The McCain Meltdown

John McCan, who has been wrong every step of the way on Iraq, keeps trying to come up with a response to Obama (who has been right from the start). Today McCain said, “This is a clear choice that the American people have. I had the courage and the judgment to say I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.”

In a post entitled McCain Meltdown, Joe Klein gives his view on this statement:

This is the ninth presidential campaign I’ve covered. I can’t remember a more scurrilous statement by a major party candidate. It smacks of desperation. It renews questions about whether McCain has the right temperament for the presidency. How sad.

I’ve heard lots of scurrilous statements so I don’t know that this is the worst ever made, but it certainly adds to the question of whether John McCain is fit to be president. Questioning political decisions is part of living in a democracy. The fact that Obama happens to be right weakens McCain’s case even further.

To mischaracterize Obama’s views on the war as wanting to lose the war makes McCain no better than all those right wingers who regularly accuse opponents of the war as being traitors and of hating America. In other words, this statement places him among a crowd which lacks the temperament, as well as integrity, to lead. If anything, Obama deserves credit for standing up and opposing the war at the very start when many other political leaders, who should have known better, lacked the courage to speak out.

The National Enquirer vs John Edwards

If, and it is a definite if, this story from The National Enquirer is true, Obama’s list of  potential vice presidential candidates is now a little shorter. The Enquirer claims to have caught Edwards with Rielle Hunter, repeating their claims that she is his mistress and that they have had a child together.

If the claims from The Enquirer are confirmed the jokes that for Edwards Two Americas means two women are bound to put an end to his political career. The story has been picked up by Drudge and the conservative media, but it is too early to say whether the mainstream media will do the same.

At this point it is unclear as to whether this story has any credibility considering the source, but The National Enquirer did break the story regarding Rush Limbaugh’s OxyContin habit, was the first source on some aspects of the O.J. Simpson case, including the photo proving that he did own that pair of Bruno Magli shoes, first revealed that Jesse jackson had an illegitimate child, and published some of the first details of Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. They have also been wrong on a number of stories in the past, making  it difficult to predict the political consequences of this story.

Political Progress and the Surge

There’s been an awful lot of nonsense from the right exaggerating the benefits of the surge. The surge did result in decreased violence, but this benefit was predicted before it began by many who opposed it. The real question is whether the surge has any long term benefits to justify prolonging our stay there. Opponents of the surge would argue that it has not, as the war will be resolved based upon political solutions, not a momentary decrease in violence which required an escalation of US troops.

Supporters of the surge tend to give it credit for any progress in Iraq. Obama has pointed out that fact that progress in Iraq has largely been a consequence of factors independent of the surge. Kevin Drum places this in perspective with a time line which demonstrates the importance of political developments which were independent of the surge. How does he know that these developments were not a consequence of the surge? Because they occurred before the surge began. Kevin posted this time line:

  • February 2006: Muqtada al-Sadr orders an end to execution-style killings by Mahdi Army death squads.
  • August 2006: Sadr announces a broad ceasefire, which he has maintained ever since.
  • September 2006: The Sunni Awakening begins. Tribal leaders, first in Anbar and later in other provinces, start fighting back against al-Qaeda insurgents.
  • March 2007: The surge begins.

He then concludes:

Say what you will about the surge, which does indeed deserve a share of the credit for reducing violence and increasing security in Baghdad. But it pretty obviously wasn’t related to either the Shia militia stand-down or the Sunni Awakening, since both those things began before Petraeus took over in Iraq and before the surge was even a gleam in George Bush’s eye. American troops played a role in the Sadr ceasefire and (especially) the Awakening, but the surge itself didn’t — and without them, the surge would certainly have failed. Obama has it exactly right.

Battle of the Covers

Vanity Fair has posted a mock cover as a spoof of the recent cover from The New Yorker of Barack and Michelle Obama. They write:

We here at Vanity Fair maintain a kind of affectionate rivalry with our downstairs neighbors at The New Yorker. We play softball every year, compete for some of the same stories, and share an elevator bank. (You can tell the ones who are headed to the 20th floor by their Brooklyn pallor and dog-eared paperbacks.)

And heaven knows we’ve published our share of scandalous images, on the cover and otherwise. So we’ve been watching the kerfuffle over last week’s New Yorker cover with a mixture of empathy and better-you-than-us relief.

We had our own presidential campaign cover in the works, which explored a different facet of the Politics of Fear, but we shelved it when The New Yorker’s became the “It Girl” of the blogosphere. Now, however, in a selfless act of solidarity with our downstairs neighbors here at the Condé Nast building, we’d like to share it with you. Confidentially, of course.

