McCain’s Appeal to the PUMA Subconcious Mind(?)

I’m not a psychologist, but I’ve learned enough to feel compelled to speculate on what is, perhaps, a less obvious reason why so many dissed Democrats are not just hanging back, but going full-throttle for McCain.

Sure we want to stop Obama. We’re afraid of this guy and his many mysteries. McCain seems solid and we know, for the most part, where he’s been and where he stands on most issues.

But I can’t help but wonder–is McCain drawing Hillary supporters because, on a subconscious level, he reminds them of what happened to Clinton?

Remember how he was trashed by Bush in South Carolina in 2000, how the race card was played by Bush’s minions using the color of McCain’s adopted child as an insidious undercurrent in that primary campaign? The very same state, South Carolina, was played again, this time by the Obama campaign which ratcheted up the charges of racism against Hillary and Bill Clinton. Not only did Obama choose to copy the Bush playbook, he managed to smear TWO people at once, the candidate as well as a former President! Boy, that’s progress! (snark)

In Anatomy of a Smear Campaign (Boston Globe on March 21, 2004), McCain’s campaign manager in 2000, Richard Davis, detailed what happened in South Carolina. At the time he said he hoped that the Bush and Kerry campaigns would prevent the mudslinging by telling their supporters “not to go there” even though he knew the chances of this happening were slim.

I’m including this extended section of Davis’ piece, because it is so strong and so eerily prescient about the 2008 primary season. Substitute “the media” for “pollsters,” if you like.

Having run Senator John McCain’s campaign for president, I can recount a textbook example of a smear made against McCain in South Carolina during the 2000 presidential primary. We had just swept into the state from New Hampshire, where we had racked up a shocking, 19-point win over the heavily favored George W. Bush. What followed was a primary campaign that would make history for its negativity.

In South Carolina, Bush Republicans were facing an opponent who was popular for his straight talk and Vietnam war record. They knew that if McCain won in South Carolina, he would likely win the nomination. With few substantive differences between Bush and McCain, the campaign was bound to turn personal. The situation was ripe for a smear.

It didn’t take much research to turn up a seemingly innocuous fact about the McCains: John and his wife, Cindy, have an adopted daughter named Bridget. Cindy found Bridget at Mother Theresa’s orphanage in Bangladesh, brought her to the United States for medical treatment, and the family ultimately adopted her. Bridget has dark skin.

Anonymous opponents used “push polling” to suggest that McCain’s Bangladeshi born daughter was his own, illegitimate black child. In push polling, a voter gets a call, ostensibly from a polling company, asking which candidate the voter supports. In this case, if the “pollster” determined that the person was a McCain supporter, he made statements designed to create doubt about the senator.

Thus, the “pollsters” asked McCain supporters if they would be more or less likely to vote for McCain if they knew he had fathered an illegitimate child who was black. In the conservative, race-conscious South, that’s not a minor charge. We had no idea who made the phone calls, who paid for them, or how many calls were made. Effective and anonymous: the perfect smear campaign.

Some aspects of this smear were hardly so subtle. Bob Jones University professor Richard Hand sent an e-mail to “fellow South Carolinians” stating that McCain had “chosen to sire children without marriage.” It didn’t take long for mainstream media to carry the charge. CNN interviewed Hand and put him on the spot: “Professor, you say that this man had children out of wedlock. He did not have children out of wedlock.” Hand replied, “Wait a minute, that’s a universal negative. Can you prove that there aren’t any?”

Campaigns have various ways of dealing with smears. They can refute the lies, or they can ignore them and run the risk of the smear spreading. But “if you’re responding, you’re losing.” Rebutting tawdry attacks focuses public attention on them, and prevents the campaign from talking issues.

We chose to address the attacks by trying to get the media to focus on the dishonesty of the allegations and to find out who was making them. We also pledged to raise the level of debate by refusing to run any further negative ads — a promise we kept, though it probably cost us the race. We never did find out who perpetrated these smears, but they worked: We lost South Carolina by a wide margin.

Obama didn’t rely on unknown “pollsters.” He had his wife Michelle out in front declaring with certainty that black voters would “wake up” because she knew what was coming down the pike. He had spokespeople on TV who managed to wave around memos about racist comments on national TV to push the story. He had Oprah drawing people in. Not push polling, maybe, but still pushing the race angle with a complicit media joining in to give the story legs.

Clinton, like McCain, tried to stay above the fray. She didn’t get personal. Mocking someone’s message of “hope” is not getting personal, it’s cutting to the chase about the weakness of a specific message. Giving someone the “street finger” and brush-off, or snidely commenting about Clinton being “likable enough” in a debate…that’s personal.

And Obama and his followers did all this out in the open. He even managed to use the memory of Martin Luther King to smear the Clintons and diss LBJ along the way.
After getting smeared in South Carolina, John McCain was finished in the 2000 race.
And then came “the hug” in August 2004. McCain has been mocked quite a bit for hugging Bush, but that hug was a long time in coming. Bush had been wooing McCain for months, as reported in the NY TImes story, “Bearhug Politics: Careful Steps to a New Bush-McCain Alliance.”

The newfound friendship may be good for late-night laughs, but it is deadly serious political business for both men, the result of a deliberate, months-long effort by the White House to woo the Arizona senator — the most popular national political figure in the country — and of Mr. McCain’s self-interested susceptibility to same. The turnabout could not be more striking, and for both men the stakes could be nothing less than the presidency itself.

