McCain’s Legitimate Attack

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McCain has a new ad (see below) attacking Obama “and his liberal allies” for failing to lead in the midst of the current financial markets crisis. As many have noted, including George Will and the Wall Street Journal, McCain’s own handling of the crisis has hardly been a profile in leadership. But what’s important about this ad is not its claims about McCain but its line of attack on Obama. Why? Because it’s entirely within bounds. As I and others have said in criticizing some of the McCain campaign’s false or distorted assaults on Obama, there are plenty of potential Obama weaknesses that McCain can fairly and legitimately try to exploit.

- First and foremost, of course, is experience. McCain has more, Obama has relatively little. Whether that matters to you as a voter, or whether you think McCain’s experience has been good or bad for the country, the fact is that it’s fair for McCain to criticize Obama’s lack of it.

- Second, it is irrefutably true that Obama hails from the solidly liberal tradition within the Democratic Party. He speaks eloquently about transcending partisanship, but his record of doing so — both in Illinois and in Washington — is fairly limited. And most of his policy proposals can be described as liberal or progressive. And so it is certainly fair for McCain to say that if Obama wins, “liberals” will be in charge of the House, Senate and the White House. I am not saying that would be bad or good for the country, or that such an attack would persuade swing voters in this cycle. But I am saying that it is entirely fair for McCain to attack Obama on this front — i.e., to go back to the old GOP well and warn about scary liberals and big government.

The point is that there are stark substantive differences between these two candidates. Sticking to those differences as they launch their attacks is the honorable way to campaign.

Here’s the McCain ad:

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