Cutting Right to the Chase

Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the recent GOP line of attack on Barack Obama as an “elitist celebrity” pretty much boil down to this?

I don’t know. I’ve had the unpopular, appallingly incurious president thing for a while now. I think I’d like to try something else now, you know? Also, I’m not sure that the implicit corresponding argument (“John McCain! Neither as Smart Nor As Popular As Obama!”) is one that the GOP is going to get any real mileage out of. I could be wrong, but I really hope I’m not. I also think it’s a bit of a shame that an entire national political party can’t think of a better way to win a presidential election than this.

185 thoughts on “Cutting Right to the Chase

  1. Umm… Isn’t part of the indictment of the current President hubris? I think that’s the point of the attack, that Obama may also be afflicted by the same character flaw. And hubris affects smart people as much as dumb ones.

  2. I don’t think the GOP is angling to label Obama as “popular and smart.”

    As to “smart”, The running line on talk radio is that Obama is an poor speaker (albeit not as bad as Bush) when he is without a teleprompter. McCain’s camp certainly believes this to be true, hence McCain’s challenge to Obama for townhall style debates, a venue McCain generally does well in.

    As to “popular”, the GOP is, IMO, attempting to paint Obama as a pompous elitist, more interested in celiberty that than the concerns of the typical blue color voter. While the GOP’s efforts have been fairly awkward over the last couple of weeks, I suspect that this line of attack can be effective against Obama.

    And to be clear, I’m voting McCain. IMO, McCain is the smarter and more experienced of the two candidates, he just lacks Obama’s flash.

  3. The politest spin to put on what the GOP is /trying/ for is “look, we concede Obama is popular – but having said that, is ‘popular’ actually a Presidential qualification?”

    A more likely one is this: there were plenty of people who were “smart and popular” at the top of the middle school pecking order, and a disproportionate number of them were real jerks. If “elitist celebrity” connects Obama to those people in the public’s eye, then the campaign will have succeeded.

  4. re: Obama as a poor speaker without a prompter: I have talked to a couple of people from Chicago who confirmed this. They both said things to the effect that Obama’s charisma is nearly absent in a small room.

  5. Stevem:

    “I suspect that this line of attack can be effective against Obama.”

    Eh. One of the two candidates household net worth is over $100 million, and it’s not Obama. One of the two candidates has a tax plan that is tailored to middle-class and lower-class Americans, and it’s not McCain.

    This goes again to the issue that the GOP is more interested in appearing to have the interests of blue-collar Americans at heart, than actually having the interests of blue-collar Americans at heart. I’m not saying this can’t work (although I have my doubts this election cycle), I just think it’s a bad way to run a railroad.

    Re: Obama not being good without a teleprompter: You know, McCain hasn’t quite covered himself in glory on this front recently, either, and he’s clearly uncomfortable in front of a teleprompter. Again, I’m not sure this is as much a “win” for the GOP as they think it is.

    Jeff Paulsen:

    “having said that, is ‘popular’ actually a Presidential qualification?”

    Up until the 2000 election, yeah, pretty much.

  6. Heh – but you know what I meant. Let’s try that again:

    is “popular” a reason to vote for someone?

  7. I don’t think “smart” is a good qualification for president. Most of the “smart” presidents have done no better, and some worse (Carter) than the supposedly dumb ones (Reagan).

    Popular is also problematic. Assuming the election is a popularity contest then the most popular guy will win, but again it’s not a quality that makes for a good president.

    Honesty. Integrity. Humility. Good judge of character in others. The ability to make the right decisions.

    Those are the qualities that make a good president.

    Unfortunately, neither McCain nor Obama have any of those qualities. Regardless of who wins this year, what we’ll get is another self serving politician who will put himself and his party above the country.

  8. Keith Olbermann on MSNBC this week has had great fun with the McCain campaign person trying to explain that “McCain does not speak for the McCain campaign.”

    It’s always fascinating to hear competing opinions fly around in a tight campaign. I’ve met people who’ve said that Obama in person actually listens to what people are saying, rather than dominating the room.

    (shrugs) August. September. October. It’s going to be a long quarter…

    Dr. Phil

  9. John Scalzi at #8

    McCain’s household wealth is a dangerous topic for Obama. First, because that wealth isn’t McCain’s but his wife’s, and is firmly typed up in prenuptial agreements, etc. McCain’s separate tax return makes him look like a saint compared to 95% of the politicians out there, inclusive of giving the royalties from his several books to charities.

    Second, Obama is also become a millionaire several times over from book revenue. Not so coincidentally, his millionaire status closely coincides with his election to the Senate, in addition to his wife’s income tripling around that same time. A case can be made that Obama is actively engaged in personally profitting from his status as a public servant, as opposed to McCain who is affluent by virtue of being a trophy husband (much like John Kerry) and has not attempted to acquire personal wealth (probably to the chagrin of his children not common with Cindy).

  10. is ‘popular’ actually a Presidential qualification

    Well, based on the current occupant of the White House, apparently not.

    It is, however, a major qualification for a presidential candidate. Which is, of course, the whole point of the GOP strategy, McCain is less popular than Obama at the moment. So in time honored political tradition instead of working to make their candidate more connected to the people, which is hard, the republicans are attempting to make Obama less popular, which is much, much easier.

