McCain’s Dirty Campaign Beginning to Backfire Against Him

Many of us liberal bloggers have been critical of how McCain’s campaign has recently taken the low road in adopting dishonest Rove/Clinton style political attacks, along with dwelling on nonsense attacks such as bringing up Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.  Obama has responded both in today’s ad and while campaiging, such as with this statement:

I do have to ask my opponent– Is that the best you can come up with? Is that really what this election’s about? Is that what is worthy of the American people?

For such criticism of McCain to matter it is necessary for the mainstream media to report on the dishonesty shown by McCain’s campaign. There have been several recent examples, with two more seen today. The St. Petersburg Times has an editorial blasting McCain for going From ‘straight talk’ to smear campaign.

The Straight Talk Express has taken a nasty turn into the gutter. Sen. John McCain has resorted to lies and distortions in what sounds like an increasingly desperate attempt to slow down Sen. Barack Obama by raising questions about his patriotism. Instead of taking the Democrat down a few notches, these baseless attacks are raising more questions about the Republican’s campaign and his ability to control his temper.

The most offensive line comes from McCain himself. The Arizona senator has repeated that Obama “would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.” That is one of the more outrageous statements by a major political party candidate seeking the presidency. The looming choices about the long-festering war in Iraq are not between winning and losing but about how quickly or slowly the United States can reduce its military forces without jeopardizing recent security gains. Even McCain acknowledges that, and insulting Obama in such a reckless way is not presidential.

That is only one example of the darker tone enveloping the McCain campaign since several of Karl Rove’s acolytes took the wheel. A new McCain ad suggests that while Obama traveled abroad last week he “made time to go to the gym but canceled a visit with wounded troops. Seems the Pentagon wouldn’t allow him to bring cameras.” That’s a compelling punch line, but it’s below the belt.

What actually happened: Obama planned to visit wounded troops at a medical center in Germany until the Pentagon said it would not allow him to bring a retired Air Force major general who is one of the campaign’s foreign policy advisers. The Democrat may have been poised to blur the line between political events and official troop visits by members of Congress. But there is no evidence that he was snubbing soldiers because he could not appear with them on television.

McCain has even attempted to plant doubts about whether Obama is a socialist. He said earlier this month that the Democrat’s voting record “is more to the left than the announced socialist in the United States Senate, Bernie Sanders of Vermont.” Asked whether he thought Obama is a socialist, McCain responded: “I don’t know. All I know is his voting record, and that’s what people usually judge their elected representatives by.”

This is a classic smear campaign. As the Times‘ PolitiFact notes, the National Journal rated Obama the most liberal senator by analyzing just 99 of 442 votes last year. He did not finish near the top in two previous years, and other ranking services rate his record as significantly less liberal than Sanders’. But McCain was not troubled by the details. He mentioned Obama and socialist in the same sentence, and the seeds of doubt were planted.

Virtually all candidates, including Obama, distort their opponent’s record. But McCain has gone beyond reasonable bounds. The self-described “happy warrior” in the 2000 presidential campaign has turned sour in 2008, and the candor and straight talk that once made him such an attractive candidate are rapidly disappearing.

Joe Klein’s attitude towards McCain has also changed. While this comes from a blog post, most likely this change in attitude will also be reflected in his published articles. He writes:

A few months ago, I wrote that John McCain was an honorable man and he would run an honorable campaign. I was wrong. I used to think, as David Ignatius does, that McCain’s true voice was humble and moderate, but now I’m beginning to think his Senate colleagues may be right about his temperament. From what I can gather, Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran, a Republican, reflected the views of many of his colleagues earlier this year when he said:

“The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine…He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.”

The erratic nature of McCain’s campaign seems to be confirming that judgment. The McCain I used to know would never have touted his own courage as he did a few weeks ago when he said:

“I had the courage and the judgment to say that I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war.It seems to me that Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.”

Courage is grace under pressure. McCain showed it when he was a prisoner of war, and on many issues–yes, even on his stubborn insistence that the surge would work–but he is not showing it now. He is showing flop sweat. It is not a quality usually associated with successful leadership.

