Obama’s Cabinet Could Use a Main Street Perspective

President-elect Barack Obama is creating a cabinet of dynamic, capable individuals. His team is devoid of “yes people.” It’s bi-partisan. It’s populated by leaders with strong opinions and a proven willingness to declare them forcefully.

President George W. Bush surrounded himself with strong personalities, too: Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld come to mind. President Bush was unable to prevent the fiefdoms these leaders created from undermining their potential. President-elect appears to have learned from his predecessor’s mistake in this regard. Consider his choice of National Security Advisor. Retired General James Jones arguably brings heft to the table equivalent to what incoming Vice President Joe Biden, incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and continuing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates bring. More significantly, President-elect Obama’s style, termperment and talent is different from those of President Bush. He’s unlikely to tolerate the dysfunction that marked the Bush Administration.

The new Cabinet is not only being populated by individuals with proven track records, but it is shaping up to be diverse, as well. There’s only one group that seems underrepresented: there doesn’t appear to be anyone with a significant business background in the mix. Those already nominated, or on the short list of those expected to be nominated, all have impressive credentials. There are Generals, Senators, Members of Congress, and Governors. Some have led huge government bureaucracies and a major university. But I’m not aware of any that has ever started a company or met a payroll.

Considering the amount of rhetoric surrounding the need to listen to Main Street during the recent campaign, this is surprising. Certainly there are business leaders or entrepreneurs who have something to contribute when it comes to shaping the nation’s future. Running a state. seving in Congress and leading troops is noble and important work. The experience and perspective gained from these activities is important and significant.

Yet it’s a limited perspective. Running a business is different. The skills and abilities are different. So are the expectations and pressures involved. The lessons learned and wisdom gained is different, too.

This is not to say that only private-sector viewpoints matter. Far from it. But those views are important and they should be part of the mix when President Obama sits down to deal with the challenges this country faces. The Wall Street-Main Street dichotomy bandied about in the campaign was somewhat superficial, but not completely. That’s why serving on corporate boards isn’t enough. Bringing into his cabinet someone who has run a business would bring an additional and important perspective to the Cabinet’s deliberations as it faces a long and deep recession.

President-elect Obama is to be commended for building a diverse team. He would do well to increase the diversity just a bit more. The challenges he faces are complex and impact every American. Even those whose lives center around neither Wall Street nor Pennsylvania Avenue. Main Street is important. It deserves a seat at the table.

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McCain Channeling Truman: An American Tradition

As whacky as this presidential campaign has been, it still complies with a few constants in political campaigning. Good thing. There have been so many surprises, twists, turns and reversals in this campaign voters are suffering electoral whiplash. Twin Peaks  was less confusing than this campaign.

So thank the political heavens for the constants. The Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, can be counted on to attack his rival as a “tax-and-spend” liberal (that the McCain campaign has gone further to call him a socialist is mere icing on the traditional tax-and-spend cake.)  Senator Barack Obama, meanwhile, can be counted on to accuse his rival of championing “trickle down” economics that favor the rich.

The vice presidential nominees, Governor Sarah Palin and Senator Joe Biden, are doing their best to keep to maintain historical continuity. They both are expert attack dogs. And both tend to make statements that need clarification. For example, Governor Palin didn’t mean there were parts of the country that are unAmerican, even though that’s what she said. And Senator Biden’s comment that Senator Obama will be tested with a foreign policy crisis didn’t mean Senator McCain wouldn’t be, too. 

Another hallowed tradition is also being played out. As election day draws closer, the candidate most likely to lose begins invoking the spirit of President Harry Truman. Specifically, they claim the mantel of President Truman’s come from behind win over Governor Thomas Dewey.  (This is where I’d insert the famous photo of President Truman holding the Chicago Daily Tribune edition with the headline “Dewey Defeats Truman,” if I knew how to do that).

First, a word of caution. As I’ve written before, I don’t believe the polls are accurate this year. Further, I think there’s a legitimate scenario that leads to a McCain victory. Still, Senator McCain’s road to the White House looks awfully potholed, so it’s fallen upon him to maintain the tradition of the Truman analogy.  And maintain the Truman tradition he has. “My friends,” he said, as he often does, “when I pull this thing off, I have a request for my opponent. I want him to save that manuscript of his inaugural address and donate it to the Smithsonian so they can put it right next to the Chicago paper that said ‘Dewey Defeats Truman.'” (Senator McCain was referring to a New York Times storythat noted how John Podesta, now heading up Senator Obama’s transition team, drafted an inauguration speech earlier this year — when he was a supporter of Senator Hillary Clinton. OK, now back to our original posting.)

