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  • Quote of the Day: John Roberts

    "I suspect it's like people look at their families.... It's a tremendous sense of loss." —Chief Justice John Roberts on what it's like when a justice leaves the Supreme Court.
  • New Poll Finds Tea Partiers Have More Racist Attitudes

    Are tea partiers racist? That question has triggered a flood of impassioned commentary in recent months. Opponents depict the movement as a band of cranky old white people brimming with racial resentment, as evidenced by the inflammatory signs that pop up at their rallies and coded language about "taking our country back." Supporters say the movement is motivated quite simply by resistance to big government and that the occasional flashes of racism are overhyped by the media and representative of only a small fringe. As Gallup's Frank Newport recently wrote, "Each side of the political spectrum appears to have a vested interest in portraying the Tea Party movement in the specific way that best fits their ideological positioning." Yet neither side has had much empirical data to draw on.  ...
  • Actually, John Paul Stevens Is a Conservative

    When a Supreme Court justice announces his retirement—as John Paul Stevens did earlier today—the press immediately launches into its "first rough draft of history" mode, filing endless reams of elegant, elegiac prose on Who He Was and What He Meant. This, of course, is understandable. Most of the content produced to fill the gaping maw of today's 24/7 news cycle is small. The retirement of a Supreme Court justice, on the other hand, is big. Reporters want to rise to the occasion. But while the media usually manage to commit plenty of good journalism in moments like these, their affect in the aggregate is probably to compress rather than expand our sense of the outgoing justice's legacy. Readers don't have a lot of time or interest, so amid the flood of retrospectives, they tend to latch onto whichever shorthand, cheat-sheet label gets repeated most frequently. Sandra Day O'Connor was the pioneering moderate. William Rehnquist was the Western federalist....
  • John Paul Stevens's Legacy in Five Cases

    It's a funny thing about Justice John Paul Stevens, who announced today he's stepping down. Despite serving on the court for 35 years—that's 12 years longer than this Gaggler's even been alive—many observers agree that he came into his jurisprudential own in the last 10 to 15 years. A few key decisions are likely to be remembered as his most important ones. We called some observers to get their input, and combined their lists to produce this one. Among those contributing ideas: Doug Kendall, president of the progressive Constitutional Accountability Center; Brina Milikowsky, legal counsel at the liberal Alliance for Justice; the liberal People for the American Way; and Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the libertarian Cato Institute....
  • John Paul Stevens and Diversity on the High Court

    In the artfully balanced world of the Supreme Court, the liberal versus conservative divide takes precedence when one justice leaves and another is cued up to fill the slot. John Paul Stevens timed his resignation to insure that President Obama could replace him with another liberal-minded jurist. But there is another less talked-about balance that Stevens brought to the court, and that’s his Midwestern upbringing and education. Like so many reporters researching the Internet to learn more about Stevens in the wake of his announced resignation, I found a post by a senior at Northwestern University pointing out that Stevens attended the University of Chicago and Northwestern Law School making him the only one of the nine sitting justices who got his law degree from a non-East Coast Ivy League law school. By this student’s account, four current justices received their law degrees from Harvard, three from Yale and one from Columbia—and that’s because Ruth Bader Ginsburg transferred to...
  • Newsverse: Gone With the Windbags

    By Jerry AdlerNOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert McDonnell, do hereby recognize April 2010 as CONFEDERATE HISTORY MONTH in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens—Proclamation by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.Now I don’t know what country Bob McDonnell thinks he’s from.The one that I was born in fought, in 1861,A war for its survival, when Virginia tried to bolt.And only barely won it, thanks to Grant and Samuel Colt.I’m sure that Bob McDonnell is a patriotic sortWho wouldn’t ever be accused of wanting to consortWith enemies who hate us and our sacred way of livingNo terrorist should count on Bob McDonnell for forgiving.Except, of course, for those who fought, away back in the dayIn service of secession and against the USA.Now I’m not one for waving flags, but can we set some ground rules?It isn’t love of country that’s the last refuge of scoundrels. It’s sentimental longing for a mythic past of bravery(Careful to avoid the part that has to...
  • What if the RNC Held a Parade, and Nobody Came?

