October 31st, 2008

Former Secretary Lawrence Eagleburger Spreads the Butter and Cinammon on the Very Crunchy Toast That Is Sarah Palin (Now With New Craven Apology Update!)

by Philip Baruth

Lawrence Eagleburger, former Secretary of State under George Bush the First, Foreign Policy guru and one of McCain’s most highly touted backers, speaks to the qualifications of one Sarah Palin to sit in the Oval office:

“Look, of course not. I don’t think at the moment she is prepared to take over the reins of the presidency. I can name for you any number of other vice presidents who were not particularly up to it either. So the question, I think, is can she learn and would she be tough enough under the circumstances if she were asked to become president, heaven forbid that that ever takes place?

“Give her some time in the office and I think the answer would be, she will be [pause] adequate. I can’t say that she would be a genius in the job. But I think she would be enough to get us through a four year . . . well I hope not . . . get us through whatever period of time was necessary. And I devoutly hope that it would never be tested.”

Audio here, for those who like their Palin medium well. For those who prefer well-done Alaska Governor, fresh poll results here from the good folks at the Times, showing that just shy of 60% of the country finds Palin unqualified.

That’s the thing about VDB: we cook it your way.

Late Update, Saturday 11:06 am:

You knew it would only be a matter of hours before the McCain folk had put the screws to Eagleburger, and forced him to recant. And sure enough, the former Secretary of State went on Fox to say his sorries for having told America, in no uncertain terms, that Sarah Palin was a few nuggets shy of a Happy Meal.


But give Eagleburger his due: he didn’t just issue any craven apology for speaking truth. No, he went so far as to call himself a fool, and Barack Obama a “flim-flam” man. All of this delivered with a straight face, while wearing what looks more or less like a vintage Black Panther glove, circa the 1968 Summer Olympics.

That’s what VDB calls taking one for the team.

October 30th, 2008

Oliver Carling Goes All Adam Sandler

by Philip Baruth

Vermont boy Oliver Carling steps up to the Get Out the Vote plate with this Adam Sandler-inflected ditty: “Don’t Flake Out.” VDB gives it five stars, because we love the kids and the guacamole, and it’s arthouse you can dance to. The cruel irony to beat all cruel ironies? Joe the Plumber has an agent and an impending record deal, and Carling doesn’t.

October 28th, 2008

The Further Eloquence of the McCains

by Philip Baruth

After two years of backing and filling, polling and parsing, John McCain has selected what he believes to be the absolute strongest final argument in favor of making him President: Barack Obama will “spread the wealth.” A frightening prospect indeed, for millions of middle-class voters now out of homes and with 401K plans in tatters, that some of this wealth might actually wind up in their suddenly empty hands. You go with it, Johnny Mac.

October 28th, 2008

Shepard Initiates Second Doomed Run

by Philip Baruth

Look what the wind blew in. The Burlington Free Press is reporting that Mark Shepard, with one week to go in the current election cycle, has thrown his hat into the Congressional ring as a potential write-in candidate.

Senator Mark ShepardApparently Shepard sees the potential for massive backlash in the Wall Street Bailout. And so he’s in it to win it now.

Except not really.

He makes a point of telling Terri Hallenbeck, for instance, that he’s “not measuring the drapes,” generally considered to be off-message in a campaign for Congress.

For those of you who’ve forgotten Shepard’s failed Rightward lunge for the GOP nod back in 2006, we recommend the sit-down we conducted at the time: “The Initially Amusing, Unexpectedly Queasy Interview With Mark Shepard.”

That conversation established Shepard’s reputation as Vermont’s pale version of Rick Santorum, which we regard as one of our key achievements.

Good for a laugh, anyway. And with the announcement of Shepard’s write-in campaign, that’ll make two laughs for today, which isn’t bad for a Tuesday.

