October 7th, 2008
07:34 PM ET

McCain on attack tonight?

[cnn-photo-caption image=
http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/07/mccain.henry.jpg caption="A stagehand casts a long shadow during a rehearsal for the presidential debate." width=292 height=320]

Ed Henry
White House Correspondent

Obama supporters seem to be pushing this line that McCain will go on attack tonight but two McCain aides here in Nashville insist that will not be the case.

Basically McCain aides saying firmly they realize such a strategy would backfire big time in a town-hall setting. They note McCain had pushed for a whole series of “civilized” town halls with Obama, and it would now be “hypocritical” to go nuclear in that very same setting.

Instead, McCain’s final two hours of debate prep today focused hard on highlighting sharp policy differences with Obama on taxes, health care, other pocketbook issues.

McCain aides say there are basically two narratives - one on the campaign trail where they are “taking the gloves off” as they rally the base and try to raise doubts about Obama – and not surprisingly, they say there’s a second narrative in the last two debates as they try to target undecided voters.

Filed under: Barack Obama • Ed Henry • John McCain • Raw Politics
October 7th, 2008
07:11 PM ET

Talking the Walk

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/07/mccain.religous.jpg caption="John McCain during a rally on Monday at the University of New Mexico."]

Tony Carnes
Christianity Today

John McCain has finally begun to talk his walk with Jesus. Until recently, the details about the Republican presidential nominee's Christian convictions were missing in action. Starting this summer, McCain and some of his closest Vietnam War-era buddies began pulling back the narrative curtain.

These war stories reveal McCain's stoic, generically Christian spirituality and his honor-driven self-discipline. During his five-plus years as a prisoner in Hanoi, McCain had many defining religious moments. One Sunday in 1971, the North Vietnamese Communists decided to put an end to the church services being held by the prisoners. They burst into Room 7 and dragged McCain out. "Bud Day [commander among the prisoners] jumped up and sang 'God Bless America.' It was singing to the heavens," recalled fellow prisoner Orson Swindle in a recent interview with Christianity Today. "The Vietnamese dragged Day out and someone else jumped up." Next, Swindle and others started loudly singing, "Onward Christian Soldiers." That provoked a squad of armed soldiers to rush in and shut down the service completely. McCain was thrown into solitary confinement.

The prisoners' Christmas celebration that year proved to be another defining experience for McCain. For weeks, prisoners had demanded an English-language Bible to conduct a proper Christmas observance. The guards eventually relented and allowed one prisoner access to a Bible for 30 minutes. McCain was chosen. Using tiny pieces of broken pencil lead, McCain copied the Nativity story down on scrap paper. And on the evening of December 25, 1971, the prisoners held their service with the Lord's Prayer and Christmas carols as McCain recounted the birth of Christ. At the end, all sang, with much weeping, "Silent Night."


Filed under: John McCain
October 7th, 2008
06:54 PM ET

Florida voters: "I find her offensive"

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/07/art.palin.fl.jpg
caption="Gov. Sarah Palin in Florida today"]
Tristram Korten

John McCain was making a bid for South Florida's Jewish voters, a crucial demographic in a purple state. But then he chose Sarah Palin as a running mate.

The local retirement community known as Century Village is just one outpost in a statewide network of Century Villages, Florida's largest chain of retirement complexes. It is also a time capsule of the New York Jewish gestalt, circa 1965, transplanted intact to the golf greens of Palm Beach County. If a small, unscientific sampling of the shoppers in the Hamptons Plaza mall, directly across from the complex, is any indication, John McCain's choice of running mates may have pushed the residents of this heavily Democratic enclave back in Barack Obama's direction.

"I was leaning towards McCain," growled Marvin Weinstein, 74, as he strode to an appointment in a doctor's office. "But I think his choice of her has turned me off."

"What I hear is she's an awful anti-Semite," George Friedberg said as he sat curbside in his Escalade. "She won't be getting my vote." Friedberg's wife, Florence, appeared at the passenger-side door, shopping bags in hand. "I was leaning towards McCain, but after he selected her I've ruled him out completely. I find her offensive."


Filed under: Barack Obama • John McCain • Raw Politics • Sarah Palin
October 7th, 2008
05:44 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Debate Night & AIG's Re$ort Retreat

Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer
Hey, everyone.

It's going to a big night in the race for the White House.

Be sure to join us tonight at 9pm ET for the second presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama.  The face off will take place at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.

