What a difference a weekend can make! Barack Obama's campaign is strongly defending themselves in the air wars, and taking the fight to John McCain. Joe Biden has found his voice on the campaign trail, giving some rousing stump speeches. And Obama himself seems to be learning the "bumpersticker" rule of political slogans; keep it short and simple! But the real highlight of the weekend had to be CBS' Face The Nation, where Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz -- a former Hillary Clinton supporter, it should be noted -- showed everyone else what a surrogate is supposed to do. She had her facts ready, she knew her issues, and she was absolutely relentless in making her points. Her performance was so strong and so well focused that it would be foolish not to immediately send her out on the campaign trail and/or to as many television interviews as she can squeeze into her schedule.
Before we go to that transcript, however, I have a few minor points to make here first. Either someone at the Obama campaign read my last Friday Talking Points column, or the ideas were just so blindingly obvious to begin with (I suspect the latter, myself). I threw out six or seven campaign ad ideas, and I'm happy to say that two of them are now up and on the air. The first was the "McCain/lobbyist" connection -- point out his campaign is being run by the varmints! Obama put out a very strong ad on this subject over the weekend. And the second was the "run some newspaper headlines about McCain's lies," which was actually strengthened by the Obama campaign, turning it into a brilliant attack on McCain's honor itself. This is exactly what needs doing, and the ad is a good one. McCain, of course, is probably going to counterattack in some way, but for the first time in a while, McCain will be the one on defense, and not Obama. That is a big deal, and Obama needs to keep the pressure up this week.
The second general point is that Obama is coming up with some good lines on the stump, which will doubtlessly make good soundbites on the news, and good ad copy as well. The best of these so far is "...if you think those lobbyists are working day and night for John McCain just to put themselves out of business, well then I've got a bridge to sell you up in Alaska." Repeat this line every chance you get. Biden is also doing a great job of coming up with these himself, but both of them are missing a rather obvious one. Last week it was disclosed that the people supposed to be watching over the oil and gas companies were actually getting sex and drugs and other goodies from the oil companies. The derisive line just writes itself: "The Bush/Cheney people were literally in bed with the oil companies!" This is so easy, it actually surprises me that I haven't heard it yet.
And the last general point I have made before, but with only seven weeks left until the election, I have to drive it home every chance I get. MINE MCCAIN'S VOTING RECORD! The Obama camp has been slowly starting to do this over the weekend, but they need to get a lot better at it very quickly. This is basic politics, folks. Look over your opponent's voting record, and paint a picture of him using selected votes. Obama and Biden both need to have a lot more of these at their fingertips when speaking. Maybe they're holding some back for the debates, but they need to lean on this a lot more.
OK, on to the Face The Nation appearance of Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Host Bob Schieffer had four women on the show this Sunday, I guess so nobody could cry "sexism" from any of the comments made. In any case, guests on the show were Representative Debbie Wasserman, a Democrat from Florida; Jane Swift, former Republican governor of Massachusetts; Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano from Arizona; and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican from Texas.
You can download the transcript [PDF] from the CBS site, or watch their video of the show. I've cut some of it down, but kept the key Schultz bits intact. Janet Napolitano does a good job of supporting Schultz, but it is Schultz herself that was the obvious point woman in the exchanges. Most of the Republican response was from Jane Swift, as Hutchison largely (and politely) waited until called upon to speak, rather than join in the View-like fray with the rest of them. The transcript reads a lot cleaner than it was, so if you've got the chance, watch the whole video to see the fur fly.
Schieffer started out by talking about whether Sarah Palin was being treated fairly by the media or not. After Swift's answer, he turned to Schultz.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Congresswoman Schultz, has [Sarah Palin] been asked to clear some bar that a male candidate wouldn't have been asked to clear?
REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: That's just utterly ridiculous. When you have a question about a female candidate's family and whether they are going to be able to, you know, balance work and family, then I think that Governor Swift is absolutely right, that that's out of bounds. I've been asked that question as a mom trying to juggle both things and, you know, typically a male -- a male candidate wouldn't get asked that. But all Sarah Palin is being asked to respond to is whether she's up to the task, and it is absolutely fair game. And all I've seen is her being asked about her background, her experience, what qualifies her to be vice president and whether she knows anything. So the tough questions that have been asked of Sarah Palin thus far just have been about the fact that she doesn't know anything and isn't ready to be vice president. That's fair game and it has nothing to do with her gender.
SCHIEFFER: You're saying she doesn't know anything, or you're saying that's what she's been asked about?
SCHULTZ: Well, she's been asked what she knows. She's been asked to demonstrate her foreign policy knowledge, which she clearly has very little based on the Charlie Gibson interview. I mean, she didn't know what the Bush Doctrine was, she really had almost no grasp of America's foreign policy. She really knew very little about domestic policy. Quite honestly, the interview that I saw and that Americans saw on Thursday and Friday were similar to when I didn't read a book in high school and had to read the Cliffs Notes and phone in my -- and phone in my report. She's Cliff-noted her performance so far, and all of that is fair game. The American people deserve better than that. They don't deserve more of the same, which is what they're getting from John McCain and Sarah Palin right now.
