Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

McCain campaign gauges Obama rhetoric can be used against him

| 16 Comments

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Listening to the speeches at the GOP convention here, what becomes clear is that the McCain campaign -- as did the failed Hillary Clinton Democratic primary bid -- sees Barack Obama's soaring rhetoric as a weapon to be used against him.

But in the view of the McCain messaging department, Clinton went about it the wrong way. Clinton attacked Obama's speeches as "just words." McCain's team wants to emphasize how wonderful the words in Obama's speeches are and then take the next step -- asking him what else he's got.


The point of this latest permutation for the McCain troops is to give Obama his due for his eloquence -- and then argue that McCain has a robust track record in a number of areas that shows he can change how business is done in Washington while Obama has accomplished far less.

Instead of trying to tear down Obama's aspirational words, which people like, McCain and company want to push over the top the notion that Obama is a celebrity speaker in a league of his own.

We heard a sample of that strategy in ads that started running a few weeks ago and in Sarah Palin's vice presidential acceptance speech when she said, "We've all heard his dramatic speeches before devoted followers, and there is much to like and admire about our opponent.

" . . . But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed, when the roar of the crowd fades away, when the stadium lights go out and those styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot -- when that happens, what exactly is our opponent's plan?

"What does he actually seek to accomplish after he's done turning back the waters and healing the planet?" Palin said.

On Thursday, former Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge pushed ahead with the strategy when he said of Obama -- not by name, "It's not about talking pretty, it's about talking straight."

When Obama uses grandiose language, the McCain point is not to mock him as the Clinton crew did -- it's not that you want to say, "hey, he doesn't give a good speech," because he does. That was what the Hillary campaign mistakenly tried to do. It tried to say "those are just words.''

But if you say, "Oh my God, that is amazing," McCain's folks are working it so people will then say, "OK . . . and?"

Said senior McCain adviser Matt McDonald: "The question we will pose to Americans is: Once the speech is over, once the lights go out, once the temple has been put away, what is left? That's a question that Barack Obama cannot answer because he has no record."

Footnote: Obama senior adviser Robert Gibbs, meeting with reporters on Thursday, was asked if Palin's surprise appointment changes the Obama game plan.
"I do think her selection is primarily a selection to excite the Republican base," said Gibbs.
"I think her speech played well inside the hall last night. I think the jury is definitely still out on how it plays in a lot of suburban, say suburban counties, throughout the country where we think swing voters will ultimately decide this election. It doesn't change our strategy at all."

16 Comments

But what exactly is the Republican's plan to "change" things. It's as if they haven't been in charge these last eight years. "Let us fix the mess we've created," they say. Sorry, no thanks. This independent is voting Democrat in November. They've had eight years - that's enough.

Here is a thought-provoking matter to ponder over about Gov Palin. In Alaska there is a Statutory Rape law on the books that says that if an 18yr old has sex with a 17yr old it is a felony, and this law is implicit. Though I personally don’t agree with teens having sex because of what can possibly happen, as in the case with Gov Palin’s daughter. However, my argument is not whether an 18yr old should be arrested for having sex with a 17yr old, which I am not all that crazy about, but the law is the law. It can also be argued that Gov Palin has been an irresponsible parent for allowing it to happen, by not taking a stronger stand in educating her daughter about what can happen if she makes the choice to date and have sex, not to mention his age. This has more to do with Gov Palin being an irresponsible elected official, for not upholding the laws that she took an oath to uphold. Gov Palin along with others are treating this only as a personal matter, while totally disregarding its legal implication. I know this has caused personal embarrassment for Gov Palin, and I can sympathize with her for the embarrassment it has caused. Yet Irrespective of your differences with my opinion on this matter, I am sure we can all agree that we need someone in the Whitehouse that would implement the laws that they are entrusted to uphold. Because when we take a closer look at this matter, without any doubt there is a double standard being applied in this case, while many youngsters around the Country are serving jail time for commenting this same offense? After all, isn’t the Republican the ones that are always saying building more prisons, is what this Country needs? How can we allow Gov Palin to govern America, with this type of mentality? I HOPE THIS IS NOT WHAT SHE MEANS WHEN SHE SAYS THAT SHE IS A MAVERICK!

