Raw Journolist emails on ‘Palin’s first miscue’

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Adam Doster
Sept 8, 2008, 2:18pm

Misunderstanding housing
the midst of a major housing crisis …

Speaking before voters in Colorado Springs, the Republican vice presidential

> nominee claimed that lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had “gotten
> too big and too expensive to the taxpayers.” The companies, as McClatchy
> reported , “aren’t
> taxpayer funded but operate as private companies. The takeover may result in
> a taxpayer bailout during reorganization.”

Now, you can all jump on me about how I’m “underestimating VP Palin.” But really? The HuffPo hed is misleading — this is not a “gaffe”, it just shows her policy vapidness. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a lot more of these over the next two months.


Adam Serwer
Sept 8, 2008, 2:19pm

But she’s so AUTHENTIC! Authentic non-elitist Americans don’t worry about this stuff, they worry about how to teach their kids how to shoot m-16s and use withdrawal as birth control.

Harold Pollack
Sept 8, 2008, 2:22pm

That quote is too general to be damaging. It would take Dean or Doug Holtz-Eakin about 30 seconds to interpret Palin’s comment in a policy-plausible way.

Adele Stan
Sept 8, 2008, 2:37pm

this is not a gaffe. it’s more likely a lie. suits her big-govt-out-to-screw-ya narrative. and harold’s right; this is too easy for the average voter to accept.

don’t mistake palin as a stupid hick. she’s pretty smart..

Dana Goldstein
Sept 8, 2008, 2:42pm

Agree with Harold. And what’s more, this is something McCain or any other Republican (Romney) would totally say. Sure, they got too big and dependent — dependent on the taxpayers for a bailout. We may not agree with the ideology behind the statement, but it’s no proof of Palin’s particular ignorance.

Harold Pollack
Sept 8, 2008, 2:44pm

On Adele’s “hick” front, I would emphasize that it’s Palin’s small-mindedness, not her small-town roots, we find so appalling. Hubert Humphrey hailed from Wallace, South Dakota, Harry Truman from Lamar, Missouri, Jimmy Carter from Plains, Georgia.John Edwards, etc.

Ezra Klein
Sept 8, 2008, 2:46pm

I think you are all reading the quote too closely and giving the context too little weight. When McCain gave the first part of his speech before Walter Reed High, it was fine. If Obama had done it, it would’ve ended the election. Similarly, Palin can’t be seen to be unaware of what shes talking about right now, even if the actual issue is technical. The subject, in other words, is only important so much as it gives folks time to talk about the deeper failing.

Ryan Avent
Sept 8, 2008, 2:54pm

Agreed. If we were the GOP, we’d be taking this opportunity to shout long and loud how unprepared Palin is–“*She doesn’t even know what Fannie and Freddie are..in the middle of a housing crisis! Of course she’s learning from the ‘master’, who thinks a housing crisis means having to fire the staff at one of his seven mansions.”* The actual content of the quote wouldn’t matter, nor would the probably reasonable defense mounted by her supporters.

That’s the difference in the game as played by us and by them.

Michael Tomasky
Sept 8, 2008, 2:58pm

So why aren’t Dems doing that? Just wundrin’

Michael Kazin
Sept 8, 2008, 3:00pm

They seem to have been infected by Kerryitis, one hopes in a milder strain. More town meetings in Western PA ain’t gonna cut it…

Kathleen Geier
Sept 8, 2008, 3:01pm

I’m unsure. Her ignorance is alarming, and I’d like to think it would make voters worry about whether she’s really up to the job.

On the other hand, the GOP obviously takes great pride in being the stupid party. And hey — it’s worked!

If we made an issue of this, not sure if it would be a winner or a loser.

Luke Mitchell
Sept 8, 2008, 3:03pm

Michael – Isn’t this something that can be fanned a bit by, say, the Guardian?

Robert Kuttner
Sept 8, 2008, 2:03pm

Yes, but they just take every opportunity to play hardball, and too often our folks play beanbag.

Michael Tomasky
Sept 8, 2008, 3:05pm

I now think the whole Palin narrative is a loser for D’s. If she doesn’t flub up, she was underestimated and she’s brilliant and the Dems were sneering elitists. If she does flub ub, it’s the liberal media that was out to get her from the start.

Keep the firepower aimed at McCain, get the story back on him. If something *big* comes out about her, fine. Until then, maybe try to catch her in the Bridge lie, but otherwise leave her alone.

Michael Tomasky
Sept 8, 2008, 3:06pm

The Guardian? You’re kidding right? Remember the Clark County letters?

David Roberts
Sept 8, 2008, 3:08pm

“That’s the difference in the game as played by us and by them.”

Namely, we suck at it and we always lose, even when historical circumstances are overwhelmingly in our favor. God, can’t this thing just be over.

Katha Pollitt
Sept 8, 2008, 3:11pm

I don’t understand this. i thought this time, the Dems got it about needing to be aggressive. obama said over and over he wasn’t going to be a patsy. How come we get it and they don’t????? If the Dems lose this by being too lofty, I will become a Buddhist nun. there will really be no point to all the work and effort and hysteria we go through every four years. Obama, remember, is supposed to be this fabulously talented politician. So???

