Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 22, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

McBUSH....Sid Blumenthal says that trying to portray John McCain as an extension of George Bush is a tactical mistake. "The public doesn't see him that way," he says. "That's a hard sell." Matt Yglesias comments:

I'll just note that I think it would be silly to base a campaign strategy on how the public currently views John McCain (the point of the swift-boat attacks, for example, was to change perceptions of John Kerry) and then say it's probably best to bracket the question of campaign strategy and just ask straight-up how different Bush and McCain are.

Matt then goes through the details and concludes that, in fact, Bush and McCain really are pretty similar. That's probably more true than not, but of course Blumenthal isn't really interested in objective fact here. He's interested in what will sell attack-wise, and whatever else you think about Blumenthal, you have to admit that the man knows his attack politics.

I don't know for sure whether I agree with Blumenthal on this, but I think the comparison to Kerry in 2004 might actually back him up. The point of the Swift Boat attacks wasn't just to denigrate Kerry's bravery or patriotism — which would have been a hard sell on its own — it was to paint him as an opportunist and a truth shader. Fair or not, those are character flaws that had already dogged Kerry for a long time and were ripe for exploitation. So the Swift Boaters weren't really trying to change perceptions of Kerry so much as they were trying to magnify an already widespread narrative in a particularly pernicious way.

In the case of McCain, then, the question is whether painting him as McBush taps into a narrative that's already bubbling around out there and can be turned into an effective attack with the right choice of issues and framing. I'm not sure about that. Comments?

Kevin Drum 1:02 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (74)

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Comments

I think the "sellout" metaphor works a bit better than "McBush." It doesn't chastize people for liking McCain back in 2000, but it confirms their link between the Iraq war and McCain in 2008.

Posted by: AMP on May 22, 2008 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

There are plenty of books out this year showing that McCain IS an opportunist and truth shader. We need to start "working the body" on his alleged strength as a straight talker, I think.

Posted by: howie on May 22, 2008 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

"McSame" : 200,000 hits
"McBush" : 177,000 hits
"four more years of bush" +2008 = 30,000 hits

yeah. the narrative is out there.

Posted by: cleek on May 22, 2008 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Blumenthal is right in the sense that much of the public doesn't see McCain as the same as Bush right now. But he's wrong in assuming that this perception can't be changed.

Moderate Dems of Blumenthal's stripe assume that public perception is a given, and therefore typically advocate Clinton-style triangulation politics. It's like they think it's a Republican world and Democrats just have to do what they must to survive. Republicans have long known better; they correctly see public perception as plastic, and they fight to change it in their direction.

Much of the public doesn't realize how similar McCain and Bush are. If they knew, McCain's numbers would go down. Therefore, the right strategy is to tie McCain to Bush at every opportunity.

Posted by: Joe Buck on May 22, 2008 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not a wonky blogger (not anymore), but I believe I have a more acute political awareness than most. And I don't know of any character flaws of McCain's that have "dogged [him] for a long time and [are] ripe for exploitation". Keating Five? Only wonks remember that.

Unfortunately, the aspect of McCain's character with which most folks are likely familiar is his Mavericky Maverickness that the media keeps gushing about. So it's up to McCain's opponents to create a negative story for him.

And it seems to me there are two (not necessarily exclusive) choices. Emphasize his shady side (adulterer, in bed with lobbyists, and K5); and/or paint him as McBush.

Don't know what other approach would be more effective.

Posted by: David Bailey on May 22, 2008 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Remember that Sid Blumenthal isn't making these comments as a "political analyst." He's making them as a Clinton surrogate.

His purpose is to make it appear that Obama's campaign is making a mistake.

I think that is patently false. McCain isn't 100 percent Bushlike, but he's 95 percent Bushlike. And 5 percent difference in inconsequential areas is not change.

But mainly, don't believe Sid Blumenthal at least until he says something against Hillary Clinton's interest.

Posted by: riffle on May 22, 2008 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, McCain may beat the 3rd Bush term rap with his so called maverick credentials (wrongly in my opinion since his policies are very much like Bush's) but he's also not brilliant, to put it kindly. The McSame that lies beneath the surface and can be exploited is he's stupid like Bush. People have soured on I-may-be-dumb-but-I-yam-what-I-yam presidents.

