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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lieberman Starts Talking Up "Respect" For Obama

Joe Lieberman adopted the role of Republican attack dog early on, but as the election draws near, he's hoping the political world has a very short memory.

Lieberman, a self-proclaimed "independent Democrat" who was chosen by McCain to make the case against Obama at the Republican National Convention in early September, said his comments have been within bounds.

"When I go out, I say, 'I have a lot of respect for Sen. Obama. He's bright. He's eloquent.'"

My hunch is, Lieberman sees the direction of the political winds, and hopes to convince Democrats that while he's been a McCain sycophant, he's always been "respectful" towards Obama.

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McCain's History of Blow-Ups: Volume 3

As we inch closer to election day, we’ll continue on with Part III of the many instances of Senator McCain’s erratic temper. For Part I, click here. For Part II, click here .

Casino Patron

Back in 2005, The Daily Beast reports that McCain was in Puerto Rico as the guest speaker for a magazine industry conference, held at one of the island’s major casinos. After his speech, McCain headed to the casino for a stint at the craps table. Now, anyone who plays craps knows that when the dice are about to be thrown, everyone’s hands are suppose to be off the table. But McCain, whether unfamiliar with the rule or simply distracted, left his hands on the felt. A small, middle aged woman who was a casino regular reached over and touched McCain’s arm, apparently trying to make him aware of his gambling faux pas. But McCain wasn’t having it. “Don’t touch me!” he screamed. The woman tried to explain, but McCain cut her off. “Do you know who I am?” Again the woman tried to explain, and again, the red-faced McCain interrupted. “Do you know who you’re talking to?”

New York Times Reporter: "Why Are You So Angry?"

"Morning Joe’s" Mika Brzezinski

You may have heard of Joe Scarborough (the former-Republican-Congressman-turned-talk-show-host) and his MSNBC daily, "Morning Joe." Now, given his past affiliations with the GOP, Scarborough tends to be pretty forgiving to guests of his own party. He’s more or less fair, but it’s no stretch to say that a Republican is a lot more likely to consider "Morning Joe" friendly territory than is a Democrat.

On September 16, McCain appeared on Scarborough’s show. When co-host Mika Brzezinski questioned him about the tenor of his campaign ads, McCain became irritated. He accused Brzezinski of being an open “Obama supporter,” and urged her to convince Obama to accept his invitations to debate him in town-hall format. Brzezinski was taken aback, saying that she wouldn’t classify herself as the Senator had. At the tail end of the interview, Brzezinski again brought up McCain’s jab, pointing out that her brother had been working for his campaign, and had worked for George W. Bush for several years before that. McCain bristled: “Thanks. That was a cheap shot.”

Grabbing Foreign Dignitary by Shirt Collar

One incident was recently brought to light by Mississippi Republican Senator Thad Cochran, a McCain supporter no less (albeit, one who only begrudgingly supported his colleague after he’d sealed the nomination). During a meeting at the height of US-South American tensions in 1987, McCain reached across a table to physically assault a dignitary from the Nicaraguan delegation. Cochran recalled McCain grabbing the man by his shirt collar, "to tell him what he thought about him or whatever."

Des Moines Register Editorial Board

Responding to the disturbance, the pit-boss approached McCain and said, “Sir, you must be courteous to the other players at the table.”

McCain wheeled and began shouting at the pit boss. “Do you know who I am? Ask anybody around here who I am!” He went on repeating his question until one of the other players at the table intervened and offered to trade places with McCain, so that he wouldn’t have to stand next to the woman who had run afoul of the Senator.

Bush Staffer

Taegan Goddard, the Political Wire blogger who is renowned for his ability to be among the very first to break stories out of Capitol Hill, wrote on October 9, 2008, about a senior Bush staffer who’d confided in him about the GOP’s presidential nominee. According to Goddard’s source, there were “at least three occasions where he saw McCain fly into a fit of rage, including one time where he got physical and actually shoved the person who was annoying him.”

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Obama Draws More Than 100,000 At Denver Rally (PHOTOS)


Barack Obama drew a crowd of over 100,000 at a rally in Denver on Sunday, the AP reports:

The Obama campaign released an initial crowd estimate of 75,000 people. That was later upgraded to "well over" 100,00 people, a tally confirmed by a Denver police spokesman.

The setting, on a sparkling day in this battleground state, said perhaps more than Obama did in his actual speech. His campaign is capitalizing on the scope of such rallies to get people to cast votes early, permitted in Colorado and more than two dozen other states.

Below are some great photos of the event, courtesy of Getty.


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Biden Tells Fifth Grade Reporter What VP Actually Does (VIDEO)

When Joe Biden campaigned in Palm Beach County, Florida in September he was interviewed by one Damon Weaver, a remarkably poised and charming 5th grader. Weaver's news segment on Biden's visit is highly entertaining and worth checking out, And make sure to watch to the end, when Weaver pronounces Biden his "homeboy."


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Could McCain Lose His Home State?

A poll suggests John McCain, having trouble all over the map, might not win his home state:

Democrats are circulating a poll showing Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) losing ground in his own state, an ominous sign for his beleaguered campaign as state after state turns blues.


