorado, I return to my desk, the headlines, and the political blogosphere with a certain sense of distaste already for tonight's town hall style debate, given the newly festering tone of the Straight Talk Express, also known as the Have No Shame campaign.

04 October 2008

FiveThirtyEight Denied Access to McCain Field Offices

Sean Quinn went down to St. Louis County to investigate the candidates' Missouri ground games. Mostly he got the McCain camp's big, cold shoulder. Seeing as his article about the experience has the potential to reach 2.5 million people this week, I'm guessing the McCain campaign would like a do-over.

03 October 2008

Steve Benen Checks Rich Lowry

Lowry: "Hey, I think she just winked at me."
Benen: "Good God, man, show some pride."

Sarah & Todd Palin "Can Relate" to MI Workers

Sarah Palin is so painfully underbriefed that she didn't know her campaign had pulled out of Michigan until she read about it this morning.

More interestingly, though, she hopes she and Todd can go to MI to walk through the plants and visit with the workers, "as we can relate to them and connect with them" on the down economy.

Sarah Palin does know, right, that her million-dollar worth was reported in the papers yesterday? Right?

Ramesh Ponnuru on Palin's "Command of the Facts"

Over at Right Matters, a Washington Post discussion site, moderator and conservative talking head Ramesh Ponnuru writes that Palin last night "showed at least as strong a command of the facts as Senator Biden."

My question for Ponnuru: On what single issue did Sarah Palin even represent that she has more than a surface grasp of the facts? Come on. On point after point, Sarah Palin demonstrated--effectively--that she can work from the script. Nothing more. To Ponnuru I say show me one aspect of the discussion last night where Sarah Palin clearly knew exactly what she was talking about. To have shown "as strong a command of the facts" as Biden did would demand that Palin step off script for a moment and really articulate something that demonstrated her complete understanding of an issue. Economy? Bailout? Iraq? Afghanistan? Israel? Pakistan? The Constitution? Office of the VP?

Nada. Palin dug in and effectively stoked the McCain fires and her own populist appeal, worked the camera and lobbed assaults at the Obama platform, but she never once demonstrated a handle on anything but the most basic talking points. Given 20 minutes prep on McCain's website, I could have demonstrated as much "command of the facts" as Sarah Palin did last night.

Come to think of it, I believe I'll join the discussion and share exactly that with Ponnuru and the rest of Palin's cheerleaders.

Peggy Noonan Channels Sarah Palin

In a spiraling column in today's Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan heaps praise on Sarah Palin's populist win in last night's debate. "She killed. She had him at 'Nice to meet you. Hey, can I call you Joe?' She was the star. He was the second male lead, the good-natured best friend of the leading man."

In fairness to Noonan, I thought that was a pretty great move as well. And for the first twenty minutes of the debate, I really thought Palin sizzled. She managed to duck and weave fairly well, bring her attacks without coming off as overtly negative, style responses carefully enough to acknowledge that she wasn't going to answer the question without sounding like she didn't know how to answer the question.

On detail after detail, however, and on point after point, Biden cut through the gauze of smoke and mirrors and artfully pointed out that he didn't hear an answer, or that the political rhetoric is fine and good, but the "details matter." Certainly, Palin brought style to the stage last night. But Joe Biden brought the substance, and he brought it all night long. Noonan calls it "forbearance. Too much forbearance." And right about there, in the fourth paragraph of her column, Noonan loses me.

She doesn't lose me because I don't understand the word forbearance, and not even because I disagree strongly, but because, from that point on, it is clear that the best of her prose has already been spent lavishing Sarah Palin's "Joe Sixpack" performance.

When Biden spoke articulately and specifically about Iraq, Sarah Palin needed a moment before she could rebutt. It was the first time I thought I saw her blink all night, and in the pause before the words came she blanched and then stammered "Your plan is a white flag of surrender!" Noonan clearly watched this moment from a different vantage point, because she credits Palin with scorching the Obama-Biden ticket on that single line and saving John McCain's bacon. Frankly, I thought that line signaled Palin's chief weakness: she doesn't know what's going on, doesn't understand what she's heard, can't name the players, and can't stand toe-to-toe on the issues.

Indeed, Noonan is aware that "the heart of [Palin's] message was a populist pitch." My question is "So what?" Noonan believes the second coming of Sarah has commenced, and that adoring fans will be so excited by the latest Sarah Palin activity that the "jumping" will begin; fans will bounce and jump as they wait the rope lines and catch their first glimpses of Sarah at any campaign event. "She will re-electrify the base."

And that, I argue, is immaterial. John McCain doesn't need the base to win the election, he needs the undecideds. Sarah Palin showed heart and style last night, but she avoided substance at every turn. She manipulated the stage to great advantage, to be sure, speaking clearly and directly to the cameras and therefore to the people, and she did her best to neutralize the experience gap between herself and her opponent. "I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I'm going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also." "Oh, yeah, it's so obvious I'm a Washington outsider." "And how long have I been at this, like five weeks?" "I like being able to answer these tough questions without the filter, even, of the mainstream media kind of telling viewers what they've just heard."

