Tales from the Trail

Punches come fast and furious in opening debate round

WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama came out swinging on the economic crisis facing the U.S. financial system during the first U.S. presidential debate, while Republican rival John McCain first words were to praise the bipartisan efforts to craft a rescue plan. rtx8yoi.jpg
 
Obama blasted the Bush administration and tried to tie the last eight years to McCain. 
 
“This is a final verdict on eight years of failed economic policy promoted by George Bush and supported by Senator McCain,” Obama said as the debate at the University of Mississippi opened.
 
Meanwhile McCain said he, along with many Americans, had not been feeling so great about the U.S. economy these days — stark contrast to his widely-panned comment more than a week ago that the fundamentals of the economy were strong — and he welcomed Democrats and Republicans working together for a plan.
 
“I’m feeling a little better tonight,” McCain said. “”We have finally seen Republicans and Democrats sitting down and negotiating together and coming up with a package.”
 
They both cited the need for transparency and oversight in the rescue plan. 
 
But missing from the two senators — one of whom will be president come Jan. 20 — was a firm commitment to vote for the rescue package being crafted. Obama said the language hadn’t been crafted yet but was optimistic a deal could be struck while McCain said he hoped he could vote for it.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

- Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Bourg (McCain and Obama greet each other at the first presidential debate in Oxford, Miss.)
 

McCain to attend debate, Web ad claims victory already

WASHINGTON – Ah the Internet world, a place where things move very quickly — maybe too quickly in the political world.

Before Republican presidential hopeful John McCain announced he would attend the presidentialmccain1.jpg debate on Friday night in Mississippi, apparently an Internet advertisement slipped out onto the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page with it declaring he won the contest.

Here’s a screenshot of the Web advertisement as posted by the Washington Post in which it claims “McCain Wins Debate,” with him in the foreground and an American flag in the background.

Letterman skewers McCain for canceling ‘Late Show’ visit

WASHINGTON – John McCain should have seen this one coming.
 
The Republican presidential candidate suspended his campaign and dramatically announced he was going to Washington to help hammer out a $700 billion bailout to save the U.S. economy.
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Then he called to cancel with David Letterman. At the last minute. Leaving the wickedly funny late night comic with blank airtime to fill. Probably not the smartest move.
 
“Senator John McCain, the Republican candidate for president, was supposed to be on the program tonight,” Letterman said in an opening volley. “But had to cancel the show because he’s suspending his campaign because the economy is exploding.”
 
“You know who John McCain is,” he added to laughter from his live audience. “He’s the running mate of Sarah Palin, you’re aware of that?”
 
And that was just the start. Letterman wasn’t about to let it go. After heaping praise on McCain as an American hero, it was right back to the cancellation.
 
“When you call up and you call up at the last minute and you cancel a show, ladies and gentlemen, that’s starting to smell,” Letterman said. “This, this is not the John McCain I know, by God. It makes me believe something’s gone haywire with the campaign.”
 
“This just doesn’t smell right because this is not the way a tested hero behaves. Somebody’s putting something in his Metamucil,” he said.

A presidential candidate doesn’t just suspend the campaign, Letterman insisted.

“You go back to Washington. You handle what you need to handle. Don’t suspend your campaign. Let your campaign go on, shouldered by your vice presidential nominee, that’s what you do. You don’t quit,” Letterman said, pausing to let his audience mull over the idea of McCain letting the little-experienced Alaska governor take over the campaign.
 
“Or is that really a good thing to do?” Letterman asked.
 
The jibes kept coming. McCain’s age — at 72 he’ll be the oldest president to start a first term in office — and Palin’s inexperience.
 
He reacted with mock astonishment when he discovered McCain had not raced back to Washington but was instead being interviewed for the CBS evening newscast with Katie Couric. Letterman watched a live TV feed from the studio as McCain’s face was patted with makeup.
 
“Doesn’t seem to be racing to the airport, does he?”
 
“Hey John, I got a question. You need a ride to the airport?”

