McCain Uses Hillary Clinton’s 3 a.m. Ad To Attack Obama

Just as we all knew he would, McCain has picked up Hillary Clinton’s 3 a.m. ad to attack Obama’s foreign policy experience:


This is a prime example of what’s been wrong with the Obama campaign so far. McCain sets the terms of the campaign debate, and Obama responds to McCain’s charges. That needs to be turned around, and soon:

… Today I’ve chatted or exchanged emails with various folks in the Obama campaign. And I’ve been asking them, are these surrogates — the ones for military issues, the one for foreign affairs — are they going to be taking this to John McCain? Sure, they’re going to vouch for Barack Obama and they’ll say the McCain campaign is wrong when they attack him. But are they going to affirmatively go after John McCain — on his history of poor judgment, how little he understands about the foreign policy threats facing the country, how risky it would be to let him become commander-in-chief, his history of voting against veterans’ benefits and then lying about voting against them.

Democrats are used to presidential campaigns that don’t fight back. But really fighting back sucks only slightly less than not fighting back. It’s like being in a war and having your strategy be to defend yourself when the other side attacks you. Or your strategy for winning the world series is dynamite fielding.

Just like in every other kind of battle, you can only have any real hope of winning by taking the initiative and holding it. Not just going on the attack but defining the whole conversation. David Kurtz just interviewed Paul Begala down on the convention floor. And he put it exactly right. This isn’t about answering their attacks. It’s about the Democrats making the McCain folks answer their attacks. So far, I’m not seeing it. But now’s when the election really starts.

Obama has to assertively debunk this notion that John McCain has meaningful foreign policy experience or that he understands anything about the global dangers we face or how to appropriately respond to them.

Does a man who embraces the foreign policy disasters of the current administration — which bogged the United States down in an unnecessary and unjustified war in Iraq, multiplied the threat of terrorism, destroyed this country’s international reputation, and shredded constitutional democracy at home — seem like someone with the kind of experience in and understanding of foreign policy Americans need?

McCain’s speech at the American Legion National Convention in Phoenix today, in which he accused Obama of having confidence in himself but not in his country is yet another example of a missed opportunity to take the offensive. In the speech, McCain questioned Obama’s confidence in his country:

There are those who say that our day as the free world’s leader has passed, that our moment is waning. They point to the anti-Americanism that is sometimes heard in Europe and elsewhere, and take this as a sign that America no longer has the strength or the moral credibility to lead. The criticisms tend to pass or quiet down when global threats and dangers appear. In times of trouble, free nations of the world still look to America for leadership, because they know the strength of America remains the greatest force for good on this earth.

My opponent had the chance to express such confidence in America, when he delivered a much anticipated address in Berlin. He was the picture of confidence, in some ways. But confidence in oneself and confidence in one’s country are not the same. And in that speech, Senator Obama left an important point unclear. He suggested that the end of the Cold War proved that there was, quote, “no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.” Now I missed a few years of the Cold War, as the guest of one of our adversaries, but as I recall the world was deeply divided during the Cold War – between the side of freedom and the side of tyranny. The Cold War ended not because the world stood “as one,” but because the great democracies came together, bound together by sustained and decisive American leadership.

There is so much gold to mine here for Obama to use proactively against McCain that it isn’t even funny. First off, there is the gratuitous reference to being a POW. Obama could do several campaign ads, at least, on the fact that McCain’s foreign policy experience is so weak that he has to rely on having been a POW in Vietnam 35 years ago to make the case that he has any.

Next, think about what McCain is implying when he says that Obama’s suggestion “that the end of the Cold War proved that there was, quote, ‘no challenge too great for a world that stands as one’ ” shows that Obama “does not have confidence in his country.” It’s not enough to assert America’s part in ending the Cold War. One has to give America all the credit for ending the Cold War. To suggest that international cooperation played any role whatsoever is to “lack confidence” in America.

I mean, that is an extraordinary statement of belief, there. McCain does not believe in many countries working together as equals to achieve goals beneficial to all. He does not believe in peaceful solutions to conflict. It’s not that he doesn’t think it’s possible to resolve conflicts without resorting to war — it’s that he thinks it’s undesirable to do so. He believes in enforcing American hegemony via militarism and disdains consensus, cooperation, and compromise.

Hey, let’s be plainspoken here. McCain is a warmonger.

So why doesn’t Obama say this? Can you imagine a campaign ad in which Obama just repeats his own words — “No challenge is too great for a world that stands as one” — and then goes to a shot of McCain saying that Obama lacks confidence in his country because he said that no challenge is too great for a country that stands as one, and finally just repeats, in an incredulous tone, shaking his head, “Can you believe that John McCain does not believe that the world should stand as one, or that it can stand as one? Can you believe that John McCain does not think the world outside America has anything to contribute to the solution of the world’s problems, and that even to suggest that it does, is to ‘lack confidence’ in America? Is this the kind of man who should be running this great country?”

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