Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 25, 2008
POLITICS: Stump The Veep

Like a lot of conservatives I was gnashing my teeth on two levels at the initial interview clip yesterday of Governor Palin, in response to a question from Katie Couric, not being able to name any examples of John McCain pushing for more regulation in his 26-year career - that's like if somebody running with Joe Lieberman couldn't name examples of him bucking his party. McCain may not be the knee-jerk hyper-regulator that many Democrats are, but he's built an extensive track record of pushing for more regulation in numerous different areas (e.g., campaign finance, health care), much too often in fact for my taste, and while you'd expect Palin to have focused more on boning up on policy than on her running mate's lengthy legislative record, it's not that hard a question.

If you watch the full(er) clip, though (and from the choppy editing it's still hard to tell how much ended up on the cutting room floor), you can see that what happened was that Palin was talking about a specific example of McCain pushing for more regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and Couric pressed her for other examples from McCain's legislative record specifically dealing with securities regulation:

H/T. Now as it happens, if you do your homework on this, it's not hard to find such examples; McCain voted for Sarbanes-Oxley, and voted against the 1995 Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (one of only four Republicans to do so) and the 1998 Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act (which passed 79-21), for example, and joined with Carl Levin to propose that if companies "don't account for their stock options as a cost in earnings reports, then they cannot claim them later as tax deductions." Of course, I can tell you those things because I'm a securities lawyer and I have access to Google; I'm not sure McCain would have all those examples at his fingertips offhand, much less Palin (indeed, I often find that people even in my business are surprised to hear that he voted against the PSLRA, and obviously Couric couldn't find them or she wouldn't have falsely stated as fact that McCain "almost always sided with the, less regulation, not more"). In that context, it's not much of a "gotcha" moment to demonstrate that Palin doesn't know chapter and verse on one of the more arcane corners of McCain's lengthy career. (Unlike, say, the time Barack Obama had to admit to a voter that he didn't know anything about the Hanford Nuclear site, the largest nuclear waste dump in the Western Hemisphere and a decades-long ongoing controversy). That said, she does need to get better at the essential skill of how to not answer a question she doesn't know the answer to.

Of course, most conservatives would challenge Couric's assumption that piling regulation on regulation is always a good thing, but Palin's not the top of the ticket here; McCain is, and you don't want to get off his message (the opposite problem bedeviled Mark Sanford earlier this summer when he got stumped trying to name ways in which McCain's economic plan differs from Bush - I'm sure Sanford could think of examples but he was unable to name any without highlighting the fact that they'd be things Sanford opposes).

Finally, note that as edited, Couric opens with a question about money paid by Freddie Mac to the former employer of McCain campaign strategist Rick Davis, in which he may arguably still have some financial interest. This might be a reasonable line of inquiry if she explained why this matters, i.e., McCain's much more extensive bill of particulars against Obama himself on this issue, but instead Couric presents the story as if the only issue is Rick Davis. (Video of McCain taking on Obama on this is below the fold; the McCain camp's full and formal response on the Davis story is here). Which is pretty much the argument in a nutshell for why people like Couric are not worth talking to at all.

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Part 2:

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:16 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)

I wouldn't have expected her to know that.

Posted by: MVH at September 25, 2008 2:12 PM

All those words and you it got it right with one sentence, "That said, she does need to get better at the essential skill of how to not answer a question she doesn't know the answer to."

We all know she is getting intense tutoring and she can't deflect Kate Couric. Keep spinning but it is clear she is not ready.

Posted by: javaman at September 25, 2008 2:21 PM

See Crank? Even your comments reveal why it is so difficult for a Senator to run for the Presidency. "He voted for...." "He voted against..." Really, it means so little, since our Congress (House and Senate) have been voting along party lines since, oh, let's do some checking.....1790. 1789 if you count ratifying the Constitution (just take a look at what Patrick Henry and James Monroe had to say).