There are variances on the Truman tradition, but they all involve the candidate most likely to fail claiming that the only poll that counts is the one on election day and that the media/pundits/opponents/nay sayers/ etc. are going to be surprised. It’s a long tradition. Time magazine in 1996 collected several examples. Among them:

“I don’t care what the polls say. I’m going to take this case to the American people like Truman did.” So said President Geroge H. W Bush before losing to soon-to-be-President Bill Clinton 370 electoral votes to 168.

“Harry Truman was a fighter, and so am I. My friends, this election is up for grabs.” That was then Governor Michael Dukakis before losing, 426-to-111 electoral votes, to President Bush.

No doomed underdog appears to have gone further than Senator Bob Dole, who ended his 1996 presidential campaign in the shadow of the Truman legacy, saying, “We’re approaching the end of a very historic campaign, that for many months I’ve traveled all over this country to spread my message about the future of America, and like all worthy causes, this one was done without its challenges. At times, many wondered whether my voice would be heard….  So it is fitting in the final hours of this campaign that I have come here to Independence, Missouri, the hometown of Harry Truman, a plain-spoken man, who defied the odds and challenged the prevailing wisdom and dared to trust the people.”  Senator Dole lost to President Clinton in the electoral college 479-to-159.

As CNN and other news organizations turn their electoral maps blue, be prepared for Senator McCain to ramp up his argument that he’ll surprise them all and win. He may actually pull it off even if it’s usually a sign of impending disaster. Whatever the outcome, we owe him our thanks for continuing an American tradition, one that has served the country, if not our losing candidates, well.

What if McCain Had Kept Talking — and Acting — Straight?

Always a bad sign: Senator John McCain has come to comparing his campaign to the come-from-behind win by President Harry Truman in 1948. While Senator McCain has solidified the Republican base behind his candidacy, his standing with independents is surprisingly poor. Surprising, because Senator McCain had spent decades in Congress fostering a maverick, straight talking image that should have had a natural appeal to non-partisans in the electorate. His failure to connect with these voters now is a blunder straight out of Marketing 101.

Senator McCain had a strong brand leading into the general election. He was perceived as an independent maverick, willing to take on his own party and talk straight to the American people. If he had stuck to this image, in both word and deed, he might not be playing catch-up with eight days to go before election day. Just as consumers feel uncertain about a product that changes its attributes suddenly, voters don’t take well to a candidate who changes dramatically as November approaches. Yet the vehemence with which Senator McCain has distanced himself from his (former) brand is remarkable.

It began in the primary. Having attacked leaders in the Religious Right in 2000 he now embraced them. Having proven his “straight talk” bona fides by attacking President George Bush’s tax cuts, especially on high income Americans, as foolish and misguided, he now supported them. Having promised a positive campaign on the issues he attacked his opponent, Senator Barack Obama, as an empty suit celebrity.

There were still glimpses of the old Senator McCain on display. His call for 10 town hall debates with no moderator was brilliant. If accepted by Senator Obama it would have changed the tenor of the entire campaign. His attacks on Senator Obamafor failing to keep his promise to accept federal funding was on point and, even better, reminded voters of Senator McCain’s commitment to campaign reform. His response to supporters in a town hall meeting that they need not fear an Obama presidency was noble.

Senator McCain’s campaign, however, is consistent only in its inconsistency. It seems unable to focus on any one theme for more than a few days. So instead of emphasizing the maverick Senator McCain, he put on display the erratic Candidate McCain, talking about everything and everyone from Brittany Spears to William Ayers and socialism to buying up mortgages.

What undermined Senator McCain’s brand with finality, however, was the selection of Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. On the surface this seemed like a bold and unorthodox move. Nominating a popular governor with a demonstrable record of reform and of fighting corruption made sense. That she was a woman made the move even more exciting. From a short term political perspective, that Governor Palin secured the core of the GOP for Senator McCain’s candidacy was a huge win.

