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Tilting at Windmills

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October 30, 2008

'PRECONDITIONS'.... The new McCain campaign ad argues that Obama will negotiate with Ahmadinejad about the elimination of Israel and the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from every country in the Middle East. It is, as Andrew Sullivan accurately noted, "disgusting, stupid, inflammatory and, in its use of Arabic-sounding music, bigoted."

I was planning to break it down and tear it apart, but it looks like Joe Klein beat me to it.

There is so much desperate, crapulous spew from the McCain campaign right now that it's hard to keep track of it all -- but this ad, via Andrew Sullivan, marks some sort of low. Yet again -- in a last, desperate attempt to scare the elderly Jews of Florida -- McCain posits Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the "leader" of Iran, even though he has no control over Iranian foreign or military policy. (Ayatullah Ali Khamenei is the guy in charge in Iran, which is why they call him -- you guessed it -- the Supreme Leader.) Yet again, McCain brings up the notion of "preconditions," only now the preconditions are Ahmadinejad's: namely, that the U.S. would have to leave the Middle East before he'd be willing to talk.

It's all inflammatory nonsense, of course. Obama has said that he would meet with the Iranian leadership without "preconditions" -- namely, the Bush Administration requirement that the Iranians stop processing uranium. Of course, the Bush Administration doesn't seem so set on that precondition anymore, either. Again, this is a purposeful effort to mislead on Obama's actual position: he would begin lower-level negotiations with the Iranians, and see how much progress could be made. That is a position supported by many of McCain's own diplomatic supporters.

But that's not really what this is all about: this ad -- with its Middle Eastern music -- is all about implying that Obama isn't one of us, that he's one of them. It is shameful, in the extreme. It's also really bad policy.

I'd just add one tangential thought to this. There's going to come a point, probably in a couple of weeks, at which John McCain is going to express some kind of "regret" for just how disgusting his campaign became. He'll do this if he wins (hoping to generate some pre-inauguration goodwill), and he'll do this is he loses (hoping to improve his tarnished and discredited legacy). McCain will probably say, with apparent sincerity, that things "got out of hand," and he's filled with "regret" for not having intervened before his campaign became too pathetic.

But an ad as offensive as this new one shouldn't be forgotten, or forgiven. McCain, under pressure, is putting his character on the line for all to see, and post hoc remorse should be irrelevant. McCain had a choice -- lose his honor or lose the election. Whether he ends up losing both remains to be seen, but either way, McCain did not choose wisely.

Steve Benen 1:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (50)

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Whether he ends up losing both remains to be seen, but either way, McCain did not choose wisely.
Sort of the way I think of Colin Powell post-UN speech. He should have resigned to keep his integrity and relevance. Posted by: Uli Kunkel on October 30, 2008 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe McCain was just trying to point out the absurdity of preconditions?

Posted by: tomj on October 30, 2008 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

There's going to come a point, probably in a couple of weeks, at which John McCain is going to express some kind of "regret" for just how disgusting his campaign became. He'll do this if he wins (hoping to generate some pre-inauguration goodwill), and he'll do this is he loses (hoping to improve his tarnished and discredited legacy). McCain will probably say, with apparent sincerity, that things "got out of hand," and he's filled with "regret" for not having intervened before his campaign became too pathetic.

Who cares. He'll never get another bill passed in Congress, never find a Dem co-sponsor for anything, and probably will not be re-elected should he seek a final term to take him into full-on senility.

He claims to be putting country first. Asshole. He's Shrub all over again, but bitter because he's a wastrel mediocrity that didn't get elect president as he should have.

Posted by: Jeff II on October 30, 2008 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Let me modify your prediction: if something along those lines happen, it will be John McCain expressing some kind of "regret" for just how disgusting the Presidential campaign *in general* became. "Oh, it's just a shame that the race got so dirty as the election approached. The state of political discourse in this country is a disgrace. Blah. Blah. Blah." It will be designed to make anyone who points fingers at him look petty (he expressed regret!) while not taking any blame for himself and implying that the Democrats were just as bad (who knows, maybe even worse).

Posted by: Nick on October 30, 2008 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

McCain had a choice -- lose his honor or lose the election.

Maybe at first, but at this point, McCain's choice is to lose the election with honor or dishonor. It's hard to imagine any scenario in which repeating these attacks, which appeal to no one but the rabid Republican base, create an electoral college win for McCain. Logic suggests, then, that McCain's attacks, focused on rabid Republicans, is aimed at changing not the Presidential picture in 2008 but the legislative picture in 2009 -- in short, making the country ungovernable.

