It is really hard to excerpt any of this, it is so perfectly laid out:
The racial fantasy factor in this presidential campaign is out of control. It was at work in that New Yorker cover that caused such a stir. (Mr. Obama in Muslim garb with the American flag burning in the fireplace.) It’s driving the idea that Barack Obama is somehow presumptuous, too arrogant, too big for his britches — a man who obviously does not know his place.
Mr. Obama has to endure these grotesque insults with a smile and heroic levels of equanimity. The reason he has to do this — the sole reason — is that he is black.
So there he was this week speaking evenly, and with a touch of humor, to a nearly all-white audience in Missouri. His goal was to reassure his listeners, to let them know he’s not some kind of unpatriotic ogre.
Mr. Obama told them: “What they’re going to try to do is make you scared of me. You know, he’s not patriotic enough. He’s got a funny name. You know, he doesn’t look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills, you know. He’s risky.”
The audience seemed to appreciate his comments. Mr. Obama was well-received.
But John McCain didn’t appreciate them. RACE CARD! RACE CARD! The McCain camp started bellowing, and it hasn’t stopped since. With great glee bursting through their feigned outrage, the campaign’s operatives and the candidate himself accused Senator Obama of introducing race into the campaign — playing the race card, as they put it, from the very bottom of the deck.
Whatever you think about Barack Obama, he does not want the race issue to be front and center in this campaign. Every day that the campaign is about race is a good day for John McCain. So I guess we understand Mr. McCain’s motivation.
Nevertheless, it’s frustrating to watch John McCain calling out Barack Obama on race. Senator Obama has spoken more honestly and thoughtfully about race than any other politician in many years. Senator McCain is the head of a party that has viciously exploited race for political gain for decades.
He’s obviously more than willing to continue that nauseating tradition.
Go read the whole thing. The other reason the McCain campaign is so excited to accuse Obama of “playing the race card” is that one of Obama’s strengths is that he is not perceived by the wider American public as the aggrieved black man- he is no Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. By claiming Obama is playing the race card (however absurd the charge), they can turn him into the angry black man.
It really is shameless and disgusting, and while I had seen no racial component to the Britney ad earlier, I can understand where Herbert is coming from now. I just didn’t see it before.
The thing you need to remember is that this is not an accident. The McCain campaign is not doing this willy-nilly. This is a plan. This is a strategy. They know damned well what they are doing. And John McCain has not only signed off on it, but he is actively participating on it.
i think McCain is starting to lose the press–if he does that, he’s left with exactly NO ONE who likes him.
he shot his wad too soon. the press now has all of august, september, and october to start knocking him around. i think a McCain campaign minus fawning press coverage will reveal it to be the joke that we know it is.
to quote a great man, “bring it on.”
You forgot to close your blockquote tag.
McCain’s ad campaign tries to reach a precarious balance with its racial components. The idea is to make the appeals to race subtle enough that plausible deniability is maintained, while making them overt enough that Obama will respond to them, thereby allowing McCain both to play the race card himself and to accuse Obama of being the one to play it. But you have to keep in mind that this is a balance that isn’t really possible, because what seems to be a subtle appeal to race to the vast majority of the punditocracy is a two-by-four upside the head to anyone listening for racist dog-whistles.
McCain’s entire campaign so far can be boiled down to attacking Obama as the other, which is context means McCain’s been saying “you can’t vote for Obama. He’s not one of us. For god’s sake, just look at him!” Pretty much any time in America that you make a baseless charge that a black man is the other, you’re making an appeal to race, even if that appeal isn’t explicit. When the charge that a black man is the other is accompanied by pictures associating him with hypersexualized white women, the message is clear.
McCain is also destroying his own brand, of the “Straight Talk Maverick”. Unlike the Swift Boaters, who had at least a fig leaf of separation from Bush04, this crap is coming directly from Senator StraightTalk himself. His fluffers in the press are, oh so slowly, starting to take a fresh look at him (e.g. Joe Klein writing a blog post about McCain entitled The Scum Also Rises). And if that attitude takes hold, he’s dead. He needs a friendly and compliant press, because on his own, he’s a horrible candidate.
Now, it’s certainly true that McCain and his campaign might be planning to pivot back to “Happy Maverick” in September and October and rely on the press coming back around to slobber-mode, but with all sorts of nastiness coming out of Johnny’s mouth and on videotape, that could crash and burn in a big way.
Was just watching Obama answer questions on this BS and some idiot reporter asked him if his negative campaigning was any different than MCcain’s. BO responded that after 7 or 8 straight bogus charges by Mccain that when he (Obama) points it out he gets accused of negative campaigning. Our press is pathologically stupid.
