Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Give Me a Bleeping Break!

Sarah’s accusation of Obama’s association with a terrorist, as an isolated campaign point, will surely hurt more than help. The advice coming from the WEEKLY STANDARD and elsehwere that the campaign can be turned around simply by going negative on Obama the man is ridiculous. The comparison between this election and 1976 is pretty weak: Obama is far superior to Carter, and Ford was a fairly trusted and respected incumbent. McCain’s ghost of chance would come from showing that he understands the real cause of the financial crisis in fairly partisan Republican way (which means implicating the Democrats), taking on Biden’s lies on judicial activism (while showing that Obama is far to the left even of Biden on abortion etc.), defending in detail his quite defensible health-care reform as real and desirable change, getting real tough and specific on the real differences between the two parties on energy policy (which means embracing the Palin let’s do everything policy), trumpeting the dangers of a very liberal united government (taking people’s eyes away from Obama’s baloney platform and toward what a very liberal Democratic Congress would actually do and roll back), and driving a wedge between Obama’s and Biden’s record on war, foreign policy etc., showing, from the record, that Obama is actually pretty much of a McGovernite, and generally attack politically correct boboism on the level of "cultural" and educational policy. Right now what people really think is McCain doesn’t have a clue and Obama does, and going after Obama’s character isn’t the ticket at this point. None of this plays to McCain’s strengths, but it’s still all about ways he would be a better president than Barack, despite Obama’s obious intelligence and, so far, tactical and strategic superiority as a compaigner.

Discussions - 18 Comments

Peter, but Ayers is the connection between BO and Fannie Mae mess... its the radical left vision of 'community organizing' which means the use of the adversary culture using law and media to attack the system. BO community organizing was very much connected to harrassing Banks in Chicago to give out those cheep loans to 'deserving yet poor' or else face lawsuits and perhaps prosecution from the Jannet Reno ran justice dept. Rev Wright operates right out of the pages of Rev Al Sharpton... using race as a means to shake down bussiness and middle class America!! BO got his start in this shakedown crowd but saw this as a deadend for someone with his vanity and ambition.

To merely mention Ayers as a terrorist is not enough, its important to make clear, this guy was the guy who talent scouted BO as a star and gave him his entry into Chicago politics!! W/O Ayer's ability to send lefty tax-deductable foundation money BO's way, BO would never have been able to get his foot in the Il State Senate, and w/o that initial political foothold move up the political food chain. Ayer's is truely BO's suggar daddy.

1. The Ayers thing really is disturbing but it isn't the political ground the public cares about. Right now its jobs, healthcare, jobs, personal income, retirement security, and jobs. The McCain is not listening to the public and the public will respond in kind.

2. The McCain attack on Ayers actually highlights one of Obama's advantages. Obama doesn't have much of a Senate record and if you are a liberal, that is a very good thing. Compared with Kerry, Obama doesn't have nearly as many votes to raise taxes and cut weapons programs. So conservatives have to make the case through Obama's associations. This is a problem for at least two reasons. 1) The argument ends up in the weeds. Did Obama and Ayers meet five times or ten times or twenty times and what did they talk about? The facts are disputed and the public has limited patience. 2)Where ecactly is this going? Did Obama consult with Ayers about boming again? Probably not and people have their own problems. I know its not fair. If McCain were hanging out (or even just "associating") with an unrepentant right wing terrorist (a Klansman for example)it would be politcally fatal. But the unfairness is a reality and should not be used as an excuse to ignore other realities. The most relevant one is that the Ayers issue is of very limited use and only if deployed correctly.

3. On the public impression that McCain does not have a clue, the public is probably right. No doubt that McCain's policy minions have some good answers on the economy, but McCain seems uniterested in the questions.

4. Obama's strategic skill should not be overestimated. Pretty much any serious Democrat would be in at least as good a position right now given the economy, the unpopularity of the incumbent party's President and McCain's economic incompetence. Obama's focus on the middle class in the first debate seems brilliant compared to McCain's seeming disinterest in people's economic worries, but it was really just strategery 101.

Lawler's right. The Republicans look desperate and silly when they get mad and personal. Obama has done a really, really, really good job of keeping his head and looking like the calm and collect leader the American people want/need.

Not to mention, a lot of Americans don't know who Ayers is and/or see his "terrorism" as 60s radicalism (sort of like the eco-terrorism that goes on today) and not the much more feared Middle-Eastern Islamic zealots (who look, speak, and worship something totally foreign to the majority of Americans).