Want to know where someone stands? For real? How many times did they vote against something in their own party platform? Or vote for or against something that might have hurt them in the polls. By that argument, Joe Lieberman should probably be President, but you get the idea. McCain is a maverick in what he says more than how he votes. Obama isn't any more so, but then, he hasn't been in office long enough to have the history of hypocrisy our elected officials spend a lifetime in building.

Palin did not do well with Katie Couric. If she really needs intense tutoring to face a reporter, and not exactly Dan Rather doing it to Richard Nixon (never a pushover), is she ready to be VP? Biden has a temper, and certainly has foot in mouth disease, but he could walk into almost any interview or meeting with a head of state, knowing he already knows what's going on.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at September 25, 2008 2:54 PM

Daryl, I would note that the examples I cited in this post, other than SOX which was bipartisan, involved McCain staking out a position against his party and to the left of Chris Dodd.

Palin may make me nervous but if I was supporting Joe Biden I'd be popping Rolaids watching him talk. I'm seriously not sure you can find a single day he's been on the trail as the running mate without a wince-inducing gaffe.

Palin's a heckuva stump speaker and has a fine record as an executive. After watching Bush, I'd much rather have someone (like McCain) who is also good at verbal give-and-take, but nobody does everything well; even Reagan had his pitfalls handling press conferences. Better her than Obama, who does poorly in give-and-take and has no record of governance.

Posted by: Crank at September 25, 2008 3:01 PM


Here is the problem with Palin, she cannot answer a question without repeating very weak talking points. In all three interviews she has given (Hannity softball love fest included) she can be quickly flustered when her points are challenged. Can you just imagine how she would do with an Official from another country working with an interpreter? And due to the current Wall Street mess we are in, if we are dumb enough to vote that ticket in she will have to work abroad to sell America. Basically her only strength is as a cheerleader giving stump speeches in a very controlled environment.

As for her record of governance she ran Wasilla into debt during a boom of Oil money in Alaska.

Posted by: javaman at September 25, 2008 3:14 PM

javaman, that's not how it would go. Look at her record negotiating with the oil & gas companies, for example. She's perfectly capable of mastering a topic when she has to deal with it. She won the AK Gov race in good part by winning the debates, after all.

Would I be scared if she was at the top of my ticket? Yeah. As I've noted repeatedly, the Dems are in an even worse spot since Obama's never even run anything at all. But she's running for the #2 job.

Posted by: Crank at September 25, 2008 3:24 PM

And keep in mind, she was only asked about what -McCain's- voting record. Why would she be expected to know that?? One of the major reasons McCain put her on the ticket is that she is not a Washington insider. This is not a major gaffe.

Posted by: MVH at September 25, 2008 3:34 PM

She won in Alaska based on her charm and on the fact the residents there were sick of the corruption (new faces). Quit trying to rewrite history. She has yet to smoothly answer a question yet on anything other than ANWAR. This in spite of being tutored heavily by her handlers. Based on the roll the current VP has, do you feel comfortable with her filling that same roll? She is not ready for the number two seat and in these tough times it will be a steep learning curve which at this point she is failing miserably. Name one thing that she has done well in addressing her weak points?

Never knew Katie was such a tough interviewer. The highlights of today's interview are just painful.

Posted by: javaman at September 25, 2008 3:43 PM

"obviously Couric couldn't find them or she wouldn't have falsely stated as fact that McCain "almost always sided with the, less regulation, not more")"

First, you make an assumption that Couric wasn't aware of these votes, or didn't have knowledge of the PSLRA passing over a veto. Or that she didn't do a calculation saying "hmmm, if I call her out on what I know that she doesn't, I'm going to get hammered on this interview by the right even though she is so obviously doing badly."
And secondly - McCain said this about himself. Not that there wasn't room for government oversight at all, but that he was for less.
And last - maybe this is exactly what is contained when she said "almost always". These activities making it not-always.