Obama doesn’t need to say anything about race. He just needs to stand there. But his popularity (despite the fact he is clearly a different race from John McCain) left the ReThugs scratching their heads. Why are so many people flocking to this brown guy? So they’ve settled on shouting OH LOOK, OBAMA IS BLACK in hopes that if they say it often enough his supporters will notice and run away.
Sure it’s a plan. They’ve probably been waiting for weeks for an opportunity to scream RACE CARD.
But is a good plan?
Let’s put it this way, it’s a good thing McCranky spoke to the NAACP a few weeks ago. I don’t think he’d get an invite now.
A stupid press we could live with. The problem is that our press is pathologically pathological.
This is where this generation of Republican strategists jumps the shark. It is almost impossible to make sense of the comparisons of Obama with Spears and Hilton apart from dog-whistle race baiting. For an ad like this to work, there has to be the double-entendre, the plausible deniability that allows the campaign to play the dog whistle without it being too obvious. You know that you’ve gone to far when the media starts picking up on the dog whistle.
Fixed. They are intentionally stupid.
McCain and his gang have contrived Obama playing the race card as it gives them the excuse to do so. I was what Obama said, and in no way was he playing the race card. But you don’t have to give the right an inch for them to go for the mile (or ten), they are more than happy to make a reason up and blame you for it. It does not matter because the stupid public will only remember who cried ‘WOLF!’ first, and then they will automatically blame the opposition.
Facts don’t matter to the right, they are used to creating their own facts when necessary. See GWB for a good example of this in action.
I hope McCain steps on
hisKarl Rove’s dick, trips and falls flat on his face.
When you have Andrea Mitchell actually expressing disgust with your methods and calling them “blatantly dishonest” you maybe have overstepped just a little bit.
This is not Karl Rove doing this, because Rove was smart enough never to put outright, documentable lies (“they wouldn’t let him bring cameras”) in an ad. McCain’s camp has not only done that, they have done it in ads with “I’m John McCain and I approve this message,” and they have had him defend the lies in person.
Good to see Herbert knocking this shit down. I wonder if Frank Rich is going to revisit it tomorrow as well.
The way it’s going, McCain will be putting out a press release calling Obama a poopy head.
I read the Herbert piece before I came here, and agree completely. And as though Obama read his mind, he moved away from race today on the campaign trail in Florida. But we don’t have to.
I guess it would be pointless to point out that Axelrod admitted that they played the race card, right? Doesn’t fit the narrative. It is a long campaign, but BO had a bad week. Not sure what it says about the Left that they can’t accept that.
The GOP captured the South and rose to national dominance by getting in touch with their inner Jim Crow. Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, and the rest of the gang perfected their technique in a favorable environment: the Southern backlash against Johnson’s Civil Rights legislation. They then took their show on the road, nationally.
As long as that environment is operative the messaging techniques, and the message itself, will be effective.
Certainly the environment has changed a bit, as the 2006 mid-terms demonstrated. Whether the environment has changed enough remains to be seen.
Got any proof of what you say, Tom Mathers, or do you just like to make stuff up?
McCain had a terrible week. Andrea Mitchell, Ron Brownstein and others in the press are blasting him. They are starting to portray him as the dirty, lying politician he’s running as. He’s losing his “base”.
What Axelrod did was point out situations where the Clinton campaign or surrogates had used race as an issue. That’s not playing the race card–that’s pointing out your opponent’s conduct. Clinton did the same thing in regards to sexism.
Well, gee, Tom Mathers, Sen. McCain just had a week in which his campaign, at its highest levels and with his personal participation and using at least a plurality of his ad budget, descended completely into the gutter with a series of attacks that were baseless, largely content-free, and so absolutely awful that the former acolytes of Straight Talk McBBQ are lining up to write columns and give TV appearances in which they declare that the scales have fallen from their eyes.
Standing in front of that torrent of slime can’t have been fun for Obama, and it looks like he’ll have to do so for a while yet (and, as Bob Herbert notes, to do so while grinning nonthreateningly), but if you think in the long run it was Obama who was hurt by this week you’re either not seeing it right or you’ve got a much lower opinion of the American voters and media than even I do.
One is reminded of (Republican) New York Senator William H. Seward’s rejoinder to (Democratic) Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas on the floor of the Senate in the 1850s:
Right, Senator McCain?
(Of course, Seward also said, “A party [Republican] with one idea; but that is a noble idea . . . the idea of equality — the equality of all men before human tribunals and human laws.” but that’s so laughably outdated that it isn’t worth quoting at all.)
Right, Senator McCain?
Doug H. (Fausto no more)
Ah, well, you see in certain corners that is exactly what they mean by playing the ‘Race Card’. What I’ve gathered from the wingnuts and glibertarians this week is that calling someone an uppity negro doesn’t make them a racist but calling out someone for calling someone an uppity negro does.
