Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Untenable: Why a top McCain ad strategist quit

The resignation of Mark McKinnon, John McCain’s “chief advertising strategist” (an ominous title), carries the scent of something rotten.

McKinnon’s stated reason for stepping down is that he doesn’t want to work against Barack Obama, even though McKinnon disagrees with the Democratic candidate on several issues, including the Iraq War.

Last summer in a Cox News Service interview, McKinnon had vowed not to work against Obama in the general election. Tuesday, he acted on it.

The putrefaction comes from the “work” McKinnon would have been doing for McCain in the months ahead.

Think “Willie Horton,” “Swift boating,” and most recently “appeasement,” “lapel pinning,” and “albatross hanging” (in the form of Obama’s pastor and acquaintance with a ‘60s radical).

Read between the lines of the New York Times story about the resignation. My interpretation is that McKinnon didn’t want to be party to the character assassination of Obama, a man McKinnon has described as having “deep character and good judgment.”

McKinnon said of Obama in the Cox News interview, “I also think he’s wrong on some fundamental issues. But I believe he is honest and independent.”

If Obama is “wrong on some fundamental issues,” why can’t McKinnon continue working for McCain, with whom McKinnon agrees on those issues?

Silly me. I forgot that politics isn’t about fundamental issues; it’s about red-meat "attack" ads, distortions, innuendos and smears.

I'm guessing that McKinnon has concluded that he wants no part of the Republicans’ strategy against Obama.

Which raises the question of why McKinnon presumably would have stuck with McCain if Hillary Clinton were the Democratic nominee. Is it somehow OK to tear down Hillary? If so, why?

The Times story is laced with hedging and fudging. Take this line: “Mr. McKinnon had told friends, and some journalists, that he did not want to be part of a hard-fought campaign against such an historic candidacy.”

Not part of a “hard-fought campaign”? What did he want, a half-hearted, leisurely campaign conducted from the Bahamas?

No, “hard-fought” is political code for “smear.”

And what does history have to do with it? McKinnon had told Cox that an Obama presidency would “send a great message to the country and the world.”

Did McKinnon not want to be remembered by history for waging a racist campaign against a black man capable of bearing such a great message? Could the “race card” be what McCain’s “strategists” are preparing to deal? Maybe McKinnon thought it was OK to go after Clinton because she and her “strategists” are using the same tactics against Obama.

Sounds to me as if Mr. McKinnon was having gastrointestinal problems during McCain “strategy” sessions. Maalox wasn’t working. It was time to invoke last year's vow.

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