I know its not fair. If McCain were hanging out (or even just "associating") with an unrepentant right wing terrorist (a Klansman for example)it would be politcally fatal.

I think a better analogy would be an abortion bomber. Certainly, a great deal of his base would consider that barely worthy of the title "terrorist" and I bet it wouldn't hurt him that much if he had the same relationship with Mr. Bomber as Obama has with Ayers.

Heh. I meant "abortion clinic bomber." No one can bomb abortion.

Peter. Does McCain understand the argument for limited, constitutional government? I'm skeptical.

Matt, There probably are some people on the Right who would "understand" an abortion clinic bomber in the same way that liberals "understand" Ayers. And those same right wingers would probably not judge McCain too harshly for associating with an unrepentant (key point) clinic bomber. But it would be a huge media story and would alienate moderates - and no few conservatives. McCain would be toast if something like that came out about him. Like I said, thats reality. Conservatives would do well to understand but not obsess about the double standard.

The "terrorist" thing is politically stupid and will go nowhere new. I agree with Matt on that.

Peter Lawler's more interesting and, in my opinion, mistaken claim is that Obama is "pretty much a McGovernite." Any fair comparison between McGovern and Obama will show that Obama is, rather, a realist very much in the mainstream (or the pre-Bush mainstream -- that is, before the Second Inaugural). Of course, there are still McGovernites around in the party in significant numbers, and they support Obama. But that's not what Peter says. Maybe he will elaborate.

The Ayers thing really is disturbing but it isn't the political ground the public cares about. Right now its jobs, healthcare, jobs, personal income, retirement security, and jobs. The McCain (campaign) is not listening to the public and the public will respond in kind.

The public is an ass.

Seriously: NONE of those things -- jobs, health care, personal income, retirement security -- is the concern of a United States president.

That we have arrived at the point where a conservative commenter, on a conservative blog, would point to these items as a cold matter of fact, without dismay, by way of advice for a Republican candidate... is just really, genuinely sad.

That's not a knock on you, Pete. It's a knock on the "public." The presidency isn't supposed to be this important. America is over. The people we still generously describe as "Americans" now think they are electing a king -- and worse, that's what they think they're supposed to be doing.

In the America that was supposed to be, the presidential campaign wouldn't be getting this much attention. It wouldn't be so all-consuming, because the "public" wouldn't instinctively construe the presidency as so important.

The founders gave us a nation of liberty, then tried to trust us with democracy. We were not, alas, trustworthy. We're stupid, and now screwed.

HTT, no offense taken. The reality is that federal government policy in taxes, regulation, and monetary policy has an effect on all of the above economic concerns. The effects are sometimes for the worse, and they really are felt in people's lives. The President, especially in his relations with Congress and through his appointment power, has a great deal of influence over these policies. Conservatives, if they are to be more than grumbling spectators have to offer market and subsidiarity oriented policies that will allow people to build beter lives for themselves. A series of nonpolicies on these issues (or a blanket withdrawl from federal government involvement) guarantees the victory of Big Government solutions.

And a word in defense of the public. Most of them work really hard. Wanting their work to translate into higher living standards and some security is no sin. The economic problems are real and people feel them. They especially feel them in their guts as their jobs, healthcare plans and retirements get less secure. Most Americans are alot more ruggedly individualistic than conservatives are giving them credit for, and they will not accept alot more ruggedness just for its own sake. Government policies contribute to all these problems. Nonpolicies are not a politically viable solution (even if they were viable as policy, which I also doubt). To the extent that the public has bad ideas, conservatives must seek to substitute good ideas. But those ideas must be clearly linkable to people's lives. Most of all, we conservatives should preach a little less and listen a little better.

That's all fine and well, Pete. But my point stands (or I stand by my point): America is over. America, the idea, is done.

"Building better lives for themselves" -- i.e., the pursuit of happiness -- was never supposed to be tied to "policy." Indeed, what it was supposed to be tied to was the very "nonpolicy" that you decry as unfeasible: keeping government out of those lives.

Everything you describe might be real -- and realpolitik -- but that doesn't mean it doesn't represent the end of something. This is the culmination of all the stuff conservatives warned about for decades: the incremental growth of government, increasingly interwined in Americans' lives, to the point where they're not only dependent upon it, they can no longer even conceptualize the depths of its presence, in the old metaphorical fish-thinking-about-water sort of way.

