You Don't Need a Conservative Pundit to Know Which Way the Wind Blows

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A bit of conservative blowback on the McCain campaign's impotent strategy of making the final weeks of the election about Barack Obama's association with former Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers. First up, George Will:

This, McCain and his female Sancho Panza say, is demonstrated by bad associations Obama had in Chicago, such as with William Ayers, the unrepentant terrorist. But the McCain-Palin charges have come just as the Obama campaign is benefiting from a mass mailing it is not paying for. Many millions of American households are gingerly opening envelopes containing reports of the third-quarter losses in their 401(k) and other retirement accounts—telling each household its portion of the nearly $2 trillion that Americans' accounts have recently shed. In this context, the McCain-Palin campaign's attempt to get Americans to focus on Obama's Chicago associations seems surreal—or, as a British politician once said about criticism he was receiving, "like being savaged by a dead sheep."

David Frum, who has been scathing in his criticism of the Sarah Palin choice, is similarly baffled by the "chummy with terrorists" line of attack. At his National Review blog, Frum unloads on Team McCain (after assuring readers that he will indeed vote for him):

American voters are staggering under the worst financial crisis since at least 1982. Asset values are tumbling, consumer spending is contracting, and a recession is visibly on the way. This crisis follows upon seven years in which middle-class incomes have stagnated and Republican economic management has been badly tarnished. Anybody who imagines that an election can be won under these circumstances by banging on about William Ayers and Jeremiah Wright is … to put it mildly … severely under-estimating the electoral importance of pocketbook issues.

We conservatives are sending a powerful, inadvertent message with this negative campaign against Barack Obama's associations and former associations: that we lack a positive agenda of our own and that we don't care about the economic issues that are worrying American voters.

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  1. “like being savaged by a dead sheep.”

    Thanks. I needed the laugh.

  2. Frum’s one hundred per cent right.

    Mark your calendars.

  3. Conservatives become more sensible as they age.

    Witness Pat Buchanan.

  4. Conservatives are in real danger of spending a generation or more out of power…a la 1932-1970’s…

  5. There aren’t two opposed parties in the United States… McCain’s job is to “lose with honor” for the Republicans.

    Switching parties every few years gives the appearance of some sort of democracy – but also lets people can blame all the problems on the opposing party instead of our corrupt and evil government itself.

    When Obama gets elected, Republicans will blame him for all the bad stuff going on, Democrats will blame the previous Republican regime, and no-one will comprehend that both sides have virtually the exact same policies and platforms, with only superficial differences.

    Republicans vs. Democrats is the U.S. government’s version of “Tastes Great vs. Less Filling”.

  6. “Many millions of American households are gingerly opening envelopes containing reports of the third-quarter losses in their 401(k) and other retirement accounts — telling each household its portion of the nearly $2 trillion that Americans’ accounts have recently shed. In this context, the McCain-Palin campaign’s attempt to get Americans to focus on Obama’s Chicago associations seems surreal”

    What is really surreal is anyone buying into the notion that either McCain or Obama is capable of “fixing” the economy after the election.

    No government on earth has ever engineered a good economy into existence.

  7. We conservatives are sending a powerful, inadvertent message with this negative campaign against Barack Obama’s associations and former associations: that we lack a positive agenda of our own and that we don’t care about the economic issues that are worrying American voters

    Well…maybe because it’s true. Not that the Dems are any better, but you could at least try.

  8. They Dow just slipped below 8700.

    But hey. WHAT ABOUT AYERS!?

  9. I’m voting for Bob Barr.

    The local LP may even have a chance of getting him on the ballot, if the courts allow it.

    That said, I don’t want Obama for Pres, but how in Ghu’s name do GOPers expect not to get punished by the electorate for Bush’s unique mix of incompetence and folly. [I’m leaving the question of eeeevvvvuulll aside.]

    In PoliSci speak it’s called “Retrospective Voting,” and the hefalumps are going to get a great big dose of it. Yes, the Donkeycrats are every bit as bad on most issues, better on some (the Wars) and worse on others, but they’ve only been in charge of the legislature for part of the last two presidential terms, and the average voter hates Congress while loving his representative, so the executive takes the hit.