Resorting to dishonest attacks did not help Hillary Clinton. McCain apparently thinks this tactic will help him as it helped George Bush in previous elections, but so far it looks like Obama is being successful in neutralizing such attacks.

Does Experience Matter?

This year’s Democratic primary battle was remarkable for having three top tier candidates who had little experience while the second tier candidates, each of whom probably had more experience than all three in the top tier combined, went no where. While the most experienced of the three top tier candidates did ultimately win, the primary battle might still be interpreted as meaning that experience was not a highly sought after characteristic by primary voters.

I was somewhat skeptical of Obama at first, but certainly can see why he won the nomination while the second tier candidates I was initially interested in did not. With voters wanting a change from politics as usual as practiced by both parties, it is not surprising that a relative Washington outsider won the nomination. There has often been speculation about a total outsider from government coming in to change things, but such candidates are rarely taken seriously. Compared to previous outsiders, Obama has enough experience to give him credibility, including the most years of legislative experience of the top tier candidates, to be a credible choice. His experience teaching Constitutional law is of value after eight years of George Bush. His experience as a community organizer both contributed to him not echoing the top-down Nanny-state positions of Hillary Clinton, as well as providing him with experience which helped him beat the unbeatable Clinton machine.

McClatchy has reviewed the role of experience and found it to be a poor predictor of presidential success:

“Experience matters, but its importance is terribly overstated,” said historian Robert Dallek, the author of recent books about Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon.

Presidents with sterling resumes often have turned out to be busts, usually because they lacked the key quality a good president needs: sound judgment.

“John Quincy Adams understood the world, but he didn’t have a political gene in his makeup,” Richard Norton Smith, a presidential scholar at George Mason University, in Fairfax, Va., said of the nation’s sixth president, who isn’t remembered as successful.

Yet presidents with far lesser credentials have triumphed. John F. Kennedy was 43 years old when he took office in 1961, four years younger than Obama. Kennedy’s early years were rocky, Dallek said, but “he was a quick learner” and his third and final year as president was masterful…

“The presidency has too many moving pieces. Trying to gauge whether experience matters really eludes measurement,” said Carl Pinkele, a presidential expert at Ohio Wesleyan University, in Delaware, Ohio.

Scholars suggest two yardsticks — executive background and foreign policy expertise — but they also find both flawed.

Herbert Hoover was the widely admired U.S. food administrator in World War I, presidential adviser at the Versailles Conference and secretary of commerce in the 1920s.

“Yet his management of the economy was a disaster,” Dallek said of Hoover’s one-term presidency, which began months before the Great Depression.

Jimmy Carter also brought a management background, taking office in 1977 after one term as the governor of Georgia and more than 20 years running his family business. But “he was then universally criticized for being a micromanager in the White House,” said John Baick, an associate professor of history at Western New England College, in Springfield, Mass.

President Bush has a master of business administration degree from Harvard University, served nearly two terms as the governor of Texas and surrounded himself in the White House with experienced advisers. But after seven and a half years in power he holds a dismal public-approval rating rooted largely in the Iraq war and the staggering economy.

Foreign policy also has proved to be an unreliable barometer.

Two presidents regarded as among the nation’s weakest — John Quincy Adams and James Buchanan — had extensive diplomatic resumes. Adams held several diplomatic posts, was the secretary of state under President James Monroe and negotiated an end to the War of 1812. But he met difficulty when he tried to improve the economy with a road- and canal-building program and high tariffs, and he was trounced when he sought re-election in 1828.

Buchanan, who served as James Polk’s secretary of state in the 1840s, spent the three years before his 1856 election as minister to Great Britain.

Yet “he’s quite possibly the worst president in American history, because of his inability to effectively manage Southern secession and the slavery issue,” said Chris Dolan, a professor of political science at Lebanon Valley College, in Annville, Pa.

Similarly, Bush’s father had been the U.S. envoy to China, United Nations ambassador, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency and vice president for eight years.