Also, I think he's taking a beating over the 3rd Bush term attack. It is working.

Posted by: Dennis on May 22, 2008 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

And Kevin is right that the Swiftvet ads worked not because they changed people's perceptions of Kerry, but they confirmed their (mis?)-perceptions. The targeted audience was people who had a vague dislike of the snooty senator, but couldn't quite put their finger on why. The ads gave them a reason. 2008 presents a different challenge for Obama's campaign, since I think most people like McCain but are uncomfortable voting for him because of his strong link with the Iraq war.

But at this point, from a tactical standpoint, I don't see why the Dems should change their message. The problem with the '04 election wasn't that Kerry/Edwards picked the wrong message, it was that they never picked a message at all. The McBush/Sellout message seems to be working OK, so there's no need to change it.

Of course, I'm one of those airheads who actually prefers a more truthful message than one rooted in tactics, and in my opinion a more truthful message would be that McCain isn't the right pick in '08 for reasons unrelated to Bush. But that's just me.

Posted by: AMP on May 22, 2008 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats are funny. Worrying about the truth when planning to attack a political opponent.

Posted by: gregor on May 22, 2008 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

The Rove strategy that worked is hit a competitor on his strengths. Then repeat over and over again, taking away his ability to retreat into his strength.

Swiftboating worked because it attacked Kerry's strength, not so much because it followed another narrative.

Posted by: Mark on May 22, 2008 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Sid "Vicious" Blumenthal is a master of the art of character assassination. I wouldn't turn my back on him in a crowd, but his views on how best to slime political opponents bear serious consideration.

Posted by: DBL on May 22, 2008 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

It's true McCain once staked out independent positions.

It's true that's his biggest political asset.

And it's true that he's had to trim his independent sails in order to nail down the nomination.

There's a big hole in his biggest strength. It would be silly to not go through it.

Posted by: Wagster on May 22, 2008 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

McCain's weaknesses haven't been exploited much yet, but they will be after the Dem candidate is settled. At that point, even"Timmeh" and Matthews will have to acknowledge the Dem attack ads: "McCain-dumb as a bag of hammers!" or "McCain-worse than Bush" etc.

Posted by: SteveAudio on May 22, 2008 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

I think attacking McCain via Bush is a weak approach for the reasons Kevin mentions. Also, there's the possibility that conditions in Iraq may continue to improve, which might make Bush look less bad in November.

Posted by: David on May 22, 2008 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Fair or not, McCain has a well known image in the press and the country as a "straight talker" and a "Maverick". I don't know if it's worth the effort to try and paint him as neither - it might come off as unfair and ganging up on the old guy. And Obama is supposed to be above those kind of smear tactics, right.

So forget about even trying. Just focus on attacking his policies and there is plenty of ammo there without trying to dent the straight talk express.

Iraq. Health Care. Taxes. The economy. If Obama can (a) sell voters on the need for change, and (b) sell himself as the true agent of change then he'll be fine. McCain represents the past, the conventional wisdom, he's a true war hero but his policies are just wrong, etc.

Posted by: David68 on May 22, 2008 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Emphasize McCain's psychosis without mentioning his POW experience and confessions.

Posted by: Brojo on May 22, 2008 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

To be honest, it seems pretty lame to say that being an "opportunist and a truth shader" is a "character flaw" in a politician. How many politicians, past or present, couldn't be described this way? If they were so honest and unselfish they couldn't get elected in the first place. This criticism seems to be simply a weapon to use against politicians one doesn't like.

Posted by: Lee on May 22, 2008 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

I think attacking McCain via Bush is a weak approach for the reasons Kevin mentions. Also, there's the possibility that conditions in Iraq may continue to improve, which might make Bush look less bad in November.

Hilarious.

Don't mention the war! /Basil

Posted by: phil on May 22, 2008 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Where Blumenthal is wrong, or short-sighted, is that the differences between McCain and Bush are on lower-priority issues. Global warming, for example, may win elections in California (which is why Schwarzenegger aggressively pivoted to a more green persona), but for Americans in swing states it's a more trivial concern than, say, Iraq and the economy, areas where McCain is quite similar to Bush.

