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Washington Post White House Reporter Anne E. Kornblut.
Washington Post White House Reporter Anne E. Kornblut. (washingtonpost.com - washingtonpost.com)

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Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post National Political Reporter
Thursday, August 14, 2008; 11:00 AM

Don't want to miss out on the latest in politics? Start each day with The Post Politics Hour. Join in each weekday morning at 11 a.m. as a member of The Washington Post's team of White House and Congressional reporters answers questions about the latest in buzz in Washington and The Post's coverage of political news.

Washington Post national political reporter Anne E. Kornblut was online Thursday, August 14 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest in political news.

The transcript follows.

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Archive: Post Politics Hour discussion transcripts

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St. Paul, Minn.: Anne -- thank you for taking questions today. We keep hearing these "trial balloons" being floated by both campaigns that they would be "open" to reaching across the aisle for their vice presidential picks (McCain with Lieberman, Obama with Hagel). It certainly would bring a lot of interest to the race (which, to me, feels a little dull right now). In your view, though, how likely is this to happen?

Anne E. Kornblut: I have a feeling we're going to talk a lot about the VP process today! Good question, and I don't know the answer, I'm afraid. But if I put my guessing hat on, I'd say that it is unlikely at this point, at least for Obama. There are a lot of risks in such a choice, and the last thing either candidate needs to do is to infuriate his own base. Of course, we reporters would love it!

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Anne E. Kornblut: Greetings everyone! A lot of political news is going on, so let's go ahead and get started. I'm looking forward to everyone's questions, as always.

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Reston, Va.: Hi, Anne. Who do you think will be able to capitalize most on the Russia/Georgia conflict, McCain or Obama? I initially would think McCain, but when I heard him deliver the "we are all Georgians" line, I found myself thinking "really?"

Anne E. Kornblut: You're not the first person I've heard from who wondered about that line (a line, by the way, that the McCain folks were very happy with, it appeared). Obama, after starting out initially somewhat cautious on the subject, has started pushing back much harder -- taking a similarly hard line on the Russians as McCain, but without some of the same threats. I think it is far too soon to tell whether this will break along traditional national security politics lines -- with the GOP benefiting and Democrats struggling not to look weak -- and for all we know, this may be a much different season on these issues.

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Fairfax, Va.: How desperate is the mainstream media for presidential campaign news when they have resort to talking about John Kerry for vice president?

Anne E. Kornblut: LOL. I don't know if it's desperation, exactly -- we've had a pretty full season of news. But it is interesting that Kerry's star has risen some, after the rough ride he had in 2004 and afterward.

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Green Bay, Wis.: Good to see you taking questions ... today in your sister publication, Slate, Jack Shafer said the networks and press should stop covering the conventions: "If the political press corps were honest, they'd start every convention story with the finding that nothing important happened that day and that your attention is not needed. Or they'd go searching toilet stalls for somebody with a wide stance. Instead, they satisfy themselves by being the co-producers of a bad reality-TV show about the coronation of a man who would be king." Comment?

washingtonpost.com: Conventional Nonsense: Making the Case for a Press Boycott of the National Political Conventions (Slate, Aug. 13)

Anne E. Kornblut: I may take a beating for this from my colleagues, but I have to agree somewhat. My feeling is that in tough economic times -- when some papers, though mercifully not so much at the Post, are closing down whole bureaus and covering foreign news less -- we should send everyone out with laptops to find actual news rather than to hang out at a canned event. That said, this is the first convention since I started covering presidential campaigns (which was three cycles ago) when the Democratic convention promised to yield real news. We don't know how Clintons' supporters will respond in Denver, and the speeches alone will be really historic.

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Manchester, Vt.: Anyone else besides me a bit perplexed by Joe Biden's recent silence? I'm wondering if he's the choice for Obama's vice president, as silence never came easy for Joe.

washingtonpost.com: The Fix: The Case for Joe Biden (washingtonpost.com, Aug. 13)

Anne E. Kornblut: It's a great point, don't you think? Biden isn't exactly known for being quiet, so you're right -- his recent silence has been curious. To play devil's advocate, he might also not know whether he is going to be picked or not (I have a strong suspicion it is only now being finalized, whoever it is) and not want to hurt his chances by being a loud-mouth.