October 28th, 2008

Congressman Peter Welch Drives Magic Bus Into The Heart of New Hampshire: An Authentic and Compelling Photo Journey

by Philip Baruth

Okay, so you missed it: Peter Welch’s Magic Bus to New Hampshire, and all of the glorious door-to-door canvassing that went with it, is now History. But we thought we’d bring you a detailed photo retrospective, made all the more authentic and compelling by the authentic and compelling cell phone images used to illustrate throughout. This was Lebanon, New Hampshire, October 25: You Are There.

Although the caravan was originally scheduled to roll out at 9, a staffer in the Combined Campaign office told us 9:30 when we called to double-check. At first we were glad to have the extra half hour to sleep, but then we had this creeping doubt: what if the staffer, whose name we’d neglected to note, was wrong and the bus left without VDB?

So when all was said and done, it seemed prudent to show up at 8:50 am with a huge box of donuts. And of course, we were among the first, and beat the bus to Staples by a good twenty minutes.

But it was a fine group to kill time with: mostly committed young activists, college-age or thereabouts, but with a sprinkling of seasoned veterans, and Peter Welch and Madeleine Kunin to round out the ensemble. Like Hillary Clinton herself, Kunin has been doing yeoman’s work (yeowoman’s work?) for Obama since the primary fight was settled, and you had to love the dedication there.

In the bus on the way down, everyone drifted back into the worst habits of middle school. VDB managed to snag the back seat (Sweet!) then wound up having to share a seat with a girl, Carolyn Dwyer, but fortunately photographer Matt Griffes managed to give us a Cootie Vaccination, and then a Booster Shot once we hit the New Hampshire border.

The Lebanon operation, like nearly everything related to the Obama campaign, was larger in size and smoother in function than anyone had any right to expect. More than a few of the faces were familiar, like VDB-stalwart Susan Beard, coming in for a clinch in the photo below.

We wound up with about 150 to 200 people drifting around a refurbished mill complex on the river, but we didn’t drift for long: the organizers had everyone on the road inside of 30 minutes, with highly detailed walking maps, and packets with literature not just for Obama but Jeanne Shaheen (Senate) and Paul Hodes, the President of Peter Welch’s freshman class in the House.

Of course, the highly detailed maps did not prevent highly embarrassing moments where no one knew which way was up. Streets veered up and down huge hills, sidewalks were non-existent for the most part, and more than once we had to rely on the kindness of strangers for basic directions.

But eventually we got our groove on, and our small knot of volunteers canvassed about 45 houses. The number of New Hampshirites actually home at those 45 residences? Maybe 10, tops. But some of the conversations were illuminating, to say the least.

One woman, a self-declared undecided voter, said that she was unsure about Obama. When we asked her to unpack the uncertainty, it came down to a series of nested Fox News talking points, each packed elegantly inside another:

Since Obama has promised so much, she argued, he can’t possibly deliver on those promises, which would make America even more cynical, and therefore it’s more realistic, and hopeful, to choose McCain, who’s promised so much less.

We know: a breathtakingly circular logic.

Her final concern? That in a time when the US has so many needs, like healthcare for the uninsured, Obama wastefully chose to fly a big plane all the way to Hawaii to see his dying grandmother. Left unspoken was the favorable comparison to McCain, who didn’t fly a big plane to Hawaii to see a dying relative.

A good reminder that polls may show Obama some 7 points ahead in New Hampshire, but if and when he wins the state, and the country, there will be a very large opposition ready to assume its stance on Day One.

And of course the day was replete with symbolic images, of the sort you can only get in the last 10 days of a Presidential campaign. Take this shot of a huge McCain sign fronting a graveyard, for instance.

Pretty spooky stuff. But far spookier when you actually got up close enough to read the fine print.

In all, the sort of day that lets you sleep in on Sunday morning with a clear conscience. And it was impossible to avoid the inference, given the size of the contingent that assembled in Lebanon, one small town in one battleground state: that Obama supporters are doing this all over America now, to an extent unseen in the last 35 or 40 years.