    And considering that many far right heartland conservatives consider anybody who is well spoken, well dressed, well educated, and well left as elitist – they just might pull it off.

  11. Associating Obama with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. Honestly. Why don’t they just subtitle his photo with “Where da white wimmin at?”.

  12. Stevem:

    “McCain’s household wealth is a dangerous topic for Obama.”

    And that has actually nothing to do with my point, since John McCain hardly has a different lifestyle than his wife, regardless of who holds the nominal purse strings in the family. McCain, in practice, is certainly no less elitist than Obama, and his politics benefit the financial elite (at the very least) more.

    Jeff Paulsen:

    “is ‘popular’ a reason to vote for someone?”

    I don’t think so, but neither is it an inherent liability, nor a reason not to vote for someone.

  13. There are plenty of voters who prefer a folksy buffoon over someone with obvious education.

  14. I agree! Why would the GOP use such a lame argument when all they have to point out is that Obama is an unabashed socialist that yearns for a nanny-state. One in which he directs the nanny, of course.

  15. GOP use such a lame argument

    Uh, since the GOP managed to convince lots of people to vote for the draft-dodger over the war hero in 2004, I wouldn’t be so confident about it being lame.

  16. Personally, I feel like I am right back where I was in 1992, the first time I voted for President. I can’t get enthused about either the Republican or the Democrat. Where is my third choice, please?

    Maybe I am just a contrarian, but I’m not buying into the Obama hype. My wife, the hyper-feminist, wanted Clinton. She’s gonna hold her nose and vote Obama, probably, but thinks too many people have imposed impossible hopes and wishes on the Obamessiah. I dunno what I am gonna do. It would seem poor citizenship to sit it out.

    Perhaps I will be like my wife, who in 2004 found an obscure party in the voters manual.

    Who is the Libertarian this time around? Barr?

  17. John Scalzi at No. 16

    Neither Obama nor McCain will ever grow hungry or have to clip coupons to make the family budget. Both have access to wealth (Obama directly and McCain indirectly). Both, from a dollar stand point, can be labeled “elitist”.

    From a personal history perspective, however, the tag is a lot easier to stick to Obama than McCain. Their life experiences to date would cause the typical voter, I believe, to identify more with McCain than Obama. While Obama spent a portion of his youth at Harvard Law and as a community organizer (whatever that means), McCain spent the same amount of time being tortured as a POW. The typical blue collar voter is likely to respond a lot better to McCain based on that and are far more likely to forgive his current access to millions due a fortunate marriage, than Obama who made his bank upon being elected to office.

    I am not saying that this is fair. McCain’s father and grandfather were 4 star admirals. McCain had an affluent upbringing by any rational definition of the term. On the other hand, the reality is that the public will likely identify with an “elitist” from a military dynasty who has suffered, in a way more commonly reserved for the poor zthan the rich, then they will with an “elitist” Harvard educated law professor.

    I think the polls to date are bearing this out and spells a lot of trouble down the road for Obama. While Obama leads in the polls, McCain is scoring a lot higher in likebility, commander and chief crede, etc. As the election gets closer, I suspect the race will tighten up a lot for this very reason.

  18. I suspect that the GOP’s best propagandists are staying away from the electoral scene this year because they don’t want to have their names attached to failures in the wake of Bush.

    Sub-Odeon, I commend your attention to the efforts of the Center for Voting and Democracy, who are attempting to make third parties viable. I’d also like to see more choices; this two-party cartel isn’t serving the American people at all well.

  19. The attack on Obama as an elitist celebrity is nothing more than a retread of the tired “all his Hollywood friends” cliche, to which no one on the right has ever successfully my question, “And this concerns me because…”

    “Because all Hollywood people are liberals!!!! Damn you, you independents!!! Why can’t you drink the Kool-Aid we feed you?”

    Answer: For starters, I drink Coke Zero. So unless you wanna pull a liberal Grateful Dead trick and inject something in my soda can, you’ve pretty much lost the Kool-Aid battle already. Second, Chuck Norris, Sammy Hagar, and former Presidential candidate Fred Thompson are not liberals. Neither are a lot of their Hollywood friends. Third: Two words, True Believers: Charles Keating.

    As in The Keating Five.

    Man, I just got all Fox News on the right’s whiny ass, and it feels pretty good. Makes me almost want to hug a tree.

    Almost. I do have my standards.

  20. Isn’t it great how it’s perfectly fine for McCain to have a very wealthy wife, but it was one of the things used to paint John Kerry as an elitist?

    Oh wait, I forgot, only Democrats can be elitists.

  21. A core strategy in debate is often to accuse your opponent of what you are guilty of. It nullifies the argument.

    One doesn’t get much more Elite in modern America than John McCain. He’s got an excellent genealogical pedigree. He went to Episcopal High School in Alexandria, VA – an all-male boarding school, with few peers (if you know it, it compares favorably with Cranbrook, which Mitt Romney attended). His father and grandfather were both admirals; the Naval Academy was his only real choice. He reputedly graduated 294 in a class of 297, and there have been hints all along that it took his connections to get his diploma at all. We know his military career, and he married into wealth. How elitist can one get?

