While I'm no fan of McCain (or Jamie Kirchick, for that matter), Jamie Kirchick has a pretty good piece on the Politico about the tendency of Obama partisans to claim that their candidate is being unfairly smeared, even as they themselves do worse:
The only obstacle between Barack Obama and the presidency is the mountain of smears that will no doubt come his way. That’s the narrative that Obama supporters — and his swooning chroniclers in the mainstream media — would have us believe.
Obama himself set up a website, fighthesmears.com, correcting some e-mail chain letters that allege he “can’t produce his birth certificate,” is “secretly a Muslim” and that he “won’t say the Pledge of Allegiance.” In May, Newsweek published a cover story confirming the Obama campaign’s fears, declaring that “the Republican Party has been successfully scaring voters since 1968.”
Writers Evan Thomas and Richard Wolfe concluded that the 2008 presidential election will be no different. “It is a sure bet that the GOP will try to paint Obama as ‘the other’ — as a haughty black intellectual who has Muslim roots (Obama is a Christian) and hangs around with America-haters.”
But has it been a “sure bet?”
Not really. Thus far, no one with any serious affiliation to John McCain's campaign has resorted to the alleged “scare” tactics in which Republicans — and, apparently, only Republicans — have been perfecting since Richard Nixon was first elected. On the contrary, if the past few months have showed us anything, it’s that the Obama campaign is the one dealing in crude smears.
There have been only two incidents in which people officially associated with McCain have done anything approaching what Thomas and Wolfe predicted those dastardly, conniving Republicans would inevitably do. In February, a conservative talk radio host speaking at a McCain rally made reference to “Barack Hussein Obama.” McCain immediately condemned the statement, leading the embittered and embarrassed professional yacker to complain that McCain “threw me under the bus.” The only other smear-worthy episode occurred in March, when the McCain campaign suspended a low-level aide who provided a link on his Twitter account to a video featuring the rants of Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Heavy stuff, to be sure.
Contrast the absence of smears from the McCain camp with some of the outlandish remarks made by high-ranking Obama supporters. In April, West Virginia Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV said that because McCain “was a fighter pilot, who dropped laser-guided missiles from 35,000 feet,” and “was long gone when they hit,” the Arizona senator who spent five and a half years in a Vietcong tiger cage having his arms repeatedly broken didn’t really understand the carnage of war. “What happened when [the missiles] get to the ground?” Rockefeller asked a crowd at an Obama rally. “He doesn’t know. You have to care about the lives of people. McCain never gets into those issues.” That the great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller would impugn the wartime experience of John McCain is especially rich, given that the only “battle” Rockefeller has seen is when he hunts wild game at his 80-acre ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Rockefeller’s smear was the first salvo in a pattern of attacks meant to insinuate that McCain’s Vietnam experience not only shouldn’t count as meaningful “experience,” but rendered him psychologically unfit for presidential office. In May, Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin said of McCain, “Everything is looked at from his life experiences, from always having been in the military, and I think that can be pretty dangerous.” Over the weekend, retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark said that McCain is “untested and untried,” and elaborated that, “I don't think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president.” Clark, you may remember, ran for president in 2004 on his record as a career military officer, so his comment, which he has not retracted, was not just morally offensive but self-discrediting.
The smears didn’t stop there. On Monday, Obama foreign policy adviser Rand Beers unfavorably compared McCain’s POW experience with “the members of the Senate who were in the ground forces or who were ashore in Vietnam,” and who “have a very different view of Vietnam and the cost ... than John McCain does because he was in isolation essentially for many of those years and did not experience the turmoil here or the challenges that were involved for those of us who served in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.”
It’s curious how anyone could argue that a man with such visceral understanding of the capacity for what America’s enemies will do to our men and women in uniform doesn’t fully appreciate the cost of war. But even more troubling is the unmistakable pattern of these smears, all of them unsubtly alleging that McCain is an unhinged, mentally unstable warmonger who would deploy soldiers capriciously because he hasn’t truly experienced the horrors of ground battle. Indeed, the claims of these four men — and the short period of time in which they were all uttered — are so similar in tone that one would be foolish not to at least consider the possibility they were coordinated by the Obama campaign.
Nevertheless, the fears of Obama supporters that their candidate lies eternally vulnerable to GOP smears exists only in their fevered imaginations. The evidence of dirty Republican tricks has been utterly absent this campaign season. And if anyone has tried to smear Barack Obama in the way that Thomas, Wolfe and other Democratic partisans allege, it was not the Republican National Committee, but rather Hillary Rodham Clinton and her surrogates. In February, the Drudge Report claimed that the Clinton campaign circulated photos of Obama in a traditional East African turban and robe, with the message that the images showed him “dressed.” Asked if there was any truth to the smear that Obama is a Muslim, she infamously replied, “As far as I know,” it wasn’t the case. After the Indiana and North Carolina primaries, she said the results showed that "Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again.”
The belief that “the Republican Party has been successfully scaring voters since 1968” is a comforting salve for Democrats. After all, it’s much easier for them to demonize conservatives than consider that the reason for their electoral defeats may lie with liberal ideas. Please don’t take that as a "smear.”