An astounding thing happened on CNN Monday evening: not only did Lou Dobbs say that Democrat Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden makes "many more misstatements than Sarah Palin," but he also chided Wolf Blitzer and the "Situation Room" crew for failing to point it out during their Bash Sarah session.
In preparation for the upcoming vice presidential debate, Blitzer brought on CNN analysts Gloria Borger and Jeffrey Toobin, as well as "The Weekly Standard's" Steve Hayes, to handicap the event.
As you might expect, Palin was the butt of many jokes leading Dobbs to marvelously inject the following during a mid-segment promo for his upcoming program (h/t NB reader Kevin Groenhagen):
Well, Wolf, I'm shocked. I wish you guys would take it easy on Joe Biden, because I think you're being really unfair to him, just because he makes so many more misstatements than Sarah Palin. But, anyway, I'm sure you can sort that out.
How delicious. What follows is a partial transcript of this exchange:
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, McCain campaign officials say they believe Sarah Palin is a valuable asset to them. They're holding firm on that. They say she's able to energize voters, really connect with them. They also believe that her public missteps have been way overblown.
But Sarah Palin is now under a microscope to prove just that.
TODD (voice-over): At the very least, Sarah Palin's getting valuable training on where political curveballs might come from -- like from a grad student in a South Philly cheese steak joint.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we do cross border, like Afghanistan to Pakistan you think? VOICE OF GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If that's what we have to do to stop the terrorists from coming any further in, absolutely, we should.
TODD: On its surface, a position that seems more like Barack Obama's. It prompts her running mate to say on ABC's "This Week" we're on the same page.
MCCAIN: She shares my view that we will do whatever is necessary. The problem is you don't announce it. You don't say to the Pakistanis, we're coming in unilaterally and carry out operations.
TODD: But as she prepares for what's clearly her most important public appearance of this campaign, GOP strategists say the stakes for Sarah Palin and the McCain campaign have been hyped up considerably over the past week. McCain's gambit on the financial bailout raised them, as did Palin's own performance in a CBS news interview parodied on "Saturday Night Live."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE," COURTESY NBC)
TINA FEY: Ultimately, what the bailout does is help those that are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).
FEY: Oh, it's got to be all about job creation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: McCain campaign officials tell us they're not worried about Palin's debate performance. They say some of her other answers in network interviews show she understood the issues.
Campaign aides say Palin is going to Senator McCain's ranch in Arizona to prepare and that some top staffers from the senator's campaign will help her. Analysts say she's got a tall order to show command of the facts and not look rehearsed.
LISA BURNS, MEDIA ANALYST, QUINNIPIAC UNIVERSITY: If she's not comfortable at this point, she needs to do whatever it is that takes for her to get more comfortable so she can say a few things that are possibly off script, yet, of course, are still going to represent McCain's stance on these issues.
TODD: So Sarah Palin has clearly got to demonstrate command of the issues, but not look heavily coached.
Now, GOP strategists we spoke to say that while Palin's own gaffes have contributed to the pressure on her here, it is also true that right now expectations for her are so low, that all she's really got to do is not make a major mistake and not really lose this thing -- Wolf. BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian.
Let's get back to our panel, Gloria Borger, Jeff Toobin and Stephen Hayes.
All right, guys, is that the sort of the standard, Steve, that she's got to simply avoid making a major mistake?
STEVE HAYES, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, I think she certainly benefits from low expectations. But I think she's got to do more than that. I mean what's happened, I think, is that the McCain campaign has kept her so bottled up for so long, that she sort of lost whatever rhythm and whatever natural instinct she has to do these kinds of interviews.
What would have been much smarter is to put her out for a series of short interviews on local television networks, have her get comfortable behind the camera, have her talk more. For one thing, if she were talking more, we wouldn't be quite as focused on every single word that she says, which I think is where she now sees herself.
BLITZER: She does seem, Gloria, just on that Katie Couric interview, to have lost some of her self-confidence over these past few weeks.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh...
BLITZER: If you remember, the speech she delivered at the Republican Convention in St. Paul and then you compare that to that interview, it's like day and night.
BORGER: Yes. I mean, she looks like she's lost her self- confidence. I mean you can just imagine, they've been sitting her down with a list of 150, 200 questions you need to know the answers to. She's cramming. She's desperately afraid of going off script. If she goes off script, she's afraid she'll contradict what John McCain has said.
And, so, as a result, she censors herself. And when you censor yourself, you're not as good. And so she's trying to work this out. And I agree with Steve, I think they've made this much more difficult for her.
All I can say is she's sitting against Joe Biden and Joe Biden has some debating problems of his own. So, you know, it's going to be interesting to watch the two of them together.
BLITZER: Although I will say this. I moderated some of those Democratic presidential debates when he was participating. Even though he didn't get many votes, he did pretty well in those debates, Jeff. He's a pretty good debater, although occasionally he says, shall we say, not necessarily the smartest of things.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: His biggest problem is that he's a windbag, is that he talks too much. But he's fortunate in that there will be time limits in this debate.
I think, in fairness to Sarah Palin, we have to point out that the idea of debate camp is not some kind of remedial education program for her. All candidates do this. They go away and they prepare.
The problem is that she's gone into the witness protection program. She's just -- she's not being seen in public, which is customary for people running for national office.
So I do think that this business of expectations, as we've discussed before, is a totally phony issue. I think the expectations should be the same for Biden and for Palin. They're both trying to be vice president of the United States. They're both trying to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.
TOOBIN: So they both should be in capable of doing it.
BLITZER: Well, Steve, the ridicule she's facing -- the "Saturday Night Live" skits, the Tina Fey stuff and all of that, how damaging is it?
HAYES: Well, I think it's damaging. And I think you have a lot of people who don't, you know, maybe watch the news shows as much as we do and some who get their news from places like "Saturday Night Live" or Jon Stewart's show or what have you. You know, they pay attention and they see her mocked. And I think the sense that people take away from that is that she's not to be taken seriously.
And that's why I disagree a little bit with Jeff, because I think that that lowers the expectations for her. And because of the scrutiny she's been under, it's natural that those expectations would be lower.
BORGER: And when you hide a candidate, when you sequester a vice presidential candidate, people start asking the question, well, where is she and why haven't they put her out there and what is there to hide?
BORGER: And that's really hurt her.
BLITZER: We'd love to have her here in THE SITUATION ROOM if she'd like to join us. She's more than welcome.
All right, guys. We've got to leave it...
BLITZER: We've got to leave it there.
TOOBIN: Wolf, don't hold your breath.
BLITZER: I -- well, you know, I...
BLITZER: I'm an upbeat person, an optimist by nature.
TOOBIN: Yes, you are.
BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by.
Thanks very much.
Remember, Thursday night, our coverage for the vice presidential debate will begin right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show that begins at the top of the hour and he's going to give us a preview -- Lou?
LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Well, Wolf, I'm shocked. I wish you guys would take it easy on Joe Biden, because I think you're being really unfair to him, just because he makes so many more misstatements than Sarah Palin. But, anyway, I'm sure you can sort that out.