How McCain, Obama, Handle Attacks

In responding to the “seven (maybe eight?) houses” attack, John McCain did something that I haven’t seen Barack Obama do.

He went on CBS News with Katie Couric and answered direct questions about it:

Couric asked about McCain’s answer when Politico inquired about the number of homes he and his wife, Cindy, own. McCain referred the question to his staff, who said he had at least four. Records show the number could be twice that, depending on how you count the family’s properties.

“I am grateful for the fact that I have a wonderful life,” McCain said. “I spent some years without a kitchen table, without a chair, and I know what it’s like to be blessed by the opportunities of this great nation. Cindy’s father, who barely finished high school, went off and distinguished himself in World War II in a B-17 and came back with practically nothing and realized the American dream, and I am proud and grateful for that, and I think he is a role model to many young Americans who serve in the military and come back and succeed.

“So the fact is that we have homes, and I’m grateful for it. We spend our time primarily in Washington, D.C., where I have a condominium in Crystal City, [Va.]; here in this beautiful Sedona that I am blessed every moment that I can spend here; our condominium in Phoenix, Ariz.; and a place over in San Diego. The others are also for investment purposes.”

McCain was asked if an Obama ad mentioning his memory was implicitly an attack on his advancing age.

“I don’t know, Katie. I’ll leave that to others,” he said. “We tried to inject some humor in some of ours, which I think were quite effective and entertaining for people. But that’s a judgment the American people will make.”

Finally, Couric asked if he was sorry he had answered the question about houses the way he did.

“I’ll continue to say I am blessed and very proud that [his late father-in-law] Jim Hensley, a war hero, a man who barely graduated from high school, was able to pass on to his daughter what he struggled for and saved for. That’s the ambition that all of us have for our children and grandchildren. If someone wants to disparage that, they are free to do that.”

It’s interesting to go back to the last sentence of the first paragraph (“Records show the number could be twice that, depending on how you count the family’s properties”) and then examine Katie Couric’s last question. It would seem to me that, if dozens of journalists scouring the record are still unable to say for certain precisely how many homes the McCains (actually Cindy McCain) own, then you can understand why John McCain had a little difficulty coming up with a politically appropriate and factually correct answer in a “gotcha” moment.

But the Obama campaign has been treating this as THE central campaign issue.  I suppose we’re supposed to believe 1) that wealth is demonic; 2) that Cindy McCain is demonic because she is wealthy; 3) that John McCain is demonic by proxy for having married wealthy heiress Cindy McCain; that John McCain should have busied himself with a detailed study of his wife’s financial situation, even though finances are evil; that therefore John McCain should be excoriated for not knowing exactly how many houses his demonic wife has when even the media have to use the word “could” to describe the number.

What occurred to me is just how differently McCain handled an attack from the way Barack Obama has handled attacks.

Obama has a huge network of bloggers in every state who have devoted their pathetic existences to attacking every negative claim about their messiah as part of “truth squads” (although that title hearkens me back to “freedom is slavery,” “ignorance is strength” from 1984). Obama’s campaign responds with instantaneous counterattacking television ads. And he rails about what McCain (or fill in the blank conservative) said in his teleprompter-reading town hall meetings in what amount to preaching to the choir.

But I’m not seeing Barack Obama going into enemy media territory and doing interviews to face the charges personally and head-on, like John McCain did. Obama has done a few interviews that probably became testier than he planned, but I don’t recall him going on a conservative-oriented program (do I really have to mention the forged Bush military records being waved around by uber-lib uber-anchor Dan Rather in a clear attempt to destroy Bush’s re-election to depict the climate at CBS?) to answer tough questions.

I like the way McCain dealt with this.  Ultimately, John McCain – all response ads and campaign counters  aside – chose to personally and immediately confront an issue that was being used to dog him.

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