Posted on Thursday, June 5th, 2008 at 6:53 am
Author: Feature Writer
Gc contributor: Geoff Woollacott
Gerry Ford first addressed the country as President after Dick Nixon left office by saying: “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.”
Tuesday night had me thinking the same thing. Barack had finally driven a wooden stake through the Clinton campaign.
But is the national nightmare over or just heating up? After months of seeking to destroy the party for her personal gain, she is now trying to get herself on the undercard as Veep under the auspices of taking one for the team to unite the party.
The last thing Barack Obama needs is to have Hillary and Bill as the Vice President and Lounge Lizard in Waiting.
One never knows when a Bill eruption will hit. We tolerated that fraternity hijinks when he was president, as he was actually a pretty damn good politician. We don’t need that nonsense from the spouse of the person holding the job described as not being worth a warm bucket of spit. He’d be like the drunken ex-boyfriend crashing the wedding.
Assuming he can sidestep the elephant in the room to take on the elephant party, what can we expect in the way of spin between the two parties?
Democrats will seek to pick at the following:
1. You won’t hear the word McCain. You will hear the phrase Bush/McCain. They will do their level best to make the campaign a referendum on the outgoing president by arguing that McCain is not a reformer and has allied with the president over the last two years to solidify the party’s base. McCain’s record of attacking pork barrel spenders in bipartisan fashion belies this notion to an extent. He has led more bipartisan initiatives in congress than most legislators, and that will be used to counter this argument.
2. The Iraq War. Here again, they will argue he is in lock step with George Bush. This is not entirely correct either, given he was a vocal critic of the way in which the administration prosecuted the war prior to the report released by the Baker Commission. Yes, he was a staunch advocate of the surge, but that surge represented a radical departure from the way the Bush administration was prosecuting the war under Donald Rumsfeld. We’re too far into this thing to remained focused on whether we should have entered into it in the first place.
For added color they will also seek to hammer home the sound bite of McCain saying he would stay in Iraq for 100 years, followed up by his singing “Bomb, Bomb, Iran” to the Beach Boys’ tune “Barbara Ann.” The latter was a joke, while the former was a sound bite from a far more elaborate explanation discussing the number of troops stationed in Germany, Japan, and Korea. This one will sting him.
3. The Economy. McCain’s utterance about not being terribly expert on the economy will get a lot of play. It’s a weakness at a time when the economy seems to be weakening as well. They will also seek to point to his support of not ending the Bush tax cuts he’d originally opposed. McCain should be able to slam this one right back over the net at them. Economies are not static entities. What government action should have been taken in 2000 and 2001 is not the same as what should be taken in 2008 and 2009.
His weakness here is likely why Mitt Romney keeps hanging around as a VP option. Billed as a turnaround artist, the man does have an excellent command of economics. However Ted Kennedy was able to beat him like a rented mule for layoffs Bain and Company enacted in firms they took private. Politics doesn’t allow for technically detailed rebuttals of how the firm would go under and all would have been lost if the layoffs took place.
4. Age. They will politely suggest McCain is out of touch on his good days and not vibrant enough to withstand the rigors of the job when he utters a gaffe as he did with Joe Liebermann by his side regarding Sunni and Shias. It an issue he’ll have difficulty sidestepping.
And how will Republicans pick on Obama?
1. Hillary did a lot of the work for them. The $200M or so she spent on this race has provided ample opposition research. You can expect to see exact quotes from her funneled into television ads. This was precisely why each party wanted to get the nomination sewn up early to gain a quasi-incumbency advantage. The democrats screwed it up, and Hillary prolonged the agony there. Remember, the devastating Willie Horton commercial Bush ran against Dukakis was an issue first raised against Dukakis by Al Gore in a radio spot in New Hampshire.
2. Reverend Wright. This is not going to go away. Republicans do not even have to do much about it other than simply let it fester. That Obama has left the church indicates his internal polling data points to this as a problem. It’s an unfair association to be sure, but public perception is what it is.
3. Race. The polling results in states such as West Virginia indicate racism sadly remains alive and well. Hillary pandered to it. Those animosities are tough to abate with such voters either staying home or crossing over to vote for McCain. Highlighting his white grandmother, with whom he lived for the better part of his childhood, could ameliorate this to an extent.
4. Experience. Republicans will paint him as a great orator short on experience. Again, Hillary has already done a lot of the groundwork there. His counterattack will be to harp on “change” and how the old ways have not worked. Putting out detailed descriptions of legislative accomplishments wouldn’t hurt, either.
5. Liberalism. Republicans will bang the drum and say that Obama is forming the old McGovern/Dukakis coalition that led to Republican landslides. His impolitic utterances about Americans having to suck it up and not heat their homes at 72 in the winter blew up on him like an exploding cigar, and came shortly after his remarks at a San Francisco fundraiser about Americans clinging to religion and guns in times of uncertainty, which wounded him in Pennsylvania. He can insinuate it is nothing more than an ad hominem attack.
Each side has espoused a desire to elevate the discourse this time around and to keep the campaigns civil. Civil campaigns are generally ones where the outcome never seems in doubt for one side or the other. The closer the race, the nastier it becomes. We’ve had 20 years of tight presidential campaigns and hence 20 years of intense nastiness. Generally the first one to go ugly is the first one to sense that they are slipping in the polls.
On the other hand, this may be the first time in 28 years there isn’t a Bush or a Clinton on the ticket. McCain knows first hand what it is like to be destroyed with nasty attack ads after South Carolina in 2000 and has been very firm in his desires to keep it clean, denouncing several impolitic remarks lobbed Obama’s way. Likewise Obama defended himself well against the Clinton operation.
Respectful disagreement between two individuals with different views of how government should operate would be a welcome change. The prelude between now and the conventions is a little like pre-season in professional sports when everyone can be hopeful their respective team will do well once the real games begin.
As I said in one of my earlier columns, this race is going to be about the 10 year. We are probably going to wish Obama had 10 more years experience and McCain 10 years less. Yet each comports themselves well. Here’s hoping the strategists don’t convince them to act otherwise.
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