Forget the old common wisdom, that the GOP has an edge in the mechanics and logistics of Get Out The Vote. That edge — if it ever existed as something other than a cover for the last-minute manipulation of electronic voting tallies — that edge has been utterly obliterated, and then some.

The Obama Effect is underway, in short. More as details warrant.

[Many thanks to Matt Griffes, VDB’s canvassing partner, cellphone photographer, and supplier of all necessary Cootie Boosters.]

October 25th, 2008

Sarah Palin Lays Plans to “Go Rogue”

by Philip Baruth

Moments away from boarding Peter Welch’s Magic Bus to New Hampshire, VDB pauses to bring you this sobering campaign update: Sarah Palin, attributing her sinking poll numbers to mismanagement by McCain operatives, has made the semi-covert decision to “go rogue” in the last few days. And according to a Senior Strategist, the best is yet to come. “I think she’d like to go more rogue,” he said. Thank you, God. Forget VDB’s past heresies. You the Deity.

October 24th, 2008

Again, McCain Bends It Like Bob (Dole)

by Philip Baruth

For those of us who’ve thought all along that John McCain was the New Bob Dole, there have been a series of comforting echoes. Dole famously toppled off a stage in Chico, California, providing the ideal metaphor for a candidate about to collapse. For his part, McCain recently fleshed out the meme of a candidate trapped in the past by addressing his fellow citizens as “my fellow prisoners.”

But for the sake of final reassurance, VDB has been waiting for the ultimate echo: when would McCain enact his own version of Dole’s final campaign swing, the doomed, cringe-inducing Hail-Mary then known as “96 Hours to Victory”?

time coverThe idea, to apply the noun loosely, was to show Dole as vigorous and determined. The chosen demonstration?

Keeping the guy up for most of the last four days, driving him like a knackered draft horse until he adopted the gaffe as a kind of secret cry for help.

Michael Lewis, in his hilarious 1996 campaign diary Trail Fever, describes the progress of the 96 Hours Tour:

Dole’s public appearances quickly become a blur of weird theme songs (”Play That Funky Music White Boy”), odd slogans suspended over the back of the stage behind Dole (HONEST ENERGY!), and strange rhetoric from the podium. (Dole in Indianapolis pointing to a race car: “That’s what we’re doing. Five Hundred. Ninety-six hours. Nonstop. Nonstop. Nonstop. Nonstop.”)

So when will we see McCain initiate some cringe-inducing Tour of his own? Never fear. It’s already underway. Behold, the “Joe the Plumber Tour, 2008,” and no, this is not parody:

McCain dubbed the trip the ‘’Joe the Plumber'’ bus tour, named for Ohio plumber Samuel Joe Wurzelbacher, who was catapulted onto the national stage following the last presidential debate when McCain used an encounter between Wurzelbacher and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to blast the Democratic ticket’s tax plan.

In Sarasota, McCain was introduced by marine company owner Bob Long, who dubbed himself ‘’Bob the Boat Builder'’ and spoke about the detrimental impact congressional tax policies have had on businesses where he worked.

Despite the repeated shout-outs, America’s most-famous handyman was nowhere to be found at the first leg of the bus tour. Instead, McCain was introduced by Crist and ‘’Tom the Lumberyard Owner'’ — Tom Crowe, who owns Allstar Building Materials.


It doesn’t get much deeper into the realm of self-parody. Here’s a group of strategists who are so exhausted, so at a loss, that they either can’t hear the oddly infantile tone they’re hitting, or worse, they can no longer bring themselves to care.

doleYou have the sense that Dole’s strategists, seething at his essential incompetence on the stump, really wanted to punish him with that final 96-hour marathon. They knew the guy was old, needed sleep, or he’d look and feel horrible.

But they did it to him anyway.

And that’s the last echo to listen for, in the ten days ahead: when the McCain strategists not only double, but triple-down on the silly “Joe the Plumber” theme, and force McCain to go out on the stump and repeatedly refer to himself as “John the Senator,” and then, on the last day of the race, “The Senator in the John.”

