Altered States

McCain’s Defensive Web Site

Why is his health care page all about Obama?


John McCain’s health care page has been desperately revised.

The actual details of his plan have been shuttled off elsewhere. Now, the page is pretty much all about his opponent—Obama’s name is mentioned 26 times vs. 24 for McCain. Echoing Obama’s “Fight the Smears” page, each “fiction” about the McCain plan is spelled out and rebutted. For good measure, the page concludes with an attack on Obama’s plan.

In short, on health care, McCain is backed into a corner.

Recent polling suggests that Obama’s attacks on the McCain-Palin health care plan have caused some bruises. But what does it mean to change what’s supposed to be a feel-good, upbeat page into something crouched and dour? That your opponent has landed some very serious body blows? The McCain camp now defines its health care plan in relation to Obama’s attacks. The assumption is that the public knows more about Obama’s attacks on the plan than about the plan itself.

To get a sense of this dynamic, check out the bizarre “Four Pillars of Reform” palliative that was slapped onto McCain’s health care page last week. Its platitudes—”John McCain believes in strengthening health care quality”—join new links to anti-Obama rebuttal pages. But that apparently wasn’t enough, as this week those rebuttal pages are now the main event.

While McCain flails, Obama’s health care page (devoid of any mention of McCain) continues to refine and adjust its policy points—note the swap of “sliding scale subsidies” with the arguably centrist “sliding scale tax credits” as a solution for health insurance premiums. Also of note: If you don’t like your current health insurance, looks as though you can’t go with the government program anymore.

Obama plays defense, too. But it’s not on his main issues pages. Instead, his rapid response “Fight the Smears” site handles rebuttals. When Matt Drudge claimed that the Obama camp canceled the national anthem at a New Hampshire rally, the Obama campaign quickly included video of the Pledge of Allegiance at that event. (Never mind that it didn’t address the missing anthem claim.) Sometimes it can rebut a bit too quickly. Look at the edits to Obama’s response about ACORN “smears,” and you get the idea.

Finally, we note with a wee bit of concern that the McCain site is ramping up its volunteer operation to sign up election monitors, asking for the help of “concerned citizens” and “law students.” What, no call for lawyers?