“Period. Full stop.”

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 — gimmicks. …

17. Avoid personalizing your disdain for Obama. …

22. Protect the McCain Brand at all costs – it is the only thing that gives you a chance to win!!

11 Responses to ““Period. Full stop.””

  1. Dave says:

    I disagree that McCain’s remarks in response to the “patriotism” question constitute a “non-answer”. If you watch the video, McCain is sincere and straightforward when delivering the response. You shouldn’t criticize him just because he doesn’t go out of his way to say, “Obama’s as much of a patriot as I am, or as I’ve ever been” – a criticism the post you link to seems to suggest.

    I know there’s bit of a hangover effect here from the insipid populism that characterized the latter stages of the Democratic primary, but McCain has shown no signs of the same race-baiting innuendo that characterized the darkest days of Hillary’s campaign. Until he does, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, ok?

    On a side note, and not to put words in McCain’s mouth, but why should he be forced to defend Obama’s “patriotism” – or to go out of his way to say anything more than he did today? Maybe, just maybe, McCain’s idea of “patriotism” is a little more developed than that of the mainstream media, or of America in general… and we should cut him some slack for hesitating to put Obama in the same category as Col Bud Day or LtCol Orson Swindle – bona fide American heroes of whose exploits McCain had personal knowledge.

    To put things in perspective: I fully respect and admire my law school colleagues, many of whom are brighter and headed to more accomplished jobs than I could ever hope for. Many of them will accomplish great and worthwhile things in their careers; some might even run for office one day. But do I consider any of them as “patriotic” as the men and women who have signed their lives away for an enlistment or more to serve their country overseas? Sorry, but no. It’s impolitic to say or think so, but it takes a lot more guts to put yourself in the line of fire than it does to do public interest work for a couple years.

    My gut feeling is that the “patriotism gap” is a non-issue for McCain, and today’s remarks constituted his best effort to put it to rest. But the simple word “patriot” probably has real meaning to him, and for good reason.

  2. David K. says:

    Clark’s comment, while it may have been stupid to say, is also quite true. While I respect Senator McCain’s service, and am sorry for the time he spent as a POW, neither makes him more or less qualified to be Commander in Chief. We’ve had great leaders of this country who didn’t serve, and terrible ones who did, and vice versa of course. If McCain and his supporters are going to use his military service as an argument for his candidacy why can’t his opponents offer a counter argument? Clark was in no way questioning his patriotism (i.e. he wasn’t Swiftboating him).

  3. Brendan says:

    David, here’s a pretty good response to that perspective, from center-left blogger Marc Ambinder. Excerpt:

    [T]he statement is both patently obvious and patently false. Wait, you say. How could it be both? Well, being “shot down” (or being imprisoned) is obviously not a qualification in the [same] sense that the fact that Barack Obama turned down lucrative corporate law work to join a public interest law firm has [no] bearing, in the abstract, on his claim to be president. Aside from military command service (which was sort of Clark’s point) or being a strong governor of a large and complex state, there really aren’t any other bright line qualifications for being president. … [But] John McCain’s military service, and especially his decision, as a POW, not to jump the line and walk out of prison when offered, is a piece of who the man is and tells us about the decisions he has made. Same with Obama and his post-law school career choice.

    Also:

    Ret. Gen. Wes Clark’s remark — in response to a question from Bob Scheiffer — was a provocation; an insult. Critics of McCain have used the same verbiage before, and used it as an insult. Historians and journalists who study the events will first notice that McCain spent five years as a POW; surely, that is the relevant fact, not the way he became a POW. One focuses on the means of his condition only to degrade the subsequent five years, as if to say, yeah, five years of torture was bad, but it was kinda dumb of him to get shot down. Referring to the shoot down strips away the relevant context: McCain was shot down on a daring combat mission whose target, as I recall, was strategically relevant. It wasn’t as if he wandered into Viet Cong airspace and was hit by a stray piece of metal. (By the way – and this is important – McCain admits in both the books he wrote about his Vietnam experience that he wasn’t a great aviator. So why even make the point?)

  4. Joe Mama says:

    I wouldn’t quite characterize Obama’s attempt to distance himself from Clark’s remarks — without ever mentioning them — as “straightforward, no-nonsense, not-open-to-interpretation.” If you listened to Obama today without knowing what Clark said yesterday, you might never know that the former was meant as a response to the latter.

  5. Condor says:

    Joe Mama,

    If someone read your post without reading the initial post, they might never know that the former was meant as a response to the latter. So, in your next post, can you specify which post you’re responding too? Thanks.

  6. Joe Mama says:

    You almost had a point there. Almost.

  7. Condor the Context Retard says:

    Who almost had a point? And where?

  8. Sandy Underpants says:

    Are the comments Clark made really a debatable or even controversial FACT? Clark was addressing Bob Shieffer’s absurd statement that “[Obama has not] ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down.” As if that experience would make a man more fit to be President.

    The 2004 election proved that Americans don’t believe a War vet is more capable of being president over a couple guys (Bush/Cheney) who must make up a collection cabinet of the most cowards in the history of Presidential Administrations. When our Country called Bush to Vietnam he got his dad to put him into the National Guard to avoid combat in Asia, whilst Dick Cheney got FIVE deferments to avoid service because he had more important things to do.

  9. Condor says:

    Sandy Underpants: unyielding to the very end. I thought for sure you’d go out with “It’s Bush’s fault,” though.

  10. Alasdair says:

    Contard – nope – that would be David K (who is at least consistent) … Sandy Underpants is more sorta free-range …

    PS You have a delightfully mutable nick ! (grin)