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I’m of two minds about how to deal with the McCain campaign’s further descent into ugliness. Their strategy is simple: you throw crap against a wall and then giggle as the media try to analyze the putresence in a way that conveys a sense of balance: “Well, it is bull-pucky, but the splatter pattern is interesting…” which, of course, only serves to get your perverse message out. I really don’t want to be a part of that. But…every so often, we journalists have a duty to remind readers just how dingy the McCain campaign, and its right-wing acolytes in the media (I’m looking at you, Sean Hannity) have become–especially in their efforts to divert public attention from the economic crisis we’re facing. And so inept at it: other campaigns have decided that their only shot is going negative, but usually they don’t announce it, as several McCain aides have in recent days–there’s no way we can win on the economy, so we’re going to go sludge-diving.
But since we are dealing with manure here, I’ll put the rest of this post below the fold.
It is appropriate that the prime vessel for this assault is Sarah Palin, whose very presence on a national ticket is an insult to your intelligence. She now has “credibility,” we are told, because she managed to read talking points off notecards in the debate last week with unwitting enthusiasm.
Over the weekend, she picked up on an article in The New York Times, which essentially says that Barack Obama and the former terrorist Bill Ayers have crossed paths in Chicago, served on a couple of charitable boards together, but aren’t particularly close. To Palin–or her scriptwriters–this means that Obama has been “palling around” with terrorists. Now, I wish Ayers had done some serious jail time; he certainly needed to pay some penance for his youthful criminality–even if most people in Chicago, including the mayor, have decided that he has something of value to say about education. But I can also understand how Obama, who was a child when Ayers was cutting his idiot swath, would not quite understand the enormity of the professor’s background. (I got to know Alger Hiss twenty years after the fact–he was a printing salesman then, a friend of my father’s–and thought of him as a sweet old man, if a good deal more liberal than dad’s other friends.)
In any case, this is rather rich coming from Palin, who is married to a man who belonged to a political party–the Alaskan Independence Party–that wanted to secede from the union. (I should add here that the Times may have been overreacting to the McCain campaign’s attack on its fairness here: the Ayers story was a nothingburger, but it was placed prominently in the top left hand corner of page one–a position that would seem to indicate that it contained important news, which it didn’t.)
Then we have the ever-reliable Bill Kristol, in today’s New York Times, advising Palin to bring up the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Palin, of course, believes that’s a darn good idea:
“To tell you the truth, Bill, I don’t know why that association isn’t discussed more, because those were appalling things that that pastor had said about our great country, and to have sat in the pews for 20 years and listened to that — with, I don’t know, a sense of condoning it, I guess, because he didn’t get up and leave — to me, that does say something about character. But, you know, I guess that would be a John McCain call on whether he wants to bring that up.”
So then, I’d guess, it would be appropriate to bring up some of the nuttiness that passes for godliness in Palin’s religious life. Leave aside the fact that The Embarracuda allowed herself to participate in a cermony that protected her from witchcraft, how about her presence–she didn’t “get up and leave”– at a sermon by the founder of Jews for Jesus, who argued that the Palestinian terrorist acts against Israel were God’s “judgment” on the Jews because they hadn’t accepted Jesus.
Speaking of Jews, the ever-execrable Sean Hannity has been having intercourse with a known Jew-hater named Andy Martin, who now wants to expose Barack Obama as a Muslim. According to the Washington Times:
In 1986, when Mr. Martin ran as a Democrat for Connecticut’s 3rd Congressional District seat under the name “Anthony R. Martin-Trigona,” his campaign committee filed papers saying its purpose was to “exterminate Jew power in America and impeach U.S. District Court of Appeals judges in New York City.”
Calling all Podhoretzs! Where’s the outrage? I mean, don’t the hateful doings at Palin’s church and Hannity’s perfidy deserve a lengthy exegesis from Pete Wehner or Jennifer Rubin or one of the other empretzled ideologues over at Commentary?