Schultz, in case you missed it, is calling Palin ignorant here. Too ignorant to be vice president. Now this is what a surrogate is supposed to do!
Schieffer moved on to a hot issue that Obama has been pushing recently -- equal pay for women. He runs an excerpt of Obama's recent campaign ad on the subject, and then opens it up for discussion. Schultz refuses to be distracted by Republican talking points here, and hammers home the fact that McCain is voting against it, and Obama is voting for it.
SCHIEFFER: Well, that -- all right. But do you believe that [John McCain] supports equal pay for women?
FORMER GOVERNOR JANE SWIFT: I think that he does not believe that that is something that should be determined by endless lawsuits. But we all believe that women have an opportunity to be...
SCHULTZ: He doesn't believe it should be legislated, Governor. He doesn't believe it should be legislated.
SWIFT: He doesn't believe that we should change -- he doesn't...
SCHULTZ: He opposes the bill that would require women get equal pay for equal work.
SWIFT: It -- what he -- what he opposes...
GOVERNOR JANET NAPOLITANO: Yeah, I just -- I think he just said no, he doesn't believe in it, because he has never acted to enforce it.
SWIFT: He doesn't believe that we should...
NAPOLITANO: You know, and you can -- you can't minimize this. His record is very, very bad on this issue.
SWIFT: ...we should not extend -- he believes that we shouldn't extend forever...
SCHULTZ: He's bad on equal pay for equal work.
SWIFT: ...that we...
SCHULTZ: Bad on expanding access to children's health care.
SWIFT: I don't think that we should have...
SCHULTZ: Where is he good for women?
SCHIEFFER: I think we've got a standoff here. Let me -- between Governor Napolitano and Governor Swift. Let me go to Senator Hutchison. Do you think that John McCain supports equal pay for women?
SENATOR KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON: I know he does. I absolutely know it. Because the bill they're talking about is a bill that would extend the statute of limitations, and in this case the person who was alleged to have done the discrimination was dead, and it was years after the discrimination occurred. So what John McCain supports is equal pay for equal work, absolutely...
SCHIEFFER: All right.
HUTCHISON: ...but he's supporting a bill that would have a reasonable statute of limitations so that you can have the evidence for a fair trial. That is the issue here.
SCHIEFFER: Let me let -- let's let Congresswoman Shultz get a word in here.
SCHULTZ: What Senator Hutchinson is talking about is the Lilly Ledbetter case that the Supreme Court just decided against Lilly Ledbetter. And what we're trying to do is make sure we can pass a law that ensures that women, when they have the same job as a man, they're doing the same work, that they are entitled to equal pay. And we want to make sure that that's guaranteed in the law. Equality should be guaranteed in the law, and John McCain opposes legislation to overturn the Lilly Ledbetter decision that was just handed down...
HUTCHISON: No. No, he doesn't. No, he doesn't.
SCHULTZ: ...by the Bush Supreme Court, which has taken a hard turn to the right. Yes, he does.
SCHULTZ: He's been -- he's on the record opposing that legislation.
HUTCHISON: No, he doesn't. No, there is -- no, there's an alternative bill.
NAPOLITANO: Well, I got to tell, you he's been in the Senate a long time.
SCHULTZ: Is he or is he not on the record opposing that legislation?
HUTCHISON: There's an alternative bill that does require the equal pay for equal work and has a reasonable statute of limitations.
SCHULTZ: No, there is no alternative legislation that ensures that women get equal pay for equal work. And John McCain opposes that bill, and that's outrageous.
HUTCHISON: Debbie, it's my bill. I know it is my bill that he supports.
SCHIEFFER: All right, I'm sorry, I have to ring the bell here.
SCHULTZ: That's why -- this was their policies which has continued. More of the same.
At this point, Schieffer (realizing he had completely lost control of his own show) jumped in with "I have to ring the bell here," and sent everyone back to their corners for a commercial break.
When he returns, he plays a McCain ad, and gives the Democrats a chance to respond. But Swift and Schultz aren't done yet on the equal pay issue. And then Schultz directly attacks Palin's honesty, in a highly effective manner.
SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Governor Napolitano, why don't you head up the truth squad for Barack Obama like Governor Swift is heading up the one for Governor Palin. What about that?
NAPOLITANO: Well, I have to say that one of the disappointing things about this campaign have been John McCain's ad which now have been soundly criticized even by nonpartisan groups as being sorely misleading, taking comments out of context, all the things that in the past the old John McCain used to criticize. We're now seeing the rejuvenated Karl Rove-based John McCain, and we see it every day in these kinds of advertisements that really don't assist voters in making the key decision that's facing them right now, which is who should be the next president of the United States? A man who is standing with Bush 90-plus percent of the time, who has not supported, in 26 years in the Senate, equal pay and other issues affecting women? Should he be the president, or should it be Barack Obama, who has stood for all of these issues?
SCHIEFFER: Governor Swift?
SWIFT: Well, first of all, let me just say that I think that the Democrats and many folks are just outraged that John McCain would actually call them on their words that are inappropriate about Sarah Palin. And we do need to step up and say, listen, when you say things that have nothing to do with her position on issues and with her record as governor of Alaska, we are going to call you on it. And if that's painful, then we're sorry.
