I think McCain should leave the Wright issue to others. I suspect it will return with a video ad reminding people about this wierdo who now lives in white Tinley Park in his mansion instead of among his brothers. The left is looking for an excuse to play the race card on McCain so he has to tiptoe around it. Obama has dared him to mention Ayres to his face so it might come up in the last debate. I think the dare is an attempt to provoke anger in McCain but it might provoke some other things.
Posts For: October 10, 2008
Many of the McCain campaign memos put out for the media are less than elucidating and do not warrant mention. Today’s missive on ACORN is not one of those. In rather simple terms the long association between Barack Obama and this problem-plagued entity is explained. The memo reads in part:
As of today, ACORN is under investigation for fraudulent activities in at least 11 key battleground states and accused of wrongdoing in many others. According to election officials across the country, about 50% of ACORN’s voter registrations are fictitious. This week alone, ACORN offices in Nevada were raided by state officials – after the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys appeared registered to vote in Las Vegas – and in Connecticut, a seven-year-old child registered to vote as a 27-year-old.
. . .
The relationship between Barack Obama and ACORN dates back to the early 1990s, well before the start of his political career. In 1992, Obama directed Project Vote – an arm of ACORN that also encouraged voter registration. Around the same time, Obama began teaching classes for “Future Leaders Identified by ACORN,” and according to an op-ed at the time, Obama continued his community organizing work largely through these classes.
Obama soon moved on from his role as a community organizer and became a trial attorney for ACORN. In 1995, Obama represented ACORN in a lawsuit against the state of Illinois for its supposed failure to implement a federal law designed to make voter registration easier, and thus increasing the likelihood of voter fraud. Obama also joined two well-known boards with strong ties to ACORN – the Woods Fund and the Joyce Foundation. Under Obama’s watch, the Chicago ACORN branch received thousands of dollars in grants from both organizations.
During this year’s Democrat primaries, Obama’s campaign paid $832,000 to Citizens Services, an ACORN-affiliated organization, for get-out-the-vote efforts. Sensing the need to distance itself from the controversial organization, however, Obama’s Federal Election Commission report mischaracterized this work as “staging and lighting.”
All of this should give voters pause. This isn’t ancient history and it isn’t “guilt by association.” It is a very problematic part of Obama’s political milieu, one that he worked in and helped fund (until 2002, when he left the Woods Fund). At some point he should be required to answer some basic questions: Did he know of ACORN’s fraudulent practices and when did he know of them? And does he approve of its hardball tactics and left-leaning agenda?
In the Wall Street Journal today, we read that while Senator Obama’s association with William Ayers is considered a legitimate by Senator McCain, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright is “off limits.” The reason, according to a senior McCain adviser, is “it’s not appropriate to attack someone’s faith.”
This decision is both arbitrary and foolish. The controversy surrounding the Reverend Wright doesn’t have anything to do with matters of faith. No one cares what his views are on predestination v. free will or the doctrine of the Trinity. The issue has to do with Wright’s toxic views on race and his hatred for America.
For some of us, Obama’s association with Reverend Wright is at least as important as his association with Ayers. It’s true that Ayers is a more detestable and violent person. At the same time, Senator Obama’s relationship with Wright was much more intimate, longer, and may tell us more about Obama than the relationship with Ayers.
I recall when the Wright story broke. I had written some favorable things about Obama, and I certainly preferred him to Hillary Clinton. The Wright story, and Obama’s shifting explanations about it, caused a kind of cognitive dissonance. How could the Obama who was being portrayed in this campaign — a unifying, post-racial, thoughtful man who was the antithesis of demagoguery and radicalism — spend almost two decades in a church led by a man spewing such hate?
It began to dawn on me, as it did on others, that Obama was something quite different than what he was portraying himself to be. At best, he showed himself to be a fairly ruthless and unprincipled person, willing to use Wright to make his way up the Chicago/Hyde Park political ladder.
Senator Obama has never adequately explained his relationship with Wright; that goes for Ayers and Tony Rezko, too. Why Senator McCain would declare the Reverend Wright to be off limits is puzzling. His argument doesn’t withstand scrutiny. His decision seems to have been impulsive, based not on careful reasoning but on a peculiar sense of honor.
