Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Monday, October 27, 2008

It is interesting to think about how the Obama campaign has worked, because it suggests that the same approach will be taken to governing the country. Obama has been a meticulous, careful planer, who consulted with legitimate experts, not just pols. He has been inclusive, campaigning everywhere, rather than targeted. Although the commentary about him is frequently about his personal qualities, he seems focused on substance. And he has run a tight ship. I can't think of a single misstep, and when circumstances have forced him to address something unforeseen-- as with the Rev. Wright-- he has managed to turn it into a legitimate point for important discussion. We're lucky-- he seems to have a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect, a rare thing indeed. He is going to need both.

That said, it is more interesting to contemplate the trainwreck that McCain's campaign has been. The press he gets is still more fawning than he deserves, and that may be how he-- and the Republican Party-- ended up in this place, because the brutal fact of the matter is that the man is simply not suited to any role other than gadfly Senator. The piece in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine is a good example. Although it is less damning than Jane Mayer's article in the New Yorker last week, nevertheless portrays a candidate who has no real expertise in anything except shooting from the hip. Undoubtedly this is a big part of his appeal to reporters, but it is hardly a qualification for office. When you hold McCain's record up, what is there? He has virtually no legislative accomplishments, and the things that have distinguished his career have largely been institutional in nature-- forging compromise on filibuster rules, campaign finance-- it's all inside Senate baseball.

I'm not so sure that the Palin pick is what made the difference, but I can't imagine that Barrack Obama would have let some group of shadowy advisors tout him off a VP candidate that he really wanted. McCain's big selling point is supposed to be his character. I've never bought it, but you don't hear stories like this about a man of integrity:

“They took it away from him,” a longtime friend of McCain—who asked not to be identified, since the campaign has declined to discuss its selection process—said of the advisers. “He was furious. He was pissed. It wasn’t what he wanted.” Another friend disputed this, characterizing McCain’s mood as one of “understanding resignation.”

In a way McCain's campaign resembles Kerry's four years ago. They both tried to make their candidacy about their pasts, instead of the country's future-- and, of course, they were both wrapped up in the Culture Wars. Poor Vietnam, always a proxy for something.

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