In the Arena

It’s a Mixed Bag, Josh

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Josh Marshall wants to me to follow up on the column I wrote a few weeks ago, suggesting that John McCain would run an honorable presidential campaign–and I can only thank him for the reminder because I was thinking about posting yesterday about McCain’s cheesy nonsense about Obama being endorsed by Hamas. If McCain wants to go that route, I can suggest another: that John McCain is probably the favorite candidate of Osama bin Laden, just as George W. Bush was Osama’s presidential preference.

Why? Because both Bush and McCain have bought Osama’s disinformation about Iraq being the central front in the war on terrorism. Of course, bin Laden wants the gullible neocons to take the Iraq bait because Afghanistan really is the central front of the war on terrorism–more precisely the Afghan-Pakistani border areas where the real Al Qaeda lives. The war in Iraq has been a grand strategic gift to Osama, keeping the U.S. military tied down elsewhere and off his tail.

Ron Suskind had a relevant scene in his excellent book The One Percent Doctrine: It’s the Friday before election day in 2004 and Osama bin Laden has issued a videotape in which he lambastes President Bush. The top dawgs at the CIA are gathered to analyze the tape. Dep. Director John McLaughlin says, “I wonder who Osama is voting for?” Everyone cracks up because the answer is so obvious.

McCain gives you something to admire and loathe almost every day. He did some terrific things this week on his anti-poverty tour: He gave a lovely tribute to Congressman John Lewis in Selma, he called out Bush’s Hurricane Katrina non-performance in New Orleans. (Of course, he also voted against the Katrina relief funds.) The very fact that a Republican would take such a tour is significant–but his willingness to go into the muck on Hamas and Obama’s “friendship”–or whatever it is–with the American terrorist Bill Ayres is gutter crap.

So the jury’s still out on what kind of campaign McCain runs. I hope my colleagues in the press will call him out everytime he succumbs to sludge tendencies. I certainly plan to do that.