Obama vs. McCain: Round One to McCain

“I have some news, Al Qaeda is in Iraq. Al Qaeda — It’s called Al Qaeda in Iraq…I don’t understand how Senator Obama would say he would go back to Iraq if Al Qaeda were there when Al Qaeda is there and everybody knows it,” — Sen. John McCain on the campaign trail.

"It just seems like John McCain is talking about me a lot," — Sen. Barack Obama on the campaign trail.

Since the final Democrat primary debate, Senator John McCain began chiding Senator Barack Obama on his stance on fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq. Senator Obama fought back weakly saying, “I’ve got some news for John McCain — he took us into a war, along with George Bush, that should have never been authorized, and should have never been waged.” If the debate continues to be about that in the general election, then advantage McCain.

Poor Senator Clinton. It seems as if the media has moved past her and crowned Obama the nominee of her party. Gone are the hopes and dreams of what President Clinton said would be the most “civil election” in American history. Americans don’t want civil elections, they want tough elections and civil government but it’s been so long since we’ve had that, many can’t remember what it looks like.

No one believed a year ago that Hillary Clinton would fail to achieve the Democratic nomination. Many in the Democrat’s leadership are worrying who will get the “short straw” and have to tell her the gig is up when she loses Texas, Ohio or both. Bill Clinton has long suffered her temper, so he’s not doing it. But as luscious as this is to picture, the real story is the heating up of the exchanges between Obama and McCain.

The contrast between the man, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, when the child was being raised in Indonesia, is stark. Senator McCain’s future depends on the country seeing him as the leader and Senator Obama as only a motivator. We saw a preview last week in the banter back and forth at campaign events.

Obama has to continue to say that we are losing in Iraq or that the Army has done its job but the Iraqi politicians have not. He uses either line to suit his mood. McCain has to continue highlighting the successes in Iraq militarily but has the tougher job of touting the provincial successes in self-governance. Though it is likely more success from General Petraeus and successful provincial elections in October are to come, until then, McCain will stand his ground with Obama while Obama will tie him to the “failed Bush policy in Iraq.”

But the war is not the only thing that was talked about last week. McCain and Obama differentiated themselves on the economy as well. When President Bush was asked if we were in a recession during his press conference last week, he said we were in a slowdown but not a recession. Senator Obama mocked the president’s remarks by saying, “People are struggling in the midst of an economy that George Bush says is not a recession but is experienced differently by folks on the ground.”

Then Obama went after McCain, “We are not standing on the brink of recession because of forces beyond our control. This was not an inevitable part of the business cycle. It was a failure of leadership in Washington — a Washington where George Bush hands out billions of tax cuts to the wealthiest few for eight long years, and John McCain promises to make those same tax cuts permanent, embracing the central principle of the Bush economic program.” Class warfare again and he doesn’t even get his facts right. But he’s the man of Hope and change, so facts don’t matter when you are motivating people.

John McCain won the first round this week. The real challenge will be how McCain succeeds when he goes after Obama. Obama has achieved “movement status” which could burn out as fast and it started. When people look more closely at Barack Obama, they will see a light weight that can speak the words of Martin Luther King or President Kennedy, but hasn’t made the sacrifices. Many before him, including Senator John McCain, have sacrificed much so that Obama can be where he is today. But the “Audacity of Hope” guy is someone with almost no experience in government or anything else yet still thinks he should be president. 

John McCain should win this battle, but a year ago most of us thought that Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani would be the match up — a “Subway Series” for The White House.
The only constant in this election is the unreliability of predictions.