    Kevin

  10. McCain is losing because he and Palin had a golden opportunity to rally their base and oppose the bailout and rightfully label Obama and Biden socialists for supporting it — and they blew it. They made it painfully clear that Team Red and Team Blue this year are different shades of Team Purple.

    Flailing around and calling Obama a terrorist, and offering to have the taxpayers buy up bad mortgages, and on and on ain’t helping.

  11. Hopefully this economic catastrophe helps America rethink its 800+ oversees military bases and ridiculous 650 Billion in Military spendnig annually…this is one actual benefit that could occur.

  12. No government on earth has ever engineered a good economy into existence.

    No, but they can fuck it up.

    History may not repeat itself, but it rhymes. George HW Bush was killed for running a character based campaign during a recession, making him seem out-of-touch. John McCain is doing the same thing. Laugh all you want about the stupidity of W, but he was smart enough to get elected twice (once when the odds were against him) and not make the same mistakes as his father.

  13. You know what’s funny? A libertarian Republican, one that would trash the government’s role in this downswing and suggest that freer markets would solve much of the problem, probably could win. I’m not talking about Barr or even Paul, but someone like Mark Sanford or, say, Jack Kemp/Steve Forbes might actually have gotten somewhere this time around. Especially considering that Obama’s solutions are as stupid as McCain’s. Which are as stupid as Bush’s.

    Despite the Obama celebration, incidentally, I still think McCain is going to win. Which is bad for America. Actually, any possible result in November is bad for America if it doesn’t involve enlightened aliens landing here and showing us the way to perfect harmony and happiness.

  14. “Despite the Obama celebration, incidentally, I still think McCain is going to win.”

    Why do you think he’ll win? He’s substantially behind (Real Clear Politics now has Obama winning even if all of their “toss-up” states go to McCain – http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/maps/obama_vs_mccain/?map=5) and the gap is growing. How do you envision that trend reversing in the next 3+ weeks?

  15. someone like Mark Sanford or, say, Jack Kemp/Steve Forbes might actually have gotten somewhere this time around.

    I use to really like Kemp. He was a gold bug you know. But Forbes was an idiot trying to sell “flat tax” as though that meant simplifying the tax code. And today he’s even a bigger goofard. I heard him on CNBC yesterday talking about how our current woes are completely caused by, and would be solved by doing away with, mark to market.

  16. Bob Barr is getting my vote, too.

    I can here it now. Obama wins, and my Republican friends are going to blame Libertarians. Well, excuse me, I didn’t vote
    for Obama, try blaming those who did.

    To the GOP, if you want my vote, become more libertarian (and mean it, this time).

  17. here = hear

  18. McCain is losing because he and Palin had a golden opportunity to rally their base and oppose the bailout and rightfully label Obama and Biden socialists for supporting it — and they blew it.

    Only if he’d been able to put forward a credible alternative, and defend it effectively. The problem is, John McCain doesn’t know this stuff at all.

    If you think the American public wanted the do-nothing/nation of whiners policy, you’re deluding yourself. They didn’t like what Paulson came out with, but that’s hardly the same thing.

  19. Despite the Obama celebration, incidentally, I still think McCain is going to win.

    Sorry, I’m just not seeing this. OTOH, I didn’t see the Dow going below 9K either.

  20. If you think the American public wanted the do-nothing/nation of whiners policy, you’re deluding yourself.

    poll-driven politics is BS. What America needs is leadership: someone to look the people in the face and say “hey, we cannot afford all of this”.

    By and large, when it comes to politics, the American people don’t know what they want. They want everything (low taxes! free stuff!) without paying for it.

  21. McCain’s margin of defeat is going to be way higher than Barr’s vote total. No way the GOP will be able to pin it on the LP.

  22. @ TAO

    Then the chickens come home to roost, when foreigners quit buying American debt.

  23. What about Obama polling much higher than the actual percentage he gets?

  24. FWIW, I don’t think most people are dumb (which I know is the vastly *minority* opinion around here), I think that most people are misinformed and have their trust misplaced. People trust the people running for President, and then the people running for President consistently lie to their faces and refuse to be a leader and acknowledge that there are difficult choices to be made.

