Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 12, 2008

MCCAIN RATIONALIZES HIS CAMPAIGN STYLE.... As part of last night's forum on national service, John McCain was asked about the tone and direction of the presidential campaign. His response was arguably the most fascinating moment of the evening.

Questioned about the tone of the campaign, Sen. McCain insisted he was running an issues-based campaign and put the blame on his opponent for refusing to join him in town hall meetings.

"First of all this is a tough business," the Arizona senator said. "Second of all, I think the tone of this whole campaign would've been very different if Sen. Obama had accepted my request for us to appear at town hall meetings all over America."

David Broder recently made the same argument in one of his columns -- attributing "the tone and direction" of the campaign to the lack of debates.

There's a word to describe this argument, but it's probably not appropriate for a family website.

To hear McCain tell it, the only way for the presidential campaign to be respectful and substantive is for McCain to get to know Obama better by sharing a stage and arguing with him. This is painfully absurd.

Whether McCain runs a relentlessly negative, substance-free campaign has nothing to do with his proposal for extra debates. If McCain wanted to be an honorable candidate, he could be an honorable candidate, whether his opponent is a Senate colleague or a total stranger. Building a rapport is not a prerequisite for honest campaigning -- character, integrity, and respect for the political process are prerequisites for honest campaigning.

This is just pathetic excuse-making -- McCain's running an ugly and deceptive campaign, but that's okay because he just hasn't gotten to know Obama very well. Indeed, by this reasoning, it's Obama's fault McCain has been so despicable -- if he'd only agreed to 15 town-hall debates like McCain wanted, McCain wouldn't have to be so persistently repugnant.

Whether there are three debates or 300 is irrelevant. It's not like McCain and Steve Schmidt got together one day and said, "Well, I wasn't going to spend the fall lying pathologically and smearing Obama, but since there are only going to be three debates, we might as well."

Steve Benen 9:15 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (61)

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Comments

ugly and deceptive works. Why are you calling Palin, "ugly"?

McCain will do anything to get elected. McCain wants the glory of being Commander in Chief. He cares nothing about the economic problems of Americans.

Posted by: bakho on September 12, 2008 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

this is a family website?

Posted by: mellowjohn on September 12, 2008 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Steve,

Don't ever, EVER forget that McCain bitch-slapped Obama very early on in Obama's first few months in the Senate. There is a personal feud that has been going on since that day, and I think each man believes they are right. (McCain's wrong, but he believes he's right.)

McCain doesn't just want to leech off Obama in public forums, he wants to belittle Obama -- in much the same frat-boy way that Bush likes to belittle people. He'll get his chance in the nationally-telivised debates, and it's going to be damned intersting to watch McCain try to make one persona out of his Jekyll/Hyde tendencies.

CUE TRADEMARKED MCCAIN GRIN.

CUE TRADEMARKED MCCAIN SOMBER TONES.

CUE TADEMARKED MCCAIN FLASH OF RAGE IN PINPOINT PUPILS.

CUE CINDY.

Posted by: The Phantom on September 12, 2008 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

Bullshit. Mule muffins. Horse hockey. Cow cookies.

Posted by: Speed on September 12, 2008 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

So if Mccain is telling the truth about his rationale, then this isn't a campaign he's running; it's a temper tantrum.

Poor widdle Johnnycakes didn't get his way so he's going to be a WATB about it. Woe unto anyone who doesn't give the widdle empewowr EVEWYTHING his widdle heart demands.

Will this be how he runs an Administration? Will this be his idea of international diplomacy? "Well, Putin wouldn't have dinner with me, so I called him a doody head in gym class & accused him of wanting to teach the Kama Sutra to kindergarteners?" Are we going to change the Presidential seal so the bald eagle is holding its breath until it either turns blue or the Dems in Congress capitulate on privatizing Social Security?

McCain may be in his seventies, he may be old, but he's sure no grownup. And Palin - the person who would have to take over when McCain dies during his first term - takes all her leadership cues from the same people now running McCain's campaign.

Posted by: slappy magoo on September 12, 2008 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

Bravo! Speak the Truth

Posted by: scgirl on September 12, 2008 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

All those debates during the GOP primary did not keep McCain from smearing his republican rivals with smears and false portrayals of their statements. Case in point -- how he misrepresented and lied about Romney's statements regarding a time table in Iraq.

Does McCain need an outside restraint? McCain seems to be arguing that he needs one to restrain their tone. What is honor and integrity about anyway if not your own sense of internal restraints? McCain simply lacks them.

