How George Bush Helped Barack Obama

Chuck Todd writes that Bush’s recent attack actually helped Obama:

Bush’s gift to Obama: When President Bush — thousands of miles away in Israel — decided to fire his thinly veiled shot at Obama yesterday, it was a giant gift to the Illinois senator and his campaign. Why? One, it essentially kept Clinton on the sidelines just two days after her big West Virginia victory. Two, Obama’s opponent was no longer Clinton or McCain, but the man with the 27% job-approval rating. And three, it rallied Democrats to Obama’s side. Even neutral Dems, like Joe Biden, Rahm Emanuel and Harry Reid, quickly leapt to Obama’s defense. Some Democrats might be deeply divided right now. Pro-choice women are angry at NARAL’s endorsement of Obama; Clinton supporters are upset that Obama is looking like the eventual nominee; and some African Americans are unhappy with the Clintons. But what’s the best way to unify them all? Give them an excuse to turn their attention to Bush. And this will all play out another day — and will likely extend into the weekend — as Obama will respond this afternoon to Bush at his rally with Tom Daschle in South Dakota, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports. Obama will react to both what he considers Bush’s politicization of foreign policy and the substance of Bush’s attack.

The power of Bush: Regardless of whether you believe Bush yesterday did the right thing or not as far as the unwritten rules of partisan politics, it is a reminder of how the president can toss an issue grenade into the middle of the campaign and change the narrative in a nanosecond. But we have to ask: Did anyone in McCain’s orbit get a head’s up on this? After all, Bush’s remarks — and then McCain’s response to them — overshadowed McCain’s big “2013” speech that he gave to put more room between himself and Bush. They also undercut that very speech after McCain essentially agreed with Bush’s assessment. As the Obama campaign pointed out, McCain delivered “a lofty speech about civility and bipartisanship in the morning, and then embrace[d] George Bush’s disgraceful political attack in the afternoon.” Now, McCain’s past (and possibly contradictory) statements on Hamas are gaining fresh scrutiny today with an op-ed by Jamie Rubin in today’s Washington Post.

Understanding the reality: Another example of how unifying Bush’s speech yesterday was: Clinton also leapt to Obama’s defense, even though she has disagreed with him on this issue of negotiating with unsavory world leaders without preconditions. “This is the kind of statement that has no place in any presidential address, and certainly to use an important moment like the 60th anniversary celebration of Israel to make a political point seems terribly misplaced,” Clinton said. But earlier in the day, as NBC’s Ron Allen pointed out, Clinton gave few hints that she’s still fighting for the nomination. “Maybe we’re getting a bit ahead of things, maybe its just the place and time, maybe its that we’re all looking for clues about her intentions, but the vibe feels different,” Allen wrote. And as a top Clinton aide told NBC’s Mitchell: “People understand the reality, but they are still loyal to her.” It’s striking how the Edwards endorsement, and then Bush’s volley from Israel, quickly changed the subject after Tuesday night’s contest in West Virginia.

I’ve been skeptical as to whether the Democrats can get away with campaigning against George Bush instead of John McCain. Mistakes like this on the part of the Republicans just might make it possible (but I still wouldn’t count on this as sole strategy).

The John McCain Fantasy Express

John McCain has laid out the future history of his presidency. Most troops will be out of Iraq by 2013, “there still has not been a major terrorist attack in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001,” bin Laden will have been captured, Iran and North Korea will terminate their nuclear programs, we will experience “robust economic growth,” health care will be “more accessible to more Americans than at any other time in history,” Social Security will be fixed, there will be mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, the borders will be secure, and presumably all other problems will be solved.

John McCain has clearly given up on straight talk as he promises such outcomes while avoiding talk of the solutions. As ridiculous as this is, Democrats must not just laugh at all this and ignore the challenge. Voters care about the vision presented by the candidates. Voters want the candidate who offers the shining city upon a hill.

Democrats are correct in pointing out the lack of real plans to accomplish these goals, but if they are to impress the voters this will not be enough. Democrats might present their laundry list of specific policy plans, but they also must present their own vision. If they fail to do so, McCain will control the narrative of the campaign and likely win.

Fortunately the Democrats have rejected the candidate who would scare away voters with promises of an ever bigger nanny state and plans that only a big government junkie could love. Democrats have rejected Clinton and have chosen Barack Obama, the candidate who can do even better than this attempt by John McCain to inspire the voters to support him.