The format will be much different than the first debate. This will be like a town hall meeting, with undecided voters in the audience asking some of the questions. Moderator Tom Brokaw of NBC News will also be grilling the candidates.

They're expected to cover a variety of topics.  But a big chunk of the debate  will likely focus on the economy.  The Dow took another beating today, falling 508 at the closing bell. 

And, we're wondering if today's development from Capitol Hill on the bailout of insurance giant AIG will come up in the discussion.

Before I share with you what lawmakers revealed today, I have some advice:

1) Ummm, move anything of value away from the computer. You may be tempted to release your anger in a way that could lead to the demise of your favorite vase?
2) Inhale. Exhale.

OK. I know.  I can't hold you back anymore.

Here are the details:

Just days after the federal government helped AIG avoid bankruptcy with a $85 billion lifeline, the company's leaders were throwing a one-week retreat at the St. Regis Resort in Monarch Beach, near San Diego, California.

The price tag: At least $440,000, including $23,000 in spa charges and $1,400 at the salon.

That's according to members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government who blasted AIG leadership on Capitol Hill today.

"Average Americans are suffering economically. They are losing their jobs, their homes, and their health insurance. Yet less than one week after the taxpayers rescued AIG, company executives could be found wining and dining at one of the most exclusive resorts in the nation," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, chairman of the House committee.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, also blasted AIG. "They were getting their manicures, their facials, their pedicures and their massages while the American people were footing the bill," said Cummings.

Then there's the cost of the hotel rooms. "Rooms start at $425 a night, some in the thousands, more than some of my constituents pay on a mortgage payment on homes they are losing," added Cummings.

AIG's ex-CEO Robert Willumstad told the committee he was unaware of the retreat (He left the company just after the bailout) and said it "seems very inappropriate."

But AIG spokesman Nick Ashooh said the retreat has been "completely mischaracterized." He said the event was scheduled a year ago. "It wasn't AIG executives running off for a lavish weekend," he said.

Ashooh said it was a gathering to reward top-performing sales agents, and its was not for the executives.

AIG versus lawmakers on Captiol Hill.
Caught in the middle: you, the taxpayer.

Do you think AIG should have cancelled the retreat?
And, how's your vase or whatever breakables you may have by the laptop?
Maybe you need a day at the spa? 
I would love one. 
 I just think in this economy I should spend my money more wisely, right?

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
October 7th, 2008
04:22 PM ET

Beat 360° 10/7/08

Ready for today's Beat 360°?

Everyday we post a picture – and you provide the caption and our staff will join in too.

Check back here later to see if you are our favorite!
Tonight Beat 360° will be web-only because of the debate. Here is the 'Beat 360°’ pic of the day:

President George W. Bush speaks at Guernsey Office Products Inc. Tuesday in Chantilly, Virginia. Bush delivered his remarks following a meeting with business leaders on the 'Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.

Have fun with it. We're looking forward to your captions!

Make sure to include your name, city, state (or country) so we can post your comment.


Beat 360° Challenge

But wait!… There’s more!

When you win ‘Beat 360°’ not only do you get on-air prime-time name recognition (complete with bragging rights over all your friends, family, and jealous competitors), but you get a “I Won the Beat 360° Challenge” T-shirt!

Read more here….

Good luck to all!

Update: Today's winner is Derek from Naperville, Illinois, who wrote:

Whoops! I guess I did drop the ball.

Filed under: Beat 360° • T1
October 7th, 2008
04:13 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: True American stories

Erica Hill
AC360° Correspondent

The most interesting people in this world are rarely the famous ones. Celebrities and politicians may grab more airtime and more headlines – and more of our money – but in my experience, the family next door normally holds the most unexpected, inspirational and interesting tales. Need a little convincing? Try “The Oxford Project.”

In 1984, Peter Feldstein photographed almost all of the 676 residents of Oxford, IA. Twenty years later, he came back to capture them on film again. But he wasn’t alone. Stephen G. Bloom, a journalism professor at the University of Iowa, was there this time to record the stories behind the faces. Bloom says too often, we don’t hear these stories because we in the media are too focused on the power players and the big names. "The idea was not to talk to the decision makers, but talk to the people whose lives are affected by the decision makers," he says. "My job in Oxford was to talk to the voiceless, to people who don't have any voice who are the backbone of America."

