John McCain largely has avoided hot button social issues to the consternation of some in the conservative base. He has ignored the brewing controversy over Barack Obama’s Born Alive Infants legislative voting record and he hasn’t made much comment on the highly successful (for him) Rick Warren forum. That all seemed to end with Saturday’s radio address.
First, he went straight at Obama’s “above my pay grade” response to Warren’s question about when life begins/”babies get rights.” He zeroed in on this particular answer, but he also broadened it to make a larger point about Obama’s candor and character. McCain explained:
Here was a candidate for the presidency of the United States, asked for his position on one of the central moral and legal questions of our time, and this was the best he could offer: It’s above his pay grade. He went on to assure his interviewer that there is a, quote, “moral and ethical element to this issue.” Americans expect more of their leaders. There seems to be a pattern here in my opponent’s approach to many hard issues. Whether it’s the surge in Iraq that has brought us near to victory, or the issue of campaign reform, or the question of offshore drilling, Senator Obama’s speeches can be impressive. But when it’s time for straight answers, clear conviction, and decisive action, suddenly all of these responsibilities are — well, as he puts it, “above my pay grade.” As mottos of leadership go, it doesn’t exactly have the ring of “the buck stops here.”
But McCain didn’t stop there. He explained (to those who may have been deprived of any meaningful MSM coverage) the Born Alive Infants legislative history and then argued:
At Saddleback, he assured a reporter that he’d have voted “yes” on that bill if it had contained language similar to the federal version of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. Even though the language of both the state and federal bills was identical, Senator Obama said people were, quote, “lying” about his record. When that record was later produced, he dropped the subject but didn’t withdraw the slander. And now even Senator Obama’s campaign has conceded that his claims and accusations were false.
Why has McCain decided to go after Obama on these points, and why now? Several reasons, I think. First, he is forcing the MSM to cover issues they don’t want to and haven’t covered except in passing. The combination of Edwards-itis (the disinclination to cover bad stories about Democrats) and VP-mania has resulted in practically no public discussion and coverage outside the blogosphere and conservative media on the Born Alive Infants issue. McCain is upping the ante and putting a spotlight on it. Second, McCain has figured out that these are issues of moral character which go beyond pro-choice and pro-life divisons. How forthright is Obama when it comes to tough issues? How honest has he been about his past record? He thinks voters may conclude ” not very.” Third, he believes that Obama’s positions are so extreme that even generally pro-choice voters will recoil if presented with some basic facts about his opponent. (“His extreme advocacy in favor of partial birth abortion and his refusal to provide medical care for babies surviving abortion should be of grave concern to reasonable people of goodwill on both sides of this issue.”) And finally, the McCain camp has every intention of doing whatever they can to rain on the Democrats Convention. This is one of many salvos I expect to see this upcoming week. They don’t intend to give Obama a free pass.
Will this work? Time will tell, but when the MSM is avoiding issues that shed doubt on the character, veracity and purported “moderation” of a Democrat, chances are that his Republican opponent would be wise to pursue them.