Put another way, the main drivers of Bush's

Nor do I on principle agree that the best attacks must always play into doubts and characterizations which are already present. Karl Rove made his political career out of boldly going after the perceived strengths of his clients' opponents.

Posted by: KobayashiMaru on May 22, 2008 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think the folks who are predisposed to vote for McCain think of him as Bush Lite.

McCain is somewhat more intelligent (even though older and firing on fewer cylinders); he's avuncular; and, wow, a war hero (definitely nothing Bush could lay claim to in his wildest Reaganesque Hollywood dreams even if "war hero" is defined by being shot down and then surrendering flight plans to the enemy in order to procure medical treatment). McCain's military history licks Kerry's military history's boots.

Except for the lack of any born-again, wild-ass deist stuff, McCain provides that soothing parental yet scary anti-terrorist militarism that appeals to the sheeplike Republican segment of the American voting population.

McCain is what Bush would have been had not Barbara dropped him on his head as an infant. He ain't St. Reagan, but he sure as hell ain't Obama. That's all it takes to get out the Republican vote.

Posted by: Everyman on May 22, 2008 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Why are we listening to Blumenthal? If he is such a great political strategist, why did Clinton lose to Obama?

Obama shouldn't base his entire campaign on comparing McCain to Bush, but I think this message speaks to a lot of people. When McCain goes on TV with his "aww shucks, I'm just a moderate" antics, I think it's good strategy to immediately rub his nose in all the times he supported Bush.

But again ... why listen to Blumenthal? If he is so great, why is Obama the nominee? If he is so great, why did it take a nuclear self-destruction of the GOP to put Democrats into ascendancy by default? The Democrats have been lost in the wilderness for 30 years, and Blumenthal is a failure.

Posted by: BombIranForChrist on May 22, 2008 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Well, McSame was AWOL on the Webb GI Bill vote, the bill Bush is going to veto.

As it is, that doesn't look good for McCain. And if he stands with Bush on the override vote, McCain will be taking away his own supposed strength.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on May 22, 2008 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

My dad is Mr. Generic White Affluent Republican Who Really Doesn't Like Bush, and he announced recently that he is leaning toward McCain despite his newfound dislike of the Republican party (and this is a guy who voted for Nixon and Bush II), because McCain is "nothing like Bush." I simply asked him to identify a substantive issue upon which Bush and McCain disagreed and come back to me. He said that he thought that McCain was much more committed to getting troops out of Iraq, and that McCain has a much more sensible tax policy, but he would check it out. A few days later he responded that after researching it, McCain appeared to be to the right of Bush on Iraq and identical on tax policy -- and he was leaning on voting Obama.

There are a ton of people who remember 2000 and think that McCain is somehow at odds with Bush on some significant issue. This belief can and should be dispelled.

Posted by: Joe on May 22, 2008 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

The McBush narrative does work: his statements are more of the same status quo, and his old and weathered physique adequately personify the sagged state of Republican affairs. People will not be able to look past this.

This weakness can also be a asset, say if, oh I don't know, Bush starts a war with Iran, thereby handing the national security candidate more leverage to continue the "safe" transition towards another Republican steward during a time of war. The public will not be able to vote for someone who would pull back when the nation has committed itself again to another entanglement.

Barack Obama has to confront the Iran issue adequately to de-fuse this potential card up the Republican's sleeve. He doesn't have to be pro-war, of course, but he has to demonstrate stern and direct leadership regarding the possibility.

Bush would be a d*ck to do it, but he is a d*ck.

Posted by: Boorring on May 22, 2008 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

The McBush narrative does work: his statements are more of the same status quo, and his old and weathered physique adequately personify the sagged state of Republican affairs. People will not be able to look past this.

This weakness can also be a asset, say if, oh I don't know, Bush starts a war with Iran, thereby handing the national security candidate more leverage to continue the "safe" transition towards another Republican steward during a time of war. The public will not be able to vote for someone who would pull back when the nation has committed itself again to another entanglement.

