McCain, GOP unleash anti-Obama plan
|Republicans might have a reason to smile: John McCain and his allies seem to have finally settled on a way to draw a stark contrast with Barack Obama.
After weeks of criticism from Republicans about the leisurely pace at which they seemed to be preparing for the general election, McCain’s campaign has apparently settled on a highly personal campaign theme that aims to differentiate McCain and Obama on both character and issues.
The strategy: Paint Obama as conventional politician who always takes the safe and easy political road, then amplify the distinction by framing McCain as a patriot, somebody who has put sacrifice above self.
It’s seemingly an effort by McCain to remind voters of his Vietnam-era heroism and compelling life story while touching on key issues to avoid running purely on biography. The message also is designed to underline McCain’s unique record of service to his country without touching on subterranean questions about Obama’s patriotism.
Whether it will work — or if the famously improvisational McCain will even stick to it — is an open question.
But it is finally clear that McCain and many of his allies — including Karl Rove and Mitt Romney — are finally working in unison to push one message, and push it aggressively.
In a memo sent to reporters Thursday morning headlined, “Country First Vs. Self-Serving Partisanship,” McCain senior adviser Steve Schmidt traces an unbroken line from the physical courage McCain demonstrated in the Hanoi Hilton to the political bravery his supporters say he demonstrated on Capitol Hill.
“When John McCain was offered early release as a prisoner of war, he refused, subjecting himself to torture rather than give a propaganda victory to his captors,” Schmidt writes. “Is it any wonder that during the Republican primary, John McCain was working with Democrats and talking about the need for comprehensive immigration reform?”
Obama, Schmidt contends, has never picked the harder right over the easier wrong.
“In his time on the national stage, he has consistently put his party and his self-interest first,” he writes, citing energy and Iraq as two issues where Obama is constrained by the base of his own party.
Schmidt also seeks to use the same self-interest frame to bruise Obama for his decision to reverse course on taking public funding to finance his campaign and for not being willing to engage McCain in multiple town hall meetings.
The Obama campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
There is also an element of triangulation in the new theme, a recognition that McCain needs to set him apart from a toxic Republican administration and the political status quo.
To this end, Schmidt seeks to rebut the consistent Democratic effort to fuse McCain and President Bush by suggesting that it’s not just Bush but Washington that is broken.
The country’s political challenges aren’t due to “a Republican administration that has disappointed many or a Democratic Congress that cannot take action on the challenges facing our nation,” Schmidt writes. “The problem is that politicians in Washington are working for their own self-interest or that of their party.”
Schmidt, who is taking on a broader portfolio in the campaign and has returned from the trail to work at headquarters full time, developed the theme, according to campaign sources, and it has been quickly accepted as the new line.
McCain, who rarely discusses what is perhaps the most compelling element of his biography, used the new language twice on Tuesday to bring up his refusal to take early release in Vietnam.
“When I was offered a chance to go home early from prison camp in Vietnam, I put my country first,” McCain said on a conference call Tuesday night with independent and Democratic voters in South Florida. “And I’ve been doing that ever since.”
He said much the same later that night at a fundraiser in Newport Beach, Calif.
Also picking up the theme Thursday were Rove and Romney.
Rove used his regular perch on the Wall Street Journal opinion page to openly press the patriotism issue. “In a contest over who is willing to put principle above personal ambition and self-interest, John McCain, a war hero and a former POW, wins hands down,” Rove wrote.
In a clear sign of the desire of McCain’s campaign to drive this message, Romney, who has emerged as one of McCain’s most frequent and on-message surrogates, appeared on three television morning shows to make the case.
“He has consistently voted with his party on the most partisan issues and put his party and personal interests ahead of those of the nation,” Romney said of Obama on CNN’s “American Morning.” “I think [he’s] been unable during his career at any time to reach across the aisle, find compromise, find ways to get things done other than simply toeing the party line.”
As we read in this morning’s Politico (McCain, GOP unleash anti-Obama plan) that the Right is coalescing around a unified message against Barack Obama, we simultaneously find that Obama is handing the “I’m just another politician from Chicago” issue to John McCain and the Republicans on a silver platter.
