Thursday, July 31, 2008

McNasty, Obama, and Race

The recent descent into the gutter by the McCain camp has led to wide speculation about what they're trying to say. The guy who's out in front of it with the best and most cutting analysis is Josh Marshall, who is determined not to let McNasty have it both ways--playing the race card and keeping his hands clean.
Effective messages hit multiple themes, different messages in different people's minds and even read differently on the first or the third reading. So is the Britney ad about emasculating Obama, as Robert George says? Yes. Is it also about simply pairing Obama up with Britney and Paris? Absolutely. It's both. And a lot more. In many cases, this game is simply a matter of taking charged images out into the public consciousness. They don't necessarily 'mean' one thing or another. You just push them out and they take on a life of their own.

In this case, if the point is to say that Obama's a celebrity, how exactly do you get from there to Britney Spears? Paris Hilton? Mull on that for a second. Are those the most logical analogues to Obama? Play it any way you want but somehow at the end of the day we end up with a campaign message based on promoting Obama as a song and dance man and paired with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. How'd we get here? It's the GOP race and sex equivalent of all roads lead to Rome.

Newsday is more succinct:

So, they didn't pick other big celebrities, who were either men, or black, or married.

What they picked was two sexually available white women.

But it must have been a coincidence, because we know John McCain wants to run an elevated campaign focusing on the serious issues that America faces.

The race was always going to be about race, at least in part. I am actually pleased that McCain is going so negative so early. Cards on the table. Now we'll see where we are as a country.

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