McCain adviser may have struck a nerve
Candidate distances himself from terror comment, but does it ring true?
Sen. Barack Obama and his surrogates continued to criticize Charles R. Black Jr., a top adviser to Sen. John McCain, on Tuesday for saying a terrorist attack before the November election would help the presumptive Republican nominee. But behind their protests lay a question that has dogged Democrats since Sept. 11, 2001: Was Black speaking the truth?
“I don’t think anyone knows the answer to this question,” said Tad Devine, a senior strategist on Sen. John F. Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, which confronted the same internal debate. “On the one hand, Republicans say they made America safe. That argument goes by the wayside if there’s an attack. On the other hand, an attack would change the entire framework of this election.”
Black’s comment to Fortune magazine that a terrorist attack “certainly would be a big advantage” roiled the presidential campaign for a second straight day. Obama — who has made a determined effort to shore up his credentials on national security since clinching the Democratic nomination, arguing that the United States is less safe now than before President Bush took office — wasted no time in trying to counter Black’s statement. Obama dispatched Richard Ben-Veniste, a member of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, to hold a conference call with reporters in which he called Black’s comments “a candid and very disappointing glimpse into the thinking of one of McCain’s closest advisers.” He did not directly call for Black to step aside.