Archive for October, 2008

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Enough Of “Joe The Plumber” Already!

October 28, 2008

Ok, I realize that the media was going to glom onto this guy when he came up a bazillion times in the debate, but enough is enough.  It has gotten to the point where “Joe” is not only on the campaign trail with McCain/Palin, but the media is reporting his statements as if he’s a candidate himself.  Just check this out:

‘Joe the Plumber’ Backs Claim That Obama Would Bring ‘Death to Israel’

That’s an actual headline.  On Fox

So, naturally, Shep Smith had to call him up and give the “could you explain that?” interview.

Or how about this:

Joe the Plumber says Obama would make US socialist

That’s an AP headline.

Or this:

Records searches anger Joe the Plumber

The Columbus Dispatch.

Is it just me, or does this “Joe the Plumber” blitz give you the feeling that we’re living in a children’s book?  Are we all six year-olds?  

Apparently, McCain thinks so, as he’s adopted and embraced the Toys ‘R’ Us-esque marketing gimmick and plastered him all over his campaign website as well:

Go here, and you’ll see videos of Brad the Welder, Jeff the Truck Driver, Tara the Teacher, Josie the Transcriptionist, Jeff the Realtor, etc.

{{{sigh}}}

I realize that most of the country doesn’t give a rat’s hinder what my opinion is.  OK, scratch that.  Most of the country doesn’t know who the heck I am.  But I certainly wouldn’t expect Fox or the AP to pick up the Chamber, anyway.  Chen the Salesman hasn’t gotten the attention of David the Campaign Strategist, I guess.

Hey, NO FAIR!!!

And with great hesitation to click “publish”, I dub this the one and only Official Chamber “Joe the Plumber” thread.

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Who Are You Calling “Anti-American”?

October 25, 2008

I’ve had plenty of time to ponder my post on the Bachmann incident (I was initially speechless), so I decided that a follow up post was in order… 

You see, I realized there was something I was missing, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  Something that I was leaving unsaid, more specifically.  I know that her comments revealed that she views her colleagues in Congress through a “pro” and “anti-American” lens (which is in and of itself pretty disturbing, and the underlying reason why her campaign has been suffering lately), but there was a gaping hole in the entire discussion, and I’ve finally figured out what it was:  

For how much the phrase gets tossed around lately, “anti-American” really deserves a cohesive definition that everyone can agree on. 

So, considering my tradition of using the Chamber as a platform for defining things and establishing paradigms, I figured that this might be a good idea going forward.  After all, who knows how often we’ll see the term flung about around here?  I should really have something set in stone.  And in an attempt to set a definition that will be accepted and universal, I think we should first start with defining what “American” is.  That would be logical, right?  It would appear to me that it’s not the “anti-” that should be explored (assuming we can juxtapose “anti-” and “un”).  Everyone knows what that means, after all. 

I argue that, while many may agree that quaint things like apple pie, baseball, Uncle Sam, Mt. Rushmore, etc. are intrinsically “American”, there is still a possibility that not all would agree.   Indeed, the Founding Fathers wouldn’t have seen much significance in any of those things (apple pie recipes from the 14th century?).  My proposal would be to strip away all of the cultural icons, traditions, monuments, and any given individual’s belief in what the American “spirit” is (thanks Alfie), thus leaving just the lowest possible standard of what is unequivocally American:  The U.S. Constitution.   The Chamber position is that, at the end of the day, it’s essentially all we have.  The president takes an oath to “protect and defend” it.  The Supreme Court interprets it.  The Congress can collectively amend it.  One could make a pretty compelling argument that, without recognition of the Constitution, there is no America.  Cities may burn and towns may flood.  The Federal Reserve may be depleted of funds.  Half the U.S. population could be wiped out by some horrible disease.  Great American traditions like World Series could disappear forever.  But as long as the tenets of the Constitution remain intact and can be effectively upheld and executed, America remains.

