A penny's worth of thoughts
What I wrote to a friend...
I can’t wait for the debates. Maybe this is Lucy-and-the-football stuff, but I keep hoping Obama will take off the gloves. The first half of his convention speech gave a hint that he could go there, but I really don’t know. He is fundamentally such a chilled-out guy, I just don’t know if he can bring on the passion. For better or worse, that’s essentially the litmus test he’s facing, IMHO. In a country where beer buddiocity and willingness to turn vigilante to avenge your wife are considered sine qua nons for the nation’s top job, public perception of the debates will likely hang on whether he can create an emotional – as opposed to ethereal – connection with folks on the other end of the camera. Ideally, he’ll have a breakthrough moment where people say “hey, I can relate to that guy.” As we know, in the media, Democrats are non-humans, and certainly not menschen. Like it or not, that will be a big test for Obama and not an easy one. Had he galvanized opinion about certain flagship policies, he might have been able to transcend the need for such an emotional appeal, but he hasn’t. He’s running a “trust me” campaign and the tide is (predictably) now not as favorable to him as it was, so the debates and the media narratives about them loom quite large.
A lot of people keep calling for Obama to “fight back,” but I don’t think that’s where the problem lies. The best defense is a good offense, as they say, and he needs to hit McCain hard on stuff that sticks, not these silly-season issues, which is a war the Repubs are built to win. I’m certain that the strongest play involves use of terms like “Keating Five,” “the man who legalized torture,” and “Bomb-bomb Iran.” These aren’t stupid gotcha things, they are a window into a sick, corrupt, and destructive character.
And could the entire Democratic Party stop fucking painting McCain as America’s greatest war hero and stand up for each other when the shit hits the fan like when Wesley Clark dared speak the truth about that? I know the answer to my question is “no,” but still…. If everyone accepts the media double-standard, it remains inviolable. The average American heard the revisionist story about John Kerry’s heroism ad infinitum but will never know that McCain signed a POW confession that he says he’s ashamed of or that he crashed five military planes. In all these things, the media’s suckitude looms large, but so does the Dem’s cowering to it.
Of course, there’s the overarching question of whether it’s simply impossible for a Republican to win this year. For me, the best outcome remains Obama getting some, er, religion about running (and governing) as a Democrat and he wins. He may win without it, in which case I’ll be glad that McCain lost and wary about what Obama offers.