Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Idle Question of the Day

Writing today in the Washington Post, Dick Morris suggests that McCain attack Obama for Obama’s "slavish devotion to the teacher’s unions."

Uh-oh. Do you really think anyone can get away with using "slavish" and "Obama" in the same sentence without provoking the indignation that, you know, you’re tacitly appealling to something. . . beginning with, I don’t know,. . . maybe. . . the "R"-word?


Discussions - 5 Comments

Leaving aside the rhetorical gaffe here, the substance of what Morris suggests is also interesting to consider. It's true that teacher unions deserve to be attacked and that those who blindly support the unions deserve to be attacked as well. Attacking the teacher unions might be good strategy if the goal was to peel off some of these newly energized young voters who see Obama as something beyond the ordinary politician. This (among many other things) could expose him to be just another pol, beholden to his own kind of special interests . . . disingenuous at best in his real concern for education. But this strategy depends on these young voters having the patience to follow this argument and distinguish between teachers (many of whom they know and love) and teachers unions. And, to understate, that's not a sure bet.

Further, attacking the teacher unions is sure to bring out the ire of the other unions and, although it's not as if there were any real possibility that they would fall in love with a Republican to begin with, energizing them against Republicans is another matter. In this election, being painted as anti-Union may be the same thing (rhetorically) as being considered anti-middle class. A reputation for being against the middle class is not, in my opinion, something either candidate wants to foster in this election. The real question is going to be who is the bigger elitist. So I think I'd skip the full on assault on the teachers unions and direct my rhetoric more toward things that seem to give the middle class both more respect and more power over their destinies; like school choice. (But there are other policy prescriptions that also appeal to the strong sense of self-respect and independence in the middle class. Go anti-elite, not anti-foot soldier . . . ) Yes, this will make the unions mad too but it's not a direct attack on their members . . . only their leadership. And the truth is that most union members (at least the ones I know) resent paying those dues and are suspicious of the leadership anyway . . .

Good thinking Julie.

But I can't stand the thought of posting if I don't have something to disagree about...

Now I think your advice is actually likely to be a strain and have a voice in the narrative...certainly whenever Dick Morris speaks someone listens...but the truth Dick Morris offers is hardly ever clear.

Here is how I think McCain should implement the dig on Obama. He should make it a left handed compliment that no one would expect from stupid ol' simple McCain. And, he should do it from the Obama playbook.

You see lets suppose that you attack Obama directly with the charge of being just another pol beholden to special interests...well folks like Craig (or other liberal partisans who frequent the site) or basically everyone in my generation who is pro Obama...what are they going to do? They are going to re-raise you. They are going to link to X, Y and Z that shows how McCain is slavishly devoted to special interest X, Y, Z. You got to give them credit for taking the effort to dig up evidence...but my generation is quite good with google. My general rule in politics, don't expect either young people or people in general to understand your argument, understand how they will misunderstand it, understand what the reaction will be.

In this sense then it is almost guaranteed that both sides will talk past each other loudly...but it is quite unlikely that either side will be reflective enough to question or consider the direct link in the ethical proposition that being beholden to special interests makes you disingeneous with regard to real concern X, Y, or Z. In other words maybe McCain is both beholden to McDonald Douglas, Oshkosh, Haliburton and also cares deeply about Iraq and geopolitics and solid foreign policy.

Now I happen to know that after a while the self rightous cant of both sides will simply increase in pitch...but somewhere in the american subconscious, somewhere among centrists somewhere this will look ridiculous.

The problem is that Obama himself in his bible...On pg. 103 in my version of the Audacity of Hope says: "Another factor comes into play, though, one that is rarely mentioned but that helps explain why polls consistently show voters hating Congress but liking their congressman. Hard as it may be to belive, most politicians are pretty likeable folks. Certainly I found this to be true of my Senate colleagues."

So what I think Obama will do is let all the partisan bickering about being beholden to special interests reach a fever pitch...and then he will step in admit that he is beholden to special interests, he will universalize the problem(as he does in his book) and defend John McCain from the same charges, and praise McCain for campaign finance reform.

Obama might do this because he believes it, or he might do it because it is good politics...I tend to think he believes it, but I also believe it is dangerous to think you know what Obama any case according to the Audacity of Hope Obama does not believe that being beholden to special interests necessarily prevents the politician from being sincere in convictions.

The problem is that when Obama steps in and defends McCain, he will get the credit for being reasonable with moderates and simultaneously piss off the republican base towards McCain by drawing attention to Campaign finance.

