Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 11, 2008
POLITICS: What Does John McCain Believe About Barack Obama?

Here's the thing I keep coming back to about this election and what it will take to win it. It's a point that Hillary Clinton grasped, albeit too late to save her. And it's an open question about our own nominee and how he will approach the next 116 days.

Most people who would consider voting Republican in this (or any) election either like McCain, grudgingly respect him, or are hard-core Republicans/conservatives who ought to be persuadable for any Republican, even McCain. But none of those groups is going to be fired up with positive enthusiasm for the guy or his platform. On the conservative side, he's got folks who need regular reminding why they should vote for a guy who has butted heads with them so many times; on the moderate side, he's got people who are OK with him but are feeling like maybe the new guy from the other party deserves a shot. McCain has the experience and the biography, he is good on some issues (your mileage may vary as to which ones), and has some good ideas (ditto), but very few people are super-enthused about the things he is promising to bring to the Oval Office. Reassured, perhaps, but not enthused.

At the same time, McCain's opponent is not Generic D but rather a left-wing extremist with no experience, horrible, tried-and-proven-failure ideas and terrible judgment in friends, supporters and staff. That ought to frighten moderates and conservatives alike when they contemplate giving him the car keys. McCain's path to victory, then, is in collecting the people who like him, the people who respect him, and the people who can force themselves to tolerate him, and persuading them that an Obama presidency would be a disaster for the nation.

But McCain can only do that consistently and effectively if he, himself, believes that Obama would be a disaster for the nation.

Does he?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:49 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)

The unstated implication here is that you are questioning McCain's desire to be president and his willingness to mount a full scale, even down and dirty attack on Obama. Of course he desires to be president more than anything, they all do, Dem or Repub, its silly to imply otherwise. He doesnt need to share your judgment that Obama is an "extremist with terrible judgment" to want the presidency for himself or fight hard for it. And he doesnt view Obama the way that you seem to, as the Antichrist. If McCain goes dirty it undermines his whole campaign narrative; that he's a nontraditional Repub different from the Bush/Rove brand who will keep things honorable and about the issues. He'd come across as an angry old man attacking a likeable inspirational figure (and most Americans view Obama that way regardless of whether they will vote for him, patrons of this site excepted), and it would be a disaster for McCain. He doesnt have to go dirty or hate Obama to win.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at July 11, 2008 1:07 PM

McCain seems to cling to the notion that an above-board campaign is somehow virtuous. He DOES need to portray BO as an extremist with terrible judgement. If he doesn't, he's painting a picture that presents two candidates that are, by superficial measures, indistinguishable. It's shades of gray. Who gets excited by that? Obama will cream him if he won't articulate the contrasts.

Posted by: Phils57 at July 11, 2008 2:06 PM

The other big assumptions in your post, ones that the majority of the country does not share, is your characterization of Obama's record, character, temperament, associates, etc. and whether he willbe a disaster.

If you were to look through the same lense at McCain -- and not through the GOP rose-colored version -- you could make the identical characterizations of McCain. E.g., ideas proven to be failures (cutting taxes raises revenue), poor choices in staff and associates (Phil Gramm, the various evangelical bigots -- and, Charles Keating makes Rezko look like a pick-pocket).

The fact is neither would be a disaster for the nation; and even if they were, we've survived eight years of a lying, irresponsible war criminal. That should give everyone confidence we can survive a lot. I suppose, however, if a lefty suggested potential disaster ahead for America, you would ask why he or she hates America.

Posted by: Magrooder at July 11, 2008 2:08 PM


You're off base on this one. McCain's basic issues are proven winners: 1. the Surge, and 2. cutting taxes raises revenues.

Point #2 above has been empirically proven, both in the '80s under Reagan and in this decade under GWB.

Moreover, the issue of offshore drilling is really coming into focus now in a way it never has before. Again, McCain is more in tune with what the country wants (more supply) than the corner into which Obama has painted himself (no use in drilling since it won't make a difference).
At $4/gallon, most people (outside of wealthy urban areas) are willing to try anything to get gas prices lower.

I think the Crank is right. McCain has to be willing to outline the sharp contrasts between him and Obama. If he's not willing to do so (either because he doesn't believe there is much difference, or he's not willing to get "down and dirty"), then he loses big in November. If he does make these contrasts effectively, he still has an uphill battle, but he stands a fighter's chance, which he wouldn't if he doesn't.