All that, however, is part of the problem. Generalizations about Joe Sixpacks and hockey moms aside, the American people really do want their public servants, especially at the highest level in the land, to be informed and educated about the issues. Sarah Palin's five weeks of VP-level politics don't cut it, not even close. Noonan misses this point entirely in her babbling praise of Palin, and then babbles right off topic and nearly off the page. Only half the post, if that much, is actually about Palin. The rest, and this is where Noonan channels Palin, becomes a lost musing on the state of the economic crisis, the clamor of telephones ringing all over Capitol Hill, this singular moment-in-the-making in American history, the current status of the "presidential meltdown," what it means for America, why the House bailout bill failed Monday, how that failure represents the distrust of the American people for government to find solutions, how all this reflects poorly on Joe Biden, how young Reagan aides used to complain that the president was not bold enough, why it's more important than ever to elect a VP who doesn't understand the problems to reassure the public that Washington is truly an ally, and how Tina Fey's parodies can bring us real happiness.


As I read, I thought I was listening to another Palin/Couric interview. The whole final half of the column devolves into a bizarre and disconnected-from-reality assessment of politics and pop culture, I suppose. I genuinely do not understand Noonan's bottom line. I don't even know if there was one. I keep rereading, searching for the pivot and not finding it. What the hell is Nooonan on about? Finally, a guy has to just scratch his head and move on.

Who Won?

CBS News Poll: Biden 46%, Palin 21%


CNN Poll: 87% believe Biden qualified to be VP, Palin 42%.
(And I've never understood how 129% of respondents could have an opinion.)

02 October 2008

VP Debate Winner?

UPDATE: Uh oh. I fell into the trap. Turns out Biden didn't misspeak when he said "Bosniaks." (And not only am I ignorant on the correct classifications of the peoples of the earth, but I misspelled it below, too.)

Forget everything you've read. Forget the spin. The debate didn't go to Joe Biden, despite his political acumen, his ability to connect, and his gravitas. And the debate certainly did not go to Sarah Palin, who exceeded expectations by showing not only her fire but her ability to compete, make compelling points, and connect with the American voter.

The big winner of tonight's debate is Barack Obama. I expect, barring any shocks, that we'll see another point or two--if not more--reflected in the polls by mid next week. On every point, on almost every question, Joe Biden brought it home for Barack Obama. He didn't attack Palin, and he didn't even egregiously attack McCain. Joe Biden brought the positive arguments for Barack Obama to the table. Those arguments resonated so clearly because of Biden's inside-out knowledge of all things Washington. Certainly, Biden spoke to his running mate's record effectively. But he did Obama the most good when he simply spoke about the issues of the day.

Where Sarah Palin spoke in eloquent generalities, Joe Biden offered specifics. Iraq? Barack Obama has a plan to end this war in 16 months. Health care? John McCain will give you $5,000 to go replace a $12,000 coverage plan. The Constitution? The Constitution clearly makes no exception to deny status to same-sex couples; furthermore, Article 1 of the Constitution clearly--clearly--puts the office of the Vice President under the auspices of the Executive Branch. Though so much more goes into the final tally, Barack Obama may have won the VP debate on that last point alone.

If Sarah Palin made an extraordinary gaffe tonight, it wasn't the one viewers expected. Anyone who saw the Couric interviews hoped like witnesses passing a car wreck to see something gory tonight. Alas, the Governor held her own. But she made the mistake of validating the deceptive and covert actions of the most unpopular and widely mistrusted Vice President in American history, and Joe Biden seized the moment to shed equivocation (not that he's much one for that) and state in no uncertain terms that the Constitution of the United States clearly sets the office of the Vice President under the jurisprudence of the Executive Branch. After nearly eight years of deceit, dishonor, and secrecy, this is something the American people very much needed to hear.

Excepting that, for a moment, Palin came off decently. The top of the debate began with two personalities very much in their element. While the stakes were extraordinarily high for both, neither of them wore the stress. Since the announcement of her status as running mate, Sarah Palin has been tasked, fairly or no, with winning this campaign for John McCain. Joe Biden meanwhile, with his history of running at the mouth, could have threatened Obama's current status as leader in the race. Neither VP candidate blew it. Palin was good, though a couple times she looked starkly lost. Biden, however, was great, though I'm pretty sure he said at one point "the central war in the front on terror." Not a major goof, but an indicator all the same that he was not perfect. (I also thought I heard Biden call the Bosnian people "Bosniacs," but there's no telling.)

The result is that McCain doesn't lose ground tonight, but Obama fortifies his position and really begins to open his lead. The deciding factor? Sarah Palin spoke to the people who already agreed with her. Joe Biden, I strongly believe, spoke to those who have not yet connected. And he landed it.

