What Is McCain Doing?

I just got back from watching and commenting on the RNC at NECN, who had me on as an analyst for the evening apparently unaware that I am an asshat. (See comment to earlier post.)

Anyway, I am baffled; I don't know what John McCain is thinking. His only chance to win this election is to convince people -- that majority of Americans that wants change and is disgusted with the GOP -- that Barack Obama is too risky to vote for. It's a legitimate and, indeed, necessary line of attack.

Instead, McCain seems to think that the point of the convention is to have his friends make speeches about what a great guy he is. That's the one thing McCain doesn't need to spend precious time on. People know his story, and they like it and admire it. This isn't a birthday party, it's an election: ATTACK OBAMA!

McCain lost one night to the hurricane, which left him three nights, with just three total hours on the networks. Thanks to his out-of-the-blue VP selection, tomorrow's hour will be spent primarily on introducing the country to Governor Sarah Palin -- leaving very little time for bashing Obama. Thursday's hour is pretty much all taken up by McCain's speech, and while he should obviously spend some (or much) of his speech on the attack, you don't want him being entirely negative.

That made tonight a precious hour for assault -- and there was very, very little of it. (And virtually NO attacks on Obama in any of the earlier speeches, for the cable viewers.) Fred Thompson briefly warned that, regardless of what they tell you, Democrats in power will always tax you. Fair enough; in fact, I thought his line of attack -- if you give them the Presidency in addition to the Congress, we're all doomed -- was a promising one, but it came and went quickly. Lieberman's attacks on Obama were even less memorable.

Instead, Fred Thompson spent most of his time describing how much being a POW sucks. It was moving, and the only memorable part of the hour, but the eight people in America who don't know that McCain was a POW could have been informed Thursday evening. As for Lieberman, his cross-the-aisle testimonial would be interesting if, in some alternate universe, anybody other than John McCain gives a fig about what Joe Lieberman has to say.

What really killed me about it all is that while they were failing to attack Obama, they were validating the entire point of Obama's candidacy. Thompson and Lieberman both spoke of the desperate need to change Washington; change change change; McCain will drain the Washington swamp, Thompson said; McCain is a "restless reformer" who will "shake up Washington," Lieberman said.

Two problems. 1) John McCain has been working in Washington for nearly three decades, and will thus be seen as part of the problem unless you have pretty compelling evidence of his reforms, and 2) neither Thompson or Lieberman named one single solitary thing that John McCain has ever done in that time to reform Washington, which kind of makes it hard to imagine he's the guy to turn to now.

Of course, McCain has contributed one significant piece of reform legislation -- one that actually goes over quite well with the American people. It's the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform legislation. Neither Thompson nor Lieberman mentioned it, however. Why? Because the right wing hates it, and anyone praising it at the convention would likely be booed off the stage.

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