To debate, or not to debate, that is the question

WASHINGTON – Republican presidential hopeful John McCain has proposed postponing the first debate with his rival, Democrat Barack Obama, citing a need for the two senators to return to Congress to help hammer out a compromise on a $700 billion bailout for Wall Street.

For his part, Obama said the debate, which is to focus on foreign policy, should go ahead because now is a time when Americans need to hear from the candidates.

Should the two White House hopefuls go on with the show? Should they switch the topic of the debate to the economy? Or should they cancel as McCain suggested while dealing with the crisis?

New crop of ads has both Obama, McCain slinging mud

WASHINGTON – If mud is the currency of political campaigns, the U.S. presidential race is on sounder footing than Wall Street.
 
Just look at the latest crop of campaign ads.
 
The way they tell it, voters on Nov. 4 are either going to elect a president with crooked friends or one who rtx8tgc.jpgwouldn’t mind seeing them sick and poor in retirement.
 
Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s new commercial portrays rival Barack Obama as being part of a corrupt Chicago political machine.
 
It revives questions about Obama’s links to political fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko, who raised up to $250,000 for the Illinois senator’s previous political campaigns.
 
Rezko was convicted of fraud, attempted bribery and money laundering earlier this year. Obama has not been accused of any wrongdoing in connection with Rezko but has acknowledged an error of judgment in a land deal with the businessman.
 
McCain’s ad tries to tar Obama with his fundraiser’s misdeeds, and with his connections with Chicago politicians who have been investigated for various issues.
 
“His money man Tony Rezko. Client. Patron. Convicted,” the ad announcer intones. His political godfather Emil Jones. Under ethical cloud. His governor Rod Blagojevich. A legacy of federal and state investigations.”
 
“With friends like that, Obama is not ready to lead,” the ad says.

The Illinois Democrat takes a few shots — and a few liberties — in two of his own new ads that try to raise voter fears about McCain.
 
One portrays the Arizona Republican as wanting to gamble away people’s Social Security in the stock market.
 
“A broken economy, failing banks, unstable markets, families struggling. To protect us in retirement, Social Security has never been more important,” the ad says.
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It notes that McCain has favored privatizing Social Security by letting people invest some of their Social Security retirement savings in the stock market. And it quotes him saying he campaigned for Bush’s plan to do that.
 
“Cutting benefits in half. Risking Social Security on the stock market,” the ad says. “The Bush-McCain privatization plan. Can you really afford more of the same?”
 
Sounds worrisome, but FactCheck.org dismisses the benefit cutting as false. It says no one now getting benefits or close to retirement would have seen any reduction in benefits under the plan McCain supported. 
 
In another ad, Obama says deregulation of the financial industry led to the current U.S. economic crisis.
 
It accuses McCain of being a backer of that deregulation and says he now wants to do the same with health care.

“McCain just published an article praising Wall Street deregulation, said he’d reduce oversight of the health insurance industry too ‘just as we have done over the last decade in banking,’” the ad says.
 
“Increasing costs and threatening coverage. A prescription for disaster. John McCain. A risk we just can’t afford to take.”
 
FactCheck.org says the deregulation claim is taken out of context. In fact, he was only calling for deregulation to enable the sale and purchase of health insurance across state lines, FactCheck says. 

Media gets a lashing at McCain event

bristol1.jpgSCRANTON, Pa. – The news media got a brisk scolding from a supporter of Sen. John McCain at the Republican presidential nominee’s town hall meeting on Tuesday.

A woman in the audience thanked the Arizona senator for choosing Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate and accused the media of putting more effort into investigating Palin than  the Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama.

“We want the media to start doing their jobs and stop picking on little children because of their age and their pregnancies,” she said, in reference to Palin’s unwed, pregnant 17-year-old daughter Bristol. “Shame on you. Shame on you.”

Lets Talk About Spain, Or Not

WASHINGTON - John McCain’s campaign insists the Republican presidential candidate’s response to an interviewer’s question about Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was neither a gaffe nor a dodge.
 
McCain knew exactly what he was saying, a campaign spokesman said on Thursday.
 