Posted by: Hegelian Dialectic at July 11, 2008 2:19 PM

There is little doubt that McCain must draw a stark contrast between his positions and Obama's and push it hard. However he doesnt have to personally believe, as Crank apparently does, that Obama would send the U.S. straight to hell in order to do that, nor does he have to dislike him. And there is in fact a line between highlighting the issue differences and dirty attacks. Obama has had tremendous teflon with respect to the latter and McCain correctly senses that differences on offshore drilling present openings for him that Jeremiah Wright does not.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at July 11, 2008 2:30 PM

I wish there was a way to block individual commenters when I check the comments. I feel 5% dumber every time I read Magrooder's latest incoherent screed.

Posted by: mikeski at July 11, 2008 3:00 PM

"At the same time, McCain's opponent is not Generic D but rather a left-wing extremist with no experience, horrible, tried-and-proven-failure ideas and terrible judgment in friends, supporters and staff."

Alas, only the dead-enders who think President Bush is doing a heckuva job believe any of these talking points. According to Real Clear Politics, just 33% of the country view Obama unfavorably (vs. 61% favorable). It's why Obama strikes so much fear in Crank and his accolytes -- the demonization that worked so well in the past just doesn't stick to Obama.

Posted by: Ryan at July 11, 2008 3:07 PM

That's putting the cart before the horse - the recovery of Obama's approval ratings since the primaries ended is, if anything, a sign that McCain has not been doing enough to get Obama's record and policy positions out there. He's hit Obama very hard at times, but not consistently. The problem is that Obama's campaign is basically a substance-free personality cult, and doubly so since he started obfuscating his own positions.

Dukakis and, to a lesser extent, Kerry and Carter (in 76) also had gauzy approval ratings in the spring and early summer (albeit without Obama's aura of "cool") but got defined more sharply as the fall set in, leading to a decisive defeat for Kerry, a thumping for Dukakis and a much narrower margin for Carter. McCain has to do that, and while the fall is the crucible of the campaign, he can't just wait out the summer.

Posted by: The Crank at July 11, 2008 3:17 PM

I think McCain would probably be more likely to point out what an empty-suit, accomplishment-free nimrod his opponent is if he didn't believe that's what conservatives would like to see him do.

It slays me when lefties point out Dubya's business failures prior to his political career. The only thing O'Bambi's ever tried to build is rubble today and that's with taxpayer dollars. Any of you progressives want to progress over to Obambi's apartment complexes to live the lux life? It would be a very progressive thing to do you know.

Posted by: spongeworthy at July 11, 2008 4:02 PM

"and persuading them that an Obama presidency would be a disaster for the nation."

The problem isn't believing this, the problem is saying it.
Take the existing people who share this right now - "Black House", "secret Muslim", "terrorist fist jab", "Hussein!". If he starts saying disaster before building up a platform why it is wrong, he would be directly compared to these same people. Perhaps even after.
Strangely enough Crank - it probably would be easier for McCain to build these positions if there wasn't a host of crazy people arguing worse.

Though I do want to know how things like Expanding early Head Start is a disaster for the nation. But I guess actively calling out those policies wouldn't yield much, easier to stick to rhetoric.

"2. cutting taxes raises revenues"
"Point #2 above has been empirically proven, both in the '80s under Reagan and in this decade under GWB."
Cutting taxes does not raise revenues.
Here's Heritage saying economic growth raises revenues, and does not result in full replenishment.
Also note that they can't call out capital gains tax cuts as being alone in increasing revenue, because of housing sales due to cheap money.

Here's an article which has the words of several economists. Including an interview with the man who popularized the curve on which these statements are based(Laffer).,9171,1692027,00.html
Bonus points - his work is linked to a Muslim philosopher from the 14th century.

More than anything else, I do hope this goes away. I know it won't, because it is so easy for a politician to say, and so hard for legions of economists to get the same coverage.

You would think that 2 would be easily countered by the number of times we were told the budget would come into balance over the past few years after cuts, but nah.

Posted by: Dave at July 11, 2008 4:38 PM

Not to pile on after Dave's post, but HD do you really believe "Point #2 above has been empirically proven, both in the '80s under Reagan and in this decade under GWB"?

What empirical evidence is there? Reagan left with an enormous deficit, much larger than the one he inherited. W inherited a surplus and now has given us the largest deficits ever.

I'm no fan of Bill Clinton, but his policies, passed without a single GOP vote produced the surplus W pissed away.

Posted by: Magrooder at July 11, 2008 4:46 PM

1. Magrooder - So, deficits have no relationship to spending? Really? Revenues went up under Reagan....I don't buy the idea that tax cuts always raise more revenue. Tax cuts help the economy grow, which offsets the lower revenue from lower rates. Sometimes it's a 100% or greater offset, sometimes it's less - you get more bang from your buck for cutting capital gains taxes (which Obama wants to hike, whereas Clinton cut it) or very high marginal rates (e.g., the rates Obama wants to raise them to - he's headed to a top marginal rate above 50% if you include his payroll tax hike), and perhaps as well from cutting the corporate tax, which McCain proposes. But as in other policy areas, I think tax policy should be set with an eye to benefitting the nation as a whole, not just the government. Economic growth is worth smaller revenues.

