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20 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
05:55 pm

Racism and the Race

The progosphere is freaking out again, this time over an AP story suggesting that Obama’s edge in the race is hurt by as much as six points because of racism among the electorate.  Nate Silver over at 538 does a good job of unpacking the problems with the report — if you’re at all concerned about this issue, make sure you read it.

I’ll add six observations to his.  Unlike Nate, who bases his observations on strong empirical evidence, I’m going with my gut here.

1.  The article was co-authored by Ron Fournier, AP’s Washington bureau chief.  For those who are not aware of it, Fournier was offered a job with the McCain campaign in 2006.  A number of bloggers and media watchdog groups have recently suggested that he is in the tank for McCain, pointing to a number of articles, including one that suggested that Obama’s choice of Biden “show[ed] a lack of confidence” and another that accused Obama of being arrogant.

2.  Regardless of whether Silver is right and the “racism factor” is “only” 4 to 5 points or the AP-Yahoo poll is right in saying it is more like 6 points, I don’t think it’s going to be as significant factor as Fournier would have you believe.  Keep in mind that very few of those expressing their dislike of African-Americans would have voted for any Democrat.  So in reality, I think we’re probably talking 1 to 2 points, and probably only in a small number of states that matter — Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Virginia.  That’s not great news for Obama, but it’s it’s a lot less significant than Fournier suggests.

3.  The “racism factor” is largely offset by both the mobile phone factor (+2-3 points in Obama’s favor because most polls don’t take into account those who only use cell phones, who are mostly under-30s, who in turn are mostly Obama supporters) and the field organizing factor (+2-5 points, depending on the state, the capacity of the Obama team in that state, and the degree to which the McCain campaign has counter-organized).

4.  As this story races around the blogosphere, it might actually generate new support for Obama, from undecideds who don’t want people to think that they opposed Obama because they’re racist.  I don’t think this is a significant number, but every vote counts.

5.  On a related note, I think there are a large number of people out there who want to vote for Obama because they want to be part of history (Silver touches on this as well).  Although this tends mainly to be under-40s (for example, the people who loved Will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” video) that’s not entirely the case.  Both of my 88-year-old parents, for example, are voting for Obama.  Although race isn’t the only reason, it’s part of the reason (and for the record, they’re both Republicans — my mom so much so that she still thinks Nixon was framed).  Look for this to be a particular factor in Florida, where Republicans tend to be fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and distrustful of the Palin faction of the Republican Party.

6. Much has been made of Obama’s “Lehman bounce.”  But what if the past week’s polling numbers are not a bounce, but rather a post-convention self-correction?  The polls are currently right about where they were before the conventions started, and I’m not sure that the impact of this week’s financial events has truly sunk in with most Americans.  If I’m right, then Obama is going to grow even more over the next week.

My gut is that not only that Obama will win, but that he will win the popular vote by a significantly larger margin than the current polls reflect.  I was on the phone with my dad yesterday, and he had a similar opinion — he thinks that this is going to be a modern version of the 1936 Presidential election, when the Literary Digest poll, which had predicted the five previous winners, incorrectly forecast an Alf Landon landslide.

My dad thinks as we get closer to the election, more people are going to support Obama privately but not admit it publicly — in other words, a reverse Bradley effect.   I hope he’s right, but I’m not holding my breath.

In the end, I think Obama’s ground game is going to make the biggest difference — enough so that I think it will give him victories in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, and perhaps Ohio.

So I’ll say again what I’ve said before:  calm the hell down and work even harder.

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18 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:26 pm


Obama is back on top (ahem).  Just, I would like to add, like I predicted.

Every time I put this poll up, people tell me that national tracking polls don’t matter, that only state polls matter.

On one level, you’re correct.  Since we still have that archaic puddle of poo known as the electoral college, state polls continue to matter more.  And given the skillful analysis provided by 538.com, I don’t bother posting state results (though I may, in the future, make an exception for Michigan and Florida, the two states I spent my childhood in).

So why do I bother?  Because the Gallup poll has a history of predicting the state polls.  It is about three days ahead.  That’s why the state polls remain in the McCain column — but also why they already are showing movement towards Obama.

In three days, we’ll know whether I’m right.

And on November 1, you might just be able to predict who wins.

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18 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:45 pm

Evening Election Thread

I’d stick around, but now that Sunshine Sarah has finished speaking, I’m done.

Talk amongst yourselves.

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18 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
12:48 am

No One Expects. . .The Spanish Inquisition!

Eight years ago, a journalist asked Dubya if he knew who was the leader of Pakistan.  Bush flubbed it, and the journalist was widely criticized for playing “gotcha.”