But he was seen as an ineffective manager of the nation’s economy, and the nation spurned his 1992 re-election bid, giving him the lowest popular-vote total of any incumbent president in 80 years.

The article goes on to stress the value of judgement, which has been one of Obama’s strong points. Obama knew better than to go to war in Iraq when McCain, Clinton, and Edwards were all in favor. In addition to questioning the Iraq war, he has questioned aspects of the drug war when his opponents have supported the status quo. He has also had more sensible positions on economic issues and health care than his opponents. He has been willing to consider the views of both liberals and conservatives, while Clintonistas have freaked out at even a simple mention of Ronald Reagan in an accurate historical context. I would much rather have a candidate with good judgement such as Obama asopposed to someone with experience who shows little understanding of the issues such as McCain.

Swing States and the VP Choice

I see, via Memeorandum, that Clinton-supporter Big Tent Democrat has a different take on the swing state polls than I have. While I think that such polls mean very little this far out, I would take Obama’s lead as a positive sign. Big Tent Democrat sees this as a negative sign because he believes his support in Florida and Ohio will continue to fall as he won’t pick Clinton as his running mate. At least  he does believe Obama will win the election due taking Iowa, New Mexico and Colorado.

The American Spectator finds some logic to his view:

Brilliant, and inarguably true. A large percentage of voters who now say they support Obama haven’t been paying close enough attention to notice the clear indications that he’s not even seriously considering Hillary as his running mate.

These voters quite naturally assume that, after such a close-fought contest, Hillary has earned the right to be on the ticket. They haven’t noticed Obama’s comments and furious vetting efforts that show he’s seeking an ABC (“Anyone But Clinton”) running mate, with most speculation centering on Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine. And when it is finally announced that Hillary won’t be on the ticket, it’s going to be a huge jolt, one that many will perceive as a purposeful insult to the former First Lady.

I’m not too concerned about the fall from the previous month since, as Nate Silver points out, the overall trend for Obama in these states has been positive. These numbers are going to continue to go up and down between now and November, and I won’t be concerned about small one month changes along the way.

It is certainly possible that Obama could lose both Ohio and Florida, but if so it won’t be because of his vice presidential choice. Most people vote based upon president, not the vice-presidential choice. The choice has far more downside risk from making a bad selection than the ability to help a candidate.

While many voters might not yet realize that Obama is not considering Clinton, those who care that much about whether Clinton is on the ticket certainly are paying attention. Despite the noise being made by the kooks in the PUMA movement, they represent only a small number of voters who are correctly being ignored by Democratic leaders and others as a handful of nuts who are out of touch with reality. Leaving Clinton off the ticket might lose the votes of a handful of such voters who are willing to risk returning to the age of shirt hanger abortions, but most Clinton voters will vote for Obama. Even before Clinton left the race, polls were showing that large numbers of people who had voted for Clinton in the early primary states preferred Obama after seeing how the race played out.

Even if he is risking the loss of some votes by choosing someone else, Clinton’s negatives would cost the ticket far more votes than she could pick up. The Republicans will bring up every scandal which Obama was not willing to bring up during the campaign. Choosing Clinton would alienate indepenents and Republicans considering Obama, giving McCain a huge boost. Most important of all, it was made quite clear by her conduct during the primaries that Hillary Clinton is unfit to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

As Edwards’ Political Career Comes To An End, Is He Also Ending Anti-Poverty Measures?

While many on the left have been fans of John Edwards, the more cynical or realistic of us (depending upon your perspective) have always been skeptical of his efforts to fight poverty as being nothing more than a political ploy. The manner in which he used his anti-poverty organization to keep his campaign staff on his payroll while avoiding elections laws just smelled too fishy. Maybe there is some other explanation, but now that his political career is effectively over, unless he can offer a sensible explanation as to why he was visiting the hotel of his alleged mistress late at night and then ran and hid, it is hard not to remain skeptical of his motivations here:

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards is pulling the plug on a scholarship program he started at an Eastern North Carolina high school — a program he once promised would be a model for the nation under an Edwards presidency.

