Not that there was any doubt that McCain walked away the winner from Rick Warren's forum, but when David Shuster cracks that Obama was lucky not too many people were watching . . . Subbing for Chris Matthews on this evening's Hardball, Shuster kibitzed Saddleback with Dem Steve McMahon and Republican Todd Harris. Shuster made his surprising remark at segment end.
DAVID SHUSTER: I think it also revealed that John McCain's going to be a much better debater than a lot of people think. And maybe also in some sense, Barack Obama is lucky in a way that Saturday night was Michael Phelps' night and not a night when a lot of people were paying attention to politics.
A bit later, Shuster used Phelps to work in an obligatory swipe at President Bush. After rolling tape of a clearly-excited Phelps mentioning that it was "pretty cool" that the president had taken pictures with him at the pool after the 400 individual medley race, Shuster pounced: "even cooler for the president, who's probably happy that someone popular wanted to get a picture with him."
View video here.
BONUS COVERAGE—Brown: Obama's Conduct 'Very Disturbing;' Chrystia Correct on Hillary, McCain
In a subsequent segment, the inimitable Willie Brown gave voice to the reported rumblings among Dems over Obama.
SHUSTER: Mr. Mayor, I understand you're hearing some of the nervousness from Democrats. What's driving this nervous rumblings?
WILLIE BROWN: I think that the conduct of Barack Obama over the last three or four weeks has been very disturbing. Because we've come to expect so much out of him. He's been such a superstar in every way. He's been on his game in every aspect from the primary to the present day. And we just want to see that continue.
In the final segment, Chrystia Freeland of the Financial Times made a lot of sense on a couple points--meaning, she agreed with me.
First, Freeland suggested that Hillary would make Obama's best VP choice, echoing a sentiment I expressed a couple weeks ago here, calling her, among other things, "the most macho of the Democratic field." Later, she opined that McCain has benefited from his handling of the Georgian situation.
SHUSTER: Chrystia, as the tensions with Russia ratchet up instead of going the other way, doesn't that help John McCain?
CHRYSTIA FREELAND: Absolutely. I think the Georgia crisis has been very, very good for John McCain. You know, for one thing, he was right. Yah, I think the Georgia crisis shows that McCain's hawkish line on Russia and on Putin, which is not a new thing, he hasn't flip-flopped here, he's been very consistent, has turned out to be prescient. And I think because he had that view, because he was very clear on how he saw events when the crisis began, he was faster than anyone, including the White House, off the mark. So I think he's done well on the issue and I think that's given him some confidence, and maybe a little bit deflated the euphoria that Obama and the Obama camp had after that fabulous Middle-Eastern and European tour.