Barack Obama has to confront the Iran issue adequately to de-fuse this potential card up the Republican's sleeve. He doesn't have to be pro-war, of course, but he has to demonstrate stern and direct leadership regarding the possibility.

Bush would be a d*ck to do it, but he is a d*ck.

Posted by: Boorring on May 22, 2008 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Fair or not, those are character flaws that had already dogged Kerry for a long time and were ripe for exploitation.

Go with fair.

Posted by: Brian on May 22, 2008 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

The key variable here is the breadth and depth of President Bush's unpopularity.

American voters may have suspected Sen. Kerry of being wishy-washy, and they may have has a rough idea that Al Gore had a tendency to lecture. These feelings could be reinforced during a campaign. The public's dislike of President Bush is of an entirely different order of magnitude. McCain would have all he could do to avoid being associated with it, even if he were campaigning by himself this fall.

Blumenthal isn't wrong that McCain's public image is somewhat distinct from that of Bush, something that at the moment can't be said of any other nationally prominent Republican under the age of 85. It would be difficult for the Democratic candidate to sell the idea that McCain would get all the same things wrong that Bush has, especially the symbolic stuff that looms so large in Presidential elections.

But the Democratic candidate won't have to do this. Voters can still like John McCain without wanting him to continue policies associated with Bush -- especially Iraq, but not only that. Campaign rhetoric notwithstanding, Presidential elections are not fundamentally about the future; people are more influenced by the things they know they have experienced than by anything they might experience in the future. History doesn't begin again every four years, so the Bush record has to be the foundation of any Democratic campaign.

How is McCain different? Democrats shouldn't try to answer that, but rather let McCain himself do it. That's something he will have a lot of difficulty doing, as we've already seen, but there is something even more fundamental about Democratic attacks on Bush and his record.

This is that such attacks, especially if they are couched in highly personal terms, will draw Bush himself into the campaign. He won't be able to help himself. Tolerance of corruption, personal laziness, big talk and no action on everything from spending to bin Laden, putting himself under the thumb of a Vice President devoid of personal integrity: Democratic criticism of any of these would be likely to draw an angry public response from Bush and his passionate admirers.

This is the very thing least helpful to McCain. Needing to make the case that he'd be different from Bush, McCain will be hard-pressed to do this if Bush is in the news all the time. This can be made to happen, and it shouldn't be that hard.

Posted by: Zathras on May 22, 2008 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

You can couple the McSame line of attack with another one that taps into the immediate gut feeling.
What is the immediate feeling when you see McCain ?

He is a mean guy who try to pretend he is nice. There is a steel coldness behind his smile.
Mean...uncompassionate...Will hammer people...won't understand people...will sacrifice kids to war...etc... (..just thinking around).
What works best is what is rooted in some reality.

Posted by: Cecile on May 22, 2008 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

This point has been made above but let me put it together more succinctly. The Rovian approach to attacking an enemy's strengths IS attacking McCain's similarity to Bush.

McCain Strength: I'm strong on security.
Response: He'll launch wars first, talk later.
Response: He doesn't support health care for the troops, decent pay for the troops, education benefits for the troops, even decent intervals between tours for the troops.
Response: He can't even get the enemy identified correctly (Shia v. Sunni, who is control in Iran).

McCain Strength: I'll be good for the economy.
Response: More tax cuts for the wealthy while those of us in the other 90% struggle.
Response: He will keep rewarding companies to send their jobs out of the US.
Response: He will destroy Social Security.

McCain Strength: I'm a straight-talker.
Response: Who has over a hundred lobbyists running his campaign.
Response: Who boasted of staying in Iraq for 100, 1000, 1,000,000 years, but now says he'll have almost troops out in five years.
Response: Reversals 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.

McCain Strength: I'm a maverick.
Response: Who after a lifetime of fighting against and punishing torture voted in favor of torture when his party asked him to do so.

There are dozens of them, all ripping apart the most important parts of his public image.