Project New West, which aims to build the Democratic Party in the Intermountain West, says McCain leads Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in the Grand Canyon State, 48 percent to 44 percent.

The pollsters call that a "dramatic shift" from a survey they took in mid-September, which had McCain ahead by 14 points, 54 percent to 40 percent.

The New York Times' Randal Archibald writes that McCain will probably win Arizona, but may not be able to save the rest of his state party:

Democrats -- and privately, some leading Republicans -- say they believe that the Democrats can pick up one and possibly two Congressional seats now held by Republicans. That would give them a majority of Arizona's Congressional delegation -- now with eight members -- for the first time since 1966.


"I don't think that there is probably any seat in the country for Republicans this year that is safe, and particularly not in light of the spending disparity," said Representative John Shadegg, a seven-term Republican who is battling to hold on to the seat for his north Phoenix district.

...

"The Democrats are well-funded, organized and hungry," Nathan Sproul, a Republican strategist here, wrote this month in a memorandum to party members. "It is every man and woman for himself or herself. Good luck. You're going to need it."

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Obama for president

Alaska enters its 50th-anniversary year in the glow of an improbable and highly memorable event: the nomination of Gov. Sarah Palin as the Republican vice presidential candidate. For the first time ever, an Alaskan is making a serious bid for national office, and in doing so she brings broad attention and recognition not only to herself, but also to the state she leads.

Alaska's founders were optimistic people, but even the most farsighted might have been stretched to imagine this scenario. No matter the outcome in November, this election will mark a signal moment in the history of the 49th state. Many Alaskans are proud to see their governor, and their state, so prominent on the national stage.

Gov. Palin's nomination clearly alters the landscape for Alaskans as we survey this race for the presidency -- but it does not overwhelm all other judgment. The election, after all is said and done, is not about Sarah Palin, and our sober view is that her running mate, Sen. John McCain, is the wrong choice for president at this critical time for our nation.

Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, brings far more promise to the office. In a time of grave economic crisis, he displays thoughtful analysis, enlists wise counsel and operates with a cool, steady hand. The same cannot be said of Sen. McCain.

Since his early acknowledgement that economic policy is not his strong suit, Sen. McCain has stumbled and fumbled badly in dealing with the accelerating crisis as it emerged. He declared that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" at 9 a.m. one day and by 11 a.m. was describing an economy in crisis. He is both a longtime advocate of less market regulation and a supporter of the huge taxpayer-funded Wall Street bailout. His behavior in this crisis -- erratic is a kind description -- shows him to be ill-equipped to lead the essential effort of reining in a runaway financial system and setting an anxious nation on course to economic recovery.

Sen. Obama warned regulators and the nation 19 months ago that the subprime lending crisis was a disaster in the making. Sen. McCain backed tighter rules for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but didn't do much to advance that legislation. Of the two candidates, Sen. Obama better understands the mortgage meltdown's root causes and has the judgment and intelligence to shape a solution, as well as the leadership to rally the country behind it. It is easy to look at Sen. Obama and see a return to the smart, bipartisan economic policies of the last Democratic administration in Washington, which left the country with the momentum of growth and a budget surplus that President George Bush has squandered.

On the most important issue of the day, Sen. Obama is a clear choice.

Sen. McCain describes himself as a maverick, by which he seems to mean that he spent 25 years trying unsuccessfully to persuade his own party to follow his bipartisan, centrist lead. Sadly, maverick John McCain didn't show up for the campaign. Instead we have candidate McCain, who embraces the extreme Republican orthodoxy he once resisted and cynically asks Americans to buy for another four years.

It is Sen. Obama who truly promises fundamental change in Washington. You need look no further than the guilt-by-association lies and sound-bite distortions of the degenerating McCain campaign to see how readily he embraces the divisive, fear-mongering tactics of Karl Rove. And while Sen. McCain points to the fragile success of the troop surge in stabilizing conditions in Iraq, it is also plain that he was fundamentally wrong about the more crucial early decisions. Contrary to his assurances, we were not greeted as liberators; it was not a short, easy war; and Americans -- not Iraqi oil -- have had to pay for it. It was Sen. Obama who more clearly saw the danger ahead.

The unqualified endorsement of Sen. Obama by a seasoned, respected soldier and diplomat like Gen. Colin Powell, a Republican icon, should reassure all Americans that the Democratic candidate will pass muster as commander in chief.

On a matter of parochial interest, Sen. Obama opposes the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but so does Sen. McCain. We think both are wrong, and hope a President Obama can be convinced to support environmentally responsible development of that resource.

Gov. Palin has shown the country why she has been so successful in her young political career. Passionate, charismatic and indefatigable, she draws huge crowds and sows excitement in her wake. She has made it clear she's a force to be reckoned with, and you can be sure politicians and political professionals across the country have taken note. Her future, in Alaska and on the national stage, seems certain to be played out in the limelight.

