Why is McCain running such a lacklustre campaign?

July 6, 2008

Some musings on McCain’s campaign

Andrew Sullivan said a few days ago that, ‘this shift is yet another instance of Obama’s remarkably shrewd post-primary strategy. He is slowly undermining every conceivable reason to vote for McCain’. Although Sullivan later qualified his statement with the usual guff about Obama being a pragmatist, this is pretty much Obama’s stategy. Obama realises that the unpopularity of George W Bush and the lacklustre economy, combined with the institutional problems that have been building up for several decades now, mean that a generic Democrat will beat a generic Republican. Therefore he is trying to take away the one issue on which the nation divides in half on, and which potentially could propel McCain into the White House. Of course Obama will take the hit from the flip-flop, but there is clear evidence that the American public are prepared to put up with a panderer, provided it is a pander that they agree with. In essence Obama is trying to transform himself into a (at least superficially) cleaner version of Hillary Clinton in order to get the benefit of her much larger lead over McCain.

I still think McCain should be the favourite, simply because there is no way he can run a worse campaign that he has done so far, but he needs to either get in Obama’s face or find a credible surrogate who can do the job for him. At the moment his decision to pander to the right on economic matters and remain strangely silent on foreign policy is extremely disappointing. Even his few supporters in the press, such as The Economist, are now asking, why he has started ‘saying things it is very hard to imagine that he remotely believes in. Given that this strategy is proving a failure it is interesting to see why he is still doing it. The most optimistic belief is that he is laying the framework for something really radical, such a putting Joe Lieberman on the ticket. In this case it might make sense to assure economic conservatives that he is still a Republican, so when he does change course, there isn’t a full scale revolt. A variation on this, and one that might also be likely, is that he needs to raise significant amounts of money before the convention, so he needs to stress his conservative credentials, a stance he will abandon when he is nominated and enters the public funding system. Both strategies are unnecessary, but at least give some hope that he will change course.



  1. It’s not a flip-flop to take a pragmatist’s approach towards Iraq. Had the county taken that same route, instead of the “trust me” route Bush offered, we may never have gone into war in the first place.

    All Obama is saying is that he’s willing to listen to all sides before acting on a decision with Iraq. This is something the Administration has failed to do the second they came into office.

    Obama is a consensus-builder, not a flip-flopper. The only true flip-flopper in this race is John McCain, who sacrificed everything he stood for to win over conservatives, and his campaign is already falling apart faster than you can say “Bob Dole”.

  2. By flip flopping, Mr. Obama is recognizing that you cannot win elections by being an anti-war fruit-loop. Iraq is a loosing case for the Democrats. Mr. Obama had no choice, but to eat crow and flip flop on Iraq.

  3. It was a Democrat, Bill Clinton, who had a Republican as his Defense Secretary to build a bi-partisan consensus.

    All Obama is saying is that he’s willing to examine all options before making any major action in Iraq. It’s what any smart person would do (and something McCain and George W never did).

  4. P.S. He’s made it very clear that he’s in to end the War in Iraq before 2108: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/07/05/politics/main4234938.shtml

  5. P.S. Obama’s already made it clear that he’s in to end the war in Iraq: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/07/05/politics/main4234938.shtml

    McCain??? http://youtube.com/watch?v=VFknKVjuyNk

  6. Hide behind bi-partisanship all you want, Mr. Obama is essentially admitting that he was wrong on Iraq all along. If Iraq is such a quagmire, as Mr. Obama claimed, he would not have to adjust his policies. He is simply desperate to say to moderate Pro-War voters ‘Don’t worry, I not as nutty as you thought, it is safe to allow me to be President.’ We will see if the voters buy his so-called change of heart.

  7. Giacomo writes: ‘Obama is a consensus-builder, not a flip-flopper.’ Nice ‘politically correct’ language.

    You can use any word you want, and make it sound great with double speak and ‘mean nothing’ campaign rhetoric. Sen. McCain has been to Iraq, Sen. Obama is
    still “making plans to go see the progress” Actions
    speak louder that words as the saying goes. Actions
    such as voting record says more about what a candidate is then lots of words said when
    attempting to win over people.

