So Barack, Are You Just Gonna Take It?
by January 20, Tue Jul 29, 2008 at 10:49:56 PM EDT
Over the past few days there have been a few diaries, and a lot of comments, about Obama's lack of retort to McCain's amped up attacks. The general line was why the hell are we taking this shit? There were the expected (and fairly reasonable) questions about whither Obama's Rapid Response apparatus? Where are the rebuttal ads? And where are the pit-bull surrogates? (Hillary, we're looking fondly at you here.)
Yes, looking at this stage of the campaign as a series of battles does seem to indicate that we're in need of a... surge. To be entirely fair, a well-timed surge can surely save your bacon - in the short run.
I'm going to tread on dangerous ground here, and suggest that we can all agree on something: whether you like the guy personally or not, whether you like (all) his policies or not, most of you should probably agree that he's run a strong, disciplined, and strategic campaign. Stripping away my feelings for Obama (I like the guy!) I still figure this operation does know what it's doing. Now we're starting to see the results of this soft-walk approach.
Dangerous ground after the fold.
Had the Obama team been front & center, blasting back at McCain, the optics would be of a negative campaign battle between the two parties. Instead, by staying above the McCain dip into despair, Obama has let his rival flounder away. Obama just isn't casting any shade on McCain's fretting. Resisting the temptation to insert some tasteless sun exposure wisecrack, I'll just cut to the fact that John just ain't doing well in the bright light of sober reason.
Since Obama isn't taking the bait, McCain is out there whining, crying, and lying, all on his own. This means that media attention can be focused directly on McCain, and McCain alone.
Today's editorial in the NY Times is not just blistering in its attack on McCain's negative turn, they also clearly line up the McCain-Bush-Rove ducks:http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/30/opinio n/30wed1.html?hp
Mr. McCain used to pride himself on being above this ugly brand of politics, which killed his own 2000 presidential bid. But he clearly tossed his inhibitions aside earlier this month when he put day-to-day management of his campaign in the hands of one acolyte of Mr. Rove and gave top positions to two others. The résumés of the new team's members included stints in Mr. Bush's White House and in his 2004 re-election campaign, one of the most negative and divisive in memory.
Almost immediately, the McCain campaign was using Mr. Rove's well-honed tactics, starting with an attempt to widen this nation's damaging ideological divide by painting Mr. Obama as a far-left kook. On July 18, Mr. McCain even suggested that Mr. Obama is a socialist to the left of the Senate's only avowed socialist: Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Mr. Obama's politics are hardly far-left, and anyone who has spent time in a socialist country knows how ridiculous that label is for any member of Congress. It would be bad enough if Mr. McCain honestly believed what he said, but we find that hard to imagine.
Taking a page straight from Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove, Mr. McCain has been trying to distract voters from his support for an unending war in Iraq by portraying Mr. Obama as unpatriotic and weak. This line of attack reached a crescendo last week when Mr. McCain fumed and fussed and went to places with European-sounding names while Mr. Obama traveled abroad.
Mr. McCain repeatedly said Mr. Obama "would rather lose a war to win a political campaign" and that he "does not understand" what is at stake in Iraq. He also accused Mr. Obama of canceling a visit to wounded American troops in a German military hospital because news cameras were not allowed. That's a false account of what occurred -- and Mr. McCain ignored Mr. Obama's unheralded visit to a combat hospital in Baghdad.
Like Mr. Bush, Mr. McCain confuses opposition to an unnecessary war with a lack of spine and an unwillingness to use force when the nation is truly in danger. Obviously, Mr. Obama is untested as a commander in chief and his trip was intended to reassure voters. But Mr. McCain is as untested in this area as Mr. Obama, and it is hard to imagine a worse role model than the one Mr. McCain seems to be adopting: President Bush.
If that's not compelling enough, the WaPo carries a major piece "McCain Charge Against Obama Lacks Evidence"http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/con tent/article/2008/07/29/AR2008072902286_ 2.html?hpid=topnews&sid=ST2008072902 360&pos=
For four days, Sen. John McCain and his allies have accused Sen. Barack Obama of snubbing wounded soldiers by canceling a visit to a military hospital because he could not take reporters with him, despite no evidence that the charge is true.
The attacks are part of a newly aggressive McCain operation whose aim is to portray the Democratic presidential candidate as a craven politician more interested in his image than in ailing soldiers, a senior McCain adviser said. They come despite repeated pledges by the Republican that he will never question his rival's patriotism.
A reconstruction of the circumstances surrounding Obama's decision not to visit Landstuhl, based on firsthand reporting from the trip, shows that his campaign never contemplated taking the media with him.
And Politico http://www.politico.com/news/stories/070 8/12131.html(yesterday)
Despite vulnerabilities that have kept the race closer in polls than most analysts expected -- and McCain even jumped to a 4-percentage-point lead among likely voters in a USA Today/Gallup Poll released Monday -- Barack Obama dominates the race by virtually any other measure. He is dictating the agenda and soaking up news coverage as McCain and his team scramble to react.
"McCain is snakebit," lamented one longtime Bush loyalist.
Too often, GOP insiders grumble, McCain's strategy seems simply reactive. On Sunday, Obama announced he'd be meeting with his economic advisers on Monday. On Monday morning, the McCain campaign announced a conference call with his economic advisers.
McCain's bitterness, frustration and near-obsession with Obama are on plain display: He even gave some free advertising to his opponent's book the other day, complaining about the Illinois Democrat's headline-grabbing trip.
"We rejected the audacity of hopelessness, and we were right," the Arizona Republican said Friday, playing off the title of Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope."
So McCain gets uncomfortable coverage of his temper tantrums & hissy fits while Obama remains the candidate of hope. Certainly there are some risks to this strategy but I think they're manageable risks. It's a given that McCain's base is responding well to the tough-guy antics, and I think this a reason we're seeing polling strength - he's juicing the hard-core ditto-heads who have had a hard time embracing their candidate. The depth of this depravity is probably only just sinking in with independents & moderate Republicans so it's a touch early to see movement away from the crazy angry guy. But, as the press keeps putting McCain's McTantrums on display more people will get a sour taste from the exposure.
I think these attacks have been a gift. If McCain's handlers can wrestle their candidate into focussing on himself & some sort of cohesive, substantial GOP view of the country, we could still have a true fight on our hands. If McCain wants this to be about Obama then I'm happy. Obama does the high road very well (and I'm including those of you who thing that in the past he just appeared to take the high road.)
We're energized and mobilized. Our candidate is building the biggest, most organized grass roots and professional machine that this country has ever seen. Our opponent....
Well, I'll let the last graf of the Times' editorial sum it all up:
Many voters are wondering whether a McCain presidency would be an extension of Mr. Bush's two disastrous terms. If the way Mr. McCain is running his campaign these days is an indication, Americans don't have to wait until next January for the answer to that one.