From time to time, even the most successful person experiences fear of failure, which often takes the form of feeling like a fraud, accompanied by the dread that everyone will eventually find out that the success and accolades are undeserved. Of course, in some cases the person is a fraud and the success and accolades are undeserved.  

Which must explain why John McCain’s celebrity ads have hit home – former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD), an adviser to the Obama campaign, concedes the ads have put a dent in the presumptive Dem nominee’s poll numbers. To retaliate, Barack Obama has now released his own ad (video) trying to depict his opponent as “Washington’s biggest celebrity” with visuals that include shots of McCain’s appearances on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” and “The Tonight Show,” as well as footage of McCain and Bush hugging: 

For decades, he’s been Washington’s biggest celebrity – John McCain. And as Washington embraced him, John McCain hugged right back. The lobbyists – running his low-road campaign. The money – billions in tax breaks for oil and drug companies, but almost nothing for families like yours. Lurching to the right, then the left, the old Washington dance, whatever it takes. John McCain. A Washington celebrity playing the same old Washington games.

“They woke up this weekend and figured out that [the Britney Spears-Paris Hilton] ad resonated and they needed to do something about it,” Republican strategist Terry Holt tells The Associated Press, adding, “If the celebrity issue were not hurting them, they would have ignored it.” 

Obama’s ad is unpersuasive, because McCain is most famous for being a POW who would not take the easy route to release while Obama is most famous for being able to read a speech off a teleprompter without moving his eyes.  

And Obama’s snarky reference to McCain’s “decades” of experience is going to backfire, because most older voters – those who voted for Hillary Clinton in the primaries – do not think much of the young whippersnapper. Then there’s Russia’s aggression against Georgia to remind voters of all ages that there is a difference between being a man who talks a good game and someone who’s got game. 

As columnist Jonah Goldberg points out:

The Obama campaign has for months pursued the odd strategy of having the junior senator from Illinois act as if he were already kinda-sorta president of the United States.  …

Now fate has given Obama a chance to be presidential rather than pretend. … 

The invasion of Georgia elicited a wan written communique instead of the sort of exciting rhetoric we’ve come to expect from his make-believe presidency. But he did make it in front of the cameras the next day for a rally celebrating his vacation in Hawaii. He promised “to go body surfing at some undisclosed location.”

During Obama’s make-believe presidency, we’ve heard about bold action, about the courage to talk to dictators. When faced with a real “3 a.m. moment,” Obama – who boasts about 200 foreign policy advisors, broken into 10 subgroups – proclaims, “I’m going to get some shave ice.” …

This moment calls for more than playacting, yet Obama looks lost without a presidential script. Events in the Caucasus – and, for that matter, in Beijing – suggest that the times aren’t so new after all. Two powerful antidemocratic foes are once again flexing their muscles at a moment when America seems weak and distracted. 

After a foreign policy speech McCain gave in March in which he advocated expelling Russia from the G-8, New York Times diplomatic correspondent Helene Cooper opined, “For many Americans, Mr. McCain’s rhetoric sounded almost like a trip back in time, to the days of the cold war, when major foreign policy addresses by American presidential aspirants always included the requisite bashing of the Soviet Union.” 

But rather than coming off like a throw-back, McCain looks positively prophetic for that speech and for his quip during a Republican debate back in October that when he looked into Vladimir Putin’s eyes, he saw the letters “K-G-B.” 

The Boston Globe notes a “clear contrast” between how the two presumptive candidates responded to the unfolding crisis in Georgia: 

Senator John McCain, who has met the Republic of Georgia’s president and whose chief foreign policy adviser has lobbied for the country, responded to the news Friday with visceral anger, condemning Russian forces’ crossing into Georgia and warning of “grave” repercussions in long-term relations between Moscow and Washington. 

