McCain's "Vision Thing"

Washington Matters

McCain's "Vision Thing"

John McCain has three months to embrace, espouse and take ownership of a large and compelling national vision, instead of directing his sharpest arrows all at Obama and whining about press coverage.

I wonder if he and former President George H.W. Bush talked about this in their golf cart ride in Kennebunkport. ...

The former President Bush famously had his own "vision thing" problem, the phrase Bush himself popularized when he used it, somewhat derisively, to dismiss criticism that he was not articulating a compelling or bold national vision for the country. That image of Bush dismissing the need for a compelling vision, along with a sour economy, contributed to his defeat in 1992 against a highly articulate and gifted communicator, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton.

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McCain is careful not to use the same "vision thing" phrase, even jokingly, but it might be aptly applied anyhow, especially in a "change" election with four in five Americans saying the country is on the wrong track, the economy in the dumps, and an Iraq occupation far from resolved. Not to mention that McCain is also facing his own  articulate and gifted Democratic opponent in Barack Obama.


McCain has dozens of bold and visionary policy points on his website, but these are hardly the subjects he touts on the campaign or that his campaign staff or advertising chiefs emphasize. McCain's overarching message has been more about questioning Obama's thin record in office and opposition to the military surge and painting him as an otherwise dangerous gamble -- the fear card. It's hard to believe that he hasn't learned something from Hillary Clinton. She tried many of the same tactics -- remember the phone ringing at 3 a.m.? -- instead of better defining herself and her vision for the country.

McCain's big chance to describe a national mission that he wants to lead -- something beyond extending tax cuts or staying in Iraq or trusting a Vietnam POW -- will be at the GOP convention. If he doesn't do it there, it's hard to see when he would.