Posts Tagged ‘Debates’

Here’s a brief reading list on the major issues likely to come up during tonight’s final presidential debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.


Los Angeles Times: No evidence found of Al Qaeda role in Libya attack
Washington Post: CIA documents supported Susan Rice’s description of Benghazi attacks


New York Times: U.S. Officials Say Iran Has Agreed to Nuclear Talks
New York Times: U.S. and Iran Deny Plan for Nuclear Talks
ProPublica: Reading Guide: Where Obama and Romney Actually Stand on Iran
Foreign Policy: Don’t Assume Iran Is the Greatest Threat
Reuters: Obama faces tough call on Iran oil sanctions


The Guardian: Syria will be a defining issue of the next US presidency
Newsday: Obama and Romney: Where they stand on Syria


Haaretz: Israel’s former Mossad chief urges dialogue with Iran, calls Obama policy ‘brave’


New York Times: Two Campaigns Skirt Talk of Tough Choices in Afghanistan


Washington Post: Obama, Romney differ less on China trade, investment issues than they claim
New York Times: On China Currency, Hot Topic in Debate, Truth Is Nuanced


Bureau of Investigative Journalism: Obama’s five rules for covert drone strikes


Mitt Romney foreign policy speech at Virginia Military Institute, October 8, 2012.
Barack Obama 2012 address before the UN General Assembly, September 25, 2012.


Foreign Policy: The Foreign Policy Super Bowl
Foreign Policy: Fight Night
Global Post: Binders Full of Foreign Policy
Wall Street Journal: Guide: Obama vs. Romney on China, Iran, Syria
CNN: Obama’s foreign policy on trial
Defense News: Obama, Romney To Debate Global Threats, Military Spending

And to wrap things up on a lighter note…

The Onion: Romney Campaign Releases New Picture Of Candidate Standing In Situation Room During Bin Laden Raid


By now, most of you have seen this exchange between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama about the attack on the diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya in which four Americans were killed on September 11:

Here’s the transcript of that exchange:

CROWLEY: Because we’re — we’re closing in, I want to still get a lot of people in. I want to ask you something, Mr. President, and then have the governor just quickly.

Your secretary of state, as I’m sure you know, has said that she takes full responsibility for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Does the buck stop with your secretary of state as far as what went on here?

OBAMA: Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job. But she works for me. I’m the president and I’m always responsible, and that’s why nobody’s more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I do.

The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people in the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror and I also said that we’re going to hunt down those who committed this crime.

And then a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with the families.

And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the Secretary of State, our U.N. Ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as president, that’s not what I do as Commander in Chief.

CROWLEY: Governor, if you want to…

ROMNEY: Yes, I — I…

CROWLEY: … quickly to this please.

ROMNEY: I — I think interesting the president just said something which — which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.

OBAMA: That’s what I said.

ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror.

It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you’re saying?

OBAMA: Please proceed governor.

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

CROWLEY: It — it — it — he did in fact, sir. So let me — let me call it an act of terror…

OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

CROWLEY: He — he did call it an act of terror. It did as well take — it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.

The key – and largely unnoticed – part of this exchange was not Candy Crowley’s factcheck of Romney. Rather, it was President Obama’s gentle nudge to “Please proceed, governor.” Having watched that Libya exchange replayed several times on the news over the past two days, I couldn’t help but notice Obama’s poker face as he said this. It reminds me of Napoleon Bonaparte’s famous phrase, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

Obama got the first response to the question, and Romney was clearly chomping at the bit to respond because he and the Republican party view the administration’s handling of the Benghazi attack as a political liability to be exploited. Looking back on it, it seems as if Obama saw where Romney was heading with his attack and rather than cut him off, encouraged him to continue with his train of thought and he played right into Obama’s hands.

Jon Stewart weighed in on it during last night’s Daily Show (scroll to 1:38 in the clip).

I’ll be live blogging and tweeting the VP debate tonight. Watch this space…

8:50 – Martha Raddatz introduced, takes the podium…
8:52 – Raddatz just referred to Paul Ryan as “Congressman Ryan” from the stage. Did she just violate the terms of the debate?
8:54 – @TheFix: What were the odds on Martha Raddatz mentioning Chamillionaire? 1 trillion to 1? #vpdebate
8:58 – For your amusement, follow Onion Politics on Twitter tonight, who will be tweeting in character as Joe Biden as only they can.

