07/11/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

After Clark Flap: Can Obama Beat McCain's Double-Talk Express?

The conventional wisdom these days is that General Wesley Clark's raising questions about John McCain's fitness to be commander in chief causes political problems for Barack Obama. That's considered to be especially important now that Obama is seen as moving to the center for the general election, and in the last few weeks emphasized such heartland-friendly themes as patriotism and faith.

But don't be fooled by the conventional wisdom. On today's "D'Antoni and Levine" Show, starting at 5:30 p.m., two of the country's savviest political reporters, Walter Shapiro, Salon's Washingbton Bureau chief, and Cliff Schecter, Firedog Lake blogger and author of The Real McCain, recently Amazon's #1 political book, talked about the charges and counter-charges flying over integrity and national security.
Plus, you can hear the full story of John McCain's temper tantrums, including the shocking incident involving cursing out his wife using what can only be referred to as the "C-word." All this from an author and Democratic strategist who actually donated money to McCain in 2000.

But Schecter focuses primarily on his ever-changing political views and sleazy tactics, and points out, "McCain showed courage in the battlefield, but no courage in Washington." The shake-up of his campaign in bringing in top Karl Rove allies is one sign of the screw-ups and desperation in McCain's campaign.

On top of that, McCain, who once decried the "Swift Boating" of John Kerry and was victimized by Rovian smear tactics in the 2000 Republican North Carolina primary, now has brought on Col. Bud Day, who actually appeared in the Swift Boat ads. As Paul Krugman points out in this Saturday's New York Times:

The willingness of the McCain campaign to engage in these tactics, employing such tainted spokesmen, tells us that the campaign has decided to go negative -- specifically, to apply the strategy Karl Rove used so effectively in 2002 and 2004 (but not so effectively in 2006), that of portraying Democrats as unpatriotic.

You can hear more about the dirty politics-as-usual of McCain and company by listening to the full show yourself right here by hitting the "play" icon, with Schecter's appearance starting at the 34 minute, 35 second mark:

Another sign of McCain's problematic campaign is the flip-flopping by McCain on key issues, as pointed out by the National Jewish Democratic Council:

This past week, the McCain Campaign has instructed its right-wing hit men to attack Senator Obama's character by trying to paint him as a flip-flopper. Before "Mr. Straight-Talk" whips himself into a moral frenzy about sticking with positions, he needs to examine a few of his own "principled" flip-flops listed below:


THEN: In a May 2008 opinion piece published in the Washington Post, former State Department official James Rubin revealed that in a 2006 interview, McCain responded to a question on whether U.S. diplomats should be working with the Hamas government in Gaza with, "sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another." (Washington Post, 5/16/2008)

NOW: In the 2008 campaign, McCain has cast Senator Obama as being the endorsed candidate of Hamas and willing to negotiate with Iran. He told CNN, "[...] it's also fact that a spokesperson from Hamas said that he approves of Obama's candidacy." (CNN, 5/9/2008)


THEN: In 2007, McCain introduced and voted for legislation which included increased border security and a pathway to legal citizenship. (The Library of Congress, 5/12/2005)

THEN: During a presidential primary debate in January 2008, McCain was asked if he would vote for his own immigration bill if it came to the Senate floor again. He replied, "No, I would not, because we know what the situation is today. The people want the border secured first." (CNN, 1/31/08)

NOW: In June 2008, McCain told the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials he would resurrect a bipartisan immigration bill, which he helped shape, which would include a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are already in the country. He said, "It would be my top priority yesterday, today and tomorrow." (Politico, 6/28/2008)


THEN: During the 2000 Presidential campaign, McCain favored the moratorium on offshore drilling, promising to "never lose sight of the fundamental principle that federal land management decisions affecting local communities must be made in cooperation with the Americans who call those communities home." (Sustainable Energy Coalition, 1/18/2000)

NOW: In June 2008, McCain called for an end to these federal bans, saying, "It is time [...] to lift these restrictions and to put our own reserves to use." (CNN, 6/17/2008)


THEN: Campaigning for the presidency in 2000, McCain described Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell as "agents of intolerance", saying, "I don't pander to them, because I don't ascribe to their failed philosophy that money is our message." (CNN, 2/28/2000)

NOW: In 2008, McCain delivered the Commencement speech at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University and supported this decision, saying, "the 'Christian right' has a major role to play in the Republican Party." (NBC's Meet the Press, 3/5/200)


THEN: Running for president in 1999, McCain was opposed to repealing Roe v. Wade. He said, "Certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations." (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/19/2008)

NOW: McCain's website says, "John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench." Additionally, on several occasions, McCain has said himself, "I do not support Roe v. Wade. It should be overturned." (MSNBC, 2/18/2007)


THEN: Stumping for President Bush in New Hampshire in 2004, McCain responded to a participant's question saying, "Without privatization, I don't see how you can possibly, over time, make sure that young Americans are able to receive Social Security benefits." (C-SPAN, 11/18/2004)

NOW: In 2008, McCain answered a participant's question at a town hall event in New Hampshire, saying, "I'm not for, quote, privatizing Social Security. I never have been. I never will be." (CNN, 6/12/2008)


THEN: In 2001, McCain opposed and voted against Bush's tax cuts, saying, "I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle class Americans who most need tax relief." (The New York Times, 3/3/2008)

THEN: McCain opposed Bush's additional tax cuts in 2003, because he argued the cost of the Iraq War was not yet known. (The New York Times, 3/3/2008)

NOW: In 2006, McCain voted to make these tax cuts permanent. In a 2008 presidential debate, he said, "We need to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, which I voted for twice to do so." (CNN, 1/30/2008)

To learn more about where this campaign is headed, listen to Walter Shapiro and Cliff Schecter tell in an informed, entertaining way what to expect -- and whether Obama can actually win when faced with John McCain's Double-Talk Express.

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