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Midsummer Strategy Memo for John McCain

Senator McCain:

In his Op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times, your longtime supporter Bill Kristol contends that your campaign has “largely frittered away” your “three-month general election head start.”  While I don’t think you entirely wasted those three months, the conservative columnist does have a point.  You didn’t do enough in those three months to solidify your base and establish a unifying agenda for the fall campaign, one which can bring together conservatives and independents eager for change.

In those three months, you did do some things right.  I think your biography tour was a stroke of political genius, helping to define who you were by what you’ve done (and experienced).

Not just that, in a series of speeches, you’ve put forward several pretty solid policy proposals, offering remedies consistent with conservative principles to some of today’s problems.  While your Democratic opponent may run on the mantra of change, you’re the one who has come up with the most new ideas.  (He just offers the same-old, same-old from the Democratic stock of state solutions, increased government spending, higher taxes and less freedom.)

That said, Kristol is on the money he writes that your “campaign this year desperately needs a message and a narrative that is both appropriate for the candidate and for the times.” I think he must be referencing Yuval Levin’s piece which he published in the Weekly Standard: A Theme for McCain’s Pudding.

That, I believe, is the first thing you need do, develop a campaign theme. Below the “jump,” I provide some other ideas which, I believe, will help prepare you for the fall campaign:

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W, a Disappointment, but Hardly a Failure

This morning, I did something I don’t normally do in LA.  I scanned (& read) the New York Times (my Mom subscribes to the print edition).  While the paper’s bias is palpable, one can still get a good sense of what’s going on in the world by perusing its pages.

Something struck me when I read the front-page article on the bomb blast in Kabul.  No, not the paper’s claim of a deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan (perhaps due to NATO’s leadership of the military operations there?).  Instead what I noticed was this fact:  combat deaths in Afghanistan “have surpassed Iraq’s in the past two months.

Another reminder that media silence notwithstanding, we are winning in Iraq.  And to think that President Bush authorized the surge only after his party lost control of Congress to an opposition committed to ending the war.

Quite an accomplishment to shift strategy in that conflict which, in 2006, seemed unlikely to produce a victory.  Not just that, the president managed to get several funding bills through a legislature whose leadership was anti-war while defeating bills favoring timetables for retreat and defeat.

The president has been far from perfect, as the latest troubles in Afghanistan show.  And he has hardly promoted a conservative domestic agenda, but, against great odds, we are succeeding in Iraq.

The left may be determined to dub him a failure and the worst president in US history.  George W. may not rank with Reagan or either Roosevelt, but the facts about his White House tenure tell a different story than that offered in the MSM and on left-wing blogs.