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August 21, 2008

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Combine tis with McCain's calim that people with incmes upt o five million dollars a year count as middle class....

And yet if the election was today imight win. according to Poblano of five thrityeight McBush actually has the advantge right now.

The number of houses owned by John MaCain depends on what one considers a house. It's better to answer a question honestly than to make a mistake by saying I own one house or NO houses. The house might not belong to him, even if he lives in it. Also, is the person asking the question referring to single family house, condo, apartment, flat, etc.! Thanks.

I think there are things you cannot know -- visceral fear of losing your job, as you say -- but that a person who has some empathy, and enough curiosity to really make an effort, can understand a lot of other stuff.

I don't see any reason to think that McCain has made that effort, myself. And it's not just his present wealth; he was born and brought up very privileged, so the kind of knowledge that other people can get by observing their parents or neighbors, or by going through it themselves, he would have had to try to seek out.

What hilzoy says is true. I don't know if the Obama campaign really wants to go there, but since the McCain campaign brought it up -- McCain's POW experience actually isn't relevant, either, which is what's so embarrassing. The point isn't that the guy's never gone through hardships -- it's that he's never worked.

They really need to start hammering on his Senate salary -- he gets paid an enormous amount of money even though he never shows up to vote.

On reflection, I think one other reason it's politically relevant is that McCain has been hammering so hard on the 'Obama as celebrity' thing. A lot of people are paying attention to Obama, showing up at his speeches, and so forth, but that's because he is running for President, and a god speaker to boot. He's not really a celebrity otherwise, and has generally tried to downplay all that.

McCain, on the other hand, is one. And I think that this basically makes the point: what is this guy who can't keep track of his own (OK, his wife's) houses doing going on about what an out of touch celebrity Obama is?

right - and he's done literally nothign as far i can tell to show that he's gone out and seen it. if he has, it certainly hasn't translated into any policies that would help them

a friend on IM said this was the first real haymaker obama landed -- i agree with that.

In his own head, I suspect he would sincerely like to help people.

have you any evidence for this ?

..

the reason these attacks work for me is that they demonstrate just how cynical and hypocritical McCain's recent attacks on Obama are. and by going on the attack, maybe Obama can get the press to start thinking about the ridiculousness of McCain's recent attacks. maybe now that Obama has the upper hand, the press will start asking themselves what McCain did wrong, and they'll see it, and talk about it.

suddenly, in the past 24 hours, Obama has turned on the attacks. and just in time for the convention. whether the aggression was scheduled, or precipitated by McCain's gaffes, the timing couldn't be better. he's probably going to go into the convention week on a high note.

i keep counting him out, but he always surprises me.

McCain, on the other hand, is one.

right. and for what reason? what has he actually accomplished?

and honestly, maybe Obama hasn't done much more (in 1/4 the time), but McCain's been saturating TV for the past 8 years. for all the talk of Bden's love of cameras, McCain makes Biden look like Pynchon.

if you want a celebrity, McCain's your man. Obama's a novelty right now. McCain's the guy who's been working to keep himself in the news for a decade.

It's not about running intellectual ads, dammit, it's about winning the damn election. Keep clobbering McCain with this one. (I keep hoping that the Obama team runs a follow-up ad issuing a correction: "In the previous ad, we stated that John McCain own 7 houses. We were wrong. John McCain owns, at a minimum, 10 houses..." or something like that.)

After this runs its course, run an ad showing McCain not knowing how many freakin' houses he owns, not knowing Sunni from Shia, not realizing Czechoslovakia hasn't been a nation for some time and so forth. The guy is way, way out of touch. It's easy to demonstrate. It's time for some competence from someone who knows what the hell's going on in the White House. Oh, and the picture of McCain hugging Commander Bunnypants. Keep showing that too.

John and Cindy spent $270,000 on 'household staff' last year. So I look forward to the GOP flacks pointing out that all those houses 'create jobs'. And isn't that the best way to help poor people?

-- TP

Already the idea of delegates at the Democratic convention (and hostile audience members at McCain events) shaking keyrings that represent all of McCain's houses has gone viral.

Sounds good to me.

Indeed.

McCain and Cindy were both born into privilege. They've never been outside that bubble.

