Jonathan Cohn
Senior Editor

Three's Company On The Vaccine Controversy
April 22, 2008

Like Jason, I was not happy to learn that Barack Obama, like John McCain, had given credence to the supposed link between autism and vaccines. Well, it turns out that opinion is unanimous among the presidential candidates. Here is how Hillary Clinton's campaign answered a questionnaire from the group A_Champ: Q: Do you think vaccines should be investigated as a possible cause of autism?  A: I am committed to make investments to find the causes of autism, including possible environmental causes like vaccines.

Hillary On Olbermann--first Impressions
April 21, 2008

When I heard Hillary Clinton was going on Keith Olbermann, I figured she was in for pretty rough--and possibly unfair--treatment. Olbermann, after all, has been a pretty vocal Clinton critic. And on a few occasions, I've thought, he's taken it too far. Not tonight. His first question was...a very serious question about policy: What can the president really do to bring down gas prices? Clinton seemed slow to respond. (Maybe she was as surprised by the question as I was?) But she followed up with a long, nuanced answer.

How Can Both Candidates Be Desperate?
April 20, 2008

And now, for some meaningless, but hopefully harmless, Sunday night commentary on the horserace... Joe Klein's dispatch from the campaign trail on Sunday noted that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had appropriated theme music from the now-defunct John Edwards campaign. Clinton has been playing John Mellencamp's "This Is Our Country," while Obama has been playing Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising." Obama's choice presumably has something to do with recent Springsteen's endorsement. But, as Klein observes, the song selection also signals something else: What does this mean?

Defending George Stephanopoulos (seriously!)
April 17, 2008

Far be it for me to justify last night's debate performance by ABC hosts Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos. (I was an early and loud critic!) But a YouTube that Obama supporters are circulating surely takes reasonable criticism too far. It's a parody of "In Memoriam," a recurring feature on ABC's "This Week" (the show Stephanopoulos hosts). In the segment, ABC acknolwedges recent deaths--of celebrities as well as American soldiers fighting abroad--by showing their names and playing mournful music in the background.

It's (almost) Unanimous: Gibson & Steph Were Awful!
April 17, 2008

David Brooks gave Charlie Gibson and George Stephanoupolos an "A" for their performance last night. But his seems to be a minority view. Here's what everybody else is saying: Sam Boyd, The American Prospect Will Bunch, Phladelphia Daily News  Michael Grunwald, Time Reed Hundt, TPM Cafe Ezra Klein, The American Prospect Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo Greg Mitchell, Editor and Publisher Tom Shales, Washington PostNiall Stanage, The Guardian Katrina Vanden Heuvel, The Nation As I said in my first posting on this last night, I honestly expected better.

A Tale Of Two Debates
April 17, 2008

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... Or maybe it was just the worst of times.Two debates took place in Philadelphia tonight. And, conveniently enough, they took place one after another, divided cleanly by a commercial break. The first debate was garbage time, as ABC moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos took turns confronting the two candidates with questions that have dogged their respective campaigns over the last few weeks. Obama, the frontrunner, got most of the attention: Exactly which statements of Rev.

Sorry, Charlie: You're Wrong On The Cap Gains Tax
April 16, 2008

Charlie Gibson really hammered the candidates--both candidates--over their proposals to raise the capital gains tax. Why woudl they do that, he asked, when lowering the cap gains tax during the 1990s raised revenue?  My recollection was that Gibson's premise was wrong, but I couldn't remember the details of why. Fortunately, I know a few economists. Here's one of them--Jason Furman of the Brookings Institute--with the story:  Joint Committee on Taxation and Treasury both score raising capital gains taxes as raising revenues.

Troubling Answers On Taxes
April 16, 2008

I'm not a big fan of Barack Obama's proposal to raise the cap on the payroll tax, at least right now, mostly for political reasons. The greatest danger to the program isn't its projected financial shortfall, which is reliatvely tiny. But I'm also not a fan of Hillary Clinton's attacks on the idea. And the exchange they just had shows why. A few minutes ago, one of the moderators--I think it was Charlie Gibson--asked why both candidates would consider raising capital gains taxes or taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Both candidates answered, correctly, that sometimes taxes are worth it.

Ah, That's Better
April 16, 2008

Ever since the commercial break, it's been all substance: A meaty question on the Middle East followed by some queries on taxes and the budget. And both candidates are using them to make coherent arguments about their policy ideas. And what do I think about these substantive points? Stay tuned.  (Those things aren't so easy to blog in 90 seconds!) --Jonathan Cohn

What A Speech Can't Fix
April 16, 2008

I continue to think that Obama's speech on race, from a few weeks ago, is one of the most elegant and powerful political events I've ever seen. And I gather, from the poll numbers, that it was at least modestly successful (if not very successful) at winning over voters who'd soured on Obama because they heard Rev. Wright's controversial comments. The problem with the speech is that--like any great speech--it's not nearly as powerful in sound bites.