There’s been much talk lately about how John McCain is “switching” back to negative campaigning, ready to cast doubt on Barack Obama’s integrity by highlighting ties to Tony Rezko and Bill Ayers or just otherwise tar him as “unpatriotic.” This seems unlikely to work.
In the first place, one must have cultivated a record of moral integrity to successfully levy such “guilt by association” attacks. While John McCain could once claim such a reputation, his campaign has degenerating into rampant lying and unhinged media bashing that has severely tainted McCain’s straight talk brand. Just las week, Sarah Palin casually lied that Alaskan funds had been divested from Sudan to penalize the Sudanese government, when in fact, she had actually killed a bill designed to do just that.
But beyond McCain’s recent record for meretricious campaigning, he has had quite a few sketchy associations himself, and moreover, was officially reprimanded by the Senate for his complicity in the Savings & Loan crisis in 1991. To this end, Barack Obama has launched a website www.keatingeconomics.com, with a 13 minute documentary and actual implicative documents written by McCain himself. What’s more, the website ties McCain’s proximity to the Savings & Loan scandal and his meddling on behalf of Charles Keating with the current economic crisis. Fair or not, the case that McCain’s willingness to intervene on the wrong end of a financial boondoggle in the past impugns his judgment and implicates him in the current crisis is far more credible than the notion that serving together on a board predisposes Barack Obama to acts of terrorism. In addition, Obama’s patience on pushing the Keating scandal forward imbues the story a bite that should help neutralize McCain’s charges.
Finally, the economic slowdown and unpopularity of Bush’s policies are simply too real to overcome with this sort of nonsense. When Rick Davis told the Washington Post that this election wasn’t about issues, he was simply being more hopeful than candid.