Yet it also did more to push independent voters away than any other act Senator McCain took in this campaign. After blistering attacks on Senator Obama for lacking the experience to be commander-in-chief, Senator McCain selected a running mate even less qualified. Her conservative political views put her outside the mainstream where independent voters reside. Misstating her record concerning earmarks made Governor Palin out to be a hypocrite and Senator McCain to be either ill informed or a liar.

Selecting a running mate is the only “presidential” decision a presidential candidate makes before the election. It’s the best window voters have into what their administration might look like. Selecting someone has unqualified to be president as Governor Palin undercut Senator McCain’s image. Defending her required the campaign to contort reality (you can see Russia from Alaska — well, yes, from an island Governor Palin has never visited). Contrast this with Senator Obama’s choice of Senator Joe Biden. No one questions his qualifications to be president. It was a solid, unflashy selection. It showed Senator Obama wanted a vice president who would be a part of his inner circle, who would be willing to challenge him, someone who would make him a better president.

Does anyone think Governor Palin will be a part of President McCain’s inner circle? Does anyone really think she could challenge him on a broad range of issues? And if she did, would a President McCain care? Does anyone think that in selecting Governor Palin as his running mate, Senator McCain put country first?

Senator McCain had to pretend the answers to all these questions were yes. As the answers are, for most independents, a resounding “no,” doing so contradicted Senator McCain’s hard won brand. Couple this with his erratic response to the economic meltdown (claiming the fundamentals of the economy are sound followed by a recognition the economy was in crisis just hours later) and an over-the-top, nasty and negative campaign, and the straight talking, honest politician disappears behind a haze of smoke and mirrors.

For the fun of it, imagine Senator McCain had selected someone less exciting, but more qualified, than Governor Palin. Governor Charlie Crist of Florida or former Pennsylvania Governor and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge come to mind. The GOP base would have been furious (especially over Secretary Ridge, who is generally pro-choice), but it would have bolstered the McCain Brand. Either selection would be consistent with Senator McCain’s image. Either would be appealing to independent voters. The Republican base might have torpedoed a McCain-Crist or a McCain-Ridge ticket. But would they really sit idly by and let Senator Obama waltz into the White House? It’s unlikely.

Senator McCain might still win this election. If he loses a large part of the reason will be the superior campaign and message of Senator Obama and the economic crisis, two factors he couldn’t control. But a contributing factor will be his own doing. Senator McCain is responsible for turning his back on who he was and what he once stood for.

A McCain Razor Thin Win or an Obama Landslide?

A lot has been going Senator Barack Obama’s way of late. The economic turmoil is sweeping independents his way. Second thoughts about the selection of Governor Sarah Palin is pushing Republicans his way. His campaign coffers are full. The Republicans look desperate. And he’s received the endorsement of perhaps the most admired individual in American politics, former Secretary of State Colin Powell. While I’ve made clear my belief that the polls this year are less reliable than usual, based on state-by-state polls, Obama is leading in states totaling more than the 270 electoral votes he needs to win on election day. All of which explains why Senator John McCain could win this election by an extremely narrow margin.

To see why, take a look at the CNN Electoral Map Calculator.  The Calculator applies various polling data to award states’ electoral votes to a candidate ifthe election were held today. (Last I checked, however, the election is not being held today). This is important. Being ahead in politics is like paper profits — or losses — in the stock market. Until you sell the stock, the gain or loss is meaningless. And unless you maintain your lead through election, the early polls don’t matter.

Based on their interpretation of various polls, CNN’s calculator shows Senator Obama leading in states with enough electoral votes to exceed the 270 he needs to win. Specifically, they indicate the Democratic candidate is leading in states with 277 electoral votes, his Republican opponent Senator McCain is ahead in states with 174 and there are six states, totalling 87 electoral votes, which are too close to call.

Let’s look at those six states, moving west to east (all poll referenced below were taken on October 19th or earlier):

  1. Nevada, where Real Clear Politics’ poll of polls shows Senator Obama ahead by just 2.3 percent;
  2. Colorado, where the Real Clear Politics poll average has Senator Obama ahead by 5.4 percent;
  3. Missouri, where RCP poll average shows Senator Obama ahead by 2.7 percent;
  4. Ohio, where Senator Obama’s lead in the RCP poll of polls is 2.8 percent;
  5. North Carolina,where Senator Obama is ahead by only 1.5 percent in the RCP poll average; and
  6. Florida, where Senator Obama leads by 2.0 percent in the RCP poll of polls.