Posted by: anoregonreader on May 22, 2008 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

None of this matters much. The giant corporations who own almost all of America's mass media, from which the overwhelming majority of Americans get the overwhelming majority of their information, want McCain to be the next president, to continue the Cheney/Bush policies of huge tax cuts for the ultra-rich and deregulation of media ownership (thereby enabling those same corporations to gobble up the few remaining independent newspapers, networks and TV and radio stations and control not only most, but ALL of the information that Americans receive).

To that end, they are going to canonize McCain and demonize the Democratic nominee. And just as in 2000 and 2004, the corporate media's onslaught of character assassination against the Democratic candidate and their glorification of the Republican candidate will make the election close enough for the Republicans to steal it.

John McCain will be sworn in as president in January 2009, and the Democratic Party will sit by, impotently, while the third presidential election in a row is blatantly stolen by America's Ultra-Rich Ruling Class, Inc.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on May 22, 2008 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

McCain jumped right into the McBush narrative when he grabbed onto AWOL Bush's 'appeasement' crap. So, it is a wonderful attack on his National Security veneer because he won't distance himself from Bush on anything Iraq/National Security.

Posted by: Allen on May 22, 2008 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

I think the key is to link McCain to the Republican brand, not so much to Bush himself.

A simple Bush-McCain connection might be unbelievable to people who mostly remember McCain as the person who took on Bush over tax cuts, campaign finance reform, global warming and torture. But McCain is undeniably a Republican, and he has come to represent the Republican party. And the Republican party's brand has been severely damaged in the past four years, in ways that have hurt Republicans who aren't identifiable as Bush allies (think Lincoln Chafee.)

So the key to me is linking McCain to specific policies and grievances from the last four or so years, which is exactly what Obama has been doing.

Posted by: AMP on May 22, 2008 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

All you need is this PHOTO.

Posted by: GullyFoyle on May 22, 2008 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Oops - this PHOTO: http://kmareka.com/?p=526

Posted by: GullyFoyle on May 22, 2008 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

mhr: There are more important things than loyalty to a political party.

Yes, there sure are. Truth is one of them. Try it sometime.

Posted by: thersites on May 22, 2008 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Cecile,
Remind me to not hire you as my campaign staff.
Inkblot

Posted by: Inkblot on May 22, 2008 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Ambinder has McCain's bizarre and rambling justification for not voting on the Webb GI Bill, which seems to indicate that McCain would vote against it ... but he didn't.

It goes on and on, attacking Obama for knowing nothing and then rambling about childhood memories about WWII.

"I remember back in nineteen dickety-two ..."
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on May 22, 2008 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Oh look! Thersites is back from googling his handle all morning. Pervert!

Posted by: optical weenie on May 22, 2008 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

On one huge issue -- Iraq -- the public *does* see McCain as an extension of Bush, and rightly so. And I think that is enough of a toehold for the McBush meme to get traction.

Posted by: Steve on May 22, 2008 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

Seeing the video of Kerry testifying before the 1971 Senate Fullbright committee alleging war crimes of US troops who were still fighting for their lives in Vietnam turned me against one of few Democrats I never voted for.

By talking about a crime while it was underway, Kerry showed bad breeding.

The truth didn't matter.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on May 22, 2008 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Because "McMaverick" is the brand, and there are definite, verifiable proof points to attack that brand, that's what has to be done.

As anoregonreader said:

McCain Strength: I'm a straight-talker.
Response: Who has over a hundred lobbyists running his campaign.
Response: Who boasted of staying in Iraq for 100, 1000, 1,000,000 years, but now says he'll have almost troops out in five years.
Response: Reversals 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.

McCain Strength: I'm a maverick.
Response: Who after a lifetime of fighting against and punishing torture voted in favor of torture when his party asked him to do so.

Yep. That's right on.

I think we'll want to spend a fair bit of time on religion as well. Remember when McCain actually WAS something of a "maverick?" He inflicted a grevious wound upon his own brand when he sucked up to Dobson and Falwell. Let's remind America of that, and then remind them of just whom he was sucking up to. As in, tie him to all their wonderfulness.
Yes, people will squawk how Democrats are "anti-religion," but they do that anyway.

Methinks this is where the independent, fence-sitting voters lie.

