McCain Using Biden Comment To Criticize Obama
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
NPR's Juan Williams has been listening in. He's following the campaigns, and he joins us now for some analysis. Good morning, Juan.
JUAN WILLIAMS: Good morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: Now, we just heard in Scott Horsley's report that McCain is again questioning Barack Obama's experience. He's using a comment from Obama's own running mate to do so. Tell us more about that.
WILLIAMS: Well, you know, it's interesting because here is Joe Biden, the running mate, and talking to a group of people raising money for Barack Obama in Seattle on Sunday. And what he did was offer some historical context and say, you know, mark my words - here I'm quoting - it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did another young president, John Kennedy. And the idea is that this will be a generated crisis in order to test Barack Obama's mettle.
But it raises the experience issue, which is the one issue, Renee, that really remains outstanding in the voters' minds regarding Barack Obama. Does he have sufficient experience? He has been unable to push that number past 50 to convince the American people that they should not have that concern. It's John McCain's one remaining hope. And you're going to see a lot of this in the upcoming advertising coming from the McCain camp.
MONTAGNE: Well, Juan, this came just a day after General Colin Powell said Barack Obama is ready to be commander-in-chief and president. Were you surprised to hear him, General Powell, come out and make such a case for Obama and be so critical of his own party's nominee, John McCain, who is a personal friend of Powell's?
WILLIAMS: Exactly, Renee. And they've known each other for decades, worked together. But what you see here is that Colin Powell, I think, had some real strong feelings about the rise of neoconservatives in the McCain campaign. I think he's definitely disconcerted by Sarah Palin's selection, thought it was a mistake in judgment because he doesn't feel she's ready to be president of the United States. And also you've got to remember that Colin Powell feels that his support for the war in Iraq, his testimony before the U.N., is something that haunts him to this day, a real mark against him.
But I think he was willing to do it at this point because it was the embrace of a younger generation of African-American leadership, but secondly, I think really an effort to say that he's looking for a new kind of Republican Party, and that this party, as it was emerging in the midst of the McCain campaign, did not please him. And he wanted to make a statement. And he chose to make a statement that has really, I think, echoed across the political landscape.
MONTAGNE: And General Powell is one of many prominent Republicans who have criticized the McCain campaign, suggestions of the Republican unity fraying in these final weeks.
WILLIAMS: Well, you know, you've got to remember, Renee, that John McCain was never the choice of the base of the party. But he was seen, I think, ultimately as the Republican in this time when the Republican brand is in such disarray - when President Bush's ratings are so low - the Republican with the best chance to win in November. Now that there is a sense that the campaign is flagging, there's internal divisions, the Palin camp versus the McCain camp inside, and the Palin camp wanting to get more angry kind of populist appeals to the base.
That is emerging on a much larger scale as people look forward and think about how will the Republican brand be defined afterwards? Is Palin going to be the carrier for the Republican brand in the future? Are there other younger people who have a different vision of what Republicanism might represent? That fight has already started.
MONTAGNE: Juan, Barack Obama plans to leave the campaign trail on Thursday and Friday. Now, that's not something a candidate would normally choose to do this close to an election. But his grandmother, apparently, is gravely ill.
WILLIAMS: She is, Renee. She's going to be 86 on Sunday, and this is the person who has been the consistent parental figure in Barack Obama's life. He speaks about her often on the campaign trail as the person who made sacrifices to allow him to get this elite education that he has. So the question becomes, what impact does it have for Obama to be gone from the campaign trail? Both camps are looking at this intensely because no one thinks that this campaign is done. As the Obama campaign will tell you, they're aware of the experience issue as that hanging issue that the McCain campaign will try to exploit going forward.
MONTAGNE: Juan, thanks very much.
WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Renee.
MONTAGNE: NPR news analyst Juan Williams.