    By Justin VogtRepublican National Committee chairman Michael Steele has vexed GOPers ever since winning the post last year and promising that, as the first African-American chairman, he would be able to expand the GOP's appeal by introducing its principles to "hip-hop settings." This would be accomplished through an "off the hook" rebranding effort. Steele pledged that the PR campaign would be unlike anything either political party had done before. "It will be avant garde, technically," he explained to The Washington Times.Indeed, his tenure has frequently seemed like an exercise in performance art—technically and otherwise.  Perhaps Steele was aiming for a sort of Brechtian alienation effect when it was revealed that the RNC had funded a night out for young GOP donors at Voyeur West Hollywood, a bondage-themed nightclub in Los Angeles that bills itself as a "destination for provocative revelry."Conservatives, at least, were provoked. The...
  • 'Protecting' Your iPad

    Just because something isn't broken, doesn't mean it can't be, right? Hey, the idea isn't exactly an old adage, but software firm Intego thinks it might be a moneymaking move. The company, which only produces security products for Macs, is offering VirusBarrier X6 10.6.5 to keep your iPad free of malware. The software is really an updated version of the anti-malware tool they designed for Mac computers and iPhones. It runs on a user's main computer and scans the iPad for malicious files whenever a person plugs it in. The software won't load on the iPad because Apple doesn't currently allow multitasking, making it difficult for stuff like antivirus software to run in the background. In other words, this is not what you might call a shroud of protection.Theoretically, Apple deals with possible virus vulnerabilities by only running Apple-approved apps on its systems. So then why bother developing an antivirus software for this device? Intego spokesman...
  • The Beef in Kyrgyzstan, Vol. II: Russian Edition

    After a day of bloody riots and chaotic looting, the dust seems to have settled in Kyrgyzstan today. That's not to say the fat lady has sung; ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev told the BBC that he was still in southern Kyrgyzstan and had "no plans" to leave. But even he admits that he doesn't "have any real levers of power." In the meantime, city-service employees in Bishkek are going about the business of cleaning the capital, while residents stroll through the city surveying the clutter; it's a scene almost eerie in its mundane similarity to Times Square on New Year's Day.But while the capital may be settled, Russia's role in the whole affair is most certainly not. "Russia played its role in ousting Bakiyev," Omurbek Tekebayev, an opposition leader working in the new transitional government, told Reuters. "You've seen the level of Russia's joy when they saw Bakiyev gone." Such ecstasy in Moscow...
  • Unsurprisingly, Stupak Won't Seek Reelection

    Earlier this morning, The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder broke news that Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak will retire, which has since been confirmed by the Associated Press. As followers of the health-care debate now know well, Stupak was the representative who pushed for stringent abortion language in the health-care bill. His departure comes in the face of entreaties from Democrat leaders, including Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), encouraging the nine-term Democrat to have another go at it. Stupak’s departure does not really surprise me. By time the final vote rolled around, the Michigan Democrat had essentially driven himself into a corner where he was certain to please no one. Stupak spent the entire health-care debate pushing for particularly restrictive language that, at the last minute, he decided wasn’t actually necessary. Recall this behind-the-scenes bit from my colleague Jonathan Alter on how the health-care debate went down: Stupak had lost his leverage after he...
  • Twitter: Not Just for the Masses Anymore

    The world—and Twitter skeptics—saw a dramatic illustration of the microblogging service's usefulness in Iran last summer. Twitter provided an outlet for outsiders to understand what was going on in the country despite a brutal crackdown on media, and it was a useful tool for opposition protesters to organize and share information, evading government control....
  • Leslie Knope, Liz Lemon, and the Feminist Lessons of NBC's 'Parks and Recreation'

    Liz Lemon, the fictional TV writer at the center of NBC’s hit show 30 Rock, is often cited as an example of the modern-day working woman and the face of modern feminism. Her appeal to smart, independent women is understandable; Lemon heads her department at work, struggles with that elusive work/life balance, fights stereotypes about body image and "ladylike" behavior, and often feels like the only sane voice in an office full of lunatics. But Liz Lemon’s feminism can be problematic. At least, that’s what TigerBeatdown blogger Sady Doyle argues in a fantastic post published last month. She outlines 13 different ways of thinking about Lemon, but here are some of the highlights: 1.    Lemon is portrayed as an “exceptional” woman: the only smart, capable woman in a field of slutty, slobby, neurotic morons. The other women on the show, notes Doyle, are not friends or equals, but reminders that other girls can be so, so dumb—and therefore not worthy of femi...
  • The Real Problem With TV Experts

