DENOUNCE-VS.-REJECT-GATE -- SET THE TIME-MACHINE DIALS TO 1988
I got a few details wrong, but I'll quote something I posted last May:
...People often say that the Iraq War will absolutely be the #1 issue in the '08 presidential election -- but they're dead wrong....
It can't be -- because if it is, the Democrat will win handily, and the Beltway Establishment doesn't want that to happen. So when the Republicans try to change the subject -- try to make the election about John Edwards's money and alleged vanity, or about Barack Obama's foreign roots or his pastor's political beliefs, or about all the things in the Gerth/Van Natta and Bernstein books [about Hillary Clinton] -- the Beltway press will do everything in its power to aid and abet them....
So nothing you or I would consider an issue will dominate the discussion in '08. That seems insane, given the war (which will absolutely still be going strong all through next year), and given other pressing concerns (such as health care), but that's the way it's going to be. The election will be a referendum on one of the items the GOP floats as the '08 version of Willie Horton or Kerry's time on the Swift Boat. It's going to be about trivia....
So we have Traditional-Garb-Gate. We have Denounce-Vs.-Reject-Gate, with Tim Russert demanding that Barack Obama denounce anti-Semitism he'd already denounced, and now we're being told that "denounce" is inadequate, even modified to "denounce and reject" -- a line of argument we'll surely hear from the McCain campaign. And, warming up in the bullpen, we have Incidental-Contact-With-Sixties-Radicals-Gate -- see Jonah Goldberg in today's New York Post, not quite hanging radicals-turned-Chicago-political-operatives William Ayres and Bernardine Dorhn around Obama's neck, but certainly hinting at ways his insignificant links to them can be exploited politically.
Get used to waking up every day and seeing your political culture -- candidates, the press, even (perhaps especially) the blogs -- discussing this crap rather than the issues. Get used to it because we're going to have nine more months of it. By fall, one of these non-issues is effectively going to be the central issue of the campaign -- or more than one is. And that would have been true no matter who the Democratic nominee turned out to be.
I love this Goldberg quote:
In the weeks to come, maybe reporters can resist the temptation to repeat health-care questions for the billionth time and instead ask America's foremost liberal representatives why being a radical means never having to say you're sorry.
Oh you and your stupid "issues." We don't care! We want a witch-hunt, dammit! We want irrelevant distractions!
Well, relax, Jonah. Tim Russert still has a job. We'll all be neck-deep in the irrelevant very, very soon.
And yes, obviously a lot of this stuff isn't originating with the GOP. That's something I got wrong in May -- forgetting about the press's ability to originate, rather than merely parrot, anti-Democratic talking points, and forgetting about the Democrats' fondness for fragging.