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Wake Forest, N.C.: The Democratic Party Chairman of Arkansas was shot dead yesterday, and it doesn't warrant The Washington Post's attention? You and I know that it was another in a long line of hate crimes against liberals fostered by right-wing hate radio. Let me ask you, if the shoe was on the other foot and a Republican Chairman was shot dead, do you think there would be this silence from the corporate media?

washingtonpost.com: Man Fatally Shoots Arkansas Democratic Chairman at Party Headquarters (AP, Aug. 14)

Anne E. Kornblut: I just did a quick search of our site and found several articles on it, and a photo. It is true that we didn't have a staff reporter there -- but there are lots of places where we don't have people based, and it's much better for us to use the wire services who are on the scene. Thank you, though, for mentioning this important (and very sad) story.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Anne. Is it too late for you to ask The Post to give you a break from the campaign and send you to China to cover the Olympics? You deserve a break in the middle of this marathon of a campaign!

Anne E. Kornblut: Are you kidding? I am glued to the TV set here! If I went to Beijing I'd actually have to do work at the Olympics. Major points to my colleagues who are over there doing wonderful work, in the middle of the night, for the rest of us.

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Greenville, S.C.: Anne, thanks for taking my question. After the mainstream media finally started reporting on the John Edwards story, one thing I heard constantly as to why the National Enquirer was not a reliable source was that they paid for information, something the mainstream media does not do. However, the MSM does use whistle-blowers as "sources" who are paid -- maybe not in cash, but in anonymity so they can promote an agenda without fear of reprisal from, especially, their government employer. Isn't this a distinction without a difference?

Anne E. Kornblut: I do think there's a substantial difference between handing someone an envelope full of cash and promising anonymity -- and, let's not forget, the Enquirer often does both simultaneously. We do, in offering anonymity, have to take stock of the source's agenda; we have to do that even when we quote people by name. But that's a far reach from outright paying a source, anonymous or named, who stands to gain in an obvious way just by asserting whatever it is they're saying.

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Naperville, Ill.: There have been some rumors flying that Colin Powell will be endorsing Obama. Surely you can give us the straight dope on what he is going to do?

Anne E. Kornblut: If I could I would print it! Others have been saying it, but so far Powell has not, so I'm going to wait until he himself speaks.

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Maryland: You're famous! You're the subject of one of the Clinton Campaign documents in the Atlantic. So, out with it -- did you ever get an apology from the Clinton campaign?

Anne E. Kornblut: Yes, well, I'm not sure this is quite how one wants to get famous, you know? It was a very unfortunate incident (we'll post a link to the Atlantic piece so people who don't know what we're talking about can read it) involving a lie one of the press folks told to undermine a story I had written. I didn't get an apology from the original source, but the campaign manager, Maggie Williams, offered a very kind one. And my bosses here at the Post were beyond wonderful in backing me up.

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washingtonpost.com: The Front-Runner's Fall (The Atlantic, September issue)

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Biden as vice president: Anne: be honest, you'd love to see him as vice president, if only because he'd guarantee good sound bites on slow days. If not, his sound bites likely would turn slow days into busy days...

Anne E. Kornblut: I'm not going to lie to you: Biden is a great guy to cover. But it's not just because he is so fearlessly chatty (although he is that). He's really interesting and smart, and also has a remarkable personal story. A lot of reporters have covered him on Capitol Hill for a long time, and would, I think, say the same (and for the record, it's a nonpartisan view).

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La Vale, Md.: Good morning and thanks for chatting. It would appear that Obama's decision to take a vacation this week to recharge his batteries was a really good idea. The Olympics have been really exciting and the John Edwards affair and the Georgia conflict really have driven politics from the front page. Do you get any sense that Obama is missing out on anything by taking his vacation this week? Has McCain been campaigning nonstop this week? If so where? Any sign that campaigning has done him any good? Will he be able to take some time off before the real campaigning starts after Labor Day?

Anne E. Kornblut: I was just thinking about this question myself; thanks for asking it. It seemed to me, at the start of the week, that Obama might wind up regretting going somewhere as lush and out-of-reach for most people as Hawaii. But I think now that we've gotten to Thursday it is hard to argue he made a real mistake (he is, after all, visiting family and the place where he grew up). The news, as you point out, has been plenty full without him. And if the polls are to be believed, some voters were getting sick of hearing so much about him anyway. And these Olympics!

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New York: Can you give any insight to how Hillary Clinton acts behind the scenes? How does she treat her employees, and what is her management style? It often seems there is a bit of "The Devil Wears Prada" in there.

Anne E. Kornblut: I don't know about her likeness to Meryl Streep, but there was certainly far more drama inside the Clinton headquarters than there ever was inside that fictional fashion magazine. That said, it's not as if Clinton herself was there for most of it. She spent all of her time on a campaign plane, and on the road -- failing, in my view, to really do much of the hands-on management that would have been required to stop the infighting at her headquarters. We did see some flashes of anger from her, for sure -- she could really give her aides the death glare when things went wrong -- but nothing more than any other candidate. And some of her most loyal advisers are beyond loyal, which suggests they really love her, whatever her temperamental flaws are.