McCain's actions are not forgivable, and no apology, let alone half-assed statement of "regret," should be taken seriously.

Posted by: Gregory on October 30, 2008 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

McCain lost his character when he chose Palin. It's been downhill ever since.

Posted by: Cycledoc on October 30, 2008 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with Steven Colbert. He said on last night's show that the McCain campaign "is a fire-y bag of steaming dog poo left on the porches of America".

Posted by: Always Hopeful on October 30, 2008 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

There's going to come a point, probably in a couple of weeks, at which John McCain is going to express some kind of "regret" for just how disgusting his campaign became.

And in other news, Hell has frozen over. Film at 11.

Posted by: DH Walker on October 30, 2008 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

With McCain it's always about (airquote) honor (/airquote) and (airquote) integrity (/airquote).

Posted by: Danp on October 30, 2008 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Nick at 1:36 nails it, 100%.

Posted by: DH Walker on October 30, 2008 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

It remains to be seen how loud the derisive laughter gets when/if McCain comes out with such a statement of "regret" about the dirty campaign.

What part of "I'm John McCain and I approve this message" doesn't he understand?

Posted by: biggerbox on October 30, 2008 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Nick's probably right. Few public figures apologize any longer and the few that do always put it in a third person context, distancing themselves from their own actions while deploring the totality of whatever monstrosity they were part of.

Scott McClellan did this on Fresh Air when discussing his book - he want's to help improve the tone of politics in Washington, but never could quite admit that the descent into partisan fighting has been entirely the fault of the Rethugs beginning in the second Clinton term.

Posted by: Jeff II on October 30, 2008 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Will anyone take a stand against his post-election farcical apologies?

Will David Letterman be left to tell McCain he is not who he had portended himself to be?

Will it be the women of the View to tell McCain he is beyond forgiveness?

Will it be the Comedy Central duo that lets him know exactly how far gone he is?

It won't be those who've claimed to have integrity that sat mum throughout. They'll be hoping to redeem some of theirs as well (Kelly-MSNBC and the rest of the hacks)

Posted by: TBone on October 30, 2008 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Gregory said: in short, making the country ungovernable

That really does seem to be McCain's goal at this point. He is polarizing a large segment of the country. Let's not forget how the militia movement flourished during the Clinton years.

If Obama wins (until its over I'm still using 'if' (VOTE!!!)) there will be a revail in the militia movement. Skinheads, the KKK and their ilk will come out of the shadows. Those groups of American's will retreat inward and grow even more militant. And McCain/Palin are encouraging that movement and indeed giving it a greater legitimacy than it deserves.

The politics of polarization.

This is why I fear another Oklahoma occuring before another 9/11. The next major terror incident in the US won't come from people claiming to be Muslim, it will come from people claiming be Christian.

Both groups have no idea what those words mean.

Posted by: thorin-1 on October 30, 2008 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

the image i have of the mccain palin campaign is of two little kids wanting attention, grabbing at the pant legs of the adults in the room, who are trying to have a serious conversation. desperately self-absorbed while they are being ignored.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on October 30, 2008 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

SB: There's going to come a point, probably in a couple of weeks, at which John McCain is going to express some kind of "regret" for just how disgusting his campaign became.

It's not like McCain hasn't done that before:

Back in 2000, after John McCain lost his mostly honorable campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, he went about apologizing to journalists--including me--for his most obvious mis-step: his support for keeping the confederate flag on the state house.

I just can't wait for the moment when John McCain--contrite and suddenly honorable again in victory or defeat--talks about how things got a little out of control in the pa$sion of the moment. Talk about putting lipstick on a pig.
Whether or not anyone believes it this time, who knows? Probably.

Posted by: grape_crush on October 30, 2008 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

There is a new McCain ad that really attempts to play the fear card vis a vi inexperience:

"Would you get on a plane with a pilot who has never flown a plane, would you go under the knife with a brand new surgeon?...."

This seems to be their closing emphasis...

What about Palin? Ha!