The candidates could all benefit from a trip to Oxford, Iowa – but it would have to be a true visit, not a stop on the campaign trail. There are residents just like the hundreds of folks in Oxford all across the country. Many feel forgotten. They are struggling and searching for answers. They are the hard-working Americans candidates so often invoke in their stump speeches, the same people who hear the words and are waiting for the results. Will they get any answers tonight?


I think nearly every teenager goes through a Salvation Army/thrift store phase. I did. I also enjoyed the French version, the “Kilo Shop,” where you would pay by the kilo…though somehow the cool leather jackets from the 70s we all coveted in high school were exempt from the weight bargain.

Bargain shopping is more in fashion than ever, but it’s not about being hip or edgy, it’s about being smart in a down economy.


With all this talk of the economy and our dwindling bank accounts, who couldn’t use a getaway? Preferably one on the cheap, of course. Sit back, relax and take in the beauty of fall from around the country, courtesy of our iReporters.

Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note
October 7th, 2008
03:37 PM ET

America's $53 trillion debt problem

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/07/bernake.jpg caption="Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke on a television screen on the New York Stock Exchange trading floor." width=292 height=320]David M. Walker
President and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation

The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act contains plenty to make lawmakers on the left and right shudder. On the right, it's the apparent abandonment of free-market principles. On the left, it's the absence of punishment for high-flying Wall Street CEO's.

Looking down the middle, what I found downright unnerving was how hard Washington struggled to pass a bill that, in reality, represents less than 1 percent of our current federal financial hole.

Don't get me wrong. Congress and the Bush Administration are to be commended for acting to relieve the credit crunch and trying to minimize any immediate, adverse effect on our economy and by consequence, on American jobs and access to credit.

The ultimate cost of the act should ring up at less than $500 billion, less than the advertised $700 billion because of anticipated proceeds from the government's sale of the assets it will acquire with the appropriated funds.

The nation's real tab, on the other hand, amounted to $53 trillion as of the end of the last fiscal year. That was the sum of our public debt; accrued civilian and military retirement benefits; unfunded, promised Social Security and Medicare benefits; and other financial obligations - all according to the government's most recent financial statement of September 30, 2007.

The rescue package and other bailout efforts for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG and the auto industry, escalating operating deficits, compounding interest and other factors are likely to boost the tab to $56 trillion or more by the end of this calendar year.

With numbers and trends like this, you might ask, "Who will bail out America?" The answer is, no one but us!

Since we're going to have to save ourselves, recent events could hardly be called encouraging. It took an additional $100 billion in incentives - some would call them "sweeteners;" others might call them bribes - to get lawmakers to pass the rescue package. Regardless of what you call these incentives, ultimately the taxpayers will have to pick up the tab, with interest.


Editor's Note: David M. Walker served as comptroller general of the United States and head of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) from 1998 to 2008. He is now president and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Bailout Turmoil • Economy
October 7th, 2008
03:05 PM ET

Don’t put me in the back of the bus, We’re not going

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/07/art.brazile.newyorker.jpg]
Editor’s note: During the New Yorker Festival, Jeffrey Toobin hosted a panel discussion with Donna Brazile, Alex Castellanos, Ed Rollins, and Joe Trippi. Below are Donna’s impassioned closing remarks. You can also watch a video of the entire discussion here .

Donna Brazile
CNN Political Contributor

I’m gonna say it and get it off my chest, because for the next thirty days, I’m gonna be the best Catholic woman ever… If Obama loses, and there’s a possibility he might lose, I would hope that people voted against him because they didn’t like his economic vision, his energy plan, they didn’t like the fact that he came out against the war so early when everyone was going with the status quo. I would hope that people decided that during the debates maybe he didn’t do as well as he possibly could and maybe that’s right. We’re at a time of trouble and maybe you want someone who’s been on the planet a lot longer. A hell of a lot longer, and God bless him...

But my friends, I have to tell you, as a child who grew up in the segregated Deep South, de facto and de jure, we’ve come so far in this country. This country, and you have to have lived as long as I’ve lived to have seen so much progress. But I remember when I used to get on the bus, and this was after segregation was so-called “over with”: my mother would tell me, “Donna, now you get on the bus, you and your brothers go all the way to the back, and don’t look at anybody.” And of course, I would get on that bus and tell my brothers go straight to the back, don’t look at anybody, because I didn’t want them to get in trouble. And I would sit there and say, let me see if everything’s okay. Is it really changed?


