John McCain

Making Sense of the McCain Narrative Coming from St. Paul

Staying true, never wavering. Rising above politics as usual. Taking on his own Party. He is his own man. Willing to do the hard stuff, like tackling climate change and immigration reform. A courageous maverick. The drumbeat from St. Paul is relentless.

But is it true?

While it may have been at one time, it can no longer be considered true. McCain fought the Bush economic strategy. He now embraces it. McCain opposed the Bush approach to use of torture. Today he supports it. He was a leader on the effort to fix our broken immigration system. Today he no longer supports his own bill. While he has been a leader on tackling elements of the climate change fight, as Jake writes below, it is no longer clear that he supports the positions he had a few months ago. He runs ads with wind turbines and solar panels but has helped kill the main government program supporting their growth. He fought the lobbyists and now his campaign is run by, and littered with, them. He says he is the experienced one, but is now on his 3rd campaign manager and his team wildly bungled the vetting of his VP, the most important decision he has made to date. He argues each day he will balance the budget but independent analysis all show that he will do the very opposite.

In order to win the nomination this year, John McCain embraced the very politics he fought so hard against for so many years. His story is not one of courage, of fortitude, of virtue but one of an old politician, seeing his last chance for the Presidency slip away, give in to a Party's and a President he had fought so long, sacrificing his integrity and his beliefs along the way. The McCain story is much more craven than courageous, more aging pol than heroic leader, more a man who has bragged repeatedly that he supported President Bush more than 90% of the time than an independent maverick.

It is not an inspiring story no matter how much they attempt to dress it up this week in Minnesota. Like so many, I admired the old McCain, but that man is not the man running for President of the United States this year. He disappeared forever sometime in 2007.

Read My Lips: McCain Bad on Energy

Since this presidential campaign cycle began, an array of falsities about John McCain’s record and what he stands for, ranging from misconceptions to flat out lies, have hallmarked the national debate. One of the most prevalent of these is the idea that McCain and Obama are similar on energy and climate change. This has not been the fault of just the media, or just the McCain campaign, but also many Democrats and environmentalists, who have been overeager to be "encouraged" by McCain’s stance on climate change.

The essence of this myth, articulated by Joe Lieberman last night:

If John McCain was just another go-along partisan politician, he never would have led the fight to fix our broken immigration system or to do something about global warming.

The fact is though, that the John McCain of this cycle is a "go-along" partisan, and is not good on energy. And Lieberman should know – not only did John McCain not lead on Lieberman’s climate change legislation, he didn't even show up to vote on it.

John McCain has no commitment to renewable energy, has not voted to encourage it, and does not believe that these sources can play a large role in the nation’s energy mix. He has backed away from cap and trade legislation, and the only energy plan he actually discusses is "drill." This is not "good on energy" and is nowhere close to Barack Obama’s energy plan.

In today’s New York Times, Thomas Friedman takes on this great myth. In his disappointment with McCain (a disappointment NDN shares on a number of issues, from climate change to immigration), Friedman argues:

With his choice of Sarah Palin — the Alaska governor who has advocated drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and does not believe mankind is playing any role in climate change — for vice president, John McCain has completed his makeover from the greenest Republican to run for president to just another representative of big oil.

Given the fact that Senator McCain deliberately avoided voting on all eight attempts to pass a bill extending the vital tax credits and production subsidies to expand our wind and solar industries, and given his support for lowering the gasoline tax in a reckless giveaway that would only promote more gasoline consumption and intensify our addiction to oil, and given his desire to make more oil-drilling, not innovation around renewable energy, the centerpiece of his energy policy — in an effort to mislead voters that support for drilling today would translate into lower prices at the pump today — McCain has forfeited any claim to be a green candidate.

Or, as Bill Maher put it on HBO's "Real Time" this week:

New Rule: You can't put a windmill in your campaign ad if you voted against every single bill that might lead someone to build one.

More on the Palin "vetting"

The New York Times has an indepth look this morning at the ad hoc and hasty process of how Senator McCain arrived at the pick of Governor Sarah Palin.  It echoes some of my observations from last night.  None of this speaks well of John McCain.

Reflecting on McCain's Pick of Palin

My guess is that the McCain campaign never really vetted Governor Sarah Palin. For so long she was so unlikely a pick that whatever vett they did was not as serious as some of the other vetts. So when McCain did not get his first pick, Joe Lieberman - because it just became clear that the Right would go crazy - he had to quickly pick someone else. Angry that he had not gotten his way, and much to the dismay of his own team, he picks Sarah Palin. In a way that is very McCain, the maverick Arizona Senator called an audible and went with the telegenic, conservative, youthful "reformer" who could, in his mind, appeal to those Clinton voters. Sometimes when you go with your gut and not your head, you make the right call. Sometimes you don't.

All day I've been thinking about the McCain communications team responsible for the Palin announcement event. The lead staffer looks at the Palin daughter, with her bump, and says "what the hell is this?" The daughter goes up on stage with a baby and a blanket, in retrospect hiding the bump from the national media and the public. The key word here being "hiding." Was this also hidden from the staff? And who really knew? I can only imagine what happened when the staff started to realize that Palin had not really been vetted, that her daugher's pregnancy had been hidden from the public, and that there could be much more to come. McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt sounded like a bumbling high schooler when he was asked about all this on TV today. They seemed totally unprepared for all this all day long, allowing this wild story to dominate the first day of their Convention. I can't really believe the McCain senior staff knew about the pregnant daughter - and how is that possible? What a incredible contrast with the sure-footed Obama Convention and rollout of Joe Biden.

