In the Arena

Kristol Blue Delusion

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Bill Kristol has a hilarious column in today’s Times. He suggests that McCain is losing, but can “surge to victory,” if he gets his act together and gets…mean?

Kristol takes a few flicks at policy. Maybe we should expand FDIC insurance. Ok, deal. But he actually offers only two suggestions–and they are doozies:

–Unleash Palin:

As one shrewd McCain supporter told me, “Every minute she spends not telling the American people something that makes them less well disposed to Obama is a minute wasted.”

Shrewd, huh? Kristol had the pleasure of Palin’s company on a Weekly Standard cruise last year and is clearly smitten. But I’d wonder about the shelf-life of Palin’s efficacy as an attack dog, especially now that the American people have come to see her as the incredible–as in not credible–vice presidential choice that she is. What Kristol is really saying here is that he wants Steve Schmidt to stop scripting substantive answers to questions for Palin, since that’s clearly beyond her capabilities, and resume scripting attacks for her. On to point two…

–Bring Back Reverend Wright:

The McCain campaign might consider responding by calling attention to Chapter 14 of Obama’s eloquent memoir, “Dreams From My Father.” There Obama quotes from the brochure of Reverend Wright’s church — a passage entitled “A Disavowal of the Pursuit of Middleclassness.”

Not sure what was in that booklet, but it’s entirely possible that it was about building a spiritual life rather than one focused on material things, about doing for others. But that doesn’t matter. Just the title of the booklet matters. In fact, the title of the booklet doesn’t even matter: Reverend Wright is all that matters. God Damn America! is what matters.

But this raises another problem: if McCain were to attack Obama for dissing the middle class, he’d have to prove that he cares about the middle class. He’d have to favor some programs to help the middle class through the coming hard times. A jobs program, based on a non-pork infrastructure program (as Obama has proposed), a credible health insurance program (as Senator Ron Wyden has proposed and Obama would be wise to support), a return to the Clinton tax rates on the wealthy to help pay for the support the middle class will need (as Obama has proposed).

Kristol, of course, favors none of these. He has famously opposed them. Indeed, it could be argued that the only government programs Kristol has favored over the past twenty years are wars.

Still, he may be right. Attacking Obama may be the only card McCain has left to play–but he’s been playing it, and playing it, and it doesn’t seem to work. Is it possible that we’re at a moment so serious that the bilious, destructive crap that Kristol suggests–and which passes for “advice”–no longer works? It would be a nice thing for democracy if that were true.