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Joe Klein: Give Mccain What He Wants

He agrees that Obama should accept McCain's town-hall challenge:

Which is why I'm almost as puzzled by Obama's debate strategy as I am by McCain's advertising. Obama's decision not to accept McCain's offer of 10 summer debates--or, at least, to negotiate a more manageable total--always seemed wrong to me. After all, Obama is supposed to be the fresh breeze, and that would have been a brand-new, high-road way to engage the public. Obama's refusal made him seem less than courageous. It played into the notion that he wasn't a very good debater and that McCain was at his best in town meetings--an argument with elements of truth but also a fair amount of mythology. Obama has command of more facts on more issues than McCain does; McCain's strength at town meetings feeds off friendly crowds who roar at the jokes he's been telling for years. Obama's demeanor will show well on the debate stage; McCain's feistiness may not. And so Obama would be wise to change course now: challenge McCain to town-hall debates on the Sunday nights after each convention--one before a military audience, another with hard-pressed Rust Belt workers. He'd be wise to make this a campaign about issues instead of ads as soon as possible. It is true that debates often turn on one-liners and flubs, but more often they turn on sustained, vivid demonstrations of character.

The military audience seems like a dodgy idea. But it's probably a moot point; Obama's clearly not interested in these things.

--Michael Crowley