Obama And The Democrats Play The Class Warfare Card

By Doug Mataconis | Related entries in Barack, Cindy McCain, Elections, McCain

Apparently, the controversy of the day revolves around John McCain’s ability to accurately state how many houses he and his wife own:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in an interview Wednesday that he was uncertain how many houses he and his wife, Cindy, own.

“I think — I’ll have my staff get to you,” McCain told Politico in Las Cruces, N.M. “It’s condominiums where — I’ll have them get to you.”

The correct answer is at least four, located in Arizona, California and Virginia, according to his staff. Newsweek estimated this summer that the couple owns at least seven properties.

Which prompted this snarky response from Virginia Governor Tim Kaine:

Obama V.P. prospect and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine mocked Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on Thursday for not knowing exactly how many houses he owns.

“I understand that Sen. McCain was asked yesterday this question, ‘how many houses do you own?,’ and he couldn’t answer that question. He couldn’t count high enough apparently to even know how many houses he owns,” said Kaine.

And, as The Politco reports, the Democrats apparently think they have something here:

In recent weeks, Democrats have stepped up their effort to caricature McCain as living an outlandishly rich lifestyle — a bit of payback to the GOP for portraying Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) as an elitist, and for turning the spotlight in 2004 on the five homes owned by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.

Pro-Obama labor groups have sent out mailers highlighting McCain’s wealth, and prominent Democrats have included references to it in comments to reporters.

Twice in the past two weeks, those Democrats have focused on McCain’s houses.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Politico’s Ben Smith that it was McCain “who wears $500 shoes, has six houses and comes from one of the richest families in his state.”

And David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist, referred in an interview with Adam Nagourney of The New York Times to an imagined meeting of McCain strategists “on the portico of the McCain estate in Sedona — or maybe in one of his six other houses.”

And the Obama campaign has gotten into the game with this ad which is one of the more balatant hate-the-rich appeals I’ve seen in quite a long time:

Will it work ? Only time will tell, of course, but the truth of the matter is that there is a segment of the population out there for whom an appeal to envy and class warfare will work, and that’s obviously what the Obama campaign is banking on.

The truth of the matter, of course, is that it doesn’t matter how many homes McCain and his wife — who happens to be an heiress and businesswoman worth quite a lot of money — own or have an interest in. No more than it matters how big Barack Obama’s Chicago home is, or that he took a week long vacation in Hawaii, something that most Americans couldn’t afford.

If you’re attacking the men because of their ideas, that’s one thing. If you’re attacking them merely because they, or their spouses, are successful, that’s quite another and its a sign of the kind of envy that, in the end, can come of no good.

Cross-Posted From Below The Beltway


This entry was posted on Thursday, August 21st, 2008 and is filed under Barack, Cindy McCain, Elections, McCain. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

25 Responses to “Obama And The Democrats Play The Class Warfare Card”

  1. Elyas Says:

    It has nothing to do with class warfare. This is McCain’s own strategy coming back to bite him in the ass. He’s tried to portray Obama as an out-of-touch elitist, and this gaffe makes him look like a hypocrite.

    If you dish it out, you have to be able to take it.

  2. Gold Star for Robot Boy Says:

    Reading this reaction, I’ll award Obama a bulls-eye.
    But, Mr. Mataconis, congratulations on being the first pundit (I’ve found) to play the class-warfare card.

  3. J. Harden Says:

    Doug – You mistake the “play” for the “essence”. Obama is not “playing” the class warfare card. He IS the class warfare card. It is his essence, his being. It is the foundation and bedrock of his policies -the prism through which the light of his entire political reality is reflected. The fact the wind blows up his rhetorical “unity” skirt and unveils the envy and resentment peddling chakra of the Great One should come as no surprise. It is inevitable.

    The fact is…to some, it does matter how big of house and how much money that you have. You only earned that money through the exploitation of the proletareate and control of the means of production. Alas, “yes we can” is a socialist clarion call to mobilize against the social injustices created by a free-market and capitalist pigs.