    “My fellow Americans: we cannot bail out every corporation and mortgage while simultaneously giving you all tax cuts, expanded health care and an aggressive foreign policy, all while funding it by killing the golden goose of business and taxing the ‘wealthy’ yet again”.

  25. Yes, it would be quite refreshing to hear a candidate speak candidly for a change.

  26. I think the only question at this point is, will Obama beat McCain by a larger margin than he beat Alan Keyes in 2004?

  27. TAO,

    poll-driven politics is BS. What America needs is leadership: someone to look the people in the face and say “hey, we cannot afford all of this”.

    By and large, when it comes to politics, the American people don’t know what they want. They want everything (low taxes! free stuff!) without paying for it.

    That’s a fine point, but remember, we’re talking about John McCain. John McCain would have had to stand up in from of the “don’t know what they want, but want it to be good” American public and not only tell them to eat their vegetables, but do so in a way that demonstrated sufficient expertise in economic and financial issues to both calm them, and make the bitter medicine go down.

    It would have been a tall task for anyone, and John McCain is John McCain.

  28. What about Obama polling much higher than the actual percentage he gets?

    During the primaries, Obama overperformed the polls more often than he underperformed them.

    Maybe there’s a hidden effect that will show up in the general election, but 1) there’s no evidence to date and 2) that would mean that non-Democrats are MORE afraid to say they’re voting against the black guy than Democrats.

  29. Because today isn’t November 4, and polls aren’t and never have been the election. I think Obama’s current lift is a hollow one, and I’m not sure the public will generally buy that he’s going to solve any economic problems, either. Of course, if we were sensible voters, the economy would be low on our reasons to vote, given that the president doesn’t “run” the economy, whatever the media may suggest.

    I’m still voting Babar, and I dread the 4th, because all I can expect is another horrific president.

  30. The surreal thing is the GOP is now probably HAPPY that they nominated someone they knew over a year ago was unelectable.

  31. It would have been a tall task for anyone

    Why didn’t EITHER candidate do it? They’re supposed to be *leaders*.

  32. Joe, isn’t this always a hidden effect? We don’t know if it’s going to happen until after the fact.

    Russ 2000, most Republicans I talk with seem to be holding their noses about McCain.

  33. Will and Frum are correct, to a certain extent. However, the campaign can do two things at the same time: McCain can concentrate on how his plans are (according to him) better, while Palin and surrogates lead the attack.

    And, considering that Barack Obama was a member of a (per them) “socialist democratic” Party and his long list of very questionable associates, Palin shouldn’t have to work very hard.

    P.S. It looks like someone at BHO’s site finally came up with an idea that Reason should have been pushing all along.

  34. Trying to get a Republican (or Democrat, for that matter) smear-spreader to change his ways seems like a tall order.

  35. Why didn’t EITHER candidate do it?

    Because the major parties both nominated candidates based on their ability to fight the good fight on Iraq. Obama’s no economic whiz, either, and he knows it – which is why he was deferential to the Treasury Secretary, Congressional leaders, and the consensus emerging in the room while the government’s response was being formulated.

  36. Oh, and joe, I’ll agree your second point would be unlikely.

  37. Take a good, long look at OLS.

    That’s what’s left of the Reagan Coalition that will still vote for McCain. People like him.

  38. David: the “campaign counselors” should take care of most cases, with telephoning as the first option followed by a home visit if necessary. I believe Bellaire (see the second link in my last comment) adapted a plan from Dean Ouilier which included home visits in place of just phoning.

    Of course, President Obama will still have his critics, and people who are lying and smearing him. I’m sure he has a plan to deal with them in a very effective way.

    P.S. Please join my Libruhtarians for Socialists group on Facebook!

  39. OLS, if the smears are unintentional, then perhaps the spreader can be persuaded to stop.
    I just think it is likely that most of them are being malicious, and it would be a waste of time to talk to them. Hopefully most folks see them for who they are.

    Then, I could be completely wrong. It’s not like I’ve tried to do it myself.

    Now talk like Obama “dealing” with liers and smearers is a little scary. What do you think he would do?

  40. When Ayers was into terrorism, Obama was only about seven years old. I agree with Frum.

    The fact that the media has been so excited about Sarah Palin is just another indication of his weakness as a candidate.

