Legendary journalist Carl Bernstein describes Eric Cantor and his wing of the Republican party as the most destructive political force since Joe McCarthy. Ana Navarro responds by calling on all sides to "ratchet down" the rhetoric.
CNN Political Analyst
Does John McCain "pal around with terrorists?"
Certainly McCain's continuing "association" and relationship with the convicted Watergate burglar and domestic terrorist G. Gordon Liddy might suggest that is the case, if we are to apply the standards drawn by the McCain campaign.
In 1998, Liddy gave a fundraiser in his Scottsdale, Arizona home for McCain's senatorial re-election campaign - the two posed for photographs together; and as recently as May, 2007, as a presidential candidate, McCain was a guest on Liddy's syndicated radio show. Inexplicably, McCain heaped praise on his host's values. During the segment, McCain said he was "proud" of Liddy, and praised Liddy's "adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great."
Which of Liddy's "principles and philosophies" was McCain referring to? Liddy's advocacy of break-ins? Firebombings? Assassinations? Kidnappings? Taking target practice with figures nicknamed Bill and Hillary?
Who won the Palin-Biden debate? Barack Obama, I suspect.
Who was the big loser? In an historic fortnight that had already underscored his erratic nature, John McCain.
The fact that Palin was able to string her sentences together last night – which she couldn’t manage to do in her unscripted interviews with Katie Couric - shows only how low McCain has strapped his presidential quest.
Sarah Palin’s task was an impossible one: to demonstrate that she is ready to be president of the United States. McCain put her in that impossible position; and her performance — all prep and no depth — demonstrated the bind he has put himself in.
Yes, he “energized the base” with his Hail Mary pick of Palin as a running mate. But he also demonstrated cynical disregard for the requirement of stable governance were he to be elected president, and then - through his incapacitation or death - Palin be called upon to exercise the powers of the presidency.
Just how scary a notion that is went on full display last night: She appeared to lack any semblance of the requisite depth, knowledge, or sense of history we should expect in a president or vice president; then she sought to excuse it by saying, “I’ve only been at this for five weeks.”
In one of our many conversations as we crisscrossed the country during his campaign for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, John McCain said to me, "I've always tried to act on what I thought was the best for the country. And that has guided me.... The only thing I can do is assure people that I would act on principle."
I traveled with McCain for weeks that political season, stayed in Arkansas with him, Cindy, and their children, and – for a Vanity Fair cover profile - filled dozens of notebooks and tapes with observations from and about a potentially heroic politician who seems far removed from the man running for president today.
Three weeks after the 2008 Republican convention, on the cusp (maybe) of the first presidential debate, it is time to confront an awkward but profound question: whether in picking Sarah Palin as his running mate, John McCain has committed - by his own professed standards of duty and honor - a singularly unpatriotic act.
"I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war," he has said throughout this campaign. Yet, in choosing Palin, he has demonstrated - whatever his words - it may be permissible to imperil the country, conceivably even to "lose" it, in order to win the presidency. That would seem the deeper meaning of his choice of Palin.
Barack Obama is getting the convention he wants, under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. The convention he is building reflects him and his priorities: it’s thoughtful, not just red-meat; and he’s in surprising control of the message, given the forces he’s dealing with. Indeed, the convention-building and the message may be far more sophisticated and effective than we instant commentators were prepared to discern. Witness the opening night grousing on-air about the convention’s supposed thematic absence, and aversion to instant butchery of the opposition.
Task Number One for Obama:
Defining himself as a person, not just a politician: telling his story and that of Michelle Obama and their family. An American story, meant to definitively undermine the oppo-narrative of the Clinton campaign, and now the Republican oppo-narrative – that he is some kind of vaguely alien, exotic candidate. (For some undecided voters, that also means uncomfortably black). Michelle Obama – as well as the team that produced her bio-pic – delivered with perfect pitch on Night One.
