Obama a Terrorist! McCain a Crook!
We’ve reached the seemingly inevitable part of the campaign where the trailing candidates start hurling charges out of desperation and the leader responds in kind. In the closing days of 1992, President George H.W. Bush, ordinarily among the most decent, genteel fellows you’d ever meet, was running around calling Bill Clinton and Al Gore “bozos.” He simply couldn’t believe that he, a war hero, seasoned public servant, and recent winner of the Gulf War, was losing to a draft dodging, dope smoking hick from Arkansas.
It appears that John McCain has reached that point. During the primaries, he merely shook his head and noted that “Life’s not fair” when guys like Mitt Romney and even Mike Huckabee were outpolling him. But he kept plugging away and ultimately won the nomination easily. It looked like he was going to do the same thing in the general election, even taking a small lead after connecting on the Sarah Palin Hail Mary. But, alas, life’s not fair and the financial crisis seems to have stopped his campaign in its tracks. (It’s been noted before that this campaign has eerie similarities to the Santos-Vinick race during the last season of “West Wing.” The financial crisis is apparently the real world’s answer to the nuclear plant disaster on the show.)
Howard Wolfson is almost surely right that “Bill Ayers Won’t Save John McCain.” Unless there’s far, far more to the association than we’ve seen, it’s a non-story that’s already been absorbed into the current polls. And this is right, too:
This dynamic is very unlikely to change. John McCain’s goal in the first debate was to discredit Senator Obama as a credible Commander in Chief and elevate the issue of foreign policy and national security. He didn’t come close. Absent a domestic terror attack the economy will remain the number one issue in the race, and there is little Senator McCain can do to make up his gap with Senator Obama on it. Oh, Senator McCain will try to make issues of Bill Ayers and Tony Rezko and Rev. Wright, and that might hurt Senator Obama around the margins — but it will not prevent him from winning. The economy is simply bigger than the rogues gallery that John McCain is conjuring up.
Palin kicked it up a notch yesterday with this nonsense: “Our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who target their own country.” To put it in a vernacular Palin might understand, that dog won’t hunt. (One presumes dogs are involved in moose hunting, although my expertise is limited.) It just comes across as a pathetic, desperate charge.
The foreign campaign contributions charge that’s been floated over the weekend is much more reasonable. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to work. I seem to recall proof positive that Clinton was taking money from Red Chinese nationals in 1996 not having much, if any, impact on the race.
Ironically, Obama’s planned countercharges involving the twenty-year-old Keating Five scandal are more likely to have an impact because they go against McCain’s cultivated anti-corruption “maverick” image and most people have forgotten about that scandal.
Barring a catastrophic event like a terrorist attack, I’m not sure what happens over the next four weeks to turn this thing around for McCain. It strikes me that his best course is to run an honorable, dignified campaign and simply sell himself. Who knows, if he doesn’t win maybe Obama will offer to make him Secretary of State.