And what about the fact that Obama HAS been tested--as evidenced in the entire campaign he ran, as evidenced in how he dealt with the economic crisis, as evidenced in the work he did do in the Senate, as evidenced in his ability to think through complicated issues, reach across party lines...as evidenced in his willingness to consult with the best experts and not act independently...such humility and devotion to make the right decision, not be tempted by the easy or otherwise tantalizing, popular one.

Posted by: icanseeRussiafromyhouse on October 30, 2008 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

and i bet you anything that all of mccain's cum-sucking media pals will be first in line to swallow and propel those 'regrets'...

Posted by: linda on October 30, 2008 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

What is tragic is that McCain has a daughter adopted from Bangladesh. Of course, that doesn't make her an Arab, but to the obviously under educated McCain supporters, his daughter must feel really crappy to have her father promoting racist intolerance and willful ignorance.

McCain uses his adopted daughter when it suits him to exploit her, other than that, it is clear he has very little regard for understanding diverse and different people's culture. In Bangladesh, there are many ethnic Arabs and Indians and Muslims. Imagine watching this advert through his daughter's eye. So sad.

Posted by: knowdat on October 30, 2008 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

McCain lost his honor long before this election. No one should ever forget what he did in South Carolina in 2000 he endorsed the flying the confederate flag. Then after he loses he goes back and says I made a mistake I put winning over honesty in my heart I always believed that flying the confederate flag is wrong. He gave it up then if not before.

Bob

Posted by: Bob O'Reilly on October 30, 2008 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

For months Barrack has been touting the claim that his tax policy wouldn't increase taxes on families making less than $250,000 a year. Now, in his infomercial, he suddenly changes that to less than $200,000 a year. And Joe Biden let slip that it would be only those making less than $150,000 a year.
What other lies has the Obama campaign been feeding us for months???
Incidentally, Joe Klein clearly has NO idea what crapulous really means.

Posted by: truthtopower on October 30, 2008 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, I'd like to think that people won't forget what a fraud McCain has been, but they will. You yourself have forgotten the magnitude of the frauds perpetrated by the Bush/Rove campaign in 2004, using not simply lies, but the power of government itself to defeat Kerry.

Ezra Klein's now saying that McCain is worse than Bush, but that's idiocy. Nobody could be worse than Bush because nobody would try to run the country from the point of view of theocratic egotism. McCain may be an idiot and a liar, but his policies would likely be reactionary -- in stark contrast to George W. Bush's dismanling of the United States, brick by brick, despite the fact that he had no mandate to do so.

The press wants the old McCain back. The voters want the old McCain back. If he adopts his old persona, says, "Aw, shucks..." and "I'm sorry...", then he'll be forgiven.

At which point the Dems can put the screws to him to prove that he's still in a bipartisan mood, giving them another vote (along with Lieberman) to use to get the damn job done. And McCain will go along because that's all he has left: stalping his name to some sort of bipartisan legacy in this time of crisis.

Posted by: The Phantom on October 30, 2008 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with Steven Colbert. He said on last night's show that the McCain campaign "is a fire-y bag of steaming dog poo left on the porches of America".

You know, English has a word for "fire-y". It's fiery.

(sorry for the pedantry)

Posted by: a pedant on October 30, 2008 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

"If President Obama had just agreed to appear with me at town hall meetings..." "If President Obama had kept his promise and taken public financing..."

I don't see him expressing any regret that assumes responsibility for himself.

...and I honestly don't think he'll be seen back in the Senate.

Posted by: Saint Zak on October 30, 2008 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

None of this would be happening if Obama had done those town hall meetings with McCain.

Posted by: Dennis - SGMM on October 30, 2008 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

I am creeped out when I remember that McCain attempted suicide as a POW, and that this is considered by some of his more rabid supporters to be exemplary of his righteousness and heroism.

Posted by: npr on October 30, 2008 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

When the checkout tabloid would have their New Years Eve predictions, I often wished someone would save the list and show how many had come true a year later.

For the sake of rubbing their noses in it, can someone in the Fourth Estate catalog all the crazy predictions that the RNC and McCain campaign have made about Barack Obama so we can fling it back at them four years from now? Your latest blog post is a good start.

Posted by: Gene Ha on October 30, 2008 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

It's individuals making less than $200,000 and families making less than $250,000.

Sorry to make you do nuance.

Posted by: Virginia on October 30, 2008 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

The Phantom wrote: "Nobody could be worse than Bush because nobody would try to run the country from the point of view of theocratic egotism."

Two words: Sarah Palin.

