One of the unwritten rules of political combat is that you don’t use certain people to say certain kinds of things. Sharp, partisan attacks of dubious merit are normal left to communications professionals. A candidate needs somebody to say this stuff just to get the quotes in circulation, and everybody understands that spokespeople are just out their representing your client. By contrast, a candidate also wants to have some credible experts in his orbit who can certify to the soundness of his policy plans. A person in that role will normally engage in some political activities, but he or she is also expected to treat his credibility as a precious resource to be expended on serious dispute, not frittered away in goofy partisan stunts.
When Doug Holtz-Eakin started out this campaign, he was definitely in the second category. Most people thought that he’d done a serious, professional job as head of the Congressional Budget Office and when he went to work for John McCain it was certainly everyone’s understanding that this would be his role. And he started out doing things like a long, substantive exchange with Grist about McCain’s climate plans.
But now he’s doing stuff like this that’s clearly the job of a flack, not a policy adviser:
“Now we know that the slogans ‘change you can believe in’ and ‘change we need’ are code words for Barack Obama’s ultimate goal: ‘redistributive change,’” said McCain advisor Doug Holtz-Eakin. “No wonder he wants to appoint judges that legislate from the bench – as insurance in case a unified Democratic government under his control fails to meet his basic goal: taking money away from people who work for it and giving it to people who Barack Obama believes deserve it. Europeans call it socialism, Americans call it welfare, and Barack Obama calls it change.”
It’s a strange development.