The problem with McCain’s fear mongering, from a practical rhetorical perspective, is that it invites searing counterpoints. The Taijiquan classics state one should be without hollows or projections, and this applies quite well to rhetoric. McCain said (Huffington Post, emphasis mine):
McCain spoke with bloggers this morning on a number of issues ranging from William Ayers to Rev. Wright to Tony Rezko. Jennifer Rubin noted that Hamas had endorsed Senator Obama and asked McCain whether Obama might have given “an unhelpful signal” to the terrorist group. McCain’s response:
All I can tell you Jennifer is that I think it’s very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States. So apparently has Danny Ortega and several others. I think that people should understand that I will be Hamas’s worst nightmare….If senator Obama is favored by Hamas I think people can make judgments accordingly.
Now the Huffington Post piece does go on to tear apart both McCain’s argument and his ethics. But I’m going to zero in on the obvious weakness this exposes. By citing an organization recognized by the US as a terrorist outfit as a reason to vote a certain way, John McCain is clearly saying we ought to take their opinion into consideration when deciding who will represent us in government. In other words, Obama might speak for you on Health Care, Security and Foreign Policy, the Economy, and Civil Rights issues, but forget all of that, because people who use bombs and rockets have an opinion. I just don’t understand how a man can claim to have any authority on protecting us from terrorists when he directly urges us to give in to terror and count their authority above our own! Especially on an issue so central as who leads this country.
That becomes McCain’s real message. Give in to fear. Let foreign organizations effect your vote. McCain wouldn’t be Hamas’s worst nightmare. He’s already giving them political clout in our country, free of charge.
That is the counter argument the Obama campaign should be making. McCain leaned out too far and left himself open. So far the Obama campaign’s response has been a slap that leaves them open as well:
Spokesman Hari Sevugan responded to McCain’s insinuations about Obama by pointing out that McCain may be going back on his pledge to run a positive campaign:
“We want to take Senator McCain at his word that he wants to run a respectful campaign, but that is becoming increasingly difficult when he continually tries to use the politics of association and makes claims he knows not to be true to advance his campaign.”
The politics of association isn’t a bad tactic if its an active association on the part of the candidate. Now Obama’s campaign has a soundbite to be exploited if they ever decide to take that road. If they instead aim at the implications for the integrity of our voice and our decision making process, and the role of fear in our national politics, they can counter without leaving a vulnerability. Fear is where McCain’s campaign is weak. That’s where we should strike.