Besides which, you give Bush too much credit. Bush didn't "try to run the country". Bush was -- and is -- nothing but an empty-headed, smirking, glad-handing, backslapping front man for the kleptocratic corporatocracy of the Cheney Cartel, a gang of career white-collar crooks and war profiteers masquerading as "neoconservative" ideologues, and spewing a fake, phony, trumped-up pseudo-ideology with which they bamboozled the gullible in order to gain the power to enrich themselves at public expense.

If elected, McCain would basically be just another front man for the same gang.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 30, 2008 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

I'll not forgive or forget and neither should anyone else. John McCain threw his party and his country under the bus to satisfy his own personal lust for power. In the process, the entire country got to see what a small, mean-spirited and vindictive man John McCain really is (and alway has been!) It would be poetic justice if the only thing John McCain is remembered for is the slimy campaign he's run and, make no mistake, the choices and decisions were his and his alone.

Now your assignment, class, is to go read Mary Hershberger's account of the little worm's cowardly behavior during the fire on the deck of the USS Forrestal in 1967 that took the lives of 168 sailors.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20081007_investigating_john_mccains_tragedy_at_sea/

McCain being taken prisoner in Nam shortly thereafter might have been a bit of poetic justice too.

Posted by: 3reddogs on October 30, 2008 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

>"... would you go under the knife with a brand new surgeon?...."

Er... the logical conclusion is that we should never elect someone who hasn't been president before?

Wow. The mind reels.

Posted by: Buford on October 30, 2008 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Nick at 1:36 nails it, 100%.

Yep, Nick's got the scenario down.

Of course, all those other times McCain was visited by three ghosts in the night and made a public atonement the next day, he had something to lose: a Senate seat, a future run for the presidency, etc. Not sure what he'll do now that it's clear he's never going to be president and his name is mud in the Senate. He may go to his grave blaming everyone else--the media, the intractable voters, that c-word he put on the ticket--and comfort himself that none of it is his fault.

Posted by: shortstop on October 30, 2008 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

"... would you go under the knife with a brand new surgeon?...."

"Er... the logical conclusion is that we should never elect someone who hasn't been president before?

Wow. The mind reels"

Bingo! Buford @ 2:23 wins the thread. Short, sweet, and letter perfect.

Posted by: Steamed on October 30, 2008 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

3reddogs writes: "John McCain threw his party under the bus to satisfy his own personal lust for power."

if only...... HAD mccain thrown the republican "brand" under the bus, maybe he wouldn't be running out of desperation and driving independents and moderates away in droves....

the gop is still hellbent on throwing THEMSELVES under the bus....they think caribou barbie should be the new standard bearer....i say "bring it on"

Posted by: dj spellchecka on October 30, 2008 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

For me it has become clear: John McCain is suffering from some form of advanced mental illness. His running mate is merely certifiable, while he is mentally incompetent.

Posted by: rbe1 on October 30, 2008 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

shortstop wrote: He may go to his grave blaming everyone else--the media, the intractable voters, that c-word he put on the ticket--and comfort himself that none of it is his fault.

As long as he does so as a private citizen joining his fellow Repukes in the wilderness, far from the levers of power, he's welcome to all the self-pity he can wallow in.

Posted by: Gregory on October 30, 2008 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Obama should be able to knock this one out of the park.

This chickenshit ad puts the ball on a tee for Obama, and sets him up for him to knock it out of the park. Rather that make assertions, the add presents itself as asking "tough questions" about "what Obama will do".

Obama can tape a commercial that begins with the last few seconds of the McCain ad. It then cuts to Obama, who looks straight into the camara, wearing his most resolute and presidential game face, and says:

Senator McCain asks some tough questions about what I will do when I meet with the president of Iran.

Well, I am here to tell Senator McCain exactly what I will do:

I will defend the interests of the United States, and the interests of our great ally Israel.

I will tell Ahmadinejad that Israel will never be wiped off the map, not on on my watch.

I will tell Ahmadinejad that an Iranian nuclear weapon is unacceptable to the United States, and to the international community.

I will explore possibilities for a peaceful resolution of our disagreements, wherever possible, but will convey our strong resolve to defend our vital interests with force, whenever necessary.

And I will deliver this message myself, and in person, with no handlers, no operatives and no political spin doctors to get in the way.

The United States is the strongest country in the world. We never need to be afraid of sitting down face to face, with friend or foe, to defend our interests and communicate our values and our principles in clear, direct terms.