Quite apart from all that, it hurts McCain’s effort to win the election. The Revered Wright is an important data point in understanding the character of Senator Obama. To refuse to raise this matter in a thoughtful, reasonable way makes no sense.
Senator McCain’s task is very difficult; in deciding Obama’s relationship with the Reverend Wright is out of bounds, he’s made it even more so.
The following sounds like it’s from Don DeLillo, but is from AFP:
Outside the New York Stock Exchange hundreds of tourists joined police, TV crews, school children, hot dog vendors, and a white-bearded busker playing “Amazing Grace” on the flute.
Swedish visitor Agneta Blomgren, 43, photographed her mother Berit outside the exchange. An electronic board displaying plunging share prices provided the backdrop.
“We wanted to come and see it,” Blomgren said. “The Americans aren’t world leaders any more. It’s time for a shift and this is the symptom of that. Power is shifting away — perhaps to China.”
Try not to sound so upset, Agneta.
In the Financial Times, Phillip Stephens wrote, “For reasons that still elude me, one or two European politicians seemed to delight in the troubles of an ally that still guarantees their security.” The reason is: Europeans have grown so accustomed to living under American protection they don’t remember what a threat is.
But if I were Agneta I wouldn’t break out the Champagne just yet. It takes more than a few weeks of sliding stocks to dethrone the American menace. And last I checked, China (Oh, that I could hear from Agneta after one day under Chinese rule) has done what everyone in the West has done: cut their interest rates and hope for the best.
But thanks for the tourist dollars, Agneta. Be sure to buy some shirts.
Stock markets collapsed in Asia and Europe earlier today, leading to losses here. President Bush spoke from the Rose Garden this morning to urge calm, but shares fell both during and after his remarks. The global financial architecture is disintegrating as economies deleverage, and no bailout, rescue, or emergency plan seems able to restore calm. So we need to begin thinking about the geopolitical consequences of a worldwide depression.
Let’s quickly run through what has already been said. The decrease in global economic activity will lead to further declines in energy prices. Their drop will inevitably weaken the Russian, Venezuelan, and Iranian economies, and this development could reduce the threats posed by Putin, Chavez, and Ahmadinejad. At the same time, the United States will no longer be able to afford such a large military. For example, the Navy’s goal of adding an aircraft carrier every half decade seems more unrealistic by the day. Wall Street will decline in importance. Cashed-up Asian nations will bail out America and the West. The “Beijing Consensus” will gain traction as capitalism is perceived to have failed.
Are these propositions correct? It’s hard to believe that Ahmadinejad will be slowed by changes in oil prices. He may see Washington’s preoccupation with sliding stock markets as an opportunity to act and in any event think that America’s day has passed.
The Iranian president would be wrong, however. In times of severe stress, investors run to safety, which means the United States. So if any financial center suffers relative decline, it probably will not be New York. We may have to get used to living with our “Masters of the Universe” again.
And as for wealthy Asians, their day in the sun is passing. True, they built up large stockpiles of cash after 1997′s Asian Financial Crisis. China, for instance, has $1.8 trillion in foreign reserves. Yet these nations learned the wrong lessons from last decade’s turbulence, and, in accumulating such large sums, have created serious imbalances in their own economies. The imbalances, once hidden in the good times, are now being exposed in the global slide. China, for instance, is on the verge of a once-in-a-lifetime downturn in its export-dependent economy. Chinese enterprises are beginning to go bankrupt-10,000 factories in the nation’s export powerhouse, the Pearl River Delta of Guangdong province, have already closed this year, for instance. Another 20,000 are expected to fail by December. As go the Chinese, so too will the economies that depend on exporting to China. Virtually no nation will be immune to global contagion.
In synchronous failure, nations will probably turn inward as they try to solve economic problems. That would normally mean a more peaceful world as states lose their appetite for conflict.
Yet there are, unfortunately, counterbalancing trends. Before recent events, the Doha Trade Round looked as if it might falter due to intractable differences between the West and emerging nations, especially China, India, and Brazil. Now, the process of trade liberalization appears to be completely dead. If the post-Cold War era of globalization goes into reverse, Tom Friedman will look shallow for talking about a “flat world” and nations will be tied less tightly together. This second development could lead to increased antagonism as governments find fewer reasons to cooperate. And there is always the concern that Iran’s mullahs and other rogues will pick this time to fight.
