24 Hours Of John McCain Political Missteps
This hasn’t been the best 24 hours for presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Sen. John McCain. But the good news is that after 24 hours of news of stories that are unlikely to help him gain new voters, Democrat Barack Obama will now be under the media’s vetting microscope in Iraq — and McCain is unlikely to make the same number of blunders. And if he does, they won’t get the same play.
Here are three key McCain blunders.
1. BLUNDER NUMBER ONE: STICKING FAR TOO LONG WITH PHIL GRAMM
It leaked out yesterday morning in a report from widely read conservative columnist Robert Novak that McCain had essentially accepted former Senator Phil Gramm’s apology and that Gramm would remain a McCain adviser and campaign surrogate.
Perhaps details will soon come out about what kind of response the campaign got due to that report. But by the end of the day Gramm had resigned as the McCain camp’s co-chair, blasting (of course) the Democrats for making him resign since it was clear the Democrats were going to make Gramm an issue. And Gramm was correct: the Novak report meant Christmas had come early for the Democrats — but now Santa has revoked his gift. If the Novak report was a trial balloon, the balloon didn’t just pop. It loudly exploded. If Phil Gramm has a name in Chinese it probably is Ahn Too Longh.
2. BLUNDER NUMBER TWO: REVEALING A BIT ABOUT OBAMA’S IRAQ VISIT TIMETABLE:
He all but gave Obama’s arrival time. As James Joyner notes, it was not exactly the biggest secret in the world that Obama was going to Iraq. But it also is not correct as some McCain partisans are now are suggesting in dismissing McCain’s unwise revelation of details that it wasn’t a blunder that raises — and should raise – eyebrows. There is a valid security concern and McCain should and does know better.
This adds to the image that McCain is either not as thoughtful as many felt, does not measure his words and/or is not as savvy on security matters as he and his partisans insist. If you say you’re the country’s top maven on national security, you can’t then tip the world off to all but Obama’s arrival time. It was not a smart move.
3. BLUNDER NUMBER THREE: ECHOING HILLARY CLINTON’S COMMENT ON OBAMA:
During the primary season, Hillary Clinton raised many eyebrows and a created a piece of negative imagery boomeranged on her and lingered when she was asked on 60 Minutes about the rumors being spread that Obama was a Muslim. She displayed a political two step: saying that there was no basis to it and adding “not that I know.” It may have helped keep the rumors (which still persist) alive despite Obama’s denials and the findings of independent journalists. But her response was mentioned a lot during the campaign by pundits and columnists who wanted to show how Clinton was willing to use any tactic to win, even if it meant helping perpetuate a false rumor campaign.
Now, McCain has used a similar tactic on Obama — when the question came up whether Obama is a socialist. In response to a question by the Kansas City Star:
“His voting record … is more to the left than the announced socialist in the United States Senate, Bernie Sanders of Vermont,” McCain answered, according the paper.
Asked if he thought Obama was a socialist, McCain answered: “I don’t know. All I know is his voting record, and that’s what people usually judge their elected representatives by.”
McCain never likened Obama to Sanders before and never suggested Obama was a Socialist before, when they were in the Senate together.
What changed? He’s in a tight race for President. So, like Clinton, when he has a chance to un-muddy some waters about his opponent, he has decided to leave them as muddied as he can.
This will likely have the same net result as Clinton’s response to the question about Obama being a Muslim, but his response is not as smooth. What is striking: who would ever have thought that the John McCain of 2000 would suggest that a Democrat who he opposed on policy matters was a Socialist? The McCain of 2000 would have squelched the question and then perhaps lambasted Obama on an issue or something else. But times — and McCain — have apparently changed.
All of these blunders could and should have been avoided:
1. It would have been far easier and SMARTER politically for McCain to have dumped Gramm totally and definitively after the former Senator’s remark about Americas being a nation of “whiners” upset about a “mental recession.” That set Gramm up as the perfect symbol of stereotypical imagery of uncaring, rich Republicans and, by association, McCain as someone who would not be out to protect the interest of the average — genuinely suffering — Americans in a very real recession. Instead, he stuck with Gramm and the Novak report came out. And Gramm’s resignation looked forced and begrudging — which it probably was.
2. McCain should have avoided any mention of an Obama timetable. He could still have blasted Obama on Iraq and not given his foes ammunition.
3. McCain’s comment about Obama as a socialist will prove foolish and won’t peel off any votes that he won’t already get. The only voters who will agree or be won over by that comment are voters who already will not vote for Obama and to those wavering deciding to choose between the two it makes McCain look like a right wing pol who listens to too much far right talk radio.
On the other hand, one of McCain’s strong point is that he comes across great on TV and knows how to work the tube and the shows. Just watch him on Conan O’Brien HERE.
In fact, he’s more effective on these shows (that are viewed by younger voters) than Obama, who often appears stiff. The amiable TV show McCain is far more likable than the McCain that stubbed his toe in the three examples noted above.