On the economy:

[I]t was two Mondays ago John McCain said at 9 o'clock in the morning that the fundamentals of the economy were strong. Two weeks before that, he said George -- we've made great economic progress under George Bush's policies.

Nine o'clock, the economy was strong. Eleven o'clock that same day, two Mondays ago, John McCain said that we have an economic crisis.

That doesn't make John McCain a bad guy, but it does point out he's out of touch. Those folks on the sidelines knew that two months ago.
On Iraq:
[W]ith all due respect, I didn't hear a plan. Barack Obama offered a clear plan. Shift responsibility to Iraqis over the next 16 months. Draw down our combat troops. Ironically the same plan that Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq and George Bush are now negotiating. The only odd man out here, only one left out is John McCain, number one. Number two, with regard to Barack Obama not quote funding the troops, John McCain voted the exact same way. John McCain voted against funding the troops because of an amendment he voted against had a timeline in it to draw down American troops. And John said I'm not going to fund the troops if in fact there's a time line. Barack Obama and I agree fully and completely on one thing. You've got to have a time line to draw down the troops and shift responsibility to the Iraqis.

. . . John McCain voted to cut off funding for the troops. Let me say that again. John McCain voted against an amendment containing $1 billion, $600 million that I had gotten to get MRAPS, those things that are protecting the governor's son and pray god my son and a lot of other sons and daughters.

He voted against it. He voted against funding because he said the amendment had a time line in it to end this war. He didn't like that.
On Iran:
The fact of the matter is, it surprises me that Senator McCain doesn't realize that Ahmadinejad does not control the security apparatus in Iran. The theocracy controls the security apparatus, number one.

Number two, five secretaries of state did say we should talk with and sit down.

Now, John and Governor Palin now say they're all for -- they have a passion, I think the phrase was, a passion for diplomacy and that we have to bring our friends and allies along.

Our friends and allies have been saying, Gwen, "Sit down. Talk. Talk. Talk." Our friends and allies have been saying that, five secretaries of state, three of them Republicans.

And John McCain has said he would go along with an agreement, but he wouldn't sit down. Now, how do you do that when you don't have your administration sit down and talk with the adversary?

And look what President Bush did. After five years, he finally sent a high-ranking diplomat to meet with the highest-ranking diplomats in Iran, in Europe, to try to work out an arrangement.
On Israel:
[N]o one in the United States Senate has been a better friend to Israel than Joe Biden. I would have never, ever joined this ticket were I not absolutely sure Barack Obama shared my passion.
Short and sweet, that clip, but Biden can literally make that claim and back it up.

On Afghanistan:
With Afghanistan, facts matter, Gwen.

The fact is that our commanding general in Afghanistan said today that a surge -- the surge principles used in Iraq will not -- well, let me say this again now -- our commanding general in Afghanistan said the surge principle in Iraq will not work in Afghanistan, not Joe Biden, our commanding general in Afghanistan.

He said we need more troops. We need government-building. We need to spend more money on the infrastructure in Afghanistan.

Look, we have spent more money -- we spend more money in three weeks on combat in Iraq than we spent on the entirety of the last seven years that we have been in Afghanistan building that country.

Let me say that again. Three weeks in Iraq; seven years, seven years or six-and-a-half years in Afghanistan. Now, that's number one.

Our allies are on that same page. And if we don't go the extra mile on diplomacy, what makes you think the allies are going to sit with us?

The last point I'll make, John McCain said as recently as a couple of weeks ago he wouldn't even sit down with the government of Spain, a NATO ally that has troops in Afghanistan with us now. I find that incredible.
On same-sex couples:
Do I support granting same-sex benefits? Absolutely positively. Look, in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple.

The fact of the matter is that under the Constitution we should be granted -- same-sex couples should be able to have visitation rights in the hospitals, joint ownership of property, life insurance policies, et cetera.
On the office of the Vice President:
Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we've had probably in American history. The idea he doesn't realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that's the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.

And the primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there's a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.

The only authority the vice president has from the legislative standpoint is the vote, only when there is a tie vote. He has no authority relative to the Congress. The idea he's part of the Legislative Branch is a bizarre notion invented by Cheney to aggrandize the power of a unitary executive and look where it has gotten us. It has been very dangerous.
At each turn, on every point, in every clutch situation, Joe Biden looked entirely at ease. Perhaps that's because he's got 35 years under his belt of doing what he does. Maybe it's because he's at his absolute best when he's allowed the forum to communicate complex issues in comprehensible ways. And maybe it's because tonight, Joe Biden understood that the only way to lose the debate for his boss was to forget the issues and tuck into the character battles that have defined much of this campaign. Perhaps, and this may be most convincing of all, Biden won the debate for Obama because Biden's character--and therefore Obama's judgment--is most appreciable when discovered deep at the heart of American policy.

Transcript here.