As I said, I’m of two minds about this. I don’t want to give currency to this sewage, so it will remain below the fold. And I’ll try to devote the lion’s share of my time to the issues–the war, the economic crisis, the fraying health insurance system, the environment–that should define this campaign. But what a desperate empty embarrassment the McCain campaign has become.
When the McCain campaign announced this weekend that it would start attacking Sen. Barack Obama via guilt by association, peddling smears about people he barely knows, I thought the tack would lead to the Keating Five. But I didn’t know it would happen this quickly.
Obama’s campaign has never pushed the Keating button before, so this attack carries an original punch-and is clearly salient given the current financial crisis. Because the scandal involved McCain’s actions in public service, it is more likely to arise during the remaining two debates.
McCain’s dredging up of Bill Ayers, in contrast, is not only old news but has no link to anything Obama has done in public life. Patrick Ruffini, a Republican operative who worked on Bush’s reelection campaign, said today that McCain’s Ayers attacks are so old that airing them now “appears desperate.”
Perpetually fretting Democrats will not want to accept it. The campaigns themselves can’t afford to believe it. Many journalists know it but can’t say it. And there will certainly be some twists and turns along the way. But take it to a well capitalized bank: Bill Ayers isn’t going to save John McCain. The race is over.
John McCain’s candidacy is as much a casualty of Wall Street as Lehman or Merrill. Like those once vibrant institutions, McCain’s collapse was stunning and quick. One minute you are a well-respected brand. The next you are yelling at the messengers of your demise as all around you the numbers start blinking red and stop adding up.
McCain’s road was difficult to begin with: the President of his party has had record-low approval ratings for two years and the number of Americans who say the country is heading in the wrong direction is stratospheric. He also had the misfortune to be pitted against an exceptional candidate running an extremely well-executed campaign.
Still, before Wall Street’s collapse Senator McCain was ahead. His approval ratings remained high, his VP pick had generated excitement and interest, and his campaign operatives were capable, on any given day, of winning news cycles and giving their opponents fits. And then the underpinnings of American capitalism begin to sink — and with them sunk McCain.
An election dominated at its inception by the war in Iraq is now overwhelmingly focused on the economy. More than half of voters in polls say that the economy is their top concern and Senator Obama enjoys double digit leads among voters asked who can better fix our economic mess. Put simply, there is no way Senator McCain can win if he continues to trail Senator Obama by double digits on the top concern of more than half of voters.
State polls are beginning to reflect this. If the election were tomorrow, Obama would win all of the states John Kerry carried and add Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado, Virginia, Nevada, Ohio and Florida. Barack Obama is campaigning in Indiana, which last went for a Democrat in 1964 and North Carolina, which has gone for a Democrat only once in thirty-four years. At the same time John McCain has pulled out of Michigan and Sarah Palin has been forced to visit Nebraska.
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.
Why is this? Why won’t the swiftboat tactics work this year?
Its easy to lose sight of it in the day to day coverage, but the collapse of Wall Street in the last weeks was a seminal event in the history of our nation and our politics. To put the crisis in perspective, Americans have lost a combined 1 trillion dollars in net worth in just the last four weeks alone. Just as President Bush’s failures in Iraq undermined his party’s historic advantage on national security issues, the financial calamity has shown the ruinous implications of the Republican mania for deregulation and slavish devotion to totally unfettered markets.
Republicans and Democrats have been arguing over the proper role of government for a century. In 1980 voters sided with Ronald Reagan and Republicans that government had become too big and intrusive. Then the economy worked in the Republicans’ favor. Today the pendulum has swung in our direction. Republican philosophies have been discredited by events. Voters understand this. This is a big election about big issues. McCain’s smallball will not work. This race will not be decided by lipsticked pigs. And John McCain can not escape that reality. The only unknowns are the size of the margin and the breadth of the Democratic advantage in the next Congress.
Source: The New Republic