Ed Driscoll

McCain Should Have Wargamed Obama's Prevent Defense

As Andrew Malcom writes, John Lewis (D-GA) predictably demagogues John McCain on race:

Lewis took the occasion of McCain himself admonishing his supporters Friday night to cool it in their shouted distaste for the Democratic ticket.

Lewis said: “George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who only desired to exercise their constitutional right.”

He said McCain and Palin are “playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all.”

McCain’s side fired back (note the military term) that Lewis’ assault (again) was a character attack “shocking and beyond the pale.”

Malcolm adds that “McCain called on Obama to repudiate the attack, which the Democratic presidential nominee’s campaign didn’t really do later in the day”, instead releasing their now standard-issue “Yes, but…” statement:

Later Saturday, Obama’s camp shot up a flare to disassociate itself from the worst of Lewis’ statement, while not really rebuking the political ally who had turned his back on the Clintons so helpfully at just the right time during the primary season. But it added a qualifier to allow the odor of Lewis’ remarks to linger.

“Sen. Obama does not believe that John McCain or his policy criticism is in any way comparable to George Wallace or his segregationist policies,” said the campaign statement. But wait! There’s more:

“John Lewis was right to condemn some of the hateful rhetoric that John McCain himself personally rebuked just last night.”

Bottom line: Just like World War I, artillery back and forth. The trenches didn’t move any. But unlike that military stalemate, this election race has a predetermined end. Both sides fed their troops some angry propaganda Saturday to keep them outraged and fired up out there on the front lines.

Most of us watched from the sidelines, shaking our heads and wondering over the persistent absence of serious discussion beyond bumper-sticker sound bites.

And McCain has one less day to change the game’s momentum.

The overt cries of racism from the left should have been anticipated by the McCain campaign, as they were a staple of how the Obama campaign also ran out the clock in the primaries against Hillary, Victor Davis Hanson writes:

The common denominator in all this? Ask Bill Clinton who saw all this earlier in the primaries. Team Obama has so prepped the battlefield that it is nearly impossible to raise legitimate questions about Sen. Obama’s mysterious past without incurring charges of racism and / or character assassination. The modus operandi is to have Obama high in the clouds talking about hope and change and brotherhood, descending on occasion to lament those who cruelly lie about him, and then ascend again as he unleashes a variety of surrogates who preemptively create a climate in which McCain can say very little without being condemned s illibera [sic] and worse.

Many of us warned about all this in March and April as we saw the Obama Rules box in Hillary. Time is running out for McCain and Palin, and they must act preemptively themselves, honestly warning that they expect to be demonized and have the race card played against them, but that such threats and invective will hardly stop them from asking even more legitimate questions.

Exactly–except that this should have been a preemptive strike from McCain, not a Hail Mary play deep in the fourth quarter. Since hindsight is 20/20, here’s a little bit of Monday morning (okay, Sunday afternoon) quarterbacking:

At some point over the summer, ideally during his acceptance speech in Minneapolis, the moment of 100 percent media coverage, which would have allowed him to use the spotlight to bypass the spin of the MSM, McCain should have said something along these lines:

I respect Senator Obama as an opponent, and I also respect the process of democracy in America. The Senator and I have serious disagreements on the most troubling issues of our day. And the American people need to know as much as they can about both of the men running for the most important job in the world. While I have many friends in the media, something tells me that they won’t do the most thorough job of explaining Senator Obama’s history and the background of his longtime acquaintances. So it’s going to be up to us–myself and my supporters, to help make that case.

As I said, I have many friends in the press, and you and I will know if they’re covering the election fairly if they report the facts on my esteemed opponent and his history–which, while it isn’t as lengthy as mine, contains some rather curious moments–in as much detail as they discuss my history, and the background of Gov. Palin, soon to be the next vice president of the United States.

We’ll know very quickly, my friends, about how both the media and my friends across the aisle intend to play this election. If they crudely describe my campaign or myself, or even subtly impugn in some way that it’s racist, as happened to my friend on the other side of aisle, the great senator from New York, Hillary Clinton when she ran her gallant fight against Senator Obama, then we’ll know what we’re in for.

And my friends, if and when such an unfortunate moment happens, I will call out Senator Obama, his fellow Democrats on the other side of aisle, and the media for their role in abetting this.

It’s time America move beyond the crude racial demagoguery and bitter divisiveness of the past, and the McCain campaign is committed to seeing that happen. Help me make it a reality, my friends!

And have that clip, and plenty of “see, I told you so” speeches ready for when the inevitable attacks from the media and the left started to occur this fall.

At the start of the month, Robert Stacy McCain (John’s more ebullient very distant cousin) rightly called out the campaign for its late September attacks on the media:

I didn’t comment on it at the time, but I was shocked when Steve Schmidt lashed out at the New York Times on Sept. 22. Every word Schmidt said about the NYT being in the tank for Obama was true. But you don’t do that. Ever. Not in a campaign you have any hope of winning. It is one thing to criticize specific errors by specific reporters, but for a presidential campaign manager to call into question the fundamental integrity of a newspaper that more or less dictates news coverage at the three major broadcast networks? Uh uh. No way. Leave that work to surrogates. Then Wednesday, in an interview with the Associated Press, McCain himself got all hostile with the reporter. That is tantamount to an admission of defeat.

Exactly.

Over the summer, both on my blog and via PJTV at the convention in Minneapolis, I praised the McCain campaign’s effective use of YouTube and their outreach to bloggers as examples of a campaign that seems to get the importance of new media. But so far, I’ve seen very little that leads me to believe that the campaign knows how to handle old media, and the prevent defense they’re committed to helping Sen. Obama play.

Again.