Friday, August 1, 2008

“The Sheriff is a …”

If you can’t see the fine hand of Rovian campaign tactics in John McCain’s use of “playing the race card” against Barack Obama, you haven’t been paying attention for the last eight years.

Of course the Britney Spears/Paris Hilton/”celebrity” ad that the McCain campaign is running is a dog-whistle to the people who shudder at the idea of a black man in the same room as two white women. Of course the scene of Barack Obama addressing a parkful of Germans is a subliminal scary message to the Jewish population (although the GOP used it too, with Ronald Reagan, so take that for what it’s worth). And of course the McCain campaign is going to try to use Barack Obama’s charisma and ability to attract a crowd against him. That’s Rove’s trademark: use your opponent’s greatest strength as his greatest weakness. The fact that John McCain is a fumbling and gaffe-prone public speaker and can barely get through a day without flip-flopping on something like taxes or the Iraq “timetable” is, to the GOP’s mind, part of his charm and the reason to vote for him; he’ll get the job done, however awkwardly, instead of sipping mojitos with the white women in South Beach. They’re hoping for the reaction like that of the good folks of Rock Ridge:

So far the Obama camp’s response has been to deny they’re playing the race card, which is not the way to respond to this kind of attack because in doing so, you accept the premise that they are. Actually, the best response has been Sen. Obama’s amused comeback of “Is that the best they have?” which not only mocks the commercials but also points out what is the most telling thing about the Republicans (and something I’ve been saying for a very long time) the only way they can win is if they attack because if they try to run on the issues — the economy, the war, health care, education, equality, energy, infrastructure — they lose. They can’t sell John McCain on his ideas — probably because he has no idea what he really stands for — so all they have left is what they are best at: destroying their opponent.

It also makes you wonder if the the only way John McCain can win is by doing this kind of campaign, you might ask the same question he’s asking about Sen. Obama: is John McCain ready to lead?