Posted by: cazart on May 22, 2008 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

The Mavericky Maverickness (thanks Dave Bailey, above) seems like a good narrative. Lots of the support for Bush was the "Don't change horses in midstream" narrative. Anyone who has seen James Garner can imagine "Maverick" jumping horses in mid-stream, and it is something McCain has done repeatedly. McCain is a con-man, and if he's not riding Bush further down into the big muddy, it's because he sees opportunity in changing horses.

2008 is time to change horses.

Posted by: Maverick on May 22, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Loose Lips McCain/Hanoi Jane 08
4 more of the same

Posted by: JoeSixPack on May 22, 2008 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for noticing, Weenie. Remind me to embarrass you sometime.

Posted by: thersites on May 22, 2008 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

optical weenie on May 22, 2008 at 2:07 PM:

Thersites is back from googling his handle all morning.

If I could do that, I'd never leave the house.

Posted by: grape_crush on May 22, 2008 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, grape_crush, technology is a wonderful thing.

We won't ask what Weenie was doing with Inkblot's handle at 2:05.

Posted by: thersites on May 22, 2008 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

McCain is not yet closely linked in people's minds to Bush, but the link can be "sold" pretty easily, I think, by using the word "old," which everyone agrees applies to McCain. Attacking McCain's positions as "The same old failed policies" etc. will ring true and tap into the weariness that everyone feels with the Bush administration, even those with little political awarness.

Posted by: Karl Weber on May 22, 2008 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

I have never googled Inkblot's handle.

Posted by: optical weenie on May 22, 2008 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

How is this for "attacking your opponent's perceived strengths"? - John McCain is a war criminal. He was shot down over Hanoi in 1967 while bombing a civilian light bulb factory that had no military value. In fact, one could argue McCain fits the definition of a "terrorist", since he was using violence against civilians for political purposes.

However, since so many so-called progressives worship the military and will grovel and lick the combat boots of anyone in the military, the Democrats will let McCain continue to be portrayed as some great hero for being captured while committing war crimes.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on May 22, 2008 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

I am proud of the card I got from the Swift Boat campaign thanking me for my contribution. There are more important things than loyalty to a political party.
Posted by: mhr

Someone as stupid as you certainly doesn't have a real cash-paying job. What did you donate to them -- a lump of mud, a bunch of twigs and a ball of string?

Posted by: DJ on May 22, 2008 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Most of McCain's badges of honor are at best, flimsy. Straight Talker, he says he his but he rarely says ANYTHING when he speaks, rather it's a lot of ambiguous statements that mean literally nothing (just watch any debate from this campaign season). Maverick, that's a moniker provided by the media and it's largely false as his voting record is very conservative and along party lines. Bush was nothing he said he was in the 2000 election. I think it will be easy to paint McCain as nothing he says he is, the hard part will be getting that paint to stick with the media.

Posted by: tom.a on May 22, 2008 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

TCD: However, since so many so-called progressives worship the military and will grovel and lick the combat boots of anyone in the military,

Respect isn't the same as worship. A "so-called progressive" can respect the courage of individual members of the service and still despise the leadership which has time and again put them in an untenable position where there are no "right" choices.

Also, just as a note of reality: Nobody is going to get elected by calling McCain a war criminal, even if that's what he is. The best you can do is to go after him on veterans' issues of today.

Posted by: thersites on May 22, 2008 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Note to all Sid Blumenthal and all would-be Democratic strategists: if your starting point for any election campaign is the belief that (1) you can't convince people of something that (2) is fundamentally true, please get the $%# out of my political world and leave it to people who can accomplish something.

Posted by: ask2 on May 22, 2008 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

I think Barack Obama is doing a fine job of attacking John Mccain's image as a straight talking maveric by pointing out all the policies where he's the same as Bush. Mccain also plays into Obama's hand by openly backing Bush at every turn.

Now Mccain believe that all he has to do is scare people that an inexperienced Obama will open the United States up for another terrorist attack but this is gonna be extremely difficult
to acheive given the unpopularity of the iraq war.

Whereas the main stream media is only too willing to help destroy a Barack Obama or a Hillary Clinton the democrats will get no help whatsoever(barring a really senile moment from John Mccain)from MSM.

