I usually don't watch Hannity & Colmes, mostly because I find both commentators nauseating to listen to. But I tuned in last night because my boy Mark Steyn, the thinking man's columnist to the world, was making an appearance. (Steyn has a pretty sexy high-brow British accent, by the way. I'm sure my fiancee would love to hear me say that.) Not only was Steyn on, but the show-opening panel included former congressman John Kasich and my favorite Democrat (other than the Chairman, of course), Bob Beckel, who I think literally has nightmares about John McCain. Although five people is way too many to have arguing at once, Anderson Cooper 360 this was not.
The topic turned to the effect that Rev. Wright would have on Obama in November. Beckel argued that Iraq and Bush (who he called "the most unpopular president in history") would be millstones around McCain's neck, and to say that Wright would be an even bigger drag on Obama was just being silly. However, in rebuttal, Steyn astutely pointed out something compelling -- two somethings, actually. First, as I mentioned in my Monday post, Obama has never been about the issues. Outside of the ridiculous pandering to blue-collar voters about pulling out of NAFTA, the Democratic primary has, because of the tone set by the Obama campaign, been about image and nonsense like "yes we can," "change" and a thousand other meaningless catchphrases. Obama's appeal is derived heavily -- if not entirely -- from his squeaky-clean, post-partisan image. He has built a castle made of sand by running entirely on his image and supposed good character. Things like Wright, Rezko and Bittergate are enormous problems, and do him far more damage than such revelations would do to Hillary or McCain. That's why these events receive so much coverage, and Hillary's sniper-fire story has been forgotten.
Secondly, Steyn correctly pointed out that presidential elections often are about character. (And I think that's different from image.) There was no reason for John Kerry to lose the 2004 election, other than the fact that he was a snobbish, out-of-touch flip-flopper who gave many moderate voters no reason to trust him. While that might have played well in Cape Cod, voters look for entirely different things in Des Moines and Topeka. A candidate's character is of utmost importance to voters. What many liberals fail to realize is that Bush, for all his faults, appeared to be a regular guy, and voters didn't think he intended to sell them down the river. As Frank Caliendo so astutely pointed out, it seems that, much unlike Kerry, Bush suffered from case of "truthful Tourette's." Again stiff, stuffy opponents like Gore and Kerry, his honesty and simple persona were perhaps his greatest assets. Why else would he have won a second term?
What McCain's hundreds of town-hall meetings have illustrated is a guy who voters can vehemently disagree with, yet walk away respecting deeply. Obama might win the image war still, but what an incredible asset McCain's character is. His life story is compelling, his honesty is admirable, and the fact that he is a genuine war hero is invaluable to his candidacy. If Obama wins the election, it will be because the GOP hasn't done enough to impugn his character, highlight his extremist record and paint him as just another politician. As Wright/Rezko/Bittergate/NAFTA pandering has shown, the material is there.
Come September, McCain had better be ready to take the gloves off.