Monday, October 13, 2008


I saw a lot of articles this weekend about "what McCain needs to do" this weekend. (I'll add links later, I'm firing this off quickly before getting to work. ) Unfortunately, I disagree with many of them, which involve the "Hit Ayers and Wright harder" angle. Reason? I'm still somewhat optimistic, despite all evidence to the contrary, that while we have a lunatic fringe who simply won't vote for anyone with the name Hussein anywhere in his name, the majority of voters are choosing based on issues that they care about and have at least a fleeting impression of where the candidates stand on them. And I think McCain is simply missing the mark for these people. I have some authority, as I'm leaning Obama at this point and voted Bush in 2000, so they're probably trying to hit me as a target voter. So I thought I'd post on some of the things I think he should consider:

1) Economy.
If you really want to be a Maverick, forget the traditional "blame everything on the other side" approach, and start talking about the failings during both Clinton and Bush's years. Face it, Bush is a lame duck and an easy target, so it's okay to criticize. But don't do it just to criticize, do it in terms of "We did this. It didn't work." Keep the bit about tightening loan requirements, I think anyone with half a brain on either side will agree that 110% financing with zero down is a stupid idea. However, don't stop there. People made these loans, and they didn't have a gun to their heads. In some cases (AIG), companies that were supposed to be conservative investors were branching out and placing more resources than were prudent into the corporate equivalent of "get rich quick" schemes. And as it's been pointed out by many economists, the problem with this approach is that we've essentially created private profits but socialized losses, as we've come to realize these companies are "too big to fail." You've made a few mentions of fat cats on Wall Street. But we haven't heard you indicate what regulations - yep, I know that's a dirty word for some of your base - to fix the private profit/socialized loss problem. Go there. And for God's sake, don't talk about a total freeze, Obama's got a good thing going when he uses the hatchet vs. scalpel analogy. Why? Because a lot of us believe that the government's huge response to 9/11 enlarged Bush's powers a tad too much, curtailing liberties beyond what was necessary. We fear the economic response to this crisis has done the same with this bailout. Start talking about something besides housing - discuss the abusive practices of credit card companies that have proliferated within the past eight years and led to some of the credit crisis. It's not hard to argue that raising interest on a customer who's never made a late payment to your company is abusive. You haven't broken the terms of the original credit contract with that company, yet you're being punished. Talk about some of the unfairness of the credit scoring business, how people who are stretched to their limit are paying more for insurance because of the greedy insurance companies, even with totally clean driving records. That should get some attention. Come up with a plan to limit that. Finally, tweak your tax proposal. Given the current climate, very few "Joe Six-Packs" think businesses need any more breaks. You keep attacking Obama's plan for relieving taxes on the middle class as too expensive, but then the plan you're offering talks all about investment tax cuts and business tax breaks, and I can almost guarantee that a bunch of ordinary people are thinking "Didn't we just give those people 700 billion dollars? And you want to give them more?" Pare down the tax breaks for the companies, and bury them in the speech. Throw a bone to the working and middle class. I won't get specific on how much and why, but it's necessary to do it right now. We're all pretty damn mad at Wall Street, and I don't think we're in the mood to give them more money, no matter what conservative economists say.