All six of these states went for President George W. Bush in 2004. If these polls are close to being right (a very big if) a shift of just one and one-half percent of voters from Senator Obama to Senator McCain would bring five of the states into the Republican column. A move by just three percent of those supporting the Democrat to Senator McCain would bring along the sixth state. This would be great news for the McCain-Palin ticket, but not great enough. Even with all 87 electoral votes from these toss-up states Senator Obama would still win on November 4th, 277 electoral votes to 261.

Running the board to take all six toss-up states won’t be easy, but it is certainly possible. These are traditionally red states and Senator McCain and the Republican Party have the resources to contest all of them. A gaffe or stumble by Senator Obama or his running mate, Senator Joe Biden, could result in the minor swings required. So could independent campaign committees hammering away on Reverend Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers or other hot button, Swift Boat worthy attacks.

If Senator McCain were to sweep the toss up states, the next president could be decided by Virginia. Currently, Real Clear Politics show Senator Obama ahead there by 8.0 percent (and the most recent poll used in the average shows the Democrat ahead by only six percent. If only four percent of those favoring Senator Obama switch to Senator McCain, the Republican nominee would win the White House with 274 electoral votes.

The last time Virginia went for the Democratic ticket was in 1964. While an influx of more liberal and independent voters in the suburbs of Washington, DC has helped elect Democrats to the Senate and the Governor’s office, down state is still conservative. There’s a large military presence in the state which should also help Senator McCain. Again, it won’t be easy. A gaffe by the Democrats combined with a strong get-out-the-vote effort by the GOP, however, could deliver the state’s electoral vote to Senator McCain.

There’s a lot of ifs in this scenario. But it does show that even two weeks before the election, there’s a chance we’ll be swearing in President McCain and Vice President Palin come January. Significantly, they could achieve their electoral college win while losing the popular vote, but it’s still a win — just ask President Bush.

Of course, it could go the other way. Senator Obama could win all the toss-up states and defeat Senator McCain 364-to-174 in the electoral college. That’s called a landslide. Even the more likely scenario of Senator McCain holding on to Missouri and North Carolina for the Republicans would result in a 338-to-200 win for the Democrats — arguably still a mandate. 

Anything can happen in the next two weeks: an international incident; a botched interview; more bank failures; more brazen political attack (whether true or not); the list goes on and on. Being ahead on October 21st does win elections. It’s what happens on election day that matters. And this election day, November 4th, Senator McCain could win small or Senator Obama might win big.

Any way you look at it, it’s not over yet.

McCain Campaign Failing To Put Country First

At the heart of Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign is the claim that he “puts country first.” He brags he has never put political considerations before what’s right for the country. (We can debate whether there have been exceptions). An important corollary to the principle of putting country first is unifying the nation. So Senator McCain often points out the many times he’s worked with Democrats on contentious issues. What’s sad is that Senator McCain’s current campaign strategy not only fails to put country first, it puts the country in danger.

The McCain campaign has unleashed numerous and serious attacks against his opponent, Senator Barack Obama. Attacks on an opponent are nothing new and can be legitimate. What Senator McCain’s campaign is doing, however, transcends what’s acceptable. It is increasingly ugly, divisive and dangerous.

Senator McCain’s running mate, Governor Sarah Palin, is pounding away at Senator Obama for his relationship with William Ayers, a founder of the domestic terrorist group, the Weather Underground. She has talked about his affiliation with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whose anti-American rhetoric nearly torpedoed Senator Obama’s campaign in the primaries.

Raising these associations in order to question Senator Obama’s judgement is fair game. A would be president needs to demonstrate Judgement and that includes the kind of people they associate with. That Senator Obama has repudiated both Mr. Ayers and Reverend Wright is his campaign’s responsibility to put forward.

Governor Palin, however, is questioning more than Senator Obama’s judgement. She questions his patriotism. She is presenting him as an “other,” so different from mainstream America that he can be considered a traitor. As reported by the Associated Press and others, Governor Palin accused Senator Obama of being someone “who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough , that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.” She describes him as someone who does not see “America like you and I see America. We see America as a force of good in this world. We see an America of exceptionalism.” By implication, Senator Obama must see America as an unexceptional force for evil. In contrast to “us,” he must be unpatriotic. And he certainly must be different.

