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The [Wednesday] Papers

You wouldn't know it by the paltry coverage in your local papers, but Barack Obama's statement during Monday night's Democratic presidential debate that he would meet with the leaders of Cuba, North Korea, Iran and the like looks like the biggest political gaffe at least since John McCain's stroll through that Baghdad market.

"I can see the ad now," David Corn writes. "Kim Jong Il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Fidel Castro, Bashar al-Assad, and Hugo Chavez all strolling into the White House, and a grinning Barack Obama greeting them with a friendly 'Welcome, boys; what do you want to talk about?'"

While Corn engages in a bit of hyperbole - "For Obama to have a chance of toppling front-running Clinton, he will have a near-perfect performance from now until the actual voting" - the blogosphere, Beltway media, cable news shows, and lil' ol' Quad City Times, home of the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, are abuzz over Obama's flub.

(Obama certainly has gained South Florida's interest.)

The Obama campaign spun furiously in an e-mail to supporters on Tuesday stating that "Barack Obama's performance stood above the competition in last night's debate as he continued to show the qualities that will make him a strong Commander in Chief" - exactly the issue now in question - and declaring "This morning's news coverage declared Barack the clear winner of the debate," which is demonstrably false.

In fact, immediately after the debate, analyst Jeffrey Toobin said "It was like Gladys Knight and the Pips. Obama looked inexperienced and naive."

The Obama e-mail blast also cherry-picked a quote from Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post in opposition to his full analysis, as illustrated by what Cillizza on Keith Olbermann's Countdown:

OLBERMANN: You wrote though that after last night there is little doubt that Senator Clinton is the best debater. Did Obama hurt himself last night on that critical issue that seems to be focusing around him about seasoning and experience in internationalism?

CILLIZZA: Right. I've said before and I think the most important thing is that none of these events matter in a specific. They matter in the larger narrative. The larger narrative, the negative narrative around Barack Obama, is he's not experienced enough. I think he jumped at that question. He was happy to be the first person to answer. He got out there and whacked the Bush Administration as you heard in that clip you played. It drew some applause.

Well, then came Hillary Clinton, sort of the closer to say 'Look, I understand why you would feel that way but we need to be smart about this. We need to be principled. We need to be pragmatic.' So I think Obama sort of got caught off guard. I think he saw an opportunity. He jumped for it. He may have overstepped himself just a little and Clinton used that. Again, she is a very good debater; used that to paint this as experience versus inexperience. And that's the best dynamic if she wants to win the primary.

The Obama e-mail was clearly a sign of a defensive campaign that realized it's man had made a mistake; then the Obama campaign compounded what might otherwise have blown away in the breeze. Ben Smith at The Politico notes that the Obama campaign attacked first, even as it accused Clinton of creating a "fabricated controversy."

The Obama campaign's e-mail blasts have always been disingenuous, particularly when it comes to their efforts to paint its fundraising as grass-roots clean, but they don't do themselves any favors in a dustup like this by acting like right-wing lug nuts.

And how delicious is it to see Tribune deputy managing editor James Warren saying this:

"I just wish there was some journalistic, old-fashioned journalistic component following up on some of the answers. A perfect example: If you look at a lot of the coverage this morning, everyone was saying, 'Boy, Hillary really stuck to Obama on that question' - remember that question about, would you talk in your first year to the leaders of some of these countries like North Korea and Iran. And he said he definitely would, and she said, 'Oh, no no no. I'm not gonna legitimize those folks.'

"Well, if you would just check the record, as recently as April in Iowa, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton castigated President Bush by saying she thought it would be a, quote, 'terrible mistake' to announce that you wouldn't talk to bad guys."

Maybe you ought to do some old-fashioned journalism yourself, Jim, instead of just swallowing the Obama spin (or reading Drudge), because you clearly failed to go back and read for yourself what Clinton said in Iowa last April.

Or did you purposely leave out this part: "I would begin diplomatic discussions with those countries with whom we have differences, to try to figure out what is the depth of those differences."

See, diplomatic talks are one thing. American presidents meeting face-to-face with rogue despots is another. Wouldn't you agree?

Better Yet
Check out the Beachwood's special brand of debate coverage, in Mystery Debate Theater.

Tax Breaks
"Two years ago, when companies received a big tax break to bring home their offshore profits, the president and Congress justified it as a one-time tax amnesty that would create American jobs," the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

"Drug makers were the biggest beneficiaries of the amnesty program, repatriating about $100 billion in foreign profits and paying only minimal taxes. But the companies did not create many jobs in return. Instead, since 2005 the American drug industry has laid of tens of thousands of workers in this country."

Cat Fight
"Someone decided NOT to call the show Kittens vs. Cougars, and that person needs to be fired."

The Beachwood Tip Line: Meow.


Posted on July 25, 2007

MUSIC - Lyric Opera Strike Settled.
POLITICS - USA Today's Op-Ed Disaster.
SPORTS - SportsMonday: Come On, Vic!

BOOKS - Chicago Book Haul: The Dial.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: West Town Blues.

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