    This morning I posted a response to Greg Sargent's complaint that Rudy Giuliani gets invited onto cable-news talk shows to criticize Obama's nuclear-posture review when Giuliani appears to know nothing about it. I contended that Sargent was wrong to argue that only a Republican politician who holds a position of influence over national security, such as Sen. John McCain, should be invited to criticize Obama's national-security policies on air. Giuliani is as broadly qualified (or unqualified) as the Democratic (or Republican) strategists, or liberal or conservative commentators, who recite partisan talking points about every political issue no matter how far from their experience. But I agreed with Sargent that his identification of Giuliani's apparent ignorance of what Obama's nuclear strategy actually is with regard to Iran is a real problem....
  • The Problem With Politics? Apparently, It’s Media.

    After months of highly publicized and well-funded lobby battles over health-care and student-loan reform, it was becoming easy to diagnose money as the leading evil responsible for polarizing American politics. But a new Rasmussen poll reports the contrary. New numbers out this week show that a majority of voters (55 percent) lay the blame on media bias over money (32 percent)—suggesting that they’re more frustrated with the pundits inside their TVs and newspapers (and, OK, magazines too) than the fat checkbooks in Washington.It’s somewhat obvious that increasingly ideological programming on the cable channels has contributed to polarization. The sheer fact that Glenn Beck made $32 million last year illuminates just how big of a business opinion journalism can be. (It’s also a factor of why CNN, the most centrist of the three cable power hitters during prime-time programming, has seen its ratings slump over the past year.) But it’s a big deal, and certainly worth noting, when media...
  • Why Are Chicago Liberals Less Divided Over Race Than New York Liberals?

    Over at TPM, Jim Sleeper, author of Liberal Racism, has a review of New York Times veteran Gerald Boyd's memoir My Times in Black and White. In it, he makes passing reference to New York liberals being much less able to grapple with the issues his book raised than their counterparts in Chicago. Having lived in both cities, I think I can explain why. ...
  • Quote of the Day: Bob McDonnell

    The failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake, and for that I apologize to any fellow Virginian who has been offended or disappointed.... Slavery was an evil, vicious and inhumane practice which degraded human beings to property, and it has left a stain on the soul of this state and nation. —Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, in a statement about his controversial proclamation naming April as Confederate History Month. Read the full statement here.
  • Chicago GOP Takes Strange Foray Into Internet Porn

    Normally, the Web sites of political parties are supposed to feature photos of beaming candidates alongside pleas for donations. But that’s not quite the case this afternoon over at the online portal of the Chicago Republican Party. The top of its site features a large photo of a topless woman in a seductive pose, followed by a strange and barely comprehensible essay about John Edwards's mistress Rielle Hunter’s upcoming interview with Oprah. (The Gaggle is too much of a family site to excerpt the photo, but you can see it here—and don’t say we didn’t warn you.)The item appeared to be posted by a guest contributor, someone named Lumi Boldovici, who says she lives in Paris and appears to have contributed other risqué items to the site in the past. But instead of going after Boldovici, those who left comments were aiming their fire at Chicago GOP leaders, who appeared to be responsible. “Could you take the porn off your Web site?” wrote one. “I thought this was the party of...
  • Should Charlie Crist Reconsider an Independent Run?

