Thursday, August 21, 2008

Democrats Going to the Class Resentment Well One More Time

Obama's newest line of attack is that McCain is so wealthy he can't remember how many houses he has. The Chicago mothership has apparently decided that the economy is the major issue and that Obama has to hit McCain hard on the economy. But like this? Did Bob Shrum join the Obama team when no one was looking? Do the Democrats really want to play the "class resentment" card one more time. Pavlov anyone?

The class resentment angle does not work for Democrats because recent Republican candidates have not presented themselves as patrician snobs. If Mitt Romney had been the nominee, maybe this line of attack would have a chance. But how are you going to convince the public that a former Navy pilot with a penchant for dirty jokes is an elitist. The Republicans are rightly going to eat Obama's lunch if he tries to make this the central frame for the campaign, and they should.

What the Obama team needs to do is frame his opponent in a way that reinforces the way McCain presents himself. They need to make him an impulsive, Dr. Strangelove-rocket-riding, Barry Goldwater loving, loon, whom you don't want near the nuclear button. And they have to do it every day, not just by sending Susan Rice out to infer he's a hothead.

This is not fair, but it's not impossible either. The Obama campaign can draw on the many stories about his short temper and his reputation in the Senate for being a disliked hothead (remember how few senators supported him over Bush in 2000?) It would be rather easy to draw a line between his history of "anger management" problems and his attitudes towards foreign affairs (Iraq, Georgia, etc.). Once you've locked in a frame of the cool, rational Obama vs. the impulsive, tempermental McCain, you can use McCain's past failings and present foreign policy positions to say he's impulsive, he makes bad decisions, he makes enemies and you can't afford to elect him.

Right now Mccain is getting a shameful free pass to define himself. His favorite line is "I am a Maverick, and that's why my Republican colleagues don't like me." Any studious observer of Washington knows that he's not liked by many of his colleagues because of his arrogance and temper. When your own Republican colleagues are questioning your fitness for the presidency, you have to pause.

Why the Obama campaigns is not setting up the frame that this guy is a "loose cannon," is beyond me. But if they did start to consistently paint him as such, then these "tough" attacks on Obama's patriotism and character would look like irrational, impulsive missives rather than some show of strength. All the other attacks of him being "out of touch" are not going to work because McCain is not George Bush 41. He's not going to play into that framing by appearing elitist. Here's hoping the Democrats get that.

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