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Boston: Re: Covering conventions, I'm willing to let the print press off the hook for covering conventions, but given that broadcasting speeches and the debates is pretty much the entire contribution of policy coverage for the TV news, I think they probably need to remain.

Anne E. Kornblut: Agreed. The speeches are the best part. But I'm not sure the event requires the 15,000 journalists that I heard were being credentialed.

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Clifton, Va.: The problem with Biden and some others is they overshadow Obama and emphasize the point that he is inexperienced. Is Kaine out of the running with Warner giving the keynote?

Anne E. Kornblut: Perhaps; though I think it would be hard for even Biden to fully overshadow Obama at this point. My understanding is that Kaine has been on the short list, and that beyond that, we don't really know what's happening.

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Re: Clinton apology: Can you also post a link to the article that you wrote that prompted the Clinton campaign's approach?

Anne E. Kornblut: I will have to see what technology allows here -- the original article I wrote was in the fall of 2006, when I was still at the New York Times, and it was about how Clinton's Senate re-election campaign had spent gobs of money when she didn't even have an opponent-- blowing money she could have spent on the presidential. I co-authored it with Jeff Zeleny. We'll working on finding it.

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Chicago: Thanks for taking my question. I've read a few articles about Corsi's new hatchet job on Obama, "Obama Nation." Media Matters and your rival the New York Times have written extensively about all of the errors and cheap shots the book takes. Realistically, what is the Obama campaign's best response to a book like this? A libel suit is probably out of the question because Obama would have to prove that Corsi acted with actual malice, which is very difficult for a public figure to prove. Has the Obama camp learned from how Kerry handled Corsi's hatchet job on him (unsuccessfully, one could argue)? Is Corsi's book going to the top of the best seller list because Limbaugh and Hannity and others of their ilk doubtlessly are plugging it relentlessly? Do bookstores have discretion about whether it belongs in fiction or nonfiction?

washingtonpost.com: New Books Aim To Unweave the Obama Narrative (Post, Aug. 14)

Anne E. Kornblut: These are all really great questions, and I'm afraid I'm short on answers. People are obviously free to write whatever they wish, and in my limited understanding, it's up to publishers to designate a book as fiction or non-fiction, self-help, etc. So what the campaign is tasked with doing is responding in the public arena -- I would expect them to keep doing so, quickly and fast -- and trying to reinforce its own message about who Obama is.

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Alexandria, Va.: The Post had an excellent article yesterday about Senator McCain's top foreign policy advisor being a long-time lobbyist for Georgia. Why do yo thing that isn't an enormous story all across the media?

washingtonpost.com: While Aide Advised McCain, His Firm Lobbied for Georgia (Post, Aug. 13)

Anne E. Kornblut: How great is my colleague Matt Mosk? This is another of his excellent stories on money in politics. I can't speak for other news outlets, but I recommend that everyone read this piece.

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washingtonpost.com: Clinton Won Easily, but Bankroll Shows the Toll (New York Times, Nov. 21, 2006)

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Greenfield, Mass.: Good morning, Ms. Kornblut. The New York Times is reporting that Sen. Clinton's name will be put in nomination at the Democratic convention. I would love to learn your immediate reaction. Thanks.

Anne E. Kornblut: I posted an item a short while ago on this, as well -- we should be hearing more from the campaigns themselves soon. My immediate reaction is that this was, in some ways, inevitable -- both teams realized that they had to do something to prevent Clinton supporters from walking out, and that, on a more elevated level, she probably deserved that kind of honor. It should make for a really fascinating moment at the convention.

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Arlington, Va.: The Georgian crisis comes at a good time for McCain. People are realizing quickly that Russia remains an enemy of the U.S. (always has been, always will be). We need a strong president who is willing to stand tough against Putin. Obama is far too soft for this role. If he's elected, Putin will continue to intimidate and bully all of its neighbors -- or worse, as we've seen in Georgia, simply invade and plunder.

Anne E. Kornblut: And here is another point of view; thank you for sending it in.

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Sacramento, Calif.: Is there a real chance that the Clintons will just talk about themselves and take the spotlight away from Obama?

