Monday, September 8, 2008

Change, yes we can -- the McCain-Palin strategy of repackaging

Cross posted at Huffington Post

Obama says of McCain and Palin "You can’t just recreate yourself. You can’t just reinvent yourself. The American people aren’t stupid."

Oops. But, change? Yes, we can. The possibility to redefine and reinvent yourself is absolutely central to the American experience. It's at the heart of the immigrant story. Come to the new land, reinvent yourself and make your fortune. And if you make a mistake, try again and start over. This is the land of second, third and fourth chances. And rebranding.

Absent from McCain's claims of being a change agent is any admission that his past performance is wanting. He needs to pose as a change agent to win votes. The only reason for him to present himself as a reformer is to bait a citizenry ravenous for change in Washington -- he's betting that voters are so desperate for change, they can't think clearly and discern his rhetorical co-opting of Obama's message of change.

In fact, he seems to be taking a page from Dubya's 2000 campaign play book. McCain is claiming he'll "drain the swamp, "take 'em on" and "bring the right kind of change." While he sounds like a Clint Eastwood character, he actually sounds even more like Dubya on the campaign trail in 2000.

Here's how Dubya took aim at McCain in the 2000 election. From a New York Times article dated February 8, 2000:

"Bush proclaimed today that he was the true reformer in the Republican field and portrayed his chief opponent, Senator John McCain, as someone who 'says one thing and does another.'"

"'If you're tired of no results and simple, empty rhetoric,' he said, 'if you're tired of people who say one thing and do another, come join our team.'"

McCain's Straight Talk Express, while an ironic joke to Obama supporters and intelligent, thoughtful observers, isn't about truth, facts or straight talk. It is about simple, short catch phrases -- verbal gestures that suggest populism and patriotism and the guy next door. The technique is meant to make a false impression, not to persuade on the merits of policy positions. It is calculated deceit to make McCain accessible to masses of voters who don't seem to realize that they're not going to have a beer with a guy owns seven houses and whose wife can afford a $300,000 outfit, no matter how plain spoken he presents himself on TV or at a town hall meeting.

The American people aren't stupid, just gullible and spent. And you only need to fool some of them in a very close race.

Unless Senator Obama has a brilliant trump card he's saving for the right moment, he'd better take off the gloves, quit being politely incredulous and let rip some real straight talk. If he delays much further, McCain's puffed-up fake populism and pretense of being a reformer might stick with voters.