Then the subject turns to the Presidential race - and if the news channel behaves the way the McCain campaign clearly hopes it will, the first thing you'll see is a short feature on how John McCain has cut a new anti-Obama ad featuring Ayers, Ayers and more Ayers. It's possible that this inspires you to think: Man, that terrorist-sympathizing Obama can't be trusted in an economic crisis. In that case, Steve Schmidt, Andy McCarthy and sundry others are political masterminds, and I am a plain fool.
But I don't think I'm a fool. I think McCain looks, to our hypothetical undecided, utterly disconnected from what's happening in the world, and the details of the Ayers connection, however troubling they might be in another context, blur away into a broader impression of a flailing, desperate, out-of-touch candidate. At this point, the McCain camp seems to be taking its cues more from the liberal caricature of past conservative campaigns - that they've all been fundamentally unserious exercises in culture-war button-pushing - than from the campaigns themselves. It's as though they're being paid under the table by Thomas Frank to goose his book sales and vindicate his thesis.
As I've stated in another of the comment threads on this theme, that I've arrived at the same analysis of the situation as the co-author of a recent book that could be described as 'applied neoconservatism for the Twenty-First century is indicative of the disarray of conservatism: the battlefield is a rout, and, in the melee, people who might otherwise disagree with respect to substantive proposals at least discover, in their flight, that they agree on the causes of the rout. Republican stewardship of the American economy, which has accelerated the globalization producing such traumatic dislocations for middle-class Americans, has by that very consequence lent some measure of credibility to left-wing canards; it is as if, at a time when middle-class incomes have stagnated - which they have, during the Bush years - the Republican party, via its economic policies, sought to prove the truth of those left-wing canards. Douthat's book, Grand New Party, is an attempt to redress this failing of the GOP's public philosophy. Now, as if to compound this disconnect from the circumstances of the very voters the GOP requires if it is to succeed, the Republican presidential candidate pursues a campaign strategy which seems calculate to validate left-wing assertions of ritualistic bad faith.
What more can be said? This is a recipe for disaster.