And so after all those decades of warning, all that incrementalism, here we are, exactly where they feared we'd end up: at the point where we're stuck with it. At the point where even a conservative shrugs in resignation, noting without dismay that effecting Constitutional government will only assure "the victory of Big Government solutions."

That's really sad. Doesn't that make you sad? This isn't how it was supposed to go. This isn't how the American idea was supposed to end up. The experiment didn't fail, exactly -- we simply quit the experiment.

You and I are spectators now. That's the sad reality. You're still hopeful, it seems -- you like to think you can compromise with these folks. I, on the other hand, am beaten down to the point of just grumbling.

HTT, America has democratically chosen Big Government solutions. Democracy was part of the great experiment; this is how it has worked out. Yes. It makes some of us sad. Consent of the governed for a soft tyranny, so that "pursuit of happiness" in a new form has become the primary right of man was a worry from the beginning. "...a republic if you can keep it." What if we throw it away? Our despot is comfort, not a strong man.

What do we do about this? To live here means to compromise. Voting is what we have left from our republican government. Do we have a choice, but to compromise? Is there a republic on the planet? I missed it, if so. Yet, we still have a remarkable degree of freedom, and what good does grumbling do anyone?

The Ayers issue "will hurt more than help," says Lawler. Nonsense. YOU give US a break. Please.


Neo-con tyranny and evangelical intrusion on a mass scale is over. That you have equated that with America is the fallacy. It is joy to watch this site and see the death-throes of this terrible movement.

Great points all, Peter. McCain needs to go "high-road negative" here, not "perky attack negative." Attack character only when the evidence supports such; if it's seen (rightly or wrongly) as a mere personal attack, then it will seem (be?) "desperate and silly", as Matt notes. If only McCain's camp were listening. I hope you have some relevant e-mail addresses to get your points to the right person(s) at his campaign, and I hope they listen. If McCain can't put this stuff together, esp. a decently cogent understanding and explanation of the econ/finance mess, then he will be failing in the most important mission ever on behalf of his country. Does he understand that?

ren, what is "Neo-con tyranny"? Wherein have evangelicals intruded on you? What are you talking about?

Obama has huge negatives. The MSM will not raises these issues. McCain must raise them. On the other hand he cannot center his campaign around them.

Who is Obama and what does he stand for? This remains a mystery. The man is a chameleon who has NO public record. Under the circumstances his associations with the corrupt Chicago political machine, the terrorist Ayers and his wife, and the paranoid bigot who pastored his family for 20 years are genuine issues.

This cannot be McCain's whole campaign, though. He must make the case that under an Obama presidency the worst aspects of Bush-Republicanism will be perpetuated: explosive growth in entitlements and discretionary spending, hundreds of billions for special interests, poorly conceived tax and spending policies that balloon the deficit with little long range supply side benefit. Most of all, and this is a most subtle point, Obama is an arrogant SOB willing to sell out any principle to get and hold political power - much like George Bush.

Obama is business as usual in Washington in an elegant package.

Neither Obama nor McCain have much to offer with respect to the economic crisis. We are sailing in uncharted waters and the situation on January 20 is impossible to predict. Under these circumstances character trumps everything else.

I've yet to see the MSM pick up on Palin's connection to the Alaskan Independence Party (who explicitly shout about hating the American government) or McCain's ties to Liddy. Biden nor Obama have been fanning those flames . . . because they won't to keep looking like the sane candidates. So long as Palin keeps acting crazy (and she already speaks in tongues) and getting angry, you guys are screwed.

To HTT: Neo-con tyranny and evangelical intrusion on a mass scale is over. That you have equated that with America is the fallacy.


And I'm being generous by writing only the word "huh" there. My real instinct is to curse you and say mean things about your intellect and comprehension skills.

I didn't equate America with "neo-con [sic] tyranny and evangelical intrusion." In fact, I didn't write or imply anything remotely like it.

But you have illuminated the perpetual problem with the left: You're ahistorical. Right now, for instance, as far as you're concerned, history started when George W. Bush was elected president. You can't grasp broader context or longer trend lines -- even when you're responding to someone who explicitly writes of "the founders."

For the left, history is continually starting over. Whether that is a product of leftism's allure to youth, or the cause of it, I'm not sure. Regardless, it's a big part of the reason that arguing with leftists is often so futile: They are typically incapable of grasping an argument's premises and foundations -- even their own -- because they don't grasp history.

The bottom line is that I couldn't care less about "neoconservativism" or evangelicalism. They have nothing to do with my point.

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