Saturday, September 13, 2008

Obama bloodied by Team McCain in electoral cage fight

Michael Tomasky has an article in this morning's Guardian newspaper about how John McCain is managing to win the battle for the daily news cycles and how, winning these battles, is helping him to win the election. At the moment the Obama campaign appears to me to be honourable, but relying far too much on the facts to win it's case.

Sadly, the appearance of Sarah Palin into this election - and the effect she has had - convinces me that Americans do not actually vote for policy; and that a candidates story - in her case the simple tale of the "hockey mom" who fights for good - has much more effect than such a thing would ever have in here Britain where we pride ourselves on our cynicism.

Obama has a great story to fit into this narrative, this guy really is the enactment of the American dream, but since winning the nomination - with the exception of a terrific acceptance speech - he's turning into a policy wonk, hoping the fact that the Republican party want to offer more of the same will be enough to win.

The figures seem to be saying the opposite and that's because McCain, through a series of scurrilous lies, is managing to keep Obama always defending and never attacking.

On the few occasions when McCain and Palin have actually been asked to answer questions their incompetence has been blatant. The selection of Palin, which is ludicrous on it's face, appears to have somehow stumped the Obama campaign. It's as if they don't want to hit this Bambi figure too hard in case they are perceived as being sexist. This is a nonsense, and it's impossible to think of either of Palin's historical precedents - Thatcher, Clinton - demanding, as McCain did in a recent ad, that any questioning of her which appeared to damage her would be grossly unfair.

She wants to be second in line to rule the free world for God's sake, she should be open to having who she is and what she believes scrutinised fully.

But, at the moment, as Tomasky points out, McCain is ruling the news cycles and he doesn't care whether what he is saying is true or not.

The McCain campaign is the news-cycle campaign. It is built around its television advertisements and attention-getting claims made on the stump that are all about winning that day's news cycle.

The basic idea is, if you win enough news cycles, you've dominated the discourse, you've manipulated the news coverage, you've gotten your message out at the other fellow's expense, you've kept him on the defensive. Do all that and you're going to win. Many of these advertisements and claims are contemptible lies (see sidebar). The nature of McCain's campaign is all the more shameful considering that he's doing many of the exact things that were done to him by George Bush's campaign in 2000 -and employing some of the self-same people who did it to him to do it to Obama.

As I write, the American political media are gently rousing themselves towards a state of backlash, and we will have to see where that leads. But as the old saying goes, a lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on, and so here we are.

At the moment, McCain - astonishingly in my view - is winning. He is managing to set the news cycles, even if he does so by telling astounding porkies.

The American people appear not to care, so caught up are they in the tale of the "hockey mom" and her dysfunctional family that are so like every other American family.

Obama needs to become the story rather than reacting to the stories and the lies which McCain is generating.
Since the conventions, Team McCain has kept up its barrage, daily and sometimes hourly launching new attacks and continuing to promote false claims about Palin's "record of reform" (that she opposed federal funding for a bridge that she in fact supported until it became politically unwise to do so, that she fought federal "pork-barrel" spending that she had in fact sought for her state).
Obama has, up until now, done the honourable thing and remained on the ropes taking the punches like Muhammad Ali did against George Foreman. Now, just as Ali did, it's time for Obama to come off of the ropes and start punching. Enough of the press have started to realise that McCain is pedalling terrible lies for the charge to actually hit home.

Portray him as dishonest. Portray him as someone who will say anything to gain power. Show the horrific list of flip flops that he has made. Show the choice of Palin as the reckless bid to please his base that it was.

During the battle against Clinton, Obama's greatest strength was that he redefined the parameters and did not allow the Democratic nomination to be fought along guidelines set by the Republican party and their mouthpieces. He needs to do the same here. It is not going to be enough to have the facts and all that is good and right on our side.

He needs to define the battleground and not allow this to be defined by McCain and the professional team of liars that he has assembled around him. He doesn't have to go negative, he simply has to tell the truth, as the truth - at this moment - appears to be kryptonite to McCain's fake Superman persona. If he's lying, loudly state that McCain is lying. If Palin is unfit to be Vice President to a 72 year old man who might die in office, run ads showing how she doesn't even know what the Bush Doctrine is to demonstrate how unready she is for the position to which McCain has recklessly elevated her.

Obama defeated the formidable Clinton political machine by inspiring us, by showing us the strength of his vision, by giving us hope.

I want to be inspired again. I want Obama to come off the ropes and to knock these two fakes into next week.

There is far too much at stake for us to worry about offending sensibilities by appearing to be rude to poor little Sarah Palin. These people are phonies, they are con artistes pretending to represent middle class values whilst acting as Trojan horses for corporate interests.

All we need to do is to show them as they are, and to stop fearing what people might say if we do so. We need to get off the ropes and start punching.

Click title for Tomasky's article.

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