Thursday, October 30, 2008

McCain's grave mistake

Why did Sen. McCain run a wild, underdog campaign?

I keep hearing from so-called experts that Sen. McCain, because of his connection to President Bush and his failed policies, was behind the eight-ball before the race even began. That because of Bush, Sen. McCain was the underdog. The truth, as I see it, is that Sen. McCain created his own underdog status by running a Bush-like campaign.

In truth, Sen. McCain was a sharp critic of President Bush -- perhaps the sharpest critic in the entire Congress -- until 2005-2007. This 'we-were-bound-to-lose-anyway-because-of-Bush' reading by Republicans ignores Sen. McCain's past willingness to distance himself from President Bush on many important issues. Why did he turn toward President Bush precisely when the American people turned -- for good -- against him?

For example, I keep hearing Sen. McCain is one and the same with president Bush on the economy. This just isn't true. Or at least wasn't true, until Sen. McCain made it true. Take Bush's tax cuts early in his tenure. The tax-cuts, by all accounts, were supply-side incentives for the investment class. Here's what McCain said about them at the time:

"I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans who need tax relief."

He doesn't talk that way anymore. Why? If Sen. McCain had kept up this kind of rhetoric, the race would have been entirely different. Now, of all things, he is calling Sen. Obama a socialist because Sen. Obama advocates rolling back these same Bush-tax-cuts that Sen. McCain once opposed. Yeah, I know -- Sen. McCain couldn't have been much such a critic of Bush during the Republican primary. But the day he won the primary, why he didn't move immediately toward this anti-Bush-tax-cut position and criticize the Bush record on, say, jobs is beyond me. My guess is either Sen. McCain mis-read the environment around him, or he was intimidated by the far-right elements of the GOP. Whichever, Sen. McCain has himself to blame for why he will lose this race.

So while I keep hearing that this race is Sen. Obama's to lose, the truth is the opposite. This race was Sen. McCain's to win, and he flat didn't.

The lesson to be learned is: The GOP needs to give itself a bit of a makeover, so it doesn't in the future intimidate its best candidates into beating themselves.

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