My time as the Baghdad escort for my international colleagues isn’t quite over, but I have a break. I’d like to tell you more about the last two days — it’s been entertaining, to say the least — but I don’t want to step on their story, whatever it turns out to be. Let me just say that there’s no better way to spend a random Thursday than trying to sort our your droit turns from your gauche, and watching an urban European confront a drive-through ATM:

“You open your window to use the machine?”

“Yes, very convenient.”

“I won’t do this. Lazy country.”

And so we pulled into the drive-through lane, parked a few feet beyond, opened the door and walked three steps back to get cash. Because once you start banking from your car, a 42-inch waistline is just around the corner.

(On the other hand, I tried to buy Kate an Obama T-shirt at the Eastern Market last Saturday. The sizes started at L — on a slender 11-year-old, a large dress — and topped out at 5XL. So maybe it would do us all some good to walk back to the ATM.)

In other news at this hour, McCain is abandoning Michigan, Politico says. There’s a certain sense of all-over-but-the-shoutin’ in southeast Michigan, to be sure, but you can’t judge the rest of the state by our little tri-county area. At this point, however, the veep debate is shaping up to be topic A for the next 36 hours, with the Couric snippets — endlessly e-mailed and embedded and prefaced with I can’t stand it — acting as trailers. That’ll be the highlight of my night, anyway.

So consider this your Palin/Biden debate open thread, and I’ll be back on my reg’lar schedule tomorrow. Oh, and speaking of tomorrow: I have an appointment tomorrow, and neglected to write it down. There’s a lunch-adjacent thing on my calendar, but I know there’s something else, too, and for the life of me I can’t remember it. So just in case you’re reading this, whoever you are: Are we supposed to do something tomorrow? If so, please remind me so I can show up.

Meanwhile, Caribou Barbie v. Babblin’ Joe! It’s so on.

Posted at 4:56 pm in Current events, Housekeeping |

46 responses to “Surfacing.”

  1. brian stouder said on October 2, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    So just in case you’re reading this, whoever you are: Are we supposed to do something tomorrow?

    It was our ryst-Tay at the otel-May!

    btw – McCain is spending money in Indiana!! Hahahhahaha!!! If Indiana ain’t locked down for McCain, then indeed it does begin to look like the end of his misbegotten campaign. (no doubt, the evil Indiana media is at fault – PROFITING from the unfair coverage McCain gets, by extorting campaign advertising out of him as he falls behind Obama. This is WAY WORSER than anyhting Gwen Ifill could possibly do!

    My official Obama tee and hat hasn’t come yet; I finally snapped up one at the mall last weekend, and wear it proudly

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  2. Catherine said on October 2, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    I’m down with the drinking game, but we need to know what the Biden drinking signal is. When he repeats something three times? What’s that verbal tic of his, is it “actually” or something?

    I need rules, folks, otherwise I’m just going to have to drink everytime Sarah Palin’s accent annoys me, and that way lies a ride on the porcelain bus.

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  3. Gasman said on October 2, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    You forgot to say that it was, “the evil LIBERAL Indiana media is at fault.”

    I’ve gotten a chuckle at those who insist that the media hasn’t been fair to poor Sarah. In what way have “THEY” been unfair? Couric’s questions were giant, fuzzy, generally friendly softballs that should have given here every opportunity to score big points. That she struck out each time is a clear indication that she is not ready for the big leagues.

    It is rather amusing that the hard right supporters of poor mistreated W3 (Wonder Woman from Wasilla) angrily demand that we take her seriously, but NOT by asking her pertinent questions that are fair game for Biden. Which is it; is she a serious candidate or not?

    I feel that delicate miss W3 is going to be getting a bit of an education tonight. However, the expectation bar is set so low for her performance that if she doesn’t drool on herself or babble incoherently her side will claim a marvelous victory.

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  4. joodyb said on October 2, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    Joe is advised from many quarters to try not to smile at all, as it may make him look condescending, among other things.