This was the real opening business of the convention, the essential themes to get right. As well as to establish an umbilical connection between Obama and the greatest of Democratic traditions and immutable principles… a generational passing of the torch that Caroline and Ted Kennedy declared unmistakably – and emotionally – had now moved past the Clintons.
A few observations as the convention is about to convene:
This is Barack Obama's convention. It will have his stamp on it, including ushering the Clintons off center-stage and into supporting roles-however reluctantly.
It is also a Democratic Party convention, with threads of history and some immutable principles since the 1960s-especially regarding civil rights, women's rights, and a certain perspective on economic issues. The Clintons are (whatever their shortcomings) a big part of that story, especially the successful parts: Bill Clinton is the only Democrat to be
elected twice to the presidency since FDR.
The Clintons-like Ted Kennedy, who will be powerfully present tonight-do not want to see the presidency turned over to John McCain or four more years of Republican policies: remember, they have spent their adult lives fighting against the Republican Right....even to the extent of Hillary Clinton labeling it "the vast right-wing conspiracy."
We journalists, especially on television in the past few days, have placed far too much emphasis on recent polls, a notable example being trying to divine the effect of Joe Biden's addition to the ticket within hours of his being named. This is silly.
The presidency will be won in the electoral college, something very different than national polls about the popular vote. Polls can be good snapshots, useful tools-but, as Mark Penn and Hillary Clinton learned, they can be far off-course.
Barack Obama confounded almost every poll to defeat Hillary Clinton-and concentrated on superior organization, the consistency of his message (sometimes perhaps vague in terms of what he would specifically do as president), and remarkable discipline. Most Republican professionals I have talked to believe he has a large organizational advantage in the states he must win to become president.
Program Note: In the next installment of CNN's Black in America series, Soledad O'Brien examines the successes, struggles and complex issues faced by black men, women and families, 40 years after the death of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Watch encore presentation Saturday & Sunday, 8 p.m. ET
We devote several days on the blog to smart insight and commentary related to the special.
Editor’s Note: In 1989, Carl Bernstein published a memoir about growing up in a segregated, McCarthy-era Washington, titled Loyalties: A Son’s Memoir. Part of the book focuses on Washingtonians –including Bernstein’s parents and their black and white friends – who worked to desegregate public places in the nation’s capital. It was a Jim Crow town, including its restaurants, hotels, and the segregated schools that Carl attended until he was in the sixth grade, when the Supreme Court struck down segregation of public education– in the case of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. It is a little remembered fact that the companion case to Brown was Bolling v. Sharpe, in which the justices held unanimously that “Racial segregation in the public schools of the District of Columbia is a denial to Negro children of the due process of law guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.”
The following excerpt from Loyalties describes the demonstrations Bernstein participated in—as a child–in 1951 and 1952. FULL POST
CNN Political Analyst and author of "A Woman In Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton"
Senator Hillary Clinton personally assured Barack Obama today that she recognizes he has won the Democratic nomination for president, and that “I’m prepared to help in any way I can,” according to a person familiar with their conversation.
Though she would prefer to be on his ticket as the vice presidential nominee, said this person, Senator Clinton has said her only requirement as the campaign goes forward is that “she be a player in the whole process. She doesn’t necessarily want to leave the Senate, but she does want to be sure that key people from her campaign will have a role in Obama’s presidential campaign and—if he wins the presidency—his administration.”
“Yes, it is somewhat a power play for vice president,” said this person, a Clinton supporter in Washington with whom she sometimes counsels on important matters. “But being on the ticket is not a requirement” for her unqualified help, especially in convincing her supporters to embrace Obama’s candidacy. “Her speech [Tuesday night] was about being a player and making sure she was a player.”
With dwindling chances of winning the Democratic nomination for president, close friends and supporters of Senator Clinton are looking for a “graceful exit strategy” from the race. One option is a joint ticket, with Clinton as the vice presidential nominee.