In a New York Times op-ed piece today, Michael Cohen suggests that John McCain may be fatally overplaying his criticisms of Barack Obama’s lack of experience. And he cites a historical analogy that may well be highly relevant:
[B]y continually attacking Mr. Obama’s understanding of policy issues, John McCain runs the risk of actually helping the Democrat neutralize the experience issue. In 1980, supporters of President Jimmy Carter regularly intimated that Ronald Reagan was an intellectual lightweight not to mention a warmonger and a racist. But when the two men debated, and Americans saw that Reagan wasn’t the caricature that he was being presented as, poll numbers showed a huge shift toward the Republican.
I’d go further than Cohen on the Reagan-Obama parallels. Like 1980, this is an election year in which Americans emphatically want change. As in 1980, the “out-party” challenger, who’s carefully identified himself with the case for decisive change, has a relatively low threshold of acceptability to meet. The constant suggestions by McCain and the GOP that Barack Obama couldn’t find his way around a world map should be easy to rebut for a candidate who at his best can match Reagan’s communications skills, while comfortably exceeding the late president’s ability to demonstrate intelligence and a clear grasp of issues.