Watching politics these days, for me, is like watching the scariest, ickiest part of a scary, icky movie. This is the part where the cute, blond starlet doesn’t know the creepy thing that ripped all her friends’ heads off and sucked out their brains is right behind her. I much prefer movies with singing and dancing cartoon animals to scary, icky movies, and if I’m in a theater watching something scary and icky usually I don’t watch. I’ll look away or take my glasses off or something.
As I said, politics is like that these days. I don’t want to watch. The thing that rips off heads and sucks out brains, a.k.a. the Republican Party, is too close.
The GOP campaigns for the White House — and other elected offices — by turning the Democrat into a cartoon. They’re really good at that. It doesn’t matter who the Dems nominate; they could nominate Jesus, and the GOP would turn Jesus into a cartoon. And they hammer, hammer, hammer the cartoon Dem candidate into the voters’ heads, and if enough voters buy the message, the GOP wins the election without actually having to talk about, you know, issues.
Now we’re seeing what sort of cartoon they want Barack Obama to be. Carrie Budoff Brown writes,
Barack Obamaâ€™s critics laid down the foundations of the strategy months ago: The Republican National Committee started the â€œAudacity Watchâ€ back in April, and Karl Rove later fueled the attack by describing the first-term Illinois senator as â€œcoolly arrogant.â€
It wasnâ€™t until the last week, however, that the narrative of Obama as a president-in-waiting â€” and perhaps getting impatient in that waiting â€” began reverberating beyond the inboxes of Washington operatives and journalists. …
… And the snickers about Obamaâ€™s perceived smugness may have a very real political impact as McCain’s camp launched its most forceful effort yet to define him negatively. It released a TV ad Wednesday describing Obama as the â€œbiggest celebrity in the world,â€ comparable to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, stars who are famous for attitude rather than accomplishments.
The harsher treatment from comedians and columnists â€” coupled with the shift by McCain from attacking on policy to character issues â€” underscores the fine line that Obama is walking between confident and cocky. Once at pains to present himself as presidential, Obama now faces criticism for doing it too well.
Jonathan Singer writes at MyDD that the McCain “Obama is arrogant” message is for media and Washington insiders, not voters. But if the McCain camp can sell this to media and Washington insiders, it’ll trickle down to voters eventually.
Here’s Obama’s response. You will need to be familiar with this to understand the next turn in the plot:
“John McCain right now, he’s spending an awful lot of time talking about me,” Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said today in Rolla, Mo. “You notice that? I havenâ€™t seen an ad yet where he talks about what heâ€™s gonna do. And the reason is because those folks know they donâ€™t have any good answers, they know theyâ€™ve had their turn over the last eight years and made a mess of things. They know that youâ€™re not real happy with them.”
Obama continued: “And so the only way they figure theyâ€™re going to win this election is if they make you scared of me. So what theyâ€™re saying is, â€˜Well, we know weâ€™re not very good but you canâ€™t risk electing Obama. You know, heâ€™s new, heâ€™s… doesnâ€™t look like the other presidents on the currency, you know, heâ€™s got a, heâ€™s got a funny name.’
“I mean, thatâ€™s basically the argument — heâ€™s too risky,” Obama said, per ABC News’ Sunlen Miller. “But think about it, whatâ€™s the bigger risk? Us deciding that weâ€™re going to come together to bring about real change in America or continuing to do same things with the same folks in the same ways that we know have not worked? I mean, are we really going to do the same stuff that weâ€™ve been doing over the last eight years? … Thatâ€™s a risk we cannot afford. The stakes are too high.”
Jake Tapper, who needs to retire, reads between the lines of Obama’s response and projects onto it a whole lot of subtext that I don’t see, and comes up with this conclusion:
Correct me if I’m wrong, but does it not seem as if Obama just said McCain and his campaign — presumably the “they” in this construct — are saying that Obama shouldn’t be elected because he’s a risk because he’s black and has a foreign-sounding name?
Do you see what Tapper sees in Obama’s response? Because I sure don’t see it. But of course now the McCain campaign is whining that Obama is playing the “race card.”
If there is one thing Obama has been very cautious about, it’s bringing race into the campaign. As I’ve written before, he goes out of his way not to be the “black candidate.” He and his surrogates have brought up race occasionally, when they had to, but they drop it quickly.
Obama has also worked very hard not to display anger throughout his campaign; the cool demeanor may or may not be the “real” Obama, but he is incredibly disciplined about keeping his cool. And that’s because he understands that there are whites who can like a nice black man, but who will run screaming from an angry black man, even if the black man has plenty to be angry about.
So what’s left? Since the old angry black man stereotype wouldn’t work, the GOP has reached even deeper into white America’s racial memory and brought forth — the uppity black man stereotype.
Yes, Obama is a confident man. Think about it; is he somehow more confident than, say, Ronald Reagan? or John Kennedy, if you are old enough to remember John Kennedy? Or Bill Clinton? When you think about those pols from the past, and their public personas, is Barack Obama’s public persona in any appreciable way different? If it is, I’m not seeing it.
So, although the Barack Obama campaign did not accuse McCain of playing on racism — I am.
And what’s with the two white chicks — Paris Hilton and Britney Spears — the “celebrity” ad somehow associates with Obama? The subliminal message is too obvious — he’s not only an uppity black man; he’s an uppity black man being associated with two sexually available white women.
And just how stupid are “pundits” like Tapper not to see this?
But most of them don’t see it, or won’t, and so the dippy young starlet cheerfully walks down the dark alley with the brain-sucking thing right behind her. And I can’t look.