I Can’t Look

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 Obama’s critics laid down the foundations of the strategy months ago: The Republican National Committee started the “Audacity Watch” back in April, and Karl Rove later fueled the attack by describing the first-term Illinois senator as “coolly arrogant.”

It wasn’t until the last week, however, that the narrative of Obama as a president-in-waiting — and perhaps getting impatient in that waiting — began reverberating beyond the inboxes of Washington operatives and journalists. …

… And the snickers about Obama’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 “biggest celebrity in the world,” comparable to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, stars who are famous for attitude rather than accomplishments.

The harsher treatment from comedians and columnists — coupled with the shift by McCain from attacking on policy to character issues — 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 haven’t seen an ad yet where he talks about what he’s gonna do. And the reason is because those folks know they don’t have any good answers, they know they’ve had their turn over the last eight years and made a mess of things. They know that you’re not real happy with them.”

Obama continued: “And so the only way they figure they’re going to win this election is if they make you scared of me. So what they’re saying is, ‘Well, we know we’re not very good but you can’t risk electing Obama. You know, he’s new, he’s… doesn’t look like the other presidents on the currency, you know, he’s got a, he’s got a funny name.’

“I mean, that’s basically the argument — he’s too risky,” Obama said, per ABC News’ Sunlen Miller. “But think about it, what’s the bigger risk? Us deciding that we’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 we’ve been doing over the last eight years? … That’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.

25 thoughts on “I Can’t Look

  1. Of course he’s arrogant. (Or, ahem, ‘self-confident’.) So’s McCain. So is anybody who wants to be President. It’s a job requirement; and therefore a non-issue.

  2. His well reasoned comments go right over the heads of many of the very people he needs to reach. They aren’t used to articulate and intelligent speech after the Bush years, only bombast and simple minded rhetoric. Don’t know what the answer is. I wouldn’t want him to lower the bar and speak like Bush does, but it seems to be the comfort zone for many people.

  3. I have feared the latent (sorta) racism this whole election. My 30 something kids can’t understand that, but they didn’t live thro the 60s. Some of the people who were the most racist are still with us. They are not dead and not changed, only smarter (not wiser). I can’t watch either. Wake me up in Dec.

  4. Dianne I so see your point. It is unfortunate in this day and age of the US we have to “dumb down” anything to reach the general public rather than encouraging them to THINK and perhaps make a great decision based on knowledge rather than “celebrity”.

    Obama, I have noticed, is articulate and, obviously, intelligent. That is something we need in a leader. But unfortunately you have to deal with the UNthinking and INarticulate-the ones who would rather be told what to think and decide rather than gain the knowledge for themselves to make an informed decision (Oh the horrors of that-I say in jest). Which goes back to my earlier “celebrity” statement.

    The campaign of McCain seems to have gone the way of Bush-reshow/repeat something enough so as to make it believable. Did Bush not just say AGAIN there is progress in Iraq?

  5. Actually, I think Obama was quite clear in stating his fear that racism could cost him the election.

    How else to interpret: “…doesn’t look like the other presidents on the currency.”

    And the Republicans will hammer that point home. The only hope is the voting power of younger people.

  6. There are probably several associations to be made with Britney and Paris. I figured I was supposed to make the assumption that like them, Obama is famous just because he looks good and he really can’t DO anything. The two blonds are empty-headed playthings. I guess that may be the same as sexually available.

    Another observation, Britney and Paris look an awful lot like Cindy McCain.

  7. …there’s an even deeper message lurking behind the selection of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. Not only are they young, white, sexually available female celebrities associated with the Scary Black Man, but they are also out-of-control drunks and substance abusers. The next step for the push-pollers and pundits is to tie in Obama’s own admitted cocaine use and – presto – you have a whole new attack line in the Grand Old Party tradition of dirty politics…

  8. Well, anything can happen, but let’s not get paranoid just yet. We can assume the GOPS will say and do anything to try to manipulate the public they have been so successful in manipulating in the past. We have to get back in their faces, I think. Politeness and niceness won’t work here; it proves to a certain segment of the public that we are wimps. Kerry made this mistake.

