The Phony Campaign

2008-03-16 Update

Interesting. As the campaign undergoes an unusually phony week, the phony hits go down. I don't understand, but the Google does not lie:

Query StringHit CountChange Since
"Hillary Clinton" phony225,000-14,000
"John McCain" phony198,000-8,000
"Barack Obama" phony192,000-13,000

  • The most notable trend has been the fake outrage generated over, not what a candidate might have said, but instead what an associate of the candidate said. Michael Kinsley does a good job of imagining where this all could lead:
    First of all, I unequivocally dissociate myself from remarks by my second cousin to the effect that my worthy opponent is a "prize bitch." My cousin is a dog breeder and thought she was being complimentary. She did not appreciate that such phraseology could give offense to certain segments of the population who are unfamiliar with dogs. Nevertheless, there is no room for canine imagery in a national political campaign, and Cousin Maisie has dropped out of our family in order to avoid causing any distraction from the central issues that we ought to be debating, such as terrorism and health care.
    The candidate muses further on the role of the media in all this:
    Is this part of a scheme by my opponent to introduce race into the campaign? That's not for me to say. It is my job to talk about the issues, such as health care and the subprime mortgage crisis. It is your job as members of the press to ignore all that boring crap and to fan the flames of phony issues with no evidence whatsoever, and I call upon you to do your job.

  • Should I care more than I do about Obama's wacky pastor and his ugly opinions and rhetoric? I don't think so! And an unlikely source, Matthew Yglesias, showed me why:
    But of course they're right that it'll hurt him electorally because Obama's going to have a hard time explaining that I take to be the truth, namely that his relationship with Trinity has been a bit cynical from the beginning. After all, before Obama was a half-black guy running in a mostly white country he was a half-white guy running in a mostly black neighborhood. At that time, associating with a very large, influential, local church with black nationalist overtones was a clear political asset (it's also clear in his book that it made him, personally, feel "blacker" to belong to a slightly kitschy black church). Since emerging onto a larger stage, it's been the reverse and Obama's consistently sought to distance himself from Wright, disinviting him from his campaign's launch, analogizing him to a crazy uncle who you love but don't listen to, etc. The closest analogy would probably be to Hillary Clinton's inconsistent accounting of where she's from (bragging about midwestern roots when trying to win in Iowa, promptly forgetting those roots when explaining away a loss in Illinois, developing a sporadic affection for New York sports teams) -- banal, mildly cynical shifts of association as context changes.
    This puts the issue in my phony comfort zone: it's a phony controversy, which Obama can't respond to effectively, since it would reveal his religious posturing as phony. Sweet!

    David Bernstein has more serious thoughts:

    Yglesias may well be correct about Obama, but when you're left with the choice of either acknowledging that you had sincere close, personal, and political ties with a minister whose views most Americans find beyond the pale, or defending yourself by using the "hey, I'm just a cynical politician who uses religion to get votes just like anything else, and I don't believe in it any more than I really believe that NAFTA is bad" excuse, I think you may be in for some trouble.
  • Andrew Ferguson has a great essay at the Weekly Standard about the meaning of Obama's slogan, "We are the ones we've been waiting for."
    Certainly Obama fans won't admit how obscure the sentence is--though several have claimed that it's lifted from a prophecy of the Tribal Elders of the Hopi Indians. Hopi prophecies are famously obscure.

    But this is just wishful thinking. The origins of the phrase aren't nearly so glamorous or exotic. Two years ago, before Obama even said he wanted to be president, the left-wing-radical-feminist-lesbian novelist Alice Walker published a book of essays and called it We are the Ones We've Been Waiting For. Believe me: If the line had come from the Tribal Elders of the Hopi nation, Alice Walker would have been more than happy to say so. Instead she said it came from a poem published in 1980 by the left-wing-radical-feminist-bisexual poet June Jordan. Neither Walker nor Jordan has said what the sentence means. But Walker did offer this hint in the introduction to her book of essays: "We are the ones we've been waiting for because we are able to see what is happening with a much greater awareness than our parents or grandparents, our ancestors, could see."

    Ah, so it's the whole our-generation-is-smarter thing. Alice Walker is actually much closer to being in m-m-my generation than Obama's, though.

    Andew has much more to say on Obama's rhetoric, and I encourage you to read the whole thing.

Last Modified 2014-07-06 11:05 PM EDT

Experimental Results


This week's test of the Sunday Basic Cable Movie Actor Theory:

  • 12:00am on USA: Mercury Rising (Bruce Willis)
  • 10:30am on TNT: The Legend of Bagger Vance (Will Smith)
  • 12:20pm on TBS: The Whole Ten Yards (Bruce Willis)
  • 2:30pm on USA: Hostage (Bruce Willis)
  • 4:30pm on FX: I, Robot (Will Smith)
  • 7:00pm on FX: Enemy of the State (Will Smith)
  • 9:00pm on TBS: Men in Black (Will Smith)
Comment: Bruce and Will are hard to avoid today. Theory status: so far unrefuted.