Friday, September 12, 2008

Bare Knuckles

Both the Post and the Times have stories up about the Obama campaign's newfound aggressiveness. Time will tell whether they're really willing to take the gloves off, but in politics, there's no such thing as being above it all. You're either hitting back and aggressively denying your opponent's claims or you're passively allowing them to be echoed until they become conventional wisdom. In any case, there are a couple things about the articles that troubled me. First, in the Times there's this:

“We’re sensitive to the fluid dynamics of the campaign, but we have a game plan and a strategy,” said Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe. “We’re familiar with this. And I’m sure between now and Nov. 4 there will be another period of hand-wringing and bed-wetting. It comes with the territory.”

Unfortunately, it's true that a lot of Democrats react this way at the first sign of controversy, but this is not how you should talk about your campaign.

Then later, there's this:

[Obama's] aides said they were looking to the news media to debunk the image of her as a blue-collar reformer, even as they argued that her power to help Mr. McCain was overstated.

The Obama campaign shouldn't be waiting for the shouldn't be waiting for the media to do their job for them. They should be pushing this line at every opportunity. And where the hell is Biden? Obama needs to avoid looking as though he's attacking Palin, but Joe can afford to get his hands dirty. In fact, that's part of why he's on the ticket.

The Washington Post offers this:

Asked why they have not pressed harder on reports that Palin's home town of Wasilla charged victims of sexual assault for their rape-testing kits, Obama spokesman Bill Burton gingerly mentioned it was "something we're looking at."

When journalists as much as tell you they're ready to run with a story, it's time to stop looking into it and start aggressively talking about it.

Look, it's not that hard. Palin represents a hard right shift in the McCain campaign. Everything about her undercuts McCain's claims to being a maverick promoting change, more so than McCain's shifts in policy because her brand extreme conservatism is so iconic. She may well shore up the base, but the majority of Americans would find her views alienating if only they knew about them. Furthermore, McCain's attempts to make her conform to his own carefully cultivated maverick image are transparently phony. This business of earmarks and eBay and the Bridge to Nowhere is all lies. Blandly worded fact checks in the backs of newspapers aren't going to sway voters because most will never see them. If the Obama campaign starts shouting this from the rooftops, it may just find its way to the front page.

If there's anything the Obama campaign can learn from Karl Rove, it's that they need to go after McCain's strengths. Some Democrats may be squeamish about that kind of politics, but there's a way to do it honestly. It certainly helps if your opponents are continuously lying, and McCain and Palin certainly are.

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