Abe, I concur. But you delicately avoid the most baffling comment in Christopher Buckley’s column:
But having a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect, President Obama will (I pray, secularly) surely understand that traditional left-politics aren’t going to get us out of this pit we’ve dug for ourselves.
Oh, my–where to begin? A first-class temperament does not consort with terrorists or lie about his affiliation with the same. A first-class temperament does not invoke the race card when presented with legitimate criticism. A first-class temperament does not seek to shed his Leftist skin for political expediency. To conclude otherwise is confuse calm with deceit.
And as for the hope that his first-class intellect will lead him away from more extreme ideas, I am not sure what biography Mr. Buckley has been reading. But Obama’s is replete with identification with Left-wing causes and their practitioners. What would possibly lead him now to rethink a lifetime of political thought and action? Certainly a smashing political victory and a compliant Democratic Congress will be confirmation, if any was needed, that he has been on the correct ideological track.
John, it seems inconceivable that we have gotten this far in the election without Ayers being a point of contention. For reasons that aren’t clear, the McCain camp waited until the waning weeks of the campaign to raise this. But the MSM is disdainful of the subject and much of the public tunes out TV campaign ads. Still, the issue is beginning to resonate. From the latest Fox News poll:
There has also been discussion of Obama’s relationship with 1960s radical activist William Ayers — linked to bomb plots against the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol. Almost one-third of all voters (32 percent) say they’d be less likely to vote for Obama knowing of this connection — although the vast majority (61 percent) say it will have no effect on their vote. Somewhat fewer independent voters express reduced likelihood to vote for Obama based on the Ayers information — although, at 29 percent, it is still a potential liability among this key voter group.
And more generally on character and honesty there are some interesting findings:
On the one hand, voters see Obama (by a 41 percent to 26 percent margin) as being more likely than McCain to hide the truth about his background and past associations. . . When it comes to whether the candidates are putting their country first or their campaigns first, there is a bit more agreement. While a majority sees McCain putting the country first (54 percent), a strong plurality (48 percent) takes the same view of Obama. And, a solid majority of voters (56 percent) think the Illinois senator — unlike his Republican counterpart—is running a positive campaign. However, among the critical bloc of independent voters, more think Obama puts his campaign first (44 percent) rather than his country (41 percent). Independents have no such qualms about McCain — 55 percent think he puts country over campaign.
As distasteful as it might be for McCain (again, for reasons not altogether clear), he has no choice but to confront Barack Obama at the final debate. Is Obama sorry he consorted with an unrepentant terrorist? Did he share Ayers’ revolutionary educational reform? And why shouldn’t his association with Ayers, Dohrn, Rezko, ACORN, et. al raise concerns for voters? If the MSM — or even the debate moderator — won’t raise these issues, McCain must. If nothing else, the voters should hear answers from the man most likely to be president.
Jake Tapper reviews the history of Bill Ayers and his lack of remorse. He reports the following from the Obama camp:
Obama spox Bill Burton says of Obama’s comment that he thought Ayers had been “rehabilitated”: “Senator Obama was referring to his education work but he of course does not believe that work absolves him of the despicable acts that he committed 40 years ago.”
So if his educational work doesn’t absolve Ayers (we’ll leave for another day whether Obama thought the Leftwing claprtrap was great educational theory), and Obama understood at some point he was a henious terrorist, why did Obama remain affiliated with him? Another question for the debate!
Christopher Buckley, son of William F., has endorsed Barack Obama:
Obama has in him-I think, despite his sometimes airy-fairy “We are the people we have been waiting for” silly rhetoric-the potential to be a good, perhaps even great leader. He is, it seems clear enough, what the historical moment seems to be calling for.
So, I wish him all the best. We are all in this together. Necessity is the mother of bipartisanship. And so, for the first time in my life, I’ll be pulling the Democratic lever in November. As the saying goes, God save the United States of America.
