The Corner

No, We Can

Jonathan Cohn:

If Obama’s slogan is “yes we can,” McCain’s is “no we can’t.”

Obama wants to invest heavily in better schools and public infrastructure? McCain says it will cost too much money. Obama wants to make sure every American has health insurance? McCain says it’s socialized medicine. Obama wants to make free trade more humane? McCain’s says no, no, no–that’s messing with the free market. . . .

Whether you think Obama is right or wrong about these ideas–and, yes, I mostly think he’s right–he’s setting up the fall as a debate between ambition and timidty, between hope and cynicism, between optimism and pessimism.

Cohn thinks that the party of optimism is likely to prevail. He is right: If the election is framed the way he suggests it should be, then Obama will indeed win. But even a moderately competent Republican campaign should be able to prevent that from happening. Try flipping the narrative:

McCain wants to cut taxes. Obama says we can’t afford it. McCain says we can compete against other countries. Obama says no we can’t. McCain says we should empower patients with free-market health care. Obama says it’s a pipe dream.

My point isn’t that the above constitutes a winning message, just that it is not going to be easy for Obama to claim a monopoly on sunniness. 

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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