Politics postsFriday August 01, 2008
That McCain Rumor
Here’s the headline in yesterday’s New York Times: “McCain Is Trying to Define Obama as Out of Touch.” Here’s the unspoken subhed: “And we let him.”
Not that I don’t sympathize. It’s a tough gig being objective these days. The Republicans learned long ago how to use the mainstream media, always striving for objectivity, to their advantage: Pin what you want on your opponent and that becomes the talking point.
If I wrote, for example, that John McCain has no genitalia, merely a ball of fluff between his legs, and this rumor gained enough momentum, then that would become the story. Refutations, denials, headlines. “McCain: ‘I Have Genitalia’: But Refuses to Drop Pants for Media.” News cameras would focus on his crotch and news anchors, with resident experts, would analyze what we saw. “I believe there’s something there, Paula. Now whether it's actually genitalia...” The late night comedians would have a field day. Op-Ed columnists would opine that, even if the rumor were true, how does that relate to the act of governing? We’d get the European reaction, the Chinese reaction, and analysis of what this might mean for the War on Terror. Can we fight al Qaeda if our president literally has no balls? And no matter how many times the rumor was denied, and no matter from how many angles it was refuted, still, on election day, many voters would vote against him with this reasoning: Well, that McCain feller, he’s just got a ball of fluff between his legs.
So how do you fight this? How do you write about the process of the campaign without playing into one side’s strategy? How silly does it have to get before you throw up your hands and refuse to let the candidates dictate talking points?
At the least, Obama’s response to the lastest McCain attacks is exactly right: “Is that the best they got?” Hopefully, when Paris and Britney are mentioned during the rest of this campaign, most of us will simply be reminded of how trivial McCain and the Republicans want to make it all while the world burns.
That New York Times Front Page
That said, allow me to be enthusiastic again. Here's part of Obama's speech, as reported in the New York Times, before an estimated crowd of 200,000 in Berlin yesterday:
“Will we acknowledge that there is no more powerful example than the one each of our nations projects to the world?” Mr. Obama asked in his speech, then added pointedly, “Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law?” The huge crowd applauded and waved American flags.
Waved American flags. Wow. It's been a while since I've seen a U.S. politician address crowds that large and enthusiastic. Have I ever seen it? In my lifetime? Here's the accompanying picture, which made the front page, too:
Fox News: Anti-Semitic or merely vindictive?
One of my favorite New York Times writers, David Carr, has a great piece on news organizations dealing with Fox News' organization — particularly its PR apparatus — and the “fair and balanced” network comes off fairly paranoid and vindictive. Nixon's dirty tricks come to mind. Roger Ailes, Nixon's advisor and Fox's chief executive, comes to mind.
You write something they don't like, they won't talk to you for 15 months. You report the facts, they photoshop your face so it looks weathered, haggard, or, in the case of NY Times reporter Jacques Steinberg, virtually unrecognizable — or recognizable only to a Joseph Goebbels. Carr writes, “In a technique familiar to students of vintage German propaganda, [Steinberg's] ears were pulled out, his teeth splayed apart, his forehead lowered and his nose was widened and enlarged in a way that made him look more like Fagin than the guy I work with.”
See their photoshop handiwork here.
See the video from “Fox & Friends” here.
Throw up here.
This made me laugh out loud. A take-off of the will.i.am video for Obama...but using the inspiring words of John McCain instead:
It's Sunday and I love George Packer
If you don't get The New Yorker — and you should: it's the best general interest magazine in a world where general interest magazines are dying — you should at least check out George Packer's article on the death of modern conservatism. Or possible death. To me, conservatives are like Jason in the "Friday the 13th" movies: I never truly believe they're dead; they always seem to come back in the next reel. Both also seem to feed off of fright. A highlight:
Buchanan gave me a copy of a seven-page confidential memorandum—“A little raw for today,” he warned—that he had written for Nixon in 1971, under the heading “Dividing the Democrats.” Drawn up with an acute understanding of the fragilities and fault lines in “the Old Roosevelt Coalition,” it recommended that the White House “exacerbate the ideological division” between the Old and New Left by praising Democrats who supported any of Nixon’s policies; highlight “the elitism and quasi-anti-Americanism of the National Democratic Party”; nominate for the Supreme Court a Southern strict constructionist who would divide Democrats regionally; use abortion and parochial-school aid to deepen the split between Catholics and social liberals; elicit white working-class support with tax relief and denunciations of welfare. Finally, the memo recommended exploiting racial tensions among Democrats. “Bumper stickers calling for black Presidential and especially Vice-Presidential candidates should be spread out in the ghettoes of the country,” Buchanan wrote. “We should do what is within our power to have a black nominated for Number Two, at least at the Democratic National Convention.” Such gambits, he added, could “cut the Democratic Party and country in half; my view is that we would have far the larger half.”
The Nixon White House didn’t enact all of these recommendations, but it would be hard to find a more succinct and unapologetic blueprint for Republican success in the conservative era.
I also like this synopsis:
The fact that the least conservative, least divisive Republican in the 2008 race is the last one standing—despite being despised by significant voices on the right—shows how little life is left in the movement that Goldwater began, Nixon brought into power, Ronald Reagan gave mass appeal, Newt Gingrich radicalized, Tom DeLay criminalized, and Bush allowed to break into pieces.
But for all the talk, back and forth, about the death of this and that, I still believe the success of modern conservatism is the direct result of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. That's it. "We just lost the south for a generation," LBJ supposedly said upon signing the former, and he may have been optimistic. With the state of the economy, the state of the world, this should be the Democrats' year for the White House, but they are offering the unprecedented. Hell, not just the unprecedented. They are offering in direct form what the Republicans have been using for a generation, via code ("law and order") or symbol (Willie Horton), to beat the Democrats. What delicious irony if Barack Obama is what the Democrats need to finally beat the Republicans.