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October 06, 2008

Comments

I'm trying to decide how to feel about this Keating Five assault the Obama campaign is mounting. It seems like it should be fair game, and McCain's connections to Keating certainly go a lot deeper than Obama's connections to Ayers. But is this just going to get spun as "Obama going negative" and end up backfiring against Obama? What is the right way to battle against the McCain camp's idiotic character attacks?

The Keating Five comeback is awesome, because:

1) It's strategically illustrative: John McCain has ALWAYS been against regulation, even back in the 80s. Look what happened then, look what happened now. Oh, and it involves lobbyists AND a government bailout. Obama camp set the frame weeks ago, and Keating 5 fits snugly, perfectly into it.

2) It's tactically perfect. Now, at Tuesday's debate, Brokaw can't ask about Ayers, et al., without also asking about Keating 5. Levels the playing field at this high-profile debate (even though, of course, the two "scandals" are not remotely comparable.

3) It will make McCain really REALLY mad. Having his integrity impugned, especially since he thinks he's apologized? Whoa. And we all know that he's not at his best when he's really REALLY mad.

You're right that winning would help make this stuff less popular, and more specifically diminish the luster of the mini-Roves running McCain's life.

Still, these tactics will endure as long as there are human brains that thrive on feeling fear and anger for the "them" they are offered, and as long as there are lazy journalists who opt to regurgitate narratives in lieu of reporting facts.

Keating Five is directly tied to McCain's inability to control himself when it comes to making rational decisions about government regulations of financial institutions. We have learned that he has learned _nothing_ in the past two decades. It's character, but not just honesty and integrity, but the ability to learn, the ability to right your ship. Bush doesn't have that character. McCain doesn't have that character.

[...] We can rail and whine about Atwater slime all we want, but there’s only one way to stop it — win. Ayers-style tactics will be abandoned if and only if they don’t work.

And that’s why winning is important. It’s not merely that Obama will be a substantively better president. His winning (or losing) will affect the shape of future campaigns.

I'm not following at all how Obama's losing will lead to "stop[ing]" such tactics more than Bill Clinton's two wins did: can you explain how that will work, please?

"Obama's losing"

"Obama's winning," I meant.

What makes you so sure these attacks won't work?

Overconfidence has sunk Democrats many times. Dukakis couldn't believe people would fall for the Willie Horton ads. Gore didn't think people would really believe he'd claimed to have invented the Internet. Kerry didn't want to dignify the Swift Boat attacks with a response.

Only Clinton hit back, and hit back hard, over Bush senior's various silly allegations (such as that he was a Soviet spy). Not surprisingly, only he won.

Obama should follow his example and blisteringly counter any nonsense from McCain.

Publius: We can rail and whine about Atwater slime all we want, but there’s only one way to stop it — win. Ayers-style tactics will be abandoned if and only if they don’t work.

Actually, there is only one way to stop it: electoral reform.

Al Gore won in 2000, but Bush's being handed the White House despite losing has been justified by the media narrative created by the right-wing/mainstream media attacks on Gore.

John Kerry probably won in 2004, judging by all the evidence available, but again: the media/right-wing narrative was that the attacks on his character had "worked" to make sure he lost the election.

Barack Obama may well win this year: but if John McCain is in the White House in January, I fully expect the media to justify this as "negative campaigning works" - and I fully expect most Americans to accept that narrative rather than believe their electoral system is broken.

I just hope the Obama campaign rolls out some ads like this fabulous Rolling Stone article. Calling McCain a whiney coward during his POW days might sway some middle of the road military voters over to the Obama camp.

The slime monster will survive. The Dems are running with one of the strongest candidates in recent history while the GOP is effectively bankrupt policywise but the election result is still open (as I said, I will not be surprised, if Obama wins the popular vote but the Son of cain ends up in the WH). If the slime attacks fail this time, it will be attributed to the unfavorable starting positions. Next time the Dems will be damaged because it will be impossible to repair the damage wrought by GOP rule without some very unpopular measures enacted. The GOP on the other hand will use their timeout for at least partial recovery (and making it as difficult as possible for the Dems to be succesful). From that position it will be much easier to win the necessary 50.1% by unleashing the new and improved King Slime.
Should the Son of Cain/Not-the-other-Palin ticket end in the WH instead, I'd consider invoking the Bush Doctrine against the US a real option.

Actually, the association with the dishonest hits a lot closer to McCain than Charles Keating. Does the American public want an admitted drug thief occupying the White House as First Lady (even one whose case was diverted by the judicial system)?