That said, I shall declare:  From this day forth in the Chamber, anything that doesn’t meet the standards of (or anyone who seeks to undermine) this most American of ideals will be considered as “anti-American”.   Calls that don’t meet this lowest of bars will be deemed to be just hallow, inflammatory, pejorative-laden rhetoric, and will be called out as such.   Even an activity like, say, burning the Flag is subjected to this basic requirement.  

OK, I’ve brought down the proverbial gavel.  I think its time to test the definition.  Let’s use a hypothetical scenario:

Debater A claims that Obama policy X is “socialist” and his views are “anti-American”.  Debater B asks A if there is anything in Policy X that would be considered unconstitutional.  Debater A thinks for a second, and responds “It should be”.  Debater B then points out that if one cannot prove that policy X is unconstitutional, then one must conclude that the Constitution makes room for (what A considers) “socialist” policies and thereby cannot be deemed “anti-American”.

hhmmm…it seems to work.  Perhaps it makes for a clumsy debate the way I’ve phrased it, but I think it is logically sound*.   

Now that we’ve agreed on that, let’s come full circle, and revisit what Bachmann said about the would-be Democratic president and her colleagues in Congress:

“I’m very concerned that he may have anti-American views”

“I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America, or anti-America. I think the American people would love to see an expose like that.”

And I say to Ms. Bachmann that, when it comes to your fear of your fellow politicians having “anti-American” views, perhaps you might want to “take a great look at” your most favorite-ist person in the whole wide world.  You know, the current president:

*I suppose I should open the thread up to more tests or to point out holes, so have at me.

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Oh, What The Heck

October 24, 2008

I’ve been resisting the temptation to comment on this bizarre Ashley Todd mugging hoax fiasco, but I just can’t hold it in anymore.

Well, on second thought, I think instead I’ll comment on the stupidest of the stupid things I’ve seen said on the subject.  After visiting dozens of blogs and news sites, and watching the coverage on the cable news networks, I’m going to give the prize to none other than the VP of Fox News, John Moody, posting this (before the fact that the gal made it all up came out):

If Ms. Todd’s allegations are proven accurate, some voters may revisit their support for Senator  Obama, not because they are racists (with due respect to Rep. John Murtha), but because they suddenly feel they do not know enough about the Democratic nominee.

If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting.

So let me get this straight.  Mr. Moody was making the claim that the outcome of this 2-year long campaign could hinge on this singular, isolated incident?  Forget, for a moment, that the incident was later revealed to be a hoax, what the hell kind of ridiculous notion is that?  Because his network made a big deal out of it?

And why in the world would voters “revisit their support for Senator Obama” based on an ugly mugging?   I just don’t get it.  The only thing that makes sense to me is that this guy is really revealing his inner thoughts, and not offering some insight on what he feels “some voters” might think.  It looks like a strawman concocted by -as Andrew Sullivan put it- a racist of massive proportions (and my readers would know that I certainly don’t toss the “racist” label flippantly).  Or, put another way, Moody is attempting to convince his readers that Obama supporters like myself should revisit our support because of the alleged actions of one big crazy black man.  And not because we’re racist, of course, but because it seems logical?

The bottom line is this: Any objective observer can see that, real or staged, this incident has no bearing on the candidates, the campaigns, or the myriad of important issues of the day, regardless of what the Drudges or the Fox VP’s of the world want. 

 

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Does Al Qaeda Care About Our Elections? (Part III)

October 22, 2008

Interesting.  A month after I posed the question in Part II, I think I saw the answer pop up today.  Here’s the WaPo via memeorandum: On Al-Qaeda Web Sites, Joy Over U.S. Crisis, Support for McCain

Al-Qaeda is watching the U.S. stock market’s downward slide with something akin to jubilation, with its leaders hailing the financial crisis as a vindication of its strategy of crippling America’s economy through endless, costly foreign wars against Islamist insurgents.

And at least some of its supporters think Sen. John McCain is the presidential candidate best suited to continue that trend.

“Al-Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming election,” said a commentary posted Monday on the extremist Web site al-Hesbah, which is closely linked to the terrorist group. It said the Arizona Republican would continue the “failing march of his predecessor,” President Bush.