SWIFT: But I do think that the point is we are trying to determine whether or not we are going to elect John McCain and Sarah Palin, proven ability to change Washington, to bring reform to Washington; or are we going to elect Barack Obama, who on the bill that we're talking about sides with the trial lawyers.
SWIFT: One of the most powerful special interests in Washington.
SCHULTZ: On the bill that we're talking about -- Governor, on the bill that we're talking about, John McCain was the deciding vote to defeat the bill in the Senate, and Barack Obama voted for it.
SWIFT: Which is probably why the trial lawyers are giving more money to Barack Obama.
SCHULTZ: When it comes to putting up or shutting up, of course -- when it comes to who is for equal pay and proved it and who's against it, John McCain voted no and was the deciding vote, Barack Obama voted yes. And you know what? At the end of the day, Governor, the truth matters. I'm a mom, you're a mom. We both have twins. I raise my kids and I'm sure Sarah Palin raised her kids to tell the truth and that the truth is important. But when she lies about the fact that she says she went to Iraq and she didn't.
SCHULTZ: When she says that -- repeatedly...
SWIFT: She did not lie about saying she went to Iraq.
SCHULTZ: She repeatedly -- she did. She didn't go to Iraq.
SWIFT: She visited the troops.
SCHULTZ: She went to -- she went to Ireland...
SWIFT: The general -- the general in charge...
SCHULTZ: ...for a refueling stop.
SWIFT: The general in charge said that they went to Kuwait and they went across the border. They went into Iraq...
SCHULTZ: She did not go to Iraq and the campaign said that she did. But they didn't.
SWIFT: ...to visit troops.
SCHULTZ: They were not in Iraq.
SWIFT: That's what the general says.
SCHULTZ: She's -- outside of North America she's been to Kuwait at the border, and she stopped over in Ireland on a refueling stop. The truth matters, and she's going to get called on the truth -- so is John McCain -- for the entire campaign. Because in this country we have to make sure that we move in a new direction, and the American people are tired of the culture of corruption that has hung over the capital for far too long under Republican control.
SWIFT: Well, first of all...
SCHULTZ: We do not need more of the same.
SWIFT: ...John McCain has spent a stand-up guy on all these issues.
SCHULTZ: We need universal health care, we need...
SCHIEFFER: Let me -- may I just interrupt for a moment just to clarify, because this just came up overnight, what Congresswoman Schultz is talking about. Last night the Obama campaign put out a report that says that Sarah Palin did not go to Iraq as she has stated to visit the Alaska National Guard troops, but that she stopped at a border crossing with Kuwait and that she did not get more than a quarter of a mile inside Iraq. So that is the charge. You're saying, Governor Swift, that that's overblown?
SWIFT: I think it is overblown. The truth is she went to Kuwait to visit the troops who were going to be fighting in Iraq, she was accompanied by a general who will say they traveled into Iraq, and it has been misreported. But to say that she is lying, in all due respect to Congresswoman Schultz, is just not appropriate. She is not lying.
SCHULTZ: They say she went to Iraq, and she didn't go to Iraq. I mean, it's pretty black and white.
SWIFT: She was in Iraq, the general will tell you that they traveled into Iraq.
SCHULTZ: No. What the general said is that she never ventured beyond the border crossing. That's what they said.
SCHIEFFER: All right.
SCHULTZ: I mean, that's the bottom line. The truth matters.
Schieffer then wraps up the segment (Face The Nation, unlike the other Sunday shows, is only a half-hour long), and asks all four guests whether women will be the deciding factor in the election. Here are the two Democratic responses:
NAPOLITANO: Well, I agree with Senator Hutchison in that when you get to the issues that really affect women and their pocketbooks -- things like equal pay, help with child care, children's health insurance, where Senator McCain time and time again has voted against women and families and their pocketbooks -- those issues are going to begin to penetrate. And when you're talking about selecting the next president of the United States, it's those issues, ultimately, that are going to persuade the voters, and persuade them that Barack Obama really is the kind of change that we need.
SCHIEFFER: OK, Congresswoman Schultz.
SCHULTZ: Look, Bob, the issues that matter to women are, like, the ones that matter to me as a -- I'm a minivan mom. I drive my minivan around with my kids to practices and games. Cost me $77 to fill up my gas tank last week. That's real money. Women in this country want to make sure that we have a commitment from our president to invest in alternative energy research, to truly wean ourselves off our dependence on oil, not just foreign oil. There's no way that they're -- we're getting that commitment out of John McCain and Sarah Palin. They oppose expanding access to children's health care, they expose -- oppose expanding access to universal health care so that every person in America can go to the doctor when they're sick.
SCHIEFFER: OK. All right, I've got to stop you there, because...
SCHULTZ: We need a new direction for this country. Sure. I could go on and on.
SCHULTZ: It's just so important.
Please, please, anyone listening in the Obama campaign -- give us more of this woman out on the campaign trail. The more Debbie Wasserman Schultz appears out there, the better it is going to be for Obama's chances. So deploy her everywhere you can in the next seven weeks.
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com