Thursday, July 31, 2008

Starring: Obama and McCain

The McCain campaign has decided how they want to cast Barack Obama--as an inexperienced young man attempting to garner celebrity status in order to avoid having to address, with any substance, the issues of the day:

McCain campaign manager Rick Davis told reporters Obama's overseas swing was "much more something you would expect from someone releasing a new movie than running for president."

He said the Obama strategy was to develop a fan base "that allows him to get a lot of media attention and avoids him having to address the important issues of our time." [...]

"Like most celebrities, he reacts to fair criticism with a mix of fussiness and hysteria," spokesman Tucker Bounds said. "In the face of an energy crisis, Barack Obama's plans to raise taxes on energy and opposition to offshore drilling show that he fundamentally lacks judgment and experience, and is not ready to lead."

While I think these are fair points to make, I have to question the wisdom of this approach. When one lives in a glass house, after all...

I'm not saying John McCain can't afford to question Obama's lack of experience. But judgment is a different matter, and McCain is giving voters the opportunity to remember that his hasn't always been all that sound--and that he has a long track record of making decisions in opposition to the general will of the average Republican voter.

Further, sniping at Obama for his star quality seems a bit ill-advised in a campaign where McCain has already spent quite a bit of time making the late-night television rounds. Any notion that the presidential candidates ought to be dignified, elevated, mature statesmen ended when the first of them decided to show up on late night TV; the addition of weepy daytime women's fare to the candidates' schedule pretty well put an end to the idea that presidential candidates aren't really just a different kind of celebrity than the sort that adorns the tabloids.

If the McCain campaign is really worried that Obama's going to get the plum four-year star contract (with a renewal option, of course) while their man is going to end up hawking less than dignified products on commercials that run during those same late-night programs--well, it's not paranoia; it's precedent.

But it's not really Obama's celebrity approach that worries the McCain campaign--it's that the vast majority of the country's voters will see McCain as the likable but unimportant elderly character actor who rounds out the scenes, instead of the leading man.

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