The short circuit and short fuse express = danger to America.

Posted by: lou on September 12, 2008 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

And why can't our press actually ask any follow-up questions when McCain trots out this canard (he's said this a bunch of times before)?

They could start with: what does that even mean? Are you saying it's Obama's fault that you're running one of the most negative campaigns in history? Why can't you take responsibility for your own campaign? Can you help us understand how you get from not doing townhall debates to running exactly the kind of campaign you promised Americans you wouldn't run?

Posted by: nepat on September 12, 2008 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

Psychology 101 calls this basic projection and reaction-formation.

"It's all your fault because you didn't give me what I wanted"
Who's Paris Hilton now?

Oh for a Paris Scandal to take the shine off this turd.

Posted by: RememberNovember on September 12, 2008 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

McCain doesn't have the guts to take responsibility for his own campaign.

One more example of why he'd make a shitty president.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on September 12, 2008 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

I've often felt that Obama chose not to get into townhall debates with McCain because he was reluctant to tear the old fucker to shreds. Obama would come across as vicious and mean-spirited simply because McCain would be caught in the headlights. Kind of like Palin on that "Bush Doctrine" question. Zing!

Posted by: chrenson on September 12, 2008 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

Um, didn't McCain have a lot of debates with Romney during the primary? Seems McCain slimed Romney, too, despite having all those debates serving as ice-breaking mixers to "get to know him."

Posted by: Gaddis on September 12, 2008 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Sen. McCain insisted he was running an issues-based campaign

Say what? His own campaign insisted they weren't!

Does John McCain speak for his own campaign or not? His suggestion suggests he's either unaware of what's going on, or his campaign is totally out of his control. Typical Republican "leadership," but after Bush, not what this country needs.

Posted by: Gregory on September 12, 2008 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

this level of petulance is scary-- how dare Obama and his advisors insist on setting the agenda for their own campaign, rather than give the McCain camp a role in determining Obama's campaign schedule.
is this a preview of how a McCain Administration will deal with those who don't ask "how high?" when told to jump?
that sounds awfully familiar...

Posted by: j on September 12, 2008 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

One wonders if McCain said something similar to his first wife, "I wouldn't be running around with all these women if you had only..."

Posted by: S.Bones on September 12, 2008 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with S.Bones above. McCain is using the classic excuse-making of abusers. Blame the victim for the abuse. "I had to belt her in the mouth. She had it coming to her."

Posted by: Karen on September 12, 2008 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

A politician who is ahead doesn't accept townhall challenges. Obama was clearly ahead when McCain first challenged him. That he declined the challenge is perfectly understandable. Don't give your trailing opponent a chance to hurt you. That McCain is still begging for townhalls is intriguing. It tells me that McCain's internal polling show him losing and losing badly.

Posted by: Ron Byers on September 12, 2008 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

Didn't get to see this last night. I am more interested in the audience's reaction; their tone. How did that go? Was their a feeling of which candidate, in the audience's mind, that fared better, made a better, more convincing argument?

Posted by: citizen_pain on September 12, 2008 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Smells like Karl Rove spirit.

Posted by: MissMudd on September 12, 2008 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

THERE... I do know how to spell!

Posted by: citizen_pain on September 12, 2008 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Well of course McCain is talking bullshit, that's what Republicans do.

But there is no denying that Obama made a huge error in not accepting McCain's suggestion that they have a series of townhall meetings. This would have at the very least given periodic breaks to the the right-wing noise machine, which is now pushing Obama down. It would of also put the focus on the issues, which overwhelmingly favor Obama. I think the Obama people really goofed big here.

Besides, it would of been the right way to run an election.

Posted by: g. powell on September 12, 2008 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

Obviously McCain's excuse is bull. The man hasn't done a town hall meeting at all in over a month now so it's not like he misses them, but I think there's an opportunity here. If McCain wants them so bad, Obama should now take him up on the offer. It would get the focus off Palin and on to McCain's ridiculous more of the same = change policy platform, not to mention his lackluster persona. It would allow Obama to call McCain out for the ads he's been running and contrast that with the tone of Obama's campaign and the issues they've been focused on. It would cast a big bright light on how the last two weeks of McCain's campaign really have been lipstick on a pig, Palin being the lipstick on McCain's pig of a campaign.

