Just a thought: it would be nice to see John McCain clarify his non-answer about Barack Obama’s patriotism in the same sort of straightforward, no-nonsense, not-open-to-interpretation way that Obama responded today to Wesley Clark’s comments questioning the value of McCain’s military service.
The John McCain of 2000 and 2004 would have done it. Will the John McCain of 2008?
P.S. Incidentally, Obama also criticized MoveOn.org — specifically its "General Betray Us" ad — in the same speech.
UPDATE: It seems Obama’s answer on the Clark front isn’t good enough for the McCain campaign, which appears to be implicitly adopting the position that a candidate can be faulted for anything his supporters say, even after the candidate clearly and explicitly disavows it. I trust the McCain folks won’t mind when this same standard is applied to them.
McCain’s only hope in this election is to make the case that he is the true candidate of change, reform, "straight talk," etc. In short, he needs the "McCain brand" to both survive the collapse of the "Republican brand" and to trump the shininess of the "Obama brand." It’s a tough task, but Obama has recently opened the door for McCain with his reversals on several issues, particularly campaign financing. (For that matter, the MoveOn.org thing is something of a flip-flop; Obama pointedly did not vote on the resolution to condemn the ad, back when it was primary season and a "Yes" vote might have hurt him with the base.) McCain is obviously trying to take advantage of the opportunity he’s been handed. But, in this still-undecided voter’s view, he’s doing so in precisely the wrong way.
McCain needs to kill Obama with kindness, honesty and straightforwardness, not heavy-handedly twist and contort his words in a blatant political game that ultimately holds Obama’s statements and actions to a standard that McCain himself cannot possibly meet. The latter course might be enough to fool some low-information voters, but those folks aren’t paying attention yet anyway, and in the mean time, opinion leaders in the media and blogosphere — who are crucial to the survival of the McCain brand — are going to see right through McCain. You can’t become perceived as the candidate of the "high road" by taking a short cut on the low road. It just won’t work.
I suggest that McCain read Mark Halperin’s advice from last week, particularly:
14. Recognize that gimmicks … are seen as just that Ã¢â‚¬â€ gimmicks. …
17. Avoid personalizing your disdain for Obama. …
22. Protect the McCain Brand at all costs Ã¢â‚¬â€œ it is the only thing that gives you a chance to win!!