Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gaffe & Counter-Gaffe

So McCain pulled a two-fer on the gaffe front in recent days. First McCain made the $5,000,000 a year comment, which he followed up with the "I'll have my staff get [back] to you" comment about the number of houses he owns. While the first comment was supposed to be a joke it didn't play well. Following it up with the forgetfulness about the number of homes he and his wife own makes him out to be horribly rich, which as we know means he's worse than Hitler.

Today, however, Obama personally delivered a counter-gaffe for the McCain campaign to use against him. According to the Washington Post, this morning at a rally in Virginia Obama said,

"I guess if you think that being rich means you've got to make $5 million and if you don't know how many houses you have, then it's not surprising that you might think the economy was fundamentally strong. But if you're like me, and you've got one house, or you are like the millions of people who are struggling right now to keep up with their mortgage so they don't lose their home, you might have a different perspective."
My immediate reaction was that Obama had screwed up. As I continued reading the Washington Post article I was shocked to see that McCain's campaign had actually been smart enough to seize the opportunity!
"Does a guy who made more than $4 million last year, just got back from vacation on a private beach in Hawaii and bought his own million-dollar mansion with the help of a convicted felon really want to get into a debate about houses?" asked McCain spokesman Brian Rogers.
Yowza! I cannot believe that Obama was stupid enough to bring up his own home in this context. Now he has opened the door for McCain to hammer him on his ties to Tony Rezko - an attack that will bring home the point that while Obama talks about "change" he's really just a crooked Chicago pol.

I imagine that this (essentially meaningless) exchange will favor McCain. McCain has been around for quite a while now. We already knew McCain was rich, although I doubt most knew how rich. We also know that he came by his money honestly - he married it. But Obama has been running as the outsider and the agent of change. The Rezko stuff has been kicking around but not everyone has been paying close attention. Now the McCain campaign is likely to start using some of their money to start pounding Obama on his close financial ties to a crook.

Now the proper way for Obama to have handled this gift from McCain would have been to say as little as possible, and he should have NEVER mentioned his own home. It would have been easy enough to get some common American to ask him about McCain's comments at a campaign stop.
Average American Voter: Senator Obama, John McCain thinks that the cut-off for rich is at $5 million a year. Now we know that he doesn't even remember how many houses he owns. What's your reaction to that?

Obama: [Shrugs shoulders and just smiles at the voter]

Audience: Laughs
It would have also been fine to have surrogates go out and blast McCain about this just so long as they don't mention Obama! They did get one thing just right, though - the ad that Obama's campaign put together is excellent.Almost perfect. It doesn't mention Obama at all (except for the "approve this message" crap). The only way this would have been better is if they had played audio or video of McCain's hemming-and-hawing answer. I presume they didn't have access to such material.

But now they have given McCain a gift. The McCain campaign seems to have realized this. Now we simply have to wait and see if they're clever enough to exploit it well.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, this heavily favors Obama in the short term. Medium and long term this may cut against him.


justkim said...

I think one thing needs to be considered in this debate: not so very long ago one didn’t need to be rich to “own” a house, even a McMansion. I’m reminded of a story that ran in the Orlando Sentinel several months ago about a poor, sad a tire store manager and his postal worker wife who were about to lose their $500,000 home. Moreover, it has to be considered that many of the houses in foreclosure today are “owned” by middle class people who bought multiple properties for inflated prices under questionable mortgage terms in the hopes they would get rich quick by flipping them or, barring that, renting them for more than the monthly payments.

John McCain’s sin isn’t that he (or his wife or the trust funds) own more than one house. His sin is that he currently appears to be able to make the monthly payments.

Icepick said...

Yeah, now I remember when we were shopping for a home three summers ago. There was that English woman around the corner who owned EIGHT HOUSES! Unreal....

AnastasiaBeaverhausen said...

One thing...Obama and the "private beach" in Hawaii...he was visiting his grandmother but the Secret Service set that up as to where due to some recent threats...they don't make a big deal out of them so not to arouse more nuts...just for the safety of the family, especially the kids.

On the housing stuff...I too am looking for a home and currently rent from a contractor who got so greedy that now his oversized, overpriced houses won't sell and he is close to bankruptcy. What makes it worse is that he is a lazy jerk who hired lots of Mexicans to do his work for him and they all quit, he even had them doing work at his house. This guy is so lazy that he doesn't treat our well water so now it is all rusty, let the lawn overgrow for 2 months now, and doesn't even take out his trash. Yet finding something near to where I work is impossible because we are near the ocean and resort areas. I'd have to commute over 30 miles one way for affordable housing.

AnastasiaBeaverhausen said...

And we have the same thing here, people with multiple houses (my boss' partner is one of them). They are rented all summer and sit idle all winter, but he makes all the money he needs to care for the between Memorial Day and Labor Day - rents to the same people year after year, raising the rents each year. Yet still he cries he doesn't have enough money!