Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Campaign Unsuspension

I'm with the Young Mr. Klein here, what Obama's done is not to suspend his campaign. It's to step back while it continues without him. That's a vacation not a termination. And, really, there's not much to say about it beyond to send best wishes and hopes for his ailing grandmothers recovery.

But, still, I can't help but compare this very real tragedy to John McCain's earlier stunt. Candidate McCain announced his campaign was going on a break and he was flying back to ride into Washington on a white horse and single-handedly save the republic. Or whatever. But his ads kept airing and his surrogates kept spinning. And, of course, his contribution to the emergency meetings about the financial crisis amounted to a few words and an empass in the negotiations.

Obama, on the other hand, has to step out of the spotlight to be with an ailing family member. Taking a few days off during these crucial final weeks. He won't be making appearances or giving speeches but the machine he's built will continue on.

It sums up, I think, the difference between the two men. McCain wanted to grab headlines and, so, made a splash. Obama wants, well, as private a moment as a presidential candidate can get so he's headed home to do right by the woman who helped raise him.

Now, if Obama was down in the polls and struggling to make up ground would he be as willing to spend this time away? Or would, like McCain, he be casting about trying to find something, anything, if only it would work? Who knows? More importantly, who cares? Obama's not down in the polls, he has a commanding lead. And, to me, it doesn't matter if he's doing this only because he can get away with it because he's doing it because he should.

Who among us, after all, wouldn't race to the deathbed of a loved one, given the chance?

And that's the other point here, and one I hesitate to bring up because it seems in such bad taste to speculate about the political impact of what's ultimately one family's matter. It's two weeks until the election and, at this point, though, and now everything goes through the lens of what gets who elected. The world turns on and, in only a few short days, the world will turn on this decision.

But, I can't help but think this helps Obama, in some small way. Because it's the normal thing. Because it's, dare I say it, the American thing. Someone he loves is sick and he's heading to be with them. All the concerns about his skin color or his creed can't help but fade away when you consider that he's just like the rest of us. Beholden not to some secret cabal or radical cult but to his family. Pulled by emotional strings harder than any monetary donation could supposedly provide.

And, more than that, it puts McCain even further into the sad little corner he's painted for himself. Not only does have a few more news cycles slipped out of his grasp with days becoming precious as the clock winds out. But I'd think it's a bit hard to attack someone when his grandmother is sick. Obama now has sympathy on his side if his opponent continues his vile assaults. And McCain paints himself as mean or even worse.

So, he has to rise out of the gutter and, perhaps, return the campaign to more substantive issues and genuine differences of fact. That's where, I'd hope, McCain would prefer to be. Not because I think he's a remarkable politician but because I'd think it's a remarkable politician who didn't (Call me an optimist, if you will. But at this point, it takes an optimist just to roll out of bed in the morning. It's believing things can get better that gives us the strength to go on during these trying times. It's believing that we can live up to our standards rather than tearing them down when we can't that inspires us to try that much harder when times are rough. And it's that last shred of hope that must burn the brightest when all others have been lost. Call me an optimist, if you will, but I'll call you a cynical fuck.). But McCain's quandry is that although it's the issues that matter, it's been the personal attacks keeping his campaign afloat.

McCain talks about character, he whispers about judgment, because the public has already rejected his. Opinion runs against his beliefs and history rules against his philosophies. At this point, going negative is all he has worth.

But, I don't know about Obama and maybe I could be wrong, but where I come from there's one time when you don't want to engage with someone and that's when they're already hurting – as my uncle says, you don't start a fight at a wake. Because when they're filled with grief and pain that's when they're going to fight back the hardest. So, let his campaign continue along this path, because this suspension that's exactly not has already revealed what sort of person that Obama is, now, let's see what McCain is made of.

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