Does the American public want an admitted drug thief occupying the White House as First Lady

My guess is that Obama will regard any attack on Cindy McCain as over the line. And to be fair, while Republicans evidently feel free to make up stuff to traduce Michelle Obama, I would hope that decent people would refrain from in any way mirroring the behavior of the scumbags who wanted to get Bush and now McCain into the White House.

I certainly hope the 'smears' will continue, since in practice 'smears' merely consist of somebody saying something that the candidate doesn't like. And pretty much all candidates have something they'd rather the voters didn't find out about.

Be a disaster for democracy if we had both candidates saying nice things about themselves, and nobody shining a light on their dark pasts.

Slimy tactics in elections are as old as the Republic. (The 1800 battle between Founding Fathers Adams and Jefferson was rife with vicious smears and propaganda.)

And I agree with Hartmut that such tactics will probably persist as long as fallible human beans continue to walk this earth.

The only thing that prevents mud slinging from being the main (? only ?) narrative of the campaign is intelligent reporting that checks the facts, reports the lies, and isn't obsessed with producing "even handed" stories (e.g. if Candidate A committed murder in front of 10 witnesses, it's "not fair" to report it unless the report is "balanced" with something pretty bad about Candidate B).

I don't understand what possible "election reform" would help. What would make a difference is if a niche market on TV (where most people still get their news, I think) for accurate, intelligent election coverage proves to be profitable. I'm not holding my breath for that to happen.

Nonetheless, Penman's right. This may act as a necessary corrective to prevent Brokaw from pounding one-sidely on the Ayers story at Tuesday's debate, as he did on Sunday's Meet The Press.

"Calling McCain a whiney coward during his POW days might sway some middle of the road military voters over to the Obama camp."

You're being sarcastic, right?

So sad that McCain is employing the same tactics that he deplored in the 2000 primary when Bush smeared him.

Now McCain is smearing Obama.

And, in the process, since he is using Palin as attack dog, it is going to make her a less attractive candidate for 2012.

Scorched earth.

What a class act.

Bill Kristol suggests Palin should question Obama's connection with Rev. Wright.

And she plays Wright into his hand.

From Bill Kristol's piece (of sh*t) linked by BTFB:

And, really, shouldn’t the public get the benefit of another Biden-Palin debate, or even two? If there’s difficulty finding a moderator, I’ll be glad to volunteer.

At least he still has a sense of humor.

Campaign tactics don't exsist in a vacuum, of course. What worked for other candidates in other elections is less likely to work this time because of who the present candidates are and the time in which we live. McCain is a bad candidate who has run an awful campaign in an awful year for the GOP against a fairly brilliant candidate. Slime won't be enough. It will look as deperate as it actually is, and Obama doesn't really resemble the Devil McCain is trying to portray him to be. McCain is not going to hereby change the minds of many people.

But unsubstantial slime will be back. The only hope is that the GOP purges itself of its quasi-Leninist insurgent cohort and becomes a conservative (in the American context) party again. I'm not going to hold my breath on that one; these people are too young (relatively) and impatient - imagine a bloated egoist like Newt in the 'wilderness' for a decade! Unthinkable!

As I've said elsewhere, the key to using the Keating 5 scandal is, while hitting McCain for his corruption, tieing it in to the other 'deregulation' scandals, Penn Square, Long Term Capital Management, Enron and the current foul-smelling bouquet (spelled "Bucket" for English sit-com fans) -- and admitting that there were problems on both sides of the aisle, then hitting McCain with his personal corruption.

in practice 'smears' merely consist of somebody saying something that the candidate doesn't like

I think in general the "both sides do it, a pox on both their houses" argument has merit. I'd be hard put to think of a politician, or a political contest, that was completely free of unfair claims or of stretching the truth to fit their argument. Obama included.

In this case, however, I really do think that, substantively, the "smears" from the two sides are not comparable.

Obama served on a board with Ayers. They travel in some of the same political circles. Ayers contributed a whopping $200 to his campaign for state senate.

In short, they are acquainted with each other, and share some common political interests, none of which include the violent doctrines or actions of Ayers' early life.

There is no record of Obama supporting Ayers radical actions. In fact, the opposite is true. There is no record of Ayers exerting any undue influence on Obama to do anything not in the public interest, or which Obama would not be otherwise inclined to do anyway.

Is there anything else to the Obama/Ayers connection? If so, I'm not aware of it, and I have looked around a bit.

McCain deliberately went out of his way to influence legislation, and the actions of regulators, to loosen oversight on someone who contributed much, much more than $200 to him, both politically and personally.