Flash forward eight years and it’s John McCain’s turn — except this time it isn’t gotcha, it’s just a candidate who clearly doesn’t know what the hell the reporter is talking about.

Today, McCain did an interview with Union Radio (Cadena Seiz) a Spanish network.  I presume his handlers told him that by “Spanish radio,” he should understand that the interviewer was from Spain, and that he might, just might want to bone up a little on a few things — like the name of Spain’s prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Apparently they didn’t and he didn’t.

Senator John McCain of ArizonaAccording to stories on the websites of El País and Union Radio, the reporter first asked McCain his thoughts on Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, and Raul Castro.  In each case, McCain made it clear that he would not sit down to meet with any of them, and went out of his way to note that Obama had promised to meet with Chavez.

Then the interviewer asks McCain whether he would meet with Zapatero.  From what I’ve been able to glean (given that I don’t speak Spanish), it was not an attempt to trip McCain up — the reporter merely wants to cover as much territory as possible in the brief time he has.

McCain replies, (and this is a very rough translation based on me running the stories through BabelFish), “I will meet with those leaders who are friendly and who want to work with us cooperatively.”

Uh oh.

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Prime Minister o...The reporter asks again.  McCain says, “I will meet with those leaders who have the same principles and philosophy that we do:  human rights, democracy and liberty.  I will challenge those who do not [have them].”

The reporter asks a third time.  According to a commenter at Obsidian Wings, McCain starts talking about President Felipe Calderon of Mexico and praises him for cooperating with the United States in the war on drugs.

Finally, the interviewer interrupts McCain and says, “Okay, I’m talking about Europe, the prime minister of Spain.  Will you meet with him?”  McCain repeats his earlier statement about working with friends.

Holy Sarah Palin, Batman!  Can McCain see Spain from one of his homes?

One of the more interesting part of this fiasco is that the Spanish press is treating this as a straight story — that McCain dissed Zapatero repeatedly, refusing to commit to a meeting.  Here’s a rough translation of the lede of the El País story:

John McCain, the Republican candidate for the White House, refused on four separate occasions to commit to meet with the Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, if [McCain] becomes the next president of the United States.

I think I understand the mistake that the Spanish press is making here:  they’re assuming that McCain has any freaking clue about their country.  They assume that he couldn’t possibly be that stupid.

Here’s my suggestion to the next Spanish language interviewer who wants to ask about U.S.-Spanish relations:  don’t pronounce the prime minister’s name “Za-peh-tey-ro.”  That was your big mistake.

You’ll find that you get a much better answer if you just learn to pronounce it “Sah-kash-vee-lee.”  Next thing you know, McCain will suggest that we’re all Spaniards now and start threatening war with Portugal.

So what should we make of this?  Imagine if this had happened to Obama.  The media would talk about nothing else for a week:  the inexperienced candidate flubs a simple question. In McCain’s case, it’s not yet clear what will happen — except that his campaign will lie about what really happened.

Ultimately there are three possible answers:  he was tired; he was clueless; or he is stupid.  Let’s hope it was the first.

Hat tips:  TPM and Hilzoy at ObWi

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17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
03:15 pm

Obama’s New Commercial

Two minutes long.  Thoughtful, realistic, comprehensive, and hard-hitting.  The framing works.

Two observations.

1.  The only thing missing are bullet points highlighting the key points in the plan.  I think that would have been more effective than keeping the web address up the whole time.

2.  The big question is whether people are willing to spend two minutes watching this.

Ironically, given my critique of Gerson’s column earlier today, this is exactly what Gerson suggested he do.  But I still don’t think that this precludes him from also hitting back.  And I remain convinced that Gerson is shifting the blame by arguing that it is somehow Obama’s fault that McCain has become a lying liar who lies about lies.

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17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:15 pm

Memo to Michael Gerson: WTF?

In today’s Washington Postdated, former Bush flack-hack and occasional thoughtful conservative Michael Gerson goes off the rails again, suggesting that Obama has made three mistakes during his campaign that just might prove to be fatal.

1.  Obama made the mistake of choosing in Joe Biden a thoughtful, experienced, and capable running mate instead of a crazy, inexperienced, and frequently vicious unknown.

He could have reinforced a message of change and moderation with a Democratic governor who wins in a Republican state, or reached for history by selecting Hillary Clinton. But his choice came soon after Russia invaded Georgia, and the conventional wisdom demanded an old hand who knew his way around Tbilisi. When the Georgia crisis faded, Obama was left with a partisan, undisciplined, congressional liberal at his side.

Apparently it is better to score easy points by creating a celebrity while sating your red (moose) meat base than it is to think about what is necessary to govern a large and complex nation.

