This week we started to see signs of what is clearly going to be a big problem for John McCain in the general election: a gaping generation gap. McCain doesn't seem to fully understand the 21st century world in which we live today, and it's going to hurt him big time with voters. This isn't really about McCain's age, because I believe people of any age have the ability to learn "new tricks" and adapt to societal changes. But over just the past week we've seen several examples of how McCain still seems to be partying like it's 1979.
Obama's constant description of McCain as campaigning to fulfill "George Bush's third term" seem to be really getting under McCain's skin (keep it up Obama!). Last night I was watching Countdown, and for the first time heard McCain's latest comeback that he's dreamed up:
"You know one of his favorite phrases is that I would be a Bush third term. Well I think maybe his proposals could be Carter second term," McCain told Fox.
After he said that, McCain let out that sinister-sounding laugh of his, as if to indicate that he really got Obama on that one!
Carter?? Are you serious John? I'm no spring chicken (I'm pushing 50) and I barely remember Carter myself. Anyone born after 1969 would have no personal connection to what McCain was talking about in trying to tie Obama to Carter, who hasn't been president in nearly three decades. Yet every single voter today knows how disastrous George W. Bush has been, and they know exactly what Obama is talking about when he refers to the frightening thought of a "Bush third term." So not only was this one of the lamest rhetorical comebacks I've seen from a political candidate, but it shows just how out of touch McCain is with today's voters. As TPM notes:
This is obviously an effort by the McCain camp to sow doubts about Obama among Jewish voters, but really, does anyone imagine that this comparison carries real emotional import for voters now?
It also appears that McCain is having some problems understanding "the tubes." There was McCain's recent denial to Newsweek that he had criticized the media's coverage of Hillary Clinton's campaign, when he fact there was plenty of video footage available online to show that he had said exactly that just a few days earlier.
Last night on Countdown, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter discussed with Keith Olbermann that it has been a longtime tactic of politicians to say something and then later deny saying it. In the pre-YouTube era they were able to get away with it, but now anything they say can be up online instantly, accessible to anyone in the world. Alter pointed out that McCain hasn't yet caught up to this new reality.
"It's a time warp thing," Alter said. "When he last ran for president in 2000, you could deny having said something and the chances of you being caught were ... minimal, because nobody had access to the tapes... I think (McCain) is caught in an old politics...McCain can't get away with this kind of thing anymore in the new YouTube era, and it's a learning curve for him to get up to speed to recognize he's working with new rules."
A learning curve?? How hard would it be for one of McCain's well-paid staffers to sit him down and explain to him what YouTube is? This is particularly baffling to me when you consider that YouTube has been around for several years now and numerous politicians have been caught in high-profile lies caught on online video or audio.
It doesn't help McCain that his opponent is someone who seems to understand perfectly the current mood and realities of our country. If McCain is going to want any chance of even staying close to Obama, I think he'll need to stop making cultural or historical references that anyone under 50 can't understand. And it might not hurt to take some remedial Internet classes. On second thought John, just keep doing what you're doing!