Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Geraghty on the "good-cop/bad-cop" mentality in the McCain campaign

I'll be honest with readers. We're not sure if John McCain really knows what it takes to win an election. He claims -- repeatedly -- that he wants to run a clean campaign, and he wants to rise above partisanship. That's all well and good, but in an election you can't afford to play that game. Geraghty the Indispensable takes John McCain to task. Let's hope the message hits home:

Good-Cop, Bad-Cop Will Not Win This Campaign For McCain

This was a particularly frustrating weekend to be a Republican, a conservative, or a McCain supporter.

The UK papers tend to have a little looser standards for sourcing – remember the headlines about McCain’s “cancer scare” from a bruise on his head – but a lot of
this story, indicating dissension in the McCain ranks about how to go after Obama – is pretty believable. The article suggests some around McCain would prefer "an honorable defeat" than make a campaign that is out of the senator's character, while Sarah Palin thinks that attacking Obama's character is fair game.

Palin’s already
publicly second-guessed the McCain campaign’s decision to pull out of Michigan (albeit in a light-hearted way). McCain had made long-ago comments about Jeremiah Wright being out of bounds, but Palin has discussed Obama’s relationship with the pastor famous for "God d*** America."

And when a guy keeps reiterating that he would rather lose an election than lose a war, and that he wants to win in “
the best way, not the worst way,” it’s easy to conclude there are certain things he’s just not willing to do to win.

There are two problems with this approach. One, is that it seems McCain — and notice I say the candidate, not the campaign — is more or less assenting to the MSM’s view of what is in bounds and what is out of bounds in terms of relevance and good taste in this campaign. The MSM thinks that Ayers, Wright, Rezko, the theme of the “Celebrity” ad, ACORN voter fraud efforts, the Democrats' blind eye to the mismanagement of Fannie and Freddie, and basically any other story that might actually harm Obama's standing in the polls is out of bounds.

The second problem is that it’s tough to dabble in the controversial topics. (And I understand the argument that many voters only pay attention in the final month, but when you bring up Ayers, etc. with four or five weeks to go, when you're behind, it is a near-guarantee that the strategy will be painted as a desperation move.) You either have to insist that the whole lot of Obama's associates — Ayers, Dohrn, Wright, Meeks, Pfleger, Rezko, Nadhmi Auchi, Rashid Khalidi, Alexi Giannoulias — are revealing about the candidate's character, judgment, and worthy of discussion, and defend that argument full-throatedly... or you can't go there. You certainly can't back down in the face of media criticism; that back-and-forth implicitly validates the media criticism.

The current circumstance - where the bottom half of the ticket seems to have no hesitation, while the top of the ticket
tells audiences his opponent is "decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States"... it creates the worst of both worlds. The press paints Palin as the ruthless smear artist, while the base concludes McCain is too addicted to Senate courtesy to really make the case against his opponent.

Having said all of that, this is a particularly inopportune moment to be making the associations argument, as the country is riveted by the economic crisis. (Of course, as I write this, the stock market is skyrocketing.) Once Americans feel like their banks, their savings, their retirement accounts, their 401(k)s, and their economic futures are no longer in dire peril, they may be receptive to arguments on other topics.

I've watched political elections since 1984, when I actually started understanding them, and in all of these elections I have watched politicians pull out all the stops,m take off the gloves, and fight for what they want. Recently, we have seen John McCain back away from that "let's fight" mentality. As I said, it's all well and good if you want to rise above the fray, but you do so when the election is done. One man must contrast himself against the other, and when you're playing patty-cake -- making sure that neither side gets too muddy -- you're not likely to win anything save a footnote in history books.

To Geraghty's point about the media dictating what is and isn't out of bounds, John McCain needs to go where he needs to go. If it's to call Obama's judgment into question, then by all means, bring up his questionable relations. But when he does that with the media, he shouldn't be chastising his supporters at rallies for being "mean." Read up on those being "mean" in this election, and please realize it's not our side. That is as much for our readers as it is to McCain supporters. We're going to ratchet up our rhetoric because John McCain refuses to, and that's a letdown to us -- people who believed in his "let's fight" rhetoric at the convention.

Lastly, on the economy. Yes, the markets soared today, closing up over 936 points today, but that is hardly the end of this bumpy road. We agree with many of the pundits out there saying that he needs to drop the judgment argument, unless it's a caveat, and focus on the economy. He needs to draw a clear distinction between his economic ideas and Obama's. He's doing a good job of it, but his "good enough" might not be enough. And if he feels that Obama in the Oval Office (a possibility) and an overwhelmingly Democrat-controlled Congress (another possibility) is wrong for this nation then he needs to be hammering that point home.

The Democrats will raise taxes on a variety of points, including capital-gains (which will virtually kill the investor class), and on small businesses (leading to higher unemployment and businesses folding). They're not going to go forward with investigations into those who caused this mess in the lending industry. People like Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, Jamie Gorelick, Charles Schumer, Franklin Raines, and Jim Johnson will skate free, and we will witness this fiasco come down on us again in the future. This past week John McCain finally fulfilled one of his promises to "name names" when at a rally he pointed out both Dodd and Frank as being part of the problem. Since then, he's been mum on them.

He chose Sarah Palin for her reform-minded credentials, and the blue collar appearance. She's just like us, and guess what? She's just as angry as we are because she sees what has happened, and what continues to happen, to the nation in this economic slowdown. Instead of butting heads with her, as Geraghty reports above, they should be working on a solid message that resonates with voters. The economy will work. So will drilling. (Yes, we know that oil prices have gone down, but that is no excuse to toss the subject of drilling overboard. This nation must become energy independent.)

Stay focused on the differences between himself and Obama. that is where he needs to go. Forget about the associations. This late in the game it does seem to be a desperate ploy. You can tack them on after you make your points about the difference in vision for this nation. Whereas John McCain and Sarah Palin can get specific, Obama has to rely on vague ideas that have more than couple people a tad worried on Wall Street. McCain needs to come out swinging NOW and not wait until the eleventh hour. We've got three weeks left in this election, and McCain needs to set aside this idea of "winning with class." Politics is a bloodsport, and it's time the former Navy fighter pilot show some of that tenacity that we've been waiting for.

Publius II

1 Comments:

Blogger A Happy Warrior said...

Thomas,
We have many things in common (our first name for one) including a political philosophy, city of residence and talk radio programs. I've heard you many times on Hugh Hewitt. I just decided to enter the blogosphere with my own political commentary. Thought you might like it. Keep up your good work.

October 14, 2008 at 8:54 PM  

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