I realize they want to take the high road, but ....
Mr. McCain’s campaign is now under the leadership of members of President Bush’s re-election campaign, including Steve Schmidt, the czar of the Bush war room that relentlessly painted his opponent, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, as effete, elite, and equivocal through a daily blitz of sound bites and Web videos that were carefully coordinated with Mr. Bush’s television advertisements.The run of attacks against Mr. Obama over the last couple of weeks have been strikingly reminiscent of that drive, including the Bush team’s tactics of seeking to make campaigns referendums on its opponents — not a choice between two candidates — and attacking the opponent’s perceived strengths head-on. Central to the latest McCain drive is an attempt to use against Mr. Obama the huge crowds and excitement he has drawn, including on his foreign trip last week, by promoting a view of him as more interested in attention and adulation than in solving the problems facing American families.
“I would say that it is beyond dispute that he has become the biggest celebrity in the world,” Mr. Schmidt said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. “The question that we are posing to the American people is this: ‘Is he ready to lead yet?’ And the answer to the question that we will offer to the American people is: ‘No he is not.’ ”
Mr. McCain’s more focused assault comes after one of his worst weeks of the general election campaign, when he seemed to fumble for a consistent, overarching critique of Mr. Obama, who winged around the Middle East and Europe. Mr. McCain’s advisers continue to look for ways to bring more discipline to his message, and are being urged by some supporters to cut back the frequency of his question-and-answer sessions with reporters, a staple of his campaign but one that occasionally yields unscripted moments, misstatements and off-the-cuff pronouncements that divert attention from the themes he is trying to promote.
The intensity of the recent drive — which has included some assertions from the McCain campaign that have been widely dismissed as misleading — has surprised even some allies of Mr. McCain, who has frequently spoken about the need for civility in politics. The sentiment seeped onto television on Wednesday with Andrea Tantaros, a Republican strategist, saying on MSNBC that the use of Ms. Hilton in Mr. McCain’s commercial was “absurd and juvenile,” and that he should spend more time promoting his own agenda.
Mr. Obama’s campaign seized on those concerns, trying to turn the tables by portraying Mr. McCain as cranky and negative. The Democratic National Committee called Mr. McCain “McNasty.” Late Wednesday Mr. Obama released a counter advertisement citing editorials critical of Mr. McCain’s latest volley of attacks and featuring an announcer who says, “John McCain, Same old politics, same failed policies.”
Asked by reporters about Mr. McCain’s new advertisement, Mr. Obama said, “I do notice that he doesn’t seem to have anything to say very positive about himself.”
MICHAEL DUKAKIS: I'm fed up with it. Haven't seen anything like it in 25 years of public life. George Bush's negative TV ads, distorting my record, full of lies and he knows it. I'm on the record for the very weapons systems his ads say I'm against. I want to build a strong defense. I'm sure he wants to build a strong defense. So this isn't about defense issues. It's about dragging the truth into the gutter. And I'm not going to let them do it. This campaign is too important. The stakes are too high for every American family. The real question is, will we have a president who fights for the privileged few, or will we have a president who fights for you? George Bush wants to give the wealthiest one percent of the people in this country a new tax break worth $30,000 a year. I'm fighting for you and your family, for affordable housing and health care, for better jobs, for the best education and opportunity for our children. It's a tough fight, I know that. Uphill all the way, but I'm going to keep on fighting because what I'm fighting for is our future.
Governor's team adds former Rove protege
Steve Schmidt displayed his uncanny political talent -- the ability to launch "rapid response" -- when Martha Alito fled weeping after senators cast her husband, Judge Samuel Alito, as a closet racist during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
Working the phones, the lawmakers and the media, Schmidt, the administration's point man on Alito's confirmation, lamented that she had been pushed to the limit by the Senate's Democrats.
"The American people who saw this hearing today are going to be troubled by some of the tactics of the Democrats, who I think didn't focus on law, didn't want to have an uplifting debate -- but made a decision to try to attack Judge Alito and tear him down in the most unfair way,'' Schmidt, 35, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in one live interview.
Republicans -- even some frustrated Democratic opponents -- shook their heads in admiration. Thanks to Schmidt's spin, the incident ballooned into front page headlines and photos sympathetic to the judge.
Schmidt, a former California political operative, was a member of the exclusive "breakfast club" led by top White House adviser Karl Rove that ran President Bush's re-election campaign.