John McCain's Metamorphosis From Smear Politics Victim To Perpetrator
Obama is not really meeting with troops in this photograph
The great thing about using smear tactics is that even when the smear is proven to be untrue the damage has been done.
This helps explain why in their latest effort to portray Barack Obama as unpatriotic, John McCain and his surrogates are accusing him in a TV commercial and elsewhere of canceling a visit to wounded troops at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a military hospital in Germany, because he was not allowed to take reporters and camera crews with him.
That does not explain why the McCain campaign continues to push the smear five days after it was debunked by the Pentagon and reporters and vigorously denied by the Obama campaign.
The answer is that the presumptive Republican nominee and his handlers know they can't win the old-fashioned way. That is, by convincing voters that he is the best candidate in a one-on-one matchup. McCain is having a hard time getting his message out without stepping on his own lines or being confronted with having multiple positions on the same issue, so he and his handlers have resorted to throwing everything against the wall when it comes to Obama no matter how unseemly or untrue in the hope that something sticks.
And so not only do they continue to use the Landstuhl smear, but claim that the Pentagon doesn't know what it's talking about in stating that the Army itself put the kaibosh on the hospital visit because of concerns that it would be inappropriate since it was part of a trip paid for by the Obama campaign, while reporters and the campaign say that he never intended to take a press entourage with him.
McCain's people have no intention of backing down from the smear and instead are piling on.
The candidate himself fulminated on CNN's "Larry King Live" that "I know that, according to reports, that he wanted to bring media people and cameras and his campaign staffers," while his campaign released a statement from retired Army NCO who once worked at the hospital who blustered that "If Senator Obama isn't comfortable meeting wounded American troops without his entourage, perhaps he does not have the experience necessary to serve as commander in chief."
Ironically, the McCain TV ad shows Obama meeting with troops, specifically shooting hoops at a gym in Kuwait before he ventured into Iraq and then on to Germany. The footage was supplied by the Pentagon. And there has been little mention of a bedside visit that Obama made to wounded soldiers in Baghdad or another in Washington. Without reporters and camera crews.
More ironic still, McCain knows firsthand the damage that a well-aimed smear can do.
His 2000 presidential run was nearly scuttled after a whispering campaign in South Carolina cooked up by George Bush consigliere Karl Rove that he had fathered an illegitimate black child. McCain at the time was stumping with his dark-skinned daughter, Bridget, age 8, who was adopted from a Mother Teresa orphanage in Bangladesh.
Even more ironic, Bridget McCain, now 16, is said to have discovered the slander while Googling herself, summoned her father's aides and got them to swear that they would never allow her daddy's campaign to engage in such tactics.
McCain said after the South Carolina incident that there "must be a special place in Hell" reserved for Rove and his co-smearers, but in the intervening years he has come to realize that the kind of crusading maverick that he once proudly presented himself as being is unwelcome in a hidebound, change averse Republican Party.
Indeed, McCain has morphed into a grumpy Bush hugger who is contemptuously ignorant of the rule of law, the plight of the middle class and the power of diplomacy who finds much to admire in Rove. He now say he "always respected [Rove] . . . as one of the great political minds I think in American politics," adding that he would welcome his advice, which he most certainly has been getting, however indirectly, through the likes of Steve Schmidt.
Schmidt is a Rove disciple and veteran of Bush's 2004 campaign where he specialized in attack ads against that traitorous windsurfing girlie boy, John Kerry. He was brought on board to give the McCain message the hard edge that campaign manager Rick Davis was said to not be delivering on.
Then there is the accumulated wisdom of GOP operative Terry Nelson, the mastermind of the racially charged 2006 TV commercial that not so subtly linked black Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford to a white bimbo. Nelson's grubby hands are all over the latest McCain TV ad that seeks to link Obama to . . . a couple of white bimbos by the name of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton by backhanding him as "the biggest celebrity in the world." Amazing, no? And how much further can these slimemeisters lower the bar? Just wait and see.
All of this begs a question: Where do you suppose Bridget McCain's daddy's special place will be?
Photograph from U.S. military via The Associated Press