Monday, June 30, 2008

Attacking McCain's War Record?

As a person of the left, I'm not going to pretend to be neutral here. I'm supporting Obama and I believe the Democrats should criticize McCain and go after him hard.

But I also have to admit that people on the left have never been very good at the fine art of mixing personal and political criticism.

During the 2000 election campaign, there was a drumbeat of liberal sneering about George W. Bush being "stupid." All that sneering did was make liberals look like snobs while ignoring Bush's long history as a party animal and the fact that he had driven two businesses into the ground. Bush isn't stupid, but he's always been immature, reckless, and lazy. The left should have done a better job of bringing that into focus.

Now, there are some on the left who are attacking John McCain's war record. Wesley Clark does raise a valid point that serving as a fighter pilot doesn't qualifiy anybody to be president. But the good folks at are also reminding people that McCain cracked under torture and made a propoganda video. According to the Politico, others are suggesting that McCain "must have killed civilians" during his 23 sorties over North Vietnam.
"I wouldn't characterize anybody who fought in Vietnam as a war hero," said Medea Benjamin, a co-founder of the theatrical anti-war group Code Pink. "In 23 bombing sorties, there must have been civilians that were killed and there's no heroism to that."
"Must have?" Ms. Benjamin is implying that McCain killed civilians (and is thus a kind of war criminal) without any evidence. Talk about stupid! And ineffective. If people actually want to hear those kinds of smears, they'll dial up Karl Rove or Grover Norquist instead of a Democrat.

What progressive activists and liberal bloggers need to do is to be tough with McCain in a way that raises doubts McCain's ability to govern effectively.

Let me give a couple of illustrations of how John McCain could be effectively attacked.

McCain proposes to lower taxes on corporations like Cindy McCain's $100 million beer distribution business. Given that Cindy McCain already owns seven houses, it's more than fair to point out that she doesn't really need another tax break. Lowering corporate taxes is an incredibly bad idea and John McCain's personal affairs can be used legitimately to illustrate the point.

McCain also advertises his ability to work "across the aisle." However, McCain actually does very poorly at working the Republican side of the aisle and a number of his colleagues think of McCain as a preening narcissist who blows his top if his doesn't get his way. Thad Cochran of Mississippi is one of the more emphatic Republian critics: "The thought of [McCain's] being president sends a cold chill down my spine . . . He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me."

How does John McCain propose to govern as president if he can't any support from his fellow Republicans? If his proposals get filibustered by Senate Republicans?

These are the kinds of tough questions that need to be asked about John McCain. But people on the left need to start being as smart as we think we are.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If I'm not mistaken this type of attack is exactly what Karl Rove pushed in the last election, attack the strengths of the opposition. The democrat's attack on McCain's war experience may not be productive but it is a page out of Rove's playbook. Remember the attack on Kerry's war record? Not sure if this works in all cases but those swift boat ads made an impact. Attack the perceived strength of the other candidate. Whittle away at what the public thought was a strong rallying point and inject doubt in what would be usually accepted as fact.

Personally, I think it was a bad move for Wes Clark to attack McCain on his Vietnam experience. That didn't score any points with me, a registered Independent. Going after McCain's position on the current war in Iraq would make more sense. However McCain's Vietnam POW experience is played, I don't think most people would have been willing to trade places with him back in Vietnam. Surviving in a POW camp like the Hanoi Hilton isn't something to be taken lightly no matter how it is spun. If the Dems are trying to drum up some type of swift boat attack on McCain's Vietnam experience they better come up with something better than what Wes Clark muttered. No disrespect to "General" Clark. Go after the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or the "military industrial complex" of big corporations and the oil company's lobbying for a piece of Iraq's vast oil resources if they want to score the points. Caric outlined the issues.

What next? Will Jane Fonda's picture pretending to shoot down US planes over Hanoi be splashed around with some type of counter Vietnam spin against Obama! I'm sure Jane must be an Obama supporter unless her venture into religion has caused her to prop up a photo of McCain on her nightstand in a total conversion to right wing Republican politics. Please, leave the Vietnam issues alone and get on to the current issues of the day. There is plenty to attack McCain on that matter to Independents in this election. Vietnam isn't one of them. That era isn't something I care to relive every time we have a presidential election. If this is what we have to look forward to in this general campaign then it is going to be some pretty tough going.