Edwards’ presidential hopes have evaporated. And he recently informed Greene County officials that he would end the pilot program at Greene Central High School.

This is only one program so we will have to see if Edwards continues other anti-poverty measures to be certain if he is giving this up now that he is unlikely to ever become a presidential or vice-presidential candidate in the future.

Meanwhile the story is starting to get more attention from the mainstream media. After describing the allegations, The Mercury News writes:

So far, there has not been a denial from either Edwards or the woman, who once produced videos for the Edwards presidential campaign, about the alleged escapade in Beverly Hills.

And if it’s all a simple misunderstanding, if John Edwards was dropping by a hotel suite at 2 a.m. to say hello to a former campaign worker, then maybe someone should suggest to the politician that he come out and say that. Maybe it was his $500-a-cut hairdresser, for goodness sakes! In which case, money well spent. In any case, it doesn’t seem like this is the kind of story that is going to fade into the mists of time. Especially in the slow-news days of August.

McClatchy has also picked up the story. Conservatives have often dismissed McClatchy as a biased liberal story for often being the first to carry stories regarding abuses of the Bush administration and their lies about the Iraq war. I wonder how being among the first to pick up the Edwards scandal will affect their view of McClatchy. With McClatchy picking up the story today I suspect that the rest of the mainstream media will follow.

While supporting someone as new to national politics as Barack Obama remains something of a gamble, events of the last several months have verified that he remains a far better choice than either McCain or his two major Democratic rivals for the nomination.

Obama Strikes Back


John McCain has made the same mistake Hillary Clinton made in thinking that he can win by simply putting out ads with false claims against Obama. This simply left McCain wide open for a counter-attack as in the ad above.

Obama Maintains Lead In Swing States

I have not posted very much on the presidential election polls as polls taking place before Labor Day have very little predictive value. With the number of potential new voters, it isn’t even clear as to whether polls this fall will be predictive. I am posting this as there were a number of stories in the past week about McCain gaining on Obama, or even retaking the lead in swing states. For whatever it is worth, Quinnipiac’s Swing State Poll continues to show Obama doing very well, even if McCain has moved a little closer:

  • Florida: Obama has 46 percent to McCain’s 44 percent, compared to a 47 – 43 percent Obama lead June 18;
  • Ohio: Obama has 46 percent to McCain’s 44 percent, compared to a 48 – 42 percent Obama lead least time;
  • Pennsylvania: Obama leads McCain 49 – 42 percent, compared to 52 – 40 percent.

There are plausible scenarios for Obama to still win if he only wins Pennsylvania of the states above but wins in some other former red states where he is also doing well. It is hard to imagine a scenario in which McCain can win without taking at least two of the three above states.

Breaking One Million Page Views

I just noticed that the stat counter shows that Liberal Values broke one million page views earlier in the week, less than two years after the blog was formed. That sure sounds like some sort of a milestone. A tremendous percentage of this has come in the past several months as readership increased during the Democratic primary race. This does not include the almost 7000 people who subscribe to our RSS feed, or those who see the blog posts at the web sites of various news organizations who pick them up through BlogBurst.

Hush Money Alleged in John Edwards/Rielle Hunter Scandal

There has been plenty of speculation as to why the mainstream media has failed to pay much attention to the Edwards/Rielle Hunter scandal. Most likely it is because, assuming he isn’t chosen as Obama’s running mate, Edwards is now a private citizen without much political significance. The legitimate newspapers see little point in expending resources to check out this story, and they are certainly not going to run with a story with The National Enquirer as their main source, even if the Enquirer has often been correct in previous stories of this nature. The story is also less juicy as there were no crimes committed, the alleged affair was with a woman, and there were no questions of hypocrisy of the nature seen when anti-gay Republicans are caught with a man. A new turn in the story might make the story a little more interesting to the media as now, in addition to sex, there is money involved.

The National Enquirer (and again, the story is limited to a single source, leaving questions as to accuracy) reports:

John Edwards’ mistress, Rielle Hunter – the mother of his “love child” – has been secretly receiv­ing $15,000 a month as part of an elaborate cover-up orchestrated by the former presidential contender.