    A friend suggested this weekend that Sarah’s last name may in fact be Paling. (Begging pardon if someone has already shared this theory.)

    Sarah Palin’s gubernatorial debate videos are online. Progressive talkers saying not to dismiss her skills.

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  5. ellen said on October 2, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    This afternoon, Hannity’s idea of a reasonable debate question for Palin was: “What values inform your decisionmaking, Governor?” But he considers the whole vp debate nullified anyway, because of Gwen Ifill.

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  6. Suzi said on October 2, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Any Margaret Atwood fans out there? Interesting essay on Palin and The Handmaid’s Tale:

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  7. Jolene said on October 2, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    Catherine, at the end of the previous thread, I just suggested “literally” as the trigger to take a drink when Biden is speaking. Either that or “ladies and gentlemen.” He says both all the time.

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  8. Jolene said on October 2, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    There’s a nice story about Sarah Palina in today’s WaPo by Sally Jenkins, who is usually a sportswriter, but also does some feature-writing. Whatever else one might say about Palin, she had a colorful upbringing.

    To tell the truth, I see some of my sister, who was also a point guard, in Sarah. The drive, the feistiness. But, unlike Sarah, my sister knows what she’s talking about.

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  9. Catherine said on October 2, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Literally! That’s it! Thanks, Jolene. Let the games, I mean debate, commence.

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  10. joodyb said on October 2, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    jolene, i loved that story. to brand her as your typical american girl seems a stretch, now. the eyeballs! the camping! the playing through pain! her leap into the limelight makes sense. say what you will, but by strict definition, she is extraordinary.

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  11. Jolene said on October 2, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    Yes, joody, with a bit of polish and better education, she could be extraordinary. She’s clearly willing to try anything, and she’s a sharp-elbowed competitor. There’s just not enough depth or coherence to her thinking.

    If she had more experience and confidence as a thinker, she wouldn’t say ridiculous things about knowing foreign policy because she lives near Russia. She’d say, “Obviously, in my role as governor, I’ve had a local and regional focus, and in that role I’ve done x, y, z. That experience would help me in dealing with foreign leaders in [whichever way].”

    Although I’m bothered by her ignorance and the “overly decisive” (not sure who I’m borrowing that phrase from) way in which she expresses herself, I’m more troubled by what seems like meanness. There’s not much warmth or humor behind her jibes at her opponent. I know that politics ain’t beanbag, but we have had enough of people who treat the political opposition with disdain.

    As I’m writing this, I have the feeling that I’ve said it before, so forgive me if I’m repeating myself.

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  12. alex said on October 2, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    So if she fucks up, Gwen Ifill takes the fall tomorrow on right-wing radio for asking “gotcha” questions. And if she blathers emptily but maintains her poised swagger, we get another good SNL skit out of it. Here’s bettin’.

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  13. Colleen said on October 2, 2008 at 7:57 pm

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  14. Jolene said on October 2, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Great sentence from James Fallows’s pre-debate commentary: Joe Biden will be judged on whether he gets anything wrong; Palin, on whether she gets anything right.

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  15. Bill said on October 2, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    I’m watching the Cubs. The debate is being DVR’d for later.

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  16. alex said on October 2, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    She’s a flaming liberal. Who knew?

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  17. John said on October 2, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    I messed up, I should have picked “Maverick” for the take-a-shot word instead of “Alaska”.

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  18. mark said on October 2, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    Nice predictions guys.

    Conservatives are very happy tonight.

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  19. Jolene said on October 2, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    Actually, I didn’t catch many instances of “literally” either.

    I did think her question-answering strategy was interesting. Doctoral students all over America will, no doubt, enter their oral exams saying, “I’m not going to answer the questions the way you asked them.” Pretty amazing.

    The absence of follow-up questions is a serious problem.