    Let’s see Sen. Obama say straightforwardly: “I will appoint judicial nominees to the bench who will NOT
    legislate from the bench.” Let’s hear Sen. Obama say
    straight out: Roe v Wade was a bad ruling and must
    be overturned. Let me see ‘moderate’ (lol) Sen. Obama say: “there is no question in my mind that
    marriage is and will always be the union of a man and a woman. anything else is purely the head ideas of mortal men and women who are a bit confused.”

    That’s speaking truth. Anything else is political correct language to confuse and say nothing.

  8. Let’s hear Sen. Obama say: All Americans pay enough in taxes; and I will not raise taxes on wealthy Americans so that those less than wealthy have. It is not the way to have in America. Equality does not
    declare the wealthy must pay more percentage wise to live in America. That was never part of the US Constitution.

  9. I’m with you Ohio Joe, Obama would not be changing his words on Iraq UNLESS he knew that PROGRESS IS being made. In fact: 15 of 18 of the benchmarks on Iraq are or are nearly met. THE SURGE which the liberal mind decried as “going to be a bloodbath”
    WAS NOT a bloodbath. THE SURGE worked.

    and our Dems in Congress know the importance of Iraq,
    as they recently gave our President ALL of the funds
    necessary to CONTINUE our fight. So, let’s see, if Congress where dems are supposedly the majority
    agree with our President that Iraq should be funded;
    what else would Obama say than I will not make any decisions on Iraq; LOL…those ‘principled’ dems
    had to back off because they KNOW Iraq is important and they had not an idea to back up thier previously
    stubborn obstructionist views.

  10. The purpose of the surge was to give the Iraqi government the security they needed to get their security forces trained so that they could start replacing US forces. The surge FAILED to accomplish this: it was a mission that can not be measured by a reduction in violence, but by the results of the Iraqi government.

    The Iraqi government failed to play their part in what was a joint operation.

    Had Bush listened to his own party (or the Iraq Study Group), our forces would have already started withdrawing from Iraq, just as the government petitioned this week, so please quit mincing Sen. Obama’s words. All he’s saying is that we’ll withdraw Iraq as carefully as the president carelessly invaded it.

    It’s the same stance he’s always taken.

  11. Jack, you are just making another excuse for Mr. Obama’s flip flop, he cannot win the general election on an extreme anti-war platform. It is no point to say otherwise.

  12. Ohio,

    He’s not running an extreme anti-war platform. He’s running that of an intelligent leader who knows that one should think before he acts.

    That’s why he was right about Iraq in 2003, why he’s right about Iraq now, any why he’ll be right about Iraq during the Presidential Debates.

  13. Yes, finally due to his flip flop, until last week he was an anti-war nut. His did not think during the primary; he is finding that one needs to think if one wants to fight a general election. Let’s just say, not everyone agrees that Mr. Obama was right in 2003. He was a nobody until 2004 anyways.

  14. No, Obama has always been as much a pragmatist as John F. Kennedy.

    John “the artist formally known as ‘Maverick'” McCain is the flip-flopper of 2008.

  15. Jack,

    Why do you just see the facts. Obama has flip flopped on Campaign Finance, Iraq, Cuba, Decriminalization of marijuana, etc. McCain has flip flopped on taxes, offshore drilling, immigration, and torture. Obama and McCain are both regular politicians who flip and flop with the best of them.

    Obama new politics is a shame. And before all you liberals compare Obama to Kennedy do not forget that JFK served in the military and had been in congress for 13 YEARS before he was elected President. Obama has never served in the armed forces and has been in the senate for 3 years. Kennedy was ready to be President, Obama is not.

  16. Where was all this respect for military service in 2006, when Congressman Murtha was called a “coward” on the floor of the House? Or during the 2004 Election? Or during the 2000 Election, when John McCain was called a “deserter”, a traitor, and “mentally unfit” for office?

    Face it. Most of you McCain supporters are a bunch of hypocrites. You’ll stand by your highest officials as they tarnish the war-service of heroes, but the minute an online group says something you don’t like about Gen. Petraeus, you shout ‘That’s not fair!’ You’re quick to jump on Sen. Obama’s lack of war service, but Gov. Palin’s? (‘Well, her son’s in Iraq.’) Gov. Jindal’s? (‘He’s served in public office for so long.’) Vice-President Cheney? (‘Well, he’s a Republican, and I’ll always supporter a Republican over a Democrat.’)