2.  Obama made the mistake of turning his convention speech into a thoughtful discussion of the issues that matter to the American people instead of a rehash of his inspirational stumps:

In his Denver speech, it seemed that every American home was on the auction block, every car stalled for lack of gasoline, every credit card bill past due, every worker treated like a Russian serf. And John McCain? He was out of touch, with flawed “judgment.” His life devoted to serving oil companies and big corporations. And, by the way, he didn’t have the courage to follow Osama bin Laden “to the cave where he lives.”

Apparently it is better to speak blandishments than talk about the real problems facing this country.  The irony, of course, is that much of the commentariat before the speech — including Republicans — could not stop talking about how Obama needed to talk policy.  After the speech every commentator — even Pat Buchanan, for crying out loud — called the speech one of the finest of his career and an extraordinary challenge to McCain.  All that was forgotten by Gerson and other folks, largely because the next day, John McCain opened up that big ol’ can of crazy known as the Sarahnator.

3.  Obama is now making the mistake of getting tough on McCain for being such a lying liar who lies about his giant sack of lies.

Who is hurt most by this race to the bottom? McCain, by the evidence of his own convention, wants to be a viewed as a fighter — which a fight does little to undermine. Obama was introduced to America as a different and better kind of politician — an image now in tatters.

That’s right — it’s Obama’s fault for challenging the lies, because it makes him look like a typical politician.  Forget the fact that McCain has sullied his honor.  It’s far more relevant that Obama chose to fight back, thus hurting his reputation as a change agent.

If Michael Gerson wants to put on a pair of beer goggles when he looks at John McCain, that’s his prerogative.  But he shouldn’t expect the rest of us to believe him.

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16 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:20 pm

Uh, Yes We Have

Andrew Sullivan earlier today:

Tina Fey is sexist? It is not sexist to point out that the Palin candidacy is a farce. A man with her non-qualifications, long, long record of demonstrable, outright lies and utter lack of interest in foreign policy would never have been considered for the role.

I can contradict Sullivan’s thesis in three words:  George Walker Bush.

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16 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
05:45 pm

Site of the Day

The Sarah Palin baby name generator.

My new name is Steak Leather Palin, my wife’s is  Mole Valdez Palin and my daughter is now Churn Scorpion Palin.


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16 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:16 pm

League of Photoshop: Oh the Mendacity!

The latest from Panopticist, who brought you the People magazine treatment of Foreign Affairs:

“Plus:  The Fiery Pit of Hell that Awaits. . .”  Heh.

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16 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
03:06 pm


Turns out that the YouTube of Mitt Romney was from the primary season.  Thanks to reader KMD for pointing out the mistake.

I will say, however, that it goes to show that charges that McCain lies are not new.  That said, I apologize for the misleading info.

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16 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:45 am

Et Tu, Mitt Romney? (UPDATED)

UPDATE:   Turns out that this is from the primary season.  Thanks to reader KMD for pointing out the mistake.  I will say, however, that it goes to show that charges that McCain lies are not new.  That said, I apologize for the misleading information.

Okay, this is getting craaaaazy.  Mitt Romney — Mitt Romney! — is calling out John McCain for lying.  Mitt Romney?

Et tu, Mitte?

My guess is that Romney recognizes that a McCain victory in 2008 effectively kills his chance to be President — Sarah Palin will become the heir apparent.  Romney needs to create an environment where McCain and Palin both go down in flames as dishonest lying liars who lie.

This also may be a bit of sour grapes:  Romney swallowed his pride and sucked up to McCain in the hope/expectation that he would get the VP nod.  And instead, McCain picks that woman.  It must have really frosted him.  And now it’s payback time.

Romney is no paragon of virtue in my book.  Anyone who wants to triple the size of Guantanamo is not a person I want to see anywhere near the White House.  In war, however, you don’t choose your allies.  And if Romney wants to go on the attack, more power to him.

Hat tip:  Matthew Yglesias

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15 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:45 pm

Department of Unintended Consequences

Looks like Palin outdrew McCain today.

Roughly three quarters of the 16,000-seat Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena was empty when McCain took the stage with his wife, Cindy. The empty spots were littered with dozens of signs prepared in advance–the hand-painted ones meant to look like supporter-made signs but were actually made by campaign staffers. Among the discarded, untouched signs: “We (heart) Todd” and “The Winning Team McCain Palin.”

To be sure, the unofficial crowd estimate of 3,500 is much larger than many of the events McCain held over the summer. But it is a far cry from the more than 15,000 that have shown up at joint McCain-Palin appearances both before and after the Republican National Convention.


