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Keating Issue Not Exactly an October Surprise

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The Barack Obama campaign has decided to wait until October before hitting John McCain with the most obvious attack available. The Keating Five scandal. Problem is, since when is 20-year-old news an October surprise?

I assume there are a fair number of voters who know little or nothing of Charles Keating and/or had no idea McCain was mixed up in that mess. But I’m also assuming that, for most voters, the rebuttal of “it happened 20 years ago, I was cleared of any wrongdoing” will be a sufficient answer. This matter smacks of the kind of partisan issue that riles the base, pisses off the opposition and leaves independents rolling their eyes.

Now, to be clear, I’m not exonerating McCain’s actions 20-years ago. His relationship with Keating was distasteful. But McCain learned from his mistakes. He has spent the subsequent years of his career committed to limiting the influence of money in politics (see: McCain-Feingold). Whether he’s actually been true to his principles is up for debate. But clearly he has made an effort to atone for his poor judgment and even he admits he made unwise choices and learned from the experience.

I understand that Obama supporters want that magic bullet that will take McCain out. This isn’t it. If it was, McCain would have gone down long ago. But, from a purely political standpoint, I like the patience and timing the Obama campaign has shown by holding onto this well-known issue until the last minute. It’s no “surprise” but this is October and any negative coverage of your opponent is positive coverage. Even if the issue is 20 years in the ground.