    Obama, on the other hand, isn’t naturally elitist at all: They had to accuse him of it in order to negate the issue for McCain. At this point, to accuse McCain of being Of The Elite is to sound like a schoolboy saying, “I know you are, but what am I?”

    They tried to bring up where Obama was born as an issue, claiming he wasn’t born in the USA because he was born in Hawaii. Oops: Obama was younger than they thought; Hawaii had been a state for about eighteen months. Meanwhile, McCain was born in Panama, during the time it was a US Territory. Let’s bury that issue, eh? They’re tied, okay?

    The thing is, by almost any objective measure, Obama beats McCain. It’s a problem. They’re resorting to name-calling; that’s how bad it is.

  22. Stevem @ 23: Actually, if you’re looking at their backgrounds, Obama is far less of an elitist. He may have gone to Harvard, but growing up, his family did have to clip coupons (and use food stamps) to make sure everyone got fed. Compare that to an admiral for a daddy, and it isn’t much of a comparison at all.

    As far as what a community organizer is, it’s someone who works within a community to help its members improve their own condition (by, say, helping them organize a neighborhood watch, or find funding for a new community center). It can involve somebody doing this for one project, or somebody engaging with a community on a long-term basis, until that community has the organization and training to continue the work on their own. An elitist trying to do that kind of work would have sorry luck, because members of a community are not going to listen to someone of a higher social class who comes in and talks down to them. It’s also a job that comes with sorry (if any) pay, and if you do it right, you don’t get recognition either, because the point is to empower the community by convincing them they can do these things on their own.

  23. For someone so smart he’s certainly running not running the best campaign…

    “What they’re going to try to do is make you scared of me,” Obama said. “You know, he doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.”

    Later:

    Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said the senator was not referring to race.

    “What Barack Obama was talking about was that he didn’t get here after spending decades in Washington,” Gibbs said Thursday. “There is nothing more to this than the fact that he was describing that he was new to the political scene. He was referring to the fact that he didn’t come into the race with the history of others. It is not about race.”

    Even later:

    Statement from Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton:

    “This is a race about big challenges—a slumping economy, a broken foreign policy, and an energy crisis for everyone but the oil companies. Barack Obama in no way believes that the McCain campaign is using race as an issue, but he does believe they’re using the same old low-road politics to distract voters from the real issues in this campaign, and those are the issues he’ll continue to talk about.”

    If Obama doesn’t believe McCain is using race as an issue, then why does Obama keep bringing it up???

    And it’s not his popularity, it’s his celebrity/star status, which he has earned for doing what exactly, having a few good speeches?

  24. Oh, and the only way you can say the McCain campaign hasn’t been talking about the real issues facing us, is if you ignore everything the McCain campaign has been talking about the last few months since he clinched the nomination.

    To point to a few ads from the McCain team and characterize those as the entirety of their message is pretty dumb.

  25. Personally, I don’t think Obama will ever get the level of deification that Reagan got. If we were China, there would be actual shrines to that man.

  26. Reagan was “deified” after, you know, he actually accomplished something…

    And I don’t remember anyone in the mainstream media getting thrills up their legs when he spoke…

  27. Keith_Indy:

    “And I don’t remember anyone in the mainstream media getting thrills up their legs when he spoke…”

    Yes, I suppose the “Great Communicator” nickname arose out of nowhere.

  28. Analee at no. 29

    I agree that Obama started from a more humble point than McCain. I think I touched on it when I referenced McCain’s and disclaimed any ‘fairness” in the comparison. Nonetheless, it is going to be easier to hit Obama with the elitist tag for a variety of reasons.

  29. Stevem #23: Their life experiences to date would cause the typical voter, I believe, to identify more with McCain than Obama. While Obama spent a portion of his youth at Harvard Law and as a community organizer (whatever that means), McCain spent the same amount of time being tortured as a POW.

    I’m pretty sure there are more law students than torture victims in America.

  30. Well, Reagan did give a good speech, but he did more then just give a good speech. And he didn’t get that nickname before he had accomplished much in his political career.

    Obama on the other hand, has a very thin resume.

  31. “Obama on the other hand, has a very thin resume.”

    True. Hardly an Iran-Contra or Keating Five scandal on it!

  32. True, and by avoiding anything that could harm his political career, he hardly has any accomplishments either.

    Tom Brokaw, anchor and managing editor of the NBC Nightly News, also felt that Reagan got “a more positive press than he deserves,” a feat for which Brokaw credited the White House staff as well as the President. “In part it goes back to who he is,” said Brokaw, “and his strong belief in who he is. He’s not trying to reinvent himself every day as Jimmy Carter was…. Ronald Reagan reminds me of a lot of CEOs I know who run big companies and spend most of their time on their favorite charitable events or lunch with their pals and kind of have a broad-based philosophy of how they want their companies run. Reagan’s got that kind of broad-based philosophy about how he wants the government run, and he’s got all these killers who are willing and able to do that for him.”

  33. Keith Indy #40: Reagan’s got that kind of broad-based philosophy about how he wants the government run, and he’s got all these killers who are willing and able to do that for him.

