Desperately Seeking Compelling Narrative

Political junkies, as well as voters who want a better understanding of John McCain, will enjoy Robert Draper's "The Making (and Remaking) of McCain". As described by Oliver Burkeman:

The huge cover story from this coming Sunday's New York Times magazine is a fascinating fly-on-the-wall account of the last several months of infighting within John McCain's campaign as his senior advisors tried, increasingly desperately, to settle on and stick to one compelling narrative.

The campaign derailed after McCain agreed to sit in the caboose of the Straight Talk Express.

[more ...]

By July, a curtain was literally drawn to separate McCain from the reporters traveling on his plane. He no longer mingled with them, and press conferences were drastically curtailed. The Bushian concept of message discipline — the droning repetition of a single talking point — that had been so gleefully mocked by McCain’s lieutenants in 2000 now governed the Straight Talk Express.

Draper follows the campaign through its message changes, from "McCain is a maverick" to "Obama is a celebrity" to "Obama is a terrorist" to "McCain is a fighter, Obama is a socialist." His account of the vice presidential selection process is richly detailed.

Sarah Palin's instant fame nullified the "celebrity" knock on Obama, and her limited experience nullified the "Obama's not ready to lead" argument. Palin's selection forced another message change:

During the evening, Scully also traded e-mail messages with Matt McDonald, who had just gotten the news from Schmidt that the vice-presidential pick was someone who did not quite fit the campaign’s current emphasis on “readiness.” The story line, Schmidt informed McDonald, was now Change. The two of them, along with Rick Davis, talked through this rather jolting narrative shift. What they decided upon was workable, if inelegant. First, define the problem as Washington, not Bush. Second, posit both McCain and Palin as experienced reformers. And third, define Obama and his 65-year-old running mate, Senator Joe Biden, as a ticket with no real record of change.

We know how well that worked. These are the same genius advisers who did not see Sarah Palin's "lack of familiarity with major national or international issues as a serious liability." They dug McCain's grave.

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    They're just so stupid! (5.00 / 0) (#5)
    by lilburro on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 09:23:44 PM EST
    Everywhere I look, there's some new justification or explanation coming from the McCain campaign that is so foolish a child could see through it.  Like this defense:

    Palin -- viewed as more conservative than McCain -- has advocated for all of the social policy positions in the platform, and received praise from Dobson. And while the campaign acknowledges disagreements between the candidates -- they say that "mavericks" don't always agree -- Palin may have unwittingly put McCain on her side of those divisive issues.  

    Why are they acting like America is some dusty western town?  Nobody wants mavericks right now.  I think the country is on the same page in that we all know there are no simple answers.  

    But the McCain campaign continues to follow its own internal logic while sucking in old cliches from outside.  Socialism?  For god's sakes.  If we're going to compare the Wild West with the successful European Union, I wonder which will win.  But hey, at least Dobson really, really loves you now!

    Commies! Fellow travelers! (none / 0) (#6)
    by litigatormom on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 09:36:24 PM EST
    Anti-American Congressmen! Investigating anti-American Congressmen! Liberals hate Americans! Liberals are anti-American! Commies! Socialism! They're taking our money and giving it to welfare cheats!

    They've been recycling the same few memes since before I was born.


    Not even trying (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by lambert on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 10:19:07 PM EST
    The Swift Boat stuff in 2004 was going in May. It's October, and it's not even wall to wall Ayers and Rezko and gawd knows what else?

    Their hearts just aren't in it. And as BTD has always said -- the press loves Obama. To generalize that, the Village wants Obama. And as it turned out, it really was the economy, stupid. That burning you smell is toast.

    everything that McCain has done (5.00 / 0) (#11)
    by white n az on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 11:42:12 PM EST
    has completely undercut his own narrative - badly.

    His experience...he chose Miss inexperienced as his running mate.

    His 'post-partisanship'...his attacks on Obama are getting louder and more coarse every day.

    His commitment to blocking pork barrel spending...he signed on to the final 'bailout' package

    His straight talk express candidacy...now at war with the main stream media.

    His promise to be responsible with the peoples money...sends his running mate off shopping with an unlimited credit card.

    I think it would be hard to run a worse campaign if it were pre-meditated.

    What Narrative (none / 0) (#1)
    by koshembos on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 08:04:26 PM EST
    The talk about narrative assumes that a serial killer can blame the victim and be found not guilty. This assumption, of course, is baseless. After the financial collapse, no narrative can rescue McCain. Before the collapse, Obama's blared vision could have given the presidency to McCain under the regular Republican "my opponent is a drug dealer, terrorist and a Muslim" narrative.

    Exactly (none / 0) (#2)
    by Repack Rider on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 08:09:55 PM EST
    The GOP has been running on image over substance ever since Reagan, and finally they got such a tawdry image to work with that no amount of lipstick...

    You get the idea.

    The change narrative for the McCain (none / 0) (#3)
    by hairspray on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 09:05:28 PM EST
    campaign was difficult for the them to reconfigure.  But I found having to swallow Joe Biden (Mr. Banking Industry best friend) who happened to have voted for the AUMF just as jarring.

    If we're comparing VPs... (5.00 / 0) (#4)
    by Thanin on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 09:11:59 PM EST
    there was nothing more jarring than watching the Couric interviews.

    I like Biden well enough (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by litigatormom on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 09:37:56 PM EST
    although I always wondered how the people who said that Obama couldn't possibly pick Hillary because she was "old guard" and voted for the AUMF had reconciled Biden's status as a member of the old guard and a supporter of the AUMF.



    Well (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Steve M on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 09:47:11 PM EST
    When I said it would be Biden they told me the same thing.  "Totally impossible, it would step on the change message!"  Maybe Obama understands politics better than some of his supporters.

    Biden hasn't been vetted much (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by lilburro on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 09:57:05 PM EST
    by the media this cycle.  Maybe they think it is boring or something.  Maybe NYT is going to run a Biden expose next week.  

    I'm really, really glad Obama didn't pick Kaine.  


    Dumb Voters (none / 0) (#12)
    by caesar on Thu Oct 23, 2008 at 08:57:54 PM EST
    I hate how our country's fate is determined by dumb people...