    Obama is not a radical, you say. This merely the right-wing consiracy noise machine, blah, blah, blah…

    Easily fixed: The University of Illinois at Chicago should release all internal documents related to the Chicago Annenberg Challenge – which they have been unwilling to do todate. These papers should clear up any confusion as to Obama’s relationship with the socialist, terrorist William Ayers.

    http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=MTgwZTVmN2QyNzk2MmUxMzA5OTg0ODZlM2Y2OGI0NDM=

  4. Rich Horton Says:

    I forget…how many of McCain’s homes were financed with the services of a shady political dealer now under indictment?

    Oh yeah…none.

    Can Obama say the same?

  5. Justin Gardner Says:

    Rich, remember the Keating Five? Compare that with Rezko, and it’s not even close.

    Elyas, exactly.

    Doug, if McCain is going to paint Obama as some Britney Spears/Paris Hilton type, then Obama has ever right to respond and tell people that this guy owns more houses at one time then most people will ever own in their lifetime. In short, McCain is a hypocrite, and so I don’t think it qualifies as class warfare. What it does qualify as is being so out of touch with the needs of everyday voters that you can’t even remember how many houses you have.

  6. gerryf Says:

    It doesn’t bother me in the least that McCain and his wife own 7 or 11 homes…not sure why they need them, but it does not bother me.

    What others me is that at one home the couple ignored 4 years of tax bills on the property–and I am a little sktechy on how four years of tax bills on an ocean front condo can only amount to $8,400.

    It’s one thing to be an out of touch elitist who thinks the economy is going swimmingly…it’s far worse to be an out of touch elitist who doesn’t pay his taxes like the rest of us.

  7. Doug Mataconis Says:

    gerryf,

    I don’t know about the tax issue, but I do know that at least 4 of the 7 houses at issue here are investment properties, not residences.

  8. Doug Mataconis Says:

    Justin,

    While I’m not entirely a fan of the McCain strategy right now, it’s one thing to call some one a rock-star elitist with no substance.

    It’s quite another to make it seem like a crime that someone has been successful enough in life to become wealthy.

    That used to be something Americans aspired to. Today, there seems to be a segment of the Democratic Party that views wealth as a moral failing.

    Unless it’s their wealth, of course ;)

  9. Bokonon Says:

    Um, Doug … let’s back up a little bit, shall we? The Democrats are not the ones that started this. This tactic originated all the way back in the 1830′s, and has been a constant strain in American politics.

    And this year, it was the GOP that introduced class warfare into the campaign — just as they have done in every national election since 1988. Remember Dukakis? Kerry? Gore? Even Clinton?

    This tactic has won the GOP many, many elections, while the Democrats sputtered and protested … and were then relentlessly mocked for “whining” and being weak. Gosh, I seem to remember that Rush Limbaugh was saying exactly this about Obama just yesterday.

    And now the shock – SHOCK! – when the Democrats fight back on the same terms.

    Is it all good fun and clean politics when the GOP pulls this stuff, but unspeakable class hatred and Boshevism when the Democrats whip it out?

    So it is both lame and inaccurate for you to slag the Democrats for being hypocritical AND hating people that are successful … for punching back, and using McCain’s own words against him to boot.

    Do you have something against punching back? Or do you just have something about DEMOCRATS punching back?

  10. Gold Star for Robot Boy Says:

    someone has been successful enough in life to become wealthy
    And that someone was Cindy’s father.

  11. Jim S Says:

    Sorry, Doug. The old Republican class warfare meme doesn’t really fly if you take off the ideological blinders. The reason that people are becoming suspicious of the wealthy is because with the growing inequality between the wealthy and lower middle class it does seem more and more like that wealth is being gained on the backs of the majority of the population. Jobs are shipped overseas whenever it is to the advantage of management and helps executive bonuses (not because the company is really in financial straits), large numbers of people are working part time because it’s the only work they can get, health insurance has varying levels of availability with millions uninsured and health care expenses can drive families into bankruptcy. And if you don’t think that the long chain of corporate corruption cases, including questionable practices (Yes, some lenders contributed more than the borrowers.) of the mortgage mess isn’t building some suspicion about how honestly some of that wealth is being acquired you’re really wearing the Republican Red Tinted Glasses.

