Monday, November 19, 2007

Mud and Milquetoast

For a contrast in styles of playing political catch-up, consider two candidates who have been getting Dear John letters from voters in the Presidential polls--Edwards and McCain.

Accused of “throwing mud...right out of the Republican playbook" by the Democratic front runner, John Edwards responded yesterday, “If anybody, including Senator Clinton, thinks this is mudslinging--this is milquetoast, compared to what we’re going to see next fall." On the TV talk shows, he defined his attacks as passion rather than anger.

Meanwhile, John McCain is making the case for civility. “If I’m your nominee and Senator Clinton is the nominee of the other party," he told a university audience in New Hampshire, "the country will face as clear a choice as any in recent memory.

“She will be a formidable candidate. And while our differences are many and profound, I intend this to be a respectful debate. She and I disagree over America’s direction, and it is a serious disagreement. But I don’t doubt her ability to lead this country where she thinks it should go.”

On his bus, McCain told reporters, obviously aiming at Rudy Giuliani, “I don’t think you should take shots at her, like imitating her voice. I don’t know what you gain by doing that.”

Observers of the differences in the candidates' approaches might be tempted to look for explanations in their combat experiences--McCain in the skies over Vietnam and prison camps below, Edwards (and Giuliani) arguing cases in courtrooms.

As Murray Kempton used to say, the less at stake, the more bitter the battles become.

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