The Web commentary was one of several posted by Taliban or al-Qaeda-allied groups in recent days that trumpeted the global financial crisis and predicted further decline for the United States and other Western powers. In language that was by turns mocking and ominous, the newest posting credited al-Qaeda with having lured Washington into a trap that had “exhausted its resources and bankrupted its economy.” It further suggested that a terrorist strike might swing the election to McCain and guarantee an expansion of U.S. military commitments in the Islamic world.

Whether the current financial situation we find ourselves in is due to the expensive “War on Terror” is surely to be disputed, of course, but it’d be pretty hard to argue that it’s helped the situation (unless one wants to make the claim that the Iraq intervention has somehow prohibited another financially ruinous attack, thereby being a net plus).  It’s been 4 years since Osama released his “bankrupt the U.S.” October surprise, and it has been argued that the tape put Bush in the White House (as designed), so one may naturally wonder if AQ has something up their sleeve this time around.  And like I posted in Part II, there apparently have been warnings of another attack.   So, What would they do?  An attack, or maybe drag Osama out of the cave to release another taunting video?

Actually, the better question would be:  Would the American people fall for it again, whatever they did?

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Update: No signs of Qaeda election threat – U.S.

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Introducing: Chamber Lounge

October 21, 2008

I’ve decided that the Chamber might need an off-topic, uncensored, behind-the-scenes, backstage pass style area for both WPPBA members and regular readers.  So, here it is:

Chamber Lounge

For easy access, the link will remain near the top of the sidebar:

This area is password-protected, and is not viewable to the general public.

The password has been emailed to WPPBA members, along with a few others.  If I’ve missed you, feel free to send me a shout via the contact form and I’ll get it to you.

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Michelle Bachmann Said What? (Pt. II)

October 17, 2008

Knowing Bachmann, I might have to make this a recurring theme here in the Chamber.  My ears perk up every time I see her on the cable news networks or web headline, as she represents the Congressional district just to the North of me.  My fellow neighbors must be so proud to see this:

“I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America, or anti-America.  I think the American people would love to see an expose like that.”

I’m speechless.

Anyway, Bachmann was speaking to Matthews on the subject of McCain’s robo calls (incidentally, a tactic that, in his 2000 campaign, McCain had denounced).

Also see:  Bachmann: Alaska’s Caribou Will Love Oil Drilling ‘Because Of The Warmth Of The Pipeline’

And, of course, Part I

Update:  Colin Powell responds.

Update:  Bachmann’s opponent, Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg, has raised $640K since she made the comments.  Oops.

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Poll Wars

October 17, 2008

I haven’t commented much on the polls here in the Chamber as we march toward election day, mostly because I’ve seen the practice of touting Obama’s lead as something I might regret.  In other words, whatever the polls might say, I still think that this election is going to be very close.

I only bring it up now because I’ve noticed a couple of things on the web that reminded me of an old debate on whether these presidential opinion polls are less an attempt to gauge public opinion, and more of an attempt to influence it.    One such sighting came the other day, when Tex brought to my attention an interesting yet poorly-sourced and flawed essay by the enigmatic Zombie, in which he/she accuses Obama supporters of “stuffing” the post-debate polls in an effort to make the idea that Obama won the debates an accepted “fact”.  Like I said, an interesting theory, but unfortunately Zombie didn’t provide much of anything to back up the assertion, so I let him/her know.  (I had always assumed that the reputable and referenced post-debate polls weren’t internet-based anyway, although I always wonder how they determine who the “undecided” voters are)

The other sighting happened when I visited Drudge Report, and I obviously couldn’t miss this:

Drudge is right about one thing, in that a dramatic swing like that certainly would be considered a shock.  So, I decided to investigate a little on my own, and turned to fivethirtyeight.com (since they watch this stuff daily), and I came across this analysis:

Let me be clear: I don’t blame Drudge for trying to drive the narrative. Unlike certain other folks, it’s not as though he’s made any claim to being objective. With real news — which polls aren’t — he generally has excellent and entertaining instincts.

I do, however, blame those of who allow yourselves to have your day ruined when Drudge moonlights as some kind of polling analyst.