Obama has the “potential” to be a great leader? Something’s wrong here. There’s no farm system for the White House. You can’t try the president out in single A and bump him up to the big leagues if he does well. And you can’t trade him if he’s in a slump.
Obama had potential back in 2004, when he electrified the Democratic Convention with his speech in Illinois. How long can you say someone has potential before it starts sounding rueful? He’s had four years in the spotlight to become kinetic and what’s he done? Campaigned for president and delivered “airy-fairy” speeches about everything from war to healthcare to climate change. There is, I think, a logical contradiction here: If you’re full of nothing but potential, your potential will never be realized. Over these years, while Barack Obama has been hoarding his potential–dancing with Ellen, embracing his pastor, disowning his pastor, speaking in Berlin, etc.–the world has been exercising its own plentiful inventory of substantial malice. The Taliban took the upper hand in Afghanistan, the surge Obama opposed started to work, Iran leaped closer to going nuclear, Vladimir Putin re-launched a campaign of Russian aggression, and the markets crumbled. Buckley can keep waiting on the endless promise of the great one’s potential. But the rest of humanity is busy doing other things.
This is a link to what appears to be the actual, genuine blog of William Ayers. Right here.
Here’s just one taste of pages and pages of the man’s deepest thoughts:
In my case, my actions were all well-known, I’ve resolved the legal charges, and I’ve faced the consequences. The legal system must of necessity hew to a narrow line—the law’s business is to weigh charges, render judgments, and level punishments, nothing more, nothing less. A central moral question remains—the question of individual responsibility and of the nature of moral judgment. But I still refuse to grow up if the price is to falsely confess a sin I don’t take to be a sin. What is left to do? Those who refused and suffered the lash of McCarthyism, those who “stood on principle”, had a terrible time trying to say what the principle was: Support for the U.S. Communist party? Not exactly. For Stalinism? No, definitely not. Opposition to anything the U.S. government does? The importance of never telling on friends? Free speech? I feel the same bind. What am I defending?
Perhaps it’s simply the importance of defying the ritual abasement and the rewriting of history. I embrace that defiance. Where in all the noise is there any authentic call for a process of truth-telling, a means to reconciliation? Where might we construct an honest chain of culpability?
There are pages, and pages, and pages, and pages more.
Never before has a presidential election taken place under conditions of a market panic. And even though conventional wisdom is often a terrible guide to political events, the conventional wisdom of the moment seems unassailable: The benefit goes to Obama.
But there has never been a market panic like this one either, with violent swings in value from minute to minute during a trading day and a kind of closed-loop contagion in which conditions in New York at closing time infect Asia and London, which in turn infect New York the next morning. Capital isn’t looking for a safe harbor; it seems to be evaporating on its own.
In the midst of a downward spiral, all one can see is the abyss. But spirals are not sinkholes; they also climb upward. And this one will. The question is when, and how high, and for how long. In previous eras, it would have been unthinkable that a correction could correct itself in a matter of weeks, but it is not unthinkable now; unlikely, but not unthinkable, since it is technically possible in a way it was not in previous collapses.
There could be some kind of short-term reversal, and perhaps, maybe, it’s possible, a short-term political reversal as well. The psychology of the present moment makes it impossible for us to see the impact of a market climb in the week before the election, accompanied by (say) a continuing fall in the price of oil such that people are paying $2.50 a gallon on the day before they go to the polls. The unprecedented nature of the current political-market situation makes it impossible to know what kind of effect it could have on McCain, but, as the old Jewish joke says of chicken soup, it couldn’t hurt.
On the other hand, the joke is about feeding the chicken soup to a dead person.
CNN is carving a new niche: actual investigative reporting on subjects adverse to Barack Obama. This report, coming on the heels of the excellent piece on the Bill Ayers connection, details the extent of the ACORN fraud racket. It is shocking, frankly. “It is fraud,” says the Democratic election official interviewed. And CNN pulls no punches: this is widespread. They are also clear that the Obama campaign spent $800,000 on ACORN and that Obama represented ACORN as an attorney. The only omission: while on the Woods Fund board, Obama and Ayers oversaw grants totaling nearly $200,000 to ACORN.
