As a significant part of the Republicans' issue-free campaign of deceit and slander is the damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't strategy: Regardless of what a Democrat does, it's a sign of weakness or incompetence. My favorite current example is the only attack the John McCain campaign has found that has any kind of teeth, which is the ridiculous idea that Barack Obama is too popular to be president. This line of reasoning would come as a shock to pretty much every president ever elected with a majority of the popular vote. (I realize this excludes the current one, but it describes pretty much all the rest of them.) (I also wonder if it's not a preparatory strategy to game the system enough for McCain to win the Electoral College vote but not the popular vote--though that outcome is among the least likely scenarios the math whizzes at 538 have identified.) So, Mr. Barack "Popular" Obama, damned if you do.
But also damned if you don't: The right has had no end of joy this past week on news that Al Franken, Democratic candidate for US Senate in Minnesota, drew a crowd of one for a town hall event. (The odds of Obama's attracting an audience of one seem really, really slim). By the right's logic, Al Franken is by far the most qualified candidate in that race, though of course expecting logical consistency is way too much.
So that's just my current favorite example. But it is nowhere near the only one. For example, you may remember the manufactured flap about Obama's not having visited wounded US troops in Germany. When told by the military that Obama's mere presence would be perceived as a campaign event, Obama decided he would not like to take the hit for campaigning with wounded US soldiers. And he was hit immediately for not caring about the troops, despite his visits with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan (accompanied by other Senators and Senate staff, hence not perceived as a campaign event. Obama was planning to see the troops in Germany alone with his foreign policy advisor, no press.) Of course, waiting in the wings was a script for the attack ad against Obama had he decided to go ahead and see the troops for, you know, campaigning with them.
The list can go on for days about the attacks on Obama: The flag pin, seating Michigan and Florida delegations at full strength, having a full floor vote at the convention, going to Iraq at all (never mind seeing troops there), and so on. I'm sure that if we put our heads together, we could come up with plenty of examples of these attacks on Democrats and liberals from here in Wisconsin (like the attacks on ACORN last week for doing the right thing). I don't know why they do it or what idiot gave them the advice that it was a good idea. It does not, in fact, make them look any smarter or sharper.
I am reminded of my high school days when I was on the (don't be shocked) debate team. In one meet, I was pro--I don't even remember the topic anymore--and the first con debater stood up and said, roughly, "The affirmaive side's plan will either A) increase unemployment or B) decrease unemployment." (It may not have been unemployment; as I said, I don't even remember the topic.) The kid then went on to detail why either situation spelled doom and gloom and the (hyperbolically speaking) end of the world. At the end of the round, which my team won, the judge offered verbal feedback, which was rare, and he lambasted the losing side for the stupid argument I cited here. Pick one, the judge said, and stick to it. If you can't make up your mind about what's right, he said, then I have no confidence in the accuracy of any of your arguments.
So what's the lesson in all of this? I suppose, mostly, that the Republicans' campaign strategy is being written by 15-year-old debate students. Congrats, GOP. Looking good.
UPDATE: Barbara O'Brien is writing in a similar vein.