Drill baby drill!
Drill baby Drill!
USA! USA! USA!
Blacks to the back!!!
Blacks to the back!!!
USA!!! USA!!!
Kill the homos!!!
Kill the homos!!!
USA! USA! USA!
Start more wars!!!
Start more wars!!!
USA! USA!
Destroy public schools!!!
Destroy public schools!!!
USA!!! USA!!!
We wanna theocracy!!!
We wanna theocracy!!!
USA!!! USA!!
Ban all abortions!!!
Ban All Abortions!!!
USA!!! USA!!! USA!!! USA!!!

We're John McSame and Osarah bin Palin and we approve this message!

Working for Obama but wondering why the heck we couldn't have had 8 years of hillary and then 8 years of obama. It's 8 years too soon--McCain's really appealing to the inner idiot, the inner racist---and won't they be having a few mcheart attacks, a few mcstrokes in the next 6 years or so?

WHAT DID MCCAIN'S SPEECH ACCOMPLISH?
ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, SAY IT AGAIN, NOTHING!
OBAMA IS LIGHT YEARS AHEAD OF MCCAIN!
PALIN NEEDS TO CALL HILLARY TO ASK HOW TO REMAIN
LADY LIKE WHEN CAMPAIGNING FOR A REAL POLITCAL
JOB!
SARAH PALIN ATTENDED 5 COLLEGES IN 6 YEARS!
WHAT'S THAT ALL ABOUT!
SHE NEEDS TO HIRE A NANNY FOR HER SON WITH SPECIAL
NEEDS!
PALIN AND MCCAIN ARE COMING TO CHICAGO TODAY,
THEY NEED MONEY, AND FUEL FOR THE WIFE'S PLANE!

I never cease to be amazed at the anger and bitterness expressed in comments like those appearing here. Accusations of racism for anyone who dares not pay homage to Obama, insinuations that Gov. Palin is an unfit mother because her daughter made an all too common mistake. Yet this vindictiveness does nothing but help McCain because so many Americans are sick and tired of all this biting cynicism and negativism about their country, their values and the people they admire. There are a lot of good people out there who love their country and hold traditional values. These are the people who will give you the shirt off their back in times of need, who contribute their last dollar to church or charity, who volunteer to help disaster victims and don't sit around whining and blogging about what a terrible country we have. And guess who they're going to vote for?

WHY DID PALIN ATTEND 5 COLLEGES IN 6 YEARS!
IS SHE SLOW LIKE MCCAIN?
HE WAS 894 OUT OF 899 AT THE NAVAL ACADEMY!
NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, THESE ARE THE POSTER CHILDREN FOR THE PROGRAM!
I'LL SUPPORT THE MEN WITH LAW DEGREES!
OBAMA AND BIDEN THE SMARTER CHOICE!

McCain boldest move is a real winner. Go McCain and Palin, beat Osama and Sniden!

4 more years of spending. 4 more years without paying the debt(that by the way are trillions).4 more years without diplomacy. 4 more years of war. 4 more years of self center attitude. 4 more years of decadence. 4 more years of the same. Say no to Mcsame!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Suck it up Soldier!
John McCain suffered for your sins.
He's a P.O.W.
4 More Years!

Suck it up Soldier!
Pay no attention to the Vet protesting
during his speech because he and those
like him are just static on the floor.
4 More Years!

Suck it up Soldier!
Fear 9/11, play that video one more time,
it will happen again.
4 More Years!

Suck it up Soldier!
John McCain was crucified at the hands of the
Romans/Vietnamese, stop your whining.
4 More Years!

Suck it up Soldier!
The Liberal elite Media
is to blame for Republican failure in the
past 8 years.
4 More Years!

Suck it up Soldier!
Sara Palins more qualified than
all the Senate combined, she's the most
popular Governor in the whole world.
4 More Years!

Suck it up Soldier!
You're an Army of One.
Your're on your own. Pull yourself up
by your bootstraps, nevermind you don't have any.
4 More Years!

Suck it up Soldier!
John McCain's been in Washington
25 years, voted 95% with Bush,
he's a Maverick.
4 More Years!

