Memo to John McCain: You're probably kicking yourself right about now for goading Barack Obama into getting out to see the world.
That's like throwing ol' Br'er Rabbit into a briar patch. Before you could say "photo op," the junior senator from Illinois was turning Obama Nation into what looked like Obama World.
You said Obama needed to return to Iraq, where he had not been in more than two years, and find out the real truth on the ground. You must have known trouble was afoot when Obama agreed to expand that idea into a fact-finding tour of the Middle East and Europe, too, with a sizeable chunk of America's news anchors, reporters and TV cameras begging to come along.
You must have known it was a good omen for Obama and, as such, bad for you when Obama joined some of our troops on a basketball court in Kuwait and threw a long-distance basket from behind the three point line. Sa-wish! Ah, for the good old days, you must have thought, when Obama was awkwardly trying to bowl his way though the Pennsylvania primary.
Next came the mother of all photo ops in Berlin, where Obama was greeted by a sea of well-wishers chanting "Oh! Bah! Mah!" and "Yes, We Can." Inasmuch as John F. Kennedy famously said, "Ich bin ein Berliner (I am a Berliner)," Obama might as well have said, "Ich bin ein big winner!"
And where were you, Senator? While Obama spoke to hundreds of thousands in Berlin, you were doing a meet-and-greet with a few dozen in a German restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. Whose bright idea was that? Were you headed for Europe and lost your road map?
No, as you told reporters at Schmidt's Restaurant und Sausage Haus, "I'd love to give a speech in Germany. ... But I would much prefer to do it as president of the United States rather than as a candidate for the office of the presidency." As Fraulein Stultz, my high school German teacher, might say, you were trying to make a silk purse out of a schwein's ear. Did it work? Nein.
Neither did the anti-Obama radio ads that the Republican National Committee placed on your behalf in three small towns that happened to be named "Berlin" in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and New Hampshire. Cute. But, at a time when Obama is putting foreign relations, one of your strongest issues, at center stage, it is an odd time to come across as Small Town John.
Of course, when all else fails, try media-bashing. Your Web site has even posted a video montage of fawning sound bites from TV news stars and producers against a soundtrack of Frankie Valli singing "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." Clever. But, like the Web previews of the anti-Obama documentary "Hype," your anti-Obama ad has the oddly unintended effect of making Obama look good. Is it smart to brag about being less loved than your opponent is even by the media?
The media bias charge would be bad news, if it were true, Senator. But I think your real problem is worse: You are the victim of a lackluster campaign.
I say this, by the way, as one of your long-time defenders. I have a soft spot in my heart for all of my fellow Vietnam-era veterans. And, as history is your witness, you certainly sacrificed a heckuva lot more in that war effort than I did.
But your coverage lately has been so lopsided that you're making my profession look bad. Please cut it out.
I'm waiting for you to come up with a grand, inspiring and all-encompassing theme like Ronald Reagan did with "It's Morning in America" or "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" Elections are supposed to be about the future. Where is your Big Idea around which you can rally the nation?
You don't have to be all that specific. Look at the mileage that Obama has gotten out of "Change You Can Believe In" without going into a lot of details. The public wants change and Obama has a theme that captures the spirit of the times. Where's yours, Senator?
Fortunately, it is only mid-summer, Senator. Voters don't start paying serious attention to presidential contests until after Labor Day. Maybe you're trying to lull the Obama campaign into a false sense of security. If so, my congratulations, sir. You are doing fine job of it.