>> Friday, August 1, 2008
The latest GOP attack line against Obama is that he is “arrogant, presumptuous and overconfident”-maybe even uppity. The GOP has gotten the media to run with this for a while so it might seem as if it is a successful smear. I think it is a very poor choice of attacks. There are several reasons for this. Whenever one candidate attacks the character of another candidate the attacker needs to be conscious of the way that attack will be perceived by those who hear it. In the case of the presumptuous attack, you have a 72-year-old white man telling a younger black man to stay in his place and mind his manners. The attack oozes racism. Second, the age of McCain makes the attack sound jealous or bitter, “I waited my turn! It is my chance now!” Jealousy is not a particularly inspiring attribute. Third, McCain has taken many actions that could be considered just as presumptuous.
ome more effective smears, they need to play more to the strengths of McCain. The presumptuous attack would have been very effective coming from George W. Bush. Bush had the humble person routine down. He was younger and he is much better at telling jokes. Humor can be an effective weapon but McCain is not too good at using it in attacks. He always sounds mean. McCain has never been a candidate particularly dedicated to acting humble and that is just not a part of the image people have created of him. He needs to smear from his strengths.
Believe it or not McCain has one strength that he can attack from that might hurt Obama. McCain should attack Obama as someone who is not a man of action. McCain can legitimately claim that he is willing to take action. We all know how much he loves the surge. He can easily claim that he is trying to win the war in Iraq; things are not going well so he wanted to try something new and bold. McCain’s maverick image would help him with this story line, as the idea of a maverick is bold and dynamic. People would believe that a former fighter pilot would be a man of action.
Obama may have opened himself up to this line of attack when he admitted that his biggest regret about his time in the Senate was not acting in some way in an attempt to stop the interference in the Terry Schiavo case. Obama did not act quickly to reject and denounce Farrakhan and had to be pushed to do so by Clinton. Obama’s debate speaking style and the way he answers questions in a deliberative manner might help to reinforce the attack. Obama is an intellectual out of Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Chicago. Obama was against the war and he gave a speech. Great, but if he was so against it why did he not do more? He is in the Senate now yet he has not done a great deal to end the war. It is easy for him when he is on the outside but when he actually has to do it he becomes indecisive.
How effective would it be to run an attack ad where McCain uses video of Bush on September 11 reading My Pet Goat with the voice over, “In a time of crisis we cannot have another indecisive president.”? Find some things that Obama has taken time to study further and use those as examples of his indecision. Turn his careful thought and intelligence against him. It does not matter if he made the right decision in the end because it simply took to long.
Could Obama show counter examples and defend himself? Yes. I am sure he could attack McCain for indecision on the birth control incident or other things, but I still think that branding Obama as an indecisive leader unwilling to take action in contrast to McCain would be a much more effective attack. It would just fit the perceived stories better than the presumptuous line that seems so forced. In the end, it will not matter because McCain will not be able to carry out the attacks properly. He has a terrible habit of undercutting and sabotaging any potential momentum with hideous decisions and gaffes. If your gonna make a character attack at least play to your strengths.