- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 7, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It may be some consolation to Barack Obama that - perhaps as the highest tribute to his eloquence - the Republican Party has appropriated many of the key words he uses. In the blink of an eye, the party of national security, limited government and family values has become the party of “reform.”

Mr. Obama repeatedly used the words “hope,” “change” and “unity.” throughout his campaign to win the nomination. He called for an end to the bickering in Washington and for a new era of bipartisanship. He also called for renewed patriotism: “There are no red states or blue states. There is the United States of America.” He also sounded a populist note, pledging to give the government back to the people. At home and abroad, Mr. Obama presents himself as the future and derides much that came before him - George Bush, the Republicans, even some Clinton Democrats - as the “failed policies of the past.”

The McCain campaign has managed to brilliantly craft a message that attempts at once to preserve the core Republican identity, while also tapping into the call for change that is sweeping America.

Former Democrat now independent, Sen. Joe Lieberman, delivered a speech Tuesday night at the Republican convention in which he echoed Mr. Obama’s major theme by stating that our Founding Fathers “foresaw the danger of this kind of senseless partisanship.” He touted his own speech at a Republican convention as an example of a new direction: “What, after all, is a Democrat like me doing at a Republican convention like this? The answer is simple. I’m here to support John McCain because country matters more than party.” He emphasized that Mr. McCain is working to “break through the partisan gridlock and special interests that are poisoning our politics.”He declared: “The McCain-Palin ticket is the real ticket for change this year.” He saw Mr. McCain as the transformative candidate who is “a restless reformer, who will clean up Washington and get your government working again for you.”

On Wednesday night, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Mr. McCain is “the kind of change we need.”He also said Mr. McCain is “the candidate with the real record of bipartisan cooperation. He’s the candidate that can credibly reach out for the votes of Independents and Democrats. ” Also, he touted Sarah Palin as “the future.” He stated that “Governor Palin represents a new generation.” She is “the kind of reformer we need - she shook up Alaska. She’ll shake up Washington.”

For her part, Mrs. Palin also sounded the same themes: “Americans expect us to go to Washington for the right reasons, and not just to mingle with the right people.” She presented herself as a reformer who has stood up to “special interests, the lobbyists, big oil companies, and the good-ol’ boys network.” She stated that Mr. Obama’s big-government agenda would result in “more orders from Washington.” She derided Mr. Obama’s ability to make real change: “In politics there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change.” She painted Mr. McCain as the anti-establishment candidate: “Our nominee doesn’t run with the Washington herd. He’s a man to serve his country, and not just his party.” She concluded that those who seek “hope” and “change” should join the McCain-Palin cause.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. McCain also lambasted Washington and promised reform: “And let me offer an advance warning to the old, big spending, do nothing, me first, country second Washington crowd: change is coming.” He presented himself as one who rises above party affiliations: “I’ve fought corruption and it didn’t matter if the culprits were Democrats or Republicans.” He also brought attention to Republican abrogation of their principles: “We were elected to change Washington, and we let Washington change us.” He pledged to create a truly bipartisan administration: “I will ask Democrats and independents to serve with me.” He insisted that he would legislate with anyone who would help him: “I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again.”

The McCain campaign has appropriated Mr. Obama’s calling cards. The party that has occupied the White House for the last eight years, has dominated Congress for 10 of the last 12 years and has a nominee that has been in Washington for 35 years is now selling itself as the new kid on the block. It is a difficult tightrope to walk: Mr. McCain is trying to have it both ways. But if there is a Washington insider who can do it, that insider is John McCain.

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