There is no reason why this topic (along with many others: Obama’s connections to far-Left cronies, Obama’s voting record in the Illinois state senate, Obama’s ever-shifting foreign policy positions) shouldn’t be covered by other MSM outlets. Republicans aren’t asking for anything other that this type of reporting: fair and factual. CNN’s reports are noteworthy because they are rare. The conclusion is inescapable: virtually all of the MSM has no interest in–or desire to cover–stories adverse to Obama.
John, I’m with you. What I was looking for, and what I imagine most Americans were, too, was a leader projecting the calm that he wants people to feel. This was probably the most important thing Bush could have done, and this he did not do.
In the Times of London, Gerard Baker writes:
There’s much in Mr Obama’s record that suggests he has more than dumb luck, but a signal ability to create and exploit it. He may have been the beneficiary of unusual amounts of political sunshine, but he has also been someone who has, as they say, made his weather.
Like his fans say, Obama has the wind at his back. Yet McCain can’t even turn paradisaical weather to his advantage. On its own terms, the continued success of U.S. forces in Iraq is a near miracle. Yet the man who championed the winning way from the start can’t seem to get anyone to notice, let alone care. And Obama’s rogues’ gallery of intimates–the crooks, cranks, and bombers who have been critical in shaping his career–end up looking like exaggerated footnotes once the McCain camp works them over in the press. John McCain repeats and repeats his charges against Obama, most of them valid, but instead of swaying public opinion, it comes off as white noise. He’s recounted his own astounding achievements so many times that his heroism is now taken for granted rather than marveled at.
The danger is in mistaking Barack Obama’s hypnotic talents for vision. People say this is Obama’s time because Obama says this is his time. But when you’re the one setting the clock, it’s always your time. In terms of what’s actually happening in the world, this is decidedly not Obama’s time. We’re in an economic meltdown of unforeseeable length and enormity, and Obama wants to raise taxes on small businesses and pay for everyone’s health coverage. We’re facing nuclear weapons in the hands of America’s most fearsome antagonist of the past thirty years, and Obama wants to talk to them about it. We’re finally winning a hellish five-year war of untold strategic importance, and Obama can’t wait to stop it. We’re attempting to turn around our luck in another critical war, and Obama has been threatening our most important potential ally for a year. The global economy has advanced down the inexorable path of integration, and Obama is wary of free trade. Every one of America’s fair-weather friends is telling us that U.S. dominance is a thing of the past, and Obama embraces the doctrine of American declinism.
This may not be Obama’s time–but that won’t stop him from making November 4 his moment.
Bush is speaking: “Anxiety can feed anxiety, and that can make it hard to see all that is being done to solve the problem.” He then lays it all out. The litany is impressive: Liquidity from the Fed, removal of commercial paper by the Treasury, the FDIC assuring deposits at banks and money-market funds, rigorous enforcement by the SEC against illegal market manipulation, new initiatives to help those in danger of foreclosure, and so on. It is not only impressive, it is important; it should quell the idea, which is still prevalent, that government is doing nothing to help anyone but Wall Street fat cats.
The problem is that anxiety is not helped by someone telling the anxious person not to be anxious. That only metastasizes the anxiety.
Charles Krauthammer explains the significance of Barack Obama’s associations:
Convicted felon Tony Rezko. Unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers. And the race-baiting Rev. Jeremiah Wright. It is hard to think of any presidential candidate before Barack Obama sporting associations with three more execrable characters. Yet let the McCain campaign raise the issue, and the mainstream media begin fulminating about dirty campaigning tinged with racism and McCarthyite guilt by association. But associations are important. They provide a significant insight into character. They are particularly relevant in relation to a potential president as new, unknown, opaque and self-contained as Obama. With the economy overshadowing everything, it may be too late politically to be raising this issue. But that does not make it, as conventional wisdom holds, in any way illegitimate.
But while most of the chattering class is at a loss to understand why this matters, Krauthammer is not:
First, his cynicism and ruthlessness. He found these men useful, and use them he did. Would you attend a church whose pastor was spreading racial animosity from the pulpit? Would you even shake hands with — let alone serve on two boards with — an unrepentant terrorist, whether he bombed U.S. military installations or abortion clinics? . . .Second, and even more disturbing than the cynicism, is the window these associations give on Obama’s core beliefs. He doesn’t share the Rev. Wright’s poisonous views of race nor Ayers’s views, past and present, about the evil that is American society. But Obama clearly did not consider these views beyond the pale. For many years he swam easily and without protest in that fetid pond.