Yet despite her formidable gifts, few who have worked closely with the governor would argue she is truly ready to assume command of the most important, powerful nation on earth. To step in and juggle the demands of an economic meltdown, two deadly wars and a deteriorating climate crisis would stretch the governor beyond her range. Like picking Sen. McCain for president, putting her one 72-year-old heartbeat from the leadership of the free world is just too risky at this time.

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AP INVESTIGATION: Palin pipeline terms curbed bids

By JUSTIN PRITCHARD and GARANCE BURKE, Associated Press

Republican vice presidential candidate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin greets the crowd

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Gov. Sarah Palin's signature accomplishment — a contract to build a 1,715-mile pipeline to bring natural gas from Alaska to the Lower 48 — emerged from a flawed bidding process that narrowed the field to a company with ties to her administration, an Associated Press investigation shows.

Beginning at the Republican National Convention in August, the McCain-Palin ticket has touted the pipeline as an example of how it would help America achieve energy independence.

"We're building a nearly $40 billion natural gas pipeline, which is North America's largest and most expensive infrastructure project ever, to flow those sources of energy into hungry markets," Palin said during the Oct. 2 vice presidential debate.

Despite Palin's boast of a smart and fair bidding process, the AP found that her team crafted terms that favored only a few independent pipeline companies and ultimately benefited the winner, TransCanada Corp.

And contrary to the ballyhoo, there's no guarantee the pipeline will ever be built; at a minimum, any project is years away, as TransCanada must first overcome major financial and regulatory hurdles.

In interviews and a review of records, the AP found:

_Instead of creating a process that would attract many potential builders, Palin slanted the terms away from an important group — the global energy giants that own the rights to the gas.

_Despite promises and legal guidance not to talk directly with potential bidders, Palin had meetings or phone calls with nearly every major candidate, including TransCanada.

_The leader of Palin's pipeline team had been a partner at a lobbying firm where she worked on behalf of a TransCanada subsidiary. Also, that woman's former business partner at the lobbying firm was TransCanada's lead private lobbyist on the pipeline deal, interacting with legislators in the weeks before the vote to grant TransCanada the contract. Plus, a former TransCanada executive served as an outside consultant to Palin's pipeline team.

_Under a different set of rules four years earlier, TransCanada had offered to build the pipeline without a state subsidy; under Palin, the company could receive a maximum $500 million.

"Governor Palin held firmly to her fundamental belief that Alaska could best serve Alaskans and the nation's interests by pursuing a competitive approach to building a natural gas pipeline," said McCain-Palin spokesman Taylor Griffin. "There was an open and transparent process that subjected the decision to extensive public scrutiny and due diligence."

___

ONLY ONE VIABLE BIDDER

There were never more than a few players that could execute such a complex undertaking — at least a million tons of steel stretching across some of Earth's most hostile and remote terrain.

TransCanada estimates it will cost $26 billion; Palin's consultants estimate nearly $40 billion.

The pipeline would run from Alaska's North Slope to Alberta in Canada; secondary supply lines would take the gas to various points in the United States and Canada. The pipeline would carry 4.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas daily, about 8 percent of the present U.S. market.

Building such a pipeline had been a dream for decades. The rising cost and demand for energy injected new urgency into the proposal.

So too did the depletion of Alaska's long-reliable reserves of oil, which are trapped in the same Arctic Circle reservoirs as clean-burning natural gas. Not only does that oil provide jobs, it pays for an annual dividend check to nearly every Alaska resident. This year's payment was $2,069, 25 percent higher than 2007 — plus a $1,200 bonus rebate to help offset higher energy costs.

Palin was elected as governor two years ago in part because of her populist appeal. Promising "New Energy for Alaska," she vowed to take on Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips and BP, the multinational energy companies that long dominated the state's biggest industry.

Oil interests were particularly unpopular at that moment: Federal agents had recently raided the offices of six lawmakers in a Justice Department investigation into whether an Alaska oil services company paid bribes in exchange for promoting a new taxing formula that would ultimately further the multinationals' pipeline plans.

Palin ousted fellow Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski, who pushed a pipeline deal he negotiated in secret with the "Big Three" energy companies. That deal went nowhere.

With Alaskans eager for progress and sour on Big Oil, Palin tackled the pipeline issue with gusto, meeting with representatives from all sides and assembling her own team of experts to draw up terms.

Palin invited bidders to submit applications and offered the multimillion-dollar subsidy. Members of Palin's team say that without the incentive, it might not have received any bids for the risky undertaking.

___

TIES THAT BIND

Palin's team was led by Marty Rutherford, a widely respected energy specialist who entered the upper levels of state government nearly 20 years ago. Rutherford solidified her status when, in 2005, she joined an exodus of Department of Natural Resources staff who felt Murkowski was selling out to the oil giants.

What the Palin administration didn't tell legislators — and neglected to mention in its announcement of Rutherford's appointment — was that in 2003, Rutherford left public service and worked for 10 months at the Anchorage-based Jade North lobbying firm. There she did $40,200 worth of work for Foothills Pipe Lines Alaska, Inc., a subsidiary of TransCanada.

Foothills Pipe Lines Alaska Inc. paid Rutherford for expertise on topics including state legislation and funding related to gas commercialization, according to her 2003 lobbyist registration statement.