I end the day believing that this whole episode captures the essence of McCain - a maverick, a rebel, a political risk taker, but also a man capable of being mercurial, whimsical, careless, petulant, irresponsible. Traits that might make an interesting Senator but ones that could make for a truly risky or even dangerous Presidency.

Palin means the focus will stay on McCain

Over the next few days while we learn more about Sarah Palin one thing is clear - the lack of seriousness of Palin's record means that the ideological focus will remain on McCain and his record: and that it reinforces the argument Democrats have been making that the Republicans have simply not been serious about governing these last few years. 

AK Gov. Sarah Palin It Is

U.S. Sen. John McCain has picked Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his Vice Presidential Nominee. Read more about the pic on MSNBC. Chris Cillizza also has a good review of Governor Palin's strengths and weaknesses.

Obama Enters the Two Conventions In the Lead

With a new Washington Post poll today the 3 major national news organization polls this week all have Senator Obama ahead and winning the race against John McCain as we head into the 2 Conventions.   

From the Post:

Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain are locked in a highly competitive race for the White House, with voters giving McCain a clear edge as a potential commander in chief but Obama a sizable advantage on economic issues, the subject of greatest concern to voters, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Heading into two critical weeks of the campaign -- the four-day Democratic National Convention is set to open here on Monday, followed by the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities next week -- Obama maintains a narrow, six-point edge over McCain among registered voters. Among those most likely to vote, 49 percent back Obama and 45 percent back McCain.

The poll was completed just before Obama announced the selection of Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware as his vice presidential running mate.

The results show little movement from the last Post-ABC survey, conducted in mid-July, before Obama embarked on a highly publicized trip overseas and prior to a series of fierce exchanges between the campaigns. Other recent national polls also show only limited changes in the overall race heading into the conventions, although several of those surveys indicate an even-tighter race.

Relative stability in the race stems in part from both sides' legions of committed supporters. About three-quarters of supporters on both sides said they will "definitely" vote for their current choice. Still, about three in 10 registered voters, and nearly as many likely voters, are "movable" -- those who are less solidly behind their pick or who have yet to decide. The number of swing voters this year is substantially higher than it was at this time in 2004, highlighting the importance of the next two weeks as the candidates strive to define themselves and their opponents.

Read the rest here.

Simon on the Veepstakes

In the video below, NDN President Simon Rosenberg talks about what both U.S. Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain are looking for in their Vice Presidential pick. Check out the two minute video below, and feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section. Is Simon right or wrong? Let us know what you think.

A New Phase in the Campaign: Economics Dominates

For the last month, the McCain campaign has drilled away at energy as the decisive "separate from Bush and make Obama look bad in the process issue" in the election. McCain’s ads first trumpeted his commitment to cap and trade and later whacked Obama on drilling. His ads pointed to a mythical "electricity tax," and, despite obvious errors, hypocrisies, contradictions, and outright lies, conventional wisdom decided that McCain had won the debate on drilling.

With McCain’s four word key position of "drill here, drill now" exhausted, Obama, as the New York Times covered today, pivoted his message to the economic well being of everyday people. His second Olympic ad focused completely on his economic plan (the first focused on building an energy economy).

In case you haven’t caught Olympic fever and seen it, "Three Bedroom Ranch:"

Then today, John McCain had a moment that played right into Obama’s hands. McCain forgot – in the midst of a housing crisis – how many houses he owned. As I briefly mentioned earlier today, the Obama campaign quickly turned an ad around, noting how out of touch McCain was with everyday people.

McCain will have two, already begun, responses: he will continue to go negative on Obama, moving from a celebrity attack to a politics of association line of attack, and he will try to move the debate back to the issues he feels good about: national security and energy. This strategy has two small problems and one big problem for McCain. First, king oilman Dick Cheney is speaking at the Republican National Convention a week and a half from now – not exactly the backdrop McCain wants on energy. Second, timetable is now an agreed upon word for the end of America’s engagement in Iraq, the proposed Democratic solution.

The really big problem for McCain is that, while some think offshore drilling is nice, and others may care about foreign policy, Americans, in large part, see the economy as the overwhelmingly dominant issue. The McCain responses to his housing uber-gaffe – all personal attacks – do not get away from the fact that their candidate, a man who has spent 26 years in Washington, thinks the level of being rich is having five million dollars, and is extraordinarily wealthy, is no doubt out of touch with the lives of everyday Americans.

If this narrative sticks, if Obama can convince everyday Americans that he is focused on them, and if Obama can close on this message, it is hard to see Obama losing, because, despite all this supposedly bad polling and this supposedly bad month, Obama is still ahead.

Obama Ad: McCain Out of Touch on Economy

On the back of John McCain forgetting about how many houses he owns, the Obama ad team turns around an answer for him.


Driving this narrative - that McCain can't possibly be good on the economy because he has no idea what every day Americans are going through - has strong potential for Obama in the coming two months. 

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