James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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McCain as Eeyore, and the “Dow of poo”

Posted by James McPherson on October 7, 2008

John McCain’s Desperation Express continues, with McCain and Sarah Palin furiously throwing mud as fast as they can, inciting crowds to scream hateful and scary epithets, hoping something will stick to Barack Obama–even as they hope that such tactics don’t bring too much attention to such things as McCain’s involvement with the Keating Five or his involvement with the radical Council of World Freedom (think neocons plus Iran-Contra scandal–gee, what could go wrong?). Not to mention Palin’s “Troopergate” problems, her “witch doctor” pastor, or her husband’s involvement with a separatist organization that advocates Alaska’s possible succession from the union.

It’s turning so ugly that even the slash-and-burn media that normally thrive on scandal and controversy are becoming disgusted by it. In the meantime, the tactics–once denounced by McCain–don’t seem to be working anyway, and are turning off even some conservatives who weren’t already abandoning ship because of Palin’s clear lack of qualifications, and who recognize that the attacks are an attempt to avoid discussion of the economy.

Obviously many Republicans still think McCain can win (as do skittish Democrats, particularly those concerned about the possibility of stolen elections in Ohio, Florida, fictional Springfield, and elsewhere). With a month to go, they’re right, but McCain’s odds grow longer each day. Barring unforeseen and dramatic events, the final two debates are his last chance to turn the tide, and even there his timing is bad. While time as a POW forty years ago doesn’t qualify anyone to be president or make someone a foreign politcy expert, such experience is even less relevant to economic expertise–McCain’s admitted weakness.

Tonight’s debate will feature the “town hall forum” that McCain generally likes, but such forums work best for candidates who are viewed as affable and compassionate. The strategy adopted by the McCain campaign, however, is neither of those, and he may find himself on the defensive against an audience (which, unlike with his previous forums, will not be made up of Republican supporters) that is more concerned with keeping their own jobs (or someday being able to retire from them) than with helping some rich guy from either party get a new job.

A defensive McCain can come across as an angry McCain, probably the worst tone he could adopt tonight. As Slate’s John Dickerson points out, “One thing we know: You don’t want Joe Six Pack calling you out.” Or a hockey mom, for that matter. One oddity not discussed enough in the media is how McCain keeps blaming his propensity for lying on Obama’s unwillingness to engage in more town hall meetings. Another problem for a candidate trying to make up ground, based on a half-dozen conversations I’ve had today, is that potential debate viewers disdane what has happened to the process. “I’ll probably watch part of it, but if it’s like the campaign has been lately, I’ll turn it off,” one coworker said about the debate.

What most Americans care most about right now is the plunging Dow and other negative economic aspects. Like Winnie the Pooh, their concerns are relatively simple and immediate, not about someone who engaged in bad behavior when Obama was 8 years old or McCain’s experience as a POW. And while the donkey is a Democratic symbol, it is McCain who is coming across as the old, gray, pessimistic, thistle-eating Eeyore who is yet again about to lose his tail.

Assuming the next two debates don’t dramatically change the electoral map–and I predict they won’t–I have another bit of advice for John McCain: “Live up to your motto, ‘Country first.’ Admit that your campaign is essentially defeated, and that it’s time to get to work on problems. Start talking about how conservatives and liberals can work together to solve tough problems. Note the great things about being an American, and how you’ll continue to work with anyone to make the country even stronger. Send Palin home to Alaska, tell your surrogates to shut up, and offer to turn over any money left over from your campaign to people who are losing their homes or jobs. Now that would be a ‘maverick’ thing to do. It might even restore your once positive image, and conceivably turn the election from a potential rout to a close contest.”

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13 Responses to “McCain as Eeyore, and the “Dow of poo””

  1. Rich Strauch said

    Call me Eyeore, but given the twists and turns of this election year, I hestate to put this one away, even with poll numbers “hardening”, “solidifying”, “ossifying”… Or maybe it’s just my midwest Lutheran-ness that keeps me from wanting to get my hopes too far up.

    And yet I agree that, at this stage, the cards (several decks worth) are stacked against McCain. Even if he shows a “softer” more likeable McCain tonight, he still comes across as the stiff old guy (never mind the war injuries) next to the face of the future — and elections are all about image.

    Again, the media are over-hyping the remaining debates. Those will not be the game-changers that McCain needs (unless Obama comes out and says, “You know, Ayres was completely right about bombing the Pentagon”) . What McCain needs in the way of “game-changer” is something of the magnitude of the Wall Street collapse, something that will cause a large number of voters to come out and say, “Oh my gosh, we need John McCain in the White House now, otherwise we are doomed.” Hitting Obama with Ayres and what-not is like blowing spitwads at a freight train.

    By the way, at this point in 1988, I thought Dukakis still had a chance… Hope springs eternal on either side of the aisle.

