The LA Times Bob Drogin says:
Republican presidential nominee John McCain returns to the trail today after a dramatic but rocky four-day detour that upended his campaign, upset supporters and gave new ammunition to critics who question his judgment.Drogin’s LA Times story doesn’t say anything about what McCain needs to do going forward. But the NYT’s Bill Kristol does in his column today. Here are excerpts from the column with my comments below the star line
McCain will appear at a rally in Columbus, Ohio, in hopes of regaining the momentum he lost when he abruptly canceled campaign events and returned here Thursday to try to broker a $700-billion bailout of the crippled financial industry.
The Arizona senator's unilateral cease-fire carried a clear cost, aides now concede, acknowledging that polls show Democratic nominee Barack Obama with a widening lead. Pulling most of McCain's TV ads off the air for several days also left him "naked" to Obama's broadsides, the aides said.
Some McCain supporters question why he made his own campaign hostage to a highly charged legislative process that he did not control. He does not sit on a Senate committee that is directly involved with the crisis, and he became inextricably linked to a Wall Street bailout that is unpopular with many voters.
Worse, McCain's campaign assumed an air of barely controlled chaos for four days as frustrated staffers tore up schedules, scrapped speeches and rallies, and scrambled to make contingency plans that seemed to change hour by hour.
Kristol begins - - -
John McCain is on course to lose the presidential election to Barack Obama. Can he turn it around, and surge to victory?
He has a chance. But only if he overrules those of his aides who are trapped by conventional wisdom, huddled in a defensive crouch and overcome by ideological timidity.
The conventional wisdom is that it was a mistake for McCain to go back to Washington last week to engage in the attempt to craft the financial rescue legislation, and that McCain has to move on to a new topic as quickly as possible. As one McCain adviser told The Washington Post, “you’ve got to get it [the financial crisis] over with and start having a normal campaign.”
McCain’s impetuous decision to return to Washington was right. The agreement announced early Sunday morning is better than Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s original proposal, and better than the deal the Democrats claimed was close on Thursday. Assuming the legislation passes soon, and assuming it reassures financial markets, McCain will be able to take some credit.
But the goal shouldn’t be to return to “a normal campaign.” For these aren’t normal times.
We face a real financial crisis. Usually the candidate of the incumbent’s party minimizes the severity of the nation’s problems. McCain should break the mold and acknowledge, even emphasize the crisis. He can explain that dealing with it requires candor and leadership of the sort he’s shown in his career. McCain can tell voters we’re almost certainly in a recession, and things will likely get worse before they get better.
And McCain can note that the financial crisis isn’t going to be solved by any one piece of legislation.
There are serious economists, for example, who think we could be on the verge of a huge bank run. Congress may have to act to authorize the F.D.I.C. to provide far greater deposit insurance, and the secretary of the Treasury to protect money market funds. McCain can call for Congress to stand ready to pass such legislation.
He can say more generally that in the tough times ahead, we’ll need a tough president willing to make tough decisions. ...The core case against Obama is pretty simple: he’s too liberal. A few months ago I asked one of McCain’s aides what aspect of Obama’s liberalism they thought they could most effectively exploit. He looked at me as if I were a simpleton, and patiently explained that talking about “conservatism” and “liberalism” was so old-fashioned.
Maybe. But the fact is the only Democrats to win the presidency in the past 40 years — Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — distanced themselves from liberal orthodoxy. Obama is, by contrast, a garden-variety liberal. He also has radical associates in his past.
The most famous of these is the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and I wonder if Obama may have inadvertently set the stage for the McCain team to reintroduce him to the American public.
On Saturday, Obama criticized McCain for never using in the debate Friday night the words “middle class.” The Obama campaign even released an advertisement trumpeting McCain’s omission.
The McCain campaign might consider responding by calling attention to Chapter 14 of Obama’s eloquent memoir, “Dreams From My Father.” There Obama quotes from the brochure of Reverend Wright’s church — a passage entitled “A Disavowal of the Pursuit of Middleclassness.”
So when Biden goes on about the middle class on Thursday, Palin might ask Biden when Obama flip-flopped on Middleclassness. ….
As to what he should do going forward, here are items on my “Advice to McCain” list.
1 - - - Tag Sen. Obama as what he is – a liberal. Hammer that every day so that by Election Day it’s one of the first things that comes to peoples’ minds when they think “Obama.”
2 - - - Raise the Rezko, Ayers, Wright questions. You and your surrogates should give most of your attention to Wright’s anti-white, anti-American preaching and Obama’s long, close, and admiring relationship with him.
Wright gets #1 attention because: 1) people can easily understand Obama had to know what Wright was preaching, so therefore his “I never heard any of that” is a lie; and 2) most Americans don’t want a President who was tight for almost 20 years with a preacher ranting “KKK-America,” “God damn America,” etc.
3 - - - Announce tomorrow: “The center piece of my plan to provide economic stimulus is adopting policies which will bring the price of gas down by at least $1.00 per gallon. When that happens every time you fill a tank with 15 gallons, you save $15.00 over what you’re paying now. You get to keep that money and use it as you decide.”
4 - - - Every day talk about specific projects to develop renewable and non-renewable energy here in America and legislation needed to support those projects. Keep reminding people more energy sources here means less foreign dependence, greater supplies and lower energy costs, including gas $1.00 a gallon less than it is now.
5 - - - Talk more about the 95+ percent of people who are paying their mortgages on time. Make yourself their advocate. Remind them they’re proof of the fundamental soundness of our economy, but that you and they must guard against politicians and community organizers who promote the issuance of high risk mortgages that endanger a sound economy and threaten the value of their homes.
Promise you’ll appoint a commission which will identify how and why bad mortgage loans were made and what the government should do to see it doesn’t happen again.
When you talk about the commission, say: “I promise you I’ll do everything I can to make sure the members of Congress who’ve been telling us Freddie and Fannie were in great shape won’t be members of the commission, but they'll be asked to testify before it.”
Folks, there’s more I’d like to say to McCain, but I’ll save it for another day.
What are your thoughts?
Hat tip: BN