At least Obama and his wife came up from humble origins and were self-made through their smarts.

At least Obama and his wife came up from humble origins and were self-made through their smarts.

How arrogant and elitist...
/Republican snark

When in doubt, I'd vote for the guy who sat down with a checkbook and the coupon book for his tuition loans...

Maybe it's not the Depression, or the big war, but it's the shared experience of the new generation now coming into politics.

When in doubt, I'd vote for the guy who sat down with a checkbook and the coupon book for his tuition loans...

That would be...ME. ME, FOR PRESIDENT!

CAPS LOCK FOR EVERYONE!

There's another important issue. All of McCain's plans for our economic troubles involve cutting taxes: capital gains, income, and corporate. Those cuts will cause massive reductions in his taxes on those houses when he sells them, his and Cindy's income taxes, and indirect taxes through all the beer stock Cindy owns, respectively. You have to wonder about a guy who only makes economic suggestions when they result in him getting millions from the US treasury.

Basically he's saying:

Unemployment is rising? Give me money!
Houses are getting foreclosed? Give me money!
etc.

Not a nice attitude towards the federal government and his fellow Americans.

John McCain on economics:
Admits he doesn't know much about it.
Denies he ever said that he doesn't know much about economics.
Chief economic advisor says America is "a nation of whiners" who are in an "mental recession."
Only people who make 5 million a year are rich.
Doesn't know how many houses he has. Turns out its at least 7.

Brutal, brutal grouping of facts there. But just call it what it is: he's out of touch. Since he dumped Carol and married Cindy almost 30 years ago, he has had obscene wealth and no idea of the lives of most people.

I dunno, I think the house thing is just a gotcha. He has (or, cindy has, anyway) rental properties I think, plus some of his 'properties' have multiple houses (for guests or staff), or multiple condo units for extended family. So I can see where it'd get kinda confusing.

Im not saying it's not effective. And Im not saying it shouldn't be used (if McCain is going to spend his entire campaign in the sewer, Obama can at least flush something down there with him every once in a while to keep him company). Given that neither the press nor the McCain campaign are particularly interested in the issues themselves (ie I cant have the campaign Id want to have), Id rather win than lose.

It's just that I dont want to buy into the hype that this is an actual story. They're both rich. McCain is richer. Obama's policies are not batsh#t insane, so Im going to vote for him, no matter how many houses he might have.

The point isn't that the guy's never gone through hardships -- it's that he's never worked.

So it is your position that those serving in the military do not work for their pay?

The key that proves you are right, publius, is "I'll have my staff get back to you on this." The sound of a man used to having servants to fulfill menial tasks.

It also seems hugely symbolic that the Republicans are ignoring Labor Day, an official national holiday, and commencing their convention on that day.

Prup, "I'll have my staff get back to you on that" is frequently a very good answer for someone who has a staff, like say a Senator, or a Presidential Candidate.

That said, a better answer would be "I will look into that, and get back to you" - even though it won't be the speaker themselves doing the looking, or likely doing the getting back, either.

And none of this is relevant when the question is "how many homes do you have?". I think most of us can name the places where we spend significant amounts of time, down to friends' houses and favorite restaurants. Losing touch to the point that you have homes you don't even remember is rather ... what's the word ... oh, yeah, elitist.

Already the idea of delegates at the Democratic convention (and hostile audience members at McCain events) shaking keyrings that represent all of McCain's houses has gone viral.

Ben Alpers, you must be confused about this topic. Hostile audience members aren't allowed anywhere near McCain campaign events.

GB, could he at least make a rough estimate? I may not know if my pens include highlighers and pencils, but I know I own several.

just me, Adam can speak for himself, but would you accept as a rephrase, "never had to work for a living"?

The point wasn't that he forgot how many houses he has--listen to the tape. He simply didn't want to answer the question. So he dissembled. He hemmed, hawed, and answered with a classic "let the staff get back to you" answer.

This nails him directly to his "straight talk" strength, not his man of the people strength, which is weak to begin with.

Hammer this home, for goodness sake!

John McCain: Out of Touch with Americans.

just me, Adam can speak for himself, but would you accept as a rephrase, "never had to work for a living"?
It's hardly uncommon for an NCO to respond to being called "sir" with a variant of "Don't call me 'sir"; I work for a living."