It’s very similar to how pointing out how the wealthy benefit most from Bush’s tax cuts is war on the poor and working class.
The Moar You Know
I am glad I’m not the only one who saw this; the “Obama ’08 – Choice Of N****r Dick Craving Skanks” message was undeniable in that ad. That shit is a dog whistle in at least four different ways – the “where the white wimmin at” message, the “Obama gonna rape your daughters” message, the “Obama’s gonna drop trou with Britney in Hollywood and do blow with Paris” message, and the “Obama’s in the country club you can’t afford to join with women you’re not allowed to lay a finger on” message.
My hat is off to whoever thought up that ad; it’s very effective and is one nasty, nicely designed piece of evil.
Looking at the McCain record on race, one thing is apparent. He consistently uses race to inflame and then, after the benefit is gained and the contest is long over, he apologizes. His consistent votes on the MLK Jr. holiday, and his stance on the Confederate flag are just two examples. His apologies mollify the white reportorial classes and the incidents are forgiven.
McCain, like far too many “conservatives” seems to believe that it is okay to use race as a cudgel as long as it leaves no marks.
— Lee Atwater on the Southern strategy
Fitting, because that’s the GOP’s entire reason for existing.
Arabs, liberals, gays, blacks, teachers’ unions, trial lawyers. Rational thought and policy considerations are not part of the equation.
I simply do not understand the “Obama had a bad week” line I keep reading/hearing. Why – because McCain falsely accused him of ignoring wounded troops? (The simple fact that the McCain campaign had one commericial ready to bash him if he did visit the troops, and another ready to bash him if he *didn’t* should pretty much have put an end to McCain’s legitimacy on any issue.)
Or is it because McCain accused him of “playing the race card” (and, for the love of Pete, can we please add that phrase to the list that can be banned from society forever?) after running such a blatant, race-based dog whistle commericial? Granted, that took some heuvos grandes on the part of McCain to try and pull that off, but how is that a “mistake” on Obama’s part?
Was it because he was “presumptuous”? Well, I think Rachel Maddow took care of that pretty well.
What did Obama do to cause such a “bad week”? (Other than treating the American public like they were adults, of course.)
Bob Herbert is on a different planet than Earth. Only a small, obvious segment of American voters would vote against BO because he’s black. And an even smaller segment of the country is paying attention and caring about “race card” or similar crap – that would be the “media” at large.
Interesting. You could replace “McCain” with “Obama” in this sentence and it would hold far more water.
Oh, and one other thing, regarding what one of your commenters called the “blatant, race-baiting” commercial by the McCain camp: the only people who actually believe in subliminal advertising are people who aren’t actually in the business, and know better.
The Moar You Know:
Whenever I have a question about how well Republican attacks are working, being an NYC liberal, I call friends and family in the old homestead of NE Appalachian Pennsylvania. I did so yesterday, and the consensus was, “Ridiculous”, “Sophomoric”, “Childish”, and “Yeah, I saw that and that’s why I don’t pay attention to this stuff, that shit is fucking ridiculous.”
These were moderates and conservatives. So, apparently, that ad – and the other McCain attacks on Obama this week – weren’t particularly effective. Near as I can tell, it might be revving up the far-right base, but it’s a real turn-off for independents and moderate Republicans.
As for how it affected their opinions of Obama, half said “no change”, and the other half said they were more impressed by Obama after seeing how he handled the McCain attacks – and the remarks about being more impressed were unsolicited.
Of course, this is pretty anecdotal evidence. Take it for what it’s worth. Your milage may vary, etc.
But the impression I got was that most people were perceiving the ads as either: a) racist and idiotic, or b) just idiotic.
Yes, and those who are “actually in the business,” as you say with a knowing nod, recognize the difference between a dog-whistle and subliminal advertising.
Which makes you just look dumber than usual.
“But the impression I got was that most people were perceiving the ads as either: a) racist and idiotic, or b) just idiotic.”
I hope you’re right–I really do–but if these attacks fail it will be the first time in American political history that racebaiting (and that’s what the GOP is doing right now) hasn’t moved voters. Maybe the country really has changed more than I think it has. God knows I’d love to see Obama win this election and take our battered country in a new direction, yet I’m starting to get this sick feeling in my stomach that we’ve picked the wrong guy. To put it another way, I think we’ve brought knife to a gun fight. Nothing against Obama. He’s just not very good at slash and burn politics, which is probably what the Dems need to be doing right now if they want to have any chance in November. Hillary Clinton, for all of her obvious faults, understands that you don’t win elections by overestimating the intelligence of American voters. I’ll vote for Obama in November and keep my fingers crossed, but my gut is telling me that it’s time to start planning for 2012.