Posted by: chris b on September 12, 2008 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Don't blame McCain. He isnt the one who nominated the Democrats weaker candidate. Obama is thin, and McCain looking at something north 300 electoral votes.

Posted by: DF on September 12, 2008 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

That McCain is still begging for townhalls is intriguing. It tells me that McCain's internal polling show him losing and losing badly.

Don't read too much into it - it could just very well be that he's found a talking point and he's sticking to it come hell or high water, even if the operational realities that surround that talking point have changed. Standard Republican operational tactic for driving narrative here.

Posted by: NonyNony on September 12, 2008 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

g. powell - I don't agree. It would allowed Pops to call the tune and name the dance. Screw that.

People will see through this. Remember: Millions are tuning in for the first time. Obama is totally polished now, whereas had he agreed to these venus fly-trap townhall debates early on, he would've gotten creamed. That Pops sees the need to punish Barack, clearly reflects his displeasure he wasn't allowed to carry forth.

We have our own ground game. As the guy said: we have not yet begun to fight.

Posted by: MissMudd on September 12, 2008 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, NonyNony is correct. The GOP knows it has Obama on the run and will continue to challenge him on all fronts. Obama will respond weakly, which has continued to do, eroding his standing even more. Obama needs to make a strong play, soemthing that will really challenge McCain, but more likely he'll sputter on with the same. He is a mouse, not a lion.

Posted by: g. powel on September 12, 2008 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

300. You wish! They need to hit hard to provide cover for Palin. Remember too that we have early voting this time. So, everyone is saying 50 something days but in some states its less than that. Their goal is to keep McCain and Palin away from unscripted appearances for at least 30 days if not more. In the meantime, they are going to keep attacking to divert attention.

Posted by: John Henry on September 12, 2008 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

Allowing the town hall meetings would have given McCain access to crowds that he couldn't generate on his own. It also would've allowed him to have equal access without having to pay for it. Obama has a monetary lead and he saw no need to squander it by letting McCain ride his coat tails. Sounds like the right decision. The town hall meetings are NOT the issue. McCain's campaign style IS.

Posted by: Always Hopeful on September 12, 2008 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Here is the the McCain argument boiled down to its essence. My strategy for winning in November was to goad Obama into some staged town hall meetings in the hope that he would at some point screw up and hand the election to me. He refused. Therefore I have had to go to plan B:smear the sucker.
So you see, it's all Obama's fault for not giving me what I wanted.

Posted by: rege on September 12, 2008 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

I'd like to emphasize again what a huge concession it is for McCain to admit he can't win on the issues, or even by running an honest campaign.

Posted by: Gregory on September 12, 2008 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

I too found that McCain response a very revealing and appaling moment of yesterdsy's "service" forum.

McCain sounded astonishingly child-like--
as a six year old trying to somehow justify wrongful behavior to a parent: "Well, it was all his (Obama's) fault. He started it-- cause he didn't agree to do such and such..."

Steve, you are so right that Obama's choice for style of debate has absolutely NOTHING to do with his choice as to how conducts himself, using belittling attacks. Talk about a cop-out!

And NO--it's not ultimately all up to the American people. He IS one of those American people--he has a huge role and how he chooses to conduct himself in this race. And it's clearly a choice that has nothing to do with the word honor.

Posted by: on September 12, 2008 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

A lot of comments on this board are defending Obama's decision not to enagage in Townhall meetings. Well guess what, Obama's strategy is not working and if he doesn't make a radical shift, he will lose. He must take some chances.

He has been a timid candidate and he is getting hammered. If you don't think Obama can't come out better than McCain in a series of townhall meetings, why would you support him?

Posted by: g. powell on September 12, 2008 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Obama was right not to fall into McCain's town hall trap. They were hoping to increase the chances that Obama, in trying to give nuanced answers, would utter some offhand comment that could be pounded against him. McCain's handlers knew full well that St. John would never be held to the same standard and that Obama's chances for a game-changing gaffe would be far greater (this will be the case in the regular debates, too, unfortunately).

Also, the enormous preparation time for all of those town meetings would have taken away from Obama's grass roots campaigning.

Posted by: Virginia on September 12, 2008 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

McCain looking at something north 300 electoral votes.

How do you figure that?

Posted by: Gregory on September 12, 2008 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

McCain's excuse is the equivalent of a man saying he wouldn't have raped a girl if she had agreed to have sex with him.
Sorry if that's not family friendly.

Posted by: msw on September 12, 2008 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

g. powell

I don't want a spineless candidate who bends to every petty demand the Republicans spew.

