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Thursday, September 11, 2008

How Stupid Does McCain Think You Are?

Boy in dunce capIn April, the Republican Party of North Carolina was planning to run an ad featuring Rev. Wright and attacking Barack Obama. The targets of the ad were the Democratic candidates for Governor, both of whom had endorsed Obama. Stretching the already thin guilt-by-association argument beyond its limits, the ad implied that, by endorsing Obama, the two were endorsing Wright. "They should know better," the narrator said. "He's just too extreme for North Carolina." Whether "he" was Obama or Wright was unclear.

That ad earned the NC GOP this letter from John McCain:

From the beginning of this election, I have been committed to running a respectful campaign based upon an honest debate about the great issues confronting America today. I expect all state parties to do so as well. The television advertisement you are planning to air degrades our civics and distracts us from the very real differences we have with the Democrats. In the strongest terms, I implore you to not run this advertisement...

This ad does not live up to the very high standards we should hold ourselves to in this campaign. We need to run a campaign that is worthy of the people we seek to serve. There is no doubt that we will draw sharp contrasts with the Democrats on fundamental issues critical to the future course of our country. But we need not engage in political tactics that only seek to divide the American people. Once again, it is imperative that you withdraw this offensive advertisement.

In a matter of months, John McCain has shed himself of all that high-minded principle. Looking back at the ad (it's featured at the link above), it seems tame. John McCain's attacks lately have been desperate, brutal, and lying. Where a principled campaign based on the issues was the plan in April, today the plan is to smear, to slime, and to treat the voter like a freakin' moron. That "campaign that is worthy of the people we seek to serve" is gone now -- either that or John McCain has recalculated our collective worth and found us worthy of complete crap. In McCain's new calculus, your worth is zero.

What few people realize is that candidates don't rely on the same polling and analysis that we do. Theirs is better than what we get on cable and network news. I say this a lot and I'm going to keep saying it until everyone calls it common wisdom -- the TV pundit's job isn't to inform, the TV pundit's job is to get you to watch TV. Think back to the end of the Democratic primary. If you turned on CNN, the odds were really good that you'd find someone explaining how Hillary Clinton could still win -- long after the math made it impossible. "Race is over" might make a good headline, but what do you run the next day? The news media serves the news media, not you.

Unfortunately, all this internal polling and analysis -- which is better than what we get from TV news on an order of tremendous magnitude -- isn't available to us. We're left with the TV pundits who don't really care about accuracy, but are concerned with building a "narrative" to keep us tuning in, like the story arc of a soap opera.

But we can infer what the candidates are being told by watching what they do and how the behave. This inference leads us to one conclusion -- the McCain campaign is in a panic.

People on the right and many in the media like to say that Barack Obama is in trouble because he isn't winning by more. It's a ridiculous argument, ahead is ahead. But, with national polls tightening up as a result of McCain's post-convention bounce, it's McCain who's shown as having the numbers problem.

McCain, barely ahead in only the rare poll and tied or down a bit in most, just can't clear that bar. History shows that McCain's numbers will go down again -- it's called a bounce for a reason -- and, with history as our guide, he loses. McCain's best poll numbers throughout the entirety of this race still aren't good enough. This explains why the McCain campaign is freaking out about anything that could be seen as controversial, no matter how ridiculous the perceived controversy is. He's losing the game, so he's stopped playing the game. Now he's playing the refs. He's losing on the issues, so he's trying to get the refs -- you and me, as voters -- to call foul on Barack Obama at every turn. We can infer what his internal polling and analysis tells him by watching how he plays. He's not playing like a winner, despite the tightening race the media is reporting, but like the losing team.

First, we've got the phony and stupid "lipstick on a pig" outrage. Never mind that McCain used the same phrase about a Hillary proposal. It's just the McCain team trying to get you to call foul on Obama. Even Mike Huckabee says it's overblown.

Of course, none of this distraction would have anything to do with a certain news story that came out yesterday. A news story that the next president will inherit a record $500 billion deficit, as a result of the failure of Republican economic ideology.

So yesterday was an especially pot-stirring day for Team McCain. In addition to trying cook up false outrage over Obama's supposed sexist remark, they released what very well might be the worst, most shameful, most slimy, most lying ad yet of this campaign the day before.

McClatchy Newspapers:

Throw the flag against: The McCain-Palin campaign.

Call: Unsportsmanlike conduct.

What happened: A new 30-second TV ad attacks Barack Obama's record on education, saying that Obama backed legislation to teach "'comprehensive sex education' to kindergartners." The announcer then says, "Learning about sex before learning to read? Barack Obama. Wrong on education. Wrong for your family."

The bill in question did not require "comprehensive sex education" -- I can't believe I even have to explain this -- but taught kids the difference between good touching and bad touching and who to report pedophiles to. John McCain took a bill to protect children, twisted it up beyond all recognition, and presented it as a bill to corrupt kids in kindergarden. I've got to say, that takes a sick, sick mind... And a desperate campaign.

Allow me a moment to directly address those who fall for this crap; first off, congratulations on being able to read and for making it this far without being distracted by a ball of yarn. Second, what the hell is wrong with you? Do you have absolutely no BS filters at all? Do you really believe someone would try to teach kindergartners about condoms and menstrual cycles and unwanted pregnancy? That's what comprehensive sex ed is. To what possible end would someone do that? Just to be evil? My God, how freakin' stupid are you?

An Obama spokeman, Bill Burton, responded to the ad; "It is shameful and downright perverse for the McCain campaign to use a bill that was written to protect young children from sexual predators as a recycled and discredited political attack against a father of two young girls." McClatchy calls it a "low blow." Others call it much worse.

"[McCain] is responsible for one of the sleaziest ads I've ever seen in presidential politics," writes TIME's Joe Klein.

Newsweek's Andrew Romano calls it "the politics of stupidity" and says, "Maybe McCain thinks cautioning kids about creeps is a bad thing, but I doubt it. I even doubt that McCain buys what his own ad is slimily implying -- that Obama is some sort of perverted sexual deviant who wants to parade pornographic images in front of the nation's prepubescent children. But the problem is, McCain is treating the American people as if they're stupid enough to believe just that."

Back in April, John McCain said he wanted to run a campaign "worthy of the people we seek to serve." Ask yourself why his assessment of your worth is declining as fast as his chances in November. Forget about the pretend insult of "lipstick on a pig." The real insult is from the McCain campaign and to your intelligence.