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Sarah Palin Talks to CNN for First Time; RNC Mailer Questions Obama on Terror

Aired October 21, 2008 - 19:00:00   ET


JANE VELEZ MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Everyone`s got issues. Here are mine.

First, Sarah Palin breaks lose and courageously sits down with a reporter without preconditions. Will her mingle with the media help her campaign? We`ll take a look at what she said and let you decide.

And the politics of fear. The GOP releases a controversial new flyer in Virginia suggesting Obama will be soft on terror. We`ve got the details.

And the line between parody and slander gets a cartoon makeover.

SETH MACFARLAND, VOICE ACTOR: There`s something on here.


VELEZ MITCHELL: Did "The Family Guy" cross the line by suggesting McCain and Palin are fascists?

You think you`ve got issues? We`ve got more.


VELEZ MITCHELL: Hello, everyone, I`m Jane Velez Mitchell. And we have got issues for you?

Love her or hate her, Governor Sarah Palin has been a source of a lot of political comedy over these past three months, and let`s face it: she is not the most skilled interviewee.

But despite the McCain campaign and their desire to shamelessly shield her from the press, lately she`s been shaking those handlers loose and going unplugged.

Today she was on CNN`s "THE SITUATION ROOM" finally, talking to correspondent Drew Griffin.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Is Barack Obama a socialist?

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I`m not going to call him a socialist, but as Joe the plumber has suggested -- in fact, he came right out and said it -- it sounds like socialism to him. And he speaks for so many Americans, who are quite concerned now after hearing, finally, what Barack Obama`s true intentions are with his tax and economic plan.

And that is to take more from small businesses, more from our families and then redistribute that according to his priorities. That is -- that is not good for the entrepreneurial spirit that has built this great country. That is not good for our economy. Certainly, it`s not good for the opportunities that our small businesses should have to keep more of what they produce in order to hire more people, create more jobs. That`s what gets the economy going.


VELEZ MITCHELL: All right. Joining me now is the man who conducted the interview, Drew Griffin.

First of all, congratulations on a major get. I said immediately, with Drew, she is in for a grilling, because I know you are one tough reporter.

I want to cut to the chase, because I think this is the question on everybody`s mind: was there a moment when you asked Sarah Palin a question and you felt like she didn`t have the answer and was kind of dancing around verbally to mask that? Was there a gaffe or not?

GRIFFIN: A couple of times. Once when I asked her, if you lose, are you going to run for president in 2012? I don`t know why that caught her off-guard, but I think it did. And she had to kind of bounce back into her stump speech on the fact that she`s just focused on the next two weeks.

And I asked her about the Trooper-gate, which she calls Taser-gate, and whether or not her -- she made a mistake allowing her husband to basically use the office of the governorship to try to fire that trooper, her ex-brother-in-law, who was causing the family so much trouble.

She did try to turn that and twist that and to say that she did do nothing wrong. But clearly, the Branchflower Report up in Alaska said, you know what? Sarah Palin, you did. You did violate the ethics laws of the state of Alaska.

So those were a couple of times that she did stray.

VELEZ MITCHELL: But it sounds like no major goof-ups, no major gaffes that are going to cause headlines in papers across the country.

GRIFFIN: No. And Jane, I mean, this is the first CNN interview. We`re making kind of a big deal of it. But she`s had some big interviews, right, already. She`s becoming more and more practiced. She`s been doing a lot of local TV interviews.

She`s getting, I think, more and more skilled at answering questions and dodging questions, which is a tremendous skill on the national political scene. I think she is becoming much better at taking these interviews, and I think we`re seeing a reflection of that.

VELEZ MITCHELL: And you mentioned the first interview with CNN, and here we are just two weeks before the election. But I have to ask you, how did you get it? Did you ask and ask, or did they come to you?

GRIFFIN: No. We were -- we did a documentary, Jane, back in September when she was first announced as -- as vice-presidential candidate. We decided to put a documentary together. And we spent, like, two weeks up in Alaska. We were begging for an interview then. We were told the schedule was too busy. We just kept after it, kept after it, and they said it will happen, it will happen, it will happen.

Well, finally, it did happen. I think they were just honoring their commitment to that documentary, even though it`s fun. I suspect she`ll be on other CNN shows now.

VELEZ MITCHELL: All right, 10 seconds. Obviously, on TV she`s charismatic, attractive, personable. What did you think?

GRIFFIN: Yes. She`s all that and more. And I`ve to tell you, we are all sitting there and thinking, "Is this really her or is this Tina Fey?" It does cross your mind. They really do look alike.


