A couple weeks ago Joe Klein wrote a column in Time, which provided an overview of the coming campaign wrapped around the question of what kind of campaign John McCain will run -- whether he will he run a Bush-Drudge-style knock and sleaze campaign in which opponents are painted as crypto-terrorists and Hollywood-loving-pansies or embrace a "substantive debate."
Though not without doubts said he believes McCain will run an honorable campaign. "I suspect that he will. It's McCain's way. He sees the tawdry ceremonies of politics -- the spin and hucksterism -- as unworthy." If he doesn't "McCain will have to live with the knowledge that in the most important business of his life, he chose expediency over honor. That's probably not the way he wants to be remembered."
Well, the last two weeks haven't been kind to that confidence. As we reported yesterday, McCain is now making clear that he plans to run his campaign on the basis of portraying Barack Obama as a dangerous outsider in league with foreign terrorists. The first topic of choice is the bogus 'Obama endorsed by Hamas' story that McCain has embraced with a vengeance.
So this is basically a question to Joe, who has actually been more critical of McCain on Iraq than many realize. How do you think McCain's doing? Is this the kind of campaign you expected him to run? And when you see him pushing the line that Obama is the candidate of the Muslim terrorists and anti-American marxists, how confident do you feel that you actually know the guy?Late Update: Klein responds. I will follow up in a subsequent post.
Josh Marshall wants to me to follow up on the column I wrote a few weeks ago, suggesting that John McCain would run an honorable presidential campaign--and I can only thank him for the reminder because I was thinking about posting yesterday about McCain's cheesy nonsense about Obama being endorsed by Hamas. If McCain wants to go that route, I can suggest another: that John McCain is probably the favorite candidate of Osama bin Laden, just as George W. Bush was Osama's presidential preference.
Why? Because both Bush and McCain have bought Osama's disinformation about Iraq being the central front in the war on terrorism. Of course, bin Laden wants the gullible neocons to take the Iraq bait because Afghanistan really is the central front of the war on terrorism--more precisely the Afghan-Pakistani border areas where the real Al Qaeda lives. The war in Iraq has been a grand strategic gift to Osama, keeping the U.S. military tied down elsewhere and off his tail.
Ron Suskind had a relevant scene in his excellent book The One Percent Doctrine: It's the Friday before election day in 2004 and Osama bin Laden has issued a videotape in which he lambastes President Bush. The top dawgs at the CIA are gathered to analyze the tape. Dep. Director John McLaughlin says, "I wonder who Osama is voting for?" Everyone cracks up because the answer is so obvious.
McCain gives you something to admire and loathe almost every day. He did some terrific things this week on his anti-poverty tour: He gave a lovely tribute to Congressman John Lewis in Selma, he called out Bush's Hurricane Katrina non-performance in New Orleans. (Of course, he also voted against the Katrina relief funds.) The very fact that a Republican would take such a tour is significant--but his willingness to go into the muck on Hamas and Obama's "friendship"--or whatever it is--with the American terrorist Bill Ayres is gutter crap.
So the jury's still out on what kind of campaign McCain runs. I hope my colleagues in the press will call him out everytime he succumbs to sludge tendencies. I certainly plan to do that.