The McCain campaign is perplexed, bothered, and bewildered of late. Despite Barack Obama’s past associations with radical bombers, nauseating racial bigots, and anti-semitic Palestinians, the media doesn’t seem to want to expose the extent of those relationships nor ask tough questions as to how the views of these extremists might have shaped or impacted his own.
We can – and in many cases we should – chalk this up to a shameless bias on the part of the media toward Barack Obama and the Democrats. But something much simpler is at work, something that makes any attack on Obama by McCain using his radical associations as a backdrop to question his judgement an exercise in futility.
The voters don’t care.
America did not invent the fine old custom of tar and feathering crooked, lying, corrupt charlatans and riding them out of town on a rail (the English have been doing it for 800 years). But the mood of the American voter is so outraged at the financial crisis we are in that if I were a Congressman campaigning at home, I’d steer clear of pillow and asphalt factories for a while.
The fact is, the economy is of such overriding concern, all else in the campaign pales in comparison. The voter simply doesn’t want to hear about Ayers, Wright, Rezko or any other problematic Obama friendship. Nor, I suspect, are they keen to relive the Keating 5 fiasco or read about any other manufactured McCain association by the press.
This piece this morning by Peter Yost of the AP is a stretch – a laughably ridiculous attempt to equate John McCain’s tangential relationship to a group that later assisted in training El Salvadoran death squads with Obama’s close, personal, association with William Ayers. Yost is sticking out his tongue and saying “neener, neener, neener,” hoping that the reader will nod their head and say “By Jiminy! McCain hung around with terrorists too!”
The problem is, Yost destroys his own case in the body of the piece:
The U.S. Council for World Freedom was part of an international organization linked to former Nazi collaborators and ultra-right-wing death squads in Central America. The group was dedicated to stamping out communism around the globe.
The council’s founder, retired Army Maj. Gen. John Singlaub, said McCain became associated with the organization in the early 1980s as McCain was launching his political career in Arizona. Singlaub said McCain was a supporter but not an active member in the group.
“McCain was a new guy on the block learning the ropes,” Singlaub told The Associated Press in an interview. “I think I met him in the Washington area when he was just a new congressman. We had McCain on the board to make him feel like he wasn’t left out. It looks good to have names on a letterhead who are well-known and appreciated.
“I don’t recall talking to McCain at all on the work of the group,” Singlaub said.
McCain says he resigned from the group in 1984 and asked to have his name removed from the letterhead in 1986. Singlaub also had this to say about McCain’s “involvement:”
“I don’t ever remember hearing about his resigning, but I really wasn’t worried about that part of our activities, a housekeeping thing,” said Singlaub. “If he didn’t want to be on the board that’s OK. It wasn’t as if he had been active participant and we were going to miss his help. He had no active interest. He certainly supported us.”
Compare McCain’s “involvement” with these nuts to Obama’s working relationship with Ayers, their friendship going back 20 years, and Obama’s clear desire to implement the radical educational agenda of Ayers when he was president of the Annenberg project. There is absolutely no symmetry here – none. And yet Yost, being a good little AP hack, tries to create some out of whole cloth.
But this is a digression from the reality of what is going on in America – the America not visited much by candidates and certainly not commented on by anyone in the mainstream media.
The America of ordinary, hard working people is fearful. And why shouldn’t they be? If they’re like me – barely able to grasp what the hell is going on in the financial markets – they nevertheless know that it is unprecedented and that some very smart people are extremely worried. When 60% of us believe we are headed for a 1930’s style depression, catcalls from candidates about who their friends might be simply doesn’t resonate. People have much bigger worries on their minds.
Admittedly, there are precious few of these “wise men” who are warning of a worldwide depression. A severe downturn, yes. Perhaps even an altering of the international financial system that would not be favorable to the United States. But soup lines and massive deflation are not currently foreseeable – not as long as the Fed is able to pump hundreds of billions of dollars at will into the banking system in order to keep it afloat until some semblance of confidence and order return to the markets.