GRIFFIN: But she was charming. And she answered all of our questions, or at least she talked after I asked a question on some of them.

VELEZ MITCHELL: All right. Drew, great job. And thank you so much.

Now, let`s turn to our panel. Joining me now, Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons; Joe Hicks from "Community Advocate" and commentator for Pajamas TV; and CNN political contributor Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez.

Jamal, I`m going to start with you. So it appears Palin is open to more press availability. How would you say she`s doing? No big gaffes, as you heard there. Is it too little, too late?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes. It`s too little too late. The reality here is Americans have already made up their mind about Sarah Palin.

You know, we had a big -- she was chosen back during the Republican convention. Everybody ran around like kids sucking on Pixie Stix having a sugar high. They were so excited, the Republicans. So what happens after your sugar high is you come to the crash.

And the crash is where we are now, and people realize that John McCain didn`t really know Sarah Palin when he chose her. And now that she`s on the ticket, nobody has any real confidence that she`s ready to be president. Colin Powell is the one who spoke about that, particularly, on Sunday.

And it`s been shown out that the American public has had a lot of questions about John McCain`s leadership and his judgment because of this choice.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Leslie Sanchez, Republican strategist and CNN contributor, we do have to hand it to her. She had some rough interviews at the start, you know, when Katie Couric asked her what Supreme Court decisions, aside from Roe v. Wade, you don`t agree with. She didn`t seem to have an answer. She covered.

This time she appears to come through with flying colors. Don`t we have to give her some credit for that?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. Jamal looks so deflated to see her doing such a tremendously good interview. Let`s look at the facts. She was confident. She was strong. She answered the questions directly.

You know, maybe she fumbled a little bit on what`s going to happen in 2012, but no candidate should ever be talking beyond the next two weeks. None of the four, actually. So I think she handled it masterfully.

And it`s so interesting. Barack Obama, we`ll talk about how calm and how eloquent and strong he is on the stump, but here she has been very calm, very confident in both in "Saturday Night Live" and in the debate, and no one seems to give her enough credit there. Let`s just call it fair -- a fair thing a fair thing.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Joe Hicks, Pajamas TV...

SIMMONS: I thought she was great on "Saturday Night Live."

VELEZ MITCHELL: Yes. I think everybody agrees that she was pretty funny and pretty cool on "Saturday Night Live." But Joe, let me ask you about this. One of the things that bugs me is that we talk so much about her, but we don`t talk about some of her more controversial positions: her waffling, for example, on whether global warming is manmade, her advocacy of teaching creationism in schools along with evolution.

How come we never seem to get to those issues that really sort of set her apart from, perhaps, other more moderate Republicans?

JOE HICKS, PAJAMAS TV: Well, I think the only concentration has been trying to, you know, this Palin Derangement Syndrome, where people are concentrating on trying to make this woman out to be some kind of stupid, inept person. So all the concentration has been, frankly, in that direction.

Listen, the woman is running a state. Let`s get real here. Now, has she performed poorly in some circumstances? Well, of course she has. But you know, she came out of a circumstance where I don`t think she was prepared at that point for what was thrust upon her. And the media has savaged this woman. They`ve literally tried to just take her apart.

VELEZ MITCHELL: But Joe, isn`t that in part because she was so shielded?


VELEZ MITCHELL: In other words...

HICKS: Oh, God no. Jane...

VELEZ MITCHELL: ... because the reporters couldn`t talk to her, they became frustrated. There were reporters who really tried to ask her a question on the campaign trail, and she apparently didn`t answer quite often.

HICKS: Jane, it came out of the gate disliking this woman because she isn`t the prototype for what they think a feminist should look like. Here`s a woman that hunts and, you know, talks about guns and field dressing a moose. So they came out of the gate trying to take this woman apart.

Remember, early on, they were talking about, you know, her daughter`s pregnancy and should a woman, you know, run for this high office? Shouldn`t she be home taking care of her kids? Stuff that -- that the left...

SIMMONS: Who said that?

HICKS: ... has traditionally...

SIMMONS: Who said she should be home taking care of her kids? This is a part where the Democrats...

HICKS: Remember your history there.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Jamal -- do you think, Jamal, there was contempt prior to the investigation. We heard a lot of things about her. And she didn`t -- certainly feminists, a lot of Democratic women feminists, said she`s not a feminist.

SIMMONS: Well, she`s not in terms of her policies in this. Of course not. I mean, this is a woman who`s against women having the right to choose when it comes time for her reproductive choice. The type of judges that she would support being installed in the Supreme Court are not judges that would be looking out for women`s rights. So that being the case, yes, that`s absolutely right.