I'm proud of Barack Obama. I'm proud of how he's conducted his campaign. I'm very proud to have worked for him and will always continue to support him. I haven't felt this way in years.

Honor does matter.

Posted by: MissMudd on September 12, 2008 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Wait, wait, wait - y'all are forgetting a basic fact - Obama called McCain's townhall bluff and McCain folded!

Remember? Obama said, "Senator I call your bluff, let's see if you're man enough to have ONE townhall in July and 4 debates" and McCain replied "What? Townhalls? Never heard of it, Not me!"

http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/06/13/1140179.aspx

Posted by: Ohioan on September 12, 2008 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Why are so many on this board so hell bent on Obama losing? The townhall meeting are trap? Give me a break! They would be a golden opportunity. We can't win this thing unless we fight and take some chances.

Now I understand why progressives lose so much. They have no guts.

Posted by: g. powell on September 12, 2008 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

So it's Obama's fault McCain is a sleazebag?

Posted by: xoxo on September 12, 2008 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

In essence McCain is saying, quite undemocratically, if only Obama had agreed to play by what I wanted I wouldn't have had to put so much ugly into my efforts to gain power over the American people! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on September 12, 2008 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

So McCain is blaming someone else for his own shortcomings. That sounds familiar.

Posted by: blank on September 12, 2008 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

MissMudd -- there is nothing dishonorable about fighting hard and effectively for what you believe in. But losing with honor would mean four years of McCain/Palin. Think about that. We cannot lose.

xoxo -- No, it is not Obama's fault that McCain and the GOP are lying scumbags (I'm holding back). Losing to them, however, is unforgivable.

Posted by: g. powell on September 12, 2008 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

The townhall meeting are trap?

g.powell, it's a political tradition as old as the hills that the candidate who perceives him/herself as trailing challenges the perceived leader to debates, and that the perceived front-runner -- who has more to lose and less to gain -- declines.

We will have debates. Obama / Biden will mop the floor with McCain / Palin. The right-wing spinscreechers will harp on some pereceived flaw or slight, which the so-called "liberal media" will chatter about for days. But I predict it won't move undecideds toward McCain.

McCain is still playing to his base, while Obama is playing to the center. And McCain has scrapped his previous campaign narrative and agreed with Obama that this election is about change! Sure, McCain is chipping away with his Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt campaign, but he's overstepped and even the spineless media is calling him on his bullshit. I predict that McCain's pandering to the Bush dead-enders will serve as a counterweight to the FUD campaign, and so the center will break to Obama.
Let's also not forget that Clinton's campaign thought they could beat Obama, too.

McCain can't afford to lose a single state Bush won. Obama's in a good position to flip several. And I haven't even mentioned the increase in Democratic registration and Obama's ground game. Everything favors Obama -- we shouldn't be complacent, but there's no reason to panic, either.

Posted by: Gregory on September 12, 2008 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Gregory, I hope you are right and I am wrong.

Posted by: g. powell on September 12, 2008 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

McCain is remembering South Carolina in 2000 and how he's privately resented having to kiss Bush Tush for the last 8 years because of it.

At least I hope he's resented it.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on September 12, 2008 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Last night was a continuation of McCain's acceptance speech. I. Me. I. I. I. Me. I. I.

If *I* had gotten what *I* wouldn't vave had to become a dick.

As disgusted as I was, that was an absolute laugh out loud moment. I hope people who have seen McCain's vile walk away with that too. It was a real HUH??? moment.

Posted by: MsJoanne on September 12, 2008 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

If, as reported this morning, Washington State is in play, then something north of 300 is a possibility for McCain. Plus, everyone will be able to go to bed early election night.

Posted by: DF on September 12, 2008 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

And did McCain cross his arms, puff out his chest, and stamp his little foot when he blamed Obama for his own failures? How old is this guy?

Posted by: on September 12, 2008 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

When I read that quote from McCain, it really jumped out at me as well.

It also made me remember Rupert Murdock & Roger Alies saying that FOX news coverage would have been different as well. They claimed Hannity would not have run with xenophobic slurs, if only Obama had come onto fox.

Boggles the mind... If you do not bend your self too our conservative demands, our debate environment, our agenda, and our propoganda machine, then we will punish be forced to punish you with lies and smears...

Yeah right. Eat me FOX. And oh yeah, John, here's a hairy walnut sack for you to nibble on.

