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Here's How Obama Should Challenge John McCain

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Andrew Schmookler
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A couple of days ago, while John McCain was behind closed doors raising funds with the help of George W. Bush, Obama delivered a fine speech. In this speech --which I commend to your attention at www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/05/27/bush-fundraises-for-mccai_n_103688.html--

Obama declares that McCain is hiding his event with the president, to which he goes hat in hand for money, not wanting to be seen with Bush, because all McCain represents is more of the same while the American people are “ready to turn the page.”

This speech lays the foundation for a still-more-effective approach to this issue --the issue of McCain and Bush-- one that will up the ante and put McCain more fully on the defensive.

The speech Obama gave DECLARES that McCain represents a third Bushite term. Upping the ante would be to CHALLENGE McCain with questions that force him into the politically awkward position of either DEFENDING Bush or REPUDIATING him.


Tell us, Senator McCain, are you going to repudiate the use of warrentless searches, such as the Bushiites conducted--- are you going to repudiate the politicization of the justice department, are you going to repudiate the dishonesty in how they sold the war to the country, are you going to repudiate the incessant divisiveness of the Bushites, are you going to repudiate the policies that serve the big corporate powers at the expense of the American people?

Will you be like them, or are you going to commit to changing some of this damage that's been done to the country.

For Mccain to repudiate Bush risks alienating the GOP base, while defending him is to tie himself to policies that the American people now overwhelmingly reject.

A mere declaration that McCain equals Bush (as in the recent speech) can be ignored, but pointed challenges --specific questions asked of John McCain by the Democratic nominee publicly and directly-- will be more difficult for McCain to just disregard. The challenge creates the very kind of confrontational drama that the media crave, and therefore the media will likely become the carriers of the challenge. McCain will not be able to dodge those questions so easily.

Obama has not up till now had much of an offense against McCain. He's had to play defense, for example against the ridiculous charges from McCain, Bush, and the GOP that a willingness to TALK to enemies equates to a propensity to APPEASE them. Obama has counterpunched well on this issue, but nonetheless this issue of alleged "weakness" on national security is not the terrain on which Obama wants this campaign to be fought on.

This strategy of pointedly challenging McCain to repudiate Bushite policies IS an advantageous terrain for Obama. Not only does it put McCain in a political dilemma, but it also fortifies Obama's own core message: that it is HE who offers America the possibility of genuine change. 

So Senator McCain, are you offering us a new kind of politics? And if so, describe to us this new politics and tell us what's new about it.

I'm eager to do the same for the new politics I am offering America. Here's what I repudiate about the way our politics have ill-served America in recent years. And here's how, with the help and support of the American people, I intend to lead us in different directions.


It is a strategy that puts CHANGE front and center, and we know that 80 percent of the American people think that America is "heading in the wrong direction."

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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