The issue here, though, is not whether thinks she should stay home or any of that stuff that everybody tries to pump into the debate before. The issue here is this is a time of economic crisis; this is a time of foreign policy crisis, and is she ready to handle that?

VELEZ MITCHELL: I want to jump in, and I want to just be able to play for a second what Sarah Palin said today. Because she said she doesn`t like to toot her own horn, but here she is doing just that.


PALIN: I don`t talk about my experience that much in terms of years in office or in positions that have been executive experience, but I do have more executive experience than Barack Obama does.


VELEZ MITCHELL: And take a look at this video, because a lot of people think she`s a polarizing figure. Protesters actually throwing themselves in front of her motorcade yesterday in Colorado. That`s a wild scene.

Leslie, McCain isn`t provoking that kind of hostility.

SANCHEZ: There are a bunch of nut jobs all over the country, Jane. Let`s not give everybody, you know, who runs in front of, you know, a car trying to create a spectacle credit.

I mean, the bottom line, Governor Palin is a credible candidate. She is a manager of what a $6 billion budget, 24,000-plus employees. She`s a seasoned executive.

And you know, I`ll tell you what`s interesting about it. She was savaged. I do agree with that completely. You had the media coming against her. You had a lot of the elitist, both conservative and on the left, coming against her. A lot of economic conservatives.

But there is an interesting parallel that you don`t really hear often, and that is Ronald Reagan in 1976 was accused of the same thing. He was an outsider. He didn`t have enough experience. He came back...

VELEZ MITCHELL: There you go again. I`ve got to stop you right there. Hang on, all you guys, because we`re going to be right back.

While rookie Sarah Palin has managed to avoid disaster with the media, lately anyway, veteran Joe Biden can`t get out of his own way. Has he handed yet another gift to the McCain campaign? This one`s a doozy. Just wait until you hear what he said.

Plus, fascism and "The Family Guy." Did the not-so-subtle cartoon sit-com compare McCain and Palin to the Nazis? Now that`s an issue.


VELEZ MITCHELL: Oh, say it ain`t so, Joe. Even those who are very fond of Joe Biden know he has a tendency to speak in excruciatingly long run-on sentences -- I think this is one of them -- that sometimes boomerang and smack him right in the kisser. Remember, Joe, you said jobs is a three-letter word. J-O-B-S, that`s four letters.

But the latest example came yesterday on the campaign trail when he said...


SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Mark my words, mark my words, it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We`re about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old president of the United States of America. Remember, I said it standing here if you don`t remember anything else I said. Watch, we`re going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.


VELEZ MITCHELL: Now, to his credit, Joe Biden speaks unscripted more than his Republican counterpart, Sarah Palin, usually does. But should the Obama campaign take a cue from the McCain camp and put their V.P. candidate on a leash, with a muzzle perhaps?

Here with me now, Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons; Joe Hicks from Community Advocates and conservative commentator for Pajamas TV; and CNN political contributor and Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez.

Jamal, is this a case of Joe Biden strikes again with foot-in-mouth disease or is it the case of the McCain campaign taking words out of context and twisting them to be something other than what they were intended to be?

SIMMONS: In all fairness, this is a case of the media doing selective editing, because if you play the next line that he said, he said the world will find is that Barack Obama has a steel -- a spine of steel.

And that was the whole point of his message, was to say that the world is going to test Barack Obama or any new president, and they`re going to be surprised to find that Barack Obama has a spine of steel. He could stand up to any world leader, any crisis. And that`s where Joe Biden is going with this. Anybody who tries to say something different, it`s really kind of shading the issues here.

HICKS: Let me jump in here. OK, because I want to say something different.

Now, you know, see this is -- A, they shouldn`t put a leash on him. Let him keep talking. Here`s a guy -- here`s a guy that, throughout his campaign when he was running for president himself, was consistently attacking Barack Obama for weakness on national defense, as did Hillary Clinton. By the way, we must remember, you noticed he didn`t say that he would be "tested," quote unquote, if either McCain or Obama was elected. He specifically...

SIMMONS: McCain`s not going be elected.

HICKS: He specifically -- well, you don`t know that, homie. So -- so...

SIMMONS: I might know it, homie.

VELEZ MITCHELL: OK, you homies. All you homies.

I want to bring Leslie into this conversation.

SANCHEZ: Really, it`s OK.

VELEZ MITCHELL: No, I do. Really, I do. I do.