    During his recent debate against Marco Rubio on Fox News, Gov. Charlie Crist seemed to stamp out speculation that he'd run as an independent in the Florida Senate race. When Chris Wallace asked if he was "ruling out that you will file as an independent," Crist responded, "That's right. That's right. I'm running as a Republican."...
  • Protesting Glenn Beck, one haiku at a time

    Rather than marching with bucket drums and waving signs in the streets, the Jewish Fund for Justice is taking to the tweets—or, ah, Twitter—to protest Glenn Beck’s inflammatory remarks comparing social justice religious groups with communism or Nazism. The group is calling for protesters to tweet haikus to Beck’s Twitter account and inundate the talk-show host with quippy poetry for 24 hours by posting a new haiku every minute. The “Twitterstorm” will end Wednesday at 9 p.m. Here are some of our own @GlennBeck tweet haikus: With tears running downhis maudlin face, Glenn Beck iscrying to the bank Beck hates religionso, at least he is not anew Pat Buchanan Who would have thought thatJews might find comparisons toNazis offensive
  • The Multiple Beefs Behind the Kyrgyz Government Overthrow

    Protestors overran Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday, forcing the country's president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, to evacuate the capital city of Bishkek on his presidential plane. Police fired bullets, tear gas, and stun grenades into the crowds, killing 41 people (opposition leaders say the toll is much higher, perhaps 100). The protesters, for their part, have bloodied the cops by hurling rocks, brandishing sticks, overturning vehicles, and crashing vans through gates. The opposition succeeded in taking over national television channels, though news Web sites were being blocked....
  • Obama in Prague: Four Things He'll Have to Accomplish

    You might call April a nuclear month for President Obama. After announcing the administration’s Nuclear Posture Review this week, the president will travel to Prague tonight to sign a treaty with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev—an overture to a nuclear-arms summit hosted at the White House next week that is expected to include more than 30 heads of state.Prague was chosen to kick off the proceedings because of a speech Obama gave there last year in which he called for a nuclear-free world. A year later, he hasn’t accomplished that vision, and likely never will. But his plans do move nuclear nonproliferation forward in a significant way by emphasizing that if the world won’t reduce its nuclear stockpiles, then at least leaders should commit to not developing new weapons and not using them against non-nuclear states. Obama faces the steep battle of convincing the rest of the world he's serious, while at the same time stunting the nuclear aspirations of rogue states or terrorist...
  • Double Standard or Not, Bristol Palin’s Anti-Pregnancy PSA Actually Kind of Good

    The teen birthrate in the United States may be down 2 percent, but Americans still have the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world—and Bristol Palin, apparently, is trying to do something about it. Now I wouldn’t normally reveal this, but the 19-year-old baby mama Palin’s new anti-pregnancy PSA, produced by the Candies Foundation, for which she is an ambassador, actually gave me goose bumps. I’ll follow that by saying that Law & Order gives me goose bumps, but the point is that the 30-second spot is actually not bad. Part of an ongoing series for National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, it features a freckled Palin, with son Tripp, 1, staring starkly into the camera to ask, “What if I didn’t come from a famous family? What if I didn’t have all their support?” spliced between campaign jeers and the noise of a crying child. She concludes: “Believe me, it wouldn’t be pretty.” Now, certainly the ad is hypocritical (do as I say, not as I do!), and many have poin...
  • Kindle's Lame iPad Dis: 'Easy to Read, Even in Bright Sunlight'

     "Sweetie, I know you just dumped me for a guy with more money, bigger muscles, a faster car, and great hair. But remember, I, uh ... I have the complete collection of state quarters. That counts for something, right? Right?" On its home page, Amazon's ads for the Kindle—the grayscale, static screen, no-apps-or-Internet Kindle—are reduced to grasping at straws.
  • Harry Reid: Not Much of a Mathematician

    With Congress on recess, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is on the campaign trail in Nevada, preparing for a reelection fight in November. Via The Weekly Standard, he spoke with Carson City's Nevada Appeal yesterday and had an upbeat message: "If the election were held today, I'd win."...
  • Greenspan Continues to Chip Away at His Legacy

    In his testimony before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission this morning, Alan Greenspan masterfully blamed everyone but the Federal Reserve for their role in the blossoming of the subprime mortgage market and the ensuing financial collapse. It was an amazing performance in the technique of covering your ass....
  • Promiscuous Bacteria Gone Wild: Why Sushi Gives More Energy to the Japanese