  41. “Now talk like Obama “dealing” with liers and smearers is a little scary. What do you think he would do?”

    Put you in the Liberal Fascist GULAG, of course.

    Then he will put all pure-blooded Anglo Saxons in gas chambers after he turns over American nuclear weapons to the world-wide caliphate.

    It’s true! I heard it in an email…./snark

  42. I am dumbfounded at the ability of mccain and his campaign staff to not remember the simple little concept of “its the economy stupid”.

    They should be running continuous commercials of barney frank and the democrats defending the financial stability of fannie and freddie.

    They should be making the point that obama + a democrat congress would equal destructive tax and fiscal policy.

    If they had any sense they would focus on the economy and hit the ayers / acorn / wright connections as a secondary topic.

  43. Joe,

    I think the Iraq war is a small part of the reason the parties ended up with the nominees they have.

    The real reason we have these two candidates is that the media created them. They had to drag Obama over the finish line against Hilary, because she absolutely killed him once she caught her stride.

    The maverick mccain is a media creation that does not really exist, (Matt Welch wrote a book about it).

    What we have are two big government, statist candidates that would not be the candidates if the media had not pushed them over the line.

  44. BDB, very funny :o)
    I was curious to see were OLS would go with this.

  45. McCain is losing because he and Palin had a golden opportunity to rally their base and oppose the bailout and rightfully label Obama and Biden socialists for supporting it — and they blew it.

    And he didn’t even really need to put forward an alternative; just say that this wasn’t the way to go, rattle off a few talking points about why it was the wrong thing to do, and challenge Congress to address the real, underlying problems created by GSEs and government meddling in the mortgage market. The ten point plans so beloved of policy wonks have lost a lot of elections, but never won a single one.

    Then when it passes anyway and accelerates the stock market tanking, he’s sitting pretty.

  46. During the primaries, Obama overperformed the polls more often than he underperformed them.

    Whatever happened to the argument that overperforming the polls was evidence of Diebold shenanigans, anyway?

  47. That’s just for Republicans, you silly, silly man.

  48. McCain’s “Ayers Attacks” are an insult, frankly, to people who think. Can’t he give us any better reasons to vote for him, or to vote against Barack Obama? Maybe he’s afraid that people aren’t really listening to him any more. His “brand” has been too damaged.

    I’m so angry at these faux “conservatives” like McCain that I’m planning on voting for Obama, just to wake them up. And one good thing about an Obama win: It will be a walking rebuttal to those liberals who always claim “A black man can’t make it in racist America because the system is stacked against them.” Obama’s election will prove that anyone, with hard work, focus, and determination, can make it in America. After Obama is in the White House it will put an end to the argument about “institutional racism” for good. And that’s good for real conservatives.

  49. When Ayers was into terrorism, Obama was only about seven years old.

    The funny thing is that what’s important isn’t how one defines “terrorism” but rather how one defines “was into”. Ayers is still totally into terrorism, as in he still thinks it’s completely groovy and far out, man. Wild, even. He just doesn’t actively participate in it anymore.

  50. “Whatever happened to the argument that overperforming the polls was evidence of Diebold shenanigans, anyway?”

    RC Dean, now they’re ACORN shenanigans.

    Didn’t you get the RNC talking points?

  51. I swear to God I’m going to pistol whip the next guy who says, “Shenanigans.”

  52. Which way do you think this blows?
    Obama has supported multiple terrorist in the past. Most recently as 2006 when Obama used U.S. taxpayer funds and his Senatorial position to campaign for one of his radical African relatives, named Raila Odinga. Odinga was running for President of Kenya and lost by almost 300,000 votes. Then he called for demonstrations which resulted in ethnic cleansing and genocide perpetrated by his supporters. All of the proof is in the video. The proof is very very clear. Just watch the 8 minute video. You won’t have any doubts. Titled: Barack Obama & Raila Odinga – http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=S8QcpdUtxNQ&feature=related

  53. It was great to be reminded by George Will of the British political phrase “like being savaged by a dead sheep.”

    It was first used in 1978 by Dennis Healey, British Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister), in response to a speech by his Conservative shadow Geoffrey Howe.