Palin has said she wasn't bothered by that past work because it had occurred several years before. But Rutherford wouldn't have passed her new boss' own standards: Under ethics reforms the governor pushed through, Rutherford would have had to wait a year to jump from government service to a lobbying firm.

Rutherford also has downplayed her work for Foothills.

"I did a couple of projects for them, small projects," she told a state Senate committee examining the TransCanada bid earlier this year. While a partner, Rutherford said, she "realized that my heart was not in the private sector, it was in the public sector, and I sold out for the same amount of money I bought in for."

At one point, Palin's pipeline team debated Rutherford's role, but concluded there was no problem.

"We were looking at it in terms of is this an actual conflict or is there the appearance of impropriety of Marty's participation," said Pat Galvin, the commissioner of the Revenue Department and another top team member. "It was determined that there was none, and so we moved forward."

Patricia Bielawski, Rutherford's former partner at Jade North, spent last summer in Juneau, the state capital, serving as TransCanada's lead private lobbyist on the pipeline deal. While the Legislature debated — and ultimately approved — the TransCanada deal, Bielawski met with lawmakers and sat in on the public proceedings, several legislators said.

Bielawski told AP earlier this month that Rutherford's employment at her firm was irrelevant. She said Rutherford never directly lobbied the Legislature for Foothills, and that Rutherford broke no rules based on 2003 state ethics guidelines.

"There's no statutory or regulatory prohibition that extends to things that many years ago," Bielawski said. "So there's no issue."

But others say it's a legitimate question.

"I'm not saying someone's getting paid off for a sweetheart contract, but it's very hard to ignore that this is your former partner and your former client standing there before you," said Republican Sen. Lyda Green, a Palin critic who in August was among the handful of lawmakers who voted against awarding TransCanada the license. "Every time it was mentioned to the governor or to the commission, it was like, 'How could you question such a wonderful person?'"

Tony Palmer, the TransCanada vice president who leads the company's Alaska gas pipeline effort, rejects the suggestion that his company benefited.

"We have gained clearly no advantage from anything that Ms. Rutherford did for Foothills some five years ago on a very much unrelated topic," he said.

Rutherford did not respond to interview requests made directly to her and through the governor's office. But Griffin, the spokesman for the McCain-Palin campaign, said Rutherford "had no decision-making role or authority," and contended that such matters were handled by others on the Palin pipeline team.

TransCanada also had a connection to the team hired by the Palin administration to analyze the bid. Patrick Anderson, a former TransCanada executive, served as an outside consultant and ultimately helped the state conclude that TransCanada's technical solution for shipping gas through freezing temperatures would work.

___

NARROW SET OF RULES

In January 2007, Palin spoke the first of at least two times to Vice President Dick Cheney, the Bush administration's point person on energy issues, according to calendars obtained by the AP through a public records request. Cheney's staff pressed the Palin administration to draw in the energy companies, said current and former state officials involved in those discussions.

As the governor's approach unfolded in the spring of 2007, there were signs it was skewed in a different direction.

Palin said she saw problems if the firms that own the gas also owned the pipeline. They could manipulate the market or charge prohibitive fees to smaller exploration firms, discouraging competition.

Several important requirements in the legislation were unpalatable to the big oil companies. In the talks under Murkowski, the firms asked that the rates for the gas production tax and royalties be fixed for 45 years; Palin refused to consider setting rates for that long.

Under the Palin process, the pipeline firms had an advantage because they simply pass along taxes paid by oil and gas producers.

Oil company officials warned lawmakers they wouldn't participate under those terms. Still, in a near unanimous vote, the Legislature passed the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act in May 2007, generally as written by Palin's pipeline team.

Once the state issued its request for proposals on July 2, 2007, the level of communication between the government and potential bidders was supposed to decrease drastically, so that no one would be accused of gaining unfair advantage. State lawyers advised public officials to keep their distance, and bidders were told to submit questions on a Web site where answers could be seen by all.

Several of the state's gas line team members interviewed by AP said they had no contact with possible bidders. But Palin had conversations with executives at most of the major potential bidders during that period, according to her calendars.

While the calendars don't detail what was discussed, the documents indicate that the pipeline was the subject of the discussions, or that the conversations occurred immediately after a briefing with Palin's pipeline team.

When she was in Michigan for a National Governors Association summit in late July 2007, Palin and her team met executives from Williams Co., a pipeline builder that ended up not bidding.

"The purpose of the meeting was to more fully understand the details of the project, which we were still evaluating at the time," company spokeswoman Julie Gentz said in a statement.

TransCanada's Palmer described communication with state officials as nonexistent.

According to the governor's official schedule, however, Palin called TransCanada President and CEO Hal Kvisle on Aug. 8, 2007. Asked about that call, Palmer said it was to clarify the bidding process.

Griffin said that in keeping with legal guidance, Palin never spoke in any of the meetings about the competitive bidding process.

By the Nov. 30 submission deadline, there were five applications. But the state disqualified four for failing to satisfy the bill's requirements.