Why do the troops hate the military?

Why the houses matter, and I'll repeat this until it goes viral: In the middle of a housing crisis, with market values dropping like stones and mortgage brokers on Congressional life support, the Republican candidate for President literally couldn't recall how many houses he owns.

This wasn't just out of touch, this was Poppy Bush staring at an electronic scanner out of touch.

Publius, I think you're right about why it matters, but I think Obama has to act fast to make that point clear or it's just another "gotcha," a gaffe. I see an ad that juxtaposes some of McCain's most tone-deaf comments with the relevant facts about his wealth. As he says "the fundamentals of this economy are strong," show pictures of the houses with a graph superimposed showing the rise in their collective assessed value. When he says that Americans need to skip vacations to pay their mortgages, show a picture of a California beach with text of Cindy's quote about how when their $2 million waterfront condo got crowded, they had to buy another, or a counter showing the rising tally of the number of vacation houses they own. When he says we're better off than we were eight years ago, a simple graph showing the increase in his net worth. The problem is not that he's stupid on the economy; it's that he lives in another economy where his cheeriness about the fundamentals is actually perfectly justified. The voters don't seem to be seeing the big picture revealed by the isolated incidents that reveal his disconnect with regular people's reality; Obama (or the unions, or the DNC) has to start connecting some of the dots.

It's not about running intellectual ads, dammit, it's about winning the damn election

Exactly.

If it moves the numbers it matters; if it doesn't, then it doesn't matter. Simple as that.

And I agree with all those who say that the way to make this move the numbers in the long-run is to connect it to a broader picture of McCain as out-of-touch, especially with the lives and problems of middle-class Americans.

I agree with everything written in the post, Publius, but wonder if it's misguided strategically. The underlying theme of the post is that we should vote for the candidate that "helps" people the most. But not everyone sees it as the role of the President to help people. In fact, that notion can be scary, if you view the world as a zero-sum game whereby helping some people means taking away from others.

I'm not saying those attitudes are right, or cogent, but they exist. Framing the electoral debate as who is going to "help people" the most can play into the classic Republican stereotypes of liberals.

Instead of the argument being "McCain can't help working Americans since he doesn't understand them", it might be stronger to say something like "McCain can't make the best decisions for the country because he doesn't understand working Americans".

The only, and I mean ONLY relevance the house thing has for me is this:

McCain and his supporters keep trying to paint Obama as elitist and out of touch. To the extent that this is likely to be true, it is MORE likely to be true about McCain himself.

The fact that McCain continues to make the argument therefore makes him a bit of a douche-bag.

I can't help but wonder if it would have been better for McCain to say something like "None of your business" in a light-hearted, joking manner. If pressed, he could have jokingly said "The houses I spend most of my time in belong to my wife." He must know how many houses are actually in his name. He could have followed up with "I only have X." Isn't he supposed to be the quick-on-his-feet, town hall guy?

He has (or, Cindy has, anyway) rental properties I think, plus some of his 'properties' have multiple houses (for guests or staff), or multiple condo units for extended family.

Umm, Carleton: that's hardly a "gotcha" or mitigation of the fact that the McCains (and they have been married for what, 30 years?) have extensive property holdings; whether he/she/they "reside" in any/all of them full- or part-time. Especially as McCain campaign attack-dogs have snarled at Sen. Obama for his "expensive" dwelling (even if, as I think, the Obamas only own the one). Still not exactly the assets of the "regular-Joe" electorate McCain and surrogates keep insisting Barack Obama is so "out of touch" with.

Hugely insightful. Added backup- I'm currently reading Jonathan Alter's "The Defining Moment" about FDR. Alter points out that FDR's concern for those of modest means started post-polio when he founded, and spent a lot of time at, the Warm Springs facility. The water treatment was obviously useless, but FDR suddenly spent a lot of time talking to fellow polio patients of modest means. He got to know them personally.

I'd also say there's another way where living in the "wealth bubble" is pernicious. I once dated a seriously wealthy guy (not for his money, I swear!) and I found that he and all his rich friends had a profound assumption- not spoken, but nonetheless there- that their wealth (all inherited) was due to some superiority (moral or IQ, or both). They beleived, deep down, that they DESERVED to be rich. The next step, obviously, is to assume that poor people are poor due to stupidity or immorality. And if that's the case, why on earth should the government's policies transfer wealth downward?