Four years ago, relations were so strained that Mr. McCain left the Republican convention in Philadelphia two days early, returning for the final night only after a last-minute request by the Bush team. This year, he will have a prime-time speaking slot on the convention’s first night in New York City, play host to the network anchors at a private dinner the day before, campaign with the president in several states the day after, speak to 10 or 15 state delegations and preside over a celebrity party with the comedian Darrell Hammond on the eve of Mr. Bush’s re-nomination.

So what’s up? Pure political physics, friends of both men say.

Mr. Bush is locked in a tight race with Mr. McCain’s old Senate friend John Kerry and needs all the belated help he can get with the moderate, Democratic and independent voters who like Mr. McCain. And Mr. McCain, who has spent months earning the ire of his party by saying nice things about Mr. Kerry and nasty ones about some Bush policies, is eager to show, like Dr. Seuss’s punctilious pachyderm, that he may have meant what he said and said what he meant, but ”an elephant’s faithful 100 percent.”

I’ve seen pictures of Obama’s hand on Clinton’s back as they’ve appeared together in an attempt to foster “unity.” No bear hug yet. But Hillary has been doing what she has been expected to do, namely, trying to put a good face on things. I doubt Bill will be wanting a touch of the Messiah’s hand at all…

Another factor which may be easing the transfer of disgruntled Clinton supports over to McCain may be the fact that McCain and Clinton have shared a good working relationship (described in the article below as an “amiable if professionally calculated relationship” which seemed to be cemented during a vodka-drinking contest on a trip to Estonia in 2004 (NY Times, July 29, 2006: 2008 May Test Clinton’s Bond with McCain), working on the Senate Armed Services Committee, traveling to Iraq, and working on the issue of global warming together. They share a certain level of maturity, dignity, and comradery that seems to be genuine and comfortable. Their “comfort factor” may be be transferring a sense of familiarity and acceptance of McCain to many Clinton supporters. McCain doesn’t seem like some disconnected Republican entity dropping down on us from the sky. Funny, doesn’t Obama seem to create that feeling a lot of the time?

Well, 8 years after his 2000 run, McCain is now the Republican nominee. He bided his time…and I hope Hillary is biding her time. We cringe at her “unity” stance, but we know that is part of the game she has to play to remain in good standing in the party, for what it’s worth.

Meanwhile, PUMAs aren’t biding THEIR time…we are exposing the garbage that is at the top of the Democratic Party now, and in the hope of helping to clear the way for next time…or later this summer! We simply don’t have the time to wait around, do we?

NOTE: For those who think it’s not just the subconscious mind…you’re right…there’s a whole lot of pragmatism, love of democracy, and a real respect for Hillary Clinton as well!!!

7 Responses

  1. Personally, I think it is not subsconcious. I read an overt perception of Obama is a wuss. McCain is a lot of things, but he is definitely not a wuss. Hillary R. Clinton is definitely not a wuss.


    BTW if supers are quietly or not-so-quietly returning to HRC, Denish is prime for suggestion. I would bet money–if I were a betting person–that she will be the next governor. I think Richardson will leave New Mexico at the end of his term. I hope Denish has the courage of her convictions.

  2. Awesome article. I definitely see a lot of what you’re saying. A big part of it is how well McCain and Clinton get along. We like him at least partlky because he speaks of her with respect. And he respects us too.

  3. Obama had the entire media executing his “memo on race”. It was obvious, plus when they were caught they say “but we didn’t give
    it to the media” They were in an easier position to do harn than even W
    was in 2000.
    Personally, I would have a hard time voting for McCain.
    But should he win, I could celebrate karmic justice for SC deeds
    for both Obama and McCain.

  4. All that about McCain in SC may affect PUMAs in SC, but I hever heard of it!

    I agree with regency. After Obama’s slime and craziness, McCan is a breath of clean fresh air.

    I need to research McCain more, but he might just be a throwback ti when the GOP was sane: Eisenhower, Goldwater, early Nixon.
    In any case, a vote for McCain will improve both parties: help the GOP get loose from the Religious Right, and help the Dems throw out the Pelosi/Brazile faction.

  5. Afraid, afraid of what. Look where we are at present, the country is in shambles and you think McCain and his no nothing about the world is going to be any different. Fear of what? Educated, mixed race, worldly, human. Go back in the hole and stay there with the no nothing Republicans that are greedy MFs.
    Get real your time has come, it is over and the diversity of the world is coming to haunt you fraidy cat.

  6. Wow Nearlynormalized, Your words are so uniting and hopeful. I also like the ever so subtle threatening tone to your comment. Nice touch. Unfortunately your TrollMaster is a corrupt fraud; intellectually lazy; pandering; James Cone’s Black Liberation Theology of divisiveness; GW Bush with a D after his name; etc. By the way, our country is not in shambles. We are facing difficult times but as the Americans we are, we will dig in and prevail. We have done our homework and Obama will never get our votes.

  7. I have been listening to the radio today, and so much of the coverage has been related to the economy. Yes, we are in a mess. Economy is in the toilet, our foreign relations are also in the toilet. The rule of law – in the toilet. Social policy – the toilet.

    We need a plumber. Obama is not – NOT – a plumber. He’ll stand behind you with the plunger, and maybe hand you the right tool, if you are very specific, and then when the wife comes home from work he’ll say, “Look honey. We fixed it”.

    McCain may not get my vote. Obama certainly will not.

    I just got a sticker for my car. It isin response to the Obama premise – HOPE. My sticker says – NOPE.

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