The gist of the Democratic campaign is that this race is not about left vs right, liberal vs conservative, democrats vs republicans. It’s about the future vs the past, about uniting the country instead of dividing it. The gist of the Republican campaign is that McCain has the experience to lead. Well, yes, McCain has plenty of experience. Unfortunately, in a mud slinging game, much of McCain’s experience is the wrong kind. John McCain seems to have forgotten the lesson his momma surely must have taught him: People who live in glass houses (even if there are seven or eight of them) shouldn’t throw stones. McCain has enough dirt in his past to be concerned, because throwing stones just may draw voter attention to it. Special Interests? He’s Pandered To them
The maverick reformer found campaign finance reform religion only after getting reprimanded for having his hand in the cookie jar. No need to detail that here, but suffice it to say that the McCains and the Keatings had a very cozy financial friendship, with babysitters, vacations and jets paid for along with plenty of campaign cash.
McCain has made much of his fight against special interests, placing it near the center of his campaign, nestled snugly against his POW experience, military family lineage, and newfound convictions on abortion and religion. But his signature piece of legislation in this area, the McCain-Feingold Act, seems to have given much power to lobbyists to raise untraceable amounts of money using those squirrely 527s ( tax exampt entities that operate outside of the campaign finance structure yet have the power to influence election outcomes.) And there’s plenty of McCain special interest pandering and shady connections that’s not yet been fully exposed to American voters.
Do Unto Others As Was Done Unto You?
You’d think McCain would be averse to slinging mud at Obama. After all, Bush and Rove did it to McCain with great gusto, and there’s no way he could have liked it. Remember? Bush supporters circulated fliers in churches calling him the ‘Fag Candidate’ in South Carolina. They circulated rumors that he was gay. They also circulated rumors that he had fathered illegitimate children (no need for consistency when it’s mud and gorilla dust you’re throwing…the idea isn’t that it sticks, but that it hurts!) And the Manchurian candidate rumors made the rounds, suggesting that his bad temper was proof that he was unstable from his 5 and a half years of imprisonment in Vietnam.
So I believed John McCain when he spoke so earnestly about his desire for a different kind of campaign for President. Now, we’re getting a McCain campaign that is all smears and character assassination, with the occasional ode to the warrior ad thrown in to this dishonorable mix, to make sure we remember to stand and salute.
8 Year Old Obama Friends With Radical!
The most recent mud he’s slinging is an attempt to link Obama with a 60’s radical named Mark Ayers, who committed his crimes at a time when Obama was 8 years old. Ayers is now a free man due to a legal technicality. He’s a tenured professor in Illinois who happens to live in the same neighborhood as Obama. Apparently, he prefers Democrats to Republicans (not uncommon for people who were on the far left in the 60s.) Where’s the surprise in it? It’s a two party race, the Ds speak to the left, the Rs speak to the right, and the rest of us in the middle try to sort it out and make our best choice for the good of our whole country. Big deal. Double dog dare you to draw up the lists of who supports whom, because I’m sure you can find a whole host of unsavory characters on both sides. After all, this is politics, and politics makes strange bedfellows.
The last few weeks have seen low blow after low blow, and almost all of it is completely fabricated. This Ayers ad reminds many of the Willie Horton ad that worked so well against Michael Dukakis in his race against our current president’s father. And it reminds many of the Swiftboating of John Kerry, because it has no substance behind it.
How It Could Be Different This Time
To quote our President: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…uh…don’t fool me again.” We’ve seen this type of campaign so many times that it’s now obvious when it’s happening to all but the dimwitted few. And to those who believe the tightening up in the polls reflects favorably on this bad behavior, I say they are mistaken. To my eyes, these are weak attempts to undermine an opponent, and what they reflect is that the McCain camp can’t make the case for themselves without it. It gives McCain the appearance of being out of touch, old and flailing, the opposite of the narrative he wants you to believe, that he’s both a statesman and a brave and noble warrior.
After allowing them to dish out and not answer it, I suspect the Obama camp is doing a rope-a-dope strategy. Let the other fellow throw it all out there and exhaust himself, and then in the later rounds, come out swinging. And instead of trying to take the other guy down, it’s the Aikido approach of contain it, frame it, ridicule it.
The Art of Persuasion: Frame The Attack
From a persuasion standpoint, Obama is using the attacks to highlight the real issues, and at the same time point out the lack of a credible agenda from John McCain. The message is “Here’s a campaign that is so out of touch with our current problems that they have nothing left but to make stuff up about the 60’s.”
I suspect that every attempt by McCain to tar and feather Obama from this point on is going to backfire on him. Americans have had too many years of the same old song when it comes to politics. A smart campaign can point it out. Things are pretty bad for a lot of people right now. Economically, militarily, socially, we’re hurting. Unless McCain figures out how to run a campaign of ideas, a campaign that truly recognizes the serious challenges facing our nation and the need for an intelligent, focused and competent response, he’s going to find every rock he throws flying back at him, every attempt to stain Obama putting another stain on his once bright veneer in the national psyche.
I really expected better from John McCain. I know I’m not alone. If Obama is as smart as everyone says, McCain has handed him the key to victory.
I’d love to hear your comments on the mudslinging in the campaign for President.