The point wasn't that he forgot how many houses he has... He simply didn't want to answer the question. So he dissembled.

Totally agree.


I can't help but wonder if it would have been better for McCain to say something like "None of your business" in a light-hearted, joking manner.

The correct answer was, "Well, we have our home in Arizona and a cabin we like to enjoy with our dear friends and family, as well as hosting charity events at. There's a residence in DC, of course ... Look, our family has been very blessed and we are just so grateful for all this country has ... Let me put it this way: [It] [beats the hell out of] [the Hanoi Hilton], my friend.

The point isn't that the guy's never gone through hardships -- it's that he's never worked.

So it is your position that those serving in the military do not work for their pay?

I can't speak for anyone else, but it is my position that McCain didn't have to work in the military the same way others did. After all, other sailors didn't have high ranking daddy admirals pulling strings for them. We know McCain crashed three aircraft without any extenuating circumstances, and yet he still was allowed to continue flying. Somehow I doubt that courtesy is extended to pilots who repeatedly crash unless their daddy can step in and save their bacon. Again.

Publius is right, and there's more. It isn't just the wealth, but, as pub alludes to, privilege. Kathy G has a good post up about this (go there for links). An exerpt:

-- [McCain] is a son of privilege from an elite military family (his father and grandfather were admirals). Despite a mediocre academic record at his fancy prep school, he was admitted to the highly prestigious Naval Academy (those family connections do come in handy). At the Academy, he graduated fifth from the bottom of his class.

-- His abysmal record at the Academy notwithstanding, McCain was "offered the most sought-after Navy assignment -- to become an aircraft carrier pilot." His instructor at flight school said that McCain was "positively one of the weakest students to pass our way," and McCain crashed five planes while he was there. Yet in spite of his poor performance, he continued to receive "plum assignments" throughout his military career.

He crashed FIVE PLANES in training? As I commented over there, if McCain were a Democrat, Karl Rove would make the following meme the sotto voce centerpiece of his opposing campaign: McCain was a bad pilot, and his captivity in N Vietnam was therefore his own fault (always attack strengths). I don't think Dems should 'have their own Rove' etc., but we do need an 'at long last, have you no shame?' moment in this campaign, both to win the election for BO, and just for the mental health of the country. McCain is an *exemplary* elitist; he practically defines the term: one who thinks they are Special and not to be held responsible for their own words and actions.

Sorry for the cliche, but this isn't beanbag. McCain is not running an honorable or respectful, or even substantive (which is a subset of the other two) campaign. He deserves to be trashed, personally, since 'character' is his chosen issue. Yes, character DOES matter. Bush ran, to some extent, on character despite the fact that he has a *terrible* one. It just can't happen again. I'm afraid we will forget, as a nation, what honor and character actually *are*.

He crashed FIVE PLANES in training?

I don't think that is true. I believe he crashed five aircraft in total. One of them was in combat and led to his capture -- I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt here and say that his crash does not reflect incompetence. One was the on the USS Forrester which was totally not his fault. His plane wasn't even in the air and it was an accident: he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The other three crashes are much more problematic.

IMHO the house comment is a simple "gotcha" and not going to be that big of deal.

What difference is there, Publius, between this comment and Kerry's "car" comment, other than Kerry was at the time trying to prove how "American" he was by the brands he had in his driveway? This seems more to me like Bush I's gaffe when he didn't recognize a grocery scanner, apparently having never shopped for himself.

Should have been prepared for this one, and his answer clearly sucked, but not that big of deal, just as I thought the Kerry "car" comments were not worth much thought, although he did hold himself out there. I also don't see McCain as being as caught up in material things as the typical guy, probably because of his military service. He may not know simply because he really doesn't care that much. The real snobs know exactly what they have and want to tell you about it.

And Rezko is relevant. My mortgage is with GMAC. Rezko? Give me a break. I want to buy the 17 acres next to me. No way I'd go in with a Rezko. Even Obama admitted it was, in his words, a "stupid mistake." McCain's ">http://www.powerlineblog.com/"> response ad is to the point and will counter any traction the housing gaffe has.

