President McCain Would Be Unable to Bring Civility Back to Washington

The campaign is so nasty that even if he wins, McCain will be paying for it through his term.

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Sen. John McCain closed the deal last week in the final presidential debate. No, he didn't assure himself an upset victory on November 4.

Rather, he made certain that if he does beat the heavy odds, the Democratic majority in Congress will make life miserable for him in the White House. His attack mode of late has even turned off some allies while his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, has only poured gasoline on the fire. Democrats in Congress are not amused by this continuing spectacle.

No one doubts that both sides have turned this campaign into a nasty affair. The voters are telling pollsters they are sick of it, but the negative ads continue to saturate the TV screens morning and night.

The below-the-belt attacks on Obama  have only intensified since the final debate. The robo-calls in swing states have no place in a presidential campaign. The dirty tenor of recent weeks was mentioned by former Gen. Colin Powell in his endorsement of Obama on Sunday.

Clearly, McCain has the most to lose here. The latest polls show voters of all stripes have little patience with these personal shots. Yet, McCain continued on that course in the final debate at Hofstra University. When he at times forgot about Joe the Plumber from Ohio, his new best friend, the senator from Arizona returned to the attack script.

Remember that Democratic gains in Congress are a near certainty on Election Day. Even stalwart GOP strategists count losses in the Senate and the House. The numbers vary in the many predictions, but all agree there will be losses.

In light of the McCain-Palin attacks, the Democrats will return to Washington ready for a fight if McCain pulls off the upset. There may be early talk of cooperation, but don't take it too seriously.

Pollster Peter Hart found in a recent Wall Street Journal-NBC poll that a third of the supporters in both camps have grown to detest the other. So much for the hope that civility might return to the White House and the halls of Congress. It will only get worse.

Further, if Barack Obama wins, the minority GOP will strive to knock him around. Don't look for any honeymoon period for an Obama-Biden administration or receptiveness to any mandate.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. Both candidates vowed early to take the high road and stay away from mudslinging, but their allies were not listening and could hardly wait to get started at tearing down the principals.

In that last debate, it was disingenuous for McCain to claim he was the more wounded party in these exchanges. Ever since he chose Palin as his running mate, the campaign has grown uglier. In fact, Palin encouraged McCain to get personal at Hofstra and forget about the critics.

Viewers thus saw the grimaces and smugness of McCain compared to a laid-back and even smiling Obama. That contrast alone on split TV screens was a telling blow to McCain. Obama may have been on the defensive at times, but his rival's facial expressions were annoying to many viewers.

In the 2000 presidential debates, Democrat Al Gore was roundly criticized in the press for sighing at some of George W. Bush's answers. McCain's images on TV were far worse than any sighs.

Remember also in 2000 when McCain ran against then Governor Bush in the GOP primaries. He was smeared in a ruthless fashion in South Carolina by Bush's backers. His wife and adopted daughter from Bangladesh were targets.

Karl Rove, the architect of Bush's campaigns and now a media columnist, wrote that Obama has not closed the sale for victory. Coming from Rove, that means we should all prepare for a new mudslide in the closing days of this long contest.

Not a pretty picture.