McCain can use Clinton aide's memos to target Obama

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Washington, Aug.13 : A click on the Atlantic Monthly's web site could help Republican presidential nominee John McCain find a raft of memos outlining possible ways to defeat his presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama.

The memos, prepared by Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton's chief strategist, are drawing attention in large measure for what they reveal about the dysfunctionality of the New York senator's operation.

According to the Washington Post, the memos are equally revealing for what they say about the direction Penn wanted to take the Clinton message and the risks inherent for McCain if he and his campaign were to pursue the same path.

Penn was always the biggest hawk in Clinton's campaign, always the one who advocated going negative against Obama.

n March 2007, Penn portrayed Obama as lacking roots to basic American values and being a phony -- although he was more tentative in how the campaign ought to approach those topics.

Clinton's campaign never did quite become the flag-waving, patriotic operation that Penn envisioned in March 2007, nor did she ever go as overtly negative as Penn was preaching in March and April 2008.

Earlier this year, the McCain campaign, presumably unknowingly, adopted some of Penn's provocative 2007 playbook with an ad that talked about the presumptive GOP nominee as "the American president Americans have been waiting for."

McCain's campaign appears to have less hesitation than Clinton's did in going after Obama. For the past few weeks they have run a series of negative ads -- some humorous, some not so -- that portray Obama as a famous but empty suit who is wrong on many of the issues Americans care most about.

Just how far the McCain campaign will pursue this strategy isn't yet clear. There are risks for him, just as there were for Clinton.

Obama has proven over this long campaign to be a difficult target to hit -- at least on anything more than an occasional basis. So the mileage may be limited long term.

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