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  20. del said on October 2, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    I thought that the Obama/McCain was a draw, but the polling suggests that to the public Obama won. Tonight Biden won very convincingly. I wonder how Palin’s golly-shucks, darn it colloquialisms will play out in the polling? Sarah Palin doesn’t belong at the top of a ticket. America does not need another lightweight who pronounces nuclear, nucular. And more importantly, to anyone who listened for content, the choice is starkly clear.

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  21. del said on October 2, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    Just checked the CBS poll of uncommitteds immediately following the debate. The same polling that had found that Obama beat McCain by 39% to 24%, now finds that Biden beat Palin 46% to 21%. I don’t think conservatives will be very happy with that Mark — but we’ll have to see more polling.

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  22. Jolene said on October 2, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    Marc Ambinder, a blogger at The Atlantic, has these results:

    CNN’s poll gives the debate to Biden, 51% to 36%…..Frank Luntz’s focus group found Palin’s performance to be most effective…CBS News’s poll: 46% of uncommitted voters surveyed gave the debate to Biden, where 21% thought Palin won. But 55% said their opinion of Palin changed for the better; 53% said their opinions of Biden changed in the positive direction as well. 18% of uncommitted voters are now committed to Obama; 10% are committed to McCain.

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  23. brian stouder said on October 2, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    Pam and I got a kick out of the debate; it was interesting television.

    Honestly, it seemed to me that Governor Palin did well; she was disciplined and dogged, making the points and hitting the marks that she wanted to, and she looked good. (although, personally, her hair in her left eye bugged me; everytime she blinked her hair bounced)

    As the debate proceeded, Pam was quickly put off that Governor Palin wasn’t answering the questions; I was slow to pick up on that, but then the pattern became more and more pronounced, until the governor literally pronounced that she wasn’t going to answer the questions, nor subject herself to “media filter” interviews, going forward.

    A catch phrase that Governor Palin used repeatedly that immediately bothered me was her “all of the above” stance, with regard to global warming. “All of the above”? What can an “All of the above” policy actually mean?

    In football terms, it seemed to me that Biden did an excellent job of ball-control; grinding out yards on the ground, controlling the clock, placing the gauntlet in front of his opponent. Governor Palin, on the other hand, started throwing the ball and tried razzle-dazzle plays – and, although that game plan left room for bad things to possibly happen, she pulled it off (more or less).

    One other little thing – I was again taken aback by the sexual subtext that Palin inserted (so to speak) in the energy discussion. She made the somewhat taunting “drill baby, drill” joke – which prompted me to comment to Pam about that, and then in the next moment Governor Palin disapprovingly said that Biden had referred to off-shore drilling as “rape”!! She almost seemed to be paraphrasing the infamous Bobby Knight crack regarding ‘laying back and enjoying it’…

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  24. mark said on October 2, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    This is a criticism of CBS, nothing more. I checked their website at 11:48 to take a look at the poll results that del referenced.

    They claim it was the result of a “scientifically valid” survey of 473 undecided voters reflecting a national distribution. Difficult to do with a sample that small, but possible within a fairly large margin of error. CBS didn’t mention the margin of error.

    But further on CBS tells me that the results are from a portion of the 473 polled only; others haven’t responded yet. They don’t say whether they are still waiting on 2 or 200.

    Why are they reporting poll results before they have poll results? Their sample size doesn’t leave much room for missed votes. The final results may be similar, but they ought to wait to find out.

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  25. mark said on October 3, 2008 at 12:02 am


    With the exception of the last paragraph, I largely agree with your review. I didn’t catch the sex subtext you saw, at least not where you saw it. Palin does know she is attractive, and she does some posing that I suspect has served her well over the years.

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  26. Jolene said on October 3, 2008 at 12:05 am

    You’re right, mark. It’s very odd that these incomplete results were reported. At first, I thought they were saying they would have data on other questions (e.g., who was good on particular issues), but they say that the numbers they’ve posted may change as more data come in.

