Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Fourth Quarter

Elections in this country are more like emotional football games than what they should be. That is why you will hear chants like “USA, USA” and “drill, baby, drill” and “Saraccuda.” People will vote for their team even if it means voting against their own economic best interest. That is why negative campaigns, tearing down one’s opponent with slander, lies, and innuendoes, work so well in this country. “My team, no matter what” is the slogan of the base of both parties.

Think of the latest McCain Team strategy as the last few minutes of a basketball game. The team is down, so the fouling begins – on purpose. This trick is used to get the opposing team to the free throw line to stop the clock. Then the team using the dirty fouling tactics gets the ball back with a chance to score. It’s ugly, but for the losing team, it’s the only chance they have. With less than a month to go and his poll numbers down, McCain has said that since the economy is “fixed,” it is time to get down and dirty – take off the gloves. McCain’s position is to try to assassinate Obama’s character and dissipate the credibility that Obama has built up.

In the past, Democrats have been known to do the same thing when they were down, although in the past two decades they have tried to stay above such shenanigans. Instead of reaping the rewards for not playing dirty, Gore, and then Kerry, were considered weak by the voters and lost the election. The Obama Team knows this and therefore for every bit of dirt thrown by the McCain team, the Obama campaign will throw dirt right back at them, although they would prefer to just talk about the issues. Mud has already been thrown in both directions, causing the McCain campaign to scream “unfair” when the Obama Team dragged the Keating Scandal into the mix.

Many conservatives have very recently voiced an unease about this 4th quarter strategy, worrying that this time it will backfire on them. They are remembering 1992 when the economy took center stage. Many conservatives are now saying that the McCain Team, in trying to skirt around the economic issues, does not understand how the same political tactics that worked previously will not work this time because the economy is going to dominate the next five weeks.

How the 4th quarter fouls began:

The McCain Team knows how to manipulate the media in getting them to focus on the sleaze and away from substance.

On Saturday, after feeling empowered by not making a major gaffe during the debate, Sarah Palin went on the offensive, touting the “gloves are off” line and rolling out a sound bite they knew would get a lot of airtime:

Our opponent … is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.”

Palin started with the “guilt by association” – speaking of Obama’s association with Bill Ayers, the co-founder of the violent 1960s era group the Weather Underground. Although they are not friends, they both serve on the same anti-poverty board in Chicago. Many organizations, such as FactCheck.org, have concluded that the relationship between Obama and Ayers was tenuous at best.

The challenge for Obama is to not allow the conversation to change. “They’d rather try to tear our campaign down than lift this country up. That’s what you do when you’re out of touch, out of ideas, and running out of time. So I want all of you to be clear, I’m going to keep on talking about the issues that matter, ” Obama told a crowd. But he is truly not being given a choice – if he wants to win, he will have to play dirty, too.

There is a very good chance McCain’s strategy will backfire:

Many people have been hit hard by the economy. Voters are thinking about the economy and not much else. They have watched their savings and retirement accounts drop like a rock. As McCain insists on turning the page on the economy and spending his time throwing mud at Obama, the world’s, not just the U.S., stock markets are crashing – which causes credit to become tighter and tighter. More banks are failing. More people are losing their homes. Farmers will not be able to get the credit needed to plant next year’s crops. These problems are not going away any time soon, regardless of the bail out passed by Congress.

There is something else the McCain team has not thought about: the shady characters that McCain, himself, has palled around with in the past. Palin’s husband has some shady doings of his own that could be dragged into the spotlight. The Obama Team has plenty to pick from in order to retaliate. Remember how the Bush Team swift-boated McCain in 2000? There is plenty of dirt to use against McCain. He should think twice about throwing mud. McCain’s swift-boating tactic could backfire; it could be like spitting into the wind.

Here’s why:

• McCain was one of the Keating Five. The core allegation of the Keating Five scandal is that Keating had made contributions of about $1.3 million to various U.S. Senators, and he called on those Senators to help him resist regulators. The regulators backed off, to later disastrous consequences. Charles Keating, an Arizona businessman, went to prison during the aftermath. Here is a good article on the Keating Five scandal:

• McCain has been voted as unethical by the United States Senate. In 1991, the Senate Ethics Committee found that McCain had exercised "poor judgment" for meeting with federal regulators on Keating's behalf. Others members of the Keating Five were found to have acted improperly. Many independent observers thought all five got off lightly, especially McCain, who had far closer ties to Keating than the others.

• McCain has a gambling addiction. He spends thousands of dollars at the craps table every month.

• McCain cheated on his wife with several women before settling on the very wealthy beer company heiress, Cindy. He then divorced his wife to marry Cindy.

• McCain has a shoot from the hip, think later, temper.

• McCain is said to have given the North Vietnamese way more information than name and serial number.

• The image of McCain as someone who fights against lobbyists is all smoke screen and mirrors. McCain has a cozy friendship with many, many lobbyists, who line his pocket and run his campaign. More than 20 top McCain advisers and fundraisers have lobbied for Big Oil. John McCain's coziness with Big Oil is in many respects just a replay of his old coziness with Charles Keating. In both cases, money and access bought influence.

• Troopergate could be the be all, end all, for Sarah’s political career if it is shown that she really did abuse her power as governor.

• Per diems are paid to Sarah, as governor, for staying in her own house. Even if it may be legal in Alaska, it’s not ethical.

• The director of Division of Elections in Alaska, Gail Fenumiai, has verified that Todd Palin registered in October 1995 with the radical Alaskan Independence Party, a group that advocates Alaskan secession from the United States. Besides a short period of a few months in 2000 when he changed his registration to undeclared, Todd Palin remained a registered member of AIP until July 2002 when he registered again as an undeclared voter. The founder, Joe Volger, declared "I'm an Alaskan, not an American. I've got no use for America or her damned institutions."

"Her damned institutions." Imagine if the remarks of Obama's preacher had been the guiding principal of an actual political organization. The question is, do we make Sarah guilty by association? It is her husband, after all, who was a member of this radical group.

There’s more:
• McCain wants the U.S. to stay in Iraq which has caused our attention to be deflected from the real battle against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

• His speeches, until the last two weeks, pushed deregulation even though lack of oversight of Wall Street is what caused the economic turmoil and credit crunch. He exclaimed that the “fundamentals of the economy are strong” although most of us in the middle class knew otherwise (no, he did NOT mean the “workers” when he was saying it).

• He wants to deregulate health care in the same way that the financial section was deregulated.

• He has shown an indifference for the middle class and a preference to the wealthy and big business – just like the Bush/Cheney administration.

Perhaps McCain should think twice before opening up this Pandora’s box of mud slinging. Maybe he should stick to the issues, like the economy, and what he will actually do to help the middle class.