Tuesday, October 07, 2008

As McCain Limps Into The Debate, His Carefully Crafted Image Is In Tatters


Everyone who gets anywhere near McCain these days says he's a flaming asshole to deal with, the McCain we learned about from the hideous Turtle Island vacation, not the phony we see charming Jay Leno and playing the "straight-talker" role on Meet the Press.

A lot can probably be explained by the complete rejection he's experiencing from voters, as evidenced in every poll that's come out. It's looking like he's going to lose states that no Republican has lost since half the people in the country were born! The current issue of New York, however, digs a little deeper in John Heilmann's story How McCain Lost His Brand.

The high-powered lobbyists running his campaign expected his brand to take them all the way from K Street to the White House. But as McCain 2000 campaign honcho, John Weaver, explains, “There is no brand in politics you can just put on the shelf, run a campaign totally contrary to it, and then take it down later and still expect people to believe it." And that pretty much describes the McCain 2008 campaign-- the antithesis of everything he's tried to claim he stood for. Since the 2000 campaign the brand looked relatively healthy and even thriving, most of all with the always credulous press, which painted McCain’s increasingly frequent "deviations" from what were supposed to be his core beliefs as-- wink, wink, nod, nod-- "aberrations."
The speech at Falwell’s university? The reversals on the Bush tax cuts and torture? The support for the teaching of “intelligent design”? All had been dismissed by the press corps as necessary hedges, as a matter of McCain doing what he had to do to win the GOP nomination.

But then came September-- and everything changed. The selection of Palin. The lipstick-pig imbroglio. The ad accusing Obama of supporting the teaching of sex education to kindergartners, along with a slew of other spots rife with distortions and fabrications. Perhaps it was the sheer number of such incidents, perhaps the depth of their mendacity. But the meme began to take hold in the press that the “old McCain” was dead. Or perhaps that he had never existed in the first place.

Members of the press started realizing they'd been had. That the whole McCain Independent Maverick Dudley Doo-right thing was bullshit from day one and that they had bought it-- hook, line and sinker.

The press-- minus the GOP propaganda machine at Fox and hate talk radio + David Broder-- discovered that McCain has always been a fraud, that he has no integrity and that, except for George Bush, there's never been a less authentic candidate offered by a major party.
And as that skepticism began to take hold, it effectively doomed McCain’s maneuvers during the financial crisis (the suspension of his campaign, the threat to pull out of the debate) to be greeted with disdain and suspicion by the media. “By the time the financial crisis hit, we were past the tipping point,” says a national reporter who covers McCain. “Lipstick on a pig and sex ed were the last straw for some of McCain’s old hands and media allies. And because of this cynicism, he didn’t get the benefit of the doubt for his ‘suspension,’ and it was treated as the stunt it was.”

For McCain, seeing the press-- “my base,” as he once famously put it-- turn against him has apparently been more than painful. According to people close to the campaign, it accounts for much of the seething, simmering anger that he’s displayed of late on the hustings. And rather than attempting to mute that anger, Schmidt and his associates, with their attacks on the press, are only validating and even stoking it—with borderline disastrous results. The central memes that have always posed the greatest risk to McCain’s candidacy are that he’s dangerously erratic (the dark side of maverick) and that his notorious temper is forever threatening to explode. And, as evinced by the recent spate of stories about his sarcastic, cantankerous performance last week before the Des Moines Register editorial board (THE ANGRY WARRIOR? read the headline in a Washington Post blog), those two memes are now coursing wildly through the media’s collective bloodstream.

Tonight he makes his way to the debate a dead man walking. Can he revive himself? We'll know if a few hours.

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At 11:56 PM, Blogger tech98 said...

“There is no brand in politics you can just put on the shelf, run a campaign totally contrary to it, and then take it down later and still expect people to believe it."

The lobbyist-parasites of the McCain campaign are doing what corporate America's MBA sharks have always done -- taking a 'brand' not as a valuable asset to be upheld by maintaining standards in accordance with it, but as a cynical con-job fairy tale to be exploited to fool the customers while acting in the most expedient, corner-cutting, quality-destroying, short-term-selfish maximizing manner. They think their customers are too stupid and gullible to catch on as the values that built the brand become a hollow facade.

And the end result is the same -- loss of market share to rivals who act with integrity.


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