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John McCain, Leader of the Opposition

Eve Fairbanks and Matthew Yglesias both dump cluster bombs of snark on Republicans who are opposing President Obama much the way that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) did yesterday at the fiscal responsibility summit: by fussing about pork and trying to win news cycles. Yglesias, mocking Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) for a proposed “spending freeze”:

What if this was boxed together with fresh new ideas like a corporate income tax cut, a promise to put country first, and a fresh-faced mavericky governor from an oil-rich arctic state of some kind? Toss in a joke about DNA testing for bears (I don’t know if it was a paternity issue or a criminal issue…) and you’re on the road to victory.

Fairbanks:

Republicans are also imitating McCain’s dogged attempts to cultivate a kind of breezy, off-the-cuff hipness–Eric Cantor’s Aerosmith mash-up recalls buzzy McCain YouTubes like “Celeb.” But in the process, they’re aping his incompetence at the task, too. Aerosmith demanded Cantor pull his video (which celebrated Republicans’ rejection of the stimulus with giant zeroes flying across a black screen set to the call girl ode “Back in the Saddle”). McCain, for his part, got cease-and-desist requests from the Foo Fighters, John Mellencamp, Jackson Browne, Van Halen, Bon Jovi, Heart, and even Paris Hilton (well, kind of).

I spent a few minutes trying, and failing, to find a McCain ad that also demonstrates the strategic problem here. On September 15, McCain gaffed and said that “the fundamentals of our economy are strong,” while Wall Street was in a panic. When Democrats attacked him, McCain explained that he considered “American workers” the “fundamentals” of the economy, which was nonsense. But McCain released a quick TV ad anyway, looking at the camera and informing “you, the American worker,” of the new “fundamental” status.

It was incredibly ham-fisted, but it was all about winning the news cycle — with little recognition that voters were not paying attention to the “fundamental/worker” spin. The ad was just strange. Similarly, Republicans sound strange when they attack the president for tiny spending outlays and unemployment benefits when most Americans are only aware of the local news stories they see about where the stimulus money is going, locally.

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