Oh man, that’s just priceless.

That, my friends, is karma we can believe in.

UPDATE:  Ambinder is reporting via Twitter that McCain will rejoin Palin (not the other way around) on Wednesday.  Heh.

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15 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
03:15 pm

Denial or Another Lie?

Our economy is still strong?  What is McCain smoking?

The man is either in complete denial or he’s become addicted to lying.  He knows a meltdown could sink his campaign, but instead of talking about it, he’s pretending it doesn’t exist.

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15 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:45 am

Paralympics: Shame on NBC

You may not know it, but the Paralympics are going on in Beijing right now.  Not that any network is covering it.   That’s a shame, because it looks just amazing.

For more of these photos, go to The Big Picture, The Boston Globe’s fantastic photo blog.  Time has more photos here.

When the regular Olympics were on, NBC had six networks covering them — NBC, MSNBC, USA, CNBC, Univision, and Universal (their HD channel).  For the Paralympics, they couldn’t be bothered to show it on even one.

Do they think the Paralympics are less dramatic?  Do they think that people wouldn’t want to watch these amazing athletes?  I would bet good money that this would draw more than whatever crap USA or Universal is showing every day.

This is just part of what makes NBC so blinkered.  If you watched NBC’s primetime coverage of the “regular” Olympics, you might have thought that there were only four sports:  swimming, gymnastics, track and field and freaking beach volleyball.  The only time other sports got coverage was if the United States won a gold medal.

What is so infuriating about this is that people don’t remember, but gymnastics never was popular until Olga Korbut came along in 1972.  First Korbut and then Nadia Comaneci made gymnastics into the hugely popular Olympic sport it is today.  And they weren’t even Americans, for crying out loud.  That couldn’t happen today.  NBC would never give it a chance.  For all we know, there is another sport that has the potential to break through now the way gymnastics did then.  Perhaps the Paralympics have that potential.  But thanks to the soul-sucking money-grubbing pinheads at NBC, we’ll never know.

Guess what?  The ChiComs are broadcasting them.  According to Time, it’s making a huge difference in China in terms of how people there see the disabled:

The disabled have traditionally been marginalized in China. Ahead of the Olympics, organizers issued an official apology for a manual cautioning volunteers that the disabled can have “unusual personalities” and can be “stubborn and controlling.” Beijing alone is home to nearly 1 million disabled, but they’re a largely invisible part of the population. Those that can work are funneled into the few jobs that are open to the disabled, like paraplegics who can drive three-wheeled motor taxis or those who are sight-impaired and work in massage parlors. The Paralympics offers the hope that watching disabled athletes compete will change old attitudes and improve opportunities for the nation’s 83 million handicapped.

It is possible that the Paralympics will have an impact in China similar to the passage in the United States of the Americans with Disabilities Act, helping to mainstream the disabled into society.  But, as Time notes, that is going to take more than installing a few ramps in Beijing.  But at least the whole country is getting to see these talented athletes in action.

Unlike those of us in the United States.

Shame on NBC.  Shame on them for putting a misguided sense of profits ahead of an incredibly compelling and exciting story.  Shame on them for treating these talented athletes as somehow second class.

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15 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:45 am

Morning Buzz: Creepiest. Action. Figure. Ever

Offered without comment:

The “Sarah Palin School Girl Action Figure,” from “Herobuilders.”

So why, exactly, did they think it necessary to dress her up as a porno-style schoolgirl?  Blech.

Okay, so maybe I did comment, but you have to admit this is both creepy and appalling.

By the way, she’s also available in “Action Figure” and “Super Action Hero” versions.

Among their other models are “Beach Blanket Obama” (seriously), John McCain, Elliot Spitzer, and John Edwards.  They also have Pez dispensers and plush dolls.  But no Joe Biden figure.

All they’re missing are the bobbleheads.  Something tells me that those are coming soon.

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14 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:24 pm

T-Shirt of the Day

From T-Shirt Insurgency:

Here’s the blurb that goes with it:

You gotta admit, it’s kinda strange how your mom hates freedom.  I mean, freedom is awesome and this is the freest country in the world.  You always feel so free here.  Like when you get out of college with $48,000 in debt, and you know you’re not at all enslaved by that debt because you’re free, ’cause this is America.


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13 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:15 pm

Is McCain in Trouble?

Here’s the latest Gallup daily tracking poll:

If you are a regular poll-watcher, you can skip to the last paragraph.  But if you aren’t regularly watching them, the following might give you some useful background as to how this poll works.

Gallup calls this a daily tracking poll, but in fact, each day is a rolling average of the three most recent days.  So today’s results are the three-day average of Wednesday’s Thursday’s and Friday’s poll numbers.

