Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Case for Closer Campaign Encounters

Around their drive-by handshake at this evening's forum on public service, John McCain and Barack Obama showed voters their best selves, but there must be an alternative to the sliming of the past weeks and tonight's arm's length politesse.

Why doesn't Obama take McCain up on the offer he repeated tonight for face-to-face town hall encounters? In such a setting, McCain would not have been able to pass off Sarah Palin's slur on community organizers without being pressed by Obama to repudiate such glib mindlessness.

In a race that has tightened and with McCain's momentum from Palin effect, Obama should rethink his rejection of the town-hall setting as he did the issue of public financing. A presidential race is no place for a foolish consistency.

The single most pressing problem for the Obama campaign is the split-screen McCain campaign in which he presents himself as the honorable warrior against corruption while his ads and surrogates, especially Palin, take the low Rovian road of swiftboating his history and positions on issues.

The surest way to deal with that is face to face on as frequent a schedule as possible. The debate format leaves too much wiggle room for evasion.

Obama's best chance lies in accepting the opportunities for hand-to-hand combat. He has the truth on his side in most of the controversies that have been stirred up, and he certainly has the rhetorical skills to make the most of it.

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