Successful campaigns must be able to adjust to circumstance, and over the course of this last year, Barack Obama has certainly made some shifts, abandoning his past commitment to public financing, for example, and his enthusiasm for joint town halls with John McCain. (And yes, those were both flip-flops.)
But the McCain campaign’s pivots have been more extraordinary and on a grander scale. His campaign’s current hardball strategy has come to exemplify the exact sort of tactics that he has long criticized. With just hours to go before the second presidential debate, let us pause to see how much has changed. The revolutions are dizzying:
I think that when people support you, it doesn’t mean that you support everything they say. . . . I know that, for example, I’ve had endorsements of some people that I didn’t share their views but they endorsed mine. And so I think we’ve got to be very careful about that part.
–John McCain, March 13, 2008, when asked about Obama’s relationship to Jeremiah Wright.
One of Barack Obama’s earliest supporters is a man named Bill Ayers. And according to The New York Times, he was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that, quote, “launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol.” Now, our opponent’s campaign is claiming for the first time that Barack Obama “wasn’t aware of Ayers’s radical background.” Barack recently remembered him as just a ‘guy in my neighborhood.’ Wait a minute. He didn’t know that he had launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist?
–Sarah Palin, October 7, 2008
It is critical, as we prepare to face off with whomever the Democrats select as their nominee, that we all follow John’s lead and run a respectful campaign focused on the issues and values that are important to the American people. . . . Throughout his life John McCain has held himself to the highest standards and he will continue to run a respectful campaign based on the issues.
–McCain Campaign Manager Rick Davis, March 11, 2008
This election is not about issues. This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates.
–Rick Davis, September 2, 2008
Let me be very clear. I am not questioning [Obama’s] patriotism. I am questioning his judgment.
–John McCain, August 20, 2008
I am just so fearful that [Obama] is not a man who sees America the way that you and I see America, as the greatest source for good in this world. I’m afraid this is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to work with a former domestic terrorist who had targeted his own country.
–Sarah Palin, October 6, 2008
I have always had absolute 100 percent truth, and that’s been my life of putting my country first. And I’ll match that record against anyone’s, and I’m proud of it. And an assertion that I have ever done otherwise I take strong exception to.
–John McCain, October 1, 2008
Speaking in Albuquerque on Monday, Senator John McCain attacked Senator Barack Obama on several fronts that by now have become familiar. But many of his charges relating to the economic meltdown, taxation and health care contained inaccuracies or exaggerations of his own position or Mr. Obama’s.
–Larry Rohter, the New York Times, October 6, 2008