In the Washington Post, E.J. Dionne writes an op-ed piece that captures Obama’s dilemma:
The campaign is a blur of flying pieces of junk, lipstick and gutter-style attacks. John McCain’s deceptions about Baracks views and Sarah Palin’s flip-flopping suggest an unedifying scuffle over a city council seat.
The media bear a heavy responsibility because “balance” does not require giving equal time to truth and lies. So does McCain, who is running a disgraceful, dishonorable campaign of distraction and diversion.
But Obama bears responsibility, too: His task is to remind Americans that the stakes in this election are far higher than the matter of who said what and when about Palin. He isn’t doing that.
Nonetheless, it’s clear that Obama has lost control of this campaign. And he will not seize back the initiative with the sometimes halting, conversational and sadly reluctant sound bites he has been producing. The excitement Obama created at the beginning of the year has vanished.
Here’s the problem: Few voters know that Obama would cut the taxes of the vast majority of Americans by far more than McCain would. Few know Obama would guarantee everyone access to health care or that McCain’s health plan might endanger coverage many already have. Few know that Obama has a coherent program to create new jobs through public investment in roads, bridges, transit, and green technologies….
It should not be hard for Obama to use crisp, punchy language to force the media and the voters to pay attention to the basic issue in this election: whether the country will slowly continue down a road to decline, or whether, to invoke a slogan from long ago, we can get the country moving again.
Setting aside for a moment the accuracy of E.J.’s characterization of all of Obama’s positions, I would agree that Obama has lost control of the message, at least for now.
McCain-Palin are fighting like pitbulls. Palin is the bait, the lure; the real pit bull is McCain, trying to shred Obama in anyway he can: Pull him off message, take away his luster. So far it has worked.
And where is Biden? Maybe he is whispering something somewhere in the wings. Biden certainly is not in the fray, at least as far as the national media are concerned. Media spotlight is the name of the game.
Perhaps Biden should step down, realizing that right now he is adding nothing to the mud fight and let Hillary take his place. Right now, Biden is a lost cause, chosen because he brought international expertise to the ticket, chosen to counter Obama’s presumed inexperience.
Now that would be a counter to the McCain-Palin nonsense. Suddenly the whole field shifts; there is a new game. Palin versus Hillary. Let’s talk about who is qualified to do what.
While I understand the problems involved in such a change–how does Biden bow out, for example–, I am serious about my suggestion.
Sorry, E.J., no amount of “crisp, punchy language” can compete with lipstick on a pig.
In a campaign like this, do the unexpected. Change the script.
Let Hillary answer the silly charges; she has far more visibility than Biden. She will be heard. She will get attention. Let Obama be on message. And let the far-right howl and show their real colors, as they desperately re-write their playbook.