    Reagan had killers running the government?

    I thought that was more of a South-American thing…

  34. I think McCain has an uphill battle. It’s Obama’s election to lose.

    Where Obama can (and might) fuck up, is:

    1) Waving his intelligence and education in the voters’ faces to such an extent that he comes off as a pedant. A smarty-pants. And while it might make sense in intellectual circles to have a smarty-pants in office, I am reminded of the Carl Sagan quote, which is my favorite from him in fact, “Intellectual brilliance is no guarantee against being dead wrong.” Americans, as a rule, don’t respond well to pedants; not at the ballot box anyway. And they won’t trust Obama’s brains if Obama constantly reminds the public of how big, impressive, and shiny his brains are.

    2) Failure to ‘get down’ with the average American, such that Obama’s million-dollar lifestyle and his wife’s bizarre talk of “struggling” within that million-dollar lifestyle alienates the middle class. McCain might be a rich man too, but his military background and POW status makes it easier for the common middle class to empathize with him, as opposed to the Obama household, where their conception of ‘torture’ is having to juggle piano practice, soccer practice, and figuring out which Ivy-league schools their kids have to test into.

    If we look at raw dollars, McCain and Obama are both way above the average American.

    What might foil Obama is the paths both he and McCain took to reach their lofty status. For the average working man down at the job site, or even a white-collar dude plugging away at a job he does to pay bills, and little else, McCain might be the better-tasting option.

  35. I think the point of “Smart & Popular” is that the claim is made that he doesn’t have anything except a slick tongue and good looks and that you need to know what policies etc. he plans to actually implement. It’s probably an attempt to conjure up the ghost of W Clinton and it has some basis in reallity since Obama’s legislative record is close to 0, his attendance at Senate committees etc is also pretty sparse and he seems to have been the only law prof who failed to actually publish anything.

    [Personally I think they should have an electoral rule that if "None of the above" gets the most votes then the candidtaes are banned from holding any elective office ever and the parties get to try again]

    I also find the “it doesn’t matter Obama’ll win by a landslide anyway” comments to be dangerous hostages to fortune. What if he does in fact lose? Are you all going to bugger off to Canada? have a revolution? insist that the voters have another go like the way the EU is pressuring the Irish about the EU “Not a constitution honest guv!” constitutional referendum?

  36. wintermute @ 41: the “killers” being talked about were the communications department who were adept at getting the administrations POV published. Pure propoganda (in the bad sense) to the writer of that. I neglected to provide a link to make it clear that I did not write that. I was providing it as background to what the press thought of Reagan at the time.

  37. Francis T @ #43 wrote, “Personally I think they should have an electoral rule that if “None of the above” gets the most votes then the candidtaes are banned from holding any elective office ever and the parties get to try again.”

    OH. HELL. YES.

    (applause, applause)

    I support this 100%

  38. >>> If we were China, there would be actual shrines to that man.

    Well… don’t the republicans have an unpleasant propensity to rename perfectly good buildings and infrastructure after Reagan?

    >>> From a personal history perspective, however, the tag is a lot easier to stick to Obama than McCain. Their life experiences to date would cause the typical voter, I believe, to identify more with McCain than Obama.

    Purely ridiculous. McCain was born to an admiral, who was the son of an admiral as well. He’s lived a life of privilege from day one, with a stint in the Hanoi Hilton. Which could not have been a pleasant experience, I will grant you. McCain married a former swimsuit model, and then when he returned to find her disfigured from an automobile accident, he traded her in for an heiress, and used the connections from his new father-in-law to launch a political career.

    Not an elitist? Sorry, not buying your argument. At all.

  39. What I always wonder, whenever I see anyone talking about how “likely” blue-collar voters are to do one thing or another, or how much more likely they are to vote based on how they relate to a guy versus how they think about his policies, is whether or not the speaker in question, you know, actually knows any blue-collar voters.

  40. FrancisT @ 43, Obama does have a legislative track record (more here). Unfortunately, comparing actual performance doesn’t seem to glue as many eyeballs to television sets as the trivialities of campaigning.

    As long as the “none of the above” is a separate checkbox from the candidate selection, I’d approve of that. Though having to hold election after election where people get barred from serving in political office could get expensive; ranked-choice voting would cost less.

  41. True, and by avoiding anything that could harm his political career, he hardly has any accomplishments either.

    Wow. That’s a whole new way of thinking about corruption: “I was trying so hard to do good things that I slipped up and did bad ones as well.”

    This could work in so many contexts.

    Ted Bundy: “I was trying so hard to be nice to women that I slipped up and killed a few.”

    Enron: “I was trying so hard to save people money that I slipped up and stole a few billion.”

    And so on.

  42. Hey, maybe we should have elected this guy President.

    He “was admired and liked by most who had known him. He was a sharp businessman who had spent his time, when not building up his contracting company, hosting elaborate street parties for friends and neighbors, dressing as a clown and entertaining children at local hospitals and immersing himself in organizations such as the Jaycees, working to make his community a better place to live.”

    People who knew him “thought of him as a generous, friendly and hard-working man, devoted to his family and community.”

