McCain Still Waiting for His Turn at Good Luck
Thursday, July 24, 2008; Page A06
It seemed like a great way to counter Obamamania. Sen. John McCain would board a helicopter in New Orleans today, skim quickly over the Gulf of Mexico and land on an oil rig -- a made-for-TV moment to highlight his call for offshore drilling, an issue that Republicans believe will be a big winner in November.
Then came Hurricane Dolly, a Category 2 storm that made a helicopter ride impossible. And then, improbably, a 600-foot oil tanker collided with a barge on the Mississippi River, creating a 12-mile oil slick and causing diesel fumes to waft over the city's French Quarter. The trip was off.
In this campaign, it seems, McCain just can't catch a break.
Through a series of missteps, gaffes and bad luck, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has endured a difficult week in what has been a choppy campaign. He now has no major event to offset Sen. Barack Obama's speech at Berlin's famed Victory Column, where a huge turnout is expected. Instead, he will be in Columbus, Ohio, speaking at a nighttime cancer event.
"An extra day spent in Ohio is not really a problem," senior aide Mark Salter said, insisting that a bit of bad luck does not make a trend, even as the campaign was scrambling to fill the time.
"There's a hurricane; we had to cancel an event," he said with a shrug after McCain spent a rainy day in northeast Pennsylvania attending a town hall meeting in Wilkes-Barre and a fundraiser, and commiserating with a couple at a grocery store in Bethlehem about the high price of food. "That's not something that's going to happen every day. I'm not going to worry about it."
Before his overseas trip, Obama faced questions about the wisdom of his pledge to remove U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office, should he be elected. But as the week began, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appeared to endorse that timeline, and the Bush administration said that it supports a "time horizon" for withdrawing troops. Suddenly, it was McCain who was forced to explain his opposition to the withdrawal plan.
Meanwhile, Obama's trip to the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, followed by stops in Jordan, Israel and Europe, created a media frenzy, dominating the morning and evening network shows, cable chatter and the front pages of newspapers. The McCain campaign grumbled about the media's "love affair" with Obama, even doling out "Junior Varsity" badges to reporters who were "left behind" to cover the Republican. But it was McCain who invited the situation, after mocking Obama for weeks for not visiting Iraq and Afghanistan as a presidential candidate.
On the other side of the world, Obama seemed blessed with perfect weather and perfect timing.
At one stop, the senator from Illinois was filmed in a Kuwaiti gym shooting a basketball from behind the three-point line. Handing a microphone away, he dribbled a bit, struck a couple of poses for the troops, and warned, "I may not make the first one, but I'll make one eventually." He then let it fly.
The competing visual from McCain was the 71-year-old senator riding in a golf cart during his visit to Kennebunkport, Maine, to meet with George H.W. Bush at the former president's retreat.