Archive for July 23rd, 2008

July 23, 2008

John McCain in PUMA territory

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — I’m at the F.M. Kirby Center for today’s “Straight Talk Town Hall” event with John McCain. Will try to live blog as much as possible. Expect updates.

11:30 p.m.: Back home now, after a three-hour drive home, including a half-hour stop in a McDonald’s parking lot to call in and talk to The Radio Patriot, Andrea Shea King. Audio of the program is now online.

6 p.m. — My report for Pajamas Media now online:

Sen. John McCain today continued his stepped-up criticism of his Democratic rival’s position on the war in Iraq, saying Sen. Barack Obama would “rather lose a war in order to win a campaign.” . . .
Similar remarks by McCain during a Tuesday appearance in Rochester, N.H., were denounced by many critics, including Time magazine columnist Joe Klein, who called it a “scurrilous statement” that “smacks of desperation.”
The repeated attack on Obama — who is currently in the midst of a weeklong foreign trip — appears part of a newly aggressive approach for the McCain campaign, which recently reshuffled staff and brought in former Bush political operative Steve Schmidt as a senior advisor.
The visit to Wilkes-Barre represents a key opportunity for McCain to flip a Democratic blue state to Republican red. In the April 22 Democratic primary, surrounding Luzerne County voted 3-to-1 for Clinton over Obama, and clearly the McCain campaign hopes to win over Clinton Democrats in a potential swing state that Bush narrowly lost to John Kerry in 2004. . . .

Please read the whole thing. Despite the mysteriously canceled “media availability,” it’s been a nice visit to Wilkes-Barre where (as a historical marker outside informs me) I’m blogging from the site of the original Woolworth’s store, founded by F.M. Kirby in 1884. The local Obama organizers (seated at the next table) are still using the coffee shop here for their operation, but it’s time for me to make the 3-hour ride back home. Goodnight!

1:30 p.m.Ambinder talks about the cancelled press “availability,” which remains (officially) unexplained.

1:20 p.m. — Researching what I was told earlier by a Scranton reporter, indeed this is Clinton territory — she beat Obama 3-to-1 in Luzerne County. While I’m working on my story for tomorrow, here’s the latest national poll data: Gallup daily tracking has Obama by 4, Rasmussen has Obama by 2. So the worldwide bounce quest continues ….

12:55 p.m. — Sorry that live-blogging was interrupted, but there was a WiFi failure. I’m now set up in the coffee shop at the Barnes & Noble store across the street. I’m sitting right next to a team of Obama organizers (no kidding) who are using the coffee shop as headquarters for a voter-registration operation.

I think the Obama people may have been trying to sign up volunteers among any random anti-McCain protesters who showed up. There were a few protesters here, but nothing very organized. I spotted one across the street from the event with a hand-lettered poster: “Bush-McCain Kill Our Soldiers for Lies! Shame.”

The Associated Press is headlining its report of the town hall with McCain crediting Bush’s lifting of the offshore ban for the recent $10 drop in the wholesale price of a barrel of oil. Marc Ambinder (I didn’t even know he was here) leads with McCain calling Obama’s Iraq policy reckless:

If McCain is president and his strategy prevails, “We will come home. We will come home with victory and honor, but we will never have to go back,” he said.
“So, when Senator Obama says well if we don’t succeed, we may have to go back in, we might.”

Personally, the big story for me is that the McCain campaign cancelled its previously announced press conference here. There was no explanation from the local press coordinator. A reporter for a major national news organization told me that the rumor is that the campaign was upset that none of the networks sent correspondents to Wilkes-Barr. I’ll have more of an update later.

10:40 a.m. — McCain repeats the accusation that Obama “would rather lose a war and win a campaign.” Joe Klein has called this statement “scurrilous,” but McCain has apparently nailed his colors to the mast on this one.
10:32 a.m. — Discussing Obama’s opposition to drilling for oil, McCain references the Latin “Yes We Can” (“Vero Possumus”) slogan on Obama’s fake presidential seal, and says, “I think he should change that to ‘No, We Won’t.'”
10:25 a.m. — McCain talks gas tax holiday.
10:20 a.m. — Boris Krawczeniuk of the Scranton (Pa.) Times-Tribune told me earlier that this area was “3-to-1 for Hillary.” Listening to local radio on my way into town, they were interviewing a local PUMA leader. This county was 51-48 for Kerry in 2004, so if this state is going to swing GOP, it will be because of Clinton Democrats in areas like this.
10:17 a.m. — McCain just took the stage to a standing ovation.
10:13 a.m. — The sound system is now playing Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” About 900 people in attendance. The stage has a giant American flag backdrop and an “Energy Solutions” banner.

July 23, 2008

McCain’s new press pass

Some Maverick humor:

John McCain’s campaign had a little fun at Barack Obama’s expense tonight, issuing a fake press pass to the McCain traveling press on the bus as we landed at the airport here. The front of the pass identifies the McCain press corps as the “JV Squad” and has the caption “Left Behind to Report in America.” The reverse side features a Frenchman pouring a glass of wine with the same caption en francaise (“Laisse en arriere pour faire un rapport en Amerique”). The fake press pass satirizes the preferential treatment that the McCain campaign suggests the media has given Barack Obama.

That story, BTW, is datelined from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., where John McCain will speak today at a town hall event. I’ll be there. It’s a three-hour drive. Blogging will be light today.

UPDATE: I’m now live-blogging the event in Wilkes-Barre.
July 23, 2008

Obama’s ‘much-ballyhooed’ trip

Generally speaking, when a reporter says something is “much-ballyhooed,” he means it as a putdown — the “much-ballyhooed” prize fight that ends with a first-round KO, the “much-ballyooed” film sequel that fails to meet expectations, and so forth.

So when the Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza began by writing of Barack Obama’s “much-ballyhooed trip abroad this week,” I was expecting a hit job. Instead, it was a gooey discussion of Obama’s “gravitas” at a press conference in Amman, Jordan. After eight paragraphs of suitably reverent worship of St. Obama, however, Cillizza felt compelled to admit:

The press conference wasn’t all roses for Obama, however, as he provided Republicans more rhetorical ammunition by again refusing to say he should have supported the troop surge last year.
Obama said that “we don’t know what would have happened” if the plan he put forward in early 2007 — a plan that would have had all combat brigades out of the country by March 31 of this year — had been implemented.
That is sure to be fodder for Republicans who were up in arms last night over the fact that Obama told ABC’s Terry Moran that even in hindsight he did not support the troop surge.
Already McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds is out with a statement condemning Obama’s attitude toward the surge.

In the third paragraph, Cillizza described the need for Obama to “convey . . . bipartisanship” and in the sixth paragraph credited the Democrat with taking “the high road,” but Cillizza sees no possibility that anyone but a partisan Republican might criticize His Hopefulness.

After pointedly referencing the McCain campaign’s complaints about “the allegedly fawning coverage of Obama’s trip” (allegedly), Cilliza then went into full-court fawning mode, concluding that, in terms of demonstrating suitably presidential gravitas, Obama “cleared that hurdle with ease.” An objective fact!