So what should McCain do? McCain should constantly ignore Dick Morris and ignore his base that wants him to go for Obama's some point nevertheless everything is going to be very ugly...when that point comes McCain should defend Obama against the propostion that being beholden to special interests necessarily implies that his concerns in those areas are disingenuous. He can and should bring up Wright and X, Y, Z while he is doing this. He should do this when Obama attacks him with comparisons to Bush, quoting straight from Obama's bible on the subject and reminding all the democratic netroots that Obama doesn't believe what they believe about special interests...Obama has defended Bush and defended senators from the very propositions that his netroots accept. If McCain does this successfully this will piss off Obama's base and put him in a very difficult spot. Obama's enraged netroots will spew hatred, and moderates will run to McCain who will gain credit.

Basically on this model I believe that with two "maverick" candidates the one who prevents his base from errupting the most wins.

Look it is childish to desire having McCain lie to you about who he this race the base that is the most quiet wins.

Are republicans really more grown up and mature than the democrat netroots?

By the way I completly agree with you Julie that the anti-elite tract is viable...on the other hand I also agree with Dan about seeing and hearing something wrong with Michelle Obama...but upon deeper consideration I think such fundamental factors are already priced in and actually suffer from being driven to the forefront...I am not certain about this, because this is already too intellectual...with some it may help with others it may hurt... but I think it hurts on ballance. For example, say you bank a poker player or trader and tell him not to loose...the preocupation with that idea is already present in his mind, but by drawin' it to the forefront you set into play a cascade of unintended consequences...likewise people may be worried that they are racist or chauvanist because they dislike Michelle...they maybe worried that they are irrationally anti-intellectual in a complex time. There are a lot of fears out there, and predicting how people respond to plays made on them is not as scientifically easy as Dan might think.(of course it is possible, and that is why Dick Morris makes the big bucks...while I simply grind out enough to pay the rent, eat, and read political philosophy.)

Crooks and Liars (a liberal blog) isn't fuming about this yet; as such, I don't believe that the "slavish" racist interpretation will get legs. They're usually all over even the slightest misstep.

Obama says "change."

So call him on it. And an issue of some importance is the state of American education. The Democrat party has a vested interest in defeating choice, because they've a vested interest in maintaining the state's grip on education. In addition, they've a vested interest in overseeing the content of that "education," that "conditioning," which increasingly resembles political correctness.

Obama will squirm out from taking on the teacher unions.

He will stand before the American people as just another typical Democrat politician, beholden to special interest.

Thus it's a twofer. It shows his mantra of "change" is bogus. Additionally, it shows that the false messiah is really nothing more than a typical radical Democrat.

There are other issues that Obama can be drawn out on, which will reveal his true radical colours.

Tort reform. Not caps on damages, which Republicans foolishly propose, but limiting the percentage that lawyers can take in contingent fee arrangements. McCain should propose legislation that lawyers cannot charge more, nor take more than 12% of any tort reward. No charge or fee may exceed 12% of any tort reward, and no outside agreement will be allowed that results in that 12% point number being exceeded. Since the trial lawyers contribute mightily to the Democrats, they will howl for the Democrats to defend them from McCain's populist proposal. Few groups in America are as hated as lawyers. And not without cause. Forcing the false messiah to publicly defend the trial lawyers would be to place him, and the Democrats, in bed with one of the sleaziest groups in all of America.

Pornography. McCain should propose a 98% tax on all pornography made and distributed in the United States, from whatever source, including the Internet. Parents are rightly concerned with the easy availability of porn on the Internet. But the Supreme Court has protected it as free speech. So instead of trying to ban it outright, recall a maxim of the Great Chief Justice, John Marshall, who wrote that "the power to tax is the power to destroy." Democrats are fond of taxes on things such as "big oil," "big insurance," "big pharmaceutical." So Republicans should propose a "big tax" on "big porn." And just watch the Democrats squirm. It's exactly the type of cultural issue that Dems scorn, but registers with ordinary Americans concerned for their kids, concerned for the kind of America those kids will grow up in.

And JOHN, recall Dukakis had a double-digit lead, that was before the American people were clued in about him via issues like the pledge of allegiance and Willie Horton. Issues that Democrats to this day say were irrelevant, but nonetheless doomed his candidacy. And it's much too early to say what the American people have factored in about the Obamas. They don't know them yet. And the job for the GOP is to properly introduce the American people to the radical Obamas, long time members of "Reverend" Wright's church.

John, the rest of your analysis is making my head hurt as I'm not sure I follow you in every direction you're turning but this line is golden: My general rule in politics, don't expect either young people or people in general to understand your argument, understand how they will misunderstand it, understand what the reaction will be. That's a keeper and I second it.

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