Charlie Black's Kinsleyian Gaffe

McCain adviser Charlie Black "deeply regret[s] the comments" he made in Fortune Magazine -- "they were inappropriate. I recognize that John McCain has devoted his entire adult life to protecting his country and placing its security before every other consideration.” Black, in response to a question -- see the context below -- told the truth as he sees it. In the event of a terrorist attack, would McCain benefit? Black gave a straightforward answer. In our post 9/11 etiquette, campaign advisers are never supposed to answer questions like that, even if they are questions which we journalists get all the time... and we know that our subjects ponder often. (Obama spokesman Bill Burton called Black's comments a "disgrace." )

Let's put aside our Humean selves and ask: is Black right? When existential worries predominate, will voters flock to the security blanket provided by a guy with decades of national security experience? Or will they blame McCain by proxy?


Not America's dependence on foreign oil? Not climate change? Not the crushing cost of health care? Eventually McCain gets around to mentioning all three of those. But he starts by deftly turning the economy into a national security issue - and why not? On national security McCain wins. We saw how that might play out early in the campaign, when one good scare, one timely reminder of the chaos lurking in the world, probably saved McCain in New Hampshire, a state he had to win to save his candidacy - this according to McCain's chief strategist, Charlie Black. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December was an "unfortunate event," says Black. "But his knowledge and ability to talk about it reemphasized that this is the guy who's ready to be Commander-in-Chief. And it helped us." As would, Black concedes with startling candor after we raise the issue, another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. "Certainly it would be a big advantage to him," says Black.
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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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