From the Left

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Paul Begala, political consultant, CNN contributor, and author of Third Term: Why George W. Bush (Hearts) John McCain, discusses his new book and the Obama campaign.


Paul Begala

Comments [48]

RCT from Chappaqua

Obama had nine years of experience in the Illinois Senate, during which he sponsored or co-sponsored more than 833 pieces of legislation on a wide range of issues. He has hit home runs in the big leagues for 20 years.

If I were having heart surgery, I would want to be operated on by a surgeon who had won the admiration of his peers, the support of talented mentors and the approval of his patients. I'd want to see his patients alive and walking around, as are the people of Illinois who have profited from the legislation that Obama help pass. I'd want him to be, not like me, but smarter than I am, because I am no heart surgeon.

The slurs on Obama's record are racist; as is the "wolf" commercial. He thinks, he considers, he acts. God help us if the malleable idiots of the Walmart generation elect McCain/Palin.

Sep. 11 2008 07:50 PM
Rob from Bronx

Kelly well knows that 143 days is not the only experience that Obama has. If you want to play that game then you should put the executive experience argument in the pot and conclude that neither of the two senators currently running have the "experience" to be president. BTW very few senators directly become president, with the exception of JFK I do not recall a single other instance, therefore we should conclude that senators are not qualified to be president.

Sep. 11 2008 05:28 PM
mc from Brooklyn

I think that the reason you see these stats along with "voted with Bush 90% of the time" is that the vast majority of bills are uncontroversial and there is no opposition. So all these voting "stats" are a red herring.

Sep. 11 2008 02:04 PM
Stef from LI NY

I find it interesting that much has been made about 4 more years of Bush the voting record of the two candidates who both claim change seem to reflect a different story. Obama has voted with the Democrats 96% of the time and McCain 88.6% of the time.

I believe that more problems exist with Congress as a whole. They sponsor issues and need to work them before they get to the President. So long as Congress is represented by more than 1 party nothing will every get done. I am really tired of hearing every 4 years about Washington being "broken". The President has no ability in his/her realm of power to change it.

Sep. 11 2008 01:43 PM
mc from Brooklyn

The Ayers connection is apparently that they both served on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a "philanthropic campaign that financed enrichment projects at a third of the city's (Chicago's) 600 schools." (NY Times, yesterday.) This group was responsible for distributing $49 million from an endowment by William H Annenberg plus $98 million in matching funds. Ayers helped write the proposal. Obama served as the unpaid chair of the board for five years; part of that time he was in the IL State Senate.

Sep. 11 2008 01:27 PM
Karen from Manhattan

Yeah, and when need heart surgery, I'll have my mean girlfriends do it, not a heart surgeon.

I think that Lisa is a ringer.

Sep. 11 2008 01:09 PM
Karen from Manhattan

AYERS? Blame the U of Chicago -- a very conservative institution -- for hiring and tenuring Ayers (and preventing Harvard from stealing him away), but don't blame a junior faculty member from associating with him. Maybe the President of the University of Chicago is also disqualified from running for public ofice.

What total, contemptible garbage.

Sep. 11 2008 01:07 PM
Karen from Manhattan

I'm not misled, Lisa; I'm informed.

Drilling will not produce fuel soon enough and will only mean bigger profits for big oil, not a price reduction for us. Obama is willing to consider all clean, safe feasible alternatives -- if you don't think that's true, check out his energy plan.

We have a terrible health care system. 47 million Americans are uninsured, including, as of January 12, my learning disabled son, who will age off my health plan and is unable to attend college or work full-time. Millions more who have insurance are nonetheless bankrupted by major illnesses. The Republicans are tools of the insurance and drug companies and will do nothing to remedy this problem.

Ethanol was a dead end, but so was Iraq. Obama has opposed the war on Iraq. His plan for negotiation and withdrawal is the one now being implemented by Bush. The so-called success of the surge was, as Joe Biden explained last week on Meet the Press, largely the result, of self-division among Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites. To attibute the change to the surge is to make the same mistake that Bush/Cheney have made for the past 5 years.