Rezko and the recent refusal of the UIC Libarary to release the Chicago Annenberg Challenge papers is of much more interest to me than a housing question.

The correct answer was, "Well, we have our home in Arizona and a cabin we like to enjoy with our dear friends and family, as well as hosting charity events at. There's a residence in DC, of course ... Look, our family has been very blessed and we are just so grateful for all this country has ... Let me put it this way: [It] [beats the hell out of] [the Hanoi Hilton], my friend.

That is good. I'm not sure what the notation means in the last sentence, but the text, taken at face value, I'd probably leave out. But the rest is very good.

I think it should be pretty easy to hang the "out of touch" tag on McCain, and I hope Obama goes for it.

That said, I think the basis of your argument here -- that wealthy people are, at an epistemological level, incapable of relating to the concerns of middle or less-than-middle class folks -- is untrue, and actually kind of harmful.

Individual people can and do have empathy for folks not like them, and can and do act effectively out of that empathy.

Some rich folks are jerks, and some are really, really beautiful people. Some poor folks are lovely human beings in spite of their circumstances, and some are selfish, resentful creeps.

It ain't about how much money you have.

All's fair in love, war, and politics, I guess, and it may be that Obama can get some electoral advantage here. But I'm not sure it is, overall, a helpful strategy.

Thanks -

I'm not sure what the notation means in the last sentence

[noun] [verb] [POW]

Just trying something out there.

What Trubulence said RE McCain's crash count. You really cannot hold it against McCain that one of his planes was consumed in the Forrestal deck fire.

Although, it has been suggested that McCain was not properly prepared when he went on his last bombing mission, and he writes in his memoirs that he was hit in part because he did not follow proper procedure on the bombing run. A better-trained, more experienced, more qualified pilot - the sort that actually passed their classes and didn't lose three planes in training - might have performed better on that awful day.

The other three crashes are much more problematic.

But since it may be three and not five which are problematic....?


I wouldn't try to blame McCain for his own captivity (ie, claim that he was shot down because he was a bad pilot). Of course, it's exactly what Rove would do if he thought it would help his candidate, but I don't think Team Obama should be anywhere near that kind of stuff. But I think it's perfectly acceptable to somehow make this campaign personal, about character. McCain gets where he was in the Navy through connections, despite being a bad student and bad pilot. McCain dumps loyal wife in her hour of need for rich younger woman. McCain changes his 'convictions' like he changes his socks. Attack his character. Yes, cautious consultants would argue against it, but cautious Dem consultants lose and lose and lose. As Pub says in the next post, let the DNC or someone else do it.

I think the basis of your argument here -- that wealthy people are, at an epistemological level, incapable of relating to the concerns of middle or less-than-middle class folks -- is untrue, and actually kind of harmful.

Individual people can and do have empathy for folks not like them, and can and do act effectively out of that empathy.

Russell is right here, technically. But what Pub points out is less a hard and fast rule than an extremely strong tendency. Yes, wealthy people can and do act effectively out of empathy. But in the political realm (especially in the US with our Legal Bribery campaign finance system), how many actually do? Not many. How many in the political realm who have been privileged their entire lives do? Fewer. 'Born on third base and think they hit a triple' is not just a throwaway line, it's a real worldview.

The house might not belong to him, even if he lives in it.

Even if McCain lost all of his money and property, other rich people would take care of him. It's the original social safety net.

This wasn't just out of touch, this was Poppy Bush staring at an electronic scanner out of touch.

Doug H, I thought the same thing but you beat me to it. This one could stick.

That said, I think the basis of your argument here -- that wealthy people are, at an epistemological level, incapable of relating to the concerns of middle or less-than-middle class folks -- is untrue, and actually kind of harmful.

I don't think publius claimed that rich people were incapable of understanding. I read his post as saying that because they didn't have this experience, they couldn't understand unless they worked hard to learn. And there's just no evidence to suggest that McCain made the effort. I mean, if you could point to anything he's said that indicates a real appreciation of what income or food or healthcare insecurity feels like, I could be convinced. He certainly didn't seem compelled to learn about economics. To the extent that basic income security is important, you'd think a powerful US Senator could call any major economics professor and say "Come to my office and explain this stuff to me -- I want to understand how the economy works so I can do my job"; I bet most economists would have jumped at the chance. But apparently he didn't.