  2. The thing that I do not understand is why everyone is blaming the President for their financial stupidity. It is not his fault that they overspent themselves. But once agian people in this country refuse to take responsibility for their own actions; they perfer to blame someone else. The real source for the problem started in the Clinton Administrarion when he allowed these banks to start investing in things that they had no business being in. So once agian the Democrats have to blame Bush becasue it is there fault for this mess and they do not want that to get out.

  3. Carl Kane said

    The Hall Town format was supposed to be McCain’s strong and McCain bragged about it in every chance that got. However, his performance in Nashville is not up to a par.
    I know McCain is a senior citizen and all, but he really looks annoyed and kind of forgetful/drifty and even erratic at times. Obama looks poised and in command.

  4. Brock said

    McCain .. I don’t even know what to say about this man. How many times can one person run for President? He needs to give up. Come on!
    He needs more info on health care. taking away the tax breaks for business on health care will be one of the LARGEST economic mistakes of our time. We would need an even LARGER bail out packages if he does that.
    He has no clue. Plus, tax breaks for the rich businesses of the country, NO WAY.
    We need to do like President Clinton did, build from the middle class up. Not like Bush is doing, from the top down.
    Obama is it, McCain IS NOT!

  5. Daniel said

    The debate this evening should raise the polls for Obama another 10%, at least.

  6. Mike Ingram said

    Jim, I think your travel has left you fatigued. Johnny won’t admit his campaign is defeated. In fact his campaign has some good ideas (but in fairness I admit some of those good ideas get lost in between the horrible “I was in ‘Nam” and “Obama will raise your taxes” refrains). He is running more of a “BHO is bad” campaign rather than a “vote for me” one which I lament, and find a bad strategy.

    And the ‘witch doctor pastor’ line is a low blow from a good liberal. Palin, and many others, hold worldviews that are not widespread but that does not make them crazy. Besides, if you lined up candidate’s pastors, I think most Americans would shudder at BHO’s.

    Sadly, I still think BHO will win by a fair margin.

  7. Greg Enfield said

    What is wrong with Obama, McCain, Tom Brokaw, and the American people? Nobody seems to be asking pointed questions about the money wasted in Iraq alone which could bring down the U.S. deficit, pay for the $820 billion handout, pay for repair of all the bridges in America (remember, after the Minneapolis bridge collapse, we were told unequivocally that there was no money to upkeep them), and address many other issues without affecting the taxpayer. Think of each tank, each Hummer, and other sundry equipment being lost on a daily basis (not to mention the lives lost). What a colossal waste!!!!! All it does is pad the pockets of the Armed Forces and the Pentagon. Sad. People need to wake up and tell the government to become more effective in looking after its own people before trying to look after foreign countries who hate America, anyway.

  8. Titor said

    It is time to STRIKE BACK against those using weapons of mass distortion!

    Spread the TRUTH!

  9. James McPherson said

    I just watched the debate, and though Fox viewers thought McCain won, respondents on all other networks apparently gave the edge to Obama. McCain had the one new idea (regarding housing), though apparently conservative bloggers aren’t thrilled with that idea. Regardless, I think the debate changed little, and McCain failed to get a boost.

    Apparently the McCain camp agreed that a town hall forum was the wrong place for personal attacks, and they seemed to be correct in that assessment–CNN’s on-screen tracker of viewers showed that opinions dropped each time one candidate attacked the other.

    And to my good conservative friend Mike, I don’t deny that my travels (and some of the political rhetoric) have left me fatigued–and I may not have been clear with my “witch doctor” comment in my effort to condense several issues. The phrase is one appearing in many other news sites and blogs because Palin’s pastor apparently once declared a woman in Kenya to be a witch and helped run her out of town, but perhaps I should have attributed the phrase more clearly. Thanks, all, for the comments.

  10. A quick comment about the beginning of your post. I’m most appalled by the “scary and hateful epithets” heard during some Palin rallies. Being a human being and publically deriding bigoted or slanderous statements should be more important to the “God party” than winning elections, but apparently not to this bunch. I’m sickened, but not surprised, they aren’t speaking out against racist comments hollered out during rallies and cries of treason (the latter was loudly heard in one video). Not only has Palin attempted to connect Obama to Ayers, which the McCain-Palin ticket knows is a bogus claim, but she makes claims she knows followers will blindly believe without supplying an ounce of rational thought or research of their own.

  11. […] it wasn’t an accident, maybe Palin had merely read a recent blog post in which I compared John McCain to Eeyore, and this was her way of saying, “Vote for […]

  12. […] not to be the macho character that the media helped create. He is neither a straight talker nor a stable influence.  Keep in mind, this is the same campaign that every day criticizes the media for […]

  13. […] John McCain to pull out a win on Tuesday, and McCain likely will continue his unprecedented slog through the mud (tempered with an appearance this weekend on “Saturday Night Live,” where he can have a […]

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