7 aug. 2008

The Truth and Nothing But the Truth?

There is a simple fact about elections that has eluded Democrats in every presidential campaign they have lost in the last 40 years: that as a candidate, you have to focus first and foremost not on a litany of "issues" but on four stories: the story you tell about yourself, the story your opponent is telling about himself, the story your opponent is telling about you, and the story you are telling about your opponent. Candidates who offer compelling stories in all four quadrants of this "message grid" win, and those who leave any of them to chance generally lose.
Al Gore didn't tell any of the four. He didn't want to be associated with Bill Clinton (a fatal flaw Obama should not repeat), so he had nothing to say about what his administration had accomplished over eight years of extraordinary peace and prosperity. Even his chief strategist, Bob Shrum, now admits that the campaign suffered from its relentless focus on "issue" positions and policies without weaving them into any coherent story about why Al Gore should be president.
John Kerry told one story--the story of his military bona fides--and left the others to fate (and Karl Rove). He lost when he failed to respond to the two major stories told about him: that he was a flipflopper (a story that started the day he became the presumptive nominee and his campaign never deigned to answer) and the story that he was a fake war hero (a direct contradiction to his only story, which his team thought best to let fester). Neither campaign thought to tell a coherent story about George W. Bush. Try recalling the master narrative either one of them told about their opponent, and see if you can get past the first sentence.
John McCain is telling a story about himself--that he's a man of courage and conviction who loves his country. He is telling a story about Obama--that he's a man of none of those things. Virtually everyone in the country is receiving a barrage of email from anonymous sources detailing this message about Obama without constraints of truth. After watching Hillary Clinton lose to Obama's charisma and after watching Obama enthrall the rest of the world and the troops McCain claims Obama doesn't support last week, he is now in full attack mode, trying to tell a story about his opponent's greatest strength (that Obama is someone who can inspire people, and can even do so on a world stage, where McCain's master narrative had claimed a decided advantage). So now he is telling the story of Obama as an arrogant, uppity, empty celebrity.
The truth and nothing but the truth does not matter. But if McCain is the target the truth is good enough. You have to tell the story about that old loser who is a notorious liar as he always has been. About his heroism. Is losing a war, while you are shot down and within four days mentally broken by interrogators, is that making you such a fabulous hero, that you can pretend to have experience in winning wars? Are you a hero, lying about being tortured without any witnesses around, while other prisoners of war say that torture was very unlikely at that place and that time? The most harsh interrogators were frightening you by saying that you would never go home if you don’t serve the Hanoi propaganda, else you could go home with priority over others. So, McCain is also offered that priority, but he refused to go because it was against the military code of conduct. If he should dare to go, he should have been bringing himself into contempt. But is that specific heroic behavior? And by the way, McCain never became any executive power, so, what is his real experience? Losing, especially losing his dignity, i. g. calling his wife a “cunt” in front of the press, and recently like a pimp, offering his wife to compete in a topless beauty contest at a bikers festival.
Yes he is a notorious liar, saying the Obama will raise taxis for lower and middle class incomes, while Obama clearly announced lowering all taxes for incomes below the 220 thousand dollars, paid by ending the war in Iraq and McCain lowers only taxes over 220 thousand dollars, raising the spending on wars and steeling a trillion from the social security fund, endangering the pension of older people, where they had paid for during the whole of their active life. That kind of hero is John McCain and that he is a dishonorable coward, a thief and a liar. That true story has to be told.