Obama and McCain are both rolling in the mud, but there’s still hope.
by Kevin John Sowyrda
Wednesday Sep 17, 2008
The only way the presidential election could become more surreal would be for MSNBC to replace deposed election anchor Keith Olbermann with Rod Serling, the deceased host of the iconic Twilight Zone television series. Yeah, it’s getting that creepy.
Hence my disappointment. The "different" campaign I was promised by the senator from Illinois and the "honorable" and "end to divisive politics" approach I was also promised by Senator McCain have been discovered to be commodities about as bankable as the holdings at Lehman Brothers. It’s become a dreadful and ’B’ rated sci-fi series, frightening for its dark undertones, and ineffective because this is the year voters will not embrace the same old, sardonic and down-right nasty advertising tactics which were the successful staple of yesterday’s presidential aspirants.
The messages, sadly, haven’t been different; but this election remains nonetheless unique from the perspective of the electorate, which is in a very different mood than just four years ago. It’s like Joe and Mary Voter trotted to Walgreens and got a prescription of serious meds. Amidst economic news that would put F.D.R. into the fetal position, everybody is looking for something pretty serious in this election, which excludes the same old finger-pointing and cheap-shot ads.
Barack Obama proved that his "different" campaign often resembles the dusted off playbooks of his predecessors when he decided to put his legally required seal of approval (remember that annoying ending to the ads, "my name is such and such and I approved this ad") to one TV spot that’s high on the incredulous chart. Yeah, John McCain doesn’t use a computer; the reason being that about half a decade’s worth of broken bones make it less than easy for the former P.O.W. to type. That ad is not worthy of you, Mr. Obama.
But not to be outdone by a fellow negative politico, Mr. McCain takes a quick, headfirst dive into the compost pile and runs an ad suggesting Obama wants to basically take kindergarten kids on a colorful tour of advanced sex ed. As Mike Dukakis would have said, "That’s bologna!" According to factcheck.org the bill did "not support explicit sex education for kindergartners" and contained an "age appropriate" proviso. That ad is not worthy of you, Mr. McCain.
So as the financial markets are imploding, is this juvenile, bipartisan rhetoric the best we can get as political consumers? I mean, it’s like showing up at Lock-Ober and finding grilled cheese on the menu. And the anxiety of it all is beyond just financial for members of the gay community. McCain, himself an outspoken opponent of gay marriage, has recruited a running mate who’s conceivably even more hostile to the principle concerns of gay voters. On gay rights issues Governor Palin makes former Governor Romney look like a member of the Gay Pride Committee.
Accordingly, one might imagine that Obama is still the candidate of choice for readers of this space, which begs the imperative inquiry, what is he doing wrong (key polls show McCain with a slight lead in the race) and what can he start doing right, while still being loyal to the left?
First, Obama needs to pretend Sarah Palin’s parents never consummated their marriage. Her name should never leave the Obamian lips again, and if it does his campaign staff should administer water boarding. He’s running against the guy with white hair, not the lady who looks like she popped out of a Lens Crafters ad.
Second, as Boston’s best political consultant Dan Payne told me in an interview last week, Obama must focus his stump speeches even further on the argument that McCain’s election is a de facto third term for George Bush. I agree.
Third, Obama needs to look in the mirror and realize that he’s got a serious and fundamental problem on his hands. In an economy as precarious as this one, Barack should be riding a cozy ten-point lead. It’s Politics 101 that swing voters tend to see the Democratic Party as the foxhole of choice during an economic storm. But it ain’t playing out that way, and the reason is because Obama is still, if you’ll pardon me, not Hillary Clinton. You’re telling me she wouldn’t be croaking McCain by about ten points in this particular environment right now?
Obama’s compensation- - other than jumping back in time to Aug. 23 to pick Hillary as his running mate, as he should have done -- is to hit hard on the economy with a barrel of appetizing specifics, including proposals to extend and increase unemployment insurance and revise the so-called COBRA law so as to reduce rates the unemployed pay to retain their health plans.
Meanwhile, the clock ticks loudly till the first debate. In a few days you’ll see what no one has seen before; a person of color debating the Republican nominee at the first presidential debate. The juxtaposition is huge and Obama must seize the moment with substance and avoid the negative. In other words, if McCain’s not going to keep his word to run a positive campaign, at least Obama can keep his word.
The electorate should then reward him for that noble deed.