You know, I have to agree with what Leslie will probably say, that this was really kind of a dumb comment. I mean, we`re all terrified about the economy. We`re all afraid to look at our portfolios or whatever savings we have, because they`re drifting away. And we don`t need to worry about another possible Cuban-missile-crisis-style catastrophe in this country.

Because the last thing we need is to be -- be fearful of yet something else, and that seems to be the specter that this comment raised.

SANCHEZ: Jane, I`m going to agree with you there. You`re exactly right. And there`s two parts to this. One, I think he was speaking more as the chairman of the foreign relations committee and probably misspoke, because he does get briefed on these things.

But there is -- you know, there is an understanding that you don`t run around crying wolf. I mean, there are very serious threats every day that very few people actually get briefings and access to that information.

And I would agree that both Democrats and Republicans try to tamp that down, especially in an economic situation right now. You don`t want people to stop what they`re doing or stop spending or, you know -- or take different courses of action.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Or start spending money building a fallout shelter because they`re terrified.

SANCHEZ: Or buy duct tape, which was ridiculous. But you know...

HICKS: Jane, if he doesn`t -- if he knows something specific -- see, the guy really is kind of shooting his mouth off here, even though it certainly served McCain`s purposes here. But if he knows something specific about some kind of threats that exist, then he should have stated that.

But just to say that he would be tested without kind of other material saying, you know, that some security information I have indicates this might take place.

VELEZ MITCHELL: I heard you. I hear you. Let me say this. McCain didn`t miss the opportunity to use Biden`s comments for his own gain.

HICKS: Of course.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Check him out this morning on the campaign trail.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The next president won`t have time to get used to the office. We face many challenges here at home. You know that. And many enemies abroad in this dangerous world.

Now, this weekend, as Lindsey mentioned, Senator Biden guaranteed that, if Senator Obama is elected, we will have an international crisis to test America`s new president. We don`t want a president who invites testing from the world at a time when our economy is in crisis and Americans are already fighting in two wars.


VELEZ MITCHELL: Jamal, are the Democrats giving Republicans ammunition at this stage in the game?

SIMMONS: I don`t think so. I`ll tell you what we really don`t want. We really don`t want somebody like John McCain sitting in that chair who has proven that he really just doesn`t have the steadiness to be president. I mean, here we are. As someone wrote the other day, John McCain got a 3 a.m. phone call, and it was about the economy, and he didn`t answer it very well.

What Barack Obama has shown is a very steady, tough side of leadership. And he`s somebody...



SANCHEZ: There is no -- there is no matching a national war hero like John McCain...

HICKS: Oh, yes.

SANCHEZ: ... with a limited amount of experience of Barack Obama.

SIMMONS: He`s destroyed that brand.

SANCHEZ: That`s ridiculous. You can`t destroy a 35-year career.

SIMMONS: Yes, you can. Yes, you can. He`s doing it himself.


VELEZ MITCHELL: Why do I have the feeling that you guys are not going to come to a consensus in the next five seconds? We`ve got to leave it right there.

Leslie, Jamal, Joe, thank you very much.

When Obama isn`t cleaning up his running mate`s messes, he`s busy wiping up the mud thrown at him from the McCain campaign. The latest assault may already be in your mailbox, and it may lead to angry exchanges like this one.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His Islamic background.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you defend that claim? What makes you think he has...?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a lot of really -- madrasah...



VELEZ MITCHELL: A new campaign mailer put out by the RNC suggests that an Obama presidency would mean the return of terrorist attacks to the United States. The brochures, being mailed in Virginia and, evidently, Missouri, say that Barack Obama thinks terrorists, quote, "just need a good talking to," end quote. It is clearly meant to tap into the fear factor for potential voters.

I am joined now by Jonathan Allen of "Congressional Quarterly."

Jonathan, McCain himself has said he is proud of this ad and stands by it. But I don`t get this. McCain -- just had this in the last segment -- just attacked Biden, accusing the Democratic vice-presidential nominee of inviting an attack on America.

Isn`t this kind of along the same lines showing a picture of a jet headed into a window and people behind that window? Isn`t that suggesting precisely what Biden suggested? Gird your loins; this is not going to be an easy ride. We will be tested.

JONATHAN ALLEN, "CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY": At the very least it`s a suggestion that a terrorist attack could happen on Barack Obama`s watch if he`s elected president. At worst it is an attempt to paint Barack Obama as a terrorist.

I mean, I don`t think there`s -- if you look at that flyer, I don`t think you get too far of a distance between Barack Obama and terrorists. And obviously, that`s ridiculous.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Why this strategy? The polls are showing Americans are angry. They`re afraid. They`re afraid of losing their homes. They`re afraid of not being able to pay their bills. And McCain is behind in the polls, and people have concluded that maybe this negative strategy isn`t working.