    Any Westerners who have thought to themselves, gee, Japanese people sure seem to get a lot more out of sushi than I do, are more right than they probably guessed. A new study finds that bacteria living in the intestines of Japanese but not North American people harbor genes for digesting red algae (a.k.a. seaweed, or nori) of the kind typically wrapped around sushi. The genes digest carbohydrates (or to be perfectly precise, polysaccharides) in the seaweed. As a result, Japanese people can extract energy out of the seaweed, but Americans derive no nutritional benefit....
  • GOP Sen. Coburn Extends Olive Branch of the Year

    Remember the charges last summer that civility in Washington is dead? Not so. Just ask GOP Sen. Tom Coburn, who at a town-hall meeting over the weekend in Oklahoma had some choice words for the Foxerati. After a woman explained her fear of being thrown in the slammer if she didn’t buy health insurance, Coburn took her and his gossip-spreading partisans to task. “The intention is not to put any one in jail,” he said. “That makes for good TV news on Fox but that isn’t the intention.” Taking a jab at Fox in front of a conservative audience is risky—even political suicide to get on the behemoth network’s bad side—but Coburn kept going. Not only is Fox at times inaccurate, but Nancy Pelosi, the person Republicans have spent the most time vilifying, is actually “a nice person.” Huh? “How many of you all have met her?” he asked the crowd that we can only imagine had its jaws on the floor.No word yet on how GOP Central will handle Coburn’s remarks. On the one hand, it's hard to argue...
  • Representative Pothole

    Remember those Hillary Clinton ads with the Batphone ringing that demanded to know who you want answering a call in the White House at 3 a.m.? (The answer you were supposed to come up with is "Someone who lived there for eight years already.") ...
  • A Response to Politico Re: Yesterday's "Odd, Lengthy Attack"

    Yesterday, I posted a column here on the Gaggle criticizing a Politico story by Carol Lee for framing Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s re-election campaign as “a bellwether for how Obama fares in 2012.” Now Ben Smith, the site’s lead blogger, is linking to my post and describing it as "an odd, lengthy, attack... which rants a bit about winning the morning but doesn't ever question Lee's basic point, which is the White House's unique investment in the race." So I figured I should respond. Ben is right to say that I didn't question the White House's unique investment in the race. The reason? The White House is, in fact, uniquely invested in the race, as the first half of the Politico story clearly shows. I should’ve given Lee more credit here. Her observation was astute and her reporting was solid.  What I did question was the second half of the story, which dealt with the more controversial “theories” of “Patrick’s campaign as a dry run for 2012”...
  • Why Investment Banking Revenues Are Heading Down

    Investment banks may have wrecked the world economy in 2008, but they sure made money picking up the pieces. In 2009, the global investment-banking industry took in $311 billion in net revenue, a 50 percent jump from 2008 and only $17 billion off its 2007 peak. Profit margins last year were 24 percent, the highest ever. Leading the pack were the usual American suspects: Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Citi, and Bank of America. Armed with TARP cash--essentially, free money from the Fed--and facing a cleared field thanks to the demise of Lehman Bros. and Bear Stearns, i-banks took advantage of a lack of liquidity and huge spreads in credit and fixed-income markets. Trading revenues soared as leverage remained high. Those that dialed back on risk, like Morgan Stanley, came to regret it. For the most part 2009 was easy money. But that party is over. A recent Boston Consulting Group report forecasts an 11 percent drop in industry revenues in 2010. Even as the economy recovers and traditional...
  • Will West Virginia Mine Disaster Affect National Energy Debate?

    As the scene in West Virginia becomes more dire—and as the death toll, now at 25, continues to rise—Washington has taken note. Dozens of lawmakers have offered condolences and West Virgina Rep. Nick Rahall has called for a full investigation into what happened. This morning, at a post-Easter prayer breakfast, President Obama offered the state any assistance the federal government could offer. It’s a relevant topic on Capitol Hill, which stands ready to take up energy security next on its docket. But that raises the question: will such a fresh reminder of the dangers of coal mining influence the nation's energy debate, underscoring the imperative to move beyond coal?The answer is probably not. "This is a mining accident," says Bill Wicker, communications director for the Senate Energy Committee. "This issue involves the health and safety of our miners, not our energy future." Coal is the one fuel that powers most of what we do. It accounts for about 45 perce...
  • Van Hollen: 2010 Won't Be Like 1994

