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July 31, 2008

Pass the Smelling Salts...

Is John McCain stupid? Daniel Henninger is beside himself:

Is John McCain losing it?

On Sunday, he said on national television that to solve Social Security "everything's on the table," which of course means raising payroll taxes.

No, it doesn't. It means that raising payroll taxes is one of a host of possible solutions, Mr. Henninger. That's what "everything's on the table" means. It doesn't mean "I have decided raising payroll taxes is the only solution to the Social Security debacle."

But don't let that stop a perfectly good rant in the making. This is what Republicans do at this point in a presidential campaign.

They panic:

The one thing -- arguably the only thing -- the McCain candidacy has going for it is a sense among voters that they don't know what Barack Obama stands for or believes. Why then would Mr. McCain give voters reason to wonder the same thing about himself? You're supposed to sow doubt about the other guy, not do it to yourself.

Yes, Sen. McCain must somehow appeal to independents and blue-collar Hillary Democrats. A degree of pandering to the center is inevitable. But this stuff isn't pandering; it's simply stupid. Al Gore's own climate allies separated themselves from his preposterous free-of-oil-in-10-years whopper. Sen. McCain saying off-handedly that it's "doable" is, in a word, thoughtless.

Speaker Pelosi heads a House with a 9% approval. To let her off the hook before the election reflects similar loss of thought.

Oh for Pete's sake.

Henniger has a point. A good one, in fact. McCain's campaign is straying from the message. But it's hardly unusual for candidates to look a bit fractured at this point in a campaign, or for them to say things that make them look foolish:

The RNC is chuckling over Obama calling for voters to make “sure your tires are properly inflated” because “we could save all the oil that they’re talking about getting off drilling if everybody was just inflating their tires.”

RNC spokesman Alex Conant responds, “Obama’s solution to America’s energy crisis is inflating tires?! Maybe he’s been out of the country too long.”

There's even an entire blog devoted to Obama's gaffes. If misspeaking on the campaign trail were a measure of a politician's staying power (or even a reliable predictor of his ability to win elections) legions of pundits wouldn't have had George W. Bush to kick around for eight years. Fortunately, some people are able to focus on deeds rather than soundbytes.

Bonnie Erbe does a far better job of nailing the respective weaknesses of the candidates, and (surprise, surprise!) it isn't John McCain she's worried about:

Is it just me, or have the political parties switched roles this election? The normally hapless Democrats have become an imperious, on-message political machine. The habitually martial GOP, which stays on message the way drill sergeants stay on GIs, lacks an overarching message to the point where its conservative base is as energized as a turtle.

...Democratic Party leaders would have you believe they are barreling toward victory in November with a youthful, enigmatic, messiahlike candidate capable of resolving every ill and satisfying competing constituencies. The GOP candidate, on the other hand, switches message from the war to the economy to offshore oil drilling and back again. Sen. John McCain goes through staff, advisers, and surrogates more quickly than McDonald's changes burger flippers. What is wrong with this picture? Why are Democrats so united and on-message this year and Republicans so fractiously incompetent?

Stay tuned, friends, because this, too, could change. The cracks are growing in the Democratic unity dam. and McCain may be on the verge of getting his act together. Sen. Barack Obama needs to step off his "holier than thou" platform and get his designer shoes dirty. He needs to let voters catch a glimpse of the regular guy who may actually lurk under his veneer of superiority. From using a logo resembling a presidential seal at one speech earlier this year (an obvious error and never seen again) to addressing a crowd of 200,000 in Berlin and meeting with heads of state before he has reason to, Obama's puerile self-absorption may backfire on him and turn off the very voters he needs to turn on: the white working class. His campaign's use of Cecil B. De Mille speaking backdrops rivals Karl Rove's brilliant manipulation of wedge issues. But as Steve Kornacki of the New York Observer notes, this, too, has its downsides:

Mr. Obama's campaign has featured Reagan-like stagecraft that has made his opponents look like midgets, producing an effect that prompted Chris Matthews, in a moment that will haunt him to his grave, to talk of a certain "thrill going up [his] leg." But it never seems to move his polls numbers.

Indeed, according to Gallup and Rasmussen Reports daily tracking polls, Obama's European trip poll bounce dwindled almost immediately to pretrip levels.

