Steve Clemons, though he takes some needless and inaccurate swipes at the progressive left, has a pretty good take on Lieberman's Marshall Wittman hiring. In particular Clemons is worried about a McCain-Lieberman ticket in 2008 occupying the 'center' of the American political spectrum and pulling in disaffected Democrats, Independents, and Republicans to create a unity ticket. I saw this up close in Connecticut, and it worked quite well for Lieberman.
McCain is as skilled as Lieberman as a politician, so it could work for him as well, though only if we let it happen as we did for Lieberman. I say 'we', though in this case I don't mean the netroots, I mean all those ostensible reformer groups with the credibility of occupying the center, as well as the Democratic Senate leadership. CREW, Common Cause, NARAL, etc, these are the groups that failed us totally in Connecticut. I don't know why. I'm sure some of them preferred to retain credibility in DC instead of actually dealing with a corrupt and increasingly right-wing political chameleon willing to act in utter bad faith, whereas others were overburdened and just made the choice to lay off $387k in street money given the immense threat of a continued right-wing Congressional majority.
Regardless of the reasons, 'the adults' didn't want to intervene in Connecticut, so we lost. Voters just didn't want to believe that Joe Lieberman wasn't the man they thought he was. Jane thinks, and she could be right, that there just wasn't enough time for the voters to realize that Lieberman is a phony. I'm not sure about that. It's possible that voters will recognize it given time, or it's possible that the unwillingness of various political elites to point it out will mean that voters will never realize it. I'll be watching his SUSA approval ratings, which I suppose is the only way to know. The dynamics remind me of the McCain ticket, which is something I blogged about while I was obsessively covering the Lamont race.
No matter how many times Atrios shows that this is Saint McCain's war, or Thinkprogress shows McCain lying or changing his various positions, or the Senate Majority Project goes after him, the internet left just doesn't have the reach to make it stick. What we need are 'the adults' in the liberal establishment to consistently attack McCain and lay down the corrupt and untrustworthy narrative. This is one of the reasons I don't trust Obama, because he acted like a dependent battered partner and apologized to McCain after McCain viciously attacked him for no particular reason. I see weakness there and moral hollowness, papered over by charisma, brilliance, and ambition. I've also never heard Edwards criticize McCain, and Hillary Clinton allowed a surrogate to go after McCain in the clumsiest manner possible before retracting her criticisms.
But more than that, beating McCain is going to require a repudiation of the 'adult' moniker that Democrats just love. Whether it was the Graham-McCain-Warner 'compromise' on torture, which we saw from a mile away, or the Baker commission, or the new Defense Secretary, or Condi's lies about 9/11, it's time to realize that the Republicanish 'adults' are not in fact mature but are simply crazy and sleazy. Robert Reich shows the way by breaking the seal on McCain's media image.
I talked with John McCain Sunday morning in the green room just before "This Week." I asked him why he continued to call for more troops for Iraq when he must know it's a political non-starter. He said he thought it important for the morale of the troops.
McCain gives every impression of meaning what he says, which is one of his greatest assets. But I simply can't believe this one. What's most important for the morale of the troops is knowing they'll be coming home soon, not hearing some politician say we need more troops when there's no possible chance of that happening.
I think McCain knows Iraq is out of our hands - it's disintegrating into civil war, and by 2008 will be a bloodbath. He also knows American troops will be withdrawn. The most important political fact he knows is he has to keep a big distance between himself and Bush in order to avoid being tainted by this horrifying failure. Arguing that we need more troops effectively covers his ass. It will allow him to say, "if the President did what I urged him to do, none of this would have happened."
McCain is smarter on this score than Dems who intend to engage in post-Baker Commission "what we must do now" bipartisanship. It may make Dems feel relevant and important, but it will also make them complicit in the impending failure. Come 2008, they will share the responsibility for the horror of Iraq. HRC will be drawn in, as will Barak Obama and all other Dem notables who will feel it necessary to participate in a "plan."
In the end, McCain alone will be able to escape blame. At least, that's what I think he's thinking.
Reich is smarter and more progressive than most 'adults' in the establishment, but he's showing the way forward. The flip side of McCain the media darling and his 'Straight Talk Express' is a very simple 'McCain the pandering corrupt politician'. It's a perfect narrative, replete with Keating 5 and pro-war sentiments that have already been effectively laid down. We have a head start on McCain which we did not on Lieberman. Still, Democrats ought to go after McCain on this starting right now. They ought to immediately stop caring what the Baker Commission says. Democrats won this election, not the partisan Bush-crony James Baker. That should be obvious. And yet somehow it's not.
If we don't learn the lesson of Connecticut, which is that we must have all hands on deck to change voter impressions about a charismatic media darling with a long relationship to the electorate, then we may find ourselves with President John McCain and a new conservative Republican 'reformer' majority in the House and Senate in 2008. And the worst part will be that 30% of liberal voters will vote for this scenario because the Democratic leadership was too scared to explain to them what they are voting for. Start hitting him now.