The McCain people are in big fucking trouble. Every successful president in recent years has added a new evolutionary step to how to win elections. The Bushies built upon the Clinton constant war room and triangulating strategies by adding classical GOP dirty tricks to it. Reagan combined Nixon’s ugly politics with a genuinely likable personality. And now Obama’s completely revolutionizing everything, including the use of the internet as the greatest campaign tool since bribery.
But McCain? McCain’s campaign represents a HUGE step back in evolutionary terms, sending things back to the stone age. In everything from message discipline, message delivery, and outright dirty politics, the McCain people aren’t getting ANYTHING right. For example, any of the people in his campaign who didn’t realize that his recent ugly green background set him up for a HILARIOUS use of greenscreen technology deserves to be fired and sent back to the Eisenhower Administration where McCain first dug them up.
Here's my favorite so far: McCain Was There
Wrong and Old
The latest McCain blunder is a perfect storm of bad politics. Here’s how it goes: McCain says yet another unpopular remark showing that he’s out of touch and wrong about Iraq. The Obama campaign says that this shows that McCain is out of touch and wrong about Iraq. And thanks to a McCain pushback against the “He’s too old” issue, the media asks the Obama people if they're trying to say he’s too old. The Obama campaign then gets to take the highroad by blasting McCain yet again for his mistake.
And they just keep walking into these attacks and make it hard for the Obama people to NOT take advantage of it. I mean, McCain saying that getting the troops home is “not too important” is a dumb, dumb thing, akin to Bush saying he wasn’t interested in catching Bin Laden. But it's compounded by McCain's defensiveness about his age. And this just isn't how the Bushies would do it. They took an idiot, put a cowboy hat on him and sold him as the Cowboy President. And whether or not that worked to their advantage, they certainly acted like attacks on Bush's ignorance played to their advantage, and I believe did for some people. For my part, I couldn't stand when liberals would call him a cowboy and act like they scored points on him, as that was exactly what he wanted.
McCain's people, on the other hand, act like mentioning McCain's weakness is off-limits and have gone so far as to link any McCain mistake that might possibly be age related to an attack on his age. And that's just dumb. I know, it’s part of the grenade-style of politics, where you attack the positions you really don’t want your opponent to make in order to force them into the position that's easier to attack them from, but it’s still a huge mistake. Because it just reminds people of how old McCain is and draws attention to it. And rather than people thinking that Obama’s unfair for attacking McCain’s age, it’ll just remind them of how damn old McCain is and how sensitive he is about it. And Obama doesn't even have to say a damn thing about it.
As I suggested at Carpetbagger’s this is the equivalent of Republicans accusing Kerry of flip-flopping and him telling everyone that this was an attack on him for being a Massachusetts liberal and reminding people that Massachusetts liberals like him always flip-flop but that he was flip-flopping for a different reason. Hey, why bother attacking your opponent if you can just link your opponent's attack with a negative personality trait you have?
McCain the Terrible
And so we’ve got McCain making these terrible statements and then spending all his time trying to provide context that doesn’t really make anything better. And this allows the Obama people to make substantive attacks on him with impunity. And even as much as the media wants to help out McCain, the best they can do is remind people of how old McCain is in ways that the Obama people wouldn’t even have tried, setting them up for even bigger attacks on McCain.
And again, McCain has nobody to blame here but himself. It’s bad enough that he’s saying things that would have been unpopular in previous elections and sheer poison this year, but his defense against it is only making matters worse. He’s making excuses when he needs to go bold and he’s going bold when he needs to make excuses. And his best attacks on Obama all help remind people of why they shouldn’t vote for McCain. McCain better pray that they get some footage of Obama at an Al Qaeda training camp pronto, and frankly, I’m not sure that’d be enough.
And what's ironic is that this is part of the reason his age should be an issue, because he's just too out of touch with how things are done. I'm not sure why anyone imagined that he'd be great on the campaign trail, as he's never really had competition in Arizona, got the tar beat out of him by Rove in 2000, and the nomination was only handed to him by default because the other candidates had too many flaws; and many of those were only flaws in a Republican primary, not a general election.
But it's obvious that he's only really good when he's unopposed and doesn't have people challenge his bizarre statements. This was already going to be a tough year for Republicans, but McCain has really made this much too easy.