McCain has provided Obama on a silver platter the key for victory in the general election. But, not if the Obama campaign does not use it.
As Keith Olbermann pointed out on "Countdown", John McCain has written that he runs for President purely out of personal ambition. Not only did he write it, but McCain narrated the book for tape, so we have his own voice speaking these words:
"I didn't decide to run for president to start a national crusade for the political reforms I believed in or to run a campaign as if it were some grand act of patriotism. In truth, I wanted to be president because it had become my ambition to be president. . . . In truth, I'd had the ambition for a long time." (Worth Fighting For, by John McCain).
This is an astonishing statement. Used properly, it is the gift that will keep on giving. It beats Kerry's "I was for it before I was against it" by miles.
Instead of using this just to parry McCain's charge that Obama is only running for personal ambition, McCain's words should be used as the basis of the narrative Obama tells about McCain.
One might hope that the narrative would be obvious, but since Democrats have not recognized the importance of providing a narrative by which the opponent can be encapsulated, here is how McCain's own words about running purely for personal ambition can be unfolded to define his character:
Pursuing the Presidency purely for his own ambition connects McCain's participation in the Keating-5, his attempt for repentance in campaign finance reform while including an exemption for privately-owned planes, his embrace of George W Bush and Bush's program, his flip-flopping on taxcuts for the wealthy, offshore oil drilling, kowtowing to what he had called agents of intolerance, hiring the Bush thugs who had smeared him and his wife, hiring consultants who lobby to improve the image of countries like Myanmar, and on and on.
Obama can then pivot and contrast his running arising from his time as a community organizer, working every day to improve the lives of average Americans, and that he banished lobbyists so that he could rally the American people to overcome gridlock in Washington DC that serve their narrow interests.
Simply stated, if McCain is running purely for personal ambition, as he says, how can anyone trust him to work for them? Seeking election to improve the lives of the people is the apotheosis of politics, and McCain has directly renounced it. Nothing so embitters people than proof their representatives care only about themselves.
How can the Obama campaign ignore this gift? Since McCain said it, it is not even negative although, even if it were, it should not be a reason not to use it.
Yes, McCain acted honorably by refusing early release as a POW 40 years ago. All the POWs were offered early release in exchange for signing a "confession", and all refused. That does not diminish the honor of McCain's action, but it does add some perspective. Country first? Sure, 40 years ago, as did 600 others.
But, since that time, McCain has been dishonorable, driven purely by ambition. He dumped his wife who had patiently awaited his return for 5 years in favor of an heiress who could help his career. He involved himself in a financial scandal that cost taxpayers billions of dollars. He wrote in exemptions to campaign finance reporting to benefit himself. He has never released his own military records. He celebrated his birthday at the Bush ranch while Katrina victims suffered.
Thanks to Drew Westen ("The Political Brain") we should all be attuned to the importance of narrative in political campaigns. Each candidate should have 2 narratives: one about himself, the other about his opponent.
Democrats do this very poorly. They sometimes get the narrative of themselves, and the last person who did that, the man from hope, was twice-elected President of the United States. But they never do the narrative of their opponents. Did Kerry or Gore have a narrative about George W Bush?
By contrast the Republicans do it brilliantly, and they always do the narrative about their opponents. That is how both Gore and Kerry lost (and, if the actual outcome was, as likely, due to election fraud, the point is that it should not have been close).
During the primaries Obama was the best at telling his own narrative. He was the man whose own personal story was the river into which the currents of our changing electorate run. The others, including Hillary, did not have much of a narrative. Nonetheless, when Hillary Clinton started telling the narrative about Barack Obama (telling her opponent's narrative) the race tightened.
Obama never told his narrative about Hillary Clinton.
McCain has provided the narrative, in his own voice, that Obama can tell about him.
If he wants to win, he should. And repeat, and repeat, and repeat, and repeat....
[And, by the way, each speaker at the Democratic Convention ought to begin their remarks by asking, "how many houses to each of you have"?...and they can shout back, "One", and put up their forefingers....just thought I'd throw that in for good measure]