John McCain might be afraid of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but I'm not. And neither are the American people.

God bless the United States of America.

Run that sucker in Florida. Game over.

Posted by: Dan Kervick on October 30, 2008 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

I agree we should not forget. And we should not forget those who stood by and said nothing or actually pretend nothing wrong has been said or done.

If I hear one more person say McCain is a person of honor, I'm going to do something dangerous.

Maybe we need to look long and hard at our definition of honor.

And I wish Obama would stop pointing out (again last night, with Clinton in Florida) that McCain should be commended for voting against torture -- it's my understanding he didn't(?). And Rachel Maddow indicated the same on her show a week or so ago...What's up with that?!

Posted by: noabuseofpowerthereatall on October 30, 2008 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

That is, Maddow indicated that Obama is incorrect in crediting McCain for this, as it seems he did NOT vote against torture.

Posted by: noabuseofpowerthereatall on October 30, 2008 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

John McCain is going to express some kind of "regret" for just how disgusting his campaign became.

I'm not convinced. Regret or remorse would mean that he lied his way through the campaign, dishonoring him further, and raise relevant questions about the sincerity of the regret.

McCain has decided he's done being nice. He's either going to be elected next week or leave politics before a year is out.

If elected, he's going to run his naysayers out of the GOP, insisting all the while that he's not. If not elected, it's going to be the fault of evil Obama, the media, the GOP and Palin. He'll make a health- or family-related excuse to retire, freeing himself of ethical limits on his income.

The Gambler has gone all-in, deluding himself that he's about to win the jackpot.

Posted by: Bose on October 30, 2008 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

There's going to come a point, probably in a couple of weeks, at which John McCain is going to express some kind of "regret" for just how disgusting his campaign became.

You mean he'll tell us then how to get Bin Laden and win wars?

Posted by: Econobuzz on October 30, 2008 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Political historians will spend the next century dwelling on the detalis of one, simple question: Why ion the hell did the GOP choose a clogged-up toilet that's in full-throttle, projectile vomit mode for their nominee?

Right now, about the only honorable thing to do for John McCain is to place him in a small room, hand him a revolver with a single bullet, and suggest to him that he do "the honorable thing...."

Posted by: Steve W. on October 30, 2008 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Why does John even bother with the "I'm John McCain and I approve this message" bullshit?

Is there an ad this bag of shit wouldn't put his name on?

Seriously

Posted by: Jim on October 30, 2008 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Bad poll numbers = More scare more of the time

Posted by: on October 30, 2008 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Bose: If only you're right! AZ has a Democratic governor, so there's another Dem vote in the Senate!

Posted by: DavidNOE on October 30, 2008 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK
For months Barrack has been touting the claim that his tax policy wouldn't increase taxes on families making less than $250,000 a year. Now, in his infomercial, he suddenly changes that to less than $200,000 a year. And Joe Biden let slip that it would be only those making less than $150,000 a year. What other lies has the Obama campaign been feeding us for months??? Incidentally, Joe Klein clearly has NO idea what crapulous really means.

Posted by: truthtopower on October 30, 2008 at 1:58 PM


Thank you for perfectly illustrating the stupidity and dishonesty of Republican talking points.

It is really quite simple, anyone family under $250,000 per year will not pay higher taxes. Any family making under $150,000 per year will pay lower taxes.

It's possible that you are too stupid to make this distinction, but it is certain that the Republican spin-meisters who created this little attack understand it perfectly and chose to lie about Obama's position.

Posted by: tanstaafl on October 30, 2008 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK

There's going to come a point, probably in a couple of weeks, at which John McCain is going to express some kind of "regret" for just how disgusting his campaign became.

Yeah. I can even tell you the kind of regret he's going to express: "If Barack Obama had agreed to my request to hold town hall meetings, ..."

Posted by: cmdicely on October 30, 2008 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

My response to a McCain apology:

TOO DAMNED LATE!!!!

Posted by: Michigoose on October 30, 2008 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

" There's going to come a point, probably in a couple of weeks, at which John McCain is going to express some kind of "regret" for just how disgusting his campaign became."

No. He won't.

Posted by: SteveB on October 30, 2008 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

Ahmadinejad is also unlikely to be re-elected next year when his term is up.

Posted by: Erik in Maine on October 31, 2008 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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