License to tattle

Here’s one of John McCain’s most recent ads, one that claims its sole purpose is to honor his old high school teacher.

Over at Hot Air, they damn it with very faint praise indeed:

Not a terrible ad but also not the best use of money by a guy who’s staring down the barrel of a huge fundraising disadvantage. It’s part of McCain’s “biography tour,” aimed at burnishing the Straight Talk brand and neutralizing Obama’s Messiah narrative with frequent reminders that Maverick is, after all, a bona fide American hero. Jesus vs. George Washington, in other words, which makes this the equivalent of the cherry-tree story. Is this really something that’s going to earn him votes, that he once had a teacher who told him it’s not okay to lie? It works as background, but it’s so schmaltzy and generic — even Obama could get away with an ad like this, notwithstanding his feigned ignorance about Wright and that questionnaire, although Hillary surely couldn’t — that it’s bound to be fade into noise, unless the left digs up a particularly egregious lie in his record and brings this back to make him choke on it.

Everything said above is correct. For once, though, I think the guys at Hot Air completely miss the point. This ad is very important, in that it’s the first step in (a) attacking Obama’s/Clinton’s character and (b) giving McCain a basis for launching subsequent, more substantive attacks. You see, when you watch it, the ad actually says almost nothing about the sainted Mr. Ravenal. Instead it makes much of — and then repeats — the school’s honor code:

I will not lie

I will not cheat

I will not steal

I will report the student who does

We’re all familiar with Hillary’s political history, which is replete with examples of lying (snipers, anyone?), cheating (the list is too long), and stealing (and just how did those files end up in your office, Mrs. Clinton?). Obama’s history, to the extent he’s left one, is appearing just as murky. His prevarications about Wright are becoming the stuff of legend. He’s lied and been caught with regard to a survey he filled out. He cheated and stole the Rezko way. And so on and so forth.

McCain has made some dumb decisions (with campaign finance reform topping the list), and the Keating Scandal will haunt him, but I’m unaware of any stories of lying, cheating or stealing associated with him. Indeed, the last attempt to tar him with that brush backfired mightily, when it turned out that someone else “stole” from him. So, McCain has presented to the American people a mantra — I will not lie, I will not cheat, I will not steal — that defines him and that highlights his opponents’ myriad ethical failings.

More importantly, McCain has just explained to the American people why, during the upcoming head to head clash once the Dems have a candidate, he will have no compunction about pointing out the opposing candidate’s ethical failings. McCain won’t be making those attacks because he’s picking on a girl or an African-American; instead, he’ll be making those attacks because, for his whole life, going back to high school in the late 1950s, McCain has lived by a code that says that the honorable person not only does not engage in unethical behavior, but that he has an obligation to the community to report those who do.

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  • Zhombre

    I think it’s an effective advertisement. Especially in contrast to the godawful ones Hilary Clinton has run, that look like parodies produced by her opponents, and in contrast to the vacuous liberal pieties that ooze from Obama.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Would that most of our country still understands the meaning of honor. I have my dark days wherein I nurse my doubts.

  • oceanguy

    “… was just the beginning.”

    The Naval Academy’s Honor Concept is similarly stated:

    ” “Midshipmen are persons of integrity: They stand for that which is right.

    They tell the truth and ensure that the full truth is known. They do not lie.

    They embrace fairness in all actions. They ensure that work submitted as their own is their own, and that assistance received from any source is authorized and properly documented. They do not cheat.

    They respect the property of others and ensure that others are able to benefit from the use of their own property. They do not steal.”

    And at West Point, perhaps because it needs to be a bit simpler for them to understand…
    “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.”

    Even if you don’t like McCain’s politics, his character is all but unassailable.

  • expat

    He is also talking about the important role of teachers. I think some teachers might like that.