A week and a half ago, when Barack Obama seemed to be floundering and the McCain-Palin team was in ascent, I mentioned Chuck Spinney's observation that McCain might in fact be in the process of destroying himself.
Spinney's argument -- with excerpts after the jump -- was that McCain's tactical, day by day, "winning the news cycle" plan for attacking Obama with often-misleading ads could amount to a strategic, long-term, self-inflicted defeat. The idea was that McCain's entire political identity rested on an image of honesty, decency, and not playing petty political games. So if his campaign seemed to contradict his essential values, it could in the end hurt him more than its intended victim.
By the way: McCain didn't need Spinney to explain this principle to him. It's basically the same point McCain has passionately made in saying that a decent, democratic society committed to rule-of-law simply cannot afford to condone torture as official policy.
(Why didn't the same Swiftboat scorched-earth tactics hurt GW Bush? Well, given the extreme narrowness of the margins in 2000 and 2004, perhaps they did. But the real point is, Bush never relied on a reputation for bipartisan, above-the-fray, national-interest politics the way McCain has.)
I'll have more about McCain's latest debate "plan" and financial proposals later this evening. For the moment I say: the obvious, desperate, 100% transparent stunt of ducking the first debate for the "good of the nation" exactly fits Spinney's analysis. For each voter who believes McCain's explanation for this proposal, ten more will say: Are you kidding? How gullible do you think we are?
It is a long, depressing, and self-inflicted descent for a man many people, including me, once respected.
And by the way, whatever McCain does, Obama should show up as scheduled at Ole Miss for the debate.
From Spinney's remarks:
I am beginning to sense that McCain behavior is destroying himself and that Obama has the good sense or instinct to take a deep step back and let McCain dig a hole so deep he can not get out.
After all, McCain has spent years branding himself as a straight talker of truth who puts country ahead of self ... it was always a phony image, but now he is aggressively destroying that brand name and replacing it with the opposite Rovian brand. This is something we have seen all too often -- a man who will do anything and say anything to get elected, to include selecting someone for vice president who is obviously not qualified to be President, even though he would be the oldest person ever to be elected President, and is a cancer survivor to boot, with a heart condition and an abused body (from torture), and therefore, actuarially the most likely President in history to die in office, if elected.
Maybe Obama's behavior is akin to subtly waving the red cape to lure McCain into reinforcing the rebranding operation.
I have this vague sense that Obama's goal (maybe instinct is a better word) may be to create an atmosphere (perhaps by looking weak, iter alia) that encourages McCain to reinforce this self destructive behavior and thereby make his hypocrisy obvious to a majority of the undecided voters.