Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Memo to Obama: go after John McCain's judgment
Having laid it out so brilliantly in his nomination acceptance speech on Thursday, it's time for Barack Obama, and Joe Biden, to begin a daily conversation with the American people about judgment, and specifically, about the judgment of John McCain. In fact, McCain has made it easy for them by choosing a woman so meagerly qualified for the presidency, it would be funny (if McCain's age and health concerns weren't so serious.)

Team Obama can and should go after McCain hard on his veep choice, and they can do so without personally attacking or demonizing Ms. Palin. For example, they could run an ad like this:


It was his first major decision as the Republican nominee...

And John McCain chose to play politics ...

instead of picking the most qualified commander in chief.

He thinks women voters don't care about issues ...

Just gender ...

(SHOW PIC OF HILLARY) That's not the respect we deserve ...

Or the judgment ... we need in the next president.
Would the McCain camp try to push back on Obama's experience? Sure. That's why they felt safe in selecting Palin. But as even the AP's Ron Fournier has pointed out, Obama's 11 years in the Illinois legislature and longer tenure in the Senate compared to Palin's 600 days of legislative experience, plus the mayoralty of a tiny town in Alaska, aren't close to comparable.

I posted yesterday on TPM that McCain has, in effect, given up his "country first" theme. Republican strategist David Frum agrees:
The longer I think about it, the less well this selection sits with me. And I increasingly doubt that it will prove good politics. The Palin choice looks cynical. The wires are showing.

John McCain wanted a woman: good.

He wanted to keep conservatives and pro-lifers happy: naturally.

He wanted someone who looked young and dynamic: smart.

And he discovered that he could not reconcile all these imperatives with the stated goal of finding a running mate qualified to assume the duties of the presidency "on day one."

... Maybe it will work. But maybe (and at least as likely) it will reinforce a theme that I'd be pounding home if I were the Obama campaign: that it's John McCain for all his white hair who represents the risky choice, while it is Barack Obama who offers cautious, steady, predictable governance.

... question: If it were your decision, and you were putting your country first, would you put an untested small-town mayor a heartbeat away from the presidency?

More from Frum here, including this important closing argument:

Should John McCain lose in November, Sarah Palin has just pole-vaulted into front-runner status for 2012. Should Mr. McCain win, her grip on the next Republican nomination will become a lock.

So this is the future of the Republican party you are looking at: a future in which national security has bumped down the list of priorities behind abortion politics, gender politics, and energy politics. Ms. Palin is a bold pick, and probably a shrewd one. It's not nearly so clear that she is a responsible pick, or a wise one.

Add to the chorus of boos Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune:

The first and last question to be asked about a potential vice president is: Is he or she prepared to take over immediately as president? Barack Obama's choice of Joe Biden gave that matter the priority it deserves.

The question is even more important for McCain because he's 72 years old and has had serious health problems. The chances are considerably higher than usual that his vice president would have to step into the Oval Office without notice.

Sarah Palin may be a politically brilliant choice. She may also be a fine governor. But it's going to be pretty hard for McCain to disparage Obama's experience on national security and foreign relations while running with someone who has much less.

But worse, this decision mocks McCain's seriousness on the issues that are supposed to be his strength. It tells us that he puts his own political fortunes above the safety of the nation.

And even Charles Krauthammer:

McCain had been steadily gaining on Obama (before the inevitable convention bounce) and had the race in a dead heat in a year in which the generic Democrat is running ten points ahead of the generic Republican. He had succeeded in making this a referendum on Obama. The devastating line of attack was, "Is he ready to lead?"

The Palin selection completely undercuts the argument about Obama's inexperience and readiness to lead -- on the theory that because Palin is a maverick and a corruption fighter, she bolsters McCain's claim to be the reformer in this campaign. In her rollout today, Palin spoke a lot about change. McCain is now trying to steal "change" from Obama, a contest McCain will lose in an overwhelmingly Democratic year with an overwhelmingly unpopular incumbent Republican administration. At the same time, he's weakening his strong suit -- readiness vs. unreadiness.

Not surprising that the neocons aren't thrilled. Anything that takes the global war on Islam off the table and puts abortion back on center stage can't be good for them. And it seems that McCain's envy over losing the attention of the media, along with his year 2000 "change", "maverick", "reformer" and celebrity labels made him throw away his best card... Now, he's got the media to talk about him the way they used to ... but he's also made the race more about him; and his judgment, than about Barack. That doesn't strike me as smart. And it will be interesting to see if Democrats begin to laugh out loud every time McCain talks about national security, given that he apparently no longer cares about it as much as he does getting anti-abortion activists to phonebank for him...

Meanwhile, suddenly on the right, experience doesn't matter!


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posted by JReid @ 9:49 AM  
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