Suck it up Soldier!
FEAR! Fear Change.
FEAR! The other Guy,
He brings Hope and acts like the
messiah, Jesus. Let's belittle him.
4 More Years!

Suck it up Soldier!
The bad economy is all in you're head.
I suffered without health care in the Hanoi Hilton,
you should accept to suffer too.
4 More Years!

Not This time. No Way. No How. No McCain.

I sent in a coment on the photo that ran with this story in the Times, and it was not posted. The photo was of Obama, looking like a saint with a glow of light around him. I made an accusation of subliminal messaging.
Why wasn't my comment posted?
I left you my full e-mail so you can respond.

A friend gave me a gift subscription to More.
Unfortunate that now I will have to cancel it.

You must not have liked my other post on this article, so I will try again. Palin appeals to average American blue collar and white collar families. She is as down to earth as a politician is capable of being. THAT is her strong suit. Disagreement with her politics is understandable if one is a liberal. She is after all, a Republican. A truly objective person would have to agree that she is a breath of fresh air compared to the other three candidates on the public stage right now. Show your disapproval of her by disagreeing with her political views, not the more salacious circumstances of her life and family. In my book, she pretty much has the average American family. A blue collar husband, a pregnant teenage daughter, and a special needs child. Whatever you think, this woman knows how to work hard and hold her family together at the same time. Most men can't claim that for themselves.

HOW IS THIS LADY GOING TO KEEP HER FAMILY
TOGETHER AND RUN FOR VICE-PRESIDENT?
THEY ARE IN ALASKA AND SHE IS GOING AROUND THE
COUNTRY HOLDING DEAR JOHN'S HAND WHILE CINDY
IS MAKING SURE THERE IS NO HANKY-PANKY GOING ON!
THE GOP CAN'T WIN THE ELECTION, EVERYDAY THE
ECONOMY GETS MORE WORSE, AMERICA WAKE UP AND SMELL
THE COFFEE, THE GOP WILL MAKE THINGS WORSE,IT'S
TIME TO GIVE THE DEMOCRATS A SHOT AT MAKING
THINGS BETTER!
THE POLLS ARE WRONG AND THE POLLSTERS KNOW THEY
ARE INACCURATE, THAT'S CALLED FEAR MONGERING!
OBAMA AND BIDEN WILL WIN IN A LANDSLIDE!
PITBULL OR NO PITBULL MCCAIN CAN'T WIN!

I think that I will be very glad when this Presidential campaign is over and Barack and Michelle and family will move into the White House. Some people do not realize that now but they will find out as time goes by. More and more info. is coming out regarding McCain's pick for V.P. What surprises me is that she can criticize what Com Organizers do for others. Plus what is this recent info regarding her religious beliefs. They believe that they can pray for Gays and they will no longer be Gay. Evidently they know nothing about the Gay population. The other most recent beliefs as indicated on the news is that the Iraq war was sanctioned by God. Are we getting weird or what? Do we really want someone in the White House that believes this eroneous balony.I think that the only reason Sarah was chosen for V.P. is that she could excite the McCain campaign which he alone has been unable to do. He is riding on her ability to stimulate the crowd. I think he has made a huge mistake and it will all hit him in the forehead just like the commercial. JOJO

Did you not like my last comment related to the chosen GOP V.P. Sarah Palin? I guess I can redo the comments however I must share the same concern about her. She ridiculed Com Organizers by suggesting that Gov. have specific jobs? She suggested to her Church congregation that God is directing the war in Iraq and Iran. She also commented that her Church congregation can pray for Gays to become straight. She is obviously oblivious to what Gays life is all about? It is also apparent that the reason she was chosen was to spark up McCains campaign because he has not been able to do that on his own. Do we want these candidates to be running our country? Lord help us. With out a doubt we need Obama/Biden in the White House. Michelle will be a wonderful first lady. The best ever. Come on people. JoJo.

Leave a comment

Get the Sweet widget

More widgets

Video

Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Stay in touch

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on September 5, 2008 1:53 AM.

The Lynn Sweet GOP convention balloon drop video was the previous entry in this blog.

McCain four-city fund-raising tour launches in Chicago; to bankroll battleground state drives is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.