August 4, 2008


Barack Obama says John McCain is 'in the pocket' of oil firms (Tim Reid, 8/04/08, Times of London)

Barack Obama today accused John McCain of being "in the pocket" of big oil companies, as he tried to regain the initiative after a week of attacks wiped out his lead in the polls.

Lord knows how he does it, but Karl Rove has convinced Democrats that his method involves turning a candidates strength into a weakness. Thus, they believe that what made John Kerry a formidable candidate was his Vietnam record, but Swiftboating ruined it for him. The reality is that John Kerry was famous for opposing the Vietnam War after he came home so all the GOP had to do was play up the same record he was running on. John Kerry's narrative was the GOP narrative with the two sides just emphasizing different aspects of the same story. Ultimately though, every time John Kerry talked about Vietnam or pictures of him during that era appeared, they served as reminders of the critique against him as well as the case for him.

The genius of John McCain's recent attacks on Barrack Obama is, likewise, that they play off of the latter's own narrative. You can poke fun at the pretenses of Messiahhood precisely because so much of the official and unofficial campaign centers around personality. Every airy ad and speech that casts Senator Obama as a distinctive figure similarly becomes a reminder of the opposition case as well as his own.

What an attack like Mr. Obama's on John McCain does though is try to reverse an ingrained public perception of the man that has been built up, mainly by the media and Democrats, over the last 8 years. Rather than using Senator McCain's own narrative but giving it his own slant, Mr. Obama is attempting to deny it entirely, a bit of heavy lifting for which a political campaign is ill-suited.

The attack that Mr. McCain's campaign lends itself to is, unfortunately for the Democrats, not one that they wish to play up right now. It would be easy to take his "Maverick" persona and his willingness to buck party and constituencies and raise questions about whether someone who has such trouble playing well with others can really lead a nation effectively. When your opponent proudly portrays himself as a bull in a china shop, portray America as the display case, its treasures at risk.

Now, we need hardly spell out all the problems with this line of attack. It suffices to note that Democrats want to drape the national Republican Party around the bull's neck, not help him point out his distance. Moreover, even setting aside the way the stark contrast in their legislative records suggests that Senator McCain is far more adept at working across party lines to achieve things, Mr. Obama is stuck because he has to present himself as something of an independent also, lest he be tied too closely to a Democratic Party and its special interests that American voters long ago decided diverged from their values.

We may be Stupid and they may be Bright, but you have to love the irony that the GOP elites accidentally had the ideal nominee thrust upon them, while the Democrat activists eagerly embraced a nominee whose weaknesses are legion, his strengths virtually nil.

Whatever we're paying Karl Rove, it isn't enough.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 4, 2008 1:37 PM

It's because the Left and the press really do believe that if they suddenly start saying that 'we've always been at war with East Asia", nobody will remember all the years of them telling us that we were at war with Eurasia.

(I guess when you are surrounded by "Brights", you might think that everyone else is just as gullible.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at August 4, 2008 2:57 PM

The One's strategy was intimidation. He intimidated the caucuses to vote for him, otherwise they would be branded racist. That's why he lost to Hillary in primaries in which ballots were casted behind closed drapes. I bet those Capitol Hill Democrats, and Hillary supporters would either vote McCain or stay home in Nov. The Capitol Hill politicians can't afford to have a president Obama whose ego is bigger than all of theirs combined. Pelosi would rather be the top Dem than the third. Hillary's supporters can wait four years but not twelve or sixteen.

Posted by: ic at August 4, 2008 3:16 PM

Obama's selection during primaries was based on caucuses and superdelegates. There are no caucuses nor superdelegates in the general election.

Posted by: sam at August 4, 2008 3:59 PM

This is SO-O-O-O-O slick. It calls to mind the great maskirovskas of past wars--the invasion at Pas-de-Calais that turned out to be at Normandy, the amphibious assault on Kuwait in Gulf War One, complete with battleship gun support, that never was and turned out instead to be a Marine Corps/Saudi dry land Panzerstoss.

And that's how they did it. The Rovebots understood how Bush Derangement Syndrome really did produce, well, derangement. Steered them all like little radio-controlled model airplanes, they did.

Posted by: Lou Gots at August 4, 2008 4:33 PM

Bill Clinton must spend half his day laughing hysterically at the ineptitude of the Obama campaign. He knew more about the American electorate when he was in middle school than any of Obama's campaign staff of thousands appear to know today.

Of course, Bill spends the other half of his day lovingly planning the brutal payback that he and Hillary are going to dish out to all those who abandoned them for the new Messiah.

Posted by: b at August 4, 2008 5:29 PM

Isn't that aikido, the martial art Steven Segal practiced before he became Buddha?

Posted by: narciso at August 4, 2008 7:21 PM

@ b: if the Messiah loses (still a big if, but getting smaller every day), the payback the two-headed Clintonosaurus Rex is going to meet out will indeed be quite a spectacle.

Posted by: Peter at August 5, 2008 5:07 AM

Peter: Not if. When. Hillary's actions post-Super Tuesday can only be understood as doing everything she could to undermine Unicorn Boy. She & Bill knew that Maverick would do the rest.

Posted by: b at August 5, 2008 11:10 AM
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