Friday, February 22, 2008

"It's the Lying"....and the Narrative.

As dday pointed out (and how can I not throw to digby's blog, considering the traffic it sent along yesterday?), Howard Dean wrote what could be the best take on the scandal:

Dean: I have no idea whether the affair story is true or not, and I don't care. What I do care about is John McCain -- and this has been well-documented -- is talking all the time about being a reformer and a maverick, and in fact, he has taken thousands of dollars from corporations, ridden on their corporate jets, and then turned around and tried to do favors for them and get projects approved. He has tons of lobbyists on his staff. This is a guy who is very close to the lobbyist community, a guy who has been documented again and again by taking contributions and then doing favors for it. This is not a guy who is a reformer. This is a guy who has been in Washington for 25 years and wants to give us four more years of the same, and I don't think we need that.
As I said yesterday in what was, apparently, your favorite SotH post in ages... the problem isn't so much that Iseman is an attractive blonde that isn't Cindy McCain, it's that she's an attractive blonde that doubled as a lobbyist for an industry that McCain was responsible for overseeing, and one that McCain went to bat for on several occasions.

It's all about narratives. It's always about narratives. Political careers live and die by narratives, and each presidential candidate has their own. Hillary has her fightin' Dem machine, Obama has his cult of personality, and McCain has always played himself up as "the maverick old war hero that speaks his own mind, no matter who it offends". Huckabee has his aw-shucks geniality, Edwards (famously) had the "Son of the Mill Worker", and Giuliani's is too obvious to discuss.

The problem is that they can't be entirely invented: each of these has to be based on something real, and if it ends, so does the candidate. The breakdown of the "Hillary Machine" is what ultimately doomed her, for example, because her narrative was all about the power of that machine. That's what the whole inevitability thing was really about- it was built on an invincible Hillary Machine that simply could not be stopped. Well, it stopped. No machine, no narrative, no candidate.

This story of McCain being someone else's catspaw? That's what dooms him. He isn't a "maverick" anymore. He doesn't "speak his mind". He's been revealed to be just another politician, sitting in the front pocket of whichever corporate lobbyist will have him. Whether he likes it or not, that's his new narrative, mixed in with a bit of the old "war hero" line.

Dean does an excellent job of laying out that new unflattering narrative, and he won't be the last. It's going to dog him all the way to November, assuming that he makes it that far.

(That said, it also reveals Obama's vulnerability, which is very similar. If Obama can be successfully labeled as "just another politician", he'll also be in trouble. That's what BoBo is trying to do: expect a whole lot more of the same. I doubt it'll be successful, though. Even if they score some hits, their candidate is already done for.)

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