The money is being funneled to Hunter by a wealthy colleague who was closely tied to the Edwards’ campaign. This same man is also shoveling cash to Edwards’ pal and former aide Andrew Young – who tried to take the heat off the ex-Senator by claiming he is the father of Rielle’s baby.

And The ENQUIRER is also exclusively revealing that Rielle’s baby is a girl named Frances Quinn Hunter and was born at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

“A super-rich pal – who was closely involved with the campaign finances – is helping John. It’s likely this man doesn’t know all the dirty details of John’s extramarital affair, but is acting out of loyalty and is not asking a lot of questions – only writing the checks,” revealed a source very close to the situation.

Jail Time for Karl Rove?

The previous post mentioned Congress exercising oversight over the Executive Branch. One such example came today with the reports that Congress was calling for contempt charges against Karl Rove for refusing to testify about political meddling in the Justice Department. My first thought upon hearing the news was to wonder if such an act had any teeth. From this account in The New York Times, it sounds like in theory it has teeth, but it is unlikely to matter:

Contempt of Congress is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison. In practice, however, disputes between Congress and the White House in which the specter of contempt charges has been raised have usually been settled well short of the jailhouse door.

As a practical matter, it is highly unlikely that the United States attorney’s office in Washington will seek to prosecute former White House officials on the contempt charges.

The Republican Responsibility For The Attempted Putsch

Tim Rutten, in an op-ed in The Los Angeles Times, describes the efforts at politicalization of the Justice Department, along with other parts of government, as The putsch that imperiled America. He describes the problem:

Under then-Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales, a thirtysomething lawyer named Monica M. Goodling — a graduate of a law school founded by Pat Robertson — had virtual veto power over the appointment of U.S. attorneys, other prosecutors and immigration judges. Goodling, as the Washington Post reported, demanded that candidates “espouse conservative priorities and Christian lifestyle choices,” especially on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. The goal, according to the report, was to create a Republican “farm system” inside the Justice Department.

While Goodling was pursuing that mission, something not dissimilar was going on at the White House. According to an article by New Yorker staff writer Jane Mayer in the latest New York Review of Books, “President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and a small handful of trusted advisors sought and obtained dubious legal opinions [on national security] enabling them to circumvent American laws and traditions.” She details how they used these legal opinions to dramatically expand executive power.

Rutten argues that this these actions were “essentially ideological rather than partisan.” He acknowledges that these unethical actions were committed by Republicans but also points out that “many Republicans working inside the administration — some of them deeply conservative — gave up their jobs rather than go along with the putsch.” He concludes:

At some point, the American people will demand a precise accounting of how and why their government and its officials behaved in this reckless, appalling fashion. That will require following the chain of command into the White House. When it happens, you can bet that Cheney, Rumsfeld, Addington et al will demand every protection of the law and insist on every comma of the due process they’ve derided as mere inconvenience.

When there is such an accounting, the Republicans will still have a lot to explain. There may have been some good Republicans, but those who supported the crimes of the Bush administration still dominate the party. Congressional Republicans, rather than exercising the Constitutional duty to provide oversight of the Executive Branch, allowed Bush to do whatever he wanted while they were committing comparable offenses with the K Street Project. Despite having a president who was unfit to lead, there were no good Republican who were capable of mounting a challenge to renominating Bush in 2004.

While the Congressional Republicans have plenty to answer for, it was Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi who decided that impeachment should be taken off the table. Still, while the Democrats are far from pure, it was Republicans and not Democrats who were responsible for the actual offenses. When faced with a front runner who was every bit as unethical and dishonest as Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Addington, et al, Democrats did ultimately stand up and prevent the nomination of Hillary Clinton. To be fair, many Republicans might have thought they were ending the extremism and dishonesty of the Bush years in nomination John McCain, but it didn’t take long for McCain to adopt dishonest Rove/Clinton style tactics. We cannot trust that someone who resorts to this degree of dishonesty in campaigning will not do the same to preserve power if elected.