Posted by: on September 12, 2008 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

When I read that quote from McCain, it really jumped out at me as well.

It also made me remember Rupert Murdock & Roger Alies saying that FOX news coverage would have been different as well. They claimed Hannity would not have run with xenophobic slurs, if only Obama had come onto fox.

Boggles the mind... If you do not bend your self too our conservative demands, our debate environment, our agenda, and our propoganda machine, then we will punish be forced to punish you with lies and smears...

Yeah right. Eat me FOX. And oh yeah, John, here's a hairy walnut sack for you to nibble on.

Posted by: troll_bait on September 12, 2008 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Americans are painfully ignorant.

Posted by: Brojo on September 12, 2008 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

I understand your reluctance to use the word, but I'm guessing that what you mean is bullsh*t.
There is actually a precise meaning for that term in a lecture by Princeton philosophy professor Harry Frankfort that has recently been published in a small book.
As I recall his argument, Frankfort distinguishes 'bullsh*t' from lies because it is not part of the same universe of discourse and is not subject to tests of truth or falsification. Rather it is uttered only for affect.
I suppose this is much the same as the more common and polite term 'spin' -- but there is a significant difference. One can 'spin' an argument by selecting facts and be subject to falsification or contradiction by other facts. But BS is less susceptible to fact checking.
So McCain can say "Obama wants to raise our taxes" -- which on evaluation may have some truth if 'our' means the total aggregate or if it means the millionaire set that McCain is a part of -- but it is BS, not simply a lie.

Posted by: Bruce on September 12, 2008 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

If, as reported this morning,

By whom?

Washington State is in play, then something north of 300 is a possibility for McCain.

Again, how do you figure that? What plus Washington's 11 EVs gets McCain to 301?

Obama's playing on Republican turf. The electoral map strongly favors him. McCain can't afford to lose a single one of the Bush states, and Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Nevada, Colorado, and Iowa are all possible Obama pickups. Colorado and Iowa, in particular, are quite likely to turn blue this year, and that alone takes Obama almost all the way there.

Where, pray tell, are the potential McCain pickups? Again, what's the evidence Washington is "in play"?

Posted by: Gregory on September 12, 2008 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Broder is such a *monstrous* asshole, I don't know if it's possible to be worse.

Posted by: Neil B on September 12, 2008 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Questioned about the tone of the campaign, Sen. McCain insisted he was running an issues-based campaign and put the blame on his opponent for refusing to drop out of the race and just let him be president.

"First of all this is a tough business," the Arizona senator said. "Second of all, I think the tone of this whole campaign would've been very different if Sen. Obama hadn’t insisted on running against me."

Posted by: Stephen Stralka on September 12, 2008 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

I've always thought that "things would be nicey nicey if he had only agreed with my town-hall plan" argument on McCain's part is, in addition to being a blatant non sequitur is also extremely petulant and self-centered.

My way or the highway. If you don't do what I want, I'll have to go negative on you.

But then again, McCain's whole life he has been petulant and self-centered with the possible exception of "those five years." Certainly upon his return, it didn't take him long to return to his self-centered old ways, disregarding his marriage vows and his crippled wife to screw and marry a young blond heiress.

Posted by: A noun, a verb and POW on September 12, 2008 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

"All those debates during the GOP primary did not keep McCain from smearing his republican rivals with smears and false portrayals of their statements."

Yeah, but those were DEBATES. St. John's talking about "TOWN HALLS." LOL

Posted by: CalGal on September 12, 2008 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

"Plus, everyone will be able to go to bed early election night.

Now, DF, you're just being silly. If Washington State is necessary for McSame's vicory NOBODY will be able to go to bed early.

You do know, don't you, the difference between Washington DC (Eastern time) and Washington State (Pacific time)?

Posted by: A noun, a verb and POW. and now a pit bull with lipstick, too. on September 12, 2008 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

McCain's statements smack of mobsters running a protection racket.
"Nice campaign you have there, would be a shame if something were to happen to it. Maybe you give us some town hall meetings, maybe this whole thing just goes away..."

Posted by: TJ on September 12, 2008 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Don't blame McCain. He isnt the one who nominated the Democrats weaker candidate. Obama is thin, and McCain looking at something north 300 electoral votes.
Posted by: DF
---
Love it!

Posted by: TBone on September 12, 2008 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

I'm just waiting for McCain to call Obama a N-i-g-g-e-r for all hell to break loose!

Posted by: Billy Goat on September 13, 2008 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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