McCain on the attack against Obama

Some people wondered whether John McCain could take the fight to Democrats as hard as he has occasionally done against his fellow Republicans. Yesterday, he began to give an answer, hammering Barack Obama for “smear politics” and for breaking his promise to conduct his campaign honorably. It follows a week in which Obama has continued to mischaracterize McCain’s remarks on Iraq, an attack that Factcheck called a blatant falsehood:

The campaign of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) criticized Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) Wednesday, echoing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) complaint that the Democratic front-runner has abandoned his promise of a new style of politics.

After Obama criticized McCain this week for speeches the Arizona senator delivered on the economy, a McCain spokesman issued a statement saying that Obama is guilty of smear politics.

“Sen. Obama’s blatant mischaracterizations aren’t the new politics he’s promised America, they’re the old attack and smear tactics that Americans are tired of,” McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said. “Barack Obama’s diagnosis for our housing market is clearly that Barack Obama knows best — raise taxes on hardworking Americans and give government a prescription to spend.”

The McCain camp’s comments came Wednesday afternoon just hours after the Republican National Committee (RNC) chastised its Democratic counterparts for portraying McCain as a war enthusiast.

It’s a start. We will not see McCain use the Jeremiah Wright issue against Obama, because that just isn’t McCain’s style. He also doesn’t need to use Wright as long as Hillary Clinton continues to make it an issue.

However, we can expect McCain to press character issues against Obama, and in fact he has already done that in the past. Only two years ago, McCain showed no hesitation to openly attack Obama’s character in a letter he sent to the freshman Senator. Obama had committed to support McCain in anti-lobbying efforts, but backed down when the Democrats decided to use the “culture of corruption” as an election-year theme. McCain fumed:

I would like to apologize to you for assuming that your private assurances to me regarding your desire to cooperate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform legislation were sincere. When you approached me and insisted that despite your leadership’s preference to use the issue to gain a political advantage in the 2006 elections, you were personally committed to achieving a result that would reflect credit on the entire Senate and offer the country a better example of political leadership, I concluded your professed concern for the institution and the public interest was genuine and admirable. Thank you for disabusing me of such notions with your letter to me dated February 2, 2006, which explained your decision to withdraw from our bipartisan discussions. I’m embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble. Again, sorry for the confusion, but please be assured I won’t make the same mistake again. …

But I understand how important the opportunity to lead your party’s effort to exploit this issue must seem to a freshman Senator, and I hold no hard feelings over your earlier disingenuousness. Again, I have been around long enough to appreciate that in politics the public interest isn’t always a priority for every one of us. Good luck to you, Senator.





The letter itself is a mastery of polite derision, scoffing at the notion that Obama represents any kind of “new politics” — and that he in fact was nothing more than an empty suit manipulated by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. We can expect even more of those themes emerging in the weeks ahead, as soon as Hillary Clinton empties her arsenal first.