That left TransCanada.

The Canadian giant had been pursuing an Alaska pipeline since at least 2004, when the company negotiated a deal with Rutherford that the state ended up shelving. While the details remain confidential, six people familiar with the terms told the AP that TransCanada was willing to do the work then without the large state subsidy.

In testimony this July before the state Senate, Rutherford herself confirmed such a willingness, but described the 2004 deal as presenting a different set of trade-offs. A state lawyer warned her not to say more, lest she violate a confidentiality agreement.

Others who reviewed the deal think much of the $500 million will be wasted money.

"Most definitely TransCanada got a sweetheart deal this time," said Republican Sen. Bert Stedman, who voted against the TransCanada license. "Where else could you get a $500 million reimbursement when you don't even have the financing to build the pipeline?"

___

Associated Press writer Brett J. Blackledge contributed to this report.

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Biden Slammed During Florida Interview, Same Anchor Gives McCain Softballs

Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden gave it to Florida WFTV anchor Barbara West Thursday when she asked him a slew of questions straight out of John McCain's talking points.

West began the interview by asking whether Biden was "embarrassed" by Barack Obama's association with ACORN. Biden refuted the false association between ACORN and Obama and rightly mentioned John McCain's speech during a rally sponsored by ACORN in 2006. Watch the interview below:

If you don't think West was laying a trap for Biden with rhetorical questions that are central to John McCain and Sarah Palin's speeches, then watch her treatment of John McCain in an interview on October 14th.

Biden asked her if his interview was a "joke" and wondered aloud who was writing her questions. Conservative writers, like Michelle Malkin, are trying to use Biden's negative reaction to biased questions as proof that he's even more erratic than John McCain. It's a huge stretch. Not only has John McCain increasingly accused the entire media establishment of being in the tank for Obama after years of calling the press his "base," but on Thursday he showed clear erratic behavior by snapping at a reporter over an immigration question:

At one point in the interview, McCain grew frustrated with a Tampa television reporter during her questions on immigration issues. McCain twice said illegal immigrants who have committed crimes would be rounded up. Katie Coronado of WFLA-TV asked if that meant using raids to round up immigrants.

"What did I just say that had any connotation of raids?" McCain said, raising his voice with impatience. "Let me try one more time."

He again explained the idea of forcing illegal immigrants out of the country by issuing ID cards and fining employers who hire illegals. He then softened his tone.

"I apologize," he said to Coronado. "I understand how important an issue it is. I didn't mean to be flip."

The Obama campaign responded to Biden's treatment by canceling a subsequent WFTV interview with his wife, Jill. Obama's Florida spokeswoman, Adrianne Marsh, called Biden's interviewer, Barbara West, "both combative and woefully uninformed about simple facts."

WFTV news director Bob Jordan refuted the bias by saying, "Mr. Biden didn't like the questions," Jordan said. "We choose not to ask softball questions."

Yes, tough questions are great Mr. Jordan, but not if some of them are 100% false or aim to equate the Democratic candidate for president with Karl Marx. Even John McCain wasn't subject to that kind of questioning when he flipped on Ms. Coronado on Thursday.

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Pennsylvania Republicans Send False Anti-Obama E-mail

By Jim Rutenberg

A new e-mail making the rounds among Jewish voters in Pennsylvania this week falsely alleged that Mr. Obama “taught members of Acorn to commit voter registration fraud,’’ and equated a vote for Senator Barack Obama with the “tragic mistake” of their Jewish ancestors, who “ignored the warning signs in the 1930’s and 1940’s.”

At first blush, it was typical of the sorts of e-mails floating around with false, unsubstantiated and incendiary claims this year.

But where most of the attack e-mails against Mr. Obama have been mostly either anonymous or from people outside of mainstream politics, this one had an unusually official provenance: It was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Republican Party’s “Victory 2008” committee.

And it was signed by several prominent McCain supporters in the state: Mitchell L. Morgan, a top fund-raiser; Hon. Sandra Schwartz Newman, a member of Mr. McCain’s national task-force monitoring Election Day voting, and I. Michael Coslov, a steel industry executive.

After several calls for comment about the e-mail, leaders of the state party repudiated it on Friday. They said it had been released without their authorization and that they had fired the strategist who helped draft it, Bryan Rudnick.

“There were some points that were accurate, there were two that we cannot substantiate, however; as a result of them we’ve let him go,” said Michael Barley, the communications director for the Pennsylvania state Republican Party, who said other issues had contributed to Mr. Rudnick’s dismissal. “There are points that could have been made and he touched on some of them, but he definitely went a little bit farther than the facts would support.”

Mr. Barley was referring specifically to the letter’s allegation that Mr. Obama had “taught members of Acorn to commit voter registration fraud.” Mr. Barley said the party had no substantiation for the claim and should not have made it. (Mr. Obama’s campaign and Acorn have reported he did conduct two pro bono training sessions, of one hour each, for officials there more than a decade ago.)

Mr. Barley was also referring to a statement in the letter that Mr. Obama was “associated with a known terrorist, William Ayers, who thought the terrorists didn’t do enough on 9/11.”