McCain chose an unqualified candidate to sit one aging heartbeat from the Presidency and will do nothing -- nada, squat - for the middle class. To paraphrase the late, great Molly Ivins, for women and middle-class voters to vote for the Republicans would be tantamount to the chickens voting for Colonel Saunders.

Sep. 11 2008 01:05 PM
mc from Brooklyn

Lisa m from Bergen County,
I have to disagree with you about our health care system. Check out Sean's posts on this board. That is a lousy track record, the poorest of any other industrialized nation.

Do you really think "energy independence" is a realistic goal when fuels are traded around the world and the prices are set at a global level?

I heard the "Wasilly" remark. I'm not sure that it was deliberate, but you are the only other person I have heard mention it. I think that some of Palin's venom may have been a reaction to that.

Sep. 11 2008 12:50 PM
Lisa m from Bergen County NJ

Maya from Brooklyn: Clinton had 7 years to stop Bin Laden and AlQuaeda, Bush had only 8 months in office when he inherited that problem. I'd rather have a "mean girl" protecting our country, and I loved Rudy Giuliani,(people say he's "mean" too) I like a tough leader - how he went after the mob as US Attorney, and cleaned up NYC, wish he were on the ticket. That's what we need, no more wimps. but Sara Palin isn't mean like Hillary, who threatens women who speak out about Bill's sexual advances.

Sep. 11 2008 12:48 PM

When a leading Democratic spokesman and activist, Paul Begala, asserts that Charlie Gibson is a "good journalist" (on what evidence, exactly? - his last stint as a debate moderator, passionately arguing for supply-side economics?; his teleprompter performance) and that Sarah Palin needs to be approached with deference for lying about every aspect of her career, there can be no further doubt.

The Democratic party is finished -- thoroughly out of touch with the world, shockingly naive, utterly uncompetitive, ridiculously self-absorbed.

This is what happens when both political parties are owned by the same big money interests. One serves those interests unashamedly. The other is ashamed, but not enough to stop serving those interests, and certainly not enough to either see or tell the truth.

So congratulations, Paul Begala. If this is the best we can do, Obama would do well to concede the election right now, and save people who actually care about the fate of the country a lot of heartache.

And congratulations again to Brian and the staff, for never failing to bring on the usual mainstream claptrap.

In the end, this kind of political coverage is useful only as anthropology -- what nonsense are the rich and privileged saying today?

Sep. 11 2008 12:47 PM
Lisa m from Bergen County NJ

Getting back to why I originally sent in a comment, at the start of Brian Lehrer's segment with Paul Begala, Brian acted confused "why are the republicans going after Obama's role as community organizer? Well, WNYC hosts fail to remember or re-play Obama's mocking of Palin's job titles. I don't know what Obama accomplished, or earned for that matter, while a "community organizer." I do know he had (maybe still has) ties to the likes of radical black power groups like William Ayers of the Weathermen who bombed gov't buildings.

Sep. 11 2008 12:39 PM
m from westchester

I am so tired of it all. Hillary did a fantastic job of connecting with the midwest working class. Now they want to vote against their economic interests. So I say go ahead. No complaints about factory closings, out sourcing, wage stagnation and the like. They have their chance at real change and they want to blow it for a moose hunter.

Sep. 11 2008 12:28 PM
seth from Long Island

Brian asks what happened to Obama's promise to conduct his campaign on a higher plane? Brian knows darn well what happened. He and his juvenile colleagues in the press would rather play games with stupid non-issues like deconstructing the meaning of "lipstick on a pig". Shame on Brian and his media pals for dumbing down this campaign.

Sep. 11 2008 12:15 PM
Rob from Bronx

Lisa from Bergen, you should get your facts straight. The military was not weakened under Clinton, they performed superbly during the initial phase, however as general Eric Shinseki had warned several hundred thousand troops would be required post invasion, this assesment was dismissed by Defense Secretary Rumsfield and others in the administration. In congressional testimony on Nov 15th 2006 Gen Abizaid stated that Gen Shinseki assessment had proven correct.

