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Memo to McCain: Take the Gloves Off

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

McCain loses -- the first debate, that is.

Blown opportunities? Let us count the ways:

Obama says, without rebuttal, that his plan lowers taxes on "95 percent of working families." This is flatly impossible because 32 percent of income tax returns filed (some 43 million Americans) pay absolutely nothing in federal income taxes. Obama makes his claim by offering a $500 "Making Work Pay" tax credit to everybody ($1,000 per family), by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, and creating other credits. If your tax credit is more than your tax liability, you receive a check from the Treasury and you pay no taxes. That is not a "tax cut." McCain, too, offers a tax credit -- a $5,000 tax credit for health care. Yet neither the media nor McCain calls it a "tax cut."

Obama says, without rebuttal, that his tax hikes only affect those earning more than $250,000. Yet when you consider his spending plans, and the amount of money he expects to raise by "closing corporate loopholes" and taxing the rich, it simply does not add up. Moreover, he calls raising taxes a) good economic policy, and b) a matter of fairness. Obama, pointing to the sluggishness of the economy, recently said he might "defer" the tax hikes. Hold it, McCain should have said. If raising taxes on the so-called rich makes good economic policy, why "defer" it? Doesn't the economic sluggishness create even greater urgency in order to, as Obama claims, "jump-start" the economy?

Obama recently said, without a debate response from McCain, that because of the faltering economy, he may cut back on some of his proposed spending. Again, didn't Obama call the spending an "investment" in education and health care, job training and "volunteering"? If "investing" means a more productive and dynamic economy, doesn't an economic slowdown cry out for more spending?

Obama claims, without rebuttal, that he "pays for" the increased spending. If "closing corporate loopholes" and increasing taxes on the rich pay for more social spending, why put those off simply because of an economic downturn? Obama's latest backtracks on taxes and spending say one thing, loudly and clearly -- they hurt the economy. And by his own admission!

Missed opportunities on foreign policy:

Obama calls, without rebuttal, the Iraq war a blunder. Is it? By an almost even margin, 39 percent of Americans call Iraq a failure, while 41 percent say that history will judge it as a success. The numbers considering it a future success increased from 29 percent last August, while the it-will-be-deemed-a-failure crowd fell from 57 percent.

Obama still claims, without rebuttal, that while the surge succeeded, it failed to bring about the "political reconciliation" intended. This is patently false. In addition to meeting or making progress on nearly all of the 18 political benchmarks set by Congress, the Iraqi government, just last week, set a time for provincial elections -- perhaps the most important benchmark. McCain never mentioned it. Instead of a fledgling democracy and a potentially strong Muslim ally in the Middle East in the war on terror, Obama wanted a precipitous withdrawal. As former Secretary of State James Baker said, "If we picked up and left right now, you would see the biggest civil war you've ever seen." Even the liberal, anti-Bush Washington Post recently published an editorial pointing to Iraq's continuous improvement, and criticized Obama for his insistence on a timed withdrawal: "Democrat Barack Obama continues to argue that only the systematic withdrawal of U.S. combat units will force Iraqi leaders to compromise. Yet the empirical evidence of the past year suggests the opposite: that only the greater security produced and guaranteed by American troops allows a political environment in which legislative deals and free elections are feasible."

Obama claims, without rebuttal, that he consistently opposed the war. Did he? Obama, after his anti-war speech in 2002, later said he understood why senators voted for the Iraq war and admitted he was "not privy to Senate intelligence reports"; that it "was a tough question and a tough call" for the senators; and that he "didn't know" how he would have voted had he been in the Senate. More than a year after the war began, Obama said, "There's not much of a difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage." Given Obama's 97 percent record of voting with his party, why accept the idea that this cautious get-along, go-along "present"-voting former state senator, now U.S. senator, would have defied the majority of his party -- including all of his fellow senators running in the presidential primaries -- and voted against the war?

McCain foolishly "suspended" his political campaign to go to Washington and deal with the economic crisis. But when the polls show the other guy ahead, and he leaves the debate with no blood, no ambulance -- you lose.

McCain wants to "put his country first." The best way is simple: Get aggressive and win the election.

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