David Broder tells us how the candidates feel about the negative tone of the campaign:
"I'm very sorry about it," McCain said in a Saturday interview at his Arlington headquarters. "I think we could have avoided at least some of this if we had agreed to do the town hall meetings" together, as he had suggested, during the summer months.How is that ironic?
Obama, in a phone interview yesterday from Elkhart, Ind., argued that "the classic tit-for-tat campaigning" of recent weeks "is part of the politics of the past that we have to move beyond." Ironically, having turned down McCain's proposal for weekly joint town halls, Obama argued that the formal debates, starting in late September, may refocus the campaign on real issues.
In any event, I think it's simplistic to suggest that if there were an exhausting series of "town hall meetings", the discourse would suddenly become elevated. I don't recall that, during their respective, seemingly never-ending series of debates, either the Republican or Democratic primaries were sunny and positive. Broder quotes McCain,
"When you have to stand on a stage with your opponent, as I've done in other campaigns, you obviously have a tendency to improve the relationship. . . . When you have to spend time with somebody, I think it changes the equation."Why let facts get in the way of that?