Monday, October 13, 2008

Strategy and Tactics

Driving home today, I listened to Talk of the Nation, on which Bill Kristol urged John McCain to fire his campaign staff because it isn't working. Apart from the fact that I want McCain's campaign to fail, I was interested in one remark Kristol made. Loosely paraphrased, he said that McCain had some good ideas (choosing Palin as VP, suspending his campaign to go to Washington to create a miracle for the bailout), but they weren't followed up. They're all tactical, said Kristol; there's no strategic thinking.

No strategic thinking. Isn't that an interesting suggestion? McCain isn't a strategist; he's a tactician. Think about his military career - he flew ground-attack aircraft off carriers. You need tactics in that role; other people take care of strategy. McCain retired from the Navy in 1981 (after 23 years), as a captain, and went into politics, where issues of strategy versus tactics are somewhat diluted. A Navy captain is the equivalent of an Army or Air Force colonel, which I'd argue is the lowest possible command level at which you need to begin to think strategically. Below that level you're dealing with much more day-to-day stuff: tactics and logistics. McCain reached captain; then he retired.

This campaign is the most important operation of McCain's career, and he isn't thinking strategically. Why should we assume that he'll start thinking strategically if we elect him President? And what would be the implications of a President of the United States who is driven entirely by tactical considerations? I wasn't going to vote for him for a number of reasons, some making more sense than others; but frankly, this one seems to me to be quite potent.


  1. In their first debate, McCain chided Obama for allegedly confusing "strategy" with "tactics."

  2. What struck me about Kristol's remarks--aside from the general fraudulent trend of his snide neo-con patter--is that his strategy is to try to make it seem as if McCain's failure can simply be explained by bad public relations tactics. In other words, McCain's policies and positions are all just fine--it's his campaign staff that's at fault.

    This is just plain bull. Despite fronting for a handful of "unpopular" positions regarding immigration, campaign finance reform and Fannny/Freddie, McCain's been a classic shill for big business, solidly behind the interests of the rich. McCain was a big supporter of the legislation which removed the safeguards from our banking and finance systems that paved the way for our current loan crisis. His attempt to paint himself as a banking and finance "reformer" is poppycock.

    If anything, the public's belated recognition that these policies have brought us to our present dilemma is a direct cause of McCain's decline in the polls. It isn't just public relations, it's simple math. These guys screwed you over, so don't buy their song and dance again.

    Krisktol's little maneuver won't fool anyone.

    If McCain loses, it won't be because he chose Sarah, or because he engaged in pathetic impotent personal attacks against Obama, but because his record stank to high heaven. Maverick? Give me a break!

    Back in February, I predicted that McCain would win by a landslide. Thank goodness, it appears I was completely wrong.

  3. Addendum:

    McCain's biggest blunder, it seems to me, is to continue to parrot the old chestnut about "Obama's gonna raise your taxes"--which he repeats over and over again ad infinitum--when Obama has said unequivocally he only plans to raise the taxes of the top 1-3% of the population. For those who promoted the Republican "temporary" capital gains tax cuts because they were NOT going to be permanent, it's hard to argue now that, given the present budgetary mess, there's any reason they shouldn't be allowed to sunset as scheduled.

    The rich don't generate jobs with their excess cash. They eliminate them! "Job creation." What a joke!

  4. The most interesting thing about this entire election is the presence of the "fact checkers". Sites like are on the job every day, all the time, looking at everyone's campaign claims and correcting both sides when they bend the truth - and they both do. Even the San Francisco Chronicle has been publishing a weekly list of "Lies and half-truths" published by both campaigns. Let's hear it for the internet, and freedom of information.