"Now as it happens, if you do your homework on this,"
Let's give a scenario. Wall Street is having a crisis, we're having grand pronouncements of worst problems in a generation, you are the VP of a candidate who has hung his hat on the free market, you both are actively campaigning about how your past actions will provide guidance on future activities, and we're facing a public that is increasingly seeing this as a situation to hit with the government stick, which is not something either you, your party or your extensive set of donators believe in. Do you:
a) gather up 2 or 3 examples of past behavior from his staff of hundreds of people while being extensively prepped for your 2nd public hard news interview, knowing that your first wasn't good, and this is likely going to be a question
b) not do this

Waiting for John McCain to show up with his amendments? I know you can't say so, but there is no one who believed this.

"That said, she does need to get better at the essential skill of how to not answer a question she doesn't know the answer to."
Personally, I would rather my politicians not do this, and journalists poke them with sticks when they try. But if you don't feel that way or view it as possible in the short term, then yes - you could see it here, as well as in the softballs from friendly crowds in others.

"Of course, most conservatives would challenge Couric's assumption that piling regulation on regulation is always a good thing"
And this is a fine view - and Couric makes no assumption that this is a good thing, but I did enjoy how you did this in order to make it seem like part of the Vast Liberal Media Conspiracy.
I'm guessing that they're not going to come out and say that Wall Street needs less regulation than it has now though, or needs to be treated with a light hand. The best we'll get is "less than Them!", which isn't exactly a winner right now either.

Posted by: Dave at September 25, 2008 4:17 PM

I just don't think it would ever occur to Couric that regulation could be bad or that McCain is any different from other Republicans on this issue. Really, there's nothing in Couric's lengthy career to suggest that she ever considers a point of view other than knee-jerk liberalism.

It's not a conspiracy, it's just lazy groupthink.

Posted by: Crank at September 25, 2008 4:26 PM

Yeah. Katie Couric is a vociferous liberal watchdog.
Good luck with that reasoning.
(Do you really think ANYONE believes that?!?!?)

Posted by: Berto at September 25, 2008 10:47 PM

" in Couric's lengthy career to suggest that she ever considers a point of view other than knee-jerk liberalism._
Nothing at all:

Hey, whatcha know, they have a lot more in that vein! Weird. Partisan groups BOTH have examples of partisan activities they can rely on when something doesn't go their way.

I am shocked by this development and will notify the appropriate authorities.

Posted by: Dave at September 25, 2008 11:44 PM

Crank, I agree that McCain's votes against the PSLRA & SLUSA set him against his party.

But . . . I'm not sure you can use that vote to say he's either pro-or anti-regulation. A vote on a piece of legislation that gives more power to courts to weigh in on the merits of a private cause of action is arguably regulatory. I understand your position (you see private causes of action under 10b-5 as an extension of the regulatory regime to non-agency actors), but I'm sure you see that it's not really the best way of looking at it.

And as for SLUSA, that's not a good example either. Legislation that all-but forces the hand of parties as to their choice of forum, how's that not regulatory?

Anyhow, I'm just waxing philosophic here. Not of any consequence to the merits of the debate.

Carry on.

Posted by: Mike at September 26, 2008 7:03 AM

I don't see how any rational person could watch Palin's interviews and feel comfortable with this woman as vice president. It's obvious why McCain selected her, and the Republican excitement over her candidacy is one of the most shocking things I have ever seen.

Posted by: steve at September 26, 2008 8:24 AM

Steve, they can't hear you.

Posted by: Mike at September 26, 2008 8:25 AM

Yeah, she's about as convincing as the next-in-line leader of the last superpower as Clinton was talking about what the meaning of "is" is...

If y'all keep standing on that crutch of "she's not the top of our ticket" - it will fall out from under you, because we all know - even if you won't admit it - that it's no stretch at all to imagine McCain checking out within the next 4 yrs.

BTW, I still don't have power and it's driving me INSANE. The lines for gas and ice are INSANE. The normally questionable Houston traffic has now become certifiably INSANE, since something like half of the traffic lights in town are blinking - if they have power at all. How it is that the 4th largest city in the nation doesn't have powerlines underground - like the backwaters of Southern Florida - is beyond me.

Oh, and the Astros are dying a slow and painful death in September. There's always next hurricane season!

Posted by: macsonix at September 26, 2008 2:37 PM
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