Thursday’s landmark Supreme Court may or may not have plopped gun control into the campaign. But it does place Sen. Barack Obama’s careful, cautious, sometimes contradictory (and dare we say Clintonian?) approach to tricky policy positions squarely in the center of the race….Name your issue — on trade, taxes, guns, the death penalty, campaign finance reform, FISA — Obama may well be taking the politically smart position for a Democrat in these early days of the general election.But the point is that he’s taking positions that are at least shaded differently than those he’s taken in the past, if not outright flip-flops. These are political calculations that make a dangerous assumption for Obama: that he’s willing to risk being called a “politician” at all.
“Mr. Obama, who like Mr. McCain has been on record as supporting the individual-rights view, said the ruling would ‘provide much-needed guidance to local jurisdictions across the country.'”
This piece by McClatchy’s Margaret Talev is offered here only to illustrate the point that there are some in the press who take their jobs seriously.
I might mention as an aside that there have been few media organs as much in the tank for Obama as McClatchy so Talev’s piece is doubly interesting in that regard. And she doesn’t pull many punches in describing Obama’s fall from the heights either:
From the beginning, Barack Obama’s special appeal was his vow to remain an idealistic outsider, courageous and optimistic, and never to shift his positions for political expediency, or become captive of the Inside-the-Beltway intelligentsia, or kiss up to special interests and big money donors.
In recent weeks, though, Obama has done all those things.
He abandoned public campaign financing after years of championing it. Backed a compromise on wiretap legislation that gives telecom companies retroactive immunity for helping the government conduct spying without warrants. Dumped his controversial pastor of two decades – then his church – after saying he could no more abandon the pastor than abandon his own grandmother.
He said he wouldn’t wear the U.S. flag pin because it had become a substitute for true patriotism, then started wearing it. Ramped up his courtship of unions. Shifted from a pledge to protect working-class families from tax increases to a far more expensive promise not to raise taxes on families that earn up to $250,000 a year. Turned to longtime D.C. Democratic wise men to run his vice-presidential search and staff his foreign-policy brain trust.
The real devastating part of this piece is when Talev quotes several liberals who acknowledge the flip flops and either try to explain them away or simply accept them as part of Obama’s run for the presidency.
Cynicism writ large:
Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, the publisher of the liberal blog Daily Kos, called the wiretap compromise a “really craven flip-flop” meant to immunize Obama against efforts to paint him as weak on national security.But he defended Obama’s withdrawal from public financing as legitimate because Republicans aren’t committed to curbing independent attack ad spending.Dumping Rev. Wright and the church was a flip-flop, he said, but an understandable one given the intense – and one-sided – media coverage of the flap.Moulitsas admitted that he worries a lot about whether he can count on Obama to stay committed to quick troop withdrawals from Iraq. It’s not that Obama has given him any cues to that effect, he said, but rather that, “He’s a politician, and things change with politicians, at the end of the day.”
So much for the agent of “hope and change.” More like an agent of the “straddle and flip flop.”
By J.R. Dunn
The Obama campaign’s latest faux pas has come and gone (to the relief of almost everybody) with the decision to retire the “pre-presidential”seal. This is one of those incidents marked by questions that will never be answered, such as what could the campaign have possibly been thinking, and what is the appropriate punishment for whoever came up with the idea?
How this nonsense was supposed to end the Depression is anybody’s guess. In short order, it ran afoul of the Supreme Court, which on May 27, 1935, found the NRA illegal in Schechter Poultry Corporation v. United States, the so-called “sick chicken” case. The Court struck down the NRA as an unconstitutional extension of executive power. Roosevelt was forced to drastically modify his plans for the economy. (Not to mention waste the next two years on his notorious “court-packing”scheme.)
J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker
GOP aims at Obama after gun ruling
|In a landmark decision that returns the gun control debate to the forefront of the presidential race, the Supreme Court on Thursday overturned the District of Columbia’s restrictive ban on handguns and declared for the first time an individual right to possess a gun.
The D.C. gun ban had prohibited residents from keeping handguns inside their homes and required legal guns like hunting rifles to be registered and kept unloaded in a locked area.
The Republican National Committee and John McCain’s campaign seized on the ruling and used it to frame Democrat Barack Obama as a radical liberal on the issue of gun rights, in the first step toward a media and advertising push in more rural battleground states that “highlights that Barack Obama is the most anti gun candidate in American presidential history,” according to RNC spokesman Danny Diaz.
“This issue is a big fat wedge in target states,” said Matt McDonald, a senior adviser to McCain, citing Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and West Virginia. “Obviously it is an issue where he is at odds with working-class voters.”
