After a rough patch for Barack Obama, Democrats think they have a "gotcha moment" for John McCain. Questioned on the campaign trail, the presumptive Republican nominee couldn't remember how many homes he owns with his wife, Cindy. Within hours, the Obama campaign supplied the answer in a new web ad. They claim the McCains own seven homes, worth more than 12 million dollars.
On the heels of McCain's recent remark about who he defines as rich, the Democrats believe they have a new campaign issue, depicting the GOP candidate as just another, clueless rich man, out of touch with ordinary voters.
It's roughly akin to an incident that haunted George H.W. Bush during the 1992 campaign. During a photo op, the president expressed amazement at scanner technology in a grocery store. Of course, checkout scanners were anything but new in the early 90s, and the mainstream press was quite willing to echo Democratic talking points about a president who had little in common with the American public.
The sudden concern with the McCain's real estate holdings is rather odd, but hardly unexpected. Democratic operatives and strategists are masters at playing the class warfare card, and they've been quietly painting McCain as another "rich Republican" for several months.
Remember the minor flap over Cindy McCain's refusal to release her income tax returns? Never mind that the Senator has always released his--and that the McCains keep their finances separate. As the heiress to a multi-million beer distributorship, Mrs. McCain is worth far more than her husband, and she elects to keep her tax information private. Nothing illegal (or even unethical) about that.
As we recall, the Democrats had no problem with the financial status of the 2004 nominee, John Kerry, who became the richest man in the Senate when he married Theresa Heinz and her $700 fortune. At the very least, it allowed Mr. Kerry to stop taking favors from constituents, who allowed him to live rent-free in a Washington condo, and provided a late-model Buick for his transportation needs.
For the record, Senator Kerry and his second wife own at least five homes, but they're worth more than the McCains, since they're located in some rather pricey neighborhoods, including Boston, Nantucket, and Ketchum, Idaho. But we don't remember the press asking Mr. Kerry about his joint real estate holdings, although he did stumble on an SUV question. After a little prodding, he was forced to admit that his family owned a fleet of gas guzzlers.
As for the McCain campaign, it was a mistake to overlook the "housing" issue, which has been building quietly for several weeks. A recent segment on "Inside Edition"--the syndicated news magazine that has offered fawning coverage of Barack Obama--offered a guided tour of John and Cindy McCain's luxury mansion in Arizona. For only $12 million dollars, this home can be yours, the reporter intoned.
Only at the end of the segment did "Inside Edition" reveal the truth. Senator and Mrs. McCain sold the home two years ago, for under $4 million. The new owners have it listed for $12 million, and the next buyer will purchase it from them, not the McCains.
But that distinction is lost on the MSM, which is making Mr. McCain and his homes the issue of the day. That's why the "Inside Edition" piece and the campaign trail question were anything but a coincidence. Talk about McCain's real estate holdings has been swirling for days on the liberal blogs, and Frank Rich of The New York Times recently described the Senator as an "elitist." Mr. Pot, meet Mr. Kettle.
Will the allegation stick? Obama's adjunct publicists in the media are doing their best, but only time will tell. But there's a danger in mounting this attack. As a McCain spokesman observed this morning, does Mr. Obama really want to get into a battle over houses, after purchasing his own mansion through a land deal with a convicted felon.
Meanwhile, there's the recurring matter of Senator Obama and his ties to domestic terrorist Bill Ayers. Steve Diamond, Tom McGuire, Stanley Kurtz (and others) have been looking into the Chicago Annenburg Challenge, a small foundation created by the former Weather Underground leader. Obama served as the foundation's board chairman for several years in the 1990s, almost certainly at the behest of Bill Ayers.
The foundation's primary purpose was to disseminate almost $50 million (from the Annenberg Foundation) to Chicago city schools, funding a "major educational breakthrough." As you'd expect, Ayers, Obama and other board members played a leading role in how the money was spent. As for the "breakthrough," let's say the children of Chicago are still waiting.
But a funny thing happened as conservative journalists and bloggers began to dig into the foundation's work. Stanley Kurtz initially received permission to look at records for the Annenberg Chicago Challenge, but his request was subsequently denied? Who's behind the sudden change of heart? Bill Ayers would seem to be the leading candidate. And why deny access to the records? Do they contain information that is potentially embarassing to Mr. Obama? Hmmm....
From our perspective, the story of the Annenberg challenge--and the role of Barack Obama--is far more important than the number of houses that John McCain (or, more correctly) his wife owns. But in the dog days before the Democratic Convention, the media is more concerned with real estate than how Obama and his cronies administered that grant money. The media's reluctance to tackle that issue should come as no surprise. Anyone for a tour of Mr. McCain's new condo in Phoenix?