    Who needs boring plans, ideas and character when you have popular?

    In the words of that famous dead guy, “Give me popularity or give me Death!”

  43. ???

    No, I’m saying he tried so hard to not damage his chances at a political career, he avoided actually accomplishing anything significant, either good or bad.

  44. While I understand that you talk about the campaign that you have, not the campaign that you’d like to have, I think that spending so much time discussing who the “middle class”, “average” American thinks might be more authentic or elitist or patriotic or old or angry or smart or rich makes us ALL teh stupider.
    The belief that the “average working man” is spending any time self-debating whether McCain or Obama is more or less entitled to having 10 tons of money based on their life histories, or whether their paths to gaining that money are more or less noble than the other, is RIDICULOUS. There are bills to pay and kids to feed and Chuck Gibson will tell me what I need to know, including who the Conventional Wisdom says is the elitist snob, so campaign managers…READY, SET, GO!

    With that said, IMHO the argument that Obama is more of an elitist because he got his money writing some memoirs is laughable. To favor a Republican candidate and yet begrudge any woman or man their route taken in winning in the capitalism game is bizarre.
    ME: “Here, Here, from this point forward only those citizens creating personal wealth by putting forth Beer, Pizza, Porn, ooops Strike that, and Tech Devices are worthy of joining The Club.
    Oh, yes. And Oil.”

    Damn it. I’m out.

  45. No, I’m saying he tried so hard to not damage his chances at a political career, he avoided actually accomplishing anything significant, either good or bad.

    We could keep this going for awhile:

    Jeffrey Dahmer: “I was trying so hard to be a good cook, that I slipped up and ate people.”

  46. My SO was convinced that back in the day the GOP deliberately wanted to lose against Clinton. She saw a rally by the candidate in Tennessee (Bush? Sorry, my US politics is weak, and I’m too lazy to look it up.) where he answered every question with “Clinton is an elitist and Democrats are bad.”

    “What about the economy? Why are we tanking so hard? Why am I losing my job?”

    “Clinton is an elitist and Democrats are bad.”

    She was convinced it was a stealth failure to regroup. Which, come to think of it, pretty much worked, right?

    It almost looks like they are doing that again.

  47. Hey, maybe we should have elected this guy President.

    So the main conservative arguments in the thread so far are:
    1. John McCain only did corrupt things because he was trying so hard to be significant and,
    2. Obama is popular. John Wayne Gacy was popular. Ergo, Obama is a serial killer.

  48. I second FrancisT’s electoral rule, but I would also add a provision that internet commenters, editorial writers, and opinionists who use bogus viral email talking points or demonstrably stupid political party talking points in making their arguments get sent to some sort of internets purgatory where they have to watch reruns of Flavor of Love with Flava Flav and the Bachelor until the election is over.

  49. punkrockhockeymom @ #47: good question, that. I myself don’t have a college degree, but I do college-level work based on my extensive experience. I work around and am friends with doctors during my day job, and then when I do Reserve on weekends and such, I am around blue-collar: construction workers, truck drivers, jailhouse guards, cops.

    My wife has a BA in Women Studies. Maybe that makes us a blue-to-white household?

    Anyway, it’s my (inexpert) opinion that the “blue collar” respects and empathizes with grit. Not feigned grit. Not imagined or manufactured grit. Experiential grit. The kind that doesn’t come with high levels of school education, but rather, high levels of “trench” education out in the world, doing work that is genuine toil of the sort that makes you sweaty and grunt and exhausted at the end of the day.

    Between McCain and Obama, who will have an easier time selling their grit cred? McCain, I think.

  50. David

    Obama is popular. John Wayne Gacy was popular. Ergo, Obama is a serial killer.

    That’s absurd.

    About as absurd as deciding a Presidential election based on popularity.

    You can like the guy all you want, but I would hope some more thought would go into one’s selection.

    And that has nothing to do with being a “conservative argument”.

  51. Frank:

    “About as absurd as deciding a Presidential election based on popularity.”

    And about as absurd as decrying a Presidential candidate’s popularity, as well.

    Meanwhile, some very amusing irony.

  52. Sub-Odeon, I disagree with the idea that blue-collar folk respect sweat and toil above intelligence and the sort of “grit” that comes from having to struggle to bring together people with extremes of opinion in order to achieve a consensus, which is one of the strengths Obama displayed in his position as a senator from IL. I come from a long line of dirt poor Midwesterners, and most of the people in my family or in my circle of friends are intelligent enough themselves to value smarts over brute strength. If you need help fixing your tractor or figuring out how to take down a rotten tree without dropping the bloody thing on the new roof of your house, strong arms are nice, but having someone smart enough to know how to do it properly without making a frigging mess of things is a heck of a lot better. We’ve all seen dumbasses screw situations like this up, and those fellas aren’t the ones we’d call if we need help in the future. Brains matter, even to the low-income workers of the country.

  53. About as absurd as deciding a Presidential election based on popularity.

    Yeah! If they wanted the presidential election to be a popularity contest, they’d open it up to a public vote!

  54. That’s absurd.

    You’re absolutely correct: bringing John Wayne Gacy into a discussion of Obama is surely absurd.