Anne E. Kornblut: I think it would be hard for anyone, short of an alien descended from Mars, or maybe Michael Phelps, to steal the limelight from Obama at the convention. We don't know what the Clintons will talk about -- Sen. Clinton on Tuesday; her husband on Wednesday -- though it would not surprise me if they talked about their own accomplishments. What will be most interesting to hear is how they describe Obama; so far, we haven't heard Bill Clinton give him a robust endorsement at all. That will almost certainly happen in Denver.

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University Park, Md.: Yesterday, Mark Warner was announced to be the keynote speaker for the Democratic National Convention. The reporters concluded that the news reduced Tim Kaine's chance of being selected as vice president of Barack Obama's ticket. I do not get it. What does Warner's speaking slot have to do with the odds of Kaine being the vice presidential nominee?

washingtonpost.com: Democrats Pick Warner As Keynote Speaker: Ex-Governor's Role Hints That Kaine Isn't VP Choice (Post, Aug. 14)

Anne E. Kornblut: LOL, great point -- you obviously do not understand the depths of our craving to know who the VP pick will be. We'll resort to anything! Any level of tea-leaf reading! Truth be told, of course Obama could still pick Kaine and also have Warner speak, without inflicting some kind of terrible Virginia overload on the nation. But we were searching for some indication, however minor, of who is up and who is down. We don't know who the VP pick is, and we won't until the Obama campaign tells us.

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Washington: Anne, what would be the value of Powell's endorsement? It seems to me that he's pretty much been disgraced and robbed of any statesman-like credibility after Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld got him to make the pretty thoroughly discredited U.N. speech. Unless his endorsement includes "I was wrong" and "McCain is a furthering of the discredited policy for which I once was a cheerleader," It seems to me he has little value or real public credibility left to offer Obama.

Anne E. Kornblut: I was actually wondering the same thing myself; on the other hand, I guess you could argue, he is a general, and might carry some sway with Independents who still believe he has credibility on foreign policy (and who view him as perhaps less discredited than Bush or Cheney themselves).

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"Canned event": Okay ... I can understand, in the abstract, why the media would hate covering a "canned event" ... except that all campaigns are a procession of canned events. The debates are "canned events." If you use that standard you won't cover anything except polls, and then, guess what? You're "just doing the horse race." And not for nothing -- John Corsi's book is about as canned an event as you can get, and he's all over the news. He's in the Washington Freakin' Post with that Matalin-sponsored lie-fest. So the media only likes canned events when they're juicy, gossipy, vile attacks?

Anne E. Kornblut: I can see how you would see it that way -- and maybe it was a poor choice of words on my part. Having been to and done a number of these campaigns, there is, in my view, a substantial difference between the candidate on the campaign trail -- where decisions have to be made, and where you catch glimpses of the would-be president unscripted -- and the conventions, which are a series of speeches and delegates wandering around. The debates, too, are live events that often capture really telling moments about the candidates. I'm not saying that we shouldn't cover the conventions; I'm just not sure they warrant the overwhelming number of reporters who are going. 15,000. That's a lot of journalists.

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Anonymous: This is from Steve Clemons's Web site: "What's the Matter with Evan Bayh? Besides the fact that he was the co-chair of the neocon pro-war Committee for the Liberation of Iraq? That his friends on that committee included Bill Kristol, Joe Lieberman, James Woolsey and Randy Scheunemann." I never thought Bayh was going to be Obama's vice president but, this pretty much dooms his chances, don't you think?

Anne E. Kornblut: Or, you could argue the opposite: That he would appeal to the middle. It's a really good question, and I think one reason that Obama has taken his time in making this decision, rather than doing it earlier in the month as some had expected early on.

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Claverack, N.Y.: Is there anyone left on Obama's short list that the liberal base is going to not hate? It has gotten so bad that I've heard some quarters are praying they're floating Evan Bayh's name so that Tim Kaine will seem good by comparison.

Anne E. Kornblut: I had not heard that, thank you for passing it along! You're completely right -- you can't please all of the liberal base all of the time, if you're the Democratic nominee -- which is why we are waiting for this with such great, breathless excitement.

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Trenton, N.J.: Hi Anne. Can you please give me your opinion how the publication of Jerome Corsi's book reflects on Mary Matalin, whose imprint published it? I for one have lost a lot of respect for her.

Anne E. Kornblut: To be honest, I do not know, but it's a point worth raising; thank you for writing in.

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Fairbanks, Alaska: Did you mention the three Republican endorsements for Obama yesterday? Fairbanks North Star Borough mayor Jim Whitaker. Iowa's Jim Leech, formerly of Congress. And Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee formerly of Congress (yes, the Senate is too a part of Congress).Ta da. So Powell won't endorse. After launching the case for war in Iraq, who wants him to?