  9. Eh, nothing to be scared of, I think. Obama’s winning, he’s been winning since the beginning, and he’s continues to widen that winning lead.

    Funny thing … I read somewhere else today that there’s two folks that are really PISSED about that Britney/Hilton ad … the McCain campaign apparently forgot that Paris’s last name is HILTON. And the HILTONs, pop and grandpop, both HUGE doners to the republican party in general and to McCain’s campiagn in particular, are not the least bit amused.

    From a corporate point of view, it hurts the Hilton bottom line every time Paris Hilton is in the news as an airhead, which means that the major investors in the Hilton hotels are ALSO not particularly amused.

    It’s stuff like this that makes me believe that McCain doesn’t have a chance, no matter what they do they end up standing in crap…


  10. Oh and also (sorry, forgot to add) … while Paris and Britney are by no means associated with sweetness and light in the public mind, they are also most definitely not associated with the concept of “arrogant elites” that I think the McCain camp was going for. They’re celebrities …. for most people, that’s a completely different category from anything political whatsoever. So, I think the ad itself is just not all that effective.

    It’s possible that they were instead going for the whole “where da white wimmin at???” meme … but I think they’re about a decade too late for that to have any real effect.


  11. Maha:

    One of the biggest rules for a successful smear campaign is to insist that the other person is as guilty as (or more guilty than) you are.

    So, the Republicans have to hammer home the idea that the Democrats are mindless hatemongers, otherwise they’ll seem evil and mean-spirited. Teach, I assume, is one of those who buys into the crap. (He doesn’t sound bright enough to be one of the people intentionally spewing it.)

  12. dianne’s right – Obama speaks nuance, and knows the difference between goals, strategy and tactics. Which lets the simple minded believe he’s being two-faced.

    But it’s extraordinarily early for McCain to be going this negative. These are 2 weeks to go tactics, not 3 months to go. Can’t keep this up that long, it will lose any bite very soon.

    Which makes me wonder if McCain hasn’t been told he has to get his numbers up, or he won’t come out of the Republican convention as the nominee.

  13. I think he’s trying to equate mockery of Bush’s idiocy and general incoherence with the right’s hissy-fit over Obama’s “arrogance”. I’m not quite sure why that’s supposed to make sense, but that’s my best guess…

  14. Maha:

    From a quick perusal of Wikipedia, it seems that William Teach is making a snotty remark about how Democrats don’t like Bush: the twentieth of January is Inauguration Day

  15. mccain was played this week. Note Obama puts out a statement condeming the racism and all mccain had was “It wasn’t me”. mccain felt he needed a fast and immediate response which turned out to be no response at all. If mccain continues to respond with the smirk and “It wasn’t me” he’s going to start looking out of touch and the confused lable will take hold.

  16. Pingback: THE GUN TOTING LIBERALâ„¢

  17. What I can’t get over is how the MSM totally missed how ‘arrogant’ and ‘presumptuous’ are just sub words for uppity. I mean, the ‘pugs aren’t even trying to be subtle…

  18. William Teach comes from an alternate universe, but became trapped here after his interdimensional La-A-Boy got caught in a radiation overlap between the crap leakage from Fox News on his teevee, and that from Rush on his radio. He can’t understand why anyone would criticize the Best President Ever, who was elected in 2000 by a narrow margin.

    (NOTE: in Mr. Teach’s alternate universe, Best President Ever Albert Gore Jr. is a “Republican,” which means “Democrat” to us. Mr. Teach hasn’t quite mastered this universe’s lingo. In his universe, Fox News is the mouthpiece of the “Democrats.” You see his confusion.)

  19. So how does Obama address this string of “negative but no substance” ads coming from the McCain camp? I’d like to see a set of response ads, each staking out a rational position on an issue of the day, maybe one per week: economy, jobs, gas prices, global warming, the war in Iraq, the war in Afganistan.

    Format: Here is the problem. Here is Obama’s policy/approach/solution. Now, why don’t you ask our opponent about his position: insert todays video tape of McCain grinning and saying, “We’re just having a little fun here!” Maybe force the idiot to say something substantive on the big issues.


Comments are closed.