Jonah Goldberg at NRO was asking for readers' thoughts on what McCain should do in the next two debates. I planned to fire off a quick email, and ended up with a pamphlet – I've been turning these ideas over for a while now, so I may as well put them out there.
I can't believe that no-one in the McCain campaign is thinking about this stuff – and sure enough it appears they're ready to 'take the gloves off' – but going on previous form I think they need all the help they can get.
1. At some point, and perhaps several times, Obama will try to link McCain to Bush. McCain should respond along these lines:
"You're desperate to connect me to President Bush aren't you senator? Well let's get something straight right now: I've had my disagreements with President Bush, and they've been well-documented. But the President is a decent and honorable man who loves his country, and what a lot of people seem to be forgetting is that he has kept this country safe from terrorist attack for seven years (emphasis), something that no-one believed was possible in the aftermath of 9/11. The President has been demonised by you and your fellow Democrats, and by your cheerleaders in the mainstream media, but I will not (emphasis) disown him for the sake of political expediency; that, Senator Obama, is your game, as you've shown by your attempts to disassociate yourself from the terrorist Bill Ayers, who plotted to murder American soliders, the racist preacher Jeremiah Wright, the convicted fraudster Tony Rezko and the other radicals and extremists who helped you get where you are today."
2. As lots of people are saying, with the bailout bill safely passed McCain should go on the attack over Fannie and Freddie, and the CRA (although I appreciate that there's a 'racial sensitivity' issue there). Specifically, McCain should point out that Obama voted against tougher regulation of F&F, then ask Obama:
"Why don't you tell the American people how much money you got from Freddie and Fannie?"
If he dissembles McCain should say: "If you don't tell them, I will." When Obama continues to dissemble, as he surely will, McCain should say (preferrably over the dissembling):
"You took almost $130,000 senator. And now you're returning the favour by pretending Fannie and Freddie had nothing to do with this crisis."
He should say that Democrats "took the money and looked the other way", although perhaps without saying Obama did so. Of course he should also bring up Johnson and Raines: "Far from calling for Jim Johnson to be punished senator, you rewarded him by putting him in charge of the committee to select your running mate!"
3. Related, he should bring up the Acorn connection, pointing out that Obama helped to train and fund the radical groups who pressured (intimidated? shook down?) the banks into giving loans to unqualified borrowers. He should say something like:
"Wall Street certainly takes much of the blame, but so should the Democrats who looked the other way, and so should you and your radical friends who were there right at the start of this thing."
He should also bring up Annenberg, make the Ayers connection again, and talk about the $100 million for improving schools that was diverted to Acorn and other radical groups.
See Stanley Kurtz's NYP story for more on the above if you haven't already.
4. McCain should point out all the instances of Obama saying one thing to get the nomination, and another thing once he got it. He should deride Obama's claims to have 'worked across the aisle'. And if push comes to shove, McCain should confront Obama on ideology. He should call him a socialist:
"You know senator, you've come a long way without ever telling the American people what you really stand for - nobody really knows, and I think the American people deserve to hear exactly what you believe. If you believe that socialist policies are best for America, you should have the courage of your convictions and say so, instead of hiding behind all this talk of hope and change and bipartisanship. You have the right to propose whatever policies you want senator, but what you don't have the right to do is insult the intelligence of the American people by pretending that those policies amount to anything other than bigger, costlier and more intrusive government. And that, senator, is called socialism."
5. Related, when Obama starts riffing on 'hope' (or even if he doesn't), McCain should say:
"You talk a lot about hope senator. Well I believe the American people deserve to be given more than 'hope' (derisively). They don't want 'hope'. They want assurances, they want specifics, they want certainty. They need to know that their leaders are going to help them, not hold them back, by cutting taxes and by giving them the freedom to raise their families and run their businesses in the way they see fit."
He could add that the Democrats have been "peddling hope" in America's biggest cities for decades, and what has the result been? Rising crime, failing schools and broken families (implicitly pitching to black voters here).
"I want to replace the Democrats' culture of dependancy with a culture of responsibility."
"Likewise, America's friends around the world need more than 'hope'. The people of Iraq need to be assured that the next President of the United States won't abandon them just so he can pander to extremist elements within his party. The people of Georgia, Ukraine and other former Soviet republicans need to know that the United States will stand with them in the face of Russian aggression. And oppressed peoples around the world need assurance too. The people of Iran, Venezuela and Cuba need to know that the dictators who control their countries and harbour terrorists won't be given legitimacy, and a propaganda coup, in the shape of a visit from the US President."
6. McCain should bring up the attempts by the Obama campaign to shut down discussion of his past by bombarding radio stations with protest calls, and threatening radio and TV stations that run anti-Obama ads with legal action.
"Is this what you mean when you talk about a new kind of politics senator? Threats, intimidation and bullying tactics? If that's the case I think I'd rather stick with the old politics."
"What is it you're afraid of?"
Any more suggestions welcome. And if someone from the McCain camp happens to stumble across this, feel free to copy and paste into Mac's teleprompter software. Hell, you can even take credit for it.