9:02 – Biden and Ryan take the stage Let the games begin…
9:03 – Raddatz opens with a question about Libya, noting today is the one month anniversary of the attack. Was this a massive intelligence failure, Vice President Biden? “It was a tragedy.”
9:05 – Biden pivots response to mention ending war in Iraq, getting Osama bin Laden
Biden channels John McCain’s “gates of hell” comment from 2007 GOP primaries
9:06 – Ryan points out that the US ambassador in France has marines guarding him. Shouldn’t US ambassador in Benghazi have had a marine detachment guarding him?
“What we are watching on our TV screens is the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy.”
9:09 – Biden: “With all due respect that’s a bunch of malarkey.” (Why?) “With all due respect, not a single thing he said was true.”

9:11 – Biden on administration’s initial story about protest: Intelligence community told us that… they learned more facts and changed their assessment.
9:12 – Raddatz to Ryan: Should US apologize for burning Korans, urinating on corpses. Ryan – Yes. For urinating on corpses. Not for US values.
9:14 – Good/tough question from Raddatz for both candidates: How effective would a military strike on Iran be?
9:16 – Biden on administration handling of Iran: “These are the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions.”
9:18 – Ryan hits Obama for going on The View while in New York City but not meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu.
9:19 – 20 minutes in, purely from an optics perspective, Biden looks like he’s having more fun with the debate than Obama.

9:23 – Raddatz pivots to the economy.
9:24 – Biden hits Romney for “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” op-ed and 47 percent comments.
9:26 – Ryan asks Romney about the unemployment rate in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
9:28 – Ryan telling story of Mark Nixon, family in MA helped by Romneys after two of his children paralyzed in a car accident.
Ryan zings Romney for gaffes… Biden laughs, responding “But I always mean what I say.”
9:31 – @mollyesque: Biden: “Stop talking about how you care about people. Show me something. Show me a policy.”
9:32 – Biden hits Ryan for requesting stimulus money for the state of Wisconsin…

9:34 – Raddatz pivots to Medicare
9:37 – Biden mentions Sarah Palin and death panels in rebuttal to Paul Ryan’s opening response. Fact check: Palin’s death panel comment came in 2009, AFTER the Obama administration was in office.
9:38 – Ryan: “They got caught with their hand in the cookie jar.”
9:40 – Some pretty contentious back and forth going on, as Ryan and Biden speaking over and interrupting each other.

9:45 – Raddatz moves on… next question is on taxes. Who will pay more or less in taxes?
9:47 – Looks like the “Mr. Ryan” agreement went out the window. Raddatz and Biden have been referring to him as “Congressman” throughout the debate
9:51 – @TheFix: Dem analysis of debate so far: “Biden rules, Ryan sucks”. GOP analysis of debate so far: “Ryan rules, Biden sucks”. #vpdebate
9:53 – Ryan ALMOST steps in it with a John Kennedy reference… “Now you’re Jack Kennedy?”
9:54 – @DeathStarPR: A little less conversation, a little more lightsaber duel to the death. #VPDebate #Debates

9:55 – Raddatz pivots to defense spending.

9:57 – Raddatz pivots to Afghanistan. Why not leave now? What more can we accomplish?
10:02 – Ryan: “Problems are growing abroad, but jobs aren’t growing here at home.”
10:07 – Are they arguing about Afghan weather and geography?

10:08 – Raddatz pivots to Syria… Why no military action in Syria?
10:10 – @ZekeJMiller: Biden hits Romney for not saying what he’d do in Syria
10:11 – @joshrogin: Biden contradicts State Department on Benghazi security
10:12 – Watching the clock… Biden has spoken a full 3 minutes more than Ryan.
10:13 – Ryan: We should not have called Bashar Assad a reformer. We should not have waited for Russia to give us the green light at the UN.

