Alex Massie

They Knew They Were Right

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There's plenty one could say about National Review's blog The Corner. If nothing else it affords a grim panorama of the decline of the American conservative movement. Decline, at least, in as much as NR is considered the house magazine for mainstream Republicanism. Here, for instance, is Andrew McCarthy on last night's debate:

Now, as the night went along, did you get the impression that Obama comes from the radical Left?  Did you sense that he funded Leftist causes to the tune of tens of millions of dollars?  Would you have guessed that he's pals with a guy who brags about bombing the Pentagon?  Would you have guessed that he helped underwrite raging anti-Semites?  Would you come away thinking, "Gee, he's proposing to transfer nearly a trillion dollars of wealth to third-world dictators through the UN"?

Nope.  McCain didn't want to go there.  So Obama comes off as just your average Center-Left politician.  Gonna raise your taxes a little, gonna negotiate reasonably with America's enemies; gonna rely on our very talented federal courts to fight terrorists and solve most of America's problems; gonna legalize millions of hard-working illegal immigrants.

McCain?  He comes off as Center-Right .. or maybe Center-Left ... but, either way, deeply respectful of Obama despite their policy quibbles. 

Great.  Memo to McCain Campaign:  Someone is either a terrorist sympathizer or he isn't; someone is either disqualified as a terrorist sympathizer or he's qualified for public office.  You helped portray Obama as a clealy qualified presidential candidate who would fight terrorists.

McCain's problem, you see, was that he didn't froth enough. This is howl-at-the-moon madness. The weird thing is that many of these people actually seem to believe all this nonsense. They are perplexed that the rest of us don't see it. What are we missing? Isn't it obvious that Obama is a terrorist-coddling (nay, supporting!) lefty radical? A sort of Baader-Meinhof candidate?

Well, no, it isn't. Of course the genius of this plan - this conspiracy! - to elect Obama is that the plotters should have clad their candidate in such conventional clothes... Anyway, all this helps explain why I doubt that the Bill Ayers attacks will work: Obama neither looks nor talks like a counter-culture 1960s radical. Claiming that he does fails to pass the smell test. And, equally, it has no bearing on any actual issue in the campaign. (The Willie Horton ad in 1988, by cntrast, focused on a real issue: crime, even if it did so in a pretty brutal, even crude, fashion.) Punters are more likely to see this sort of attack as the diversionary tactics of a campaign that has run out of energy, ideas and promise. And they will be correct to come to this conclusion. This election is all but over, barring some cataclysmic event...

UPDATE: Ross Douthat has more.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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