Tuesday, August 26, 2008


The Obama campaign, I'm happy to see, has finally started to take on John McCain, pointing out some of his flaws. I'm not suggesting that we need any mudslinging, but it's completely fair to point out the ways in which McCain's positions match those of President Bush. McCain likes to paint himself as a maverick, but he's recently shifted a lot of his positions (e.g., on taxes) to match Bush's. It's perfectly appropriate to point this out.

I am reminded of an essay I read during the 2004 election -- sorry, I can't find it now -- which said that every four years the Democrats do polling that reveals that the public agrees with them on the issues, so they try to run a positive campaign on the issues. Republicans do the same polling and realize that they need to use character assassination. While the Democrats are running positive ads, the Republicans swift-boat them.

In this case, the Democrats don't need to be too harsh on McCain's character, they just need to point out his stance on the issues. I particularly liked this excerpt from Joe Biden's first speech as running mate:

"I’ll say straight up to you – John McCain and the press knows this, is genuinely a friend of mine. I’ve known John for 35 years. He served our country with extraordinary courage and I know he wants to do right by America. But the harsh truth is, ladies and gentlemen, you can't change America when you boast, and these are John's words, quote, the most important issues of our day, I’ve been totally in agreement and support of President Bush. Ladies and gentlemen, that's what he said. You can't change America when you supported George Bush's policies 95% of the time. You can't change America when you believe, and these are his own words, that in the Bush administration we’ve made great progress economically. You can't change America and make things better for our senior citizens when you signed on to Bush's scheme of privatizing social security. You can't change America and give our workers a fighting chance when after 3 million manufacturing jobs disappear, you continue to support tax breaks for companies who ship our jobs overseas. You can't change America and end this war in Iraq when you declare and, again, these are John's words, no one has supported President Bush in Iraq more than I have, end of quote. Ladies and gentlemen, you can't change America, you can't change America when you know your first four years as president will look exactly like the last eight years of George Bush's presidency. "

It's perfectly fair to quote John McCain's own words on these topics. Now what the Democrats need to do is beat the drum. This is another point on which the Republicans excel. They pick a point of attack and beat on it every day. Democrats have a tendency to assume that people have absorbed it and move on to something else. I think every day between now and the election the message has to be, "McCain = Bush; Obama = Change." If they can get that message across, they win.

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