10:14 – Raddatz asks Biden and Ryan – both Catholics – what role religion plays in their views on abortion.
10:15 – Ryan: “I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life.”
“The policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortion except in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother.”
10:17 – Biden: “My religion defines who I am. I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life.”
Biden says he accepts church teachings that life begins at conception personally, but won’t impose it on others.

10:21 – Candidates pivot to Supreme Court

10:22 – Raddatz closing question: What would you say to American hero about this campaign? Ever embarrassed about the tone?
10:23 – Biden hits super PACs/Citizens United, calling them an “abomination”
10:24 – Ryan: You had a president run on hope and change 4 years ago who now campaigns on attack, blame and defame.

10:29 – Closing statements… Biden goes first.
10:32 – That’s a wrap. Now onto the Spin Room and post-debate coverage!

“In politics it is generally not considered a good sign when voters are laughing at you, not with you. And by the end of the third and last presidential debate, the undecided voters who had gathered in Denver for Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg’s focus group were ‘audibly snickering’ at John McCain’s grimaces, eye-bulging, and repeated references to ‘Joe the Plumber.'”
TIME Magazine’s Amy Sullivan

Update: Came upon this quote, which merits an honorable mention.

“Not since Nixon have we heard so much about plumbers, by the way.”
– CNN contributor Bill Bennett

Debate Zingers

Posted: October 15, 2008 in 2008 Elections, Debates
Tags: ,

In anticipation of tonight’s final presidential debate, Politico has compiled a list of suggested zingers from all sides of the political spectrum.

Who needs surrogates and a press operation when you’ve got the other candidate doing their work for them?

(CNN) — John McCain predicted Sunday he would beat Barack Obama at the final presidential debate this week.

“After I whip his you-know-what in this debate, we’re going to be going out 24/7,” the Republican nominee told volunteers at his campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, sparking laughter and applause from the group. McCain immediately added: “I want to emphasize again, I respect Senator Obama. We will conduct a respectful race, and we will make sure that everybody else does, too.”

McCain has effectively raised the bar for himself for the last debate.  The pressure was already on him to begin with after losing the first two debates.  Now, anything less than a thorough drubbing will be painted as a failure. How much do you want to bet we’ll be hearing “John McCain failed to whip Senator Obama’s you-know-what in the debate,” ad nauseam from Obama’s surrogates in the spin room after the debate? If you make a drinking game out of every time that phrase is quoted by Democratic operatives between now and Wednesday night, you won’t have much of a liver or kidneys left by Thursday morning.

I’ll have more debate analysis later, but I want to point out this moment which everyone is talking about.

I have yet to see the rest of the debate, but the contempt McCain has for Obama practically jumps off the screen.  After the debate, even the normally diplomatic and cautious Wolf Blitzer had to point it out.

As I said before, the town hall format offers plenty of opportunities for candidates to shoot themselves in the foot, and in this case McCain delivered. This is what everyone was talking about after the debate and in the morning papers.

Less than 12 hours to go before the second presidential debate, this time in the town hall format moderated by Tom Brokaw where the candidates take questions from voters. Here’s a look at what the two candidates need to do, based on the first debate and the events of the last week.

McCain, his campaign, and his operatives have decided to go on a full blast assault on Barack Obama based on his associations with Bill Ayers, Tony Rezko, and to a lesser degree, Jeremiah Wright. The harshly negative tone borders on shrill at times. While Hillary Clinton and her campaign tried to make an issue out of it during the primaries, there was no silver bullet there to sink Obama’s candidacy. Unless some enterprising reporter uncovers a previously undiscovered damning smoking gun, odds are the guilt by association attacks won’t have any impact during the general election either.

The Muslim Manchurian Candidate rumors are beginning to circulate again, and a sheriff at a Palin event in Florida dropped the H-bomb, a comment the McCain campaign called “inappropriate.”

Political operatives and TV pundits say that people are turned off by negative campaigning, but the reality is it works. The risk for the person who goes negative (in this case, McCain) is that in going negative, you risk driving up your own negatives in addition to the other guy’s. A political murder-suicide, if you will.

The point of doing this is not for McCain to win an election, but for Barack Obama to lose it. McCain has been losing since the financial crisis hit, and he is running out of time to change both the media narrative or political momentum in his favor before voters go to the polls. By focusing the narrative of the last day or so on blistering attacks on Barack Obama, McCain has all but guaranteed he will go there during the debate tonight if Tom Brokaw does not.

