Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 23, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

MORE CAMPAIGN MUCK....Chris Orr suggests that John McCain ought to quit whining about the amount of press coverage Barack Obama is getting:

The truth is that, while the inordinate coverage of Obama hurts McCain in some ways, it also dramatically decreases the costs of his mistakes. What exactly are the stories McCain wishes the press had paid more attention to during the last few weeks? His mathematically irreconcilable economic promises? Adviser Phil Gramm's "nation of whiners" comment and job at subprime abettor (and alleged tax-evasion specialist) UBS AG? Surrogate Carly Fiorina's confusion over McCain's stance on whether insurance plans should cover birth control? McCain's suggestion that he somehow knows what Maliki wants better than Maliki does? The string of gaffes in his presumed area of expertise (Sunni vs. Shia, Somalia vs. Sudan, Czechoslovakia, the "Iraq-Pakistan border," etc.)?

The truth is, when you're running a campaign as weak as McCain's has been, in a political environment as hostile to the GOP as this one, the less attention anyone pays to you the better off you probably are.

True enough, but "better off" only means he loses in November by a little bit rather than a landslide. An even better strategy would be to do something genuinely worthy of press coverage. Accusing Obama of being a poltroon or a genocide flip-flopper probably isn't it, but surely McCain can come up with something that's (a) newsworthy but (b) doesn't irrevocably ruin his reputation for decency at the same time? I suspect that firing Steve Schmidt would be a good place to start, but that's just a guess.

Kevin Drum 2:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (40)

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Comments

The flaming debris of the McCain campaign is not a pretty sight, and McCain should be glad that Obama's trip is distracting the press right now. Sooner or later, his crazy sputterings will garner press attention.

Maybe McCain was being smart in goading Obama to take the Iraq trip and McCain is intentionally getting his stupid out while no one's looking.

Posted by: danimal on July 23, 2008 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

It's important to realize that, at least as far as appearances go, John McCain and his campaign don't make mistakes. Phil Gramm was right when he said that we are simply whining about a recession that doesn't exist, so he was just reflecting reality. It doesn't matter what John McCain talks about countries that are no longer there, borders that do not exist, and confuses basic details about groups in Iraq; he was shot down many decades ago over Vietnam. Why, even when he mixes up the order events in Iraq, the media, "his base," will edit them out of the interview. He is St. John McCain the Maverick of Arizona.

Posted by: Brian on July 23, 2008 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Let's not forget that the trip, along with the idea that Obama would take national press with him, was McCain's idea in the first place!

Lambasting Obama and the media for accepting a challenge that he and his campaign made is remarkably bad form. They made a huge political miscalculation, and now they're trying to whine their way out of it.

Posted by: Bad on July 23, 2008 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

I expect to see the development of a "Dump McCain" movement soon in the Republican party. But the bullpen is empty.

Posted by: jb on July 23, 2008 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

...but surely McCain can come up with something that's (a) newsworthy but (b) doesn't irrevocably ruin his reputation for decency at the same time?

Why would you believe something like this? Is there any evidence for it?

Posted by: Col Bat Guano on July 23, 2008 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

And the bloom continues to come off the turd blossum.

We are beginning to see that the Rovian "genius" had as much to do with Democratic incompetence as it did any of Rove's tricks.

Fact is, they are now running against a superstar, and he is creaming them. If Rove and his minions were really geniuses, they would be beating Obama, even though he is a superstar. Unfortunately, all they are proving is that they can barely squeak out victories against weak Democratic nominees by scorching the earth and burning their bridges. Genius indeed.

Posted by: BombIranForChrist on July 23, 2008 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't it a disturbing fact, though, that even with McCain's dismal campaign performance he is still nearly tied with Obama in national election polls? Obama should be ten points ahead, but has yet to garner the support of even 50% of the public. What's going on?

I suspect that part of the problem is Obama's decision to focus on Iraq and Afghanistan. These are his two biggest weaknesses, since national security is the ONLY issue where Americans consistently prefer McCain. I don't see how Obama can overcome this deficiency just by traveling abroad. A better campaign strategy would be to repeated emphasize the domestic issues that voters now overwhelmingly care about more than national security, and that they trust Obama more than McCain on.

Any thoughts?

Posted by: ABQkevin on July 23, 2008 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

while the inordinate coverage of Obama hurts
McCain in some ways, it also dramatically decreases the costs of his mistakes

Word. Last week McSame committed several egregious blunders, any one of which would have spelled doom for a Democratic candidate.

And he did it again last night, only for CBS to go so far as to mislead its own viewers to cover for him.

Posted by: Gregory on July 23, 2008 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

while the inordinate coverage of Obama hurts
McCain in some ways, it also dramatically decreases the costs of his mistakes

Word. Last week McSame committed several egregious blunders, any one of which would have spelled doom for a Democratic candidate.

And he did it again last night, only for CBS to go so far as to mislead its own viewers to cover for him.