  54. Anybody who imagines that an election can be won under these circumstances by banging on about William Ayers and Jeremiah Wright…

    Who’s banging on about Jeremiah Wright? Certainly not the McCain campaign. Unlike Ayers, who is about as threatening to most Americans as the Smothers Brothers, the Wright association could be still be exploited to Obama’s detriment, but it’s apparently been deemed off limits.

  55. “I’m voting for Bob Barr.”

    No shit. I mean, if the world is going to end, you might as well vote your conscience.

    I’m really not sure which one will try to take over more of the economy. The tight-lipped crypto-socialist who tried to avoid revealing what he actually thinks, or the desperate Republican trying to fake being a socialist to buy votes.

  56. Actually, any possible result in November is bad for America if it doesn’t involve enlightened aliens landing here and showing us the way to perfect harmony and happiness.

    “Landing” aliens won’t accomplish a thing, no matter how enlightened they are. They’re going to have to invade, take over, and impose perfect harmony and happiness.

  57. the desperate Republican trying to fake being a socialist to buy votes.

    Huh. So is this what Bush has been up to, with Medicare, The Bailout that Bails Not, and Government Taking Over the Banks?

    If the Republicans are faking it, they’ve sure faked me out.

    My conscience says don’t vote at all. Obama Mama is a dedicated socialist, McCain is a roulette wheel, Barr is a goof in his own right, and Ron Paul committed political suicide on his way through the starting gate. But what do you expect a libertarian to do, it’s their MO.

    Instead, this atheist is maybe going to start praying that the invasion of Pro Libertate’s enlightened aliens comes on or before Nov 4.

    I’m sure we’ll get an alien in the White House. I’m also sure it won’t be the enlightened variety.

  58. Pro-Lib, your hypothetical libertarian Republican would have needed to be talkin’ like Ron Paul (who DID TELL US SO, and it’s important to keep saying that to anyone who’s annoyed by its truth!) BEFORE the clusterfuck, as Paul did. Many people back then told me he sounded too apocalyptic, but these days they’re all strangely silent.

    My ideal candidate was Walter Williams. Cartoonist Bruce Tinsley (Mallard Fillmore) and I and many other fiscal conservatives tried very hard to convince the professor to run. He’s sensible, so he declined, but IMO either he or Paul (with the right campaign staff — ie one capable of cooperation, instead of the one he hired) could have won. The lesson Republicans WON’T learn from this is so simple I can put it in two words:

    “Respect Libertarians.”

    If the Democrats have the balls to let a socialist like Dennis F–king Kucinich speak in some obscure time slot in their convention, the Republicans could have done the same for Ron Paul, even if he wasn’t gonna mindlessly endorse McCain. Along with other slights, especially when it comes to spending & the war on medical pot, the Republicans have explicitly told libertarian voters “fuck you,” and I hope the Libertarian (not just Barr) vote is the margin of victory or loss for that reason.

  59. “”””Conservatives become more sensible as they age.””””

    Witness Pat Robertson.
    Ok, up to a point.

    “””” What America needs is leadership: someone to look the people in the face and say “hey, we cannot afford all of this”.””””

    That’s exacly what Americans don’t want. A true leader would put the blame exactly where it belongs, on the people themselves. Yeah, that’s a winning election strategy. If I’m elected I’ll cut up your credit cards to help you recover from your debt. I won’t pass any earmarks so you can’t get that fancy expensive new item your state really wants. It doesn’t take an engineering degree to know that you can’t promise more services AND less taxes, yet we vote for that guy every time! Americans will probably never vote for the guy that says the party is over and we need to drastically change our lifestyle.

    “””Unlike Ayers, who is about as threatening to most Americans as the Smothers Brothers””””

    HA!! The Smothers Brothers WERE considered threatening, albeit in the Bart Simpson anti-establishment way. I loved that show as a kid. I remember seeing Alice Cooper do Unfinished Sweet. Tommy was dressed as a tooth and they pulled him. Classic.

  60. “””Obama has supported multiple terrorist in the past.”””

    Your example pales in comparison to the support that Reagan and Bush sr. gave to Saddam Hussian. Not defending Obama but I don’t think he ever supplied a dictator with weapons.

    If find it absoulutely hilarious that some republicans are jumping on the Obama supports terrorist bandwagon when republicans have supported far worse people in the past.

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