And if you don’t think that they’ll do it to him, or that McCain will just go ahead and read it off the TelePrompTer, you haven’t been paying attention.

October 24th, 2008

Yes You Are Storming NH This Saturday

by Philip Baruth

So you’ve spent the last five days toying with the idea of boarding Peter Welch’s Magic Bus to New Hampshire this Saturday, to canvass for Obama. You got as far as writing the word “Bus?” on the Post-It pad next to your computer. Well, a little straight talk, my friends: Post-It notes don’t get it come Election Day. As Ken Kesey liked to say back when he could write, it’s either On the Bus or Off the Bus.

Don’t be that guy who has to tell his grandkids, when they ask about the Defining Election of 2008, the one they’re studying in Social Studies for the entire month of February, that you stayed home that one fine day in October, playing Wii golf and eating microwave burritos.

So far a solid group of VDB readers have pledged their fortunes and sacred honor, and there’s still a seat saved in the back for you. We’re on the road at 9 and back by 6, and that’s a very convenient schedule indeed for those who would make History.

Call Rachel Selig for details (802-862-1484) or email her at rseelig@vermontforchange.com.

And not to worry: we’ll bring the donuts. Both the glazed and the jelly-filled. Because we’re not a glazed America or a jelly-filled America, we’re the United States of America.

October 23rd, 2008

Former Red State of Colorado Really and Truly “Gone,” As Is The Last Shred of John McCain’s Claim to Fiscal Conservatism

by Philip Baruth

We reported some very serious scuttlebutt a few days back, to the effect that the McCain campaign had written off Colorado, tantamount to gnawing off a leg to get out of a spring jaw trap. But we’ve kept an eye on things to avoid a situation in which McCain only seems to gnaw off a leg, but really only, you know, gums it a little bit and then throws up a bunch of attack ads and comes back to win by a scant two percentage points. Hate it when that happens.

But rest assured, the key datum is now in: McCain has slashed his ad budget at the four key stations by half, and the RNC is following suit. Confident in the situation, the DNC is following suit.

Gotta sting, if you’re Johnny Mac.

Not just because Colorado puts you in a hole that’s now nearly impossible to make up come November. Not just because of what’s coming, in other words, but because of what’s been: the guy must spend a lot of time, already, thinking about what might have been done differently.

Where did all the money go? On what did he and his hired men spend like drunken sailors? Think, think, think. It’s all a dull blur. So hard to remember, until the media lends you a helping hand.

October 21st, 2008

The Unsung Eloquence of the McCains

by Philip Baruth

According to unnamed McCain strategists, Iowa, New Mexico and Colorado are now privately considered unwinnable. Much has been said about the power of words, or lack thereof, in this election. But one of these anonymous strategists dropped the singlemost powerful word to date, in describing these formerly must-win Red states: “Gone.” Now that’s eloquence, my friends.

Late Update, 7:03 am:

Having privately conceded the three states mentioned above, in order to focus on more favorable territory, McCain must have been heartened to fly into Missouri yesterday and cast his eye on a fired-up crowd of 15 awaiting his arrival.

No typo: 15 people made it out to the Joplin Airport. But to their credit, they were 15 really, really angry people.

If the guy weren’t currently running an openly race-baiting campaign, based almost entirely now on the negative associations behind the words “terrorist” and “welfare,” you’d almost begin to feel sorry for him. And that, of course, is just where Johnny Mac wants you. They will be openly pitching for the pity vote within a matter of days, mark VDB’s words.

And if you think we’re jaded, remember that pity was the overt strategy when McCain’s campaign was declared DOA during the primary season: McCain made a comic video for Leno, in which he was shown being greeted by no one at the airport, schlepping his own bag, and finally being tossed into the trunk by the driver. Pathetic like a fox, this guy.

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