So think about this for a minute.  This past Monday and Tuesday, a few days after the Republican National Convention. McCain was ahead 49-44.  Since then, his margin has eroded:

  • Wednesday: 48-43
  • Thursday: 48-44
  • Friday: 48-45
  • Saturday: 47-45

That means that the big bounce numbers after the convention are no longer part of the three-day average, and every day that passes means one less day in the average that reflects part of the bounce.   We’re now down to a two-point difference, which is statistically insignificant, and by tomorrow it could be one point or even tied.

McCain is in the middle of a pretty lousy news cycle right now:  Palin’s interview with Charlie Gibson didn’t go that well: the lies that both McCain and Palin have been peddling are starting to unravel, the pig-lipstick ploy backfired, the sex ed ad made McCain look really bad, and to ad insult to injury, McCain got hammered on The View, of all places.

After several tough weeks, it looks like the Obama campaign — and the candidate himself — have started to regain its focus,  both its own messaging and its targeted attacks on McCain-Palin.

The number to watch is the level of McCain’s support — the margin between the two candidates is much less significant.  If it continues to erode over the next few days, it could be a sign of serious problems.  Unless his campaign has some heretofore unheard dirt on Obama, or there’s some sort of October surprise, they really don’t have much left in the quiver.  The excitement around Palin (beyond the base) is starting to fade, and many folks are beginning to question McCain’s strategy, and even more troubling for him, his integrity.  In a matter of about 72 hours we’ve gone from Democratic panic to Republican floundering.

There’s nothing saying that momentum can’t change again, but every day that McCain finds himself on the defensive, it’g going to be harder for him to change the campaign narrative.

| posted in media, politics | 3 Comments

13 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
05:30 pm

Flag Pins and Double Standards

If the mendacity of many conservatives was not enough to turn your stomach, let me share the following tidbit with you.

Remember the so-called flag pin “controversy”?  Barack Obama was supposedly un-American because he didn’t wear a flag pin.  Here’s what Conservatardia Conservapedia has to say about the matter:

Obama’s campaign has been financed largely by leftist donors opposed to the war and to the American military in general. Obama has encouraged this by refusing to wear the customary flag on his lapel during appearances (asserting that he would prefer his patriotism to be represented through his actions rather than an arbitrary symbol) and by other less-than-patriotic gestures and symbols, such as declining to put his hand over his heart during a patriotic recitation.

And they’re not the only ones to fan this particular flame.  If you do a search on The Googles for “Barack Obama” and “flag pin,” you get 198,000 hits.  Here’s a 2007 clip from Fox featuring the always execrable Ann Coulter suggesting that “liberals. . .just hate the flag,” and some guy named Stephen Johnson saying that Obama not wearing a pin suggests he is “embarrassed by the conduct of this nation.”  Charlie Gibson even asked him about it during a debate, for crying out loud.

To this day, there are still people who cite this nonsense as a reason not to support Obama.

Funny thing is, neither John McCain or Sarah Palin wear it either.  I took a few screenshots recently to demonstrate my point.  First, here’s McCain during his acceptance speech:

Here he is on “The View” yesterday:

Nope, no flag pin there.  McCain has said in speeches that he doesn’t always wear one.  T

Now here’s Sarah Palin during the Thursday night portion of her interview with Charlie Gibson:

Oh. My. God.

It’s worse than we thought.  Sarah Palin isn’t just not wearing an American flag.  She’s wearing a white flag pin.  Communist!  Eurotrash!  Liberal!  Moose eating surrender monkey!

In fact, she is wearing a Blue Star Mothers’ Service Pin, a custom dating to the Second World War.  Traditionally worn by the mothers of servicemembers in combat, today it can be worn by anyone who has a child or relative in the armed forces.

I’m going to give Senator McCain and Governor Palin the benefit of the doubt on this one.  Too bad the wingnuts won’t do the same for Barack Obama.

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13 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:45 am

Morning Buzz: One More Day

Best PrObama video yet. I’ve already watched it three times.

I especially liked the idea of McCain and Palin as the Thénardiers.

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12 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
05:15 pm

Deer in the Headlines

My friends over at the National Security Nework have a new ad out on Palin’s failure to answer Charlie Gibson’s question on the Bush Doctrine:

You know, maybe Obama doesn’t have to hit back right away.  The netroots are doing just fine on their own, the MSM is picking up the McCain is lying and will do anything to win meme, and both McCain and Palin are looking like deer in the headlines, to coin a phrase.

Hat tip:  Democracy Arsenal

| posted in foreign policy, media, politics, war & rumors of war | 1 Comment

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