So why are they still going with it and not just talking about what they would do with the economy?

ALLEN: Well, I think there are two levels at which to look at this. I think there`s a segment of the electorate that is uncomfortable with Senator Obama, that doesn`t like Senator Obama, Republicans, independents, some Democrats among them.

And this is intended to rile them up, get them not only to go out and vote but to spread gossip among their neighbors to get their neighbors to vote to get activated for the campaign.

Now that said, I think a larger segment of the American electorate -- Democrats, independents, and a lot of Republicans -- will look at this as something that`s kind of an insult to their intelligence, and in addition to that, beneath not only the office that Senator McCain seeks but the one he sits in right now as a United States Senator.

There`s no way you would make that kind of an attack on the Senate floor, to talk about a colleague that way, or to talk to a colleague that way.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Well, that`s a good point. And to your point, look at some of the rumor and innuendo about Obama that is being spread by the far right fringe at a McCain rally. This is wild.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mohammed himself taught to deceive the infidel in order to progress Islam. I know that. You know that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said Obama is a socialist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A socialist with Islamic background.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you defend that claim? What makes you think that Obama is...?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a lot of really brazen madrasahs. There`s a lot of background. There`s a lot of stuff to read out there. But I can`t do it right now, OK.


VELEZ MITCHELL: Is there a connection between those flyers and that kind of mentality being expressed?

ALLEN: Well, certainly. I mean, there have been rumors about Senator Obama throughout this campaign, and they spread through flyers, over the Internet, through all forms of modern communication. And that`s certainly an attitude that has developed among some voters.

You know, we`re seeing, as Senator Obama rises in the polls and Senator McCain falls back a little bit, some angrier rhetoric, not just at these rallies but also by McCain surrogates. We saw Michelle Bachmann, a congresswoman from Minnesota...

VELEZ MITCHELL: Yes, and we...

ALLEN: ... asked whether Obama was -- had anti-American views.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Don`t worry. We`re going to talk about that.

ALLEN: Whether members of Congress should be pro- or anti -- should be investigated as to whether they`re pro- or anti--America.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Jon, we`ve got to go. And we`re -- we`re not playing favorites here. We`re going to hit them on both sides.

The only thing more important than knowing what to say on the campaign trail: knowing what not to say. And just as he mentioned, that congresswoman from Minnesota learned it the hard way, and she may end up paying the ultimate price. You won`t believe this.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did I just jump into a time machine and arrived back in 1950s McCarthyism America or suggesting liberals and Barack Obama are anti-American somehow okay now? Is applying a pro-American litmus test to members the Congress a cool new way to rally the GOP base?

That is what Republican representative Michelle Bachmann seemed to be saying to Chris Matthews in her appearance on MSNBC`s "Hardball" last Friday.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Do you believe that Barack Obama may -- you`re suspicious because that this relationship may have anti-American views.

REP. MICHELLE BACHMANN, (R) MINNESOTA: Absolutely. I am very concerned that he may have anti-American views. That is what the American people are concerned about. That is why they want to know what his answers are. That`s why Joe the Plumber has figured so highly in the last few days.

What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look -- I wish they would -- I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out are they pro-America or anti--America?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, really. In her defense Bachmann told Politico yesterday that, "Despite the way the blogs and the Democratic Party are spinning it, I never called all liberals anti-American. I never questioned Barack Obama`s patriotism and I never asked for some house un-American activities committee witch hunt into my colleagues in Congress.

I hear you, Michelle, but it seems like the good folks of Minnesota not so sure. With close to $1 million pouring in for her opponent since those remarks and many pundits saying what was almost an almost certain GOP victory now a tossup.

We asked Representative Bachmann to join us tonight. She declined. So we thought, let`s ask her opponent to join us; her opponent in Minnesota`s 6th District, Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg. I had to be very careful when I said that sir; Tinklenberg.

Thank you for joining us. I`m going to call you Elwyn, if that`s okay?

Do you think Congresswoman Bachmann just came up spontaneously with the notion that members of Congress should be suggested to a litmus test investigation to determine if they are pro-America or anti--America, whatever the heck that means? Was this a brain storm that she experienced live on the air and felt the need to share with us or is this something she has expressed previously while on the campaign trail against you?

ELWYN TINKLENBERG, (D) MINNESOTA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Well, this is something that has been a part of her character here in Minnesota for a long time. She has been involved in issues that she has used as wedges to drive people apart. She has been a divisive figure in Minnesota politics.

