Saturday, October 04, 2008

Let's Talk About Character

This just in. The GOP has now tacitly acknowledged that it can no longer win this election on policy issues, and, in an insult to intelligence of the average American voter, has declared that it plans to spend the next month on character issues, that is to say, attacking Barack Obama:

Sen. John McCain and his Republican allies are readying a newly aaggressive assault on Sen. Barack Obama's character, believing that to win in November they must shift the conversation back to questions about the Democrat's judgment, honesty and personal associations, several top Republicans said. . . . The Arizonan's campaign is also eager to move the conversation away from the economy, an issue that strongly favors Obama and has helped him to a lead in many recent polls . . .

"We're going to get a little tougher," a senior Republican operative said, indicating that a fresh batch of television ads is coming. "We've got to question this guy's associations. Very soon. There's no question that we have to change the subject here," said the operative, who was not authorized to discuss strategy and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Fantastic. The concept of the lowest common denominator may be foreign to John McCain, whose academic record and statements about the economy have already indicated a poor grasp of mathematics, but its familiar territory for the Republicans in elections. They're good at it too, whether its portraying crippled veteran and Georgia Senator Max Cleland as someone who is unpatriotic or casting John Kerry as an anti-American Francophile because he speaks French and opposed the United State's criminal actions in Vietnam.

That's another point - the article above says that the GOP will start playing up Senator McCain's military background and time as a POW more. This raises two questions:

1) Is such a thing even possible?

That McCain was a POW in Vietnam is the one thing that every single American knows at this point. I don't how it could be made more of an issue at this point - everyone already knows about and, having talked to some of the ordinary, non-college educated sort of my generation it may about the only thing that Americans know about American military involvement in Indochina (seriously).

2) How will the GOP make it relevant?

I have to cut in and echo what ten thousand people have already said - who cares? McCain's actions were heroic, even I'll admit that and I think that Vietnam War was a criminal waste of American and Vietnamese lives. But I not only don't see what these heroic actions have to with being President, I haven't seen any attempt by the GOP to even make them relevant. All you get is this flash of photos from McCain in the Vietnam era and then this slogan that he's "ready to lead."


Since McCain opened the character door, I'll ask - what does dropping bombs on NVA and VC and civilians who got in the way, and being tortured in a POW camp and detained for years, have to do with leading America? No allegiance here to Hanoi and VC, but Vietnam was a criminal mistake in my (and many other people's) opinion and it would be sound US policy not to repeat it. One could argue that McCain's experience with the Vietnam War would make him less likely to support such ventures in the future, but, wait, he is one of the brilliant lawmakers who helped get US forces into Iraq, another criminal operation of US foreign policy, and if his experience in Vietnam has made him more likely to vigorously sustain and encourage questionable US military commitments abroad, then I would, respectfully, declare that a negative attribute instead of a positive one.

The same sort of rationale is at play when some of the more articulate supporters of McCain argue that his experience will give him insight to military conflict and conclude that he will "not be afraid" to use the American military, and, concurrently, will have respect for the soldiers that he necessarily puts in harm's way as a result. Putting aside for the moment that it doesn't exactly follow, I'll say this: rubbish. McCain helped tow the Bush line (lie) of WMD and Iraq that help perpetrate 911 and was preparing to attack the United States again, and that US forced would be "greeted as liberators". Like all the lawmakers that supporter the war, he bears some of the responsibility for the thousands of American casualties that have resulted. Some people took the right kind of notice when, in 1964, the Johnson Administration used a murky set of events in the Gulf of Tonkin to escalate the war in Vietnam - the lesson being that military interventions based on less-than-all the facts run into deadly problems. Others, like Bush and the Republican party, came away with the opposite lesson, that the American people could be lied into supporting a war. McCain - in voting and continuing to support the war - has aligned himself with the latter camp.

The thing that is unnerving is that the GOP doesn't really have to articulate a reason why McCain's military/POW is relevant - they can just keep bring it up, and contrast it with Obama's "otherness," and, I suppose, his conspicuous lack of military experience, and leave it at that. I like to hope that wouldn't be enough for most people - especially the "swing voters", lower middle-class, hardworking American types who goto church but are struggling to make ends meet - but this is basically the same constituency that "elected" Bush in 2000 and 2004, so who knows.

We'll see. To end the digression, one thing is very clear. The McCain campaign is turning to character - and, really, more attacking Obama than bolstering McCain - because it has already lost the campaign on the issues. A three-trillion dollar illegal war, obviously disastrous before, is becoming untenable by even the most stalwart supporters as the country careens toward bankruptcy. Lax regulation and tax breaks for large businesses at the expense of ordinary people, obscurable and even supported by many before, is now an unmitigated disaster as the result has been the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And continued reliance on petroleum, cute and even a tempoary (if illusory) boon to America, is now such a joke that nobody with a modicum of knowledge about economics and energy (this, of course, does not include McCain himself) pretends to take seriously the proposal that we should just drill, drill, drill our problems away.

If McCain wins, it won't be because he was right on the issues, or even because Americans agree with him on the issues. And that's pretty scary.


t-pain said...

"toe" the line, dawg. not "two"

t-pain said...


Rule 12 (f) said...

lets not get bogged down in semantics.

Anonymous said...

It's "toe the line." T-O-E, as in part of the foot.