Friday, April 25, 2008

What's Wrong with the Ad?

For days, everyone I talk to has been asking, "what's wrong with the Pastor Wright ad in North Carolina? And why is McCain saying that it should be taken off the air?

Regarding the first part of the question - there's nothing wrong with the ad unless you believe that blacks in North Carolina are such an oppressed group, and are so damaged by that oppression, that special standards must apply to them in political discourse, and that failure to treat them with kid gloves, even in conversations that are non-racial in nature, equates to racism. In their perpetual undermining of minorities, this is the strategy that democrats cling to.

Brian Montopoli, writing for CBS News, doesn't call the ad racist, just misleading:
"For 20 years, Barack Obama sat in his pew, listening to his pastor," an announcer says as the ad opens. That controversial pastor, Jeremiah Wright, then appears onscreen, saying, "No, no, no. Not God Bless America. God Damn America!" (The ad, which you can watch here, has been called "misleading," since, according to Obama, he was not sitting in his pew when this particular sermon was delivered.)
It is Obama, of course, who is being misleading when he claims not having been in the pew for any particular comment clears him of an awareness that this is how Wright speaks. Obama deliberately muddied these waters, first saying he wasn't aware of such comments, then saying he'd become aware of them only recently, and claiming that he'd been there for outrageous comments but not these in particular. That leaves him without credibility on the issue - why should anyone believe him when he says he wasn't there for any particular Wright comment?

Regarding John McCain and North Carolina, why does he jump on board and give credibility to a claim of racism when the ad addresses a non-racial issue of Barack's judgment? Here are the possible explanations I've come up with.
1) He wants to increase his share of minority votes by appearing to be properly cowed by the PC movement.
2) He wants to reinforce his reputation as a maverick by showing that he does his own thinking, and isn't trapped in a traditional, insensitive, republican box.
3) He wants to show that he is the real Obama - that while Barack talks about working together, Barack's never actually done any work, while McCain has been reaching across the isle and bonding on policy with democrats for decades.
4) He gets to be nice on race on the surface while doing his best to keep Pastor Wright's name in the headlines. McCain wins both ways.
The possible pitfall for McCain is that he puts himself in the middle of an escalating fight with himself on the wrong side.

This may look bad on the surface, but remember that it's the same thing he did on immigration. While immigration almost killed McCain's candidacy, it now puts him in the strongest position a republican candidate for president could be in this year to hang onto some of the large hispanic tally garnered by George W. And remember, W wouldn't be president without the support he received from hispanics.

McCain has been quietly and cleverly positioning himself as friendly to the have-nots with his recent Edwardsian tour of the 'forgotten America.' This feeds a natural symmetry that benefits McCain, as the Clintons become the race demons of America, a role that would normally fall automatically upon the republican nominee.

Hillary is the woman who seeks to kill the chance for the first black man to make it to the White House, an opportunity that black Americans didn't believe possible just a few months ago. And her husband is the man who is blamed with brazenly injecting race into the conversation after Barack had done such a good job of being a post-racial candidate.

This makes the Clintons serious dream killers, a dream that applies not just to the hope that Barack represents at this moment, but a dream that reaches back to the archetypal dream speech of Martin Luther King.

This reality renders the standard pundit back and forth over "Is Hillary helping John McCain?" to the silly level.

The real assistance that Hillary is providing to McCain is beyond measure. In this unconscious dance they're doing, Hillary is taking the masculine role that traditionally goes to the republican, being distasteful on race. McCain, following, gets to show his feminine side. While Hillary plays the lead role, campaigning visibly and aggressively in primary states with the media in tow, McCain quietly courts favor with minorities as he tours their scuffed up dance halls. The choreography is beautiful.

By the time Barack collects the nomination in August, America will realize that he is a fringe candidate with no chance of winning. And, ironically, it won't be John McCain's fault, nor will it be the fault of the evil GOP. It will be the Clintons, fellow democrats, who have beaten down the hopes and dreams of black America. This is not a new role for democrats, but being blamed for it will be new.

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