So this is really consistent with what she has been doing for a long time. I know she tries to say it is out of character but it`s really not. This is very much in keeping with the brand of politics she has practiced and we`re seeing it express itself again in this new way.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok, I hear you. What you are saying is this is not some kind of unfortunate gaffe which people can make. You are on television, you are live. We have all said some humdingers, including myself. But you are saying this is consistent with some of her positions.

I understand that she has some rather controversial positions, in fact, she considers global warming a hoax. Have you heard that?

TINKLENBERG: Yes. She`s called it voodoo hokum. And she said that the cause of the financial collapse in our country was that minorities were getting loans for homes. This is consistent with the kind of approach that she has taken which is all about us versus them.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to jump in.

What are people saying, these people who have given you $1 million since last Friday which is about all you`ve raised over the past year? What are they saying when they give you money?

TINKLENBERG: We`re really grateful for this. These contributions have come from a broad spectrum of people across the country. The average donation has been $40. These are ordinary Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, who are saying this is intolerable. This is not the way we practice our political life in this country.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And apparently it is a lot of Republicans too. This is not just party lines. I understand that her original opponent who lost to her in the primary is now considering a write-in campaign because he is so upset.

Thank you, Elwyn, helping me figure out who is in Congress and who is anti--American and who isn`t and really why somebody would even think that is an okay thing to ask.

My wonderful panel, Keith Boykin, a former Clinton aide editor of the "Daily Voice", and Cheri Jacobus Republican strategist and president of Capital strategies.

Keith, can we now coin, this is a great new expression, "pulling a Bachmann, how to implode your campaign in seven minutes of fun and feisty national TV time.

KEITH BOYKIN, EDITOR, "THE DAILY VOICE": Yes, I think you`re right. That is a new term we`re going to start using apparently.

And unfortunately, her comment wasn`t very smart. It didn`t help her own campaign. It doesn`t help John McCain. It`s actually an insult to Americans that she would suggest that 52 percent or 53 percent of Americans who the polls say are supporting Barack Obama are somehow anti-American.

And then she responded to the criticism and said she didn`t mean all liberals are anti-American assuming therefore that most liberals are anti- American? Only some liberals are anti-American. It doesn`t make sense. I think she is regretting her comment today.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But Cheri Jacobus, do we need to cut her a little bit of slack. A lot of people are on television talking about America. It`s a phrase that everybody likes to throw in, even we, the media, put it in copy all the time because we are trying to have an emotional bond with the people we are talking to. Sometimes you can get carried away and it can bite you.

CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I have two things to say about this.

First of all, she does have to own her own comments. It sounds like she is trying to do what she can to explain herself, but this is a problem for her.

The word un-American didn`t come from her first but she did fall into the trap and she started talking about it. She`s got a real problem on her hands with regard to this.

And it`s true, that you can give these interviews all day and do lots of media and you slip up. But she has to spend her time explaining this now rather than talking about the things that she`d rather be talking about in her district.

The difference is, however, she has got this $1 million coming in from the outside and that`s where there is obviously a whole lot of Internet blogging going on, the e-mails going around for people to weigh in and give money.

This situation is very similar to Democratic Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania who recently claimed that his constituents in Western Pennsylvania are racists and then he called them rednecks. He has also got a problem on his hands and he has to defend that. But he doesn`t have $1 million coming in.

That is where, I think, Congressman Bachmann has a much more difficult road to hoe than Congressman Murtha whose comments are reprehensible.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Right, I hear you.

Keith, I want to ask you about that. Is there a double standard when a Democrat says something offensive, it kind of slips under the radar but when somebody like Representative Bachmann says something offensive, it`s open season, we have go to discuss this and dissect it forever.

BOYKIN: Well, you know, I think what Jack Murtha said was probably unfortunate as well, to be honest. And I don`t think there is a double standard because there is a history that if you go back in politics. I remember, Republicans have a history, I think, of using these sort of negative slash-and-burn tactics in order to win elections.

And I think they`ve been very divisive over the course of my lifetime.

JACOBUS: Keith, I think, that is a pretty severe charge. Why don`t you give us a few examples? Because I`m sure there are plenty of examples on the Democratic side.

BOYKIN: I`ll give you plenty of examples. I worked in my first campaign in 1980 for a guy named Mike Dukakis; he ran for president. They portrayed Mike Dukakis as some sort of liberal left wing Massachusetts Democrat who didn`t believe in the Pledge of Allegiance, for God`s sakes. This is a guy who is a Korean War veteran.