So Obama and the Democrats have to relentlessly attack John Mccain not just linking him with Bush and Cheney but also going after his voting record.There is plenty there to be exploited.The MSM has a lot to answer for regarding John Mccain's image.People have to understand that being a war hero does not give him automatic rights to the presidency. Having a lot of experience doesn't mean he has good judgement as the iraq war is proving and will continue to cast big doubts on his foreign policy credentials.

I think John Mccain has already lost the intellectual war on foreign policy. He needs to be put under seige not just by Barack Obama but by the Democratic party on every issue.

Posted by: Berkley Amos on May 22, 2008 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

The effective attack on McCain will be an attack on two words: "My friends".

McCain has learned to use this phrase very effectively over the years. Every time he goes on the Daily Show or SNL and utters that phrase he destroys the narrative that he is a scary right wing demagogue. How can a right wing demagogue be calling us his friends?

If the democrats don't blunt the force of those two words we will be in for four more scary years.

Posted by: jsandoe on May 22, 2008 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

ask2 at 3:12, if you're responding to my post,
I understand your point.

But there are some truths you'll never get a majority of Americans to swallow. One of these is that McCain was a war criminal. Fortunately, there's lots of other crap to go after him for.

It was also hard to get a majority of Americans to believe that John Kerry could both fight with courage in Vietnam and come to oppose the war on principal.

Posted by: thersites on May 22, 2008 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

or even on principle.

Posted by: thersites on May 22, 2008 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Thersites (sit down and take a deep breath) that it will be futile to "attack" McCain on his Vietnam War record, and in fact, I think it would actually damage the dems if they did - because it smells anti-military and therefore weak on national security. Given Obama's perceived weaknesses in these areas, it is not something that he needs.

Posted by: optical weenie on May 22, 2008 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Remember that Sid Blumenthal isn't making these comments as a "political analyst." He's making them as a Clinton surrogate. His purpose is to make it appear that Obama's campaign is making a mistake.

Posted by: riffle

This is all that really needs to be said about this nonsense from Blumenthal.

Folks, given the racist swift-boating that will occur this summer and in the fall, if we can't tie McCain to Bush, we lose.

Posted by: Econobuzz on May 22, 2008 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

What Econobuzz said.
Also, if we can't get Webb or, 2nd choice, Clark to run with Obama, we lose. I hope Obama knows that.

Posted by: thersites on May 22, 2008 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

I disagree with you about the Swift Boat ads. The narrative of Kerry as a truth shader might have been well known in Washington, but Kerry was not well known in most of the country, He was trying to portray himself as a medal-winning Vietnam vet (remember the convention?), and the Swift Boaters tried to knock the legs off of that stool. And by not responding, Kerry had nothing to stand on.

McCain's in a different position. He is well known in the country, and most people know (or think they know) two things about him: he was a hero in Vietnam, and he is a "maverick" who takes positions because of principle, not political expediency. I think it would be ridiculous to challenge the first, but the second is ripe for challenge. It is legitimate to show that he might once have had principled positions on issues like taxes and immigration, but where he stands now leave him with the same positions as Bush. I don't know why Blumenthal thinks this is foolhardy.

Posted by: Bob on May 22, 2008 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Which is worse: a GW Bush, who never had any principles to start with? Or a McCain, who may have once had principles but gave them up? I say McCain.

By all means, go after the maverickocity. Or is it maverickiness? Maverickitude?

Posted by: thersites on May 22, 2008 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

By all means, go after the maverickocity. Or is it maverickiness? Maverickitude?

The wheels fell off the straight talk express. The wheels fell off the straight talk express.
The wheels fell off the straight talk express. The wheels fell off the straight talk express. etc.

Posted by: drjimcooper on May 22, 2008 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

mavericity

Posted by: optical weenie on May 22, 2008 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Call him the "senior senator from Arizona" at every opportunity. It's the proper title, and it indirectly refers to his age. He's already calling Obama "the junior senator from Illinois" for to try to use Obama's youth and inexperience against him, so he's opened himself up to it.

