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Daily Archives: October 4, 2008

Feisty Palin escapes gaffes, but Biden wins snap polls


by Michael Mathes*

Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin defied her critics with an aggressive, folksy showing in her debate clash with Democrat Joe Biden, escaping without a disastrous gaffe.
But Palin, who branded Barack Obama "dangerous" in a string of attacks on the Democratic nominee, appeared to do little to transform a race which polls suggest may be slipping away from her running mate John McCain.
The Alaska governor disappointed those who predicted she would fail miserably in the keenly-awaited primetime debate, following a tirade of mocking assessments about her credentials ahead of the election on November 4.
"I may not answer the question the way you want to hear, but I'll talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also," said Palin, who was wildly popular but has seen her opinion ratings fade in recent days.
Often winking at the camera, Palin fired off staccato soundbites and prepped answers which often ignored the questions, in a populist tone which framed her and McCain, and not Obama and Biden, as agents of change.
"I like being able to answer these tough questions without the filter, even, of the mainstream media kind of telling viewers what they've just heard," Palin, a 44-year-old mother of five, said.
Palin has faced a storm of criticism for only doing a handful of media interviews and refusing to conduct a full-scale press conference.
Biden, a political veteran with 35 years of experience, provided detailed policy answers, trying to show a range of expertise across the economy, foreign policy and national security.
At one stage, he choked up when he talked about his wife and infant daughter killed in a 1972 car crash, in a moment which may have helped Biden forge an emotional connection with undecided voters.
Biden was careful not to attack Palin or her credentials directly, anxious about being branded as sexist or a bully, and sought to label McCain as a clone of unpopular President George W. Bush.
"I haven't heard how his policy will be different on Iran than George W. Bush's.
"I haven't heard how his policy will be different on Israel than George Bush's.
"I haven't heard how his policy on Afghanistan will be different than George Bush's, I haven't heard how his policy in Pakistan will be different than George Bush's."
But Palin rebuked Biden for dwelling on the past.
"There is a time, too, when Americans say enough is enough with your ticket on constantly looking backwards and pointing fingers and doing the blame game," she said.
Snap opinion polls suggested Biden won. CNN's sampling said he took the clash by 51 to 36 percent and a CBS survey of uncommitted voters put Biden at 46 percent against 21 percent who said Palin won.
Framing herself as a typical middle-class person that goes to kids soccer games, showcasing her "hockey mom" persona, Palin painted herself as a reformer as a small town mayor and governor and an expert on energy.
"Nice to meet you, can I call you Joe?" Palin said, in a comment picked up by microphones as she first met her adversary.
"Darn right it was the predatory lenders," she said when asked whether mortgate sharks caused the subprime crisis.
The rivals clashed on the financial meltdown.
Palin warned Democrats would embrace wealth distribution and high tax policies that she said would limit growth. Biden argued that eight years of Republican policies were to blame for the economy's nightmare.
"It was two Mondays ago that John McCain said at nine in the morning that fundamentals of the economy were strong," Biden said.
"Later that day John McCain said we had an economic crisis — that doesn't make John McCain a bad guy but it does point out he's out of touch," he said.
Palin chose not to parry a Biden claim that McCain argued against greater regulation on Wall Street, and contributed to the debt crisis.
She argued Obama voted in the Senate to raise taxes 94 times, a claim that has been questioned by newspaper reports and independent fact check operations.
She painted Senator McCain as a "maverick" immune from the kind of Washington logjam politics she framed his colleague Biden as representing.
While Palin was strongest on domestic policy, the gap in experience and knowledge was exposed when the debate turned to national security, and the Bush administration's foreign policy legacy.
She called the commander of the NATO-led security assistance force in Afghanistan "McClellan" instead of his name General David McKiernan, and her answers were often vague.
US dailies differed sharply in scoring the debate. The Wall Street Journal said Palin "more than held her own" in debating foreign policy and had proved herself "worthy of the national stage."
The New York Times said the debate had not altered "the essential truth of Ms Palin's candidacy: Mr McCain made a wildly irresponsible choice" in choosing her as his running mate.


18 police injured in clashes as Mexicans mark ’68 massacre

Mexican authorities said 18 police were injured Thursday and 20 people arrested as marchers marked the anniversary of a bloody student massacre in 1968.
The confrontation with police in the country's capital came as an estimated 30,000 people rallied in honor of students killed 40 years ago by Mexican security forces, demanding justice for victims.
"We have 18 police officers wounded, not seriously," said Police chief Manuel Mondragon.
"Twenty people were arrested, all precisely identified by video surveillance systems," secretary of the city municipality, Jose Angel Avila, told a press conference.
Clashes erupted near the main Zocalo square when students tried to paint graffiti on a city building wall, and police moved to arrest them, a witness said.
The march recalled the notorious 1968 massacre in Tlatelolco when Mexican security forces killed between 44 and 300 protesters, 10 days ahead of the Mexican Olympic Games, and hastily erased evidence of the crime.
Shouting "October 2 is not forgotten," protesters set off from the Square of Three Cultures where the massacre took place and from the capital's Chapultepec park to meet for a rally in the main Zocalo square.
"I'm here to denounce the most despicable act committed in Mexico," said 26-year-old Aarceli Bernal, in Tlatelolco, where students drew chalk figures on the ground covered with blood stains and doves in the place of hearts to represent those killed.
In one corner of the square, an altar covered in candles showed newspaper images of the massacre in which soldiers stood ready to fire. In other pictures frightened people were running and dead students lay in improvised morgues.
Forty years on, the details of the massacre remain unclear, with no perpetrators prosecuted and impunity in Mexico widespread.
Some of Thursday's protesters called for punishment for those responsible for the 1968 massacre, while others criticized the current government of President Felipe Calderon.
Amnesty International appealed to Calderon on Thursday to finally establish the truth about the massacre and said the failure to confront the clampdown on some 8,000 students and workers had left a "deep scar" in Mexican society.
At the end of August, in some of the biggest demonstrations in recent years, hundreds of thousands demonstrated in Mexico City and across the country against growing insecurity and reports of corrupt police.