John McCain

Agreeing with Frank Rich today on the weakness of McCain

I agree with the sentiment in Frank Rich's column today. Old Man McCain is one of the worst candidates the GOP could have chosen this year, and one of the wobbliest major candidates we've seen run for President in modern times.

When the media scrutiny comes - and it will come - it will not be kind (see here for the latest on his serial bending/breaking of campaign laws this election).

Update: To us at NDN nothing more has spoken to the character of John McCain than what he has done on the immigration issue. As Andres wrote recently, in 2007, when collapsing in the GOP primaries, McCain made the very political decision to walk from his own immigration reform bill and was thus instrumental in the collapse of the Senate bill. On this matter, there is no way to ascribe virtue to what he has done. At the moment of truth he showed cowardice, not courage, and betrayed a community he once championed. He has since repeatedly said he would not support his own bill if it came back to the Senate.

To us at NDN this one example - and there are more - shows how far McCain has fallen since the heyday of the Straight Talk Express. In his desperate last attempt to win the GOP nomination over the past year John McCain became a craven politician, tossing long held beliefs on taxes, immigration, torture, campaign finance over board faster than folks have gotten tossed from American Idol. While this strategy may have been effective in winning him the nomination it also needs to become a central part of how the country comes to understand who the McCain of 2008 - not the McCain of 2000 - has become.

His dispiriting ideological implosion speaks to the larger collapse of conservative and GOP politics brought about by the Bush Presidency, a new reality of American politics that may be with us for a very long time.

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Monday morning observations

The Education of Obama - Both the Times and the Post have stories today about Obama "sharpening" his attack against Senator Clinton. My view on this is this tougher rhetoric is long overdue from the Democratic frontrunner, for politics is both about making your own case while effectively indicting your opponent. One of our great strenghts in the 1992 Clinton campaign was our ability to indict President Bush without sounding too partisan and mean spirited. To win in the fall Obama will have to make a powerful and very public indictment of Senator McCain and the failed government of this era. In no way does this cut against his "bringing everyone together" narrative, and simply another tool in his tool box he must develop if he is to win, and to govern.

As I wrote recently I still think Senator Obama should have used the "bitter" flap as he did the Jeremiah Wright controversy. He should have taken the opportunity to give a major speech about the struggle of every day people, demonstrating he both understands how the lack of an adequate government response to globalization is making it harder for people to get ahead, and that he has a comprehensive plan to do something about it. His economic argument is still too political, too focused on attacking Senator Clinton over her NAFTA position than on offering a compelling argument on how he intends to raise the standard of living of all Americans. The inability of the Obama campaign to organize themselves around the struggle of the middle class has been, and continues to be, one of the great strategic weaknesses of this year's remarkable campaign.

For more on this read John Heilemann's excellent new essay in New York Magazine which features some commentary from the head of our globalization initiative, Rob Shapiro.

Not a big fan of McSame - Some of the early arguments coming from the Democratic/ progressive side attempt to make McCain into Bush. But I think this approach is bound to fail. McCain is his own man. He isn't George Bush. They may have worked together to bring about this disasterous conservative era. They have similar beliefs. But McCain isn't Bush. He has a powerful and compelling personal narrative. His take on Iraq is different. His economic plan is different. His position on immigration is different. It is time for those who have opposed Bush to let go of him as a man, and begin making the indictment against his beliefs, his government and the mess he and his team - with McCain's help - have left us. The country has written Bush off, and is turning the page. It is time for the progressive movement to do the same.

To that end I think the new DNC Ad is a good one. It takes McCain's own words and ties them to the performance of the conservative economic strategy now embraced by the Arizona Senator. An editorial in the Post today further disembles the inanity of McCain's emerging economic arguments, providing much more new material for those of us who have opposed the bankrupt and failed economic approach of the modern conservatives.

For more on McCain be sure to read yesterday's frontpage WaPo story on McCain's temperment, something that has been a constant discussion item here in DC chattering classes since the campaign began.

McCain and Immigration - Our very own Andres Ramirez has an excellent new post reminding everyone that during the heat of his primary battle John McCain abandonned his own immigration reform bill, and now repdudiates it on the campaign trail. It is an extraordinary example of McCain's maturation in recent years from virtuous outsider to hollowed-out, craven pol, willing to say and do anything to get elected.

