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Inside Politics Weekend: VP debate

Debate-mania

Thanks to drama, intrigue and maybe Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s mouth and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's lipstick, 93 percent of us say we're likely to watch the presidential and vice-presidential debates. More than two-thirds also say the debates will help shape their vote.

But some smell a rat. The majority — 56 percent overall — say the moderators are biased in their questioning. There is a partisan divide, and a gender difference, too. Among Republicans, 72 percent say moderators are biased, compared with 41 percent among Democrats. The figure is 65 percent among men, 48 percent among women.

More than half also favor the more informal town-hall-style debate — all this according to a Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 adults conducted Sept. 23.

Of course FOX News, CNN and the rest will be all over the debates like big dogs. But so will one network that will translate Mr. Biden and Mrs. Palin into Urdu and Hindi, among other things.

"The 2008 presidential election is generating intense interest around the world," said Danforth W. Austin, director of Voice of America, which will carry the debates live to a potentially humongous global audience.

"VOA — reaching about 134 million people in 45 languages — is uniquely poised to explain to its audiences the differences and similarities in the candidates' foreign policy positions," Mr. Austin said.

Que paso?

Why, somebody actually said something good about America. Perhaps we should frame this observation from former Mexican President Vicente Fox during a recent appearance at Kansas State University.

"A mature democracy, a 200-year old democracy, the oldest democracy in the world, giving off this example of openness, of debate, of participants, and it's really, it's really — this is going to enhance the democratic aspirations of many nations. And it's going to consolidate the democratic attitude of many nations all throughout the world. This is a good, good example of what the leader should be always showing, always teaching the rest of the world."

Days of yore

On this very day 90 years ago, Pvt. Henry Tandey, a British soldier serving near the French village of Marcoing during World War I, happened across a wounded German soldier and decided not to shoot him thus sparing the life of 29-year-old Lance Cpl. Adolf Hitler.

The British solder, who fought in the Somme and other significant battles, was himself wounded twice, and ultimately earned a Victoria Cross for "conspicuous bravery."

Pvt. Tandey told his story in the aftermath. "I took aim but couldn't shoot a wounded man. So I let him go," he recalled. Hitler nodded in thanks, and disappeared but considered the event of great portent and proof of his "invulnerability," according to historic accounts. He kept news clips regaling Pvt. Tandey's heroism and obtained a copy of his service record.

At 50, his old war wounds prevented Pvt. Tandey from rejoining his regiment during World War II; he had regrets about his merciful act, telling a journalist in 1940, "If only I had known what he would turn out to be … I was sorry to God I let him go."

Meanwhile, today is the 44th birthday of comedienne/pundit Janeane Garofalo, born in 1964.

It also marks the official anniversary of Walter Washington, who became the first mayor of Washington on Sept. 28, 1967. Ironically enough, it's also significant for former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, who was sentenced to six months in prison for possession of crack cocaine on this day in 1991.

Quotes of note

"I call on the McCain campaign to stop treating Sarah Palin like she is a delicate flower that will wilt at any moment. This woman is from Alaska for crying out loud." — CNN anchor Campbell Brown.

"I got a little tingle." — ABC's "The View" co-host Joy Behar, on meeting former President Bill Clinton.

"Our economy is strong. Our economy is strong. Our economy is strong. Our economy is strong. Our economy is strong. EVERYBODY PANIC!" — Headline from Fark.com news site.

"I don't know what a gallon of gas costs up on Capitol Hill. But we sure know what it cost down here in Realityville." — Lyrics from country singer Aaron Tippin's new tune "Drill Here, Drill Now."

Graphic evidence

Fans of Gov. Sarah Palin will be floored. A life-size vinyl wall graphic of the possible vice president is available from WallMonkeys, which normally makes oversized custom graphics for rec rooms and dens.

It is "the must-have item for any political enthusiast," said Jason Weisenthal, founder of the company.

The 5-foot-6-inch graphic is priced at $70 plus shipping, and is available on the company's Web site (www.wallmonkeys.com). There are two versions: the Republican style features party memorabilia and an American flag while a Democratic version offers "alternate images," like a hockey stick, a shotgun and lipstick.

By the numbers

An informal Washington Times analysis found that 16,438 news stories used the term "Wall Street meltdown" last week. In addition:

4.8 percent: The amount of news coverage devoted to the economy before the aforementioned meltdown.

37 percent: The amount devoted to the economy between Sept. 15 and 21

31 percent: Amount devoted to political coverage in that time.

43 percent: Amount of political coverage with an economic theme.

Source: Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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