Mr. Ayers was quoted in the Sept. 11, 2001 edition of The New York Times, printed before the attacks, saying he believed that his group, The Weather Underground, “didn’t do enough.” The Weather Underground had bombed several government buildings in the 1970’s that resulted in several deaths — including those of three police officers. He was not referring to Al Qaeda or the Sept. 11 attacks.

And, working off of a common refrain of Mr. McCain that Mr. Obama had once described Mr. Ayers as “just a guy in the neighborhood,’’ the letter goes on to ask, “If a known terrorist lived in your neighborhood, would he just be a guy in your neighborhood, or would you be calling the FBI to have him removed?”

While that would seem to imply to uninformed voters that Mr. Ayers was on the lam, Mr. Ayers is now a professor of education at the University of Illinois, and worked with Mr. Obama on two charitable boards with mainstream, civic support in Chicago. Charges against him were dropped in 1974 because of prosecutorial misconduct, including illegal surveillance.

In a brief interview earlier Friday, Judge Newman — a former state supreme court justice now in private practice –- said she had helped write the letter. Then she quickly passed the phone to Mr. Rudnick. He said the e-mail was sent to 75,000 voters in Pennsylvania and asked that other questions be e-mailed to him.

Mr. Rudnick did not respond to that e-mail. But, contacted again on Friday night, Mr. Rudnick disputed the party’s version of events and said he had approval for the letter from officials at several levels.

Mr. Rudnick said he usually works in Florida but was dispatched to Pennsylvania to help with Jewish outreach there.

Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for Mr. Obama, said, “If they really cared about telling the truth they’d send the list an email debunking their own lies.”

Mr. Barley said the party would send a correction to those who received the email. “We apologize and that was definitely not something we authorize,” he said.

He could not be reached late Friday to address Mr. Rudnick’s refutation of the party’s official version of events.

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Palin's 'going rogue,' McCain aide says

From Dana Bash, Peter Hamby and John King CNN

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (CNN) -- With 10 days until Election Day, long-brewing tensions between GOP vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin and key aides to Sen. John McCain have become so intense, they are spilling out in public, sources say.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks at a rally in Sioux City, Iowa, on Saturday.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks at a rally in Sioux City, Iowa, on Saturday.

Several McCain advisers have suggested to CNN that they have become increasingly frustrated with what one aide described as Palin "going rogue."

A Palin associate, however, said the candidate is simply trying to "bust free" of what she believes was a damaging and mismanaged roll-out.

McCain sources say Palin has gone off-message several times, and they privately wonder whether the incidents were deliberate. They cited an instance in which she labeled robocalls -- recorded messages often used to attack a candidate's opponent -- "irritating" even as the campaign defended their use. Also, they pointed to her telling reporters she disagreed with the campaign's decision to pull out of Michigan.

A second McCain source says she appears to be looking out for herself more than the McCain campaign.

"She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone," said this McCain adviser. "She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else.

"Also, she is playing for her own future and sees herself as the next leader of the party. Remember: Divas trust only unto themselves, as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom."

A Palin associate defended her, saying that she is "not good at process questions" and that her comments on Michigan and the robocalls were answers to process questions.

But this Palin source acknowledged that Palin is trying to take more control of her message, pointing to last week's impromptu news conference on a Colorado tarmac.

Tracey Schmitt, Palin's press secretary, was urgently called over after Palin wandered over to the press and started talking. Schmitt tried several times to end the unscheduled session.

"We acknowledge that perhaps she should have been out there doing more," a different Palin adviser recently said, arguing that "it's not fair to judge her off one or two sound bites" from the network interviews.

The Politico reported Saturday on Palin's frustration, specifically with McCain advisers Nicolle Wallace and Steve Schmidt. They helped decide to limit Palin's initial press contact to high-profile interviews with Charlie Gibson of ABC and Katie Couric of CBS, which all McCain sources admit were highly damaging.

In response, Wallace e-mailed CNN the same quote she gave the Politico: "If people want to throw me under the bus, my personal belief is that the most honorable thing to do is to lie there."

But two sources, one Palin associate and one McCain adviser, defended the decision to keep her press interaction limited after she was picked, both saying flatly that she was not ready and that the missteps could have been a lot worse.

They insisted that she needed time to be briefed on national and international issues and on McCain's record.

"Her lack of fundamental understanding of some key issues was dramatic," said another McCain source with direct knowledge of the process to prepare Palin after she was picked. The source said it was probably the "hardest" to get her "up to speed than any candidate in history."

Schmitt came to the back of the plane Saturday to deliver a statement to traveling reporters: "Unnamed sources with their own agenda will say what they want, but from Gov. Palin down, we have one agenda, and that's to win on Election Day."

Yet another senior McCain adviser lamented the public recriminations.

"This is what happens with a campaign that's behind; it brings out the worst in people, finger-pointing and scapegoating," this senior adviser said.

This adviser also decried the double standard, noting that Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama's running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, has gone off the reservation as well, most recently by telling donors at a fundraiser that America's enemies will try to "test" Obama.