Once again Old Man McCain gets it wrong

I agree with those who say that McCain's confusion about Sunni and Shiite in the Middle East is scary, dangerous, unbelievable. This is a subject I've spent a great deal of time writing about in recent years (for example here and here) and came to believe that it was not just McCain who didn't understand this dynamic, it was the Bush Administration itself. So much of what has gone wrong in Iraq can be traced to this fundamental misunderstanding by Bush and his supporters.

I wrote this recently:

Senator McCain's confusion about Sunni and Shiite, Al Qaeda and Iran, I think is no simple thing to explain away. Our whole adventure in Iraq has been infused by dangerous levels of niavite and ideology, and all too little informed by the facts on the ground or common sense. The very lack of understanding of how hard it would be to bring Sunni and Shiite together - and how an Iraqi Shiite-led government would result in Iran's regional ascension - is the main cause of why Iraq has cost America so much in the lives and limbs of our young, of "our money," and of our standing in the world. That he is confused about something so central to the entire enterprise over there - after having been there for days and been briefed by many parties - is a virtual disqualifier for the highest office in the land.

Rather than suggesting that McCain is recklessly stupid, perhaps his campaign can say his confusion has been brought about by age. That men of his age often get confused, particularly when they travel and are meeting lots of new people. That running for President, to paraphrase our current President, is "hard, hard."

Update: As our readers may recall, NDN spent a great deal of time last year helping draw attention to Administration's apparent lack of understanding of the Sunni-Shiite dynamic in the Middle East. Visit here to watch a video interview we conducted with Professor Vali Nasr, one of the nation's foremost experts on Islam and the Middle East. His book, the Shia Revival, is one of the best books I've read in recent years and has done more to help me understand the challenge of our current strategy in the Middle East than any other thing I've read.

Unpublished
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McCain: 624787 (English and Spanish)

John McCain is up with English and Spanish-language versions of "624787". Check out them out below:

(English version)

(Spanish-language version)

And since I don't want to completely dismiss it, here's the link to his latest web video.

McCain argues with himself

Following his recent confusion regarding the difference between Sunni and Shiite, the wheels continue to fall off Old Man McCain's straight talk express, this time courtesy of the DNC. The recently released website, mccaindebates.com, features Arizona's Senior Senator contradicting himself on a number of points on the war in Iraq by playing quotes he gave, and perhaps, like his remark on his lack of understanding of economics, or today's revelations from the New York Times on his almost-party-switching, forgot about. It concludes saying, "No matter which McCain you listen to, he only offers a third Bush term on Iraq." This website features a two pronged argument that will play prominently as Democrats turn toward McCain: First, that he is not the straight shooter he claims to be - or appeared to be in 2000 - and second, a McCain presidency offers a nothing more than a third Bush term.

Broder on Old Man McCain and his nutty worldview

David Broder takes a deeper look at John McCain's dangerously stupid comments about the nature of the Sunni-Shiite struggle and the overall geopolitics of the Middle East.

We weighed in about his astonishing statements yesterday. Watch the video of his remarks here.

Old Man McCain

Senator McCain's confusion about Sunni and Shiite, Al Qaeda and Iran, I think is no simple thing to explain away. Our whole adventure in Iraq has been infused by dangerous levels of niavite and ideology, and all too little informed by the facts on the ground or common sense. The very lack of understanding of how hard it would be to bring Sunni and Shiite together - and how an Iraqi Shiite-led government would result in Iran's regional ascension - is the main cause of why Iraq has cost America so much in the lives and limbs of our young, of "our money," and of our standing in the world. That he is confused about something so central to the entire enterprise over there - after having been there for days and been briefed by many parties - is a virtual disqualifier for the highest office in the land.

Rather than suggesting that McCain is recklessly stupid, perhaps his campaign can say his confusion has been brought about by age. That men of his age often get confused, particularly when they travel and are meeting lots of new people. That running for President, to paraphrase our current President, is "hard, hard."

Update: As our readers may recall, NDN spent a great deal of time last year helping draw attention to Administration's apparent lack of understanding of the Sunni-Shiite dynamic in the Middle East. Visit here to watch a video interview we conducted with Professor Vali Nasr, one of the nation's foremost experts on Islam and the Middle East. His book, the Shia Revival, is one of the best books I've read in recent years and has done more to help me understand the challenge of our current strategy in the Middle East than any other thing I've read.

Perhaps Senator Lieberman should buy his friend Senator McCain a copy of the book.

Update 2: Watch the video here

Johnny messed up

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