In the interview this week on Radio Caracol in Miami, McCain was askedmccain.jpg about Latin America and South America and then the reporter moved on to Spain and questioned him about meeting with Zapatero.
 
“I would be willing to meet with those leaders who are friends and want to work with us in a cooperative fashion. And, by the way, President Calderon of Mexico is fighting a very very tough fight against the drug cartels. I intend to move forward with relations and invite as many of them as I can, of those leaders, to the White House,” McCain responded.
 
McCain was well aware that the reporter had moved on to another leader in another hemisphere, senior campaign advisor Randy Scheunemann said.
 
“The questioner asked several times about Sen. McCain’s willingness to meet Zapatero, and I-D’d him in the question so there is no doubt Sen. McCain knew exactly to whom the question referred,” Scheunemann said.
 
“Sen. McCain refused to commit to a White House meeting with President Zapatero in this interview,” Scheunemann said.
 
Within weeks of taking office in 2004, Zapatero withdrew Spanish troops serving in Iraq. The move by Spain’s Socialist government put a chill on relations between Washington and Madrid.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

Photo credit: Reuters/Aaron Josefczyk

Palin sees debate with Biden as ‘quite a task’

WASHINGTON – Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin sounds a bit wary about her upcoming debate with her really, really, really experienced Democratic rival.
 
“Senator (Joe) Biden has a tremendous amount of experience,” she told Fox News. “I think he was first elected when I was like in the second grade.”
 
If her running mate John McCain, 72, wasn’t hoping to be the oldest person to begin a first term as president, one might think Palin was suggesting Biden, 65, was old. 
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“He’s been in there a long, long, long time,” Palin said. “So he’s got the experience. He probably has the sound bites. He has the rhetoric. He knows what’s expected of him. He is a great debater, also.”
 
“So yes, it’s going to be quite a task in front of me,” she said.
 
Palin also said she didn’t mean to insult Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in her nominating speech when she belittled his experience as a community organizer. 

“I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities,” she told the Republican convention.
 
“I certainly didn’t mean to hurt his feelings,” Palin told Fox News. “Didn’t mean to offend any community organizers either.”
 
She said she did it because Obama had taken a shot at small town mayors.
 
The Alaska governor, little-known before being chosen as McCain’s running mate, said she respected former Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton but disagreed with her on the issues.
 
Clinton has been campaigning on behalf of Obama since losing the Democratic nomination, but she has avoided direct confrontation with Palin.
 
Clinton planned to speak at a demonstration against the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, near the United Nations which convenes its annual General Assembly next week but she canceled the appearance on Wednesday after learning Palin would also address the crowd.
 
A Clinton adviser said the protest had not been billed as a partisan political event.
 
Organizers of the demonstration subsequently announced Thursday they had decided not to let any American political personalities appear.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Controversial Obama ad revives immigration issue

Immigration has been absent from the presidential campaign for months, but it came to the front again this week in a controversial television spot for Barack Obama.

The Democratic presidential candidate sought to cast Republican rival John McCain as an anti-Hispanic hard-liner and link him to talk radio host Rush Limbaugh.

The Spanish language TV ad — dubbed “Dos Cartr220ai.jpgras,” or “Two Faces” — aired on Wednesday. It courted Hispanic voters who make up 9 percent of the electorate and who could help swing the outcome in battleground states in the U.S. southwest as well as in Florida on Nov. 4. 

Hagel questions Palin experience

Sarah Palin has energized the Republican base since John McCain picked her as his vice-presidential running mate, but one prominent Republican is not impressed.hagelobama.jpg

Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, is questioning whether Palin has enough foreign-policy experience to serve as the country’s second-in-command. “She doesn’t have any foreign policy credentials,” Hagel told the Omaha World-Herald. “You get a passport for the first time in your life last year? I mean, I don’t know what you can say. You can’t say anything.”

“I think they ought to be just honest about it and stop the nonsense about, ‘I look out my window and I see Russia and so therefore I know something about Russia,” he added. “That kind of thing is insulting to the American people.”