Thursday, April 10, 2008


Yesterday MSNBC's Chuck Todd wrote:

...The first thing McCain needs is for the Democrats to find a nominee.

...he needs an opponent, badly.

Why? For several reasons, Todd says, among which is this:

...From a message standpoint, [there] are big differences.... McCain is trying, but ultimately, being able to refine one line of attack is a must, and that can't happen without a clear opponent....

Except that, to judge from his new Web ad, "Tolerance," McCain has figured out a solution to that: He's running as Barack Obama. He's running as the guy who says, "Can't we all get along?" If his opponent is Obama, he's beating him to the punch in advance of the general election campaign; if, somehow, he runs against Clinton, he's the Obama substitute.

Watch the ad. McCain is selling Obamaism, but it's a jingoistic, militaristic Obamaism:

The script is here.

One one level, it's a lovely message: We have a right to disagree politically and it's good for us to do so. But there are unsettling juxtapositions. When the announcer says,

It is more than appropriate, it is necessary that even in times of crisis, especially in times of crisis, we fight among ourselves for the things we believe in

we watch troops in formation. That's jarring -- we hear about the right to dissent while watching young people who've chosen a life path in which they're expected to obey orders and not dissent. And then there's this segue:

Let us exercise our responsibilities as free people. But let us remember, we are not enemies. We are compatriots defending ourselves from a real enemy.

Freedom of speech is wonderful, but remember, there are Islamomuslofascists under the bed.

Although the text of this ad is about how we as citizens get along with one another, the ad is saturated with military images, and there are flags waving nearly every second of the ad. (Compare, say, Norman Rockwell's "Four Freedoms" paintings from 1943 -- the middle of a war -- in which there's not a uniform or flag in sight.)

I know what this is trying to say to more conservative viewers: that we have the freedom to disagree because our troops are fighting for that freedom (in a war McCain wants to drag on indefinitely). You and I would say, obviously, that that might be true if we hadn't sent the troops to a war that isn't doing anything to keep us free. But McCain thinks this message, linked to Obamaism, is a winner -- and he may be right.


Andrew Sullivan watches the ad and says of the can't-we-get-along message,

It's an encouraging sign that McCain is not going to pull a Rove this fall.

I wouldn't say that. Rove has always piously insisted that George W. Bush would love to make nice with his political opponents and never, ever makes personal attacks. And, yes, it's true that Bush doesn't make personal attacks -- that's what the help is for. He always has surrogates around (including Rove at times) to launch attacks for him.

No doubt that's going to be McCain's strategy as well.

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