Fair or not, McCain has a well known image in the press and the country as a "straight talker" and a "Maverick".

He has a well-known image based on his 2000 campaign, and he's sold out everything that earned him that reputation. He went from calling Jerry Falwell an agent of intolerance to sucking up to him. He went from calling Bush out for the slanders that Bush's campaign ran out against him in South Carolina to sucking up to Bush.

I don't know if it's worth the effort to try and paint him as neither - it might come off as unfair and ganging up on the old guy.

If he's such a big baby, maybe he shouldn't be running for president.

Posted by: croatoan on May 22, 2008 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK
The point of the Swift Boat attacks wasn't just to denigrate Kerry's bravery or patriotism — which would have been a hard sell on its own — it was to paint him as an opportunist and a truth shader.

Kevin is out in the weeds here. The point of the Swift Boat ads was to denigrate Kerry's bravery and patriotism. The entire strategy was to turn an asset--Kerry's voluntary military service in Vietnam--into a liability. Yes, they painted him as a liar, but what he specifically was supposedly lying about was his bravery.

Remember the purple-heart band-aids anyone? How the Democratic Party failed to capitalize on those is beyond me. All they had to do was paint it as an insult to all soldiers who had ever won that medal and they were done. But regardless, they said he never earned those medals. He never really faced danger or showed bravery in combat.

The Democrats absolutely need to chain McCain to GWB at every opportunity. If you repeat something often enough (especially if you have lots of good evidence for it) people will believe you. "Everyone" knew that Dole and Gingrich hated each other, but Clinton ran against Dole/Gingrich in 1996 and hammered the old man into the ground. Saying Bush/McCain at every opportunity is just smart politics and anyone who says different is selling something.

Posted by: Rob Mac on May 22, 2008 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

McCain is a foreign policy expert who doesn't know the difference between Shia and fatwas.

John McCain knows torture doesn't work and yet supports it's use.

McCain talks straight and when he says he doesn't know anything about economics I believe him. Do you trust him to run the economy?

John McCain doesn't trust lobbyists and that's why he keeps so many close to him, working in his campaign.

John McCain refers to his enemies as 'my friends' A LOT.

John McCain -- a maverick who votes the party line all the time -- he's confused and at his age it's always nappy time.
.
.

Posted by: MarkH on May 22, 2008 at 9:10 PM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't worry about Juan McCain getting elected.

Posted by: Luther on May 22, 2008 at 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

Seems to me McBush are an opportunist and a truth shader. Both of him. So what's wrong with tying them to himself?

Posted by: Paul Camp on May 22, 2008 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

That's actually funny coming from Sid "trailer trash" Blumenthal.

If we have learned nothing else from the last 8 years, it's that if you repeat something often enough, even a lie, people will believe it. Or, in the case of the the 8 years previous to Bush's, if you deny and stonewall long enough, your administration will be over and you can go on to make those great big speaking/lobbyist bucks.

Posted by: Scott on May 23, 2008 at 3:54 AM | PERMALINK

That's actually funny coming from Sid "trailer trash" Blumenthal.

If we have learned nothing else from the last 8 years, it's that if you repeat something often enough, even a lie, people will believe it. Or, in the case of the the 8 years previous to Bush's, if you deny and stonewall long enough, your administration will be over and you can go on to make those great big speaking/lobbyist bucks.

Posted by: Scott on May 23, 2008 at 3:54 AM | PERMALINK

Inkblot ,

and what else do you have to say ?

Cecile

Posted by: Cecile on May 23, 2008 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Mark noted: "The Rove strategy that worked is hit a competitor on his strengths. Then repeat over and over again, taking away his ability to retreat into his strength." (and KobayashiMaru agreed).

So what is McCain's perceived strength? He's a straight talker and has firm convictions, or so they say. But this actually isn't especially accurate as Kevin as noted. So I would say that McCain is especially vulnerable to the Rove treatment. Broadcasting that he's surrounded by lobbyists might not be a bad start.

Hm. "Sellout". "Phony". Those might work too.

Posted by: Measure for Measure on May 23, 2008 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: Namer on March 16, 2010 at 4:07 AM | PERMALINK
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