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The Trail

Thursday, September 4, 2008

'THIS IS CYNICAL'

Noonan, Ex-McCain Aide Heard Blasting Palin Pick

Prominent conservative columnist Peggy Noonan and former John McCain campaign manager Michael Murphy made disparaging comments Wednesday about the Republican's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate, after a segment that aired on NBC with Chuck Todd. Thinking that the microphone had been turned off -- or, perhaps, that the video signal had stopped transmitting -- Noonan and Murphy ripped into Palin as someone who would weigh down the GOP ticket.

"It's over," said Noonan.

In an addendum to her online column in the Wall Street Journal, Noonan wrote later Wednesday that part of her conversation was not on the audio. She said what she meant by it being "over" was not the race, but rather the perception by the Republican Party that its base is in tune with the American people.

Asked if Palin is the most qualified Republican woman to be McCain's running mate, Noonan replied: "The most qualified? No. I think they went for this, excuse me, political bullshit about narratives and [inaudible] the picture."

Later, she continued: "Every time the Republicans do that, because that's not where they live and it's not what they're good at, and they blow it."

Added Murphy: "You know what's really the worst thing about it? The greatness of McCain is no cynicism, and this is cynical."

In her Wall Street Journal column Wednesday, Noonan was more circumspect in writing about Palin. In her online addition, she also apologized for what she called her "barnyard epithet."

"The Sarah Palin choice is really going to work, or really not going to work," she wrote. "It's not going to be a little successful or a little not; it's not going to be a wash. She is either going to be magic or one of history's accidents. She is either going to be brilliant and groundbreaking, or will soon be the target of unattributed quotes by bitter staffers shifting blame in all the Making of the President 2008 books. Of which there should be plenty, as we've never had a year like this, with the fabulous freak of a campaign."

-- Jose Antonio Vargas

IDENTITY POLITICS

GOP Women Rally Behind No. 2 Pick

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Female Republicans embraced identity politics with gusto Wednesday, touting the virtues of vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and suggesting that any attempts to question her qualifications amount to blatant sexism.

In a "hear me roar"-style news conference, a parade of elected officials and GOP operatives issued a lengthy defense of the Alaska governor's credentials, and former Massachusetts governor Jane Swift said Palin has been the target of "an outrageous smear campaign."

"She has taken on the corrupt special interests in Washington and Alaska. She has stood up for families and made a difference," Swift said. "She is more prepared than Barack Obama to be the president of the United States. . . . The Republican Party will not stand by while Sarah Palin is subjected to sexist attacks."

Plenty of media bashing took place at the event. Renee Amore, an African American deputy chairman of the Pennsylvania GOP, broke out what she called her "ebonics" in order to fully convey the intensity of her threat.

"We will get with you if you keep messin' with us," she declared.

Several speakers delivered an emotional appeal on Palin's behalf. Former U.S. treasurer Rosario Marin became so impassioned in decrying Palin's opponents -- "Shame on them! Shame on all of them!" -- that she forgot to introduce the next speaker, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).

Blackburn, by contrast, gave a wonkish account of what Palin had done as governor, saying she had overseen "24,000 employees and a $10 billion budget. How many men who put their name on the line to run for office have done that?"

-- Juliet Eilperin

GOP TARGETS

Biden Lines Them Up And Then Takes Aim

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden attacked a series of Republicans on Wednesday, taking on not only John McCain but also McCain campaign manager Rick Davis, President Bush and former senator Fred Thompson.

"I don't think I would run into a single Floridian who would walk up to me and say, 'Joe, the economy is doing great' . . . unless I bumped into John or maybe Fred," Biden told a crowd of several hundred at a community center here, as he referred to speeches Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention.

In a speech at the convention, Thompson attacked Obama's economic plan, saying that "you don't lift an economic downturn by imposing one of the largest tax increases in American history."

Referring to Bush's speech praising McCain, Biden cast them as the Minnesota Twins. "George Bush said, quote, 'The man we need is John McCain,' " Biden said. "John has earned this endorsement; he's voted with him 90 percent of the time."

And Biden criticized a remark made by Davis on Tuesday in an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors. Davis said: "This election is not about issues -- this election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates."

"Not about issues!" Biden said. "That means to them this election is not about whether you're able to scrape up the tuition money to send your kid to college."

Biden, on the third day of a swing targeting older white and working-class voters, delighted in deepening his voice as he mimicked Thompson, whom he referred to as "Red October," after one of the movies in which the former senator acted.

"Fred went up there and said, 'Well, the Democrats are going to raise your taxes,' " Biden said in a low tone as the crowd laughed. "I don't know why we need to give another tax break to Exxon Mobil."

-- Perry Bacon Jr.

PALIN AFFAIR ALLEGED

McCain Campaign Calls Enquirer Story 'Disgraceful'

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- John McCain's top strategist Wednesday today denounced a report in the National Enquirer, hours after it was published, as "disgraceful."

"The smearing of the Palin family must end," spokesman Steve Schmidt said in an e-mail distributed to journalists.

The Enquirer, which exposed John Edwards's extramarital affair, cited unnamed sources in alleging that the Alaska governor had an affair with a business associate of her "fisherman husband," Todd Palin -- the story doesn't say when -- and that he found out and severed relations with him.

"The allegations contained on the cover of the National Enquirer insinuating that Governor Palin had an extramarital affair are categorically false," Schmidt said. "It is a vicious lie. Governor Palin is the most popular governor in the country. She is a proven leader, an accomplished executive, a champion for ethics reform, and a fighter against corruption. The efforts of the media and tabloids to destroy this fine and accomplished public servant are a disgrace. The American people will reject it."

The mainstream media might well have ignored the unsubstantiated allegation, as they did for eight months in the Edwards saga. But the McCain's team quick response in defending his running mate had the effect, intentionally or otherwise, of giving the story more prominence.

Schmidt, who told The Washington Post on Tuesday that the news media are "on a mission to destroy" Palin, lumped together the media and tabloids in his blast against the Enquirer.

-- Howard Kurtz

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