Tensions like those within the McCain-Palin campaign are not unusual; vice presidential candidates also have a history of butting heads with the top of the ticket.

John Edwards and his inner circle repeatedly questioned Sen. John Kerry's strategy in 2004, and Kerry loyalists repeatedly aired in public their view that Edwards would not play the traditional attack dog role with relish because he wanted to protect his future political interests.

Even in a winning campaign like Bill Clinton's, some of Al Gore's aides in 1992 and again in 1996 questioned how Gore was being scheduled for campaign events.

Jack Kemp's aides distrusted the Bob Dole camp and vice versa, and Dan Quayle loyalists had a list of gripes remarkably similar to those now being aired by Gov. Palin's aides.

With the presidential race in its final days and polls suggesting that McCain's chances of pulling out a win are growing slim, Palin may be looking after her own future.

"She's no longer playing for 2008; she's playing 2012," Democratic pollster Peter Hart said. "And the difficulty is, when she went on 'Saturday Night Live,' she became a reinforcement of her caricature. She never allowed herself to be vetted, and at the end of the day, voters turned against her both in terms of qualifications and personally."

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Daily Tracking Poll: Disfavor With Palin Grows; Economy Keeps Boosting Obama

ANALYSIS by GARY LANGER

Graphic pic image of Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain in the ABC News/Washington Post daily tracking poll.

Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama are locked in a tight battle for the White House. ABC News and the Washington Post partner in a daily tracking poll, examining the 2008 presidential campaign from now through Election Day.

Beleaguered by Saksgate as well as broad doubts about her qualifications, Sarah Palin is now rated unfavorably by just more than half of likely voters, capping her dramatic rise in unpopularity as the presidential campaign has progressed.

Other measures continue to help the Democrats as well: As the economic crisis has deepened, Barack Obama has maintained his lead in trust to handle the economy, now 17 points, as well as an 18-point advantage in better understanding voters' problems.

And strong enthusiasm among his supporters is at a new high: 70 percent, nearly double John McCain's, and well above that of any of the presidential candidates in 2000 or 2004.

Click here for PDF with charts and questionnaire.

Likely voters overall divide by 53-44 percent, Obama-McCain respectively, in this latest ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll.

Obama holds a seven-point edge among independents and very large leads among black and Hispanic voters counter his 8-point deficit among whites -- itself just below the average for a Democratic presidential candidate in exit polls since 1976.

Fifty-one percent of likely voters continue to call the economy the single top issue in their vote, vastly No. 1, and those voters favor Obama by 62-35 percent.

It makes the difference: Those who pick all other issues combined favor McCain, 54-43 percent.

Among whites who cite the economy as their top issue, moreover, it's a slight 51-45 percent edge for Obama versus McCain. Among whites who're more concerned with all other issues combined, by contrast, McCain leads by a wide 60-37 percent.

Palin Unpopularity Grows

Gov. Palin's been dogged by difficulties, including the Oct. 10 finding that she abused her power as governor in seeking the dismissal of an Alaska state trooper and the controversy this week over the Republican National Committee spending $150,000 on clothes for her and her family.

Palin said the wardrobe controversy was fueled by gender bias.

However, her overall favorability rating -- the most basic measure of a public figure's popularity -- has fallen more steeply among women, by 17 points, and among white women, by 21 points, than it has among men, an eight-point drop.

Sarah Palin's Unpopularity Grows in Wake of Controversy

At her peak, after the Republican convention, 59 percent of likely voters held an overall favorable opinion of Palin.

Now that's down to 46 percent, while 51 percent see her unfavorably. Majority disfavor is danger for any public figure; so is its intensity -- and an unusually large 40 percent have a "strongly" unfavorable opinion of Palin.

Men now divide about evenly on Palin, 51-46 percent favorable-unfavorable, down from 59-24 percent Sept. 7. Women, though, have gone from 58-33 percent then to 41-56 percent now, currently viewing her unfavorably by a 15-point margin.

Another group in which Palin's rating has fallen especially steeply is among mainline or nonevangelical white Protestants -- a 24-point drop, from 70 percent favorable in early September to 46 percent today.

This is the same usually pro-Republican group that has moved toward Obama, now supporting him by a 10-point margin, enough to counteract his shortfall among usually swing-voting white Catholics.

Palin's also lost ground on her main stake, the common touch -- a 10-point drop in the number who believe she "understands the problems of people like you." (Again, the decline has occurred disproportionately among women.)

And about six in 10 likely voters continue to say she lacks the experience to serve effectively as president. That doesn't help McCain, given the level of concerns about his age.

Top of the Ticket

McCain's own favorability rating is positive (55 percent), albeit behind Obama's 63 percent. (Joe Biden's seen favorably by 59 percent.)

But there's a big intensity gap between the presidential candidates: Just 29 percent of likely voters have a strongly favorable impression of McCain compared with Obama's 47 percent.

This plays out among their own supporters: Among those who back Obama for president, 83 percent view him "very" favorably. McCain's "very favorable" rating among his own supporters is 60 percent -- 23 points lower.

