McCain On the Attack

Posted by Katherine | July 31, 2008 – 7:20 pm

In the last month or so, to inject his campaign with new energy, John McCain promoted several staffers who were part of Karl Rove’s hard-hitting re-election bid for Bush in 2004.

Since then, McCain has accused Obama of wanting to lose the Iraq war, insinuated that he’s a socialist, and juxtaposed him with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. People are starting to notice the tone. Especially since one of the attacks is backfiring somewhat at the moment: McCain claimed that Obama cancelled a visit to wounded troops in Landstuhl because he couldn’t turn it into a photo op. Unfortunately for McCain, that seems to be demonstrably untrue: MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell was with Obama in Germany and confirms that no media had been scheduled to accompany Obama to the hospital.

Holly took this photo in Fremont, Washington a few days ago, and James Mills spotted it. It’s hard to know whether the artwork refers specifically to McCain’s recent attacks; it seems reasonable to assume, though, that they’re in the realm of what the artist was commenting on.

Stencil of devil holding McCain’s heart
[The Wata / Flickr]

Growing Sense blogger Troy Smythe points out the irony of McCain using the kind of tactics that smeared him in 2000:

Imagine McCain approaching his current campaign advisers, two acolytes of Karl Rove (George Bush’s campaign strategist in 2000 and 2004): “Hey, remember when Rove used my daughter’s heritage to race-bait South Carolina voters to vote for Bush? Yeah, give me some of that.”

Eric Martin, a New York lawyer, thinks Americans have caught on to this kind of strategy:

You know, I might just end up going bankrupt, but this fool is willing to put his money on the proposition that the American people have had enough exposure to the tactics of Karl Rove that they’re just not buying this crap the way they did in 2000 and 2004. […] Hell, even the media seems to be catching on (somewhat).

Further, McCain’s whole-hog (whole-rat?) implementation of the Rove-playbook runs the risk of reminding people how they were duped in past elections. […]

In short, if you run a campaign like Karl Rove you might end up reminding people of other recent Rove campaigns and what the voters got for backing Rove’s candidate […]. Any and all responses from the Obama camp to McCain’s use of Rove-ian smears should drive home the connection to Bush.

Nick, who writes a blog called An Idea Lives On, agrees that McCain’s negative turn may backfire on him, but for a different reason:

McCain’s whole image is wrapped up in the idea of him being a straight talker and a different kind of politician. He’s perceived as someone of integrity and honor. He might get away with a bit of negativity here and there, and his image might even lend those attacks some credit. But he’s taking things pretty far these days. At some point, it’ll backfire.

[…] Americans are sick and tired of dirty politics; they will like such tactics even less from someone who has always claimed to be better than that.

Maybe, maybe not. The dirt certainly won’t wash out of politics, though.

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