Monday, October 6, 2008

Turning the Page

A couple of interesting quotes popped up over the weekend. First was Greg Strimple, a McCain adviser, who told the Washington Post that the campaign was “looking forward to turning a page on this financial crisis”, presumably so they could get back to talking about things that were really important, like William Ayers and Barack Obama’s plans for redecorating the White House.

Far be it from me to give campaign advice to the McCain folks, but it might not be a good idea to go there. Just because the president has signed the bailout bill doesn’t mean the financial crisis is over. All it means is that the McCain campaign has to come up some some more diversions so that they can avoid talking about issues, like the economy and health care. But, as the Obama campaign was quick to point out, you just don’t “turn the page” on the economy, and how John McCain responded to the crisis is a pretty good indicator of what kind of leader he would be if he was elected.

The rest of the attacks, including Gov. Sarah Palin’s false claim about Barack Obama “pallin’ around with terrorists” — and doing it in a way that even the Associated Press says has a racial tinge to it — and William Kristol’s encouraging her to bring up Rev. Jeremiah Wright put the McCain campaign in the rather unenviable position of opening themselves up to backlash for lying about Mr. Obama’s past. Not only that, while the connection between Barack Obama and William Ayers is little more than casual acquaintance, Sarah Palin is literally sleeping with someone — her husband, Todd (aka “the First Dude”) — who belonged to the Alaska Independence Party, a group that advocates secession from the United States and whose founder said that he “hated America.” And if Rev. Wright comes up and we’re keeping track of over-the-top ministers of the gospel, then it’s only fair that we remind them that Gov. Palin had Rev. Thomas Muthee, who has his own interesting take on faith and practice.

So far the Obama campaign has been remarkably quick to counter-punch the attacks from the McCain campaign, and doing it in a way that goes beyond the standard “outraged” statement from the press office. It seems that they have had their armory of responses ready for these anticipated attacks, and if necessary is ready to respond in kind or even preemptively: yesterday the Obama campaign fired a warning shot in the form of a website about John McCain’s involvement with the Keating 5 scandal. And if the Keating 5 is too much of a distant mirror for voters and they need a more contemporary connection to financial shenanigans, all you have to do is remind them of former Sen. Phil Gramm and his history as the leader of Wall Street deregulation as well as being the McCain campaign adviser who dismissed the bad economic news as nothing but the mewling of a “nation of whiners.”

This kind of campaigning runs the risk of getting off-message; the economy is a lot more important than the past, but if the Obama campaign plays it right, they can turn the attacks from McCain to their advantage and ask them why they would rather engage in personal attacks rather than talk about the economy and how to fix it, or health care and how to take care of the 46 million people who don’t have it. The answer is that they don’t have an answer for any of it. No wonder they want to turn the page.