  55. The conservative’s use of “liberal elitist” to refer to those of us who are educated and live in cities is pretty amusing. I think we need a similar phrase to refer to those who are uneducated, ignorant, believe that Saddam was behind 9/11, watch Fox News, listen to Rush, and live outside of cities. Maybe: “scumfuck retards?”

  56. I think the fundamental point of the ads is not to criticize Obama for being popular, but as some others have said, to compare the enthusiasm in the media and from his base to celebrity faddishness rather than “genuine” enthusiasm for his policies or leadership abilities. American distrust of the media is at all-time lows, and I think the campaign is trying to exploit that- all the cameras are on this guy, do you trust the guys with the cameras?

    Whether this actually works or not, however, pretty much depends on how you already feel about Obama. Even if I had been living in a cave on Mars for the last forty years, I’d still be put off by him. Every time he goes into one of his vaunted speeches I wind up growling things like “expand this idea”, “back up this argument”, “wait, go back, WHAT did you mean by this?”, “wait a minute, didn’t you have a position a hundred and eighty degrees from this three months ago?” Not that McCain’s speeches are much better in this regard- but thanks to his living-dead presence and plodding one-step-at-a-time style, I don’t get the same sensation that someone is trying to sell me a faint memory of sizzle as prime rib.

    I’m not the target of the ads, however. I’m one of those who’d only be made happy by that “none of the above” option- I’m forced to choose between the guy I hate and the guy I REALLY hate. The people who already like Obama aren’t either- they see the exact same things I do and think “charisma, leadership, enthusiasm, smart new change”.

    The actual target of the ads are the mysterious “swing voters” who theoretically have not made up their minds about which of these chumps they dislike the least, and during pretty much any election most of the punditry is spent trying to figure out what will affect them how. If I’m right in my suspicion that most of them are still unconvinced because they’re very unhappy with their choices rather than trying to make up their minds between two total unknowns or two guys they think are both great, then what will piss them off the most is probably pretty hard to guess accurately. Despite the confident predictions of an Obama landslide (and I admit, it’s damn hard to look at McCain and his clumsy, tone-deaf campaign and NOT come to that conclusion), it looks as though it’s neck and neck at the moment.

  57. Sub-Odeon, I think Punkrockhockey’s point (correct me if I’m wrong) is that people make all these generalizations about blue-collar workers that basically boil down to “they’re too dumb to vote the issues that effect them. They must be voting something else–and I think it’s ____.”

    Blue collar people vote for the same reasons everyone else does: because they think the candidate they’re voting for is the one most likely to represent their interests. And yes, sometimes some of them vote on bad information, or for stupid reasons, but that’s hardly a behavior particular to the working class.

  58. Luke@67:
    Actually, the term liberal elitist is not defined by “…educated and live in cities…” A better definition would be someone who thinks that those who don’t share his opinions, education level, or preferred news sources can legitimately be called, as an all inclusive group, “scumfuck retards.”

    Thanks, but I prefer the company I keep.

    As for the charges of elitism being leveled at Obama: I, for one, have never considered having money to be a root characteristic of elitism. They’re often found in the same place but not universally enough to be synonymous. The elitism I’m worried about is the elitism that says, “Big Brother knows best.” or “You’re too ignorant to know what’s best for you so I’ll take care of it for you.”

  59. I believe the point of calling someone an elitist is that they seem to feel they are superior – better – than “ordinary folks,” and thus, know better what’s best for you and me and we do ourselves. Which is to say, they’ll be passing nanny state laws, and telling us how to live our lives, and – this is very important – expecting to live by different rules themslves than they impose on us, because, you know, they’re better than us.

    It’s a valid criticism of many Democrats. Of course, it’s an equally valid criticism of many Republicans, but Democrats do seem to be better at conveying that “I’m better than you” attitude than Republicans, so they catch more hell over it.

  60. lene @ #62: perhaps what we discussing then is not grit vs. intelligence, but abstract smarts vs. experiential smarts. Blue collar folk respect someone who has “learned on the job” and who can display the sort of wisdom you can’t get from a textbook. I think Obama comes off as too “booky” for many voters and if it comes down to it, McCain the POW Navy pilot will have an easier time selling himself as the experientially-smart candidate, versus the young Obama, who too often seems to only be abstract-smart.

    It also doesn’t help that Obama bowled a 37. I mean, really. A 37? If Barack knew he’d not bowled since his teen years and was gonna go throw at a rally, the least he could have done was rent an alley a day or two before the event, done 30 or 40 frames, and given himself a reasonable chance at hitting some spares and maybe a strike or two. Maybe he’d done too much Wii Sports and thought it would translate? I dunno.

    It’s stupid that things like this influence American presidential campaigns, but they do. I am not sure Obama is quite aware of this and while he is still the man to beat, he might beat himself if he too often shows his youth, his braininess, his education, and his lack of common experience with everyday voters.

  61. Scalzi

    And about as absurd as decrying a Presidential candidate’s popularity, as well.

    I disagree. It is currently in the Republicans interest to remind people that it is absurd to pick a President based on the candidate’s popularity.

    You know, what LabRat said at 68.