In the long term, McDonald said the McCain campaign planned to highlight Obama’s past stances on gun issues to “fit into the narrative that we are looking at for Barack Obama: one, that is he coreless and, two, he’s unwilling to stand up for issues that risk his political future.”
The Obama campaign distanced itself Thursday from a statement made last year to the Chicago Tribune that “Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional.” Spokesman Bill Burton said that the statement “was not worded as well as it could have been” and that Obama believes that generally the Constitution “doesn’t prevent local and state governments from enacting their own gun laws.”
In a February interview with WJLA’s Leon Harris, Obama didn’t dispute the characterization that he believes the D.C. gun law is constitutional. Asked how he reconciled past statements about the rights of gun owners and his “support [for] the D.C. handgun ban,” Obama straddled the issue.
“I think it’s important for us to recognize that we’ve got a tradition of handgun ownership and gun ownership generally,” he said. “And a lot of people — law-abiding citizens — use it for hunting, for sportsmanship and for protecting their families. We also have a violence on the streets that is the result of illegal handgun usage. And so I think there is nothing wrong with a community saying we are going to take those illegal handguns off the streets, we are going to trace more effectively how these guns are ending up on the streets, to unscrupulous gun dealers, who oftentimes are selling to straw purchasers. And cracking down on the various loopholes that exist in terms of background checks for children, the mentally ill. Those are all approaches that I think the average gun owner would actually support.
“The problem is that we’ve got a position, oftentimes by the NRA, that says any regulation whatsoever is the camel’s nose under the tent. And that, I think, is not where the American people are at. We can have reasonable, thoughtful gun control measures that I think respect the Second Amendment and people’s traditions.”
In regard to Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling, the Obama campaign released a statement saying, “As president, Barack Obama will continue to respect the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners, and for voters who have concerns about this issue, they will find real comfort in Sen. Obama’s record. But when it comes to health care and energy and other economic issues that many gun owners care about, Barack Obama offers a fundamental change, while John McCain offers more of the same.”
McCain was one of 55 lawmakers who signed a “friend of the court” brief opposing the D.C. gun ban. Obama, who did not sign the document, has refused throughout the presidential campaign to clarify his stand on the D.C. ban despite persistent questions from reporters. Obama has said in the past, however, that he supports an individual right to bear arms.
Harvard Professor Lawrence Tribe, an expert in constitutional law, said Thursday’s ruling was the most politically loaded decision since the Bush v. Gore decision in 2000.
It also marked the first ruling by the high court on the Second Amendment in U.S. history. The decision upheld an individual right to bear arms and, according to Tribe, “certainly undermines any categorical prohibition on weapons used for self-defense,” while still permitting restrictions on the categories of people who can own guns and “reasonable regulation.”
The split 5-4 decision also thrust the issue of the court’s composition into the campaign, as the next president may appoint as many as three new justices.
The McCain campaign immediately used the ruling to raise Obama’s more liberal positions on guns, reaching back to the presumptive Democratic nominee’s voting record as an Illinois state legislator.
As a state senator, Obama generally supported tighter state restrictions on firearms and a ban on all forms of semiautomatic weapons, and he served on the board of a foundation that supported position papers advocating strict gun control measures.
The National Rifle Association plans to spend upwards of $40 million on a campaign to highlight Obama’s record and define him as a supporter of “Chicago-style gun control,” said the NRA’s chief lobbyist, Chris W. Cox.
“Barack Obama’s views on gun rights, despite what he might say on Iowa or Montana, are very radical,” Cox said. “Never before have we had a presidential candidate who has been so open and clear on his position on self defense with a firearm in your own home.”
Cox added that the NRA will also draw attention to Obama’s comments at a San Francisco fundraiser that small-town Americans “cling to guns” because they are “bitter” over the difficult economy.
“There are a lot of bitter gun owners who are looking to vote against Obama,” Cox said, with a note of sarcasm.
The high court ruling was handed down as Obama ended his three-week economic policy tour in western Pennsylvania. Returning for the first time to the Pittsburgh area since the Democratic primary, a region with a high rate of gun ownership, Obama suddenly found himself on the other end of a domestic debate that has long undermined Democratic presidential candidates, including Al Gore in 2000.
Eight years later, Republicans believe that the gun debate will help ground Obama’s effort to “transcend” the culture wars. “We will blast him about this ruling,” said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds, as the Republican’s communication team prepared to organize a morning conference call to raise Obama’s prior votes on guns and challenge his silence on the ban. “It’s a hard contrast issue, and we are going to hit it out of the park.”