During the past week, we have tipped over the edge, into the middle of the abyss. Systemic collapse is in full train. The Netherlands has just rushed through a second, more sweeping nationalisation of Fortis. Ireland and Greece have had to rescue all their banks. Iceland is facing an Argentine denouement. The US commercial paper market is closed. It shrank $95bn last week, and has lost $208bn in three weeks. The interbank lending market has seized up. There are almost no bids. It is a ghost market. Healthy companies cannot roll over debt. Some will have to sack staff today to stave off default. As the unflappable Warren Buffett puts it, the credit freeze is “sucking blood” out of the economy. “In my adult lifetime, I don’t think I’ve ever seen people as fearful,” he said. We are fast approaching the point of no return. The only way out of this calamitous descent is “shock and awe” on a global scale, and even that may not be enough.
In the first full trading day following the bailout, stocks lost 370 points. Yes, there are alarmists out there (Paul Krugman, please go on a nice, long vacation. I hear Bellvue has some padded rooms with wonderful views.). But when Warren Buffet gets nervous, the American people who are fearful don’t appear quite so stupid and naive, now do they?
The bottom line is that attacks on character are being ignored at the moment by the voter. All they want to hear is what each candidate will do to protect them from this financial storm that is sinking so many huge and seemingly indestructible companies. The thinking goes, “If Lehman Brothers can go under, am I next?” In a free country, people have a very proprietary sense of their own money and how safe it is.
They don’t have to be told things could get a lot worse. They sense it, as a deer might sense a wolf nearby. It can’t smell the wolf but it senses danger nevertheless. Voters may not entirely understand the ins and outs of international finance, but they sense their money, their livelihoods are in peril.Hence, all other issues of the campaign – the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran, education, abortion, gun rights – the whole mish mash of topics that have been fought over and discussed in this campaign now take a seat at the back of the bus as the voter wants his questions answered on the economy.
Hugh Hewitt seems optimistic that if McCain can keep hammering Obama on Ayers while showing the voters how disasterous an Obama presidency would be for the economy, he might still pull it out:
As more details emerge on the Obama-Ayers connection (here’s a short story from 1997 on Ayers that features both Obamas and which suggests that Michelle Obama organized the program that featured both Ayers and her husband), the Obama talking heads are hysterical with outrage, which is a clear signal to Team McCain to keep digging and swinging on the subject of Obama’s judgement. Just who, after all, does he intend to staff the 3,000 executive branch jobs with? Who will be at Defense and Justice and Treasury and State?.
The message also has to be targeted at the reality that the dizzying declines in the markets cannot be arrested and reversed with tax hikes and unemployment benefit extensions. Even as people shudder at the rapid decline in their savings and retirement accounts, they have to be trusted to know that anti-growth polices of the sort being pushed by Obama will simply drive business, jobs and growth overseas. A tax hike agenda of the sort pushed by Obama right now is economic suicide, and John McCain has to forcefully say so.
If raising taxes and extending unemployment is what it is going to take to keep voter’s money safe, they would be willing to vote for the devil himself. Obama might not have good ideas on what to do about the crisis. But that isn’t the point. It comes down to who the voters believe. And the sad fact is John McCain, as a member of the party in power in the White House, has about as much credibility on the economy as my pet cat Snowball.
I wish it were otherwise. The more we find out about Obama’s relationship with Ayers the more I am troubled. Even more troubling has been a systematic campaign by Obama and his handlers to minimize and even lie about this relationship at every turn. Despite yeoman work done by David Freddoso and Stanley Kurtz of The National Review on how Obama helped Ayers try and implement some frighteningly radical educational ideas on the unsuspecting parents and schoolchildren of Chicago, it appears that it will all go for naught. The voter sees the effort by the McCain campaign to attack Obama on his radical associations as “just playing politics.”
And that is something they don’t want to see. They are hopping mad and scared. That’s a combination that Obama is having little trouble exploiting to his own advantage.