Today’s Schultz Report begins with a review of the public pillorying of Wes Clark last week for daring suggest that being a POW and a war hero did not qualify John McCain to be president–a fairly terrifying little spectacle in which Clark’s words were transmuted by “reporters” as well as chatterers into a wholesale attack on McCain’s character and the idea of military service itself. “What Clark pointed out,” Schultz notes, “is that merely having been a prisoner of war, his record in Vietnam in and of itself, is not a qualification to be president. He went on to say that McCain never served in an executive position in the military, the government, or a corporation. He was simply trying to say that McCain lacks the executive skills, based on his military record alone, to be president of the United States. That’s a pretty accurate statement. That’s no different from people saying Obama lacks executive experience because he has only served in the Senate.
“But having said all that, it really did spin out of control. Where the spin started was on outlets like Fox News, but it carried all over the place. The real story was how the GOP was spinning it as an attack on McCain. McCain himself, and the GOP, will use his military record when it’s to their advantage. What’s ironic about this is that four years ago, when we had John Kerry running for president, and he had received two or three Purple Hearts, the Republicans and the Swiftboaters had absolutely no problem in questioning his military record and his integrity, based on what he did in Vietnam. They even went to the extreme of saying he won those three Purple Hearts because he wanted to get wounded and end his deployment in Vietnam very quickly.
“There’s hypocrisy here. It’s okay to invoke McCain’s military record to his advantage, it’s okay to attack a John Kerry for his military record, but it’s not okay to attack or even question what the military record says about fitness to be president if we’re talking about John McCain.”
One factor in the wildfire was Barack Obama’s speedy disavowal of Clark’s comments. Schultz views it as another signal that Obama is tacking right at an extraordinary pace. “What Obama has done so far is something no Democrat has done in a long time,” Schultz says of primary-season Barack, “which is to run as a somewhat progressive candidate. And in the process, he has given a whole bunch of disaffected voters a reason to get involved. He’s drawn heavily from people of color, he’s drawn heavily from students–he’s brought in a different group of people. That seemed to amount to rejecting the Clinton/Democratic Leadership Council strategy of running from the center–running almost from the right–to outflank Republicans. What Obama has done now is he’s stolen a page from the Clintons’ campaign book in terms of triangulation–he’s out-Republicaning the Republican.
“Last week the Wall Street Journal said that Obama was running for Bush’s third term. And there’s a lot of truth in that in some sense. Many Democrats, for example, don’t like the FISA bill. But Democrats [in Congress] are capitulating on that, and so is Obama. He also capitulated on campaign finance, and two other things: He’s now backtracked on the timetable issue, and said he may not be able to bring all the troops home as soon as promised. And he’s revised himself on some other critical issues, like Bush’s faith-based initiatives. He said last week that he would expand faith-based groups’ eligibility for federal money. Yes, [there are] some important changes from Bush in terms of saying these groups couldn’t discriminate. But he’s adopting some of Bush’s strategy. He seems to be going after the religious fundamentalists, trying to splinter some of that coalition away from the Republicans, going after Republican working-class voters.
“At the same time he’s said in other places that, you know, my criticism of free trade and NAFTA–sometimes you say things that get heated during a campaign. So he’s backing away on that. On a lot of issues that were hallmarks of his campaign, he’s moving away [from prior positions] in ways that are even more rapid than normal [Democratic presidential] gravitation toward the center, and at a time when I don’t think he needs to do it. He has a chance to run viably as a left-of-center candidate, but he’s moving away rapidly from that position.
“I suspect he’s going to be able to do that and be very successful, though, because with the weakness of McCain as a candidate–a lack of support from religious conservatives, and a lot of potentially disaffected working people out there who could bolt and go back to the Democrats. I think he’s going to use a Clinton strategy, and leave the progressives saying, “Well, gosh, I have nowhere else to go. I guess I’ll have to stick with him,” even as he’s chasing conservative and moderate voters at the same time. I think the real concern is, at what point do some of the progressive voices in the Democratic party and the new voters decide to stay home on election day.
“He may be morphing into Hillary Clinton at this point.”