  62. It also doesn’t help that Obama bowled a 37. I mean, really. A 37? If Barack knew he’d not bowled since his teen years and was gonna go throw at a rally, the least he could have done was rent an alley a day or two before the event, done 30 or 40 frames, and given himself a reasonable chance at hitting some spares and maybe a strike or two.

    Every time someone complains about how political campaigns focus on the dumb marginal stuff not the issues and so on should look at this (and, hey, the Kerry windsurfing stories back in ’04), they should look at the above and realize that we get exactly the kind of campaigns we deserve. Paying any attention to the bowling score of one of the candidates should get you stripped of your voting privileges until you pass a test to get them back.

  63. Terry Austin @ 71:
    I AM better than you, but I’m also VERY gritty.

    Annalee @ 69:
    I like you. You seem to make a lot of sense, but you have a very non-gritty way of saying things. It may be great for constructive conversation, but what I’m looking for here is something to get really worked up about. I’m afraid that you’re showing us your elitist colors…it needs to stop.

  64. Frank:

    “It is currently in the Republicans interest to remind people that it is absurd to pick a President based on the candidate’s popularity.”

    While not exactly addressing why he is popular, i.e., that the Republican brand is massively unpopular and that Obama’s policies are appealing. It’s so much in their interest to trash Obama to deflect from their own defects that they don’t mind lying to make the point.

  65. Sub-Odeon @ 72: In his defense, he let a fair number of children come up and bowl on his behalf. But yeah, it was still pretty pathetic. (Says the girl who’s proud of her 260 average–at wii bowling).

  66. The one thing about the way candidates campaign and do all the stupid, photo-op crap is that it give the voter a chance to see them in action. You can put up a front around people for only so long before the cracks show.

    It’s a chance to see which candidate reads highest on the phony-meter.

  67. Sub-Odeon @ 72:
    But, “McCain the POW Navy pilot will have an easier time selling himself as the experientially-smart candidate” is most definitely NOT what is happening from my viewpoint. Being book smart is one thing, and would be bad if Obama were only 23 and running for President, but he does have many years of practice doing all of those things that he has been doing – at work. That those things didn’t include being a US Senator until relatively recently doesn’t make his experience any less valid on the Presidential Resume. It would be more so to some, I would guess. Being a POW and long-time Senator won’t help McCain if he doesn’t stop saying silly things and come up with anything better than supply-side economic policy, the last eight years of which is really hurting the “blue-collar” guy right now.

  68. Sub-Odeon @72:
    I laughed my butt off when he bowled such a lousy game, but it didn’t make me think less of him. Actually, I liked that he wasn’t afraid to show himself as *not* a good bowler, instead of having tried to improve his bowling on the sly just to make himself look more like us simple minded po’ folks. (I’m teasing you. I know you aren’t calling us any such thing.) But seriously, how great a score do you think McCain would have had? And how would he look in a little one-on-one against Obama on the basketball court? Bear in mind how passionately the farmer boys in Indiana are about their basketball.

    This stuff *is* stupid, and yes, I believe there are some people who will base their vote on such crap. I just don’t think they are necessarily the majority of the voting populace, nor are they only in the blue-collar demographic.

    And I do think that respecting someone who has learned “on the job” is likely to weigh more with many of us, which makes it all the more curious to me that many of the people who tout McCain’s experience seem to only want to talk about his “job” as a POW, and can’t tell me, in detail, about any of his accomplishments as a senator, while most of those who support Obama can point to his accomplishments in the IL senate. (There was a post above with a link to just one article detailing a bit of that information.) Actual political work experience vs. emotional manipulation in the form of “he was a POW so that will forever outweigh anything else about the man.” Doesn’t work for me — I respect McCain for his military service, wish to hell he was as supportive of the fine folk currently serving our country as he seems to want us to be of him for his past service, and distrust his willingness to embrace the policies of the Republican party that have brought so much grief to so many.

  69. Annalee @ #69: Good points, and if I have too much conveyed the idea I think blue-collars can’t “vote with their heads” I apologize. That’s not been my intent.

    It’s just that in my short 34 years in this country, Presidential campaigns seem to be won as much on intangibles as on policy.

    Obama has the youth vote locked, as well as the left-of-center vote. There might still be a few Hillaryites who sit it out, but if Obama picks Hillary for VP he gets them too.

    The key will be winning the undecided middle, as is always the case. People who remain undecided, unfortunately, tend to let all kinds of non-policy items make their decisions for them. Obama has enormous charisma, to be sure, and this might be all he needs. But too much charisma and polish, combined with a disconnect at the common-experience level, might send too many over to McCain, who will be doing all he can to sell himself as the “common Americans’ choice” versus the choice of too-smart elitists.

    I have said this before in other venues, but Obama would be over-the-top if he had some kind of military experience. All the talk about him being elitist, silver-spoon, etc, would be almost impossible to pin on him if he’d done time in uniform as a young man. America loves its Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines. If Obama had a DD214 to contrast with McCain’s, it would level things up a lot and McCain couldn’t as easily run on his war record; which Obama will be hard-pressed to match, even with his enormous charisma.

    We’ll see what happens. I still dunno who I am gonna vote for.