    Unlike his flamboyant predecessor, Rahm Emanuel, the current chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen has all 10 fingers and doesn’t curse as much. His style is so markedly different, and low-key, that any profile of him inevitably wonders whether such a nice guy can finish first in the rough scrum of politics. Asked by a reporter why he stayed on at the DCCC for another cycle, after successfully adding seats to the Democratic majority in '08, he said with a laugh, "The speaker made me an offer I couldn't refuse, as they say in The Godfather. She understood this would be a difficult cycle, not a time to bring on someone who needed training wheels.' " ...
  • Teen Birthrate Declines: Good News Nationally, Still Bad News Globally

      The teen birthrate declined 2 percent in 2008, according to new, preliminary data released by the CDC. The new number is a welcome relief for public-health officials: between 2006 and 2008, the teen birthrate had increased 4 percent, halting a decades-long trend of dropping adolescent childbearing through the 1990s and early 2000s.What caused this drop in teen births is difficult to say but will likely be subject to numerous spins in the coming days. The National Abstinence Education Association has taken it as evidence in favor of "placing a priority on the risk avoidance abstinence-centered message," whereas supporters of comprehensive sex education, which has a much stronger body of research, will likely fire back that 2008 was the year when 25 states opted out of Title V abstinence-only funding, the highest number since the program began in 1996. I suspect the explanation is more complex than any one approach to sex education can account for.It will be important to...
  • Putting the iPad Through the Mom Test

    At certain points during the run-up to the launch of the Apple iPad, it seemed like techies were more excited to buy the tablet for their mothers than for themselves. Something about the intuitive, super-simple interface just says "Mom" to a lot of people. I'm among them (although I'm also pretty eager to get one for myself). I could hardly contain my excitement when the iPad was finally released on Saturday, heading over to the nearest Apple store as soon as the lines died down to get a hands-on look at the new device. And I dragged my reluctant mother along, trying to convince her that the iPad was something she'd want to see. My mom is someone who cares little about electronic gadgets. For her, computers are strictly a means to an end. She uses a laptop primarily for basic word processing and Web-browsing tasks. Her computer is a slow first-generation MacBook with a broken optical drive and a cracked case—but it works for her (most of the time) and tha...
  • BRICs' Investment in Africa Takes Off

    Africa has garnered attention as the next hot spot for foreign investors—and it's not just the West that's looking to the continent. Despite the recession, direct investment by the BRICs has soared, and at a much faster pace than those of Europe and the U.S. A look at foreign direct investment from 2007-08 (the latest year available): Percentage increase in EU investment in Africa, to $27.3 billion Percentage increase in Brazilian, Russian, and Indian investment in Africa, to $2.35 billion Percentage increase in Chinese investment in Africa, to $5.5 billion Percentage decrease in American investment in Africa, to $3.3 billion Source: Overseas Development Institute
  • 'National Geographic' Water Issue: Emerging Problems Have Many Solutions, But Will We Act Fast Enough?

    National Geographic has a special issue out this month, devoted exclusively to our planet’s diminishing water supply. As Barbara Kingsolver writes in the opening essay: Civilization has been slow to give up on our myth of the Earth’s infinite generosity … We pumped aquifers and diverted rivers, trusting the twin lucky stars of unrestrained human expansion and endless supply. Now water tables plummet in countries harboring half the world’s population. Rather grandly, we have overdrawn our accounts. The worst consequences of that overdrawing are all around us now being realized. Some of the anecdotes Nat Geo uses to illustrate this point are familiar: glaciers retreating, freshwater fish dying off, and women in developing countries having to walk really, really far for the kind of water that most of us in the developed world wouldn’t deign to wash our laundry in, let alone drink or bathe with.  But other anecdotes are less familiar, and show just how bad things have gotten: in the...
  • Quote of the Day — Rep. Steve Cohen

    "He looked more like a captured soldier in North Vietnam than he did a United States senator. It was very sad and, I tell you, his wife Cindy, she was about ready to just drop dead."—Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee, referring to Sen. John McCain's body language at a campaign rally last month that featured Sarah Palin.