David Brooks reviews John McCain’s rather impressive record (too impressive for many in the conservative base) of trying to limit money in politics and of going after lobbying interests and concludes the early potshots taken by Barack Obama are unwarranted:
This is, of course, the gospel of the mediocre man: to ridicule somebody who tries something difficult on the grounds that the effort was not a total success. But any decent person who looks at the McCain record sees that while he has certainly faltered at times, he has also battled concentrated power more doggedly than any other legislator. If this is the record of a candidate with lobbyists on his campaign bus, then every candidate should have lobbyists on the bus. And here’s the larger point: We’re going to have two extraordinary nominees for president this year. This could be one of the great general election campaigns in American history. The only thing that could ruin it is if the candidates become demagogues and hurl accusations at each other that are an insult to reality and common sense. Maybe Obama can start this campaign over.
Well this perhaps raises a larger problem for Obama: what exactly is he going to talk about? After a few more months, maybe just weeks, the “change” mantra and accompanying fluff will grow old and the media will begin to grow impatient for more. (Signs of that are already popping up.)
There seem to be three possibilities. First, he will describe how horrible the Bush years have been. There is always a segment of the population who will nod approvingly when told things are bad and getting worse. However, you cannot do this for long without sounding like a depressing scold. Moreover, with Bush not running it has limited utility. (This is especially true since McCain has not been a cheerleader for many of the Bush positions which Obama will attack — e.g. energy policy, torture.) Second, he will talk about leaving Iraq. Or will he? If military and political progress continue, does his insistence that everything is just a mess begin to look as out of touch with reality as he is accusing the Bush administration of being? At some point it may be better to say as little as possible. Third, he can talk about all the things he wants to do. However, unless he is content with trimming and hedging ( not a good thing for a “change” guy) it is going to sound fairly far Left. He does not have much that is not out of the liberal playbook and that rarely wins elections.
So, we are back to taking shots at McCain — on age, on lobbyists, on anything he thinks plausible. Those who are expecting a high minded campaign may be sorely disappointed.