Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Fair Game

We are currently observing a turning point in the American election season and I think it is the most crucial part of this election. Various polls are showing that Barack Obama has a comfortable lead over John McCain and the polling in the important toss-up states suggests that news is even worse for McCain. So what do you do if you're McCain? The answer is you attack and having just watched one of his rallies in the toss-up state of New Mexico it is obvious that he is doing just that.

Attacking is a good strategy to win elections. If you can get a good soundbite of something that your opponent believes in or thinks that sounds stupid or reprehensible and if you say it again and again, it could easily be something that the voters will think of immediately before casting their vote on November 4th. Governor Palin has been attacking Obama for befriending a domestic terrorist, William Ayers. When I first heard that she said this, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and read more about the case she was referring to. It quickly became obvious though that its a non-story. Obama's website - Fight the Smears - has been updated to fight this particular one too.

In his speech in New Mexico, McCain said that when he tried to question a particular view of Obama's he gets the cold shoulder from him. "For a guy that has written two memoirs", said McCain "he's hardly an open book". A good line and certainly one that some voters will remember, for want of more accurate and reliable information, before casting their vote. This is simply not the case though, in my opinion. McCain, it seems obvious to me, is trying to move away from speaking about the economy - the real issue that matters. This must be frustrating for the American voter. During their first debate, well over half an hour was spent on the bailout plan and a real attempt was made by the moderator to force the candidates to talk about the situation between themselves. Neither candidate sufficiently engaged with each other. This is disappointing because it would have been a fantastic opportunity to get a genuine one-over on the candidate.

The Obama camp has been on the attack too. However, their attack is valid, in my opinon. It comes in the form of a short documentary (13mins) called Keating Economics on their website. This documentary links a rather shady period of McCain's period in the Senate with his current (and future) attitude towards the economy. It shows that he doesn't have good judgment or people's best interests at heart when he is functioning as a leader. Having watched the documentary, I think its content is fair game. The same cannot be said for some of McCain's and Palin's most recent attacks on Obama.

This brings me to the reason that I am writing this. Tonight is the second Presidential debate. The bailout plan has now been passed by congress. Both candidates should be able to openly talk about the economy and get across to voters why their recovery plans are better than their opponents. Furthermore, both candidates should be able to commit to answering the question. This sounds silly; but, for example, if asked which parts of their plans for government are no longer feasible because of the need to be tight on the purse strings, they should be able to single particular areas out no matter how unpopular their ideas would be.

Tonight's debate is going to be won by the candidate that is most willing and able to engage with the key issue affecting voters: the economy. If McCain brings along his tacky one-liners, the American people should send him packing. If Obama isn't able to demonstrate his command over issues relating to the economy, then he should be judged weak too and voters, rightly, shouldn't vote for him because he's a Democrat. That wouldn't be fair game either.


John Self said...

"Attacking is a good strategy to win elections."

I'd qualify that - attacking is a goods strategy to win elections during quiet times. Many Americans right now feel that they are in the middle of an economic crisis - they are right - and the Ayers stuff only gets heard by the already converted.

Since you made this post, Obama has been first off the stump with his economic plan, which probably gives him an even greater advantage over McCain.

Also since you made this post, McCain has decided to row back on the attacks. Partly this must be because of what such attacks bring out in McCain's supporters - remember the woman at the rally, who started off proclaiming, "He's an Arab," before McCain wearily took the mic off her and defended Obama? I actually feel sorry for McCain in this respect: I think he's a decent man who can't help that he has the support of some real nutters.

But he also does not look like a well man. There's a stiffness in his movements and at times he almost seems to be being helped along by his aides. That ain't good. Campaigning for president would take it out of anyone, but a 72-year-old cancer survivor has to really assure people that he's literally fit for the job. I don't think he is.

Lacklustre Lawyer said...

Hi John,

Thanks for your comment.

You are right that there has been several advancements since I made this post. Actually, when I made this post and the quote you have taken, I was thinking of the later stages of the Primaries for the Democrats when Obama had already established an insurmountable lead. During this period, Clinton was just beginning to find her voice to attack Obama and it was a strategy that was beginning to work effectively. Unfortunately not for her, Obama managed to run out the time on her. This is roughly what McCain has started to do too - except he's not very good at it.

The third and final presidential debate should be interesting. Since the second debate, McCain has been asked why he didn't bring the Ayers story up during the debate. I think I am right in saying that he will be bringing it up if the constraints of the discussion allow. Should be interesting. Personally I have found the debates to be rather poor thus far. I've heard many opinions about how great the debates are in the American's election process; however, I don't think its worth all the hype. On the most important issue of the time - the economy - both candidates have demonstrated an unwillingness to engage with the electorate on what they will do when they take over. They have continued to just use the one-liners that they had already had prepared. The best parts of the second presidential debate were when the candidates were asked questions that they couldn't have prepared for. One of them was submitted by someone in the toss-up state of New Hampshire: 'What don't you know?' the candidates were asked. Both candidates gave valueless answers without any thought. This, for me, should have been a superb opportunity to get one-over on the other guy.

WRT McCain's health. This is definitely an issue too, I think. Everytime I hear commentators say 'Palin, as Vice-President, will be a heartbeat away from the Presidency' I think: if McCain wins, he needs to do all he can to ensure that he's got a good heartbeat on him!