Sep 282008
Authors: J. David McSwane

Remember when we were just kids — when all the old people reminded us of how much we don’t understand, how much we don’t get? Remember that unequivocal and fatherly tone that quashed any hint of protest, no matter how reasonable the counterpoint?

This appears to be Sen. John “the Sheriff” McCain’s latest strategy — er, tactic — as the presidential election steamrolls toward one of the most high-stakes political climaxes in history.

In Saturday’s debate, his point was clear: “Sen. Barack Obama doesn’t understand,” “he doesn’t get it.” And Obama is once again playing defense. It’s a classic political shell game.

When distraction doesn’t work, frame the debate and act surly. Those of the Republican affliction love that “stratactic.” Drop the theatrics. Frame the debate. Glean pompous self-assuredness.

Picking Sarah Palin (the worst possible novelty response to the legitimate rally cry of feminists everywhere) hasn’t sealed the deal. Backing out of the debate to focus on the fundamentals of the economy didn’t work. Stealing his opponents “Change” campaign hasn’t done much. McCain just can’t rival the natural appeal of the charismatic neophyte.

Well, maybe if McCain loosened that collar to reveal his true identity as Canada’s beloved cartoon sex icon, Franklin the Turtle. Yup, look at the excess neck skin. But that could be disastrous to the imposter’s ticket, whose party prefers candidates of a more serpentine nature.

So McCain came to the debate, and he brought the old talking points.

And from what I can tell, it resonated. I don’t think anyone can justly say the debate went to one candidate over the other; it was rehearsed, refined, clearly calculated to highlight key differences between the candidates, and most of all, it was boring.

Neither really screwed up. Obama wasn’t all that inspiring this go around, McCain kept the lies ambiguous and subjective (never trust a Mc, I say) and Jim Lehrer didn’t die.

But we must give credit where credit is due. McCain managed to even the playing field a bit. At one point his blood pressure spiked, and he became obviously challenging to Obama. And Obama failed to rival that forwardness with unimpressive “not true” statements and damaging affirmations of McCain’s position.

McCain established that he has the inside scoop, the experience and the cojones to lead — that his ticket isn’t just the erratic circus we’ve seen the past couple months.

He’s the better choice to lead the next four trying years because “Obama doesn’t get it.” There’s nothing more terrifying than a guy who doesn’t get it. And we’ll hear this more as Election Day nears, I’m sure.

At the end of the night, we were watching veteran versus rookie. The wise tortoise and the naive hare. But as the election heats up amid economic turmoil — a subject at which McCain admits he’s a novice — will his new slow and steady stratactic win over the American people?

I think it’s going to take more than that. But we’ve been fooled before.

It’s that tone, that of unapologetic sureness and disinterest in finding constructive dialogue (we can’t chat with our international foes because we’re right, and they’re wrong), that swayed the American people to support a bogus war, to scorn the rest of the world because we “don’t need a permission slip to go to war,” to continue to allow violations of our civil liberties in the guise of security, to remain complacent as bone-headed policy tears at the economic core of our nation.

And we were duped twice. That’s shame on us. For the sake of our country don’t fall for it again.

Enterprise Editor J. David McSwane is a senior technical journalism major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letter and feedback can be sent to

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