Adele Stan
Sept 8, 2008, 3:12pm

I think turning the story back to McCain now that Palin’s in the mix is almost wishful thinking.

Luke Mitchell
Sept 8, 2008, 3:15pm

Re: Clark County Letters, fair enough! But it seems to me that a concerted effort on the part of the left partisan press could be useful. Why geld ourselves? A lot of the people on this list work for organizations that are far more influential than, say, the Washington Times. Open question: Would it be a good use of this list to co-ordinate a message of the week along the lines of the GOP. Or is that too loathsome? It certainly sounds loathsome. But so does losing!

Ezra Klein
Sept 8, 2008, 3:18pm

Nope, no message coordination. I’m not even sure that would be legal. This is a discussion list, though, and I want it to retain that character.

Katha Pollitt
Sept 8, 2008, 3:20pm

I think what you say is kind of like, “ignore the swiftboaters, you only lend them credibility by taking them on.” Palin matters because she is in the spotlight. She’s the celebrity. she’s the personality kid!

We can’t be passive. she won’t destroy herself — her flubs will be explained away or equated with slips by the Dems or rebraned as amusing foible (like GWB’s “Grecians”) and the charlie gibson media will go along.

Michael Cohen
Sept 8, 2008, 3:14pm

Adam, in an ideal world this would be a big deal, but don’t you know by now that the GOP operates under different rules. For example, John McCain said this in January and no one batted an eye:

“People talk about a stimulus package. Fine, if that’s what we want to come up with. But stop the spending first.”

For a guy who has spent 26 years in DC you would think that he would understand the basic tenets of fiscal policy or the role of government spending in serving as an economic stimulus . . . but alas he does not.

So really this is pretty minimal stuff . . .

Luke Mitchell
Sept 8, 2008, 3:23pm

Fair enough, Ezra! The list is great at as it is and I didn’t mean to suggest anything out of bounds. I am still curious about the reluctance of the left media to organize, though. The message discipline on the right seems to be one of its key advantages.

Adam Dorster
Sept 8, 2008, 3:31pm

I was only pointing out the line because I thought it telling, not questioning why it wasn’t considered a big deal or advocating for people to throw down the gauntlet about it. I know in the grand scheme of things it’s small potatoes and can be easily explained away. But I honestly believe that in this election cycle, she and McCain will pay for their shallowness. I don’t know why. I have no reason to believe so. Just a hunch.


David Roberts
Sept 8, 2008, 3:34pm

Just read past messages on this list, Luke. Everyone here is a /journalist /or an /independent analyst/. Their job is to /say what they think/, not to support Obama. Suggest that they focus on more electorally helpful — and equally true — messages, and they will bridle.

There simply is nothing on the left like the partisan media on the right. The left has no media soldiers, only ironically distanced media observers. “Dems should do this. Dems should do that. Why isn’t Obama saying this? Why isn’t Obama saying that?” All from a great height, with great detachment.

I’m not bashing. I’m guilty too. I just despair. We’re going to lose again, for all the same damn reasons.

Katha Pollitt
Sept 8, 2008, 3:41pm

Well, Okay, j-list isn’t the place. But people who think message discipline is a good idea can start another list, and promote the weekly message there.

Jaana Goodrich
Sept 8, 2008, 3:57pm

Four More Years. Four More Years. Four More Years.

That’s what I would use against McCain’s attempts to capture Obama’s message of change. Use the message that really drives the Republicans and show it to the voters.

Ed Kilgore
Sept 8, 2008, 4:18pm

I agree with Jaana, in a bit more detail. All this wailing and gnashing of teeth about Palin getting away with something Obama couldn’t get away with, or the net convention bounce, or insufficient message-coordination in the progressive media, obscures the giant, unmistakable, uncomplicated bullseye McCain has now painted on his back with indelible ink: The Maverick Meme. Look at the latest McCain ad: he and Palin are identified as “fighting the Republicans” and “fighting oil companies and drug companies.” You’d never know they were GOPers, or supported virtually all of Bush policies (except for those they oppose FROM THE RIGHT) from these ads.

It requires no particular strategic genius or “message coordination” to recognize that we and the Obama campaign have the next two months to demonstrate that McCain and Palin represent the status quo party, the status quo ideology, and status quo policies. That is not terribly difficult. If it doesn’t work, then I think we have to begin
to consider the possibility that the country actually wants another conservative administration led by someone less despicable or incompetent than George Bush. Either way, I don’t think day-to-day tactical brilliance is that critical, and I also doubt that all of us grinding away at the same tactical talking points like cicadas matters much, either. Either McCain pulls off the “maverick” deception, or he loses. Everything else is secondary, IMO.

Ed Kilgore
Sept 8, 2008, 4:28pm

Just to make my point completely clear, if you made me Progressive Message Czar for today, I’d order everyone to link to Toles’ cartoon from yesterday. It says everything important that needs to be said.


