Copyrighted material


by Alexander Cockburn

McCain Losing Big on his Risky Election Bets

The morning of the third presidential debate, a friend in Landrum, S.C., conducted an informal survey of voter sentiment in this rural town in the heart of Dixie. He pulled over at a convenience store-cum-coffee shop and walked in with a wad of McCain/Palin stickers. "Don't you bring those things in here," said the man behind the register. Our friend strolled around among the regulars sipping their coffee, most of them retired, and could find no takers. "Not one, and these were people who voted 100 percent for Bush in 2004," my friend said. "They're angry."

Why? After a terrible summer of soaring gas prices and plunging stock portfolios, "a lot of them have lost their retirement funds and health savings." Our friend said that at a local nursing home -- an upscale place near Tryon some residents are telling staff they can't afford to stay. He added that all the talk about Obama's links to terror, to Islam, and to bombers has also had the effect of intimidating elderly Republicans from even putting McCain-Palin signs in their yards.

My friend's experience in Landrum came amid the inglorious tailspin of the disastrous strategy of trying to sink Obama by hanging former Weatherman Bill Ayers round his neck. When Republican consultants like Mary Matalin and Steve Schmidt first pondered this tactic in the late summer, it must have seemed to them like a no-brainer -- a reprise of the way George H.W. Bush finished off Michael Dukakis in 1988. Lee Atwater, Bush's smear-manager, picked up Al Gore's use of Horton -- the black rapist furloughed for a weekend under a law passed by Dukakis -- and retooled it, throwing in slurs about Dukakis being some foreign outsider. So, in the final weeks of Campaign 2008, Barack Hussein Obama would be hit with similar accusations (actually first aired by Hillary Clinton last April) of being an alien radical with intimate ties to a man who had tried to blow up Congress and the Pentagon.

It might have worked but for the fact which apparently escaped the notice of the well-paid consultants running the McCain campaign -- that America was engulfed in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. There was a total disconnect between the financial hurricane hitting America and some archaeology about a '60s radical sitting with Obama on the board of the Woods Fund.

It could have been different. McCain could have gone into the first debate attacking Obama for his support of the bailout. He could have sent Palin round the country denouncing Wall Street greed and predatory bankers, as she did in her debate with Joe Biden. Unlike McCain, Obama and Biden, Palin had no Wall Street cash showing in her campaign war chest, filled only with virtuous mooseburgers.

McCain chickened out, as he always does. He played a feeble role in Washington and voted meekly for the bailout, and thereby threw away the chance to put Obama on the defensive and to allow Palin to taunt Biden for his vote when she faced the paid agent of the credit card companies in St Louis.

Will Obama changed the political landscape? On Sept. 23, he stated on NBC that the crisis and prospect of a huge bailout required bipartisan action and meant he likely would have to delay expansive spending programs outlined during his campaign for the White House. Thus did he surrender power even before he gained it. The next day, he told reporters in Clearwater, Fla., that "issues like bankruptcy reform, which are very important to Democrats, is probably something that we shouldn't try to do in this piece of legislation." In addition, he said that his proposed economic stimulus program "is not necessarily something that we should have in this package." Then he worked the phone, hectoring recalcitrants in the Congressional Black Caucus to vote for the bailout, whose paramount importance was as a show of force as dramatic as 19th century cavalry cutting down demonstrators at Peterloo.

As an instigator of beneficial change, the Clinton administration was over six months after Election Day 1992, when Clinton and turned to Al Gore and said, "You mean my reelection hinges on the Federal Reserve and some f------- bond traders?" Gore nodded, and Clinton promptly abandoned his economic plan to follow the dictates of Wall Street tycoons like Robert Rubin, now a top adviser to Obama. Assuming he wins, Obama beat the speed of Bill Clinton's 1993 collapse by almost seven months.

© Creators Syndicate

Comments? Send a letter to the editor.

Albion Monitor   October 16, 2008   (

All Rights Reserved.

Contact for permission to use in any format.