“It would be a big advantage to him”

That’s what Charlie Black, John McCain’s campaign guru, said about a terrorist attack on the U.S.: “him” being McCain.

As Michael Kinsley says, a gaffe is what it’s called when someone in politics accidentally tells the truth. Charlie Black, the lobbyist (with an unsavory list of foreign clients) who’s running John McCain’s campaign, gave Fortune magazine a little bit of straight talk:

One good scare, one timely reminder of the chaos lurking in the world, probably saved McCain in New Hampshire, a state he had to win to save his candidacy – this according to McCain’s chief strategist, Charlie Black. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December was an “unfortunate event,” says Black. “But his knowledge and ability to talk about it reemphasized that this is the guy who’s ready to be Commander-in-Chief. And it helped us.” As would, Black concedes with startling candor after we raise the issue, another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. “Certainly it would be a big advantage to him,” says Black.

Fear. It’s all they have left. Ever since 9/11, the Republicans, aided and abetted by the mass media, have been doing their best to turn Americans into cowards. It worked on enough people to swing the elections in 2002 and 2004. It didn’t work in 2006. I don’t think it will work this year.

Yes, this election is about “hope” and “change.” But more than that, it’s about courage. Barack Obama is appealing to the grown-ups. McCain is appealing to the scared little children.

Footnote McCain quickly disowned Black’s statement. But he still has Black making strategy for his campaign.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com