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McCain, Obama, the Press, and "The One"

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With a new television spot comparing Barack Obama to bubble-gum celebrities Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, John McCain is launching a new campaign aimed at portraying Obama as simply an international star. This has raised the issue about McCain’s self image and state of mind.
 
Ed Rollins, a longtime Republican strategist, said McCain sometimes appears frustrated and angry when he talks about Obama, especially when complaining that the press does not treat him fairly. "John needs to be the deliberate, experienced veteran and not the grumpy old man," Rollins said. "If he's the grumpy old man, angry that the media is not in love with him anymore because they're in love with Barack Obama, that's not going to play well with the public.”
 
McCain’s obsession over Obama’s popularity has reached such epic proportions that privately the McCain campaign privately calls Mr. Obama “The One”.  The Republican National committee campaign maintains an “Audacity Watch” that chronicles Mr. Obama’s most showy claims.  And observers on the right often refer to the Democratic candidate as “Saint Obama”.
 
Neo: “What is happening to me?”
 
Morpheus: “You are the One, Neo.”  "The Matrix"
 
But many Republicans, including John Weaver, Mr. McCain’s former campaign manager who described yesterday’s advertisement as “childish”, worry that Mr. McCain is jeopardizing his reputation for being a civil campaigner without putting forward a coherent message about what he would do as president.
 
For weeks, McCain's staff has been criticized for running a campaign that has no clear message. The decision by the senator from Arizona to have former Bush strategist Steve Schmidt (former subordinate of Karl Rove) run daily operations was described as a way to get control of the message.  But some Republicans outside the campaign believe that not much has changed since then.
 
At a town hall meeting Tuesday, a GOP voter posed a question McCain has heard everywhere from Sparks, Nevada, to Dayton, Ohio: Why should Republicans support him?
 
"I think I speak for a lot of conservatives when I say I'm not very excited about this election," the questioner said, noting that he differs with McCain on issues including "amnesty" for illegal immigrants and the senator's support for "the global warming crowd's agenda."
 
But rather than rattle off his most conservative positions—his opposition to abortion and support for the war—McCain launched into a long explanation of his role in a compromise on judges, something that conservatives often criticize him for.
 
This became more serious when the previous McCain advertisement last weekend, which wrongly claimed Mr. Obama cancelled a visit to see wounded troops in Germany because the Pentagon would not permit the media to accompany him has since, been discredited.
 
Morpheus: “You are the One, Neo.”  "The Matrix"
 
But no, Obama is just a politician.  So is John McCain.  But one talks more like the “One” than the other one.
 
Did you hear that John McCain all but called Barack Obama a socialist in an interview recently, right about the same time he was quoted as essentially calling him a traitor?
 
Probably not.  As supporters of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee have been reminding us, Obama, his likely Democratic opponent, has been getting far more media coverage—a 2-1 advantage in network airtime, for example, according to one study.
 
This statistical imbalance has prompted a tsunami of umbrage from the right.  It's not fair, they say.  It's not balanced.  It proves that journalists are so infatuated with Obama that they've lost their collective objectivity.
 
Secretly, they must be thrilled.
 
First, it gives them a chance to bash the media.
 
And second, "coverage”, nearly 18 months into a campaign when reporters are desperate for new angles, is often uncomfortably close to pitiless scrutiny.
 
For Example: Is John McCain losing it?  Is Sen. John McCain giving fits to conservatives, like those who comprise The Wall Street Journal's editorial board:  that they're asking aloud if he's stupid?

Daniel Henninger, The WSJ’s columnist points to a few recent examples that alarmed the conservative camp—all were said by McCain himself:  things that were contradictory, that seemed illogical, or not helpful to his parties chances.

“On Sunday, he said on national television that to solve Social Security ‘everything's on the table’, which of course means raising payroll taxes. On July 7 in Denver, he said: ‘Senator Obama will raise your taxes.  I won't.’

This isn't a flip-flop.  It's a sex-change operation.

He got back to the subject Tuesday in Reno.  Reporters asked about the Sunday tax comments.  Mr. McCain replied, ‘The worst thing you could do is raise people's payroll taxes, my God!’  Then he was asked about working with Democrats to fix Social Security, and he repeated, ‘Everything has to be on the table.’  But how can . . .?  ‘Oh never mind.’”  Was Mr. Henninger’s final sentence a sign of despair?

The point is obvious:  McCain is giving many conservatives the blues.


But more than that, he actually has some of them worried about the state of his mind.  It's remarkable that the questions are being raised by the conservatives themselves and not by the Democrats.  We still have months to go before the election and already the despair in conservative ranks is obvious.

Here's another example Henninger cites that demonstrates the conservative hair-pulling McCain is causing:  “Then this week in San Francisco, in an interview with the Chronicle, Sen. McCain called Nancy Pelosi an ‘inspiration to millions of Americans.’ Notwithstanding his promises to ‘work with the other side,’ this is a politically obtuse thing to say in the middle of a campaign.  Would Bill Clinton, running for president in 1996 after losing control of the House, have called Newt Gingrich an ‘inspiration’?  House Minority Leader John Boehner, facing a 10-to-20 seat loss in November, must be gagging.”

“The one thing—arguably the only thing—the McCain candidacy has going for it is a sense among voters that they don't know what Barack Obama stands for or believes.  Why then would Mr. McCain give voters reason to wonder the same thing about himself?”  You're supposed to sow doubt about the other “One”, not do it to yourself.
 
“I'm asking you to believe.  Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington. . . . I'm asking you to believe in your own ability”. -- Barack Obama
 
“I know that you're afraid. . . . You're afraid of change.  I don't know the future.  I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it's going to begin. . . . A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible.” -- Neo - “The One”

 

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Travel website: The Pink Agenda. Several Blogs. Weekly newsletter, available upon request. Publications - Fiction: Borrowing Time: A Latino Sexual Odyssey - Floricanto Press 2003. Poetry: The Refined Savage Poetry Review - Refined Savage (more...)
 

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