McCain Tries To Counter-Program A Wave

With the eyes of the world, and the U.S. media, trained intently on Obama during his week-long tour of the Middle East and Europe, for McCain, there is the question of what to do while all this is going on.
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With Barack Obama gaining foreign policy cred on his big trip, John McCain charges in this new attack ad that the cause of high gasoline prices is ... Barack Obama.

That's where John McCain is, with the eyes of the world, and the US media, trained intently on Barack Obama during his week-long tour of the Middle East and Europe. And that's where he is with the government of Iraq, in what could be a game-changer, essentially agreeing with Obama on a general timeline for withdrawal of US combat forces from its country.

With all this going on, and with Obama delivering a strong performance to date, John McCain has some significant problems. Aside from the point that Iraq's government has essentially endorsed Obama's policy toward Iraq -- which of course underlies a potential tectonic shift (McCain said a few years ago that if the Iraqi government wants us to leave, we should leave) -- there is the question of what to do while all this is going on.

The answer has been something of a kitchen sink approach. McCain vehemently denounced Obama yesterday as, essentially, a know-nothing who was never in the military. He also worked to draw attention to his concern with America's economic and energy crises, now intertwined. But that only draws further attention to Obama, and how well his trip seems to be going. McCain's surrogates attack Obama on national security matters, with foreign policy advisor Randy Scheuneman describing the Democratic nominee in personally denigrating fashion.

McCain had another town hall today in the now battleground state of New Hampshire, supposedly on economic concerns. But inevitably the media focus was on his reaction to Obama's trip. Obama's Iraq plans would "reverse the gains we have made," he declared. "I hope he will have the courage to reverse his position." Which means that McCain hopes the government of Iraq reverses its position.

McCain also has two new TV attack ads up on Obama, the first of the general election campaign. One, on Iraq, is serious. One could argue with it, but that's what makes politics go round. It has credibility.

The other, on gasoline prices, is non-serious. Or silly. Whichever you prefer.

John McCain's other new attack ad, on Iraq and Afghanistan.

The first new TV attack ad of the campaign criticizes Obama for not holding a hearing of his Senate subcommittee on Europe on the topic of Afghanistan, for not going to Iraq since 2006 (he was just there, of course), and for not supporting funding for the Iraq surge.

Well, I think Obama should have held a subcommittee hearing on Afghanistan. He hasn't really used that subcommittee. But Afghanistan is not in Europe, and, while NATO forces are in Afghanistan, and NATO is based in Europe, the subcommittee gave Obama no direct authority over Afghan policy. A failing policy which Senate Foreign Relations chairman Joe Biden -- an Obama rival-turned-Obama surrogate -- has been speaking out about for years.

The other attack ad, brand new, blames high gasoline prices on Obama. This, let's just say, tends to leave out the role of President Bush.

The price of gasoline has tripled during the Bush administration. Meanwhile, fuel efficiency has gone up only fractionally. McCain has sometimes opposed efforts to increase vehicle fuel efficiency.

Incidentally, my own gas price has gone down further in the past few days than it would have had the gas tax holiday -- which also would have cut federal highway funding, making for worse roads -- advocated by McCain been enacted. This 20 cent a gallon drop coincided with the US publicly negotiating with Iran, which helped reduce the geopolitical risk premium that oil experts note is built into the sky-high price of crude oil. Less conflict, lower oil prices.

Speculation in oil markets is also a significant factor in the price. McCain used to talk about that. But not much in this campaign.

McCain did reverse his long-held position on offshore oil drilling, and attacks Obama in his new ad for continuing his opposition to offshore drilling, thus causing high gasoline prices. However, the federal government's own energy information agency noted just last year that it would probably take some 22 years before new offshore drilling would have a significant impact on prices at the pump.

And as one of my posters, a Mr. Brasky, pointed out this morning on New West Notes: "That means that if you want to blame Obama for today's high prices, he would have had to be a Senator in 1986. He didn't even go to Harvard until 1988."

McCain was in the Congress throughout that entire period, opposing offshore drilling all the while. His new ad doesn't mention that.

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