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  27. alex said on October 3, 2008 at 12:28 am

    Palin’s got good bone structure. I say she’s better with the up-do, the one that looks like a skunk raising its tail. That thing where she ties it around the crown of her head and lets it hang down on the sides is too Ma Kettle.

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  28. nancy said on October 3, 2008 at 12:34 am

    She has great bone structure, but she looked just a tad drawn tonight. Like she’s lost about seven stress-related pounds in the past month. The chirpiness may be a facade.

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  29. Catherine said on October 3, 2008 at 12:34 am

    If I have to listen to another four years of “nuculur,” I swear to God I’m moving to Canada.

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  30. del said on October 3, 2008 at 12:41 am

    Mark, amen to Palin’s posing serving her well over the years. I think folks are on to her style and have met women like her at parties; fawning and flirtatious women who know how to play men. A natural flirt. As Brian noted her bangs kept getting in her eyes and ABC kept replaying footage when she would actually wink while talking “directly to the American people.” Her performance was profoundly weak. At one point when she mentioned “maverick” for about the 30th time she answered a question by mugging for the camera, smirking and rhetorically asking, “Whaddya expect from a couple of mavericks?” That’s gonna find its way into Tina Fey’s act.
    And I think that her colloquial style will not play well with the older generation. Biden was more traditional and respectful of the office of vice president and that will play well with the older voters of Florida, a key state.

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  31. mark said on October 3, 2008 at 12:42 am

    My favorite Biden moment:

    (Paraphrasing) “If you go down to Home Depot, where I hang out a lot, and you ask people if they are doing better than they were eight years ago, you’ll hear loud and clear they are not. And if you ask them to name any substantial difference between John McCain and George Bush on any significant policy issue, they’ll tell you there isn’t any.”

    Now I don’t doubt that Biden hangs out at Home Depot on occassion. And I readily accept that he talks policy with the locals. He’s a wonk and he likes people and talking. As for the second question, I doubt he’s been at Home Depot much since being picked by Obama, but it’s reasonable license.

    What entered my mind was the image of a couple in their mid-fifties, shopping at Home Depot on a Saturday morning so he can fix a couple of things at home. “Damn it, Marge, I’ll come back another time to get the rest of the things. Biden is camped out in plumbing again. I’ve told him four times things are worse for us than they were eight years ago. But I don’t even understand that second question of his and he don’t know a darn thing about fixing our toilet.”

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  32. Jolene said on October 3, 2008 at 12:49 am

    Amen on the “nucular” issue, Catherine, and I, too, thought she looked drawn. I like the glasses a lot, but she really does need to get a grown-up hairdo. I could deal w/ the hairdo, though, if she would get a grown-up vocabulary or, more accurately, way of expressing herself. I don’t find “Gosh, golly, durn, bless her heart” style especially appealing.

    But, if your criterion is, ‘Is she like us?”, I guess having a candidate who gives shout-outs to third-graders is about as folksy as you can get.

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  33. Gasman said on October 3, 2008 at 12:51 am

    Gov. Palin acquitted herself much better tonight than during her interviews with Gibson, Couric, or even Hannity. Why did she do so badly previously? Her uneven performance record bothers me. If it indicates an inability to think on her feet, she would not find it easier if she got to Washington. If it’s because of an over-reliance on staffers for prep, then it seems to indicate a shallowness and lack of independence.

    As to content, she rarely answered any questions posed to her, whether from Ifill or Biden. Her deflections were not in the least bit artful and seemed to telegraph that she was either uncomfortable or unable to answer most of the time. Again, she would find questions from opponents in the Senate or House much more difficult than those she faced tonight.

    As for foreign policy questions, I can see her negotiating with President X from Berzerkistan who angrily wants to know why a McCain administration is providing arms to Berzerkistan’s neighbors, their nation’s mortal enemy. Vice President Palin responds, “Well, now, that’s a great question that I’m not going to answer through any liberal media filter. Just let me tell you about oil production in Alaska, which as you know, shares a narrow maritime border with Russia….”