2. Dave - Yes, I know, all criticism of Obama will be equated with fever swamp stuff and racism. Par for the course. As for "if he starts saying disaster before building up a platform why it is wrong," I agree 100% - he has to be hammering away at specific ways in which Obama is unqualified for the job and is proposing awful policies. I'm just talking about starting from the general position that to draw effective contrasts, you need to go both positive and negative - you can't do just one or the other.

3. Head Start isn't one of the worst liberal programs, but it's not notably effective. An odd example to choose, though - I would have talked first about his tax and health care plans, his approach to national security, foreign policy and war, his trade and immigration stances, his position on the courts and the many issues decided there such as abortion and guns...Obama's record and proposals, combined with his evident lack of preparedness for the job, points us to an agenda of radical change on a broad array of serious issues combined with a complete lack of the traits necessary to face real challenges. Picking the most inocuous example of all his proposals is not an effective defense of that agenda.

Posted by: The Crank at July 11, 2008 5:03 PM

Why do people like McCain and HD think they can make stuff up about cutting tax rates raising revenues?
Answer: because the 'liberal media' (LOL) will NEVER call them on it. (This is how a lie gets to stay in the public discourse).

Speaking of radical changes on serious issues due to lack of preparedness for the job of being President. What you say about "The Bush Doctrine" or as we call it, "Foreign policy based on paranoia"?

Posted by: Berto at July 11, 2008 9:19 PM

Following Crank's advice, Sen McCain can team up with his long time mentor Sen Phil Grahm and kick of the Grumpy Old Man Tour of America. I am sure it will be a hit (with the Obama Campaign).

Old Man McCain is not going to win this race by taking cheap shots at Mr. Excitement. If he has any chance, (a very big if), it involves a re-launch of the Straight Talk express -- but the danger of too much straight talk in a head to head contest is that you alienate some voters everytime you open your mouth -- and once you alienate > 50%: game over.

Posted by: Patrick at July 12, 2008 10:12 AM

As I've watched the Obama campaign, I'm reminded of the Robert Redford movie, "The Candidate" - anyone remember the last line of that one? After he wins his senate race, the Redford character turns to his advisors and says "Now what?"
Maybe McCain can work out an ad using that, instead of the "Dr. No" reference.

Posted by: JudyB at July 12, 2008 10:56 PM

Crank, you may wnt to re-think that adoce about sending McCain to college campuses. In 2008, the man can't even get online without his staff's help:

"They go on for me,” he said. “I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself. I don’t expect to be a great communicator, I don’t expect to set up my own blog, but I am becoming computer literate to the point where I can get the information that I need.”

Asked which blogs he read, he said: “Brooke and Mark show me Drudge, obviously. Everybody watches, for better or for worse, Drudge. Sometimes I look at Politico. Sometimes RealPolitics.”

At that point, Mrs. McCain, who had been intensely engaged with her BlackBerry, looked up and chastised her husband. “Meghan’s blog!” she said, reminding him of their daughter’s blog on his campaign Web site. “Meghan’s blog,” he said sheepishly."

Yup, this guy has his finger on the pulse of young America.

Posted by: Magrooder at July 13, 2008 12:29 PM

Yes, Magrooder, we'll be truly screwed if we elect a guy who doesn't know his way around Facebook.

Could you possibly invent a more vapid, facile requirement for C-I-C? That he noodles around on the Web, for crying out loud?

Please don't spend much time wondering why guys like me are reluctant to hand the keys to you "Boxers or briefs?" people.

Posted by: spongeworthy at July 14, 2008 10:48 AM


Of course there are bigger issues, but it shows just how out of touch he is with the daily life of the vast majority of Americans. At some point, there has to be a connection between the President and the citizens. If he is that far removed from what is a fairly simple modern convenience, how open can he be about more complex technologies, whether related to defense, alternative energy, etc. He is a dinosaur.

And, also, the point was to respond to Crank's notion that college campuses would be places congenial to the McCain campaign.

Posted by: Magrooder at July 14, 2008 11:42 AM

Was the Crank's point that McCain could show the college audience how cool he is compared to Obama?

It seems to me politicians were far more in touch with their constituent's problems and issues in the past. We didn't have an Internet in this past.

This is very weak stuff, Magrooder.

Posted by: spongeworthy at July 14, 2008 1:09 PM
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