They tried the same thing in 1992 against Bill Clinton. They had Lee Atwater, and you go back to Lee Atwater, you had a Karl Rove, you got a whole history of Republican strategists who views this idea of slash-and- burn tactics --

JACOBUS: What do you say about what John Kerry just said recently about John McCain, making fun of his age? What do you say about all of the things they said about John McCain in this campaign that are simply not true? What about the tactics of that they`re using against Sarah Palin on the Internet when it was first announced that she was John McCain`s running mate?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me jump in here for one second.

BOYKIN: Sarah Palin is part of the problem.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to ask you, I think the reason why this hits such a nerve is because of the specter of McCarthyism, obviously. That was a time in the 50s when people were accused of being Communists or Communist sympathizers and they were dragged into committees and interrogated and grilled.

JACOBUS: Oh, sure.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It was the way she phrased it that created the specter that, "Hey, investigate to see what is pro-America, what is anti- America."

JACOBUS: Look, I understand why people are upset with her comments. And I personally, just as a political operative am upset that she sort of fell in the trap and even answered Chris Matthews.

She shouldn`t have done it. She should have said no I don`t think Barack Obama is un-American; however, he is bad for America and here`s why. She could have gone to his tax policy, she could have gone to a whole list of things.

BOYKIN: But that is not the way the Republicans have been running their campaign. That is not what Sarah Palin has been doing. That`s not what John McCain has been doing. Sarah Palin has been saying --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Keith, what is pro-America? What is anti-America? That`s what I don`t understand. Who defines that? Who defines what is pro-America and what`s anti-America?

BOYKIN: Apparently Sarah Palin does and Michelle Bachmann too. The Republicans think that they have some sort of monopoly on pro-American patriotism. And the reality is that`s the divisive slash-and-burn tactics, that`s negative politics over.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, we`ve got to wrap it up. Let`s give Cheri a chance.

JACOBUS: This name-calling that you do from the far-left without backing up; this is what really angers Americans who are trying to make an informed decision. You have nothing to say about Jack Murtha and the horrible comments that he had to say.

BOYKIN: I did. Did you hear what I said? You weren`t paying attention, Cheri.

JACOBUS: And to say -- and what you`re trying to do, you`re not paying attention is that Michelle Bachmann is not speaking for John McCain and the Republican Party. She made an unfortunate mistake that she`s paying for. And I think it`s really not fair to voters.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re going to leave it right there.

And I think you make a good point, Cheri in a sense that I think a lot of Republicans are offended by what she said. It is not strictly along party lines.

Keith, Cheri, thank you both so much. Glad to see you all worked up there.

It is hard to know what patriotism even means anymore.

I want to boil this down for you guys with a story that shows what the best in all of us should look like.

Meet ratchet, army specialist Gwen Bagurg (ph) rescued this guy from a burning pile of trash while on her 13-month tour of duty in Iraq. After weeks of wrangling, international media attention and 65,000 caring Americans petitioning the U.S. Army, Ratchet was allowed to leave Iraq and arrived in the United States yesterday to be with Gwen who is a true patriot.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: We all know "The Family Guy" has never been known for being, how should I put this, subtle? But they may have taken it a tad too far on Sunday when they likened McCain/Palin ticket to the Nazi party in World War II.

I`m not kidding. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, fellas, you want to get a free caricature?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, I want to be a skateboarder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, there is something on here. Huh, that`s weird.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. Back now is our fabulous panel, Keith Boykin, a former Clinton and editor of the "Daily Voice" and Cheri Jacobus, Republican strategist and president of Capital Strategies PR.

Cheri, when does funny cross the line into really, really offensive, skanky, even slanderous, and does this bit cross that line?

JACOBUS: You know, it is one of those things that`s in the eye of the beholder. I imagine a lot of people feel that this crossed the line. It has a little bit of the ick-factor, but it is also "The Family Guy," my secret guilty pleasure to watch this show.

I think it`s sometimes hilarious. But when it comes to satire, it`s a different set of rules that apply. We saw the cover of the "New Yorker," where Barack Obama was addressed as a Muslim with the Osama bin Laden, you know, picture above the fireplace and the flag burning and some people on the left got into hysteria, and I think you have to keep this in perspective.

When it comes to pop culture, it doesn`t really change votes. The creator of "The Family Guy" is an Obama supporter. We expect this sort of thing. But I think that we should all take a deep breath and look at it for what it is. It`s satire, and you`re not going to see hysteria, at least from me.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, come on! Show us a little hysteria.