As I noted long ago in regard to the NY Times' ridiculously fact-free "analysis" of wartime casualty data, it generally helps to look at effort expended in relation to the desired return on investment. By that measure, the Iraq insurgency the Times relentlessly assured us was certain to win the war was already foundering. The clue? They were spending an ever-increasing amount of effort on bombs that were having a decreasing effect. To make a strictly awful pun, they were getting less "bang for the buck". Such unproductive outlays can't continue indefinitely.

One might make the same observation about the Obama campaign: what are they buying for all this relentless hype? From all appearances, a heaping helping of ridicule:

Barack Obama’s critics laid down the foundations of the strategy months ago: The Republican National Committee started the “Audacity Watch” back in April, and Karl Rove later fueled the attack by describing the first-term Illinois senator as “coolly arrogant.”

It wasn’t until the last week, however, that the narrative of Obama as a president-in-waiting — and perhaps getting impatient in that waiting — began reverberating beyond the inboxes of Washington operatives and journalists.

Perhaps one of the clearest indications emerged Tuesday from the world of late-night comedy, when David Letterman offered his “Top Ten Signs Barack Obama is Overconfident.” The examples included Obama proposing to change the name of Oklahoma to “Oklobama” and measuring his head for Mount Rushmore.

“When Letterman is doing ‘Top Ten’ lists about something, it has officially entered the public consciousness,” said Dan Schnur, a political analyst from the University of Southern California and the communications director in John McCain’s 2000 campaign. “And it usually stays there for a long, long time.”

Following a nine-day, eight-country tour that carried the ambition and stagecraft of a presidential state visit, Obama has found himself in an unusual position: the butt of jokes.

I said it earlier this morning: when people start laughing at you, that's not a good sign. It would appear others are thinking along the same lines.

Posted by Cassandra at July 31, 2008 10:48 AM

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and McCain may be on the verge of getting his act together. Comforting thought.

Posted by: spd rdr at July 31, 2008 01:27 PM

... and McCain may be on the verge of getting his act together...


Have I not prophesied it? There is nothing I cannot do.

Already *I* bring Hope and Change to a desperate America.

Posted by: Hope-ama at July 31, 2008 01:38 PM

I've been out back weeding the garden... Did I miss it again?

Posted by: bt_what-me-worry_hun at July 31, 2008 01:54 PM

[whaps bthun with garden hoe]


Wake up, ignorant Red State Peasant! Cease clinging to the white man's god and your primitive guns.


Posted by: Hope-ama at July 31, 2008 02:24 PM

Not the gaknot on mah haid, tha suggestiun that I wud give up mah guns or mah relijun.

Tain't right to whap on them thangs. Tain't that kinda like bein a raci... THWACK!!!! OUCH!

Posted by: bt_what-me-worry_hun at July 31, 2008 02:38 PM


Just don't sniff.....

Posted by: DL Sly at July 31, 2008 03:53 PM


anagrams to

'The nimblest, smooth hide.'


All I need is a cigarette and twenty minutes to re-ignite universal health care....baby.

Posted by: spd rdr at July 31, 2008 05:14 PM


it is actually, "I am the change that you will be".

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 31, 2008 05:30 PM

Or, loosely translated,

"I seek your loose change"

But who's counting?


Posted by: Hope-ama at July 31, 2008 05:38 PM

In Obama World, ther will be no LOOSE change! All change will be strictly changed for the better.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 1, 2008 12:19 AM

Change? Seems like the "same old, same old" to me.

Posted by: camojack at August 1, 2008 01:13 AM

And in tonights financial markets we see that "Better" is trading on the futures markets in anticipation of a Democrat in the White House along with a controlling majority in the Congress at 2*10^18€ plus a withholding of 96% tax.

And now for news from our nightly Your Health segment. Small consolation though it may be, A 60/40 with a 200K€ deductible along with Kevorkian procedures will now be covered under a Universal Health Care Plan administered by the Federal government.

Please bear with us...
We have Breaking News from our roving Disaster Cam! The former administrator for the National Institute of Health in Bethesda is being carried away from the site on a stretcher after learning of one of the new provisions in the Universal Health Care Plan...

Let us join our crew on the scene.

Now that is change in which you can believe!

Posted by: Ron Burgundy at August 1, 2008 01:16 AM

or else...

Posted by: Ron Burgundy at August 1, 2008 01:18 AM