McCain likes to mention himself as part of the "Reagan Revolution," but his greatest legacy from Saint Ronnie may be his Teflon coating. On ABC's This Week, Mark Halperin explained how McCain not knowing how many houses he owned helped... McCain. TPM has the video:
A few key lines:
HALPERIN: My hunch is this is going to end up being one of the worst moments in the entire campaign for one of the candidates, but it’s Barack Obama... I believe that this has opened the door to not just Tony Rezko in that ad, but to bringing up Reverend Wright, to bringing up his relationship with Bill Ayers... I think it would have been hard for John McCain, given the way he says he's going to run this campaign, to do all this stuff without the door being opened... It started with the Obama campaign, filled with machismo and aggressiveness...
Halperin gets extra points for bringing up Rezko, Wright and Ayers all in one sentence. Mighty efficient. Never mind if there's little to nothing to these "scandals" -- in Halperin's world, it's all about what will play and what will stick.
It's interesting how Halperin speaks about McCain and "the way he says he's going to run this campaign." It's as if Halperin hasn't bothered to watch what the man of honor and his campaign actually have been doing, and remains blissfully unaware of the numerous negative ads they've run. Stephanopoulos even brings up McCain's smear against Obama, that he'd rather lose a war than an election, but Halperin brushes it off. In his world, the macho, aggressive Obama campaign started all this, and it will be their fault when the McCain campaign continues decides to go negative – with great reluctance, I'm sure. Halperin's always been about the perception game versus the merits of a claim (or heaven forbid, a policy), but it's a pretty bizarre stance nonetheless. Even Cokie Roberts isn't buying it.
Think Progress points out that Halperin claimed the Russia-Georgia conflict helped McCain, too. Crooks and Liars has a slightly longer clip of the same segment (about 5 minutes), and ABC has the entire segment (about 20 minutes).
To their credit, Stephanopoulos and Brazile challenge Halperin somewhat, and Cokie Roberts actually makes some sensible points about the real economic issues at work. Unsurprisingly though, none of that lasts long. It's especially rich to hear Halperin say, "But Donna, would you rather this election be about Ayers versus Keating, or about the economy and George Bush?" as if Halperin's being talking about the economy in a substantive way rather than bringing up gossipy GOP smears.
The C&L clip also shows some choice comments of George Will's before Halperin starts in. Few pundits can bring the pompous like George Will, and he's in fine form here. Will tries to dismiss the charges against McCain by pointing out that FDR was wealthy but did a great deal for those who weren't, according to what he calls "the mythology" of the Democratic Party. FDR did do a great deal for the non-wealthy, of course, and Will is correct that both McCain and Obama are rich, but he conveniently avoids any discussion of their economic policies and their consequences. McCain is certainly no FDR on taxes. Digby recently revisited the campaigns' competing tax policies and how the rich get even richer under McCain while the middle class fares better under Obama, yet the Democrats still get tagged as "elitists." This is not a dynamic Will wishes to change. In his most recent column, he plays a similar game, assailing Obama on his energy policy and also on his plan to raise taxes on the rich. Will closes by asking, "In this year's campaign, soggy with environmental messianism, deranged self-importance and delusional economics, the question is: Where is the derisive laughter?" Will smacks Obama around for his "nonsensical political rhetoric," but on taxes Will never does mention who benefits under Obama's plan versus McCain's, and never discusses their comparative soundness. He won't mention that Obama will pay more in taxes under his own policy, while Cindy McCain will receive about $370,000 under the McCain plan. Nor does Will offer any derisive laughter for McCain's plan to balance the budget and reduce the deficit through "victory" in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It's not surprising that conservative pundits such as Will would take this approach, but it would be nice if supposedly objective reporters like Halperin didn't also push GOP talking points, and great if supposedly Democratic pundits pushed back much more forcefully. Despite Halperin's high-minded protestations, it's not so much that the Obama campaign hasn't been about Bush, the economy and other issues, it's more that our television talking heads prefer talking about the Keating Five, Ayers and attack ads. (And if they must talk about such things, it'd be nice if at least they weren't nonsensical.)
It's not just Halperin, of course. Tom Brokaw and Chuck Todd recently defended McCain on the houses front, with Brokaw citing an e-mail to invoke -- you guessed it – the POW defense. I imagine they heard what Halperin heard -- John McCain said he'd run a respectful campaign, and John McCain is an honorable man (so are they all, Rick Davis included, honorable men). It reminds me of this stirring defense for the Teflon saint: