Rick Davis, a top McCain adviser and longtime confidante, revealed the McCain strategy for the coming weeks in a comment last week:
This election is not about issues. This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates.
This strategy has been clear for some time – as McCain sought to frame every question of issues as one of character, and as McCain surrogates have relentlessly and viciously attacked Obama’s character.
For example, when discussing Obama’s plan for Iraq, McCain, found it difficult to defend his position as the Iraqi government and the Bush administration moved towards Obama’s position. Instead of defending his plans, he chose to attack Obama’s character and call into question Obama’s patriotism:
It seems to me that Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.
Because his opponent disagreed with him on a policy issue, he called him a traitor.
When McCain chose to focus on Obama’s economic record, again, he4 was unable to defend his own plans or records, so he made the false claim that Obama was planning on raising “your” taxes – when in fact Obama’s plan would cut taxes more than McCain’s would for 90% of Americans – and attempted to trivialize Obama’s popularity as mere “celebrity.” Rather than disagreeing with Obama’s proposals, McCain chose to use them to characterize Obama as a lightweight and to mock him.
When Obama was unable to visit soldiers in Germany during his overseas trip, McCain claimed that Obama refused to go without the media – a claim that the members of the media traveling with Obama had personal knowledge was false.
McCain has run ads including carefully edited clips of Obama mocking the views of those who suggest he is messianic to suggest that Obama thinks of himself as the messiah.
Repeatedly, McCain has sought to attack Obama’s character rather than his plans – while Obama himself has mainly refrained from attacking McCain personally.
Even so, during his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Obama offered a truce:
[I]n the weeks ahead, I look forward to debating them with John McCain.
But what I will not do is suggest that the senator takes his positions for political purposes, because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other’s character and each other’s patriotism.
The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain.
McCain has refused to accept this true. So if McCain wants this election to be about character, then so be it.
If McCain wants the election to be about character, then he is inviting everyone to attack his character. Not the smartest decision for the guy who a Republican Senator said tried to strangle someone he was negotiating with on a diplomatic mission.