That loosening of regulation cost the taxpayers of this country millions.

He was reprimanded for his involvement with Keating by the Congress itself.

These things are not only not the same, they are not comparable.

Thanks -

But russell, don't you know that all politicians are sociopaths?

hairshirt: It's amazing that Kristol thinks Palin was a clear-cut victor in her debate with Biden. This whole campaign isn't about the Iraq War or an impending Depression or social values -- it's about nonsense.

John "Country First" McCain wants to go all Swiftboat on us while the country needs reassurance about this.

And this.

And this.

No time to engage in the politics of personal destruction -- not when our economy is imploding.

John McCain doesn't get that. He is desperate and out of touch and, if I were a leading Republican, I'd tell him he is making the party look worse than it already is.

McCain is a bad candidate who has run an awful campaign in an awful year for the GOP against a fairly brilliant candidate.

In addition, negative advertising onlyn works with a neutral or positive press. McCain has turned the MSM so far against him, his negative ads will be treated with the scorn they deserve.

I'm not sure this will diminish negative advertising in the future, but it might make candidates more cautious as to when to use it.

Tom Brokaw dismisses the Keating story is "ancient history". That's a crock because it illustrates McCain's long and consistent anti-regulatory, pro-bail-out-the-rich-gamblers history.

The idea that McCain has learned anything or changed from that time is belied by his current closeness to Phil Gramm -- the man who foisted on us in 2000 a bill making it impossible to regulate credit default swaps, and the man who could conceivably take over Hank Paulson's job overseeing the handout to Wall Street.

Nell, McCain's campaign is specifically backing off the old story that he learned something from his Keating Five involvement.

It does appear that Brokaw's outrageous pro-McCain remarks a week ago weren't just a fluke. This does not bode well for tomorrow. We may get plenty of Ayers and Wright and zero Keating.


Tom Brokaw dismisses the Keating story is "ancient history".

I think we might be better off having Bill O'Reilly moderating the debate than Tom Brokaw. The level of anti-Obama/pro-McCain bias will be about the same in either case but at least with BOR many viewers will be aware of it.

John McCain has an Ayers number of 3: He appeared in Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater (2006) with Al Franken, who appeared in Manufacturing Dissent (2007) with Michael Moore, who appeared in Children of the Revolution: Tune Back In (2005) with Bill Ayers (via the Oracle of Bacon, inspired by Slacktivist).

Tom Brokaw dismisses the Keating story is "ancient history".


If it's "history", it's McCain's personal history.
If it's "ancient", well, McCain was already 50 years old at the time.
And I wonder whether Brokaw would call McCain's POW stint "pre-history".

--TP

Does Brokaw dismiss McCain's experience as a POW? That's even more ancient history.

"McCain has turned the MSM so far against him, his negative ads will be treated with the scorn they deserve."

To some extent that's true, keeping in mind that the MSM is going to treat ALL of his negative ads with the scorn only SOME of them deserve.

And that he turned the MSM against him by winning the nomination; They loved him only so long as he was running against other Republicans...

And that he turned the MSM against him by winning the nomination; They loved him only so long as he was running against other Republicans...

utter nonsense.

they loved him up until he decided to run as an unabashed liar and smear-happy trash-merchant. and many big names still having a hard time letting go of the myth. they blame his campaign managers, they blame circumstances, they blame his hyper-competitiveness - anything so long as they don't have to admit he's just a scummy old asshole who played them for the past 8 years.

Yes, the media is all about loving the Democrats and hating the Republicans. That's why they were so nice to Gore and Kerry.

I certainly hope the 'smears' will continue, since in practice 'smears' merely consist of somebody saying something that the candidate doesn't like.

You are either confusing or conflating "smears" and "negative ads".

Negative ads are what you seem to be trying to describe--a characterization of tone, not substance. A negative ad tries to tear down an opponent, but describing something as such makes no judgment about the truth or falsity of the ad.

A smear is pretty much definitively false, or at the very least misleading. When most people talk about smears, they are talking about something that crosses a line.

And pretty much all candidates have something they'd rather the voters didn't find out about.

You know, all this forced balance and false equivalence you're peddling here would have a lot more substance if the factual basis for and relevance of the Obama and McCain campaign's ads to the issues were even remotely on the same level.

But as someone else said, these things do not occur in a vacuum. One candidate has run a campaign primarily about issues, and tries repeatedly to bring things back to those issues. One has run a campaign based almost entirely on unrepentant dishonesty and character assassination.

It isn't hard to figure out which is which. You know it, I know it, everyone knows it--so let's drop the pretense.

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