Sep. 11 2008 12:10 PM
Lisa m from Bergen County NJ

Karen from Manhattan is misled. What has Obama accomplished in Congress? Also, let's talk about the economy and what conservatives will do. Drill, baby drill! That's just one thing. Oil and energy are at the heart of national security and the economy. Food prices are up b/c of the lame-brained idea that corn-ethanol will solve the energy problems (yes, Bush erroneously went along with the plan). The moment we starting talking about off-shore drilling and opening up ANWAR, boom! the gas prices started declining- no coincidence. We can be energy independent if liberals step out of the way and allow us to pursue safe clean energy again from nuclear, clean coal, other bio-fuels (not using our corn, which is grown with almost as much petroleum as it produces, and does nothing to reduce carbon emissions), and yes, drilling our own oil in the meantime.
We have a decent, not perfect healthcare system, I'm open to change, but I don't want to wait a year for a procedure like Canada or Europe.

Sep. 11 2008 12:02 PM
mc from Brooklyn

Sean from NJ,
Good points all. Soon health care spending which has now exceeded $2 trillion will be 20% or GNP. We need people to understand that. THEN we need to understand what we spend all that money on (not all one thing) and why and have an adult conversation about what to do about it. No single politician that I have heard has come close. Have you heard any?

Sep. 11 2008 11:57 AM
Rob from Bronx

Lisa from Bergen (#13), Palin is a distraction because she is not running for president, McCain is, so McCain's fire should be directed against Obama and vice versa. On Monday 25th August I posted a question for Brian to ask of rep Carolyn Maloney about the possibility of a Palin pick for McCain as vp because I knew that once Obama did not pick Hillary, McCain would do the cynical thing and pick a woman. He had to do something to shake up his campaign. McCain knows a few things namely he cannot run simply run on his record or the issues and that presidential elections are a referendum on the incumbent party. Thus he must distant himself from the incumbent and distract us or he loses.

Sep. 11 2008 11:57 AM
chris_52 from nyc

Oh, and here is another thing -- everytime they call themselves "mavericks" we should correct them .... not mavericks, loose cannons

Sep. 11 2008 11:49 AM
chris_52 from nyc

The thing is, Karen, it is not the media's job(even though it would be nice) but look at how the Republican party has rallied around Sarah Palin and how they protect her. Who protected Hillary from Hillary Clinton nut crackers and comments like the now famous "how do we beat the B**ch?" Where is our moral outrage? where is our passion? Where are the talking points -- every democrat in the country should have the script and stick with it.

I might add that we need to master the pithy sound bite and the memorable quotation. I saw an excerpt of George Bush the other day basically crowing over his use of "fuzzy math" and what an effective battle cry that became (never mind that it was wrong)

Sep. 11 2008 11:48 AM
Maya from Brooklyn, Nn

Another "Slew" of attacks? 9/11 happened on Bush's watch, sister. He let it happen despite the warning of WTC93. I could care less who the president is sleeping with. And Hillary's threats? Palin epitomizes "mean girl" with her retaliations agaisnt ANYONE, man or woman, who crosses her! She's no girl scout!

Sep. 11 2008 11:47 AM
Lisa m from Bergen County NJ

response to comment from Staten Island: McCain is able to differentiate from Bush. G.W .Bush has not been conservative ENOUGH on 2 main issues republicans stand for (1) strong defense (Bush had to build up a military and national security weakened by Clinton); the Iraq war started out too weak, the surge of troops should have been there from Day 1 (
2) on limiting spending - Bush has not been standing up to a Congress spending like drunken liberals. Conservatives have not been thrilled with the candidacy of McCain, it was the moderates and cross-over of parties that won him the primary. But we'll live with this choice. I'd rather have 4 more yrs of conservativism, than another slew of attacks as was tolerated during Clinton - WTC attack of '93, the Cole, the embassies, then he "wagged the dog" and hit an aspirin factory?!, the sleeziness of Bill's affairs and Hillary's threats to any woman who might speak out. Shame on the Clintons. Obama is just as scary.