Anne E. Kornblut: And another view on this ... thank you!

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Official Washington in Conflict?: I know that official Washington has decided that wars actually are free, so it's wrong of me to mention it, but am I the only one who has noticed a tremendous overlap between the traditional deficit hawks and the "go to war with lots of countries" hawks? Aren't these twin missions are a wee bit in conflict?

Anne E. Kornblut: Wonderful question. I'm no expert, so I'll just post this and ponder.

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Manchester, Vt.: Anne, thanks for answering my Biden question above. I've probably exceeded my "limit" today, but please comment, if you care to, on the following: The Federal Election Commission July Finance Report is due next Wednesday. Any thoughts as to why neither campaign has been touting their July numbers? Because of the Olympics, because they want it closer to the conventions, or what? Thanks!

Anne E. Kornblut: Just because you fessed up, I am going to post this! I don't know the answer, though. Sorry. I'll pass it along to Matt Mosk.

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Bremerton, Wash.: Anne, great to have you. I notice that President Bush is getting some flack from the likes of George Will and the Wall Street Journal for being a tourist around the Olympics while Georgia was burning. Didn't they get the memo that Dick Cheney was in charge?

Anne E. Kornblut: And the gold for hiding in an undisclosed location goes to...

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Anonymous: Hello Anne, I've read the McCain campaign is banking on his "maverick" label to attract enough independents to win the election. McCain recently said he would nominate a pro-choice candidate as vice president; members of the religious right responded that if he did he wouldn't get elected. Just how much of an independent "maverick" can McCain be and still hope to win?

Anne E. Kornblut: He's trying, it appears, to figure out that very calculus himself. McCain has tried very hard to stick to his "maverickness" -- which he believes will help win Independents and maybe even some queasy Democrats, former Clinton supporters -- but obviously cannot ignore that Bush won in 2004 by driving up his own base. It will be really fascinating to watch him weave through the issues as a result.

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Concord, N.H.: To what extent will the Obama camp speak out against Corsi's book? It seems that Corsi is planning on a full frontal attack, hyping the book and its questionable contents to independents and Hillary supporters. How much will the book seep into the consciousness of people inclined to vote for Obama anyway? It seems that he may just be preaching to the choir, but his book on John Kerry did the intended damage. On a side note, Corsi seems like a sleazeball -- he may hurt his mission of keeping Obama out of office by being so up-front that it's a smear campaign.

Anne E. Kornblut: An interesting point; I am not sure what the Obama game plan is, but I am sure we will see it.

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Mt. Lebanon, Pa.: When John Edwards aka "The Breck Girl" was outed for being John Kerry's running mate, workers at a hangar in Moon Township (where the old Pittsburgh International Airport is located) noticed "Edwards" being spray-painted on Kerry's campaign plane -- and alerted the world ahead of Big Time Media. Are we going to notify our network to get our cell phones, iCameras, and spy glasses on and canvas the hangars near U.S. airports? I'll bet we can get the names or the veep candidates out online ahead of the campaigns, just like in 2004. Thought I'd pass that along. Thanks much.

Anne E. Kornblut: Yes! Everyone, please -- call me, and only me, if you see any names being posted on any airplanes, anywhere.

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Philadelphia: Anne, isn't there a two-fold risk with McCain's advertising strategy to date: Going negative with what really are quite flattering images of Obama don't make the strongest case -- there's no windsurfing or Dukakis in tank images as of yet -- and in fact do more to call attention to the guy's calm, regal bearing, at least visually.

Also, suggesting that a guy is an empty suit really is something that is likely to be countered by the debates themselves -- unless Obama comes off like he's Britney Spears. Maybe it's kind of dumb for McCain to set a very low bar for Obama to jump over, considering that Paris Hilton herself has managed to leap over it already.

Anne E. Kornblut: Very interesting points, all. It reminds me of the warning from the Bush folks not to underestimate him (or misunderestimate him) -- when he finally showed up to the debates and held his own, people were impressed.

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Rockville, Md.:"I know that official Washington has decided that wars actually are free..." Show me a person like this and I will show you over $50,000 in credit card debt. Free? If it were not for wars, we would have no national debits. Anywhere.

Anne E. Kornblut: And another view. Thank you!

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Anne E. Kornblut: Okay folks, another hour is up, and it was a really fun one. Thanks so much for participating, and I look forward to seeing you all again soon. And don't forget: Tell me if you see "Bayh" or "Biden" on an airplane near you!

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washingtonpost.com: Discussion: Washington Week With Gwen Ifill (washingtonpost.com, Live NOW)

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