  12. gerryf Says:

    Doug,

    I had heard something about this on the radio a while back, but didn’t have all my information earlier. Here are the facts. The home is held in trust and is occupied by an elderly aunt of Mrs McCain.

    I suppose you could argue that it is an investment and the aunt is house-sitting, but that doesn’t exactly let them off the hook. The tax bills were being sent to a Phoenix address associated with Mrs. McCain’s trust, but were returned by the post office.

    McCain’s camp said that the bank that manages the trust has not been receiving tax bills on the property.

    When Newsweek ran this story, McCain immediately paid 6,700 in taxes, but still owed 1,700

    Still, at some point during 4 years don’t you think, “Hey, Aunt Petunia’s house…shouldn’t we be paying taxes on that?” Should the trust have said that?

  13. Justin Gardner Says:

    Now hold on a sec Doug. Nowhere in Obama’s ad does it suggest that McCain owning that many houses is anything resembling a crime. What it does suggests, as I’ve mentioned, is that he’s out of touch with the common man, especially when it comes to economic struggles. Since when is pointing that out class warfare?

  14. Doug Mataconis Says:

    I had heard something about this on the radio a while back, but didn’t have all my information earlier. Here are the facts. The home is held in trust and is occupied by an elderly aunt of Mrs McCain.

    Because, you know, helping out family is a bad thing.

    Who cares how many houses the McCain’s have ? Who cares whether they’re investment homes ? And who cares if elderly Aunt Zelda lives in one of them ?

  15. Doug Mataconis Says:

    Nowhere in Obama’s ad does it suggest that McCain owning that many houses is anything resembling a crime. What it does suggests, as I’ve mentioned, is that he’s out of touch with the common man, especially when it comes to economic struggles. Since when is pointing that out class warfare?

    Perhaps crime was the wrong word, but that doesn’t make the ad any better IMO.

    If McCain is out of touch with the so-called “common man”, then so is the guy who graduated Harvard, lives in a million dollar home in Chicago’s Hyde Park, worries about the price of arugala, and sends his kids to private school.

    In other words, they’re both phonies.

  16. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    I like McCain’s response to all this. He doesn’t deny it or whine about it, or demand Obama apologize or “respect” him.

    He doesn’t expect Obama to respect his home ownership, nor does he respond with something resembling Obama’s whining about McCain’s supposed assault on Obama’s political aspirations.

    Whatever your opinion is on the nature of the campaign, it still doesn’t change the fact that Obama is playing class warfare, pure and simple. Remember it was Obama who said Americans were bitter clingers – as if it were the American people themselves who are out of touch with their own social realities and needs – McCain didn’t even have to point that out, everyone remembers it just fine.

  17. J. Harden Says:

    McCain would be a hypocrite if he was playing on the fears of the upper middle class against the poor. He has done no such thing. As Doug points out, Obama is a classic limousine liberal (hypocrite), a multi-millionaire that bought his own house with the help of Tony Rezko (sumlord) — which Obama himself has declared a “bone-headed” move. Talk about hypocrasy.

    Jim S. is at least being honest. First he calls it “the old Republican class warfare meme” and then proceeds to explain why the class warfare is justified (so I guess it’s not just a “meme”) – which apparently has something to do with 1) the subprime mortgage issue, 2) globalization of the labor market, 3) part-time employment practices and 4) healthcare.

    Well, most intelligent Americans aren’t going to hate the McCains for being successful, but rather ask “How do I become successful like that?” John McCain’s honest answer should be “marry up” and Cindy’s answer should be “be the best beer distributor you can be.” Obama’s answer: “You shouldn’t be that successful and I will redistribute your income if you are.”