    When it comes to hypocrisy, John McCain and the Republicans have the Democrats overshot by a mile. Sen. Obama is the only candidate in this race who demonstrated the type of ‘leadership’ Giuliani used to BS about. True leaders are pensive and thoughtful, like Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. What would McCain have done? What would Bush have done?

    Sen. Obama is going to win this election, and the world knows it. He’s the only person with the wisdom to say and do what is right.

  17. Please Jack, get your facts straight for once, where was Mr. Murtha’s respect for today’s young Marines?

  18. Jack,

    First off I was not knocking Obama’s lack of military experience. You compared Obama to JFK and I was showing how flawed your comparison was in the terms of governmental and military experience.

    Also lets get things straight Jindal has just as much congressional experience and more executive experience than Obama and Gov. Palin has more executive experience. Now do I think either are ready to be President today no, I am pragmatic enough to admit that, but they are ready for the Vice Presidency.

  19. OHIO,

    I don’t even know what to make of that comment. All I know is that Republicans respect veterans all as long as they vote Republican (and pro-Bush).

  20. And Matt,

    I wasn’t comparing Sen. Obama to Pres. Kennedy based on experience or war-service, but their similarities on military pragmatism.

    Gen Maxwell D. Taylor authored what may be the definitive work on Kennedy’s pragmatism. It is remarkably close to Sen. Obama’s as demonstrated by his additive towards the War in Iraq and Afghanistan:

    “An ideal leader must have qualities beyond those of a competent professional. If he is to rise above subaltern grades, he must acquire a disciplined and orderly mind—one as accustomed to thinking hard as his body is inured to working hard. His intellectual interests should be as broad as the scope of the national interests for which his profession undertakes to provide security. In 1962, President Kennedy made this point in an address to the West Point graduating class in which he stressed that its members must prepare themselves for dealing with problems outside the military field—diplomatic, political, and economic matters to include a knowledge of the foreign policies of other nations. In his view the ideal leader was more than a military specialist—he was a man of wide horizons capable of perceiving the military role in a setting of integrated national power derived from many sources.”

    – Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, Military Leadership: What Is It? Can It Be Taught?
    Distinguished Lecture Series, National Defense University, Washington, D. C., Spring 1977, 84–93.

    Sen. Obama has held elected office since 1996, taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School as a certified professor, and as a community organizer helped turned Chicago, and eventually Illinois, once a long-time Republican stronghold, into the solid-blue state that it is. These are actions that cannot be ignored; they are certainties.

    I am confident that he will transform America just as he has transformed his home state.

    More on his work can be found here: http://www.barackobama.com/issues/

  21. Oh, so if you are falsely accused of rape then you are automatically known as Pro-Bush. Come on! Mr. Murtha has been proven wrong in falsely accusing our military of rape and other crimes.

  22. Ohio,

    You are starting to get personal in your desperate attempts to change the subject; Murtha was called a coward on the floor of the House by Jean Schmidt, a Republican Congresswoman who never served in the military.

    What did Murtha, a Vietnam veteran with 38 years in the Marines and reserves, a recipient of the American Spirit Honor Medal for outstanding leadership during training, a former drill instructor, a recipient of the Bronze Star with Valor device, two Purple Hearts, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal do to deserve such a charge?

    He simply suggested that the War in Iraq be brought to a close.

    I think there is no greater insult to the men and women of our military to have their valor forgotten. The Republicans are the undisputed champions of doubting the patriotism, questioning the medal-system, and denigrating the good name of the truest Americans of all.

    I say we vote them out of office this November.

  23. You are the one who brought up Mr. Murtha, deal with it and start respected the young soldiers of today.

  24. Don’t cherry-pick America’s heroes based on party-politics.

    They all are. Regardless of politics. You should know that.

  25. You just don’t get it Jack, you are the one who supports those who slander our troops. You need to start setting a better example and get your act together.

  26. My father is an electrical engineer for the Navy, and has been for 30 years. He raised me to shake the hand of every veteran I ever walk past, and to thank them for their service to this country.

    Don’t you ever give me lessons on etiquette, Joe. My father’s guidance is worth more than your words ever will be.

  27. It is all fine and well to shake their hand and then accuse them of rape and murder. Which is about what your friend did.

  28. Unless he personally accused you or anyone you know, my name, of a crime you didn’t commit, I have nothing to say to you.

  29. Of course you have nothing to say because you are tired of talking out of both sides of your mouth.

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