Obama Hits Neglectful Fathers — And, Of Course, McCain
Barack Obama's Fathers Day speech came as no surprise. Speaking at a black church in Chicago, at which he called out absentee fathers, especially in the black community, for acting "like boys instead of men."
The move was part of an expected pivot to the center by Obama for the general election and a way for the exotic candidate, the father of two girls, to highlight his commonality with mainstream American culture and challenge fellow African-Americans. It's certainly not the last time: there will be further such moves, you can be sure. With this under his belt, Obama will start the second week of his opening general election tour on the economy today with a look at his "competitiveness" agenda on Monday.
Obama, who is consolidating the Democrats following the long campaign between he and Hillary Clinton, has opened up a five-point lead over John McCain in the latest Rasmussen poll, 45% to 40%.
Meanwhile, John McCain's new TV ad campaign continues, as does the debate over debates. McCain's ad introduces or, actually, re-introduces this famous man in various battleground states, trying to frame the election around security rather than the economy.
McCain senior advisor Steve Schmidt tells me that the ad is airing in 54 broadcast TV markets in key swing states, a more than $3 million buy. Where exactly is it airing? Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Missouri. Another million or so is being spent on cable TV, where the ad will run on Fox News, CNN, Lifetime, The Learning Channel, and the Discovery Channel.
Here's the ad's text:
Only a fool or a fraud talks tough or romantically about war. When I was five years old, my father left for war.
My grandfather came home from war and died the next day.
I was shot down over Vietnam and spent five years as a POW. Some of the friends I served with never came home.
I hate war. And I know how terrible its costs are.
I'm running for President to keep the country I love safe. I'm John McCain and I approve this message.
Barack Obama isn't running any TV ads. Right now.
Obama is campaigning far more aggressively against McCain and the Republicans than he did against Hillary Clinton and his fellow Democrats, hammering McCain and the Bush Administration every day now. The tyro Illinois senator said at a private fundraiser in Philadelphia the other night, featuring Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, whose machine helped Hillary win one of her biggest victories over Obama but where Obama now leads McCain: "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun."
That's a rip-off of a Sean Connery line in The Untouchables. About "the Chicago Way." Obama, of course, is from Chicago.
Well, from Chicago via Honolulu and Jakarta.
It's hardly all good for Obama, who is actually running behind his party in what should be an excellent year for Democrats given President Bush's near historic levels of unpopularity.
He had to cut loose his principal veep vetter, Jim Johnson, a prominent Washington insider who vetted the last two Democratic vice presidential nominees, Joe Lieberman and John Edwards. Neither of whom turned out all that well, incidentally, though not for background problems. Johnson had received favorable treatment on loans from Countrywide, a controversial firm at the center of the subprime mortgage crisis. He's such a political fixture that it apparently didn't occur to Obama and his team to see if he might have any problems. Whoops!
But the move comes after McCain had to let five people go from his campaign for controversial lobbying ties, including to the murderous Burmese military dictatorship and to Saudi Arabia.
Speaking of Saudi Arabia, the kingdom will next weekend host a very unusual conference which may have great bearing on this presidential election. The most important leaders of the oil cartel are bringing together, next Sunday in Jeddah, representatives of the principal oil-producing and oil-consuming nations of the world to seek a solution to the world's oil crisis. Or at least the portion of the crisis that has led to record oil and gasoline prices.
Obama says that the oil men in the White House, President Bush and Vice President Cheney, have done little to follow through on their promise of cheap oil following the takeover of Iraq, which was viewed as having the second largest reserves in the world.
McCain says that Obama should follow his lead in moving to suspend federal gasoline taxes over the summer.
Perhaps it's something for the two to debate. When they finally have debates.
Both have agreed to the three standard debates, slated to begin in September. But McCain, as the underdog, naturally wants more.
He's challenged Obama to appear with him at another ten "town hall" debates. Obama countered by suggesting that the pair engaged in "Lincoln-Douglas" debates around the nation, after the fashion of the famed 1858 series of debates between Illinois politicians Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas over slavery, and a U.S. Senate seat. (Douglas won that election, but Lincoln won the debates, setting him up to win the presidency in 1860.)
It's amusing in that McCain and Obama have both suggested debate formats that play specifically to their respective greatest strengths.
For McCain is best at town hall meetings, where he is a master. Obama is best at platform speeches, where he is a master. And the Lincoln-Douglas format is essentially a duel of lengthy speeches, rather than a debate as we have come to know it.
There's no agreement yet between the two camps, but talks will continue this week and ultimately there will be more than the scheduled three debates.
Neither man was his party's best debater. Obama, especially early on, as in a Las Vegas forum which I filmed and where he bombed, struggled at times as he attempted to shoehorn elements of his stump speech into much shorter debate answers. But the lengthy campaign against Clinton honed his skills.
But Clinton also was not her party's best debater. That was John Edwards. The Republicans' best debater? Rudy Giuliani.
For all the good it did either of those candidates. Giuliani, by the way, has resurfaced following his disastrous campaign. He is willing to help his financially-challenged party: for a cut of the take at fundraisers he headlines.
This week, Obama will continue the consolidation of his takeover of his own party. While the Clintons are on vacation -- former President Bill resurfaced Thursday night to fete Warren Beatty as the liberal actor/filmmaker received the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award in Hollywood -- Obama is moving most Democratic National Committee operations from Washington to Chicago, site of his own campaign headquarters. The Republican National Committee will continue to operate out of Washington, near McCain headquarters. The Beltway, in the meantime, belongs to them.