A fairer way to analyze tracking polls, in any event, is something like this: McCain gained ground in three of the seven trackers today (Gallup, Rasmussen, Battleground). He lost ground in one (Zogby). Three others (Research 2000, Hotline, IBD/TIPP) were unchanged.

So, what is Drudge doing here?  Is he cherry-picking the most McCain-favorable poll he could find in an effort to influence opinion?  After all, much has been said about Drudge’s uncanny ability to drive the national conversation.  Is he trying to exploit a variation of the principle of social proof and frame the narrative that McCain is making some sort of spectacular comeback?

My guess would be, yes.  Especially since he went for it again today.  This one appeared to be picked up by Lou Dobbs, as he repeated the Drudge headline almost verbatim on his show this evening.  

Of course, the only poll that really matters is the one taken on November 4th, but I think that a debate on how much the polls taken leading up to the big day influence the outcome is worth having.  Do the candidates alter their tactics based on the polls?   You bet.  Do those tactics then play a role in winning and losing?  Of course they do.    If the shift of tactics is transparent, and the voter assumes that the change is based solely on the polls, does it (the tactic) lose some of its effectiveness (i.e. “McCain’s just going negative because he’s behind in the polls”)?  Sure.  In fact, it would be interesting to get an idea what the change in the electoral dynamic would be if the poll results were kept privately within the campaigns, or if they did away with polling altogether.   Of course that would never happen, but when you think about it that way, one revisits the reasons why they are everywhere. 

Wait a second.  Why are they everywhere, anyway?

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Chamber Poll Test

October 15, 2008

The good people at WordPress.com have just added a nice new feature, and I thought I’d give it a try:

I can see where this would be handy for the WPPBA ;)

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Watching The Train Wreck

October 13, 2008

I couldn’t help but notice that the number of conservative pundits coming out against -or otherwise expressing dissatisfaction with- the McCain campaign appears to be growing.  There’s frustration out there, that’s for sure, and its on full display and playing out all over the political web.  So, for the purposes of discussion and future reference, I decided to recap what we’ve seen in the last few days/weeks and post a little link depot (in no particular order, out of laziness):

David Brooks: Sarah Palin “Represents A Fatal Cancer To The Republican Party”

David Frum: Palin the irresponsible choice?

Kathleen Parker:  Palin Problem

Christopher Buckley:  Sorry, Dad, I’m Voting for Obama

Christopher Hitchens:  Vote for Obama McCain lacks the character and temperament to be president. And Palin is simply a disgrace. (ouch!)

Heather MacDonald: Gettin’ All Mavericky

Bill Kristol: Fire the Campaign (and later, the Campaign Fights Back!)

With regards to some of the other prominent pundits who refuse to accept all that, I’ve witnessed a few rather strange posts; a decent into the realm of rants and accusations that lie on the frayed ends of sanity.  Here’s one example:

Amdy McCarthy: Did Obama Write “Dreams from My Father” … Or Did Ayers? (a post that resulted in a WTH? exchange from one of his collegues at NRO)

And speaking of NRO and their unusual practice of conversing thru blog posts, there’s even more drama today, and Frum feels compelled to defend himself:

Do my correspondents (and now my Corner colleagues) truly believe that – but for my pitiful media and social ambitions – nobody in America would have noticeed that Sarah Palin cannot speak three coherent consecutive words about finance or economics? 

Double Ouch.

Now, having officially endorsed Obama for president here in the Chamber, one might assume that I’m watching all this with a certain amount of glee.  I’ll admit, there might be some of that, but mostly I feel a little vindicated for some of my recent threads.  After all, contrary to some of the charges made against me in the comments section that I’ve turned the Chamber into a medium of dishonest propaganda, here you have some evidence of similar criticism coming from those who are wearing partisan goggles of a different shade.

I hereby open up the thread, but I may add a few more derailment examples as I stumble upon them.

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Update: Well, that didn’t take long: Bush Strategist: McCain Knows He Put Country At Risk With Palin Pick

The other panelists were surprised, a bit, by Dowd’s bluntness. Not least because McCain’s well-known campaign motto is “country first.”

