Open to Debate

The best way for Obama to defend against the McCain campaign's attacks is to start a real conversation


John McCain TV ad: "Celeb"

Over the past month, a foolish narrative has been abroad in the land: that this election is going to be a "referendum" on Barack Obama. This is not uncommon in presidential politics--John Kerry's consultants fantasized that the 2004 election was going to be a referendum on George W. Bush--but it is usually peddled by weak campaigns that want to avoid dealing with their own candidate's deficiencies. Presidential elections are never referendums. They are, ultimately, a choice. Two candidates stand on a stage in debate: they talk; you decide.

Quite often, though strangely not in Kerry's case, the referendum gambit is a...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!