    Not a convincing case for her being VP.

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  34. del said on October 3, 2008 at 1:01 am

    Yeah, the Home Depot reference was a bit silly in an otherwise powerful presentation.
    My first impression was that Biden went after McCain instead of Palin. Very effective. Next, he linked McCain to Bush emphasizing Obama’s mantra of change. Very smart. And Palin offered no rebuttal. Were Palin to address Bush’s policies she would be digging a hole. Biden was, like Obama, clear and direct. Palin was, as her former gubernatorial adversary had described her, skilled in the oratory of platitudes and “glittering generalities.” Not much substance at all. She kept repeating herself and was in something of a parallel dimension, firing up the base with references to Biden’s wife’s having a “reward in heaven” for being a schoolteacher, offering a “shout out” for 3rd graders. Very weak.

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  35. Gasman said on October 3, 2008 at 1:04 am

    As for the dubiousness of CBS’s early poll results, they seem to be in line with the others that are coming out. lists the following as of this writing:

    CBS – Biden 46%, Palin 21%; CNN Biden 51%, Palin 36%; MediaCurves focus group – 2:1 for Biden. I doubt that the Palin numbers will go up much, if at all.

    As for my prediction of the right claiming victory for Palin, here it is:

    Peggy Noonan trumpets, “It was her evening. She was the star. …she became a star probably on a new level.”

    I guess those polled were simply unable to recognize that, apparently, a star was born tonight.

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  36. Jolene said on October 3, 2008 at 1:14 am

    Gov. Palin acquitted herself much better tonight than during her interviews with Gibson, Couric, or even Hannity. Why did she do so badly previously?

    She sounded better tonight because there were no follow-up questions. In fact, as far as she was concerned, there might as well have not been any questions at all. She said what she wanted to say, regardless of what was asked. Alll candidates answer the questions they want to answer, but few do it so flagrantly.

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  37. Jolene said on October 3, 2008 at 1:17 am

    Any suggestions as to what commercials or stump speech lines will come from the debate?

    My nomination: Something along the lines of “John McCain and Sarah Palin think it’s fine if teachers get their reward in heaven, but Barack Obama and Joe Biden want to increase teacher salaries here on earth.”

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  38. del said on October 3, 2008 at 1:47 am

    Here’s some debate stuff on global warming:
    PALIN: . . . But there are real changes going on in our climate. And I don’t want to argue about the causes. What I want to argue about is, how are we going to get there to positively affect the impacts? . . .
    IFILL: Senator, what is true and what is false about the causes?
    BIDEN: Well, I think it is manmade. I think it’s clearly manmade. And, look, this probably explains the biggest fundamental difference between John McCain and Barack Obama and Sarah Palin and Joe Biden — Gov. Palin and Joe Biden.
    If you don’t understand what the cause is, it’s virtually impossible to come up with a solution.

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  39. del said on October 3, 2008 at 1:54 am

    Jolene, the stump speech should include the following:
    George W. Bush, John McCain — whaddya expect from a couple of “Mavericks?”

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  40. del said on October 3, 2008 at 2:08 am

    Some stand alone vacuousness which starts with a baseball cliche, then “borrows” from Ronald Reagan’s silly debate rejoinder to Jimmy Carter, then includes the Stuart Smalleyism “doggone it,” some redundancy, and ends with vainglorious references to God:
    PALIN: Say it ain’t so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again. You prefaced your whole comment with the Bush administration. Now doggone it, let’s look ahead and tell Americans what we have to plan to do for them in the future. You mentioned education and I’m glad you did. I know education you are passionate about with your wife being a teacher for 30 years, and god bless her. Her reward is in heaven, right?

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  41. del said on October 3, 2008 at 2:12 am

    I am starting to get very pissed off. Time for bed.