Posted by: Gregory on July 23, 2008 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Two somewhat contradictory thoughts re: Kevin's second point (can McCain do something to get attention that "doesn't irrevocably ruin his reputation for decency"):

1) McCain should not, nor should he be expected to, give a shit about "ruining his reputation for decency"; the man's running for the third term of Bush and Cheney, using indistinguishable staff, tactics, and rhetoric. Also, where the fuck did McCain *get* this alleged "reputation for decency," by caving on torture to Bush/Cheney/Rove, or by going apeshit when Obama dared to support a campaign proposal that Saint John hadn't blessed?

2) That said, however, McCain has many ardent defenders embedded throughout the establishment media who will see to it that nothing *they* say, report, or do can be taken as taking any of the luster off McCain's homemade halo. So, even if McCain were to *do* something that *ought* to ruin his "reputation for decency" (assuming it survives McCain's "Obama's pro-genocide! While he's talking in Israel about history/foreign policy!" attack), rest assured that we would *not* *receive* news or analysis of any such action *as* tarnishing McCain's "reputation for decency."

Posted by: Chris on July 23, 2008 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

ABQ, I disagree. Confronting St John on his supposed strength now is the right move. Stun him first then move in for the kill on friendlier terrain.

Posted by: keith g on July 23, 2008 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry for the double post.

surely McCain can come up with something that's (a) newsworthy but (b) doesn't irrevocably ruin his reputation for decency at the same time?

The evidence of the past two weeks suggests that no, that isn't the case at all.

And don't call me Shirley.

Posted by: Gregory on July 23, 2008 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

Newscasters on Zell-owned Chicago station WGN announced this afternoon that McCain recently told an audience of supporters that the recent drop in the price of oil was the result of President Bush's changing federal policy on off- shore drilling. I'm not sure if this was just a very dumb or a very dishonest thing to say. Is there any way he could be correct on this?

Posted by: bosn on July 23, 2008 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, Despite fawning press coverage and spending gobs of cash, all team Obama can claim is a tiny lead in the polls in three red states: VA, OH, and CO. I'd be very worried if I were a dem. And of course knowing that Obama must at sometime leave the safety of his teleprompter and confront the American voter directly, where his vast ignorance and monumental ego can no longer hide.

Posted by: Patrick on July 23, 2008 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Its a miracle that all you fat white Republicans know how to type. Let alone grammar. Let alone sentence construction. And spelling. Not to mention consistency on how you spell the term for a member of the left. But at least you're entertaining. It is pretty funny stuff. I love it!

Posted by: Thin White Guy on July 23, 2008 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

What are the chances that the republican convention will actually vote to nominate McCain as their candidate?

Posted by: captain dan on July 23, 2008 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure if this was just a very dumb or a very dishonest thing to say. Is there any way he could be correct on this?

Posted by: bosn

Speculators bet on the future price of oil so if there is more oil then the price would be less. So future drilling probably had an effect as well as less demand and a move towards alternative energy sources.

Posted by: on July 23, 2008 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Fat White Guy wrote: All you lefties go on about how pitiful a campaign McCain is running and how he is so pathetic.

Well, in all fairness, FWG, it is kind of obvious.

But what of you? You go on supporting McSame despite his pitiful, pathetic campaign.

It is pretty funny stuff.

Oh, I don't know if I'd go that far, FWG....McSame's campaign is far to pathetic to be that funny. It really is more pitiful.

If McCain is that bad.

"If"?

Then BHO is in trouble becauase for all his money and in the tank press coverage the bozo is only up by 4.6%.

Of course, in terms of the Electoral vote, his lead is more than sufficient.

That would worry me if I was lefty

If I were you, I'd be more concerned about your lack of critical thinking skills, but that's clearly one reason you aren't a lefty.

because it probably wouldn't take that much to for BHO to lose.

Since reading comprehension obviously isn't your strong suit, there is some concerned that the media working overtime to prop up McSame might hurt Obama; that's obvious, in a zero-sum game.

But given the overwhelming degree wot which the American people have rejected Bush, the neocons and Republican incompetence, mendacity and corruption, I still contend that the GOP has much more to worry about. And what do you know, judging from their public comments, the GOP leadership would tend to agree.

Jackass.

Posted by: Gregory on July 23, 2008 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

But the recent polling trend at FiveThirtyEight.com indicates McCain is closing the gap with Obama over the last few weeks even when he has been making these mistakes. Are we coming to the painful conclusion that hiring a Rowe's crony and, thereby, adopting the techniques of George Bush's campaigns of 2000 and 2004 is starting producing a winning trend for McCain? If so, what will the next months of the campaign look like? Will we fondly remember "swift boating" as gentle campaigning?

Posted by: EL on July 23, 2008 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

So now, the McCain campaign is having to clean up its own mess. Having blown their chance to upstage Obama on the issue that had been his strength in the primaries, now they have to cover for their own hapless candidate, who has demonstrated again and again that he doesn't know anything about Iraq, by changing the subject and accusing Democrats of treason and troop-hatred. In other words, they're back to square one. John McCain just pissed away his own advantage.

