Barack Obama remains extremely vulnerable on a battleground where John McCain should be routing him.
When James Carville insisted in 1992 that the Clinton campaign should pound home its message that President George H.W. Bush had mishandled the economy, he wasn’t laying down a marker for all time that the economy is always the best presidential campaign issue. Instead, he was astutely insisting that his campaign focus on his opponent’s greatest weakness.
But sometimes the most pressing issue isn’t the best issue to press — because it’s not the one where your candidate can draw the best distinction with the opponent.
That’s the situation John McCain finds himself in today. Yes, in Carvillian language, today’s biggest issue is indeed “the economy, stupid.” But John McCain talks about the economy no more convincingly than a hippopotamus dances ballet. And while Barack Obama’s economic prescriptions are about as wrongheaded as Linda Blair mid-spin in The Exorcist, he at least sounds quite cogent and reasonable (until you actually think about it) when discussing them. Yes, the McCain campaign needs to find a way to undermine Obama’s current polling edge on the economy, but the only thing “stupid” would be an attempt at a head-on assault from McCain’s position of weakness on the issue.
McCain’s a military man. He should know that it’s best to attack from strength to weakness, not the other way around. Sometimes that requires a flanking maneuver.
The way to undermine Obama’s apparent (if unearned) credibility on the economy is to undermine his credibility, period. Make Obama’s worldview in general anathema, and you make his economic worldview anathema. And the way to do that is to place Obama outside the common culture, while rooting McCain firmly within it.
Yes, absent another national security surprise, “culture” is the best, indeed the only potentially effective, battleground available for McCain to fight on. It’s a battleground on which Obama is extraordinarily vulnerable.
Without putting it as bluntly as this sentence does, McCain’s campaign must pound home the message, in a coherent way, that Obama is not “one of us” — meaning that he is estranged from, not part of, middle America. And the way to make that message relevant is to say that when times are tough it is not any one economic theory that will get Americans through the crisis, but rather that it is our American-ness, our exceptionalism, our national character that guarantees that we shall overcome.
McCAIN IS SKILLED, utterly convincing, at carrying this message. His best moments in Tuesday’s debate came when he said that “America is the greatest force for good in the history of the world,” and when he answered the last question by saying, “I know what it’s like to have to fight to keep one’s hope going through difficult times. I know what it’s like to rely on others for support and courage and love in tough times. I know what it’s like to have your comrades reach out to you and your neighbors and your fellow citizens and pick you up and put you back in the fight. That’s what America’s all about. I believe in this country. I believe in its future. I believe in its greatness.”
Obama, though, sneers at the culture of middle America. Obama is the one who said that working-class Americans “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion as a way to explain their frustrations.” It was Obama whose own autobiography portrays himself not as somebody who transcends race but somebody who wallows in it, somebody not integrationist but separationist, somebody who sees white people not as able to be redeemed of racism but as people to whom racism was endemic.
“The other race would always remain just that: menacing, alien, and apart,” he wrote.
Obama is the one who went to Germany and proclaimed himself “a fellow citizen of the world” while apologizing that the United States has “struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people” as “our actions around he world have not lived up to our best intentions.” Somehow, though, middle Americans won’t quite cotton to a presidential candidate assuming the responsibility or right to apologize to foreigners for our country’s supposed sins.
Obama is the one — The One! — so arrogant that he said his own nomination would be “the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal….” So arrogant, too, so presumptuous, that he designed his own presidential seal.
Also, a person in concert with our culture does not, as Obama did, start his political career in the house of and serve in co-leadership, closely consultative roles on two boards with the founder of a domestic terrorist organization, while using the boards to funnel money to groups that promoted racially separatist and other radical educational causes.
It is not enough to say that the former terrorist had somehow become a respected member of the community — not when that terrorist remains so radical that even to this day, at least 13 years (and as many as 20 years) after Obama began his association with him, he defends his long-ago bombings and praises those who attack the United States.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?