Sep. 11 2008 11:44 AM
Sue from North Salem, NY

ha ha! Republicans trademark "9/11" (see Keith Olbermann) and wave it around as the great rallying call. But when an ACTUAL 9/11 SURVIVOR calls them on their actions....oh, dismiss that guy, who the hell does he think he is?

Sep. 11 2008 11:43 AM
Karen from Manhattan

Thank you, Chris. The McCain campaign also ran an ad comparing Obama to a pack of wolves chasing Sarah Palin.

More shameful than the McCain is that American blue collar workers are accepting and being influenced by these arguments and images and that the media is not identifying, and challenging the McCain campaign about, such tactcs. Subliminal racism is alive and well in America.

Sep. 11 2008 11:34 AM
Karen from Manhattan

Lisa is wrong. Obama has not attacked Palin. Palin has been attacked on the Huffington and Daily Kos blogs and the McCain campaign has tried to trump that up into an Obama attack to unite McCain supporters.

Palin is not a merely "fresh face"; she is a neophyte with no experience regarding the economy and foreign policy. She has no resume. That is a bald-faced lie. She was the mayor of a town with fewer residents than the street that I lived on in Manhattan and the governor for a mere 18 months of a state with a population smaller than Brooklyn's and a multi-billion dollar budget SURPLUS due to oil revenues. She managed nothing; she just collected and doled out cash. She was not a reformer, either; she played the earmark game.

Lisa's rhetoric is just that. The Republicans will do nothing to fix the economy, provide Americans with health care, fix the tax system so that my boss is not paying a lower marginal tax rate than I am, and restore America's position in the world. This campaign is not about Davy Crocket and Erin Brockovich; it's about real issues. That's what we Moms in Westchester are voting for.

Sep. 11 2008 11:31 AM
Sean from New Jersey

This election year is about the economy and we need to make the Economic case for Health Care. We're talking about a $2 trillion health care system. That's over 15% of our GDP. And that means that Americans could save $1 trillion per year on health care costs if we did even as well as the French. Are we not as smart as the French? or the Japanese? etc... or the British? etc... etc... or the Germans? etc... etc...

And if you want to make a plea to the hearts of America, how about something like this "we may not agree on when the government should begin legislating our bodies, but we can all agree that being 40th in infant mortality and spending twice as much to do it is a tragedy and a failure."

U.S. Health Care:
1st in $pending
40th in Infant Mortality

Sep. 11 2008 11:31 AM
Joel from Brooklyn

Good question Tom [15].

And why would a "democratic strategist" reinforce the republican-generated celebrity of Obama by using a word like rockstar?

Mr. Begala sounds exactly like ademocratic strategist--one without any idea of how and when to attack.

Sep. 11 2008 11:30 AM
Sean from New Jersey

The Economic Case for Health Care Reform

The moral case for universal health care is a failure. Please, stop wasting time on it. It is time to make the Economic case for Health Care Reform. This is the only way to rally fiscal moderates, independents, and libertarians on this critical issue.

U.S. Health Care is a Failure by any standards. America spends more per capita on health care than any other nation and yet comes in 37th in care -- 35th in life expectancy, and 40th in infant mortality. That's not 1st, not 2nd, not 5th, not 10th, not even 20th... 40th in infant mortality, even though we're paying more than any other nation for it. Compared to France or Japan, we watch twice as many infants die (that's a total of over 200,000 babies per year) and pay nearly twice as much to do it.

This just doesn't make sense. If I managed a business and had worse outcomes than 36 others and yet ran costs that were up to twice as high, I'd have to change or go out of business. No question.

Sep. 11 2008 11:30 AM
chris_52 from nyc

To Karen's comment above, I am a little reluctant to bring this up but, when Joe Lieberman calls Sen Obama "a fine young man" , Bruno calls him a "whimp" and Sarah Palin refers to him a "fifth grader" it seems to me that the republican party is a half step away from calling "boy" -- Racist? You bet they are!!