“No, I don’t agree,” said Mark McKinnon, a former McCain aide, after chiding Dowd for claiming particular insight into McCain’s soul.

“Well,” responded Dowd, “that’s even more disturbing than my thought” — the implication being that it would be truly frightening if McCain didn’t know how bad Palin truly was.

But maybe this one shouldn’t count (too RINOish).  I report, you decide, I guess.

Update:  Almost forgot about this one: Surprise: Peggy Noonan not sure who she’s voting for

Update: In Philly, Conservative Talk Radio Host Backs Obama

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Will Palin Drop Out Of The Race In Light Of Troopergate Fallout?

October 10, 2008

Quick thread, since it just broke and I’m not sure if anyone else has posed the question yet…

Here’s the discussion on memeorandum.

Here’s the 263-page report (pdf).  In short, Branchflower concluded that Palin violated the ethics law by using (abusing) her authority to pressure Monegan to fire Wooten, and not in the act of firing Monegan.  It’s and important distinction that I don’t think alot of the netizens on the web are grasping at this point. 

So, the “what now?” question arises, and the pundits are all over the board on this one.  Impeachment?

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Sarah Palin & “Also”

October 9, 2008

I sat down for another wonderful night of watching TV before bed, and somewhere in between Anderson Cooper and the hockey game I had a revelation:  Sarah Palin says “also”, like…a lot. 

So, just to make sure I wasn’t crazy, I decided do a quick search to see if I was the only one who’d noticed this.  Well, sure enough, some ambitious netizen with a little too much time on his/her hands put together a little montage:

Ya know Sarah, it’s OK to insert a few “as well”‘s and “too”‘s in there every once and awhile.  Wow.   But, hey, this is just a edit hack-job, right?

Wrong.

Let’s take a look at the transcript from her debate with Biden.  Then, hit CTRL+F, and search for the word. 

{{{drumroll}}}

The “also” count:

Palin: 48

Biden: 3

In fact, it didn’t take long for Palin to kick it in:

PALIN: Thank you, Gwen. And I thank the commission, also. I appreciate this privilege of being able to be here and speak with Americans.

Now there’s your drinking game!  It would have been a veritable flurry of shots.  But on the other hand, everyone would have been passed out 10 min. into the debate…also.

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Obligatory (and official) Obama/McCain Debate II Thread

October 7, 2008

My take?  It was a bit of a snoozer, but I think Obama emerged victorious again.  Perhaps it was less of Obama winning, and more of McCain losing.  The Arizona senator sounded anxious and a bit desperate, and Obama more poised and presidential.  Overall, though, most of this stuff was covered in the last debate.

And now, a little round-up from around the internet:

  • CBS and CNN call it for Obama.
  • Malkin (right) and Beeton (left) agrees with me that it was a snoozer, and Justin at Donklephant agrees that McCain lost it.
  • Over at the Corner, Andy McCarthy is irate that McCain didn’t turn it into a poo-flinging contest.
  • Althouse earns the Mr. Conspiracy award (hilarious).
  • The transcript.
  • Drunkblogging?  (drink!)

Another wonderful night in American politics.

And I suppose I should note that, back in April, I predicted that these debates would cost McCain the election.   With only one debate remaining, I can’t honestly say that I was correct on this one (at least in the context of the argument I was making).  Obama will probably win the general, but there is no routs going on here.  On the other hand, I think its safe to say that these things aren’t exactly helping McCain’s situation.

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Doubling Down On The Ayers Controversy

October 6, 2008

It appears that the big news this week in this crazy 2008 election campaign is the return of Bill Ayers into the national spotlight.  The opening salvo came over the weekend, when Sarah Palin brought it up at a campaign stop in front of a group of supporters, and stated that Obama was “palling around” with terrorists (CNN’s attempt to fact-check the claim is here, and the Obama response here).  Perhaps the decision was made within the camp that, having been beaten in a couple of debates on the actual issues, and seeing themselves slide in the polls, the time has come for a little desperation.  And since everyone else is talking about it, I thought it’d make a good topic for the Chamber.

