I watched the televised speeches of Barack Obama and Joe Biden from the steps of the Old Capitol in Springfield, Illinois, and I’m ready to offer a few remarks about how I viewed the spectacle.
I think this was a “preaching-to-the-choir” moment. If this is the message that will be echoed again and again until the elections in November, I think it will fail to capture the imaginations and the fervor of those in the middle of the political spectrum. The opening is still there for McCain to step up to claim the middle with his message.
To be truthful, of all the candidates that had announced for the GOP nomination for president in this election cycle, John McCain was not in my top five. Furthermore, in four elections (primary and general elections of 2000 and 2004) during which George W. Bush’s name appeared on the ballot, I held my nose and cast a ballot for Bush only once, which was the general election of 2004. In November 2004, even though there were many minor party candidates on the ballot, Bush was still the least of the evils. The bottom line is: I have not been a McCain fan nor have I been a Bush fan.
Though I have been a fan of neither McCain nor Bush, I have never gotten the two confused. The two are not alike.
The overall message of today’s speeches by Obama and Biden are that McCain and Bush are identical, or at least nearly so. The attempt to link McCain to Bush has been a trademark of Obama rhetoric from the beginning, and frankly, I don’t think that narrative works. The polls show Obama and McCain are neck-and-neck while Bush’s approval ratings are low and a generic Democrat ticket is looked upon favorably versus a generic Republican ticket. I think that’s ample evidence that the electorate does not equate McCain with Bush.
For Obama to stick with the “McCain equals Bush” narrative suggests that either he’s preaching to his own choir and that this rhetoric will fire up his base to drive high turnout or it suggests that he thinks middle-of-the-road voters are really, really stupid and gullible to accept this disingenuous (that’s putting it in the most generous of terms to call it merely disingenuous) narrative (or both).
I think, however, that the disingenuous tenor of the Obama campaign could be its undoing. Obama says that McCain equals Bush. Not true. Obama said he would take public financing. He didn’t. Obama said that America wanted a new kind of politics that focused on issues and policies rather than distractions. Instead, he turned down McCain’s proposal for joint townhall appearances to discuss issues and policies in favor of distractions from substantive matters by embarking on a European photo-op tour. Obama promised greater transparency and clarity. Yet, he gave very opaque and/or ambiguous responses at Saddleback Church (and has used the political art of distraction this past week in order to cut short the discussion of his utterances on issues and policies at said forum). Obama said Hillary Clinton was not only on his short list, but would be on anybody’s short list. His search committee didn’t even bother with including Clinton in the vetting process. Obama said all week that his VP announcement would come at any minute, and that the first to know would be those that signed up to receive text messages. Those who held their breath for the text message that would appear “any moment now” became blue in the face and passed out, and they weren’t the first to know, after all. Obama says he’s a new kind of politician. He is not.
Those independent-minded voters who approach the elections with an open mind will not be impressed by a “McCain = Bush” message that’s intended for listeners of the follow-the-herd-mentality. As events move forward toward election day, it appears that the falsehoods from the Obama camp will only accumulate. Obama appears to be banking on America’s gullibility. I’m not that gullible.