Sep. 11 2008 11:30 AM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

Lisa, Palin is being USED as a distraction: a big, controversial personality that is sucking up thousands of cable-news-hours and tabloid headlines. But she is meaningless in any substantive, policy sense. Adding Palin to his ticket will not change the lives of Americans in a meaningful way. It isn't a healthcare policy or an energy plan. Its just window dressing and with due respect, it is insulting to women. It makes you look stupid when you start jumping up and down with excitement just because someone with a vagina makes a speech. The GOP is pushing this silly narrative about Sarah Palin being this Leave it to Beaver mom crossed with Xena and if you believe it -- if you actually want to choose the leader of the free world based on silly branding then go ahead -- they bought you cheap.

Sep. 11 2008 11:29 AM
darla from tribeca

Why are the educational achievements of the candidates not a topic? This is a country that prides itself on its great higher education system - its university system - the most highly-regarded in the world - with the Ivy league schools the envy of the world . McCain has a mediocre record as an undergrad and Sarah Palin doesn't even seem to have a record regarding her education I am so sick of hearing about Obama's so-called lack of experience. The fact that the differences in the educational levels of the democaratic vs. republican candidates seems to be a tabu topic- is beyond me. Fear of alienating the lumpen masses - the screaming fans - cheering wildly for their new gods? Are the wall Streetrs with their money and fabulous educations (for the most part) simply afraid that Obama might raise their taxes?

Why aren't people talking about this when they talk about what qualifies someone to be president????

The hypocrisy is overwhelming!

sarah Palin- 6 diferent colleges

Obama has an udergraduate degree from Columbia University.Law Degree harvard Harvard Law Review and more

Sep. 11 2008 11:28 AM
Karen from Manhattan

Because it's true, Tom -- he just did it at the state, not the federal level. 833 co-sponsored bill in 8 years, on a wide range of issues. Plus, Obama was proactive; he didn't merely piggy-back upon his or the opposing-party's bills.

Obama is an experienced, seasoned, creative legislator and the McCain campaign's attempt to ignore his Senate experience is tactical and racist.

Sep. 11 2008 11:25 AM
Kenn from Brooklyn

McCain has caved to the religious right in his choice of Palin. She's an extremist, and that alone should call his judgment into question.

Sep. 11 2008 11:24 AM
Tom from NYC

How can you allow Mr. Begala to make a statement like "Obama has probably made as much good legislation in 2 or 3 years as McCain has in 26" without challenging it?


Sep. 11 2008 11:22 AM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

Obama has spent months and countless millions to associate McCain with the policies and failures of George Bush. This was an understandable and probably smart line of attack to start out the campaign but it's time for a change.

Think about the other signature Obama line -- John McCain voted with Bush 99 million percent of the times or whatever the number is these days, Again -- too low a bar. It's just a meaningless campaign statistic -- it recedes into the white noise of other political BS in the minds of voters.

Democrats still enjoy a significant lead over Republicans in generic nation polls; McCain is running well ahead of his party in the polls, so why run against him?

While there were lots of great speeches and moment from the DNC, only one LINE really stayed in my head (the one they keep playing on wnyc):

"They actually want us to reward them for the last eight years with four more years." That's it. That's the election right there. So why mess around with the tenuous, ham-handed tying of McCain to Bush using dubious statistics when you can sink McCain by simply reminding people of the one thing that he CAN'T and won't refute: that he's a conservative Republican.

Run against the GOP, not McCain

Sep. 11 2008 11:21 AM
Lisa m from Bergen County NJ

WNYC Radio hosts continue to be puzzled at Palin's comeback; she was on the defense, not on the attack, on Obama's attempts to belittle her experience as Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska -Obama called her the "former mayor of Wasilly", purposely misprouncing it and not referring to her as the sitting governor of the state. You act as if she started the tone; you all seem to be unaware that Obama did!

