And today, Barack Obama decided to talk about patriotism--in Independence, MO:
Laying aside the inconvenient fact that Obama's patriotism is being questioned more because of his wife's words and his own twenty-year membership in a church whose pastor called upon God to condemn America, there's another troubling element emerging from this campaign: the manipulation of the press.
As for his own patriotism, Obama said he chose Monday's topic in part because of questions raised during the presidential race so far, even though he had always considered his love of country a given, in fact his inspiration for running for office.
"I have found, for the first time, my patriotism challenged — at times as a result of my own carelessness, more often as a result of the desire by some to score political points and raise fears about who I am and what I stand for," he said before a crowd of a few hundred people at the Truman Memorial Building.
"I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign, and I will not stand idly by when I hear others question mine," he said.
"Unity" in Unity, NH? "Patriotism" in Independence, MO?
Granted, Obama has every reason to suspect that the press is on his side. From near-hagiographical pictures to fawning media coverage to softball interviews, the press has shown itself to be solidly in the Obama camp, so much so that you can forgive the candidate for forgetting that they're not an unofficial, unpaid group in his communications and advertising division.
But the media doesn't like it when their loyalty and partisanship is taken too much for granted. There were already grumbles about the Unity, NH photo-op, in that it was a little too trite, a little too obvious to appeal to the kind of coverage the media likes to offer. In this latest Independence speech, the press has been playing up the "Harry Truman's birthplace" angle and downplaying the name of the city; some in the media are already making fun of the name choices.
In the spirit of nonpartisan friendliness, I'd like to remind the Obama campaign of something they seem to have forgotten: the media doesn't work for you. They may have given that impression, but they don't like it when you take them for granted. You're supposed to leave the inspired headlines and clever regionalisms to them--manipulating the situation to force the press to report from Unity, NH or Independence, MO or, perhaps in the future, Hope, AR or Plain Dealing, LA or Friendly, WV is eventually going to make them show their dislike of the situation.
The media in the United States may be overwhelmingly Democratic in terms of political proclivity, but first and foremost they vote for themselves. If you make them look foolish by scheduling speech after speech in cleverly aptronymic towns across this great nation, they may decide at some point to return the favor: running some less flattering photos, for instance, or openly mocking the campaign's choice of locations as a cheap trick--which, in fact, it is.
So before you decide to talk about our nation's priorities in Askew, MS, or plan a rally in Progress, TX--or ask that a debate with McCain be set in Truth or Consequences, NM--you might want to think seriously about whether, and for how long, the press is likely to put up with such obvious shenanigans.
It would be much better for the Obama campaign to give this up on their own. Otherwise, the national media is quite likely to issue a serious call for the campaign to cut the Crappo, Maryland.