John, the fact that you insult me every time I post on your blog is quite charming. Amateurish, but charming.
Insulting people is how we say hello around here.
Exactly. McCain’s strategy consists of reminding his base and the “Reagan-Wallace Democrats” over and over and over again that OBAMA IS A BLACK MAN. Oh, and did I mention he’s black? And he wants to rape your sister?
Wait a minute! Something’s wrong here — I thought that Krugman was the only NYT columnist allowed to talk sense.
—Lee Atwater on the Southern strategy
Atwater would have known — he was the SS’ major exponent in the 1980s.
When you hear Republicans talk about “low taxes”, that’s dog-whistle for “make sure the Negroes don’t get anything that helps them, even if it helps you”.
Strategy? A “strategy” implies strategic thought was involved at some point. Like maybe a game of chess (or more likely with these clowns a game of “Battleship”).
But this is “strategy” in the same way pinching your nose and holding your breath is “proving a point”.
This is “hammering” via “yammering and stammering”.
Dear G-d – their internal numbers must absolutely suck.
RH Potfry, I’m new around here so maybe I’m being a little too presumptuous in saying this, but might you be suffering from McCain’s problem? You made an idiotic false argument, were called on it by our host, and then you complained that he used the race card (or whatever the analogy calls for). If you peed on a house and the owner yells at you, the situation actually reflects poorly on you.
But we aren’t talking about subliminal ads. And I think you’re overly optimistic in your evaluation of the competency of everyone in the business. I mean, we could never have a mortgage crisis and bank failures, but we’re talking about ad men now and they certainly aren’t infallible like bankers. (By the way, John McCain’s tax cuts will only benefit SpongeBob and loafer shoemakers; the only people who believe pigs can’t orgasm for 30 minutes are people who aren’t actually in the business—DUH!).
I’ve read a lot of psychological journal articles. One interesting effect validated by many studies is priming. Explanation by example: I could spend five minutes talking about my upcoming vacation to Hawai’i (to see Obama’s birth certificate) and tell you about the waves, the beaches, etc. Then I could ask you to name a laundry detergent. You’re much more likely to name Tide than if you hadn’t heard my anecdote. People are manipulable.
Yeah, and Potfry’s website pretty much sucks, too. But on the lighter side, I noticed that James Wolcott, while noting the race-baiting nature of the McCain Britney-Paris celebrity ad, thinks that the gooper campaign is doing a laughably poor job catapulting its propaganda.
Here are some of the highlights:
Good lord, your website is fucking horrible. And you have the gall to call John “amateurish”?
Herr Potfry’s “wit” is merely further proof (as if post-911 Dennis Miller isn’t evidence enough) that “right-wing humor,” is the king of all oxymorons, and that the very concept of “conservative satire,” is the intellectual equivalent of head trauma.
One more time with feeling: Herbert did not nail it because before MCain’s campaign started yelling “race card,race card” Jake Tapper of ABC did. Check it out. Wednesday, July 30, 10:45p.m. Political Punch. After evberyone, including his own network, had covered Obama’s comments in Missouri, and none had seen anything remotely resembling a charge of racism by Obama against McCain, Tapper is posting that it was an accusation of xenophobia and racism leveled against McCain. That single accusation in the press gave the McCain campaign all the cover they needed. And ABC has been charging the hardest on this ever since, with all the others following along.
Interestingly enough, Jake Tapper has not posted that late before in July or June except on a primary election return night. He asked the Obama campaign for a comment on his observation that the accusation was of racism by McCain. They denied it. He doesn’t say if he asked the McCain campaign for comment, which he should have done, and dutifully reported if they had one or of they had none.
How did I miss your post on the 31st? Must have been buzzing around for weasels elsewhere. Jake did come close to blooging late on a non-ekection night back in June. He stayed up late to report at 10:18 p.m. that McCain was “pouncing” on Obama comments made in an interview with,
GUESS WHO, Jake Tapper of ABC.
The dead giveaway to me was his failure to report whether McCain’s people had any comment to his as yet unpublished interpretation of Obama’s remarks as an accusation or racism and xenophobia. You can interpret it two ways.
First, Jake is a lazy sloppy reporter who is biased toward Obama so he only bothered to call his favored side, the Obama campaign, for a comment. Second, Jake was fed what the McCain campaign interpretation would be but told it had be in response to something that appeared in print somewhere first.
Holy crap! I followed the link to Potfry’s site. Man, is that not funny. Whew. Leave the comedy to the professionals, son. And before you start calling other people amateurs, maybe pay someone to produce some pro-level graphics for your web presence.