Looking back at the first debate, McCain got the Al Gore 2000 treatment from the media and the talking heads afterward, when almost everyone pointed out his inability (or refusal, depending on your perspective) to look Barack Obama in the eye when answering a question, even at the encouragement of Jim Lehrer. McCain’s advisors would be guilty of political malpractice if they did not point this out to him and correct it before the debate tonight.

He also needs to avoid any major gaffes, or repeating any of the exaggerated or false lines of attack which have already been well documented and debunked by the press (i.e. the sex ed for kindergarteners ad). If McCain goes there, do not be surprised if Tom Brokaw, if not Barack Obama himself, calls him out on it.

McCain prefers the townhall format, which of course means the Obama campaign is raising expectations of him before the debate.

Obama has been in the driver’s seat for the better part of two weeks and continues to build on his momentum in state and national polls. He already held his own in the first debate, which thematically was focused on John McCain’s strong subject.

Obama was clearly prepared for a negative barrage in the home stretch, since he launched a website attacking McCain for his role in the Keating 5 scandal at the same time McCain began hinting of his own negative attacks earlier this week. It wouldn’t be a classic October Surprise for anyone who knows McCain’s history, and the candidate himself has written about it in his own books. But this has more relevance to the current situations than Obama’s dealings with Ayers, Rezko, and Wright because 1) it was part of the biggest banking and financial crisis of its day, which Obama can then try and tie into what is happening right now; and 2) it involves McCain’s behavior and judgment as a U.S. Senator.

Like McCain, Obama needs to avoid making any gaffes in the debate which can be exploited by his opponent. Obama has been very cool in the sense that he doesn’t get rattled or angry during a debate, a benefit of the long hard slog that was the Democratic primary earlier this year. If he can get under McCain’s skin, that might create an unfavorable impression with voters at the debate and watching on TV, as well as the network pundits and talking heads.

As in the first debate, he doesn’t have to do or say anything risky except hold his own. The momentum and the political climate are working to his advantage right now. Given that the top concern on most voters’ minds right now is the economy, that automatically puts Obama at an advantage because polls show that voters prefer him to McCain on dealing with the economy, and the economy will be the focus of a lot of the questions. Because he is leading, a draw in this debate essentially amounts to the same as an outright Obama win.

One thing that both candidates need to be careful about, and it is something beyond either of their control, is the audience. Slate’s John Dickerson has this article on the perils of the town hall format and how it hurt George H.W. Bush during the 1992 campaign. It may be in the substance or tone or body language of their response to the question, but the nature of the town hall format offers plenty of opportunities for candidates to shoot themselves in the foot.

So the big event came and went, and nearly 70 million people tuned in, second only to the Reagan-Carter debate in 1980.

The bar was not very high for Palin following the disastrous interviews with Katie Couric, so even showing up and being able to say a complete sentence would have made the debate a success for her. She didn’t make any major gaffes that came anywhere close to the train wreck spectacle that the Couric clips did. She was very folksy in her mannerisms and language (“Say it ain’t so, Joe”) which I think helped her to connect more directly with the audiences watching on TV in a way that they could relate to her. Thematically, she sounded most comfortable talking about energy.

Some liberal bloggers were alleging that Palin was reading off cheat sheets or prepared notes. Both candidates had a notebook to write on the podium. While she definitely looked down at times like she was reading from prepared text, the truth is not so sinister.

When I took the GRE to apply for grad schools, you are given several blank pages of paper. Before the test begins, you are allowed to write down mathematical formulas and the outlines for the essay questions so you can have them handy and not waste any time during the test itself. My assumption is that something similar happened here: Palin wrote down several prepared responses during the course of the debate and read off of her notes when she had to.

When the focus shifted to foreign policy in the second half, Joe Biden turned on the jets and never looked back. Given years of experience on the Foreign Relations Committee, he has a near encyclopedic understanding of every major issue in American foreign policy. He sounded confident, authoritative without coming off as condescending to Palin and the audience, and based on my impression, did not appear to hesitate in responding to any topic.