Greg Anrig
Sept 8, 2008, 4:37pm

Plus the cartoon has the added virtue of being funny. Remember that bit where Obama made fun of the Republicans for taking pride in being ignorant about the tire pressure gauges? He and Biden could easily make the Toles idea a riff in their stump speeches. It’s the right message and the one they’ve been making. They just need to stick to it and try to find new, clever, funny ways to keep hammering away at it. And in the process make it clear that McCain is even more dangerous than Bush.

Nico Pitney
Sept 8, 2008, 4:41pm

Obama took your advice to heart…


* *

*A good line, but not Obama’s*

Scott Helman

Boston Globe’s Political Intelligence Blog

September 8, 2008

Campaigning in Terre Haute, Ind. on Saturday, Barack Obama, mocking claims by John McCain and Sarah Palin that they will challenge their Republican Party if elected, got off a pretty good line. “Maybe what they’re saying is, ‘Watch out George Bush,'” Obama said with sarcasm, according to NBC News. “Except for economic policies, and tax policies, and energy policies, and health care policies, and education policies, and Karl Rove-style politics — except for all that, we’re really going to bring change to Washington! We’re really going to shake things up!”

It wasn’t Obama’s line, though. It came from Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles, whose cartoon Friday featured these words along with a drawing of McCain and Sarah Palin in front of the White House: “Watch out, Mr. Bush! With the exception of economic policy and energy policy and social issues and tax policy and foreign policy and Supreme Court appointments and Rove-style politics, we’re coming in there to shake things up!” (See the cartoon here.)

Asked about the borrowing, Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Obama used Toles’s lines unwittingly, after being alerted to them by a friend who didn’t mention the source.

“This came to Senator Obama from a friend who didn’t indicate where he had gotten it from, but the questions it raises certainly continue to ring true,” Psaki said in an email. “He did not know it was from a cartoon and now that he does he will certainly credit the cartoonist.”

In fact, the campaign says, Obama used the line again while campaiging today in Michigan, this time crediting the “cartoon in The Washington Post.”

Greg Anrig
Sept 8, 2008, 4:44pm

And of course the Globe turns it into a story about plagiarism!

Adam Serwer
Sept 8, 2008, 4:45pm

well of course, dems are all big phonies.

Adam Serwer
Sept 8, 2008, 4:46pm

it’s not like the mccain campaign stole their theme of “change” from anyone else this election cycle.

Ed Kilgore
Sept 8, 2008, 5:01pm

Well, the Obama follow-up should be: “Sometimes it takes a cartoon to fight a cartoon, and the real cartoon is the latest ad from my opponents, which claims they are ‘the original mavericks’ who’ve devoted themselves to criticizing Republicans and fighting oil and drug companies. Daffy Duck is the only character who could approve
that message.”

Todd Gitlin
Sept 8, 2008, 9:37pm

On the question of liberals coordinating, what the hell’s wrong with some critical mass of liberal bloggers & journalists saying the following among themselves:

McCain lies about his maverick status. Routinely, cavalierly, cynically. Palin lies about her maverick status. Ditto, ditto, ditto. McCain has a wretched temperament. McCain is a warmonger. Palin belongs to a crackpot church and feels warmly about a crackpot
party that trashes America.

Repeat after me:

McCain lies about his maverick status. Routinely, cavalierly, cynically. Palin lies about her maverick status. Ditto, ditto, ditto. McCain has a wretched temperament. McCain is a warmonger. Palin belongs to a crackpot church and feels warmly about a crackpot
party that trashes America.

These people are cynical. These people are taking you for a ride. These people are fakes. These people love Bush.

Again. And again. Vary the details. There are plenty. Somebody on the ‘list posted a strong list of McCain lies earlier today. Hammer it. Philosophize, as Nietzsche said, with a hammer.

I don’t know about any of you, but I’m not waiting for any coordination. Get on with it!

Lindsay Beyerstein
Sept 8, 2008, 11:00pm

I bet it was a mistake born of ignorance.

If she knew the truth, then she also knew that she would appear to be making an elementary mistake which could damage her credibility with anyone who cares about these issues, Republicans as well as Democrats.

There are plenty of merely spurious or misleading things she could have said about Fannie and Freddie that would have been just as ideologically satisfying and harder to debunk.

Adele Stan
Sept 8, 2008, 11:04pm

I really doubt that.

Lindsay Beyerstein
Sept 8, 2008, 11:37pm

If she knew perfectly well that Fannie and Freddie were private companies, why would she go out of her way to lie in a way that made her look stupid?

If she knew what she was talking about, she wouldn’t have had to resort to such an obvious falsehood to advance her narrative.

Palin got savaged on the gubernatorial campaign trail for her shaky grasp of economics. One of her opponents in that race characterized her statements about the state budget as “gibberish.”

Rick Perlstein
Sept 9, 2008, 10:02am

I suspect there’s a heavy Shock Doctrine/Predator State angle to the takeover that hasn’t been explored–that the right sees taking over F and F as a prelude to selling them off. Already, one of my wingnuts sent me a triumphant email claiming that this is one more pillar of the New Deal the conservative movement has now pulled down. Sarah might be setting up that kind of interpretation when she says F&F
equal “Big Government.”