Phony Outrage

Obama, to his great credit, criticized some of the more tiresome aspects of the campaign back-and-forth.

“What their campaign has done this morning is the same game that has made people sick and tired of politics in this country. They seize on an innocent remark, try to take it out of context, throw out an outrageous ad because they know it’s catnip for the news media,” Mr. Obama said. “I’m assuming you guys heard this watching the news. I’m talking about John McCain’s economic policies and I said here’s more of the same, ‘You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. Suddenly, they say, Oh you must be talking about the governor of Alaska!’”

But who was quick to accuse the McCain campaign of racism? And haven’t some associates of the Obama campaign suggested that a playful series of McCain ads poking fun at some of Obama’s more grandiose remarks were designed to suggest that Obama was in fact the Antichrist — a charge that appeared in a number of well-regarded publications? The manufacture of phony outrage is, alas, endemic to both parties. The tone of Obama’s remarks suggests that he’s never even dreamed of using such a tactic himself — one has to assume Obama sincerely believes that John McCain is eager to tens of thousands of American servicemembers fight and die in the middle of an Iraqi civil war for 100 years. Which is, to say the least, unlikely. In a better world, perhaps the Democrats would deride McCain as follows:

John McCain believes that it might make sense for the United States government to make a long-term security guarantee to a future Iraqi government, one that would help secure Iraq’s borders and prevent an arms race or cross-border aggression in the region, with the goal of encouraging a shift in resources from destructive military competition to constructive domestic policies aimed at achieving broad-based prosperity, which will in turn alleviate the tensions that currently divide that country. He also believes that this might involve a commitment of U.S. military forces, not unlike the U.S. presence in South Korea and other allied states. This is dangerously insane!

We don’t live in that world. Nor do we live in a world in which Democrats, after seeing The One:

Oh come on, this is hardly “Swiftboating.” Boy, you really got us. I guess the rhetoric is a little high-flown. But come on, people like it, and our candidate really is an inspirational figure. I think you guys are a little jealous of Obama’s charisma, which is sad. That said, I do kind of see where you’re coming from.

Let’s get back to talking about how we want a fairer tax code and more investment in public infrastructure and early childhood education. Wait, now we actually want to keep all of the Bush tax cuts if there’s a recession, and we want to add more. And we also want to spend much more money. Wait a second …

The truth is, this world would get pretty awkward and uncomfortable pretty fast. The McCain campaign, for example, would have to acknowledge the fact that it utterly lacks a credible domestic policy agenda.