Commentary Magazine


“Where Have You Been for 26 Years?”

This was the question asked by Barack Obama today of John McCain, directly attacking McCain’s claim to be an agent of change. I don’t really understand why he’s going down this road, since McCain can answer, quite easily, “Here’s where I have been. I changed campaign-finance law. I changed telecommunications law. I took on the tobacco companies when other Republicans wouldn’t. I took on the cable companies when they wouldn’t let people choose what channels they might want to watch. I saw a standoff in the Senate on confirming judges and I changed a standoff into a bipartisan agreement. I took on the earmarks and the Bridge to Nowhere and the breaks for oil companies you, Obama, voted for in 2005. And I helped change the war in Iraq from a defeat into what appears to be a victory. Where have you been for 26 years?”

I am not endorsing any of McCain’s potential answers here; his campaign finance law was awful, his approach on tobacco in 1997 disturbingly statist. But it makes no sense for Obama to pretend McCain hasn’t worked for reform, because it keeps the subject of McCain’s reformist accomplishments at the forefront of the campaign conversation. And that isn’t good for Obama.

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