It’s not just the running mates who have descended to this low level of campaigning. Again from the Associated Press: In Florida on Monday before Governor Palin spoke and in Pennsylvania today before both Senator McCain and Governor Palin gave speeches, partisans warming up the crowd referred to the Democratic nominee as “Barack Hussein Obama.” Senator McCain, back in February, was so incensed by this tactic that he personally repudiated them when this happened in Ohio. (This time the campaign issued statements saying it does not condone this “inappropriate rhetoric”). The reason is that it’s “widely viewed as an effort to link Obama to radical Islam even though he is a Christian with no such ties.”  

Some McCain-Palin supporters are embracing this rhetoric and all it’s implications. During Senator McCain’s speech in Pennsylvania today, members of the audience shouted out “socialist,” terrorist” and “liar” when he mentioned Senator Obama. And here’s how how Dana Milbank in the Washington Post describes what happened during a speech by Governor Palin in Florida earlier this week.

“In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric‘s questions for her ‘less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media.’ At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, ‘Sit down, boy.'” Another man in the audience apparently yelled out “Kill him!” during her speech, although it was unclear whether he was referring to Senator Obama or Mr. Ayers.

That death threats and cries of treason would be voiced at a Governor Palin rally is not surprising. Her speeches ooze with scapegoating. Hatred is a logical consequence of her words. It’s a tactic used in many countries, many times, when times get harsh — focus the people’s anger on the “others,” those who are unlike them and can be blamed for causing the problem. In America, at one time or another, the “others” have included the Chinese, the Irish, the Japanese, welfare cheats, illegal immigrants, and African Americans. In Germany in the 1930s it was the Jews.

Demonizing opponents is not putting one’s country first. It is not pulling the country together to deal with serious problems. It’s the exact opposite. It elevates those who hate and diminishes those who would unite us. It hides problems and builds anger. It divides the populace and undermines our ability to stand on common ground. Especially in light of the current economic crisis, it is playing with matches in a cellar swamped by gas.

Again, questioning Senator Obama’sjudgement, attacking his record, criticising his proposals, mocking his experience; these are all legitimate lines of attack for the McCain campaign to take if that’s what it wants to do. It’s the Obama campaign’s job to counter those charges. But Senator McCain’s campaign generally, and Governor Palin specifically, goes far beyond that tactic to a place beyond what’s legitimate. 

Senator Joe Biden today called Governor Palin’s rhetoric “mildly dangerous.” That is an understatement. It is unAmerican. It is unacceptable.  It is divisive and extremely dangerous. If Senator McCain truly believes in putting his country first he would put a stop to it. By failing to do so, he makes clear that his own personal ambition is more important to him than America. That is both a shame and shameful.

Can Palin Save McCain Campaign Again?

Hard to believe, but it’s only been a month since Senator John McCain selected Governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate. Her annointment on August 29th was the “game changer” Senator McCain’s campaign hoped for, unifying the GOP base behind his candidacy, strengthening his maverick image and shifting the conversation away from Senator Barack Obama’s successful Democratic convention. The question now that Senator McCain’s candidacy seems to be floundering is whether Governor Palin can save his campaign again.

Things aren’t going well for Senator McCain of late. His antics concerning Congress’ rescue of Wall Street is widely seen as the political grandstanding that it was — not a good thing when you’re running as the anti-politician. While neither candidate scored a lot of points during Friday night’s debate, the general impression is that Senator Obama either held his own or “won,” whatever that means — not a good thing when the primary topic was foreign policy, Senator McCain’s strong point.

Worse, Governor Palin, who burst onto the national stage with a spectacular convention speech has proven to be an embarrassment.  Governor Palin’s interview with Katie Couric is widely regarded as a fiasco.

Her earlier interviews with a fawning Sean Hannity on Fox News and her initial foray in the public on ABC were not a lot a better. That the McCain campaign has kept Governor Palin in a reporter-free bubble for most of the month since her selection is both historic (and not in a good way) and insulting, both to her and the voters. The cumulative effect is that even conservative Republicans, including those who once supported her like Kathleen Parker of the National Review, are questioning whether Governor Palin should withdraw from the ticket for the “good of the party.”

Governor Palin’sproblems extend beyond poor media performances, however. She’s an anti-pork barrell politician who has requested more earmarks for her state on a per capita basis than any other Governor in the nation. Her record as Mayor and Governor includes a history of controversial personnel dismissals. And most recently, it appears the Mayor Palin used her position to obtain a zoning variance on the home she was selling. In just one month Governor Palin has gone from being her party’s savior and a national celebrity to being an election embarrassment and a national punch line.

