McCain Unleashing Sarahcuda on Biden
Thanks to Okie Campaigns for the headsup...September 29, 2008
How McCain Wins
By WILLIAM KRISTOL
John McCain is on course to lose the presidential election to Barack Obama. Can he turn it around, and surge to victory?
He has a chance. But only if he overrules those of his aides who are trapped by conventional wisdom, huddled in a defensive crouch and overcome by ideological timidity.
The conventional wisdom is that it was a mistake for McCain to go back to Washington last week to engage in the attempt to craft the financial rescue legislation, and that McCain has to move on to a new topic as quickly as possible. As one McCain adviser told The Washington Post, “you’ve got to get it [the financial crisis] over with and start having a normal campaign.”
McCain’s impetuous decision to return to Washington was right. The agreement announced early Sunday morning is better than Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s original proposal, and better than the deal the Democrats claimed was close on Thursday. Assuming the legislation passes soon, and assuming it reassures financial markets, McCain will be able to take some credit.
But the goal shouldn’t be to return to “a normal campaign.” For these aren’t normal times.
We face a real financial crisis. Usually the candidate of the incumbent’s party minimizes the severity of the nation’s problems. McCain should break the mold and acknowledge, even emphasize the crisis. He can explain that dealing with it requires candor and leadership of the sort he’s shown in his career. McCain can tell voters we’re almost certainly in a recession, and things will likely get worse before they get better.
And McCain can note that the financial crisis isn’t going to be solved by any one piece of legislation. There are serious economists, for example, who think we could be on the verge of a huge bank run. Congress may have to act to authorize the F.D.I.C. to provide far greater deposit insurance, and the secretary of the Treasury to protect money market funds. McCain can call for Congress to stand ready to pass such legislation. He can say more generally that in the tough times ahead, we’ll need a tough president willing to make tough decisions.
With respect to his campaign, McCain needs to liberate his running mate from the former Bush aides brought in to handle her — aides who seem to have succeeded in importing to the Palin campaign the trademark defensive crouch of the Bush White House. McCain picked Sarah Palin in part because she’s a talented politician and communicator. He needs to free her to use her political talents and to communicate in her own voice.
I’m told McCain recently expressed unhappiness with his staff’s handling of Palin. On Sunday he dispatched his top aides Steve Schmidt and Rick Davis to join Palin in Philadelphia. They’re supposed to liberate Palin to go on the offensive as a combative conservative in the vice-presidential debate on Thursday.
That debate is important. McCain took a risk in choosing Palin. If she does poorly, it will reflect badly on his judgment. If she does well, it will be a shot in the arm for his campaign.
In the debate, Palin has to dispatch quickly any queries about herself, and confidently assert that of course she’s qualified to be vice president. She should spend her time making the case for McCain and, more important, the case against Obama. As one shrewd McCain supporter told me, “Every minute she spends not telling the American people something that makes them less well disposed to Obama is a minute wasted.”
The core case against Obama is pretty simple: he’s too liberal. A few months ago I asked one of McCain’s aides what aspect of Obama’s liberalism they thought they could most effectively exploit. He looked at me as if I were a simpleton, and patiently explained that talking about “conservatism” and “liberalism” was so old-fashioned.
Maybe. But the fact is the only Democrats to win the presidency in the past 40 years — Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — distanced themselves from liberal orthodoxy. Obama is, by contrast, a garden-variety liberal. He also has radical associates in his past.
The most famous of these is the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and I wonder if Obama may have inadvertently set the stage for the McCain team to reintroduce him to the American public. On Saturday, Obama criticized McCain for never using in the debate Friday night the words “middle class.” The Obama campaign even released an advertisement trumpeting McCain’s omission.
The McCain campaign might consider responding by calling attention to Chapter 14 of Obama’s eloquent memoir, “Dreams From My Father.” There Obama quotes from the brochure of Reverend Wright’s church — a passage entitled “A Disavowal of the Pursuit of Middleclassness.”
So when Biden goes on about the middle class on Thursday, Palin might ask Biden when Obama flip-flopped on Middleclassness.