Use of Metaphor in McCain's "Celeb" Ad - Positive Message - "Presumptuous"

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I suppose I should talk about McCain's "Celeb" ad, which I think is fantastic (also "The One", which is not unfunny). The press can jump up and down as much as they want, but these are ads that are exactly effective where they need to be effective, in Ohio, in Michigan, in Pennsylvania - the same places where Hillary smacked Obama around. If only John McCain could now pull off being "a fighter" for the people of those states.

It particularly annoys me when the press decide to be willfully stupid and act dumb about why Obama is being compared with Paris and Britney (happily, second album Bleatney, rather than the drugged-out mommy version). Did their high school Lit teachers fall asleep the day they discussed metaphor in class? When you associate two things that are not like one another, it is exactly the frustration of a direct comparison that makes that comparison interesting. Communication always does two things. It communicates, and it frustrates communication - because direct communication is clear but often too bare-faced. McCain could run ads saying Obama has no experience, that he basically has only had one year in the Senate - and I have no objection to an ad like that. But this way, when you allow your audience to figure out for themselves what it is you're trying to say, that Obama is a dilletante who is famous for being famous, things get more interesting (Britney did sell all that corduroy though). To me, there's nothing trivial about it, and for liberal mouthpieces to foam at the mouth about it is simply disingenuous (that means you Rachel Maddow).

Every once in a while the electorate decides to vote for someone who says they'll be different, but who won't actually be different. And a politician can be sucessful in two ways, by passing lots of legislation, or by winning elections. So far Obama is the latter. But let's be clear that his achievement will not be to herald a "new politics" or some other blather, but rather be a means of bringing more people into the process. This is not inconsiderable, but this is not the metric on which the press is judging the campaign. Exactly by their yardstick of "issues", McCain is the one with the proven record of actually getting stuff done.

At the same time, McCain is exactly right to be defensive about race. He has done nothing wrong. He has every right to stand up and not get tagged for something he has had to work hard not to do.

For those of you who want to say McCain is not putting forward a positive message about his approach to running the country, I'll say this. When that was exactly what he was doing, was anyone listening? Did anyone care? Did it get coverage on the news? A little maybe, but mostly no. The media is more interested in Obama going on a handshake tour. But what McCain is doing now fits into a very natural frame around what he's been saying all along. McCain is someone who again and again has stood up to the Republican party - much to his own detriment politically - in order to do what is right for the country. This is something he's done throughout his political career. It is indelibly a part of who he is and how he approaches things. Obama on the other hand may well be the same way with the Democrats, but right now he's all talk. He has not come close to showing how he'll act under intense pressure to "dance with the one who brung him" - by pandering to the Democratic orthodoxy, rather than governing from centrist principles.

In contrast, look what McCain did with the surge. When the popular consensus was that withdrawal was the best way forward, he advocated the strategy he had had in mind all along - more boots on the ground, a greater effort to provide security and allow space for political reconciliation. Sure Obama can argue that pulling out would have similarly put pressure on the Iraqi government, but I can't imagine how reconciliation brought about amidst a less problematic surrounding is somehow going to be the less durable of the alternatives. Deals made under pressure are much less happy, especially in the long term, than deals made at leisure with the space of a relatively more protected environment. Also, the idea that you are going to have more influence by reducing the extent on which you are relied upon is counterintuitive at best.

If Obama has shown anything, it's that he's willing to shift with the political winds in order to get elected. And he's done so when the fundamentals of the situation have remained unchanged. I can appreciate people who follow the happy rule, that "when the facts change I change my mind", but what changed with the FISA bill? Nothing, except that Obama suddenly had to strike a centrist note. On campaign finance, I actually mind less, except that he didn't change his mind when the facts changed, he changed his mind much later when the primary was over. He knew he would have a huge fundraising advantage even before the primaries began. It was particularly weasely for him to claim that his not taking federal funds was somehow a virtuous thing, and campaign malpractise for his people to make him do it facing directly into the camera. It's one thing to be bald-faced - but to look people in the eye while you're doing it?

In contrast, McCain's so called "changes" I find much more benign. For him to no longer dismiss people as "agents of intolerance" is not a bad thing - remember that he wasn't just talking about Jerry Falwell, he was also talking about Al Sharpton. I'd like to think that for someone running to be president, that he would want to be president of everyone, even the ones who listen to idiots, who may not be necessarily idiots themselves. There's a lot to be said for not disenfranchising voters. If you cannot bring voters into the process through a mainstream candidate, you are leaving them to the extremes in a way that is unhealthy. Just think of the ultra-nationalists in Europe. On tax cuts, McCain makes sense - that he opposed the tax cuts in the past because they had problems with them, and he preferred his own tax proposal - also he was pissed off with Bush for winning. Now to repeal those tax cuts would have the net effect of a tax increase, which is going to have a dampening effect on the economy when it could exactly do with more long term stimulus.

Even when it comes to the "presumptuous" charge, McCain has been substantive whereas Obama has simply been image-bound. Obama using the seal that looks like a presidential seal, and making a "statesman's speech" in Germany before he's a legitimate statesman, all involve him putting on the trappings of the presidency, rather than auditioning to do the work of a president in addressing issues. In that way, when McCain does a radio address, he's exactly putting forward an issue-based message about how he wants to run the country. When he gives a mock state of the union about what he hopes to achieve by the end of this first term, again he's trying to be substantive about what he would do, what he would set as his goals. Obama is not even trying to have that kind of heft and detail to what he's doing. Instead, it all empty suit with nothing to go in it. To be fair, there are ads with the term "President McCain", but even then it's about asking voters to imagine him in the office, rather than presuming he's already there.

To me it's shameful that the Democrats have become the party of the working people. I'm not saying they don't claim to want to give those people what they want, but giving them what they want will work exactly against the self interest of those people, rather than being good sensible stewardship of the economy. But the Republicans have done a piss poor job of making their pro-business message clear. They are (or should be) pro-business because businesses create jobs. That is what is most helpful to the well-being of the working and working poor. When it crosses the line where they use the tax code to incentivise specific sectors, then they are interefering rather than allowing markets to function. Government has perhaps erred too far in the direction of being risk averse - or averse to the consequences of risk. When companies should fail, they should be allowed to fail, rather than being rescued. By rescuing them, you are stopping another company from filling their space. Worse still, taxpayers end up taking all the burdens of risk, without reaping any of the returns that come from those risks - which is what's happening now with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

At some point I suppose I'm going to feel obliged to write in more detail and focus about a number of things. Immigration, USCIS, OPT, H-1B, H-1B1, dealspl.us, Kamehachi, La Condesa, Follia, digital converter boxes, miniscraper.com, jon and kate, Ordernetwork/Foodler etc. Jubilee, Wall-E, Problems with Globalization, The OC (again), Clean, Courtship of Eddie's Father.

But as much as moving through those topics would be a useful proxy for what is going on, I just can't seem to get it up for these things that really just seem too straight ahead and lacking in some real complexity.



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This page contains a single entry by subtitles published on August 2, 2008 11:28 AM.

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