NEW YORK – How mud-wallowingly deep may a multi-millionaire US presidential campaign go? Way deep – deeper and deeper. And this is only early August.
Republican Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign’s strategic decision is now all too obvious. Swift-boating Democratic Senator Barack Obama is the only way to go.
The McCain-painted Obama is emerging as a US-hating, terrorist-friendly, deeply suspicious, radical, vapid black celeb – Puff Daddy with a Harvard degree. This “new bogeyman” picture travels well in those vast swathes of flyover US territory where urban hipness not only evokes envy and contempt but is regarded as a mortal sin.
The McCain campaign knows that is the only chance in heaven and hell for their candidate in November. What can a strategist do when US voters desperately want change and reject the Republican brand in droves, your candidate is senile and insufferably boring, knows absolutely zilch about the economy, and supports a mega-unpopular war?
So abandon all hope those who yearn for a serious political debate in the US. And it gets worse: signs are the McCain campaign “strategy” is working.
Let’s put him in his place
This campaign is now all about the Gang of Rove – or the takeover of McCain’s operation by former George W Bush “turd blossom” Karl Rove and his minions. The McCain campaign is now being conducted by Steve Schmidt, who used to run the infamous 2004 Rove “war room” that swift-boated John Kerry to oblivion.
Rove remains conveniently in the shade, with the added bonus of appearing at Fox News as an informed commentator of his own tactics.
Earlier in 2008, Rove himself had already announced how dirty this was going to get – painting Obama in a January 10 Wall Street Journal op-ed piece as a lazy, cocky, trash-talking basketball player.
Then, on June 23, ABC News’ Christianne Klein reported that at a breakfast at the Capitol Hill Club Rove derided Obama as “coolly arrogant”. According to Klein, Rove said, “Even if you never met him, you know this guy. He’s the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.”
And then Rove said McCain “needs to come right at him.” At the time a Newsweek poll was showing Obama with a 15-point lead over McCain.
So how do you smash Obama’s carefully nurtured image of a post-racial uniter?
Perennial bi-partisan Washington hand David Gergen, who worked on many White House configurations, from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton, told it like it is this past Sunday: you use racist code. According to Gergen, “There has been a very intentional effort to paint him [Obama] as somebody outside the mainstream, other, ‘he’s not one of us’. I think the McCain campaign has been scrupulous about not directly saying it, but it’s the subtext of this campaign. Everybody knows that. There are certain kinds of signals. As a native of the south, I can tell you, when you see this Charlton Heston ad, ‘The One’, that’s code for, ‘he’s uppity, he ought to stay in his place’. Everybody gets that who is from a southern background. We all understand that.”
The buildup has been relentless. The McCain campaign’s new slogan is “Country first” – as if Obama’s campaign was all about his ego. In all his town hall speeches, McCain repeats the neat, and false, formulation that Obama “would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign” – a reference to Obama’s criticism of President George W Bush’s “surge” in the war in Iraq.
The icing on the cake, so far, has been the now iconic ad “Celeb” with its image interplay of Obama in front of 200,000 people in Berlin with naughty girls Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.
And it goes way beyond. The Britney-Paris-Obama ad was not only about race. It was about selling the idea of Obama as a frivolous, air-headed, dandy celeb, with the bonus of intimately associating him with two gorgeous, young, blond, raunchy white women half his age; imagine the torrents of fear and anguish flowing in those vast Bible-clutching American pastures. Obama, for the Gang of Rove, has to be relentless degraded as too young, too feckless, too pampered, too precious, too effete, too self-infatuated, too rock star, and too dangerous to be president.
And yes – they can have it both ways. McCain’s campaign manager Rick Davis even accused Obama of playing the race card himself in his comments about the Britney-Paris ad, while McCain told CNN “I’m sorry to say that … Obama was … playing the race card”.
Extra Himalayas and Hindu Kushes of hypocrisy have been reached as old Washington hands – many of them part of McCain’s media “base” – proclaimed themselves indignant that McCain had taken the Bush family Rovian way: victory, whatever it takes. Not many Republican hearts can survive the horrifying idea of being defeated by a liberal, Democratic black guy.
Paris for president
But then the McCain campaign should have guessed that you don’t mess with people who have enough money to bury you – as in the Hilton hotel family, which happens, irony of ironies, to vote Republican.
Paris Hilton lost no time, simply hired better writers – Chris Henchley and former Saturday Night Live writer Adam McCay, a creative partner of the laugh-a-tonic Will Ferrell – and visibly got a tremendous kick delivering her response to the McCain ad.Paris Hilton Responds to McCain ad, click here
Conveniently decked in swimsuit and high heels, looking totally hot, Paris in her video response not only whoops the old man – “really old, older than Yoda” – but offers her own energy policy to save America. She ends up looking more respectable than McCain. Additionally, fashionistas and the YouTube/Facebook hordes shrieked in delight as she also did promise to paint the White House pink.
As American celeb culture is the law of the land, if Paris actually ran she would have quite a decent shot of conquering the White (Pink) House. She might just settle for giving an advantage to Obama – for now, besides musing the juicy possibility of suing McCain and his handlers.
Yeah! Now where are the chicks?
Senator Hillary Clinton had predicted, in private, while still campaigning, that Obama would “crumple like a paper doll” when confronting the mighty, voracious Republican smear machine. To say that Obama is currently underperforming in front of an astonishing mediocre candidate would be the understatement of the year – as much as Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, may be itching to go as nasty as any Rovian.
The fact is the Rovian way is working. McCain is on the way up in key swing states such as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to the latest polls. Obama holds just a slight national lead over McCain. One of this week’s polls showed 53% believed Obama himself had played the race card; only 22% thought the Paris-Britney-Obama ad manipulated race.
If the Obama campaign does not fight this monstrous misunderstanding head on, he’s bound to lose the election. As it stands, Team Obama is playing defense while the Rovian Team McCain defines the rules of engagement. The race is now all about Obama. Team Obama’s got to change the rules, and do it quick.
How easy it is to swift-boat McCain became evident this week when the “older than Yoda” candidate, desperate to win the redneck vote, showed up at the extended debauchery/strip teasing/bike rally known as Sturgis Rally 2008 at Buffalo Chip in South Dakota, an annual tribute-cum bimbo eruption to US war veterans.
The “rally” happens to take place on Sioux sacred land. The Sioux have been trying to shut the thing down for years. But for the local authorities it’s all about making a fast buck out of hordes of horny bikers. McCain, by the way, happens to be on the American Indian Affairs senate sub-committee.
McCain was so fired up in South Dakota he encouraged his own aging wife Cindy – the multi-millionaire, Stepford wife-looking beer heiress – to enter the topless Miss Buffalo Chip contest: “I told her with a little luck, she could be the only woman ever to serve as both the First Lady and Miss Buffalo Chip.” The topless contest inevitably turns bottomless and also involves activities such as banana coddling. The religious right vote may have not been amused.
One can imagine the thunderous 24/7 wall-to-wall media coverage if “uppity” Obama had ever offered his wife Michelle to public consumption on a similar event. US corporate media were mum on McCain’s bimbo eruption. But then US corporate media execs in New York are not exactly keen on helping an “uppity” black man beat up on an old white guy.