William Kristol is still sure that John McCain can pull a do-over.
When you’re in a hole, stop digging. McCain could order his campaign to pull all negative ads, mailers and robocalls.
For that matter, he might as well muzzle the campaign. McCain campaign senior staff members now seem to be spending more time criticizing one another than Obama, and more time defending their own reputations than pursuing a McCain-Palin victory. McCain should simply say that for the last week of the campaign, no staff member is authorized to speak to the media about anything beyond logistical and scheduling matters.
Then McCain and Palin can spend the final week speaking for themselves. They should throw themselves open full time to the media. Could the press coverage get worse? Next Sunday, McCain and Palin could divide up the talk shows. Sarah Palin live! Lots of people would tune in.
There could be one other big moment this week. Obama has bought a half-hour of television in prime time Wednesday. McCain and Palin could buy time Thursday night — giving voters some incentive to keep an open mind at least until McCain and Palin get to make their case.
Palin could speak first, reprising her fine recent speeches on women’s issues and special needs kids — speeches that got almost no press coverage. She could then introduce her running mate, reminding people of his heroism, and pointing out, as she does on the stump, that he is the only candidate “who has truly fought for America.”
As for McCain, he needs to speak about America’s greatness and its future; about how the ingenuity and toughness of the American people will turn around this financial crisis just as the ingenuity of General Petraeus and the toughness of his fighting men and women turned around Iraq; about how America’s spirit was not undone by a terrorist attack, and will not be undone by a financial mess; about how the naysayers will once again be proved wrong; about how America will emerge from its troubles stronger than ever and will win its battles at home and abroad.
McCain has a chance to close this election in a big and positive way. He has a chance to get voters to rise above the distractions and to set aside the petty aspects of the campaign. He has a chance to remind them why they have admired him, and perhaps to persuade them to vote for him on Nov. 4.
Would this turn things around? Unlikely. But why not take a shot?
In other words, forget everything that the McCain-Palin campaign has done for the last eight weeks. Wipe that from your memory. Forget all the talking points about “socialism.” Forget the dithering and the panic-stricken (and inducing) campaign “suspension” and parachute-drop into the economic crisis. Forget about Joe the Not-the-Plumber. That never happened; it was all a really, really bad dream. Here is the real John McCain, presented by his charming and well-dressed sidekick, Sarah Palin, and they’re going to introduce themselves and their ideas for America in a big prime-time special on the scale of Donny and Marie Go to Washington. In other words, let’s go out there and say, “America, we think you’re amazingly stupid and you have the short-term memory of a goldfish. We think we can win all of you independents and undecideds and, yes, even you moderate and conservative Republicans who have been grossed out and scared off by our train-wreck of a campaign by just playing nice for a few minutes here for the last big finish.” That’s the equivalent of the Marx Brothers trying to make their last movie a heartwarming and insightful look into the soul of America by doing I Remember Mama.
For Mr. McCain, however, it’s more like Long Day’s Journey into Night.