Most post-debate polls and analysis declared Biden the winner, and I agree. He looked and sounded like a President, Vice President, or Secretary of State (he was rumored to be on the shortlist for this job if John Kerry had won in 2004). While Palin showed she had clearly prepared and learned from her interview experiences and was able to connect more on an emotional level than Biden (except for when he choked up) and snuck in a few jabs at Barack Obama, she was essentially running the same play over and over again. It was substance without depth, and it became blatantly obvious as the debate progressed when you compared Biden’s responses on some questions to hers.

On to McCain-Obama Round 2 on Tuesday…

There are roughly just over 24 hours to go until the vice presidential debate between Sen. Joe Biden and Gov. Sarah Palin. The VP debate usually does not get as much attention as the ones involving the presidential candidates, but this year could be an exception. Also keep in mind that the most famous debate zinger in political history (“You’re no Jack Kennedy”) happened during the VP debate. Here’s a look at the two candidates:

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin has captured the attention of the political world, in large part due to a well-received convention speech and extremely limited access to the press. But her poll numbers and public image have taken a turn for the worse throughout the month of September, hitting what could be a low point after her interview with Katie Couric, which has gone viral on the Internet and led to a brutal Saturday Night Live parody. What makes the parody stand out is the fact that Tina Fey used Sarah Palin’s response almost verbatim from the interview.

As I said before, the only upside to that interview was that the bar has been lowered as much as humanly possible for Palin going into the debate. However, political journalists have been going over her past debate footage and the general consensus is that while she might not be as knowledgable or experienced as some of her opponents, she can hold her own and score a point.

If she can make an eloquent but forceful case against Barack Obama, and not make any major gaffes or repeat lines from the stump speech that have been factchecked repeatedly and proven inaccurate (i.e. her opposition to the Bridge to Nowhere), then her surrogates and the press will be able to say she held her own against Joe Biden for 90 minutes and declare her the winner.

Joe Biden

Joe Biden has two personal habits he must overcome if he wants to win the debate.

First: Senators are notoriously longwinded, and Biden is no exception. I remember when I was covering the Samuel Alito confirmation hearings for CNN that at one point Biden used his entire 25 minute round of Q and A to vent (what it was about I don’t remember) without asking Alito a single question.

But for all his ego and his love of hearing himself speak, Biden is a sharp man with decades of experience in the U.S. Senate with a profound understanding of many domestic and international issues. He was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, and is currently the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The trick for him I suspect, will be to keep his answers short and to the point within the parameters of the debate format. If he gives longwinded responses or goes off on too many tangents, he may lose the audience.

Brevity is the soul of wit, as the saying goes. Biden had what has so far been the most memorable zinger of the 2008 campaign cycle when he hit Rudy Giuliani during a Democratic debate: “There’s only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun and a verb and 9/11.” If he can keep it simple and to the point, without coming off as rude or condescending, it will be a good debate for him.

Second: Biden is notorious for being blunt in his manner and delivery, on the stump, during interviews, or debating in the Senate. This could be a problem for two reasons. First is his well-known propensity for making gaffes (like his recent claim of Franklin Roosevelt making a televised address after the Great Depression hit in 1929) or going off message (criticizing an Obama campaign ad attacking John McCain and then having to reverse himself later).

The second problem is he has a bit of a temper, which I’ve seen and heard firsthand. During the 2004 campaign, he was a top foreign policy surrogate for John Kerry, and during a campaign conference call I remember hearing his voice get progressively angrier and louder as his criticism of George W. Bush grew more intense. While covering contentious Senate hearings where Biden is involved, I’ve noticed he can show flashes of his intensity or temper from time to time. If he and his staffers can keep Angry Joe under control during the debate, he’ll be fine.

Some food for thought Thursday night: A pre-debate poll by Marist College shows that voters expect Biden to win the debate and be more informed, but they also expect to find Palin to be more likable. Their favorable/unfavorable ratings in the poll are roughly similar, but it’s necessary to point out that Palin’s have been on the way down for the past few weeks.

Finally, the New York Times wrote articles profiling Biden and Palin’s debate history and style. I highly recommend both of them.