Filed under: Barack Obama • Donna Brazile • Raw Politics
October 7th, 2008
03:05 PM ET

Our romance with debt - we'll pay for it later

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/07/bank.crisis.jpg]Margaret Atwood
Author, The Handmaid's Tale

Unless we value fairness, reciprocity, and honest dealing, and the concept of balances - for debt and credit depend on them - and unless we are able to trust our systems, we would not be able to have debt and credit - no one would lend, because there would be no expectation of ever getting paid back.

What caused the massive financial mess we are in comes back ultimately to these concepts. The rules were too loose, fairness and honest dealing were violated, the balance was upset. We must now restore trust so people will take their pennies out of the sock under the mattress where they are now inclined to store them.

In my part of the world we have a ritual interchange that goes like this:

First person: "Lovely weather we're having."

Second person: "We'll pay for it later."

My part of the world being Canada, where there is a great deal of weather, we always do pay for it later. One person has commented, "That's not Canadian, it's just Presbyterian." Nevertheless, it's a widespread saying among us.

What this ritual interchange reveals is a larger habit of thinking about the more enjoyable things in life: They're only on loan or acquired on credit, and sooner or later the date when they must be paid for will roll around. It's pay-up time. Or payback time, supposing that you haven't paid up.

In any case, the time when whatever is on one side of the balance is weighed against whatever is on the other side - whether it's your heart, your soul or your debts - and the final reckoning is made.

The financial world has recently been shaken as a result of the collapse of a debt pyramid involving something called "subprime mortgages" - a pyramid scheme that most people don't grasp very well, but that boils down to the fact that some large financial institutions peddled mortgages to people who could not possibly pay the monthly rates and then put this snake-oil debt into cardboard boxes with impressive labels on them and sold them to institutions and hedge funds that thought they were worth something.

A friend of mine from the United States writes: "I used to have three banks and a mortgage company. Bank number one bought the other two and is now trying hard to buy the mortgage company, which is bankrupt, only it was revealed this morning that the last bank standing is also in serious trouble.


Editor's note: Canadian writer Margaret Atwood is the author of more than 35 books of poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Her novels include "The Handmaid's Tale" and "The Blind Assassin," which won the Booker Prize in 2000. Her new book, published this week by House of Anansi Press, is "Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth." Atwood says the book "is not a practical guide about how to get out of debt. Instead it examines the underpinnings of the whole structure - why we human beings have such a thing as a debt-credit system in the first place."

Filed under: 360° Radar • Bailout Turmoil • Economy
October 7th, 2008
02:49 PM ET

McCain's desperate claim: Obama is dangerous. Vote for me if you want to live!

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/07/art.mccain.cu.jpg]Arianna Huffington
Editor-in-Chief, The Huffington Post

The McCain campaign is all set to roll out its message for the last 30 days of the campaign: "We may not be good for your bank account, your mortgage, your health care, or your job security - but none of that will matter if you are dead. John McCain: If You Want to Live."

It's coming a little earlier than expected, but with an imploding economy and no solutions from the McCain camp other than yet another round of tax cuts, Team McCain is hitting the GOP's default key: Be Very Afraid!

The title of McCain's latest TV ad says it all: "Dangerous." The ad brands Obama as "dishonorable," "dangerous," and "too risky for America." That's right, folks, it time to appeal to the voters' Lizard Brains.

For the moment, McCain is allowing his high-sticking hockey mom to lead the fear-mongering parade, accusing Obama of "palling around with terrorists" and not seeing America "like you and I see America." For bad measure, Palin also teamed up with her mentor Bill "Henry Higgins" Kristol to re-pry the manhole cover off the Jeremiah Wright sewer.

But Palin's Alaska crude will soon be mixed with McCain's own Maverick mud. At a Colorado town hall last Thursday, McCain was asked, "When are you going to take the gloves off?" His grinning reply: "How about Tuesday night?" So how long into Debate II do you think it will be before McCain brings up Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, or Tony Rezko?

Clearly, McCain has concluded that the only way he can get enough votes is to pay for them with his once-valued dignity and honor. And it appears he's not planning to leave any of that precious personal capital in the bank by the time election day rolls around.

So here it comes. One last desperate, pathetic, sordid attempt to distract the country from anything resembling a real debate about a real issue. Don't have health care? Rezko, Rezko, Rezko. Wonder why our financial system is on the brink of collapse? Ayers, Ayers, Ayers. Worried about whether we'll ever get out of Iraq? Wright, Wright, Wright.


Filed under: Barack Obama • John McCain • Raw Politics
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