  18. kranky kritter Says:

    This matters to folks who care about the extent to which their President understands what it means for an average everyday person to manage their affairs.

    The truth is that the vast majority of folks who end up running for President are not all that familiar with living paycheck to paycheck, or month to month, and who worry about things like the price of gas, and winter heating, and rising food prices, and the shaky job market.

    Is John McCain out of touch of such matters? Demonstrably yes. Undeniably so. But is Barack Obama “in touch,” comparatively speaking? I see nothing that suggests he is. When was the last time either of these guys hopped in the car and drove to the store to buy some and six-pack of beer? Many moons, folks. They’ll both strive to tell us that they feel our pain. But you can count on it that neither of them has had recent occasion to actually experience for themselves anything remotely resembling the sort of pain that middle class folks, especially blue collar workers, are feeling these days. So best get over it.

    I confess to finding it quite pathetic that the GOP has such an relenting penchant for bitching about “playing the class warfare card” every time someone has the temerity to notice something like the fact that for the bottom 60-70% of folks at least, income growth has been stagnant or worse compared to inflation.

    Wealthy folks are getting ahead like a son of a bitch these days compared to average folks. Average folks can see this painfully clearly. And whining that such a notice means “playing the class warfare card” is not going to avail Republicans a whit. Not a whit.

  19. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    “How do I become successful like that?” John McCain’s honest answer should be “marry up” and Cindy’s answer should be “be the best beer distributor you can be.” Obama’s answer: “You shouldn’t be that successful and I will redistribute your income if you are.”

    Hear, hear!

  20. CaptainUltimate Says:

    The ability for people to gloss over the fact the Barack Obama wasn’t born or married into wealth is breathtaking.

  21. Doug Mataconis Says:

    CU,

    Who cares how the wealth was acquired unless we’re talking about the Corleone family here ?

    Cindy McCain is a successful businesswoman from a successful family. As a result, John McCain is “wealthy”

    Barack Obama is wealthy too, not as wealthy as the McCain’s perhaps, but still better off than most Americans and about as in-tune with middle-class America as George HW Bush was in 1992.

    Frankly, I don’t care how wealthy a candidate is and the fact that both campaigns are engaged in an argument that contains the assumption that wealth and success are somehow bad things says some pretty disturbing things about America IMO.

  22. Jim S Says:

    Given that Obama went to Harvard on a mix of scholarships and student loans it’s a bit different than the admiral’s son that went to Annapolis only to finish fifth from the bottom of the class. And it’s also a bit different since Obama only paid off those student loans when his first book sold well enough to cover it. I think his familiarity with the land of the sub-millionaires is much greater than McCain. And given that an understanding of how that class of American isn’t getting by hasn’t been displayed by McCain or his campaign it becomes an issue in times like this.

  23. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    And given that an understanding of how that class of American isn’t getting by hasn’t been displayed by McCain or his campaign it becomes an issue in times like this.

    Except when a hyper rich Democrat runs for president, such as John Kerry, who married into more wealth than McCain, then it is not an issue.

  24. krabbie Says:

    Budda Boom, this is a empty garbage can tossed off the roof. McCain is out of touch with his (his wifes) wealth. Her wealth is her business, John has his business. His business is to invade countries,threaten countries,scare the bejebers out of the American Public and help the Keating 5 get off, and to hire lobbyists to run his campaign. I don’t see hypocracy, I see a lot of looking out for the rich, the neocons, and his desire to become president through any means possible. What is the problem here???? It is the Republican Way of Life.

  25. J. Harden Says:

    Obama went to Harvard on a mix of scholarships and student loans

    Good point, Jim S.. Hey, I wonder how “post-racial” he was in the application for some of those scholarships? Sometimes it pays to be post-racial, but sometimes it definitely does not.

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