Correction: At various times, this column may have given the impression that it was of the belief that the Barack Obama campaign was an innovative and effective departure from previous Democratic party tactics. Phrases such as “most brilliant campaign ever”, “learning from the mistakes of campaigns past”, “fusing the insights of community organising with a national 50 state strategy that outflanks tired of GOP tactics” and more, could possibly have led many people to believe that there was a view that the Obama campaign was … good.

This was a misprint.

These, instead, should have read, “same old lameass pathetic pinhead reactive caught off balance complacent arrggggggh” repeat.

Argggggghhhhh.

This week has seen McCain get back in the game after a disastrous week when his team couldn’t find a cheap alternative to the Obamastorming of the middle east, culminating in a few sitcom fumbles in a supermarket and a damp handholding session with the Dalai Lama. He was still banging on about offshore drilling, as were the GOP members of Congress, who staged an impromptu sit-in — filmed on mobile phones and released to FOX news — when the Democrats dissolved the July sitting for the August recess without bringing the drilling bill to a vote. This was capped off by the McCain campaign celebrity ad, comparing the great BO to Paris and Britney.

Obama of course just played it straight as he’s always done, letting McCain be the plaintive complainant and …

Wait a minute. No, he didn’t.

Having dispatched McCain with a door-of-the-bus “why don’t you ask McCain what he stands for”, team Obama then started mixing it with McCain by accusing them of playing the “race card” in the “celebrity” ad. By Friday he was talking about the possibility of offshore drilling on a case by case basis.

What the hell was going on here? If this was a deliberate strategy, it was a bloody subtle one. Was Obama trying to defuse this by talking it down? Was he appealing to the intelligence of the American voter? Was he … I dunno, I don’t have a third thing.

No, it looked like the worst of both worlds in the Democrat camp — Obama’s trademark diffidence and vagueness, combined with old fashioned Democratic lethargy, and an appeal to PC values. For weeks the GOP has been banging the drum about offshore drilling as an answer to the gas price crisis, despite the fact that the gas would take 10 years to come on line and would have no effect on prices, to the point where 75% of the US believe that offshore drilling should be recommenced — which may or may not be the case, but it’s a sideline, a last-ditch fantasy that good ol American knowhow can use the least imaginative way to drill its way out of the crisis.

And for weeks the Democrats have let them get away with it — as have the media, but the Dems haven’t given them any counter-attack to work with. Is there some clever-clever rationale behind this, or is it simply the Democrats once again going limp, playing dead as a rehearsal for being dead? Why didn’t they just call the Republicans liars and fantasists, ducking the hard questions? How many times do they have to be screwed over by the strategy of least resistance to stop doing it?

The “celebrity” ad response was even weirder, the Democrats seeming to imply that they wouldn’t have done the same thing to a white candidate. This was one of those moments — when it was clear that this charge was going to be taken seriously — where you realised how very very different America was, as the rest of the week became taken up with minute semiotic analyses of the ad, passing for commentary.

Would it work for the Dems, with a certain middle tranche of Republicans, to tar and f…. to paint McCain thusly? Didn’t seem so. It just seemed to play back into old 90s battles of political correctness, etc etc, making the McCain camp look daring and cheeky. The combo of the non-attack on the offshore drilling scam and the whiny race card attack couldn’t help but remind you of Kerry, of Dukakis, of here comes that argggggggghhh again. What appeared to be a high road strategy of ignoring McCain’s jibes, appears, through the dark glass of this inept defence, to be simple blitheness.

The GOP still has a long way to go to get those red swing states back into the blue column, but they got a lot closer last week. Goddamit if it looks like McCain is going to win I am going to have to watch the election from somewhere outside the US, like New York.

So, in summary, may I say, arrggggggggggghhhhhh.

Peter Fray

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