Thursday, August 21, 2008

McCain Camp Misses Big Opportunity

I don't know if the McCain Campaign failed to finish their negative Tony Rezko ad in time for the nightly newscasts to air it tonight, or if the networks, without knowledge or confidence the ad will ever air (McCain in the past this election cycle has created strong attack ads but not actually paid to air them, with the aim of having the networks air the ad for free on news and opinion broadcasts, which they have been more than happy to do) but the ad did not air on either NBC Nightly News or ABC's World News Tonight. Instead, the pieces the networks ran focused on Obama's attacks, and his tying McCain's statement that he doesn't know how many houses he knows to how out of touch McCain is with problems in the economy.

The Rezko ad is a brutal hatchet job on Obama. While Obama's negative ad today at least is tangentially related to policy (asking how McCain can understand or fix the economy if he doesn't know it's broken) McCain's ad is completely unrelated to policy. It's a total negative character attack, essentially saying "Obama is a crook who associates with other crooks. He does them political favors and he swindles real estate on the side." Of course, Rezko is not one of Obama's biggest fundraisers by any calculation (and he never donated a dime to Obama's Presidential campaign, and all of the funds Rezko raised or had any connection have long been donated to charity by Obama) and Obama was never the subject of any suspicion of wrong-doing related to Rezko. But, that's surely not the picture painted by McCain's ad.

I'll be honest, nothing surprises me in politics, but I really thought McCain was more honorable than the campaign he's running. The advantage to having McCain as the Republican nominee, and Obama as the Democratic nominee, was supposed to be a civil campaign. Instead, McCain has run almost entirely negative ads, mostly involving Obama's character (not his policies) and he has repeatedly questioned Obama's patriotism (including saying that Obama would choose to lose a war if it meant he was elected President). Obama, in recent days, has gone more on the attack, but always couched in policy distinctions, not personal ones. John McCain has chosen not to follow that path. And it's working, because the polls have tightened, and McCain seems to have the wind at his back. But, something tells me, McCain would not have accepted this kind of campaign when he ran in 2000. But if you want to win badly enough, and you are willing to do whatever your advisers tell you to do, then this is the kind of campaign you get. One indistinguishable from the campaign George W. Bush ran against McCain in 2000.

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