The Phony Campaign

2008-04-06 Update

A mere gnat's whisker of 16,000 hits separate our candidates:

Query StringHit CountChange Since
"Hillary Clinton" phony180,000-20,000
"Barack Obama" phony169,000-26,000
"John McCain" phony164,000-19,000

Let's take a look at recent patriotism-questioning:

  • The Blogometer periodically summarizes political blogs. On Friday, it saw fit to characterize a set of posts this way:
    Conservative bloggers continue to question Obama's patriotism:
    It's long been an article of faith that "questioning patriotism" is Beyond The Pale, and something you Just Can't Do. Is the charge fair? Judge for yourself. The links are to:

    My call: To be charitable, Blogometer is missing some serious nuance there.

  • This, on the other hand, is pretty unabashed patriotism-questioning:

    [CNN Quickvote]

    Whoa. What rabid right-wing blogger dared to put that up?

    Bzzzt. Not a blogger. A news site.

    Oh. Well, Fox News, right?

    Sorry, no.

    [To be fair, a right wing blogger did do his own poll in reaction to this.]

  • Like it or not, of the three remaining candidates, Obama draws far more than his share of the "patriotism" comments. Nobody even thinks about McCain's patriotism; it's obvious, and just taken for granted. Nobody thinks about Hillary's patriotism either; it's pretty much assumed that power-hunger is her prime motivator.

    Here's Jonah Goldberg who wonders why the Left (generally) and Obama (specifically) are so reluctant on appealing to patriotism in their otherwise stem-winding campaign rhetoric:

    To invoke patriotism seriously is to brand yourself either an old fogy or a right-wing bully. If Barack Obama spoke about patriotism with the sort of passion he expends on unity, many would take him for some sort of demagogue.
    That's a subtle point. [And for taking the trouble to make the point, Jonah got hit with a "Jonah Goldberg Latest Wingnut To Question Obama’s Patriotism" headline at Firedoglake.]

  • But Jonah's observations are being echoed outside the Wingnut Community. Joe Klein at Time observes:
    Patriotism is, sadly, a crucial challenge for Obama now. His aides believe that the Wright controversy was more about anti-Americanism than it was about race. Michelle Obama's unfortunate comment that the success of the campaign had made her proud of America "for the first time" in her adult life and the Senator's own decision to stow his American-flag lapel pin — plus his Islamic-sounding name — have fed a scurrilous undercurrent of doubt about whether he is "American" enough.

  • This drives doctrinaire lefties bananas. For example, at the Carpetbagger Report, Steve Benen looks at Klein's and Goldberg's comments and pronounces the topic "tiresome". And he links to a Media Matters report that (as near as I can tell) documents every single occasion of Obama's favorable mentions of "patriotism" and "patriots".

    Which of course, is fine. CNN asked Obama back in February how he would "fight the image of being unpatriotic."

    "The way I will respond to it is with the truth: that I owe everything I am to this country," he said.
    That's pretty good! But political rhetoric is primarily judged on how it sways people. As Klein and Goldberg show, Obama's rhetoric, uplifting as it is in other areas, just isn't particularly effective on this topic.

  • You might be forgiven for thinking that actual patriotism-questioning is relatively rare; much more common is outraged reaction to perceived patriotism-questioning. Fred Barnes has a pretty good summary of what he calls "patriotism paranoia":
    When criticized for being soft or wrong on national security, Democrats routinely respond that their patriotism is being questioned. In fact, they're rarely if ever accused of being unpatriotic. But to the paranoid, that's immaterial.
    Open question: how much is paranoia, and how much is phony outrage?

Last Modified 2014-12-01 11:04 AM EDT

Charlton Heston

… has passed away.

I said awhile back that Will Smith was the current go-to guy for big-budget science fiction movies. A few decades ago, that niche was inhabited by Charlton Heston: Soylent Green, The Omega Man, and Planet of the Apes. Practically anyone else in those roles would have made those flicks utterly forgettable.

I also enjoyed him a lot as Cardinal Richelieu in Richard Lester's great Musketeers movies.

Back in college, I got the chance to see him as John Proctor in The Crucible at the Ahmanson Theatre in LA. My buddies and I were up in the nosebleed section, but he had enough acting power to fill the room. He was the real deal.

Experimental Results


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

  • 12:00AM and 11:00AM on USA: Unbreakable (Bruce Willis)
  • 5:30PM on USA: Hostage (Bruce Willis)
  • 8:00PM and 10:50PM on USA: Ocean's Twelve (Bruce Willis)
It's Bruce Willis day on USA. And so, the theory remains unrefuted for seven consecutive weeks.

Last Modified 2008-04-06 7:55 AM EDT