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TOP OF THE TICKET / DON FREDERICK AND ANDREW MALCOLM

A patriot, no doubt . . . OK, a bit of doubt

October 19, 2008|DON FREDERICK AND ANDREW MALCOLM

Sarah Palin cut Barack Obama some slack last week.

"I know Obama loves America," she said during a brief give-and-take with reporters on her campaign plane Friday. She continued, "I'm sure that is why he's running for president. It's because he wants to do what he believes is in the best interest of this great nation. . . . I don't question at all Barack Obama's love for this great country."

But another Republican wasn't willing to concede that point.

Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota was parrying questions Friday from Chris Matthews on his MSNBC "Hardball" show, which is not for the faint of heart. Still, she did not necessarily have to keep stepping deeper into the hole he kept digging for her.

Initially, they were discussing Obama, with Matthews quizzing her about the Republican-backed "robocalls" -- viewed by many as over the top -- that play the Bill Ayers/terrorist card against the Democrat.

Bachmann said of Obama: "I'm very concerned that he may have anti-American views."

Then she said: "I think the people that Barack Obama has been associating with are anti-American, by and large."

Matthews wondered if that included Democratic leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "I'm not going to say if they're anti-American or pro-American," Bachmann said.

Pressed by Matthews about members of Congress in general and whether, in essence, their patriotism should be called into question, Bachmann called on the media to launch a "penetrating expose and take a look . . . at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-American or anti-American."

She added: "I think people would love to see an expose like that."

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Taking stock of debates

The culprit for the chaos in the financial markets has become clear. Blame it on the just-concluded series of presidential and vice presidential debates.

True, on the day of the first one, Friday, Sept. 26, stock traders were a friendly audience for a faceoff. Before John McCain and Barack Obama took the stage that night in Mississippi, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 121 points. But on its next workday, Sept. 29, Wall Street was in a foul mood. The Dow plunged 777 points.

OK, so maybe the drop had more to do with the surprise failure of the House late that morning to pass the first financial rescue plan. But how do we explain what has happened since then?

* Sarah Palin and Joe Biden met Oct. 2 for their sole debate. The Dow that day: down 348 points.

* McCain and Obama conducted their town hall debate Oct. 7. The Dow: down 508.

* Wednesday's concluding faceoff took place a day the Dow plummeted 733 points.

Political junkies and undecided voters may yearn for more debates. But for the markets, that might be a death blow.

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A treat from Cindy McCain

Cindy McCain famously avoids contact with the reporters and photographers who cover her husband's quest for the White House. She has never been known to stroll back from the jet's first-class compartment to chat with the 60 media members and Secret Service agents in the rear.

Until Friday.

On a morning flight, an aide announced a "special surprise." Cindy McCain pulled back the Oz-like curtain separating the two sections and emerged with a nervous smile.

Behind her came Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John McCain's longtime friend and frequent traveling companion. They held out bright orange, plastic pumpkins filled with Halloween candy.

Moving down the aisle, they offered the goodies to startled reporters, some of whom tried not to stare. "Take more," she urged softly.

How many days are left? someone asked. "Eighteen, but who's counting?" she said.

Someone asked Graham what he'd be for Halloween. "The government guy who comes to bail you out," he replied after a moment. "Now that's scary."

What about Cindy McCain? "I'll be Lindsey Graham," she said quickly.

And then, with a whoosh of the curtain, she was gone.

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Excerpted from The Times' political blog Top of the Ticket, at www.latimes.com/topofthe ticket.

Times staff writer Bob Drogin contributed to this report.

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