Every political strategist in the country knows that Bill Clinton’s win over George H.W. Bush 16 years ago is usually attributed to the Clinton campaign’s disciplined focus on one central theme. “It’s the economy, Stupid!” read the message Democratic strategist James Carville posted in his office.
That idea was nothing but a rehash of the old advertising industry KISS principal — Keep it simple, Stupid — but it worked.
Republicans would be wise to remember that experience and that lesson. They need to more effectively drive home what should be the McCain-Palin team’s simple central message: It’s the qualifications, Stupid!
The GOP camp is distracting voters from the clear and compelling message that John McCain is up to the challenge of the presidency and Barack Obama is not. This is a big mistake.
Sure, because he was reaping what he had sown, it was fun to watch Barack Obama squirm, whine, and become so discombobulated that he actually echoed Republicans in pointing out that the mainstream news media are mainly dimwitted dupes.
But feigning shock and demanding apologies by claiming that Obama was calling Governor Sarah Palin a pig because he used that old gag line about putting lipstick on a pig? Making so much of such a sideshow strains the right’s credibility and make them sound like Democrats: humorless, whinny, and goofy.
Whether or not Barack Obama had McCain’s pick of Governor Palin in mind when he made that lipstick on a pig crack was really not of importance (and he most likely did not).
But whether or not Barack Obama is qualified to be President of the United States is of enormous importance — and he most certainly is not.
It may be fun, and it sure is poetic justice, to watch Obama and his gang cope with receiving a dose of their own medicine, but let’s not mistake emphasizing such sideshows for a winning strategy.
The main message Republicans need to convincingly convey to the American people is a reminder and reinforcement of what they already know deep inside but from which they are too often distracted: In deciding who we should select for the most important job in the world, what we the people of these United States really need to focus on are the qualifications of the job applicants.
Most Americans understand that qualifications for picking a leader for our country means an appropriate combination of experience, character, and judgment, plus a record of accomplishment.
Mayor Rudy Giuliani did an outstanding job of driving home this critical point in his remarks at the Republican National Convention. “You’re hiring someone to do a job — an important job that involves the safety and security of your family,” said America’s Mayor. Imagine that you have two job applications in your hand.”
Exactly the right message to emphasize.
John McCain has 26 years experience in Congress, where, from the beginning, he has played a leadership role on a range of major issues. Barack Obama has less than four years experience in Congress, where he has neither achieved anything of significance nor played a central role on any issue, and from which he has been mostly missing in action.
Prior to his time in Congress, McCain was a highly decorated military officer renowned for his leadership and courage. Prior to his time in Congress, Obama was for eight years one of the country’s 7,382 state legislators — and not a good one. Approximately 130 times, Obama voted “present” rather than take a stand on an issue.
At a time when our country is at war and thus the commander-in-chief role of the presidency is of mega importance, McCain brings with him 23 years experience in the military, whereas Obama has none.
At the Republican convention, Senator Fred Thompson made the point that John McCain’s heroism as a prisoner of war is not a qualification for the presidency — but it does reveal a lot about his character. That’s hard to argue with.
At the Democratic convention Barack Obama inadvertently revealed a serious character flaw when he looked into the camera and proclaimed to some 40 million viewers, “I am my brother’s keeper.” Here is a man whose income last year exceeded $4 million and whose passion is to lecture the rest of us about compassion and helping the poor while his half-brother George Hussein Anyango Obama lives in a dilapidated hut in a slum on the outskirts of Nairobi on less than twelve dollars a year, receiving no help from brother Barack. That’s hard to justify, which presumably is why the mainstream media doesn’t bother to discuss it.
When it was politically popular to support calling it quits in Iraq, that’s what Obama did. McCain instead supported a greater commitment, saying he would rather lose an election than see his country lose a war. The consequence of Obama’s judgment would have been a victory for al-Qaeda and other terrorists. He now admits that the action for which McCain dared to stake his prospects for the presidency has been a huge success, yet he refuses to say he was wrong in opposing that action.
Because a chief executive is to a large extent only as good as the team he puts together (a president makes a few thousand appointments), judgment in choosing associates matters. Obama has spent a whole campaign attempting to downplay and misrepresent his association with anti-American nutcases, unrepentant terrorists, extremists, and crooks, with whom no normal citizen, let alone a president, should or would ever associate. You have not seen McCain hide from, deny, or apologize for his choice of associates.
And what about accomplishments?
Hillary Clinton was one of the few persons who ever asked the obvious question that the mainstream media never asks: Other than his success in promoting himself, can you name any real public service accomplishments of Barack Obama? In McCain’s case the question presents an opportunity rather than an embarrassment.
Experience, character, judgment, and accomplishment. That’s the KISS (keep-it-simple-stupid) contrast message that makes McCain such an obviously better choice.