JACOBUS: No, I`m sorry. It`s satire, and I understand that. I think people use it as an excuse to sort of get the far left or far right all energized but sensible people, I don`t think, really take that seriously.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Cheri, I have to agree with you in a sense, Keith, when Madonna was on her world tour, she did this video montage that was playing behind her and it had Adolf Hitler, it had Zimbabwe`s Robert Mugabe and John McCain and that didn`t even get that much play, it was a blip, it was a half a day story.

Can you imagine if the equivalent had been done on the right?

BOYKIN: Well, I think it was good that it was only Madonna who was doing it. Nobody takes her seriously as a political figure. Unfortunately, what happens is a lot of celebrities and a lot of people in entertainment world and in Hollywood, they say things that they think are going to be helpful to a particular side, or that they think is going to be important to get their point across, but it actually can be counterproductive, and I think we`re seeing a lot of that in campaign.

That people are very excited, very passionate about their particular causes and I think they are going a little bit overboard from time to time. Fortunately, I think Cheri is right, the people are trying to put a lot of the comedy into perspective and the comedians and politicians aren`t that much different these days, because the politicians are going on the comedy shows. So it`s important to keep this in perspective.

We only have two weeks left in the campaign and people really want to focus on the real issues.

JACOBUS: I have to say about the Madonna thing, though, the Madonna thing wasn`t satire, it wasn`t funny, it wasn`t even rock and roll. And I don`t think people quite knew what that was. And it felt kind of flat.

But look, humor does work. And if it`s good humor, you know, most people, again, thinking Americans get it. But are there things that cross the line? That`s kind of what satire and what humor does. It`s why we watch it when they go too far over the line, we know it. And usually there is a backlash.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Cheri, I so disagree with you when you said you didn`t think that it really affects votes. Actually, I think probably the hidden story of this election season is that comedy and alternate media has had much more of an impact than possibly mainstream media, and I can get Keith`s reaction on this in terms of YouTube.

I mean, not everybody is going to watch "The Family Guy," but they`re going to watch this clip on YouTube. Millions of people have already watched it probably or will eventually watch it.

BOYKIN: Absolutely the fact that we`re talking about it right now makes people more likely to check it out now on YouTube. That`s not a commercial, but that`s reality.

And I think, the truth is, if you look at "Saturday Night Live," if you look at the David Letterman Show, you look at "Jay Leno" and "The Daly Show," you see the comedians and the people who are doing comedy have had a real impact on this campaign. And it may not move votes in the sense of the way traditional politicians do, but it actually could have some impact in the sense that it reinforces people`s perception about the candidates, because you can say things in humor that you can`t say in reality and you can get away with it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Cheri, I think one of the reasons why this campaign has been so fascinating is it`s been a cultural war and a generational war, and so many people I know don`t read the paper anymore, they go online and they look at their clips on YouTube.

JACOBUS: You know what, there aren`t too many people my age and older that are going in YouTube, trust me on this. I think the real issue I think is how the mainstream media, how news media I think is showing a blatant bias and I think that that`s a real danger to the American people. And that`s not the satire, not the "Saturday Night Live," not "The Family Guy."

BOYKIN: I don`t understand. I don`t see the blatant bias.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Okay. All right, Keith.

BOYKIN: I just don`t see the blatant bias. I think that what is going on here is the media is covering both sides of the campaign fairly and carefully. I think the problem is that you have people like Sarah Palin who don`t want to talk to the media, and they think they can get away with that, hopefully --

JACOBUS: She just did an interview today.

BOYKIN: It took six weeks before she finally started doing serious interviews. But the reality is, that they kept her away from the media. You said that yourself, Cheri in previous interviews. Don`t deny it now.

JACOBUS: I think --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s stick to "The Family Guy."

JACOBUS: I think the issue here with regard to this election is that you have people claiming that it`s -- that it`s so far one way or the other. I think -- we`re pretty much a 50/50 country. The fact of the matter is that Barack Obama has so much more money than John McCain and he does have the media in the tank for him.

BOYKIN: Cheri, I don`t buy that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s talk about -- he does have "The Family Guy" in the tank for him.

JACOBUS: All the advantages going for Barack Obama that he is not further ahead in this race, he really should be. So when people make extreme comments about the electorate like everybody feels this way, you`re talking like it`s a 70/30 country.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ve got 10 seconds Keith, your answer to that?

BOYKIN: It`s important not to sweep all of the media together. What the "Family Guy" does and what "The Daly Show" does is totally different from what you can hear at CNN.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, guys, I want you to two family guys to stay right there in a second, more family fireworks.