Sara Palin is not "just a distraction." We (women, conservatives, and some converts to the ticket) are enthralled with her freshness and her resume as do-er. We are impressed with her accomplishments. She walks the walk, talks the talk. Admittedly she has a few issues that can be viewed as weaknesses or flaws, don't all candidates? She's a total firecracker. Watch out, she's gonna shake things up!

Sep. 11 2008 11:20 AM
chris_52 from nyc

I agree that Sarah Palin is a distraction and should be ignored. Four years ago I watched John Kerry repeatedly distracted over his army record in a way that George Bush never allowed himself to be distracted by his drug record. All he (Bush)ever said was I'm not talking about that. Kerry should have answered the allegations once, posted the answers on his website and moved on -- "Asked and answered -- see my website. Next?" Obama needs to develop a similar teflon approach

Sep. 11 2008 11:17 AM
Barry from Brooklyn


Shouldn't the Obama campaign detail the community organizing work Obama did, since the Republicans make it sound like "pinko" skullduggery.

Sep. 11 2008 11:17 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Wow, it's a good thing Begala *isn't* running for office. "On the low shelf where the little people can reach it"? The Republicans would love to trash a statement like that as patronizing to working-class people, & you know what? They'd be right (about that, nothing else!).

Sep. 11 2008 11:16 AM
Ron Mwangaguhunga from Williamsburg

Why don't political books succeed?

Sep. 11 2008 11:13 AM

How come Brian only seems to get though with Democrats while allowing republicans to pollute the radiowaves with lies while he talks to his producers.

Sep. 11 2008 11:12 AM
Ron Mwangaguhunga from Williamsburg

Does it ever surprise Paul how much animosity the DLC gets online in forums like DailyKos?

Sep. 11 2008 11:12 AM
Karen from Manhattan


If Obama loses, we all lose. I'm not sure whose point of view you are expressing; everyone I know loved the speech and does not have a problem with any aspect of the Obama campaign other than his seeming inability to get the media off the Palin topic and back onto the issues.

Sep. 11 2008 11:11 AM
Ron Mwangaguhunga from Williamsburg

What advice would Paul give Biden in a debate against Palin?

Sep. 11 2008 11:08 AM
Rob from Bronx

Brian, I could not agree with Ariana H more. As someone who predicted that McCain would pick a woman and suggested Palin as one of two possibilities (Whitman being the other), I can honestly say that I saw this coming a mile away. Palin is a distraction, Obama & Biden focus on her to their detriment, let the media and the political pundit class go after he if they want. Obama/Biden need discipline and focus, keep hammering on McCain's record and the economy, war. The issues that are important to voters. PALIN IS A DISTRACTION, IGNORE HER!

Sep. 11 2008 11:06 AM
Karen from Manhattan

Paul, I have two questions:

1. Why is the Obama campaign not talking about Obama's experience in the Illionis Senate? Illinois is the fifth populous state in the union and its problems are a microcosm of America's. The McCain campaign skips this experience and emphasizes the community organizing that Obama did before law school. We should be talking about the 833 bills co-sponsored by Obama during his 9 years in the Illinois Senate.

2. Tactics: I notice that the Republican surrogates grin and make faces during the Obama supporters CNN/MSNBC statements, thus getting camera time and interrupting via expression and gesture, and also always try to both interrupt orally and grab the last word. I think that they are taught to use these tactics. Are the Obama people aware of this game, and why don't you call attention to the Republican's antics and fight back?

Sep. 11 2008 11:05 AM
Julie from NYC

Just a note to say I was shocked when visiting the Democratic Party homepage to see that it's covered in McCain. If the common complaint is not knowing Obama enough it seems bizarre to be promoting Macca all over your homepage rather than promoting Obama and all that he can do for us.

Sep. 11 2008 11:05 AM
Ron Mwangaguhunga from Williamsburg

What was it like when Jon Stewart came on and attacked "crossfir"? Was that the reason the show was bumped by CNN?

Sep. 11 2008 11:01 AM

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