The Worst Offense Is No Offense

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Nov 25, 2008 10:10 PM
Last night, I posted on the terrible impact on the GOP of President Bush's decision not to defend himself against vicious, often untrue criticism.

Tonight, it's John McCain's turn.  Here is a story from TIME magazine, detailing all the perfectly legitimate critical ads John McCain could have run against Barack Obama -- and didn't.

I don't fault McCain for the many policy differences I have with him.  He's the guy the Republicans chose to run, I'm a Republican, and that's that.  What I do fault him for is accepting the nomination and then not using every legitimate means to win.

The ads comparing McCain and Obama, mocking Obama's celebrity and the like were perfectly fair game.  So, for that matter, was the one contrasting McCain's term in the Hanoi Hilton with the President-elect's willingness to sit and listen to anti-American vituperation be spouted from the pulpit for twenty years.  But McCain took it all off the table, lest he be called a racist.  And then, guess what?  He was called a racist anyway.

It seems pretty obvious that John McCain was afraid of going down in history as the guy who prevented the first African-American major party nominee from being elected on account of what the Obama-adoring press would have inevitably described as "dirty tricks" (even if they hadn't been).  So he pulled his punches and lost.

Well, that's fine for him, not so great for the rest of us.  If he had felt that he couldn't -- or wouldn't -- run the most vigorous campaign against Barack Obama that he could, consistent with law and ethics, then he should have said so before he accepted the nomination.  It's wrong to ask to go to the playoffs and then decide, in some sense, to forfeit the game (or at least several touchdowns).

McCain's reluctance to impede Obama's progress to The White House probably has a generational aspect -- in some sense, it may well be the result of remembering a time when African Americans were treated shamefully.  Note that the 44 year old Sarah Palin -- who was born the year the Civil Rights Act was passed -- didn't feel the need to pull her punches. 

And at least that's progress -- because, believe me, Barack Obama is (and was) formidable enough to be fully capable of winning without McCain's self-imposed constraints.