Christopher Beam, "Barack Obama Does Not Need Your Two Cents". September 16
BACK Home Again in Indiana, we've now been subjected to six months straight of political advertising, which reminds me It fucking burns! Ow! Dear God, Put Out My Eyes! I'm sorry I didn't masturbate more! Jesus, fuckin' kill me now! uh, which reminds me that the one thing the Obama campaign has done exceptionally well, at least on occasion--produce some of the best political ads ever--it has managed to dilute the effectiveness of through oversaturation while simultaneously reducing the impact of the best of the lot by replacing them at the Speed of YouTube.
[Memo: add to To Do List "Go to sleep while imagining killing everyone who thought it was so goddamned exciting that the Indiana primaries quote meant something end quote this time, starting with the usual gang of teleprompter semi-readers. " Kill anyone who doubled down when Indiana "Democrat" Evan Bayh was placed on the "short list" last, and slowly. Bayh hasn't been heard from since his Convention speech; he was last heard from in Indiana as he snubbed "his party's" gubernatorial candidate on his way to another VP whistle-stop. His fucking website (caution: don't bother) looks like he's running for Indiana Secretary of State. As a Republican. We're six weeks from a national election (which he's not involved in) and his latest press release includes his signing on with a bipartisan Senate energy group. In his defense, I suppose meeting with your top political aides, your plastic surgeon, and his computer software showing how much you'll have aged by 2016 takes up a lot of your time.]
This is just more of the same for me--the Obama campaign seems to have no concept of time whatsoever, alternating with that of a 13-year-old. You'd imagine that the one thing a few hundred million dollars worth of media consultancy would buy you is a sense of timing, which, after all, these people do year-in, year-out and not just quadrennially. Yet he's been getting wrong-footed all along, to the extent that a candidate with a remarkable skill set managed to have that used against him, and without need of Republican help (not that plenty wasn't offered). Just consider, for a moment, that Brandenburg Gate appearance, which must've looked good on paper to someone--someone, that is, who imagined that the average US voter gives a shit about what Europe thinks of us (sure, he should, but Americans believe, even at the lowest ebb in their international standing since the Great War, that we call the tune and Europe dances in colorful historic garb), or desires to repair our image, and someone who had, somehow, missed out on exactly how the massed crowds of domestic Moonie-eyed rhythmic chanters had been playing with non-Obama-intoxicated voters for the previous six months.
(Yes yes yes, he fills stadiums because he can; yes, Nixon and Reagan drones chanted Four More Years! Neither of them was a forty-something with a slim resumé, or in a primary fight. Apparent Absence of All Contrary Thought worked well for them, but both were running against Smart Ass Hippies and Bearded College Professors. Obama was running in 2008. I've given up reading every die-hard Obama site, not even to glance in to see how they took the McCain Surge, but I'm wondering how some people took the news of a) moving the acceptance speech to the Rose Bowl, and b) then trying to make the place look like a 10,000 seat convention hall again. I'm guessing they thought both were "great".)
This is not a lead-in to that "Obama: Ignore Advice" piece which--remain calm; your seat cushion will act as a floatation device!--spends two pages ticking off diametrically-opposed advice offered by Democratic punditasters, thus proving that the sort of people who give free advice on the Internets don't know what they're talking about. So Obama should just ignore them all. Q.E.D. How one ignores both ends of a binary argument is not explained. The whole thing is redolent of that "both sides complain about us, so we must be doing a good job" mantra which, coupled with a quart of vodka, presumably helps The Media sleep through the night like it sleeps through Issues.
We bring this up, mostly, to express our continued amazement at just how much air Slate can whip into Lo-Fat Twinkee filling, but also to note that a race which shouldn't be close is neck-and-neck, so maybe you could use someone's advice. Also, that if that list includes Arianna Huffington's electoral strategy, George Lakoff's turnoffs, or anything whatsoever Dee Dee Myers might have to say, you're already in trouble.
Instead, let's ask ourselves Why He Remains So Calm?
Obama can also stay calm because he got a break this week. The public focus is now on the economy, an issue where Obama has advantages. It's also harder for McCain to manufacture distractions—it would look out of touch. Plus, the Palin novelty has started to wear off. Obama is back in the lead in some polls. All of this means he doesn't have to do anything flamboyantly out of character to get attention.
In other words, a major issue cropped up which is unlikely to have prompted any of his advisors to urge a swift move to the Right, and close enough to the election to prevent a The Buyout Surge Is Working! campaign from flat-footing him. Being lucky in your choice of opponent is the best sort of good fortune to have.
He's terrifically placed--again. He's already squandered three 8 oz. glasses of political good fortune--his anti-Iraq War cred, the concerted media attacks on his primary opponent, and the natural Democratic advantage of a Republican White House with a 28% approval rating--where most candidates are lucky to get a single serving. And it's not just the economy--Palin's a huge mistake; McCain's advisors need to huddle for the next two weeks and come up with some incapacitating, non-lethal but extremely rare condition to give her that even Jesus couldn't cure in six weeks.
[M]aybe they're not rattled because they've been through this before. If they'd listened to the polls and Democratic experts, they'd never have gotten in the race. In the summer of 2007, there were lots of Obama supporters who thought he should panic a little more—or risk losing to Hillary Clinton. The Obama campaign stuck to its plan and won. Aides often cite this lesson in explaining why they're not going to overreact now.
Except, of course, they didn't; they spent last summer becoming convinced by the likes of MoDo and Frank Rich. Are we supposed to believe it was a coincidence that everybody save Bill Richardson jumped Hillary Clinton last October? If he'd have come out and defended her that night, and attacked Tim Russert and Brian Williams, not to mention their MSNBC chums, into the bargain, he'd have won the nomination outright in January, because the sexist backlash wouldn't have caromed off him. Or so I say. It's easy. Just please don't try to sell me that "the campaign has stayed the course" routine. It's jumped, frequently, and generally in the wrong direction, but Fortuna has decreed he become a Democrat at just the right time. And she's been a lot better to him than his advisors.