- link

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on July 23, 2008 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure if this was just a very dumb or a very dishonest thing to say.

Indeed, that's the eternal mystery regarding Republican statements, but of course it could always be both.

Posted by: Gregory on July 23, 2008 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

"That would worry me if I was lefty because it probably wouldn't take that much to for BHO to lose. I love it!"

I don't worry one bit. Polls use a "likely voter" screen. Black people and young people are screened out because they're not "likely voters." I'm confident that these unlikely voters will come out in full force this year. Obama will win the popular vote by at least five points. And his electoral vote win be be similar to what Reagan got in 1980. So I say to you: Suck. On. This.

Posted by: fostert on July 23, 2008 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't it a disturbing fact, though, that even with McCain's dismal campaign performance he is still nearly tied with Obama in national election polls?

I think CBS just answered your question. McCain is still afloat because they want him to be, and that's the "news" for most people.

When the polls are in that reflect these unfolding events, let me know.

In the meantime, it's just noise.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on July 23, 2008 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

The polls next week may reflect the major changes in momentum taking place this week...

Posted by: Daniel Secrest on July 23, 2008 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

The polls next week may reflect the major changes in momentum taking place this week...

Posted by: Detroit Dan on July 23, 2008 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

McCain should not, nor should he be expected to, give a shit about "ruining his reputation for decency"

He pledged to "run a respectful campaign based on the issues."

Throughout the primary election we saw John McCain reject the type of politics that degrade our civics, and this will not change as he prepares to run head-to-head against the Democratic nominee.
...
John McCain will continue to run on his principles and will focus on the future of our country.
...
Overheated rhetoric and personal attacks on our opponents distract from the big differences between John McCain's vision for the future of our nation and the Democrats'.

Posted by: croatoan on July 23, 2008 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

I want to believe. Obama was been impressive this week. But 2004 wreaked my confidence that middle Amers will choose best best man. Instead, thief fear of obama will push them to mccain. It my in-law theory. Every time I ask an inlaw about who they are voting for, I get some crazy theory about obama. They dont much care for mccain but they fear obama. He's black, a Muslim, and has no experience.

Posted by: the fake fake al on July 23, 2008 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

I want to believe. Obama was been impressive this week. But 2004 wreaked my confidence that middle Amers will choose best best man. Instead, their fear of obama will push them to mccain. Its my in-law theory. Every time I ask an inlaw about who they are voting for, I get some crazy theory about obama. They dont much care for mccain but they fear obama. He's black, a Muslim, and has no experience.

Posted by: the fake fake al on July 23, 2008 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

so much for posting with an iPhone, damned thing.

Posted by: the fake fake al on July 23, 2008 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

"...surely McCain can come up with something that's (a) newsworthy but (b) doesn't irrevocably ruin his reputation for decency..."

WHAT reputation for decency? Name me one decent thing he's ever done in his political life. The only decent thing about that contemptible old bozo is his PR machine. That, apparently, is in excellent shape if even Kevin Drum is buying into the decency pap.

Posted by: Helena Montana on July 23, 2008 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

It's always been a problem with lib TV anchors pretending to be reporters, when they are in reality liberals. Remember how effective they were in defeating Goldwater when they kept referring to him as an "extremist" and LBJ as a "moderate" instead of sticking to conventional terms such as "liberal" and "conservative."

Fortunately we have talk radio to balance network TV news today, and I think libs will have to admit that conservative talk radio hosts identify themselves as columnists and don't pretend to be "news anchors," the farce we've had to live with for decades.

Posted by: Luther on July 23, 2008 at 9:02 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Luther baby, mind pulling out one example of ONE OF THE THREE network anchors calling Goldwater an extremist?

Bet you can't since I am really sure that Uncle Walter, Chet Huntley or David Brinkley would say no such thing.

Stop being such a douche.

Posted by: keith g on July 23, 2008 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK

Luther: Are we really supposed to be convinced of liberal media bias today because of what happened in a campaign 44 years ago? To people in 1964, who had lived under New Deal democratic rule for thirty years, Goldwater was a radical candidate. That isn't the situation now. McCain is a representative of the most established brand in American politics. If he can't get out a message in this environment its his own damn fault.

Posted by: Leo on July 24, 2008 at 12:24 AM | PERMALINK
WHAT reputation for decency?

The one McCain's buddies in the media have invented out of whole cloth for him; heck, even on Countdown last night, Howard Fineman seemed to be pushing the idea that McCain's a great guy and a real straight-shooter, and that all of the apparent distance between that characterization and the facts is a result of McCain's campaign staff not letting McCain be McCain. Lots of folks in the media, if not acting out of outright conscious political preference to keep McCain viable, have so internalized the narratives they've used in the past that they've become articles of faith that requiring bending the facts to fit.

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