Dover Bitch

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Old School

(Cross-posted at Hullabaloo)

Over at his new base of operations, the Washington Monthly's Political Animal, the prolific Steve Benen (he has to be a robot) brings up the impolitic age issue:

Interestingly enough, 87% said they were comfortable with an African-American president, but 55% said the same about a 72-year-old president. Moreover, while 11% conceded they were uncomfortable with an African-American president, 45% said the same of a 72-year-old president. Only 6% said they were "entirely uncomfortable" with a black president, while more than triple, 20%, said the same of a septuagenarian.

Now, I don't doubt that some respondents were being less than honest about their racial prejudices, but even putting that aside, that's a lot of people who are obviously uneasy about McCain's advanced age.

I continue to think this is something of a sleeper issue in this campaign. There's been enormous interest in exploring the racial angles to this campaign, but there's ample data -- going back to early last year -- that McCain's age actually matters to voters, and it's an issue that raises doubts.

Absolutely it's a big issue. And there's no way that the Obama campaign can come right out and say it. Fortunately, the McCain camp has already demonstrated how to get a message out there: By ostensibly putting out an entirely different message.

John McCain stands in front of signs that read "COUNTRY FIRST" and states flatly that Obama wants America to lose a war for his own personal interests. That's clearly a question of judgment! How could anybody think he was questioning Obama's patriotism?

JILL ZUCKMAN, "THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE": I just want to be a little contrarian here. How do you talk about a war—how do you talk about your opponent's position on the war without it being imbued with the patriotism issue? McCain didn't say, I'm questioning his patriotism. He's questioning his policy. Obama wanted to bring the troops home when things were very, very bad in Iraq. And he wants to bring them home now when things are good.

Well done, Jill!

Even though IOKIYAR is usually the order of the day, the subtext detectors of the chattering classes appear eager to scrutinize Obama's ads for hidden meaning. Here's Chris Matthews, reacting to the Obama ad that points out how out-of-touch John McCain is with his countless assets:

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Richard, tough call here, was that an implicit shot at what some people call a senior moment, when a person can't remember what they should remember? Was that another way they thought they were hurting him by jumping on him?

WOLFFE: The framework they're using—and you can decide for yourself whether this refers to age—is him being out of touch. Now, is he out of touch with his own life or out of touch with the American people and the economy as it is today? The campaign would argue strenuously this is about the economy. But, you know, what's the explanation for someone not knowing how much property they own? It's either his wife was really running things. Their marriage is such that they don't really share these issues with each other. Or he's got too much property. Or he's somehow cut loose from his own life.

Every "Democratic Strategist" on his show has explained to Matthews that the ad is about the economy and that a guy who believes in "mental recessions" ought to at least understand what it is to have money on your mind. But if Hardball wants to talk about John McCain's age all day, great. Let them think that Obama wants to make age an issue, too. We all know that "journalistic rules" prevent the media professionals from creating a debate unless the Democrats explicitly tell them to. If they don't think that things like the age and Ambien consumption of the president are worthy of discussion without provocation from the Obama camp, then they'll have to be led to believe that provocation is really happening. It would seem they're willing to believe it already.

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