A similar dynamic is reflected in their enthusiasm scores.

As noted, among Obama's supporters, 70 percent are "very" enthusiastic about his campaign; that compares to just 39 percent of McCain's supporters.

In the last two elections, high-level enthusiasm for President Bush peaked at 55 percent in 2004 and at 44 percent in 2000; for John Kerry in 2004 at 46 percent; and for Al Gore in 2000 at 41 percent. Obama's blows by them all.

Obama Maintains Ground Game Edge Over McCain

Then there's the ground game.

Three in 10 likely voters say they've been contacted personally by Obama's campaign, rising to four in 10 in the battleground states -- in both cases an advantage for Obama over McCain.

Nationally, 29 percent report being contacted by phone, in person or via e-mail or text message on behalf of the Obama campaign versus 21 percent who report a contact from the McCain camp.

In the 16 battleground states, 38 percent report an Obama contact versus 27 percent from the McCain campaign. And in the eight tossups states it's 42 versus 29 percent.

Obama's efforts also seem either better targeted or more effective.

He holds a wide 75-23 percent lead in vote choice among likely voters who've been contacted by his campaign; among those he's not contacted, by contrast, it's a 50-44 percent McCain-Obama race.

McCain's efforts do not show this differentiation.

He trails by 10 points, 52-42 percent, among people he's contacted, and by about the same, 55-42 percent, among those he has not.

In another indication of targeting, Obama has an especially sharp advantage among likely voters under age 40: in this group, 30 percent report an Obama contact, while just 11 percent have heard from McCain. And 44 percent of Democrats report an Obama contact verus 25 percent of Republicans who've been contacted by McCain.

METHODOLOGY: Interviews for this ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll were conducted by telephone Oct. 20-23, 2008, among a random national sample of 1,321 likely voters, including landline and cell-phone-only respondents. Results have a 2.5-point error margin for the full sample. Results on questions 24 through 26 were conducted Oct. 22-23 among 661 likely voters; those results have a 4-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

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ACLU: 2/3 of US population lives in "Constitution-free" zone

By Jon Stokes

Longtime Ars readers know that I've had my own problems in the "Constitution-free zone" that exists in US airports, but an aggressive new ACLU campaign highlights a fact of which I was previously unaware: the Constitution-free zone that exists a US borders and airports actually extends 100 air miles inland and encompasses two-thirds of the country's population. The US Border Patrol can set up checkpoints anywhere in this region and question citizens.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution contains a border-related exception to unreasonable search and seizure laws, permitting searches at border checkpoints that wouldn't be permitted elsewhere. But federal statute 8 CFR 287.1 (a)(1-3) defines the border zone for enforcement purposes as encompassing an area within 100 miles of the actual border, with the possibility of extending it further under certain circumstances. This means that the US Border Patrol could conceivably set up random checkpoints asking travelers for a passport in places like Columbus, Ohio; Houston; or anywhere in the state of Florida. And, in fact, it appears that it has been doing exactly this.


The ACLU's map of the border zone

Papers, please

In 2003, the Seattle Times reported on random "spot checks" of cars and luggage that border patrol agents were performing on US citizens who were taking the ferry between Washington State and the San Juan islands. Because most of the passengers on these ferries had not actually crossed an international border, the ACLU advised them at the time not to answer any questions asked of them by federal agents.

In the intervening years, the ACLU has been collecting other reports of such inland "border" checkpoints, and has built its new "Constitution-Free Zone" campaign around them. Unfortunately for the ACLU, few of the folks who have been subject to search at such checkpoints have actually come forward with complaints, but the ones who did speak up have compelling and troubling stories.

Take the story of Vince Peppard from San Diego, who crossed the border to buy tiles at a discount store in Mexico. Upon crossing back into the US, he was subject to the usual check at the border, but on driving further inland he was stopped a second checkpoint, where agents asked to search his car.

Peppard, a member of the ACLU, refused the search, at which point he was questioned repeatedly, and eventually escorted from his car while the agents searched it. Segments of Peppard's account of the incident, which the ACLU has posted in video form on their site, would almost be funny if the issue weren't so serious.

"He starts looking at the passport and the driver's license," says Peppard, "and he goes to my wife, 'Where were you born?' because she has an accent, but she's a US citizen. And so she says, 'I was born in Syria,' and he goes, 'Ah! A Syrian!' like he'd hit the jackpot or something."

Peppard then goes a little overboard in expressing worry that he may be stopped and asked for his passport at Home Depot or in other random locations, but he finishes off the clip with a concern that may not be so far-fetched. Specifically, Peppard worries that, because he has talked to the ACLU and has filed a complaint with the Border Patrol, he may be singled out for further harassment at border checkpoints.

Ultimately, one wonders just how far the Feds will push this internal checkpoint idea in a non-emergency situation; given the likely reaction to citizens being asked to show papers on a mass scale, it seems unlikely that the government will truly install checkpoints north of Columbus and begin screening in large numbers. But vigilance, as the saying goes, is the price of freedom, which is why the ACLU and its allies intend to challenge the practice before we have a chance to find out.

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