The idea isn’t actually original, as can be seen in this cartoon from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

And there’s this editorial cartoon posted by Marc Ambinder, originally from The New York Daily News:

Obama Beats Lieberman in Approval Among Jewish Voters

John McCain has been parading around with Joe Lieberman, partially in hopes of taking some of the Jewish vote from Obama. Obama has been the target of scare tactics, both from Republicans and the Clinton campaign, in the hopes of reducing support for him among Jews.

So far all available evidence shows that such tactics are likely to fail. Earlier in the year Jewish organizations and a group of Jewish Senators came to Obama’s defense against smears against him. Sam Stein reports on a poll conducted by J Street which shows that Obama is viewed favorably by 60 percent of Jews. While there is room for improvement here as the smears against Obama are gradually debunked, McCain is not likely to pick up many Jewish votes by campaigning with Joe Lieberman. Lieberman’s approval in this poll is only 37 percent.

McCain’s Gaffes Receiving More Attention

We expect liberal blogs to spread around the details of all of John McCain’s gaffes (just as the conservative blogs have enjoyed Barack Obama’s claim to have campaigned in fifty-seven states). Now coverage of McCain’s increasingly frequent gaffes has been picked up by The Poltico, starting with these recent examples:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said “Iraq” when he apparently meant “Afghanistan” on Monday, adding to a string of mixed-up word choices that is giving ammunition to the opposition.

Just in the past three weeks, McCain has also mistaken “Somalia” for “Sudan,” and even football’s Green Bay Packers for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

While seeing documentation of every gaffe has become increasingly common in the You Tube era, in McCain’s case they tend to be far more frequent, and are often concentrated on foreign affairs, which McCain claims to be an area of expertise. The article later has a more detailed review of his gaffes:

“First Gaffe of Obama Trip … Goes To McCain,” blared Monday afternoon’s banner headline on the left-leaning Huffington Post, accompanied by a photo of McCain appearing to slap his forehead.

That referred to an posting asserting that McCain appeared to confuse Iraq and Afghanistan in a “Good Morning America” interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, who asked whether the “the situation in Afghanistan is precarious and urgent.”

McCain responded: “I’m afraid it’s a very hard struggle, particularly given the situation on the Iraq/Pakistan border,” McCain said. The ABC posting added: “Iraq and Pakistan do not share a border. Afghanistan and Pakistan do.”

Unfortunately for McCain, that wasn’t an isolated slip. Among the other lapses:

• “Somalia” for “Sudan” — As recounted in a reporter’s pool report from McCain’s Straight Talk Express bus on June 30, the senator said while discussing Darfur, a region of Sudan: “How can we bring pressure on the government of Somalia?”

Senior adviser Mark Salter corrected him: “Sudan.”

• “Germany” for “Russia” — A YouTube clip from last year memorializes McCain referring to Vladimir Putin of Russia — following a trip to Germany — as “President Putin of Germany.”

• This spring, McCain said troops in Iraq were “down to pre-surge levels” when in fact there were 20,000 more troops than when the surge policy began.

• Also this spring, McCain twice appeared to mistake Sunnis and Shiites, two branches of Islam that split violently.

• In Phoenix earlier this month, McCain referred to “Czechoslovakia,” which has been divided since Jan. 1, 1993, into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. He also referred to Czechoslovakia during a debate in November and a radio show in April.

• In perhaps the most curious incident, McCain said earlier this month that as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, he had tried to confuse his captors by giving the names of Pittsburgh Steelers starting players when asked to identify his squadron mates. McCain has told the story many times over the years — but had always referred correctly to the names he gave as members of the Green Bay Packers.

Besides the problem of having so many gaffes on foreign policy matters, the gaffes create another problem for McCain:

But McCain’s mistakes raise a serious, if uncomfortable question: Are the gaffes the result of his age? And what could that mean in the Oval Office?

Voters, thinking about their own relatives, can be expected to scrutinize McCain’s debate performances for signs of slippage.

Every voter has a parent, grandparent or a friend whose mental acuity declined as they grew older. It happens at different times for different people — and there is ample evidence many in their 70s are as sharp and fit as ever.

In McCain’s case, his medical records, public appearances and travel schedule have suggested he remains at the top of his game.

But his liberal critics have been pouncing on every misstatement as a sign that he’s an old man.

Already, late-night comics have made McCain’s age an almost nightly topic, with CBS’s David Letterman getting a laugh just about any time he says the words “McCain” and “nap” in the same sentence.

Last week, McCain tried to defuse the issue by pretending to doze off during an appearance with NBC’s Conan O’Brien.

Regardless of the reason for the gaffes, they do not help McCain’s campaign themes of both having more experience on foreign policy and of Barack Obama being too inexperienced.