Senator Barack Obama, who has never been to Georgia, initially seemed reticent to single out Russia for criticism, issuing a general call on Friday for ending “the outbreak of violence.” The next day, as the scope of Russia’s military action became clearer, the Democrat toughened his rhetoric and denounced Russia’s “aggressive action” while calling for more diplomacy. 

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Steve Huntley, for one, finds Obama wanting: 

Like Kosovo, Bosnia, Kuwait and other unfamiliar places before, Ossetia reminds us that a small, remote corner of the globe can explode into an international crisis. One who was up to speed on Georgia and the menace it faced from Russia was veteran Sen. John McCain. He had visited the Caucasian nation three times in a dozen years. When fighting erupted, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate got on the phone to gather details and issued a statement Friday summarizing the situation, tagging Russia as the aggressor and demanding it withdraw its forces from the sovereign territory of Georgia.  

It took first-term Sen. Barack Obama three tries to get it right. Headed for a vacation in Hawaii, the presumed Democratic candidate for commander in chief issued an even-handed statement, urging restraint by both sides. Later Friday, he again called for mutual restraint but blamed Russia for the fighting. The next day his language finally caught up with toughness of McCain’s. 

Making matters worse, Obama’s staff focused on a McCain aide who had served as a lobbyist for Georgia, charging it showed McCain was “ensconced in a lobbyist culture.” Obama’s campaign came off as injecting petty partisan politics into an international crisis. This was not a serious response on behalf a man who aspires to be the leader of the Free World. After all, what’s so bad about representing a small former Soviet republic struggling to remake itself as a Western-style democracy? 

Likewise, McCain beat President George Bush to the punch by four days, reports The Financial Times: 

[I]t was Mr McCain who set the initial tone with a strong statement last Friday several hours before official word from the administration – and then again on Monday morning with a shopping list of tough policy responses for Mr Bush. These included shoring up support for Ukraine, which hosts Russia’s Crimean fleet, and steps to protect the Caspian pipeline that runs from Azerbaijan to Turkey via Georgia – all allies of the US. … 

By Monday Mr Bush’s initial response – which he made at the Beijing Olympics on Saturday, where he expressed “grave concern” about Moscow’s “disproportionate response” to Georgia’s troop movement – had been replaced by a more stark assessment echoing Mr McCain’s broader alarm about Russia’s intentions.  

In fact, columnist Rich Lowry thinks the initial pussyfooting statements from Bush and Obama were nearly indistinguishable (another example of how Obama will be Bush II): 

The Bush and Obama statements in the immediate wake of the crisis could have been issued by a joint campaign. Bush’s spokeswoman urged “all parties,” both Georgians and Russians, “to de-escalate the tension and avoid conflict.” Obama declared that “now is the time for Georgia and Russia to show restraint.” In their implied moral equivalence, these reactions were a little like urging the Kuwaitis to de-escalate with Saddam’s Iraq in August 1990. 

Lowry adds: 

McCain warned of Russian designs on its “near-abroad” when Boris Yeltsin was still in power, and advocated the enlargement of NATO into Eastern Europe – as a way to cement those countries into the West and check Russian adventurism – years before the Clinton administration adopted it as policy. 

McCain’s judgment benefits from years of marinating in national-security issues and traveling and getting to know the key players; from a hatred of tinpot dictators and bloody thugs that guides his moral compass; and from a flinty realism (verging at times on fatalism) that is resistant to illusions about personalities, or the inevitable direction of History, or the nature of the world. 

Obama would like us to believe that judgment trumps experience, but without experience one’s judgments cannot be sound. Obama’s weak, hesitant reaction to Russia’s aggression suggests that when it comes to our nation’s security he lacks the instincts to anticipate a potential threat and the toughness to deal effectively with a manifest threat.

Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog, chosen an Official Honoree in the Political Blogs category by the judges of the 12th Annual Webby Awards (the Oscars of the online universe) along with CNN Political Ticker, Swampland (Time magazine) and The Caucus (The New York Times).

Be Sociable, Share!