I’d like to kick this thing off and say that I’m not going to offer up any defense of Ayers here.  All those Weatherman activities took place during a tumultuous time in America (before I was born), so I don’t see myself in a position to offer up much of an informed opinion on the whole thing.  All I know is what I read in places like the blogs, CNN, the NYT, and wiki.  But to the overall notion that Obama’s association with Ayers is relevant to the campaign or his ability to serve as president, I’ll say a few things about what appears to be an attempted smear job…

First, are those associations any more significant than those at the University of Illinois – Chicago?  After all, Ayers is a distinguished professor there, and the university is state-funded.  Would that, by the McCain/Palin logic, disqualify the entire UIC faculty from ever becoming president? I mean, they’re “palling” around with him, right?  Or, how about anyone who has taken one of Ayers’ courses? The entire state of Illinois? Heck, that’s worse. They’re paying him!

And what about the other members of the various boards? Or the guy who does Ayers’ taxes? Or his mailman?

So, what level of association would be deemed damning?  I just don’t see how serving on the same board or whatever for something completely unrelated to Ayers’ past would be very relevant.  Its not like Obama was helping him build bombs, funding the building of bombs, or even anywhere near a bomb being built.  And unlike the Wright controversy, I don’t recall seeing so much as a picture of Obama and Ayers together “palling around” (a picture that they’d be anxious to get their hands on, one would assume).   If all the smear merchants have to work with is headlines like “Ayers Was on Woods Fund Board with Obama When He Stepped on Flag“, I’d say that the attack is pretty weak.   Perhaps the fact that they are even wasting time with it instead of focusing on the myriad of real problems we face in this country will mean that Obama’s lead in the polls will widen further. 

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Official Chamber Biden-Palin Debate Thread

October 1, 2008

As a follow-up to the previous thread, I figured that I might as well start one for the much-anticipated and only VP debate.  I do this a day early so we can have room to make predictions, a little liveblogging (if anyone’s around), and reactions.

For now, I’m going to start with a few pre-debate thoughts…

First, it’d be irresponsible for the Chamber not to mention the notion that the various statements made by Palin these last few weeks has reduced the expectations of her to the lowest of levels (that’s what the media’s been implying, anyway).   To sum it up, Countdown put together a pretty good montage:

click to watch

click to watch

Could Palin “win” simply by showing up and not saying anything too embarrassing?  On the other hand, based on these interviews, is that even probable?

Second, to gain a little insight, we should highlight those who have debated Palin in the past, and those people are saying that she shouldn’t be underestimated

While policy wonks such as Biden might cringe, it seemed to me that Palin was simply vocalizing her strength without realizing it. During the campaign, Palin’s knowledge on public policy issues never matured – because it didn’t have to. Her ability to fill the debate halls with her presence and her gift of the glittering generality made it possible for her to rely on populism instead of policy.

Palin is a master of the nonanswer. She can turn a 60-second response to a query about her specific solutions to healthcare challenges into a folksy story about how she’s met people on the campaign trail who face healthcare challenges. All without uttering a word about her public-policy solutions to healthcare challenges.

Of course, most politicians rely on the ability to weild the “nonanswer” as a defense mechanism and to avoid being pinned down.  But tomorrow night’s debate will be a completely different set of circumstances.  This one will be on a national stage covering both domestic and international issues, and subjected to the spin and interpretation of the media and pundits across the country.   It remains to be seen she can pull this off outside of the familiar confines of her home turf.  After all, one would think that it’s a lot easier to do it when the issues exclusively deal with the state in which you’ve lived your whole life.  And given the fact that there’s been so much attention paid to the aforementioned cluelessness that she’s already displayed on the national and international issues, the “nonanswer” will now be something that people will be looking for and picking apart (if not outright mocking).

Finally, I’ll just add that Biden’s best approach is to exude confidence and competence and to be careful not to attack Palin in a condescending manner, as in doing so he risks coming across as a bully and turning people off.  In fact, the best advise would be to avoid attacking Palin at all.  The contrast between the two should be evident if he just plays it safe and answers the questions.

And with that, I open up the thread and start popping the popcorn…

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