. . .
Do you? Obama is a man of first-class intellect and first-class temperament. But his character remains highly suspect. There is a difference between temperament and character. Equanimity is a virtue. Tolerance of the obscene is not.
And perhaps, aside from crass political concerns, this is why conservatives are beside themselves as the revelations about Obama’s shady connections come forward and are blithely dismissed by the MSM rooting club. In the conservative worldview, to be judgmental and to make moral choices are central to living a decent life, let alone assuming the mantle of political leadership. Getting along or going along with evil (and make no mistake, Ayers and Dohrn were evil) or shedding one’s past when proven inconvenient is a red flag, a sign of moral vapidness. It is not a political stunt to raise these matters: it is a plea for ethical standards and seriousness.
Conservative concern may be overblown, but it is worthy of consideration. And it is therefore worth pondering what other plausible alternative explanation is there for Obama’s past behavior and his current slipperiness. If you can come up with one, you can rest easier that the Right’s concern is misplaced.
It might be encouraging to anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists (and some of my commenters may even criticize me for this reason) to note that as the world spins into a financial cataclysm, Israel has been sitting in a surprising calm. Who knows how long this can last, but for the time being, Israelis are not panicking. Yes, the stock market’s been volatile–though not nearly as much as those of the major economies. But nobody’s talking about bailouts, about failing credit, about housing. Banks are not failing. When Israel’s central bank cut rates on Tuesday, Israeli stocks did what they were supposed to do: They bounced back up. Since the beginning of October, the Dow is down nearly 20 percent. Israel’s equivalent, the TA 25, is down only about 5 percent.
There are a few reasons for all this. First of all, Israel’s banks have apparently behaved a lot more responsibly than some of those in the U.S. Though housing prices have gone up substantially, this has been the result of an increase in well-off immigrants from the U.S. and France, and a lack of sufficient housing, rather than any price bubble. They simply never got into the subprime habit. Second, Israel has benefited form a decade of prudent policy on both fiscal and monetary sides. Although everyone likes to bash Israeli governments, especially the last one under Olmert, the fact is that since Netanyahu’s economic reforms of the late 1990′s, every single government has held the line on spending. In that time, both inflation and unemployment have stabilized at relatively low levels. The country’s economy has grown over 4 percent for each of the last few years–including war-torn 2006. Although these various causes do not necessarily protect Israel from the worldwide crunch, there is a context of economic calm here that is radically different from what’s happening in the rest of the West, one that is self-reinforcing, much the way that panic selling is self-reinforcing in the U.S., Europe, and Japan.
Most Israeli non-investors are simply unaware of how attractive the Israeli economy has become. This is just too weird for a country that only two decades ago was reeling from triple-digit inflation and the repeated devaluation of its currency. I recently heard that one of the reasons for the massive increase in value of the shekel against both the dollar and the euro in the last year–something so acute as to drive Israel’s central bank to start buying up dollars in order to mitigate the shekel’s radical rise–is that speculators around the world have become increasingly interested in investing in shekels as a stable currency. The shekel has become, for many, a safe haven.
Again, who knows how long this can last. And it can certainly come undone if Tzipi Livni cuts coalition deals that commit her to busting the budget–something that for this very reason is looking increasingly unlikely. But in the meantime, let’s hear it for the shekel.
The Wall Street Journal‘s Kimberly Strassel goes to town debunking Barack Obama’s “magic tricks.” On the economy:
[T]he Great Obama will jumpstart the economy, and he’ll do it by raising taxes on the very businesses that are today adrift in a financial tsunami! That will include all those among the top 1% of taxpayers who are in fact small-business owners, and the nation’s biggest employers who currently pay some of the highest corporate tax rates in the developed world. Mr. Obama will, with a flick of his fingers, show them how to create more jobs with less money. It’s simple, really. He has a wand.