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  42. Dexter said on October 3, 2008 at 3:40 am

    “Nuke-U-Ler” never bothered me…what bugged me more was old Ronald Reagan saying “guvv-mint”.
    This was Palin’s brightest hour, true. She’s good at this sort of thing, as she is bad at one-on-one interviews, as we all know.
    She performed exactly as I expected, making the outrageous claim that Barack Obama will surrender in Iraq. Biden called her on that one…one thing anyone who actually follows the news knows is that Barack Obama is no dove, he believes strongly in the tired old “policeman of the world” outlook and is promising a full-scale occupation of Afghanistan as soon as possible.
    He and Edwards both proposed the “station US troops out of Iraq and into Kuwait to be on high alert”…and Obama never said a word of closing that embarrassing US Embassy in Iraq.
    So, no…there was no winner of this disappointing debate, it just cemented what liars the repugs are , twisting their corporate lackeyism into a jumbled platform they want us to climb aboard…good for Joe Biden for shooting her bullshit down. Trickle-down economics does not work…Reagan said it would and he lied too .
    McCain has abandoned Michigan for good…THAT is the big news in my book.
    You Hoosiers know where Waterloo, Indiana is…US6 & I-69…years ago Waterloo had the CBS TV affiliate, WINT-TV, which became Channel 15, WANE in the 1950’s.
    I just found out that Ronald Reagan used to hang around Waterloo and use the station: from interviews my brother did for a story about the murals by artist John Rea that have existed for 70 years on the walls of a Waterloo tavern,

    “Ronald Reagan used to come to Waterloo and do promos for G.E. at the local TV station.
    He would always stop by, get a ham sandwich and a bottle of beer, and play on the shuffleboard table. My dad always said Mr. Reagan was a nice and personable gentleman.”—Chuck Smith, son of tavern owner Toots Smith, of Smitty’s Tavern, now Ketch Kan Tavern .

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  43. brian stouder said on October 3, 2008 at 8:18 am

    “White Flag of Surrender’.

    That phrase made me laugh out loud! If we take it seriously, the followup question – which would be breezily ignored by the governor – might be “if Obama’s policy pronouncements equal a “White Flag of Surrender” to you, what would Victory in Iraq look like to you?”

    and anyway, as the Proprietress informed us yesterday, the only “white flags of surrender” that got waved yesterday were by the McCain-Palin campaign, in the great state of Michigan!

    Huzzah!! Huzzah!!

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  44. coozledad said on October 3, 2008 at 8:33 am

    Why in hell do they keep letting that embalmed trophy Cokie Roberts out of her packing material? If I had kids I’d be mighty pissed that I had to explain to them that life doesn’t always end so brutally.

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  45. brian stouder said on October 3, 2008 at 8:53 am

    Nice link, cz.

    It lead me to this one, from a fellow on the floor at the debate, which I found fascinating

    an excerpt

    On topics where it was clear she knew the talking points, she kept looking into the camera with a big smile. On foreign policy and other points where she gave light answers, she was intently reviewing her notes on the podium. I’m not sure how much things came across on camera, but each time that Palin made a cute move — twice winking at the camera, giving a ‘shout out’, claiming to be a maverick or painting herself as outside the beltway — there was a visceral reaction from the people in the room. Even from the Republicans seated next to me. The Republicans I spoke with immediately afterwards felt very somber about her performance.

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  46. Jolene said on October 3, 2008 at 9:53 am

    Interesting link, Brian. I was just looking at Peggy Noonan’s column re the debate in the WSJ and concluded that she has lost her mind. Of course, others have noted previously noted that this might be true, so I don’t count myself too clever for noticing.

    Still, she starts out singing Palin’s praises, seems to notice, along the way, the shallowness of some of her responses and the falseness of her folksy demeanor, and ends by concluding that the genius of Tina Fey’s portrayal of Palin reflects a kind of love for her.

    Really, Peggy should make sure she gets a good night’s sleep before commenting on major public events.

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