Character Attack

28Jul08

Is McCain being fair?

“It seems to me that Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign,” McCain said Tuesday in New Hampshire, in a line he’s been using regularly since.

That statement represents shorthand for an angle that is entirely accurate – attacking Barack’s character for having contrived positions on the war to please liberal Democrats in order to outflank Hillary.

A former naval aviator and prisoner of war in Vietnam, McCain is pressing his case against a candidate with no military experience, and who—thanks in part to a subterranean smear campaign that’s tapped a nerve with some voters who because of it or even prior to it—don’t see him as entirely or all American.

Doubts about Barack – his background, his judgment, his patriotism – underpin his problems with mainstream voters. It is wise, and fair, for McCain to go for the jugular.

It’s a tempting line of attack, though, against Obama, who a recent poll found that 55 percent of voters thought was the “riskier” choice for president as against 35 percent who said McCain. It’s also an attack that tap into a major source of that unease, race, and is especially likely to pay dividends with a relative newcomer to the national stage such as Obama, whose public image is not yet as clearly defined.

Giving vague speeches like the one offered on the streets of Berlin only serves to fuel questions about who Barack is and what he truly believes.

“I’m not questioning his patriotism,” McCain said on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopolous. “I am saying that he made the decision [to oppose the surge], which was political, in order to help him get the nomination of his party.

Which is, of course, an attack on his patriotism. And one that is deserved.

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