And on foreign policy:
And for tonight’s finale, the Great Obama will uphold America’s “moral” obligation to “stop genocide” by abandoning Iraq! While teleported to the region, he will simultaneously convince Iranian leaders to peacefully abandon their nuclear pursuits (even as he does not sit down with them), fix Afghanistan with a strategy that does not resemble the Iraqi surge, and (drumroll!) pull Osama bin Laden out of his hat!
Strassel takes John McCain to task because he “has so admirably restrained himself from running up on stage to debunk any of these illusions and spoil everyone’s fun” and because, at the last debate, despite “some pretty big openings,” he didn’t dismantle the Obama illusions.
There is a serious point here: why hasn’t the McCain camp been better at debunking Obama’s domestic and foreign policy prescriptions? The overriding image of the economy is meltdown has drowned out much of the message. But it is fair criticism, I think, that McCain himself has not made the most of the debates to take the attack directly to Obama. Certainly one need not get heated or personal to make the point repeatedly, doggedly, and forcefully that Obama is, in effect, peddling snake oil to a very sick patient. It is odd, in that McCain seemed quite capable of taking on his opponents in the GOP debates. And in interviews and speeches, he has, at times, voiced many of the arguments Strassel sets forth.
It is unclear whether this is a failure of will, execution, or strategy. But quite apart from the Ayers-Rezko-ACORN connections, there is a wealth of material at McCain’s disposal. The last opportunity to do this the final debate next week. He may have already frittered away opportunities, but there is one final setting. Unless McCain can make a passionate and convincing case that Obama is not just “risky” on character and judgment, but badly misguided on policy as well, the voters will decide he’s the best shot they have for changing course and arresting the economic chaos played out before them. Perhaps they already have.
Senator McCain’s campaign, which like the American economy was rocked by the financial crisis, has not found a way to mitigate the damage, let alone turn it to McCain’s advantage. The financial meltdown that’s unfolding reversed the momentum McCain had built after the convention and dramatically shifted the storyline of this campaign. It has easily become the most important development of election ’08 and, in fact, one of the most important economic moments in the last 75 years. The magnitude of what’s happened is enormous; suffice it to say that we live in a different economic world than we did only a month ago.
That has made it doubly difficult for Senator McCain to execute his end-of-the-campaign strategy, which is to highlight Senator Obama’s liberal record and his past associations. The attention of the public is riveted on other things, and it’s not at all clear what McCain can do to alter that fact.
The McCain campaign’s task is obvious: to find a way to turn the issue of the economy to their advantage. That is easier to say than to do; Obama has a significant advantage among voters when it comes to who is better able to fix the problems plaguing the economy, and voters hold the GOP more responsible for the credit crisis than they do Democrats. Unfortunately for Senator McCain, then, the campaign is ending with an intense focus on an issue where McCain (and the GOP) is weak rather than strong.
Senator McCain has had several weeks and two debates to change the arc of political events since the financial crisis hit, and he simply hasn’t succeeded. After an uneven couple of days, he has actually tried one fairly bold approach and then another, from suspending his campaign and returning to Washington to try to hammer out a deal to the mortgage purchase proposal unveiled (but not well-explained) during Tuesday night’s debate. Senator McCain’s hope is that he can somehow get traction with some line of argumentation. But so far, nothing has worked; as a result, there’s a frenetic quality to the campaign. I should add that I have some sympathy for the McCain campaign; running a presidential election (like governing) is a lot more challenging than commenting on it, and lots of pundits have lots of advice, most of which is not nearly as clever as they think.
Senator McCain is a fighter and a gambler, so he will undoubtedly try a mix of things to knock Obama off stride and get himself back on track during the next three-and-a-half weeks. He has another chance to try to jolt the course of events, at next Wednesday’s debate at Hofstra University. But that’s an enormous amount of importance to place on a single debate, against a skilled, agile, and seemingly unjoltable opponent.
The truth is that this has always been a very good year to be a Democrat, and Barack Obama has turned out to be a more formidable and appealing candidate than many Republicans had hoped. (His performance in the Democratic primary should have alerted Republicans to his talent and the skill of his organization.) Senator Obama certainly has weaknesses in terms of his record (deeply liberal), his achievements (which as a legislator are almost non-existent), and his past associations (disquieting). But he is quite good at defending his areas of weakness, and his campaign is first-rate: disciplined, well-organized, and extremely well-funded.
