Saturday, August 23, 2008

Unasked Questions

I wonder when the Obama is going to start asking directly about McCain's fitness for office. He can use surrogates, if necessary, but he needs to start now in order to spur the self-complacent media to action. I'm talking about the media members who happily broadcast or print the scurrilous, ad hominem attacks on the Obama by McCain's spokesmen and cutouts. The rule in place appears to be: If someone with an official sounding title says something, we can use it. That kind of system allows candidates to disavow comments that go beyond the pale, even while they continue to throw them. McCain and his negative ops team are masters of this approach, and they have benefited directly from Hillary Clinton's scorched earth tactics, particularly the constant questioning of the Obama's ability, his capacity, his patriotism, and his experience--all without even an ironic wink at the fact that when he ran for president, her Mr. Bill was a two-term governor of one of the poorest states in the country, who, to prove he was tough, approved the execution of a retarded black man...., and who couldn't keep his fly closed. Those were his qualifications.

It would behoove the Obamans to remember that they can't refute these charges by stating that in fact the opposite is true. That gives them credence. Nor can you say the Obama's lapses are less than McCain's. Rather, you have to stick to your program, which should be simple and straightforward, and directly attack McCain's supposed strengths. Thus, McCain talks about judgment and experience, Obama counters with ads and comments about McCain's vicious temper and how that clouds and has clouded his judgment. McCain boasts about refusing early release from POW camp in Hanoi because he didn't want special privilege as son of an important admiral. The Obamans counter by presenting the record of how McCain benefited every step of his Navy career because he was the son and grandson of admirals and every step of his political career because of the wealth of his second wife and his own slippery relations with lobbyists. McCain talks about reform; Obama talks about lobbyists, the Keating 5, and Cindy McCain's corporate jet. McCain talks about the importance of family; the Obamans talk about his purported lovers, his divorce, his and his wife's lying about their adoption of Indian children. McCain talks about elitism; the Obamans talk about a man who doesn't know how many houses he owns and ask what else he doesn't know about his own life and marriage. Then, they ask who pays his gambling--craps--debts, or are they forgiven by the casinos? The Obama should also point out daily that McCain and Bush have castigated him for wanting a timetable for bringing all troops out of Iraq. Yet Bush just went and agreed to a timetable.

Obama could also help himself by presenting good, crisp programs, simply explained. Thus, a single-payer health-care program--not something he endorses, although he should--would cost X dollars and would improve medical care X amount. Back the envelope calculations I've done show that only about 30 cents on the dollar spent on health care currently goes for actual patient care--for doctoring. The rest goes for insurance company executives and share holders and other third and fourth parties, as well as to office expenses for the doctors who must maintain full-time staff just to handle insurance. He could also document how this program would actually liberate American workers and make them competitive with the rest of the world. But the Obama doesn't have bold plans; he's a moderate Democrat at best. That's not much, but it's a heap better than what Bush/McCain can manage.

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