But I think it's perfectly acceptable to somehow make this campaign personal, about character.

of course it is. it has to be; it's essentially what McCain is running on. not grand ideas or real plans or legislative accomplishments, he's running on "John McCain is the [faux-]reluctant war hero who's not Obama the scary black Muslim"

And there's just no evidence to suggest that McCain made the effort.

I agree with this, 100%.

Where I kind of part ways with publius is here:

The point of the attacks is epistemological. Being that rich for that long puts you in a bubble.

Certainly, if you are very wealthy, there are things that most folks worry about that you just do not lose any sleep over, ever.

Maybe that can put you in a bubble, if you're a lazy, unthoughtful, or very self-absorbed person. But not all wealthy people are lazy, thoughtless, or self-absorbed. Some, even many, are quite definitely not so.

I have no problem with the idea that John McCain is fundamentally unconcerned with regular people's problems. I just don't think it's due to the fact that he is wealthy.

I think it's because they aren't the folks who are buttering his bread, and his personal loyalty lies with the folks who are.

Thanks -

I have no problem with the idea that John McCain is fundamentally unconcerned with regular people's problems. I just don't think it's due to the fact that he is wealthy.

I agree- if Obama (like, say, John Kerry) was hela-wealthy, we wouldn't think he was out of touch...
So, if someone is wealthy and
1)they agree with you on economics, then they're 'in touch'
2)they disagree with you on economics, then they're 'out of touch'

Really, the fundamental disagreement is with the policies, and using the wealth is a smokescreen. Maybe a useful once, rhetorically/politically, but not a real distinction.

Let me present an example from the other side:
Al Gore supports action against climate change, and he
1)flies to conferences, so he is a hypocrite.
2)bikes across the country, lives in a tent in front of whatever site he's speaking at, so he is a hippie lunatic.

Or
Frank advocates progressive taxation and a strong social safety net, and
1)he is wealthy, so he is a limousine liberal
2)he is not wealthy, so he is practicing class warfare because he is too lazy to earn wealth and is jealous of those who did earn it

just me, Adam can speak for himself, but would you accept as a rephrase, "never had to work for a living"?

Yes. What trilobite said, too. He's never had to live paycheck-to-paycheck. Moreover, even when he was drawing pay from the military, he never used it -- he got captured. When he came home he married a beer heiress. He's the son and grandson of admirals.

Not saying he's not a hard worker; saying that the reasons he's worked are different from the reasons most people do. To become President, you're already probably rich enough that you're working because you want to, not because you have to. But it's important to me that the President have had to work at some point in his or her life.

To become President, you're already probably rich enough that you're working because you want to, not because you have to. But it's important to me that the President have had to work at some point in his or her life.

So you wouldn't have voted for Kennedy? FDR?

I think the difference is whether a person has a work ethic, and is willing to do what needs doing to get a job done. Whether they had a silver spoon or had to use bootstraps doesn't matter much to me.

But I am not keen on arguments that say somebody who was in the military wasn't working. They work their butts off-whether officers or enlisted. They spend a lot of time away from their families-even during peace time. My youngest daughter saw her father exactly three months of the 12 months of her first year of life, and that was in the early/mid 90's when we weren't fighting any wars.

The military life is a tough one, and people work hard to do their jobs. Some of them may not need every dime of the paycheck to survive and meet their needs, but you work.

"Kathy G has a good post up about this (go there for links)"

It would probably be helpful to offer a clue who Kathy G is.

A link would be even better.

A link would be even better.

Hey, I *did* provide a link, but the html didn't come through.

Another attempt

"Hey, I *did* provide a link, but the html didn't come through."

We call that "making a typo." :-)

Thanks for the link!

We call that "making a typo." :-)

(sheepishly) yes. Sorry for the damnable passive construction.

If I were McCain I would not push the "I don't own anything, it's all Cindy's" thing too hard.

If this is true, then isn't he just a very expensive kept man?

If I were McCain I would not push the "I don't own anything, it's all Cindy's" thing too hard.

If this is true, then isn't he just a very expensive kept man?

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