It’s true that in politics, things can change fast. For the sake of John McCain, they had better. He is now in the position of having to engineer a remarkable political comeback. It’s possible, but it’s not the place you want to be less than a month away from an election.
Rich Lowry observes Barack Obama’s political slipperiness:
But no one can know whether Obama is the leftist his associations suggest, or the irenic uniter of his iconic 2004 convention speech; whether he’s the down-the-line liberal who kowtowed to the base of his own party in the Democratic primaries, or the pragmatist who readjusted to the center as soon as enthralled liberals handed him the nomination. The consistent line running through his career is opportunism, a willingness to accommodate whoever — Bill Ayers or the swing voter in Ohio — can help him up the next rung in his ladder of ambition at any juncture. When McCain asks, “Who is the real Barack Obama?” it is taken as a desperate smear. But it’s a question even Democrats don’t know how to answer.
The surest clue to a politician’s intentions is his record, not his campaign rhetoric. Obama’s is fairly clear. Up through 2002 he sat on the Woods Fund and gave out money to a hodgepodge of left-leaning groups including ACORN and the Arab American Action Network. As a state senator he opposed the Born Alive Infants Protection Act and favored strict gun control. As a U.S. Senator he was rated the most liberal (with some pretty liberal competition) — voting to cut off funding for troops and against both Justices Roberts and Alito and supporting the Democratic party line on everything from taxes to offshore drilling. He has been exquisitely sensitive to Big Labor’s agenda (e.g. opposing the Colombia Free Trade agreement, helping to sink immigration reform, and favoring the Orwellian-sounding Employee Free Choice Act).
In short, this is a very, very liberal fellow. Maybe with a Democratic Congress he’ll practice superhuman restraint. Maybe the economic crisis leaves him little chance to enact taxes and a raft of new programs. Maybe a savvy Secretary of State will sit him down and explain that he’s just not going to woo rogue state dictators. (Who will that be — Madeline Albright? Tony Lake? The mind reels.) But perhaps he’ll do what he has done his entire political career: pursue an immoderate and ultra-liberal agenda. It seems obvious that’s what he’d prefer to do.
Apaprently the McCain camp is “conflicted.” They don’t know whether to engage Barack Obama fully or not. Perhaps the crowds are getting too hostile, maybe the media is too critical. Angst pervades.
Well, this sentiment is shared by a number of conservative observers:
”The economic times are the reason our numbers are down,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of Sen. McCain’s best friends. “I want John to have a positive approach to solving America’s problems, but John has to show that there’s nothing mainstream about Sen. Obama.”
And they have adopted a bizarre distinction between Bill Ayers and Reverend Wright. Even though Obama has been as dishonest about his knowledge of Wright’s agenda and philosophy ( it’s in his own book, for goodness’s sake) as he has been about Ayers’ past, the former is off bounds, even as a matter of questioning Obama’s credibility. Not everyone appreciates the difference:
Some longtime Republicans are befuddled by the decision not to go after Rev. Wright.”If you’re going to go down with Ayers, you might as well go with Wright too,” said Ed Rollins, a longtime Republican strategist and former Reagan White House aide who ran Mike Huckabee’s campaign during the primary. Mr. Rollins said that, although accusations of racism would undoubtedly arise, Sen. Obama’s longtime connection with Rev. Wright made the relationship fair game.
Perhaps this explains why McCain has not used the debates to his full advantage. If his campaign isn’t in agreement that means the candidate hasn’t decided on an unalloyed, clear line of attack. So we get a muddled mix — a stray attack line here, a missed rejoined there and an incomplete answer to the central question of the campaign (What’s so bad about Barack Obama?).
Maybe none of this matters and perhaps the economy simply swamps all considerations. There is good reason to think this is the case. And if so the maddeningly half-hearted attack on Obama won’t in the end be decisive. Still, we’ll never know. And that’s a legitimate gripe for a lot of conservatives and for a lot of down ticket Republicans who may get swamped in an election that could have been closer than it may turn out to be.