2) Healthcare. Tweak your plan, dude. Figure out a way to make it front-end rather than rear-end paid. Basically, people without insurance are looking at your tax break and going: "Well, I'd have to find a way to pay for it up front before I could get the tax break. If I could pay for it up front, I'd already have insurance. So, that won't work." You need to let people know how they're going to afford it up front. Then, for us policy wonks, make it a bit more sensible. It costs nearly as much as Obama's and it covers an anticipated 34 million less people. Doesn't take a genius to decide between them, at this point. Eventually, you're going to also have to face the mood shift in the country that is quite frankly toward health care as an entitlement that you pay for, not a risk-based business. They no longer want to hear "pre-existing condition" and "denied." They don't necessarily think it should be free, they just think that while it may cost more for some people, everyone should be able to buy it. That will take some socialization. You keep harping about the socialized medicine aspect of the Obama plan, as if people are going to tie it into the big, bad Hillary idea of the '90s. That won't work. People see it as Obama's giving them a choice: keep the plan they've got or buy the one you've got. That doesn't sound like socialized medicine, it sounds like opening up a new market. Yes, I know technically it's putting the government in charge of a lot more people's insurance. But they start to go "Why not? What've they got that they don't want to let me in on?" So just criticizing Obama's isn't getting you anywhere. I know your base would argue that socialization is bad, and we shouldn't go anywhere near it. They'd advise trying to keep at it, to educate the people. I don't think that's going to work. You may have to accept this one, just like social conservatives are going to have to accept that it's becoming harder and harder to scare people away from accepting homosexuality altogether. They've had to give up that fight and concentrate on the marriage thing, 'cause the country has simply said no.

3) The war. Again, you need to really break out the maverick label here. In your rhetoric on the war, you keep talking about how the surge worked and we're in the final stretch. The big problem with this: you've tied yourself in with Bush, who most people feel has taken us on the "war to nowhere." And in continuing to defend the "Bomb Bomb Iran" joke, you've sealed that image. You've said it was a joke. Now apologize and admit it was a stupid joke, and a stupid thing to say. Take the wind out of that particular sail. Because otherwise, when you say you're the serious, "steady hand on the tiller" most people are hearing "blah, blah Ginger." You don't need to back off on the idea of having gone in, indicate it was what we thought was the best decision at the time, and reiterate the reasons. Then say that in retrospect, it has taken longer than it should have, and apologize for the "we will be here 100 years if that's what it takes" remark. We don't want to be running someone else's country for 100 years. Yes, you may have been talking a Berlin-style base, but most people don't know that we still have a base in Berlin that was war-related. Instead, they think you're talking 100 more years of the same. Give a timeline. I'm serious. A qualified timeline, you don't have to say "Well, everything's changed, but we have to follow this timeline." It's a set of goals to be met and dates to have them met by. Then, if you were elected, be on top of those goals, and hold press conferences to update the public on what has been met and what hasn't. Finally, stop this nonsense about splitting hairs on preconditions versus preparations before you'll talk with foreign leaders. Many people have an image of you requiring a bunch of petty diplomacy shit before you'll talk to leaders that are willing to negotiate with you. I think what you're trying to say is that they have to be willing to negotiate before you'll talk to them. So freaking say it already.

4) Miscellaneous: Stop spinning. You've got an abysmal rate, and most of the fact-checkers are showing it. That makes people not trust what you have to say (at least those of us who bother to check). Stop the negative campaigning, or at least stop making it front and center of the speech. It's not working, according to the polls.

Those, I think, are the big three. If you did those, it still wouldn't make you an ideal candidate for me. I'm socially liberal and don't like alot of those policies. But it would make me have to think hard about the choice, which I think should be your ultimate goal. And I'd really like to put "Dump Sarah Palin for Elizabeth Dole" as #5, as I think Palin's a huge liability and Dole would have been ideal for the "get the Hillary voters" ploy you were trying, but I think it's too late for that and it would tank any credibility the other four would enhance.

Basically, you're losing because you're trying to sell an empty "Maverick" label, while not losing the support of anyone who still likes Bush. So you're calling yourself a maverick, yet I haven't heard you criticize Bush's handling of . . . . well, anything, really. Other than the housing buy-back idea, I haven't heard anything out of you that Bush wouldn't agree with, and I'm paying attention. So Obama's point of McSame is ringing loudly, and Bush's popularity is pretty well down the toilet, so you do the math. Also, you keep harping on how Obama is an empty suit, but your suit doesn't look any more full, despite your years of experience, 'cause you're not offering concrete alternatives to the rather shitty status quo. Yes, I know that a lot of more conservative people would say, "but if he does that, he'd lose me." Really?! Ya think they're voting Obama? Please.

So that's my two cents, for what it's worth. Not that anyone listens to me these days anyway.

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