Yet, there’s a potential new game changer coming up and the hero looks mighty familiar — it’s Governor Sarah Palin. Her opportunity to save the McCain campaign (again) comes on October 2nd when she will debate the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, Senator Joe Biden. The results of that encounter could change the course of the campaign. 

All Governor Palin has to do in the debate is hold her own. She doesn’t have to win. In fact, her previous dismal performances in unscripted settings has set the bar so low that merely showing up will count in her favor.

As the Obama campaign will remind us all again and again over the next few days, Governor Palin received generally high marks for her performance debates in previous campaigns. But those were for Governor and Leiutenent Governor of Alaska. The issues were simpler, narrower and provincial. The October 2nd debate is between two candidates for the Vice President of the United States. Governor Palin needs to demonstrate that were something to happen to a President McCain, she could lead the free world.

Yet to win the debate Governor Palin doesn’t have to prove she’s a domestic policy wonk. She just has to avoid embarassing gaffes. She doesn’t have to prove a master of foreign affairs, she just needs to show she understands America’s role in the world and supports Senator McCain’s approach to playing that role. She doesn’t need to prove she can save the nation’s economy, she just needs to prove her election won’t hurt it.

Governor Palin is more than capable of achieving these minimal goals. Andif she does, the press (and paid media) will tout her performance as a major victory signaling an extraordinary reversal of the campaign’s dynamics as momentum shifts to the Republican’s advantage.

In other words, an acceptable performance by Governor Palin in the October 2nd debate will save Senator McCain’s campaign yet gain, and this time irreversibly — or at least until October 7th when Senator McCain and Senator Obama debate again.

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Press Excluded from Biden Meeting: What Are They Thinking?

Woe hen Governor Sarah Palin, the GOP vice presidential nominee, engaged in her whirlwind tour of heads-of-state earlier this week, the McCain campaign sought to exclude reporters — but not photographers and television cameras — from being in the room. By doing so they expressed a total lack of confidence in Governor Palin to perform appropriately on the world stage, totally undermining any political benefit from the photo opportunity. Instead, they handed the Obama campaign a gift: it wasn’t the “left-wing media” or political opponents undermining their vice presidential candidate — it was Senator John McCain’s own campaign doing the damage.

One might expect Senator Barack Obama’s campaign to keep the story alive as long as possible, emphasizing the difference between Governor Palin and the Democratic party vice presidential nominee, Senator Joe Biden.  Senator Biden’s foreign policy credentials comes from long experience, proven expertise and bi-partisan respect, not meaningless proximity to a desolate portion of Russia.

One might expect the Obama campaign to emphasize this difference, but that’s not what’s happened. Instead, when Senator Biden held a meeting with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashivli today in Wisconsin, reporters were excluded from the room — but not photographers and television cameras. The reason, according to the Obama campaign and as reported by the Associated Press, is that “It’s a private meeting between the senator and a head of state.”

So what? Last month Senator Bident and President Saakashvili met in Georgia in the aftermath of the Russion invasion of the country. Maybe the campaign was thinking this was simply a continuation of that meeting. Senator Biden is, after all, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. This would take the meeting out of the realm of politics.

No way. Senator Biden is running to be Vice President of the United States. If this was a private “official” meeting, exclude the photographers along with the reporters. If there’s a photo opportunity, reporters should be allowed in the room as well. It’s all or nothing.

Instead, the Obamacampaign gives the McCain campaign a “get out of stupid decisions free” card. When criticized for excluding reporters from Governor Palin’s meetings with heads of state, all the McCain campaign needs to say is, “Senator Biden does it, too.” In one act, the Obama campaign turned a major snafu by the McCain campaign into just another example of business as usual.

A spokesman for the Obama campaign noted, accurately, that the “transparency between the Biden campaign and the Palin campaign is worlds apart.” Unlike Governor Palin, who campaigns in a bubble through which few unscripted moments are allowed to pass, Senator Biden is accessible to the public and the media. That speaks highly of Senator Obama’s selection of Senator Biden as his running mate. And it reflects poorly on Senator McCain’s selection of Governor Palin.

That may be true, but by imitating the McCain campaign’s handling of reporters during photo opportunities, the bama campaign diminishes the relevancy of that difference.

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