  70. Well, what do you expect, John? It’s been a while since rational talk about policy options and their consequences had any influence over voters.

  71. For a man who’s campaigns have always been “I was a POW” and nothing else it is not a suprise that when McCain tried to do a policy: “no taxes” “I could do taxes” “No taxes”, he did so very badly at it.

    Check the VA website for voting record breakdowns:
    McCain 20%, D
    Obama 80%, B+

    Voting record:
    McCain – missing over 60% of the time (in a campaign where he is too fragile to do events on the weekends)
    Obama – missed about 40%

    Legislative accomplishments? Hardly slim – http://www.obama08-wa.com/files/experience.pdf

    McCain’s POW time must not have been very memorable as he was the White House’s point man in getting the frelling “Make Tourture Legal Bill” passed. Or maybe he just doesn’t care about the troops in harms way.

    It is not just “popular” it’s WHY he is popular. In addition, the most popular got the most votes and (at least untill 2000) got elected.

  72. It’s a chance to see which candidate reads highest on the phony-meter

    It’s a chance to see which candidate is good at handling the camera flashes longest. That has _nothing_ to do with how well they’d lead the country.

  73. “While not exactly addressing why he is popular, i.e., that the Republican brand is massively unpopular and that Obama’s policies are appealing. It’s so much in their interest to trash Obama to deflect from their own defects that they don’t mind lying to make the point.”

    Isn’t this the entire point of negative campaigning? If, as it seems, more people vote against a candidate than vote for him, then it’s in any party’s best interest to attack the other guy’s weaknesses as much if not more than playing up their own guy’s policies- which may not be overly convincing, to people who don’t have much faith in politicians to fulfill their campaign promises to begin with.

    As for their being willing to lie to make the point… well, er, yes. Whether it’s been BS about how there were no oil spills during Katrina, about how McCain said he’d make us spend “a hundred years in Iraq” (a statement as badly taken out of context as Kerry’s “I voted for it before I voted against it”), or the current cuteness with Obama first warning people that McCain would play the race card and then saying he meant he wasn’t a Washington insider when his campaign “clarified” that “I don’t look like the presidents on the dollars” business rather than its being about race, stretch the truth or outright punting it out the window in order to make the other guy look bad is what both parties have been doing in negative campaigning since the Founders.

  74. “Senate point man on Ethics” kinda beats out the GOP indictment of the month club don’cha think?

  75. Sub-Odeon, if Obama had a military record I don’t think it would do him any more good than it did Kerry in ’04. That arm of campaigning is firmly in the Republican camp. Obama’s charisma is his strong point, but I don’t think it’s right to conflate his lack of US Senate work experience with an idea that he can’t make good policy decisions. These two are exclusive, and especially unimportant when the Pres. is surrounded by lots of presumably very smart people to begin with. Either candidate has experiences that display their abilities to make decisions when presented with information.

  76. “I also think it’s a bit of a shame that an entire national political party can’t think of a better way to win a presidential election than this.”

    What I think is a shame is that this tactic works so well and so often.

  77. Here’s an irony: McCain will probably lose precisely because he’s considered a “maverick” centrist among his party.

    But then, the Republican party is a real mess right now.

    Fiscal conservatives wanted Romney because he had the experience of balancing the books, and he got shot down by Huckleberry and the Evangelist Brigades; who cared not a bit about fiscal conservatism and ran almost entirely on a feel-goody, folksy platform that was as lacking in content as Obama’s might be lacking in experience.

    Reagan conservatives wanted Thompson, but he ran a poor campaign and sorta seemed like he didn’t give a shit, so he never even really got on the radar.

    McCain? I dunno why he’s running. Republicans are very much a “my turn at bat” kind of party and McCain has patiently waited for his time at the plate, having been switched out of the rotation in past primaries in past electoral cycles. And if all McCain had to do was beat Clinton, I think he could do it without much effort because Hillary had her own luggage and lots of people quietly don’t want the Clintons back in the White House.

    Alas, for McCain, it’s Obama the enormous populist: the Cranky old grizzled man versus an expansive, thoughtful, telescopic young man.

    The cynic in me trends to McCain, but I sorta think McCain is a bad idea right now. He’ll spend all his time picking fights in his own party and might not get much done. The optimist in me trends to Obama, and knows I’d have voted Obama in a heartbeat in my 20′s. But not now. Obama seems too young and I think he’ll get mowed down, internationally, just as JFK got mowed down internationally. Barring having good advisors, I think Obama’s four years could end up like Carter’s.

    Such a crappy place to be in this election. My ideal choice does not exist. Neither of the two men running excite me at all. And I think as time wears on, the two will begin to talk and sound so much alike, as they chase the middle voters, it will become tough to tell who really differentiates?

  78. One of the big factors for me is that Obama has a bunch of competent centrists for economic advisors (even George Will and The Economist admit it), while McCain has Phil Gramm for an economic guru. I had some liking for McCain back when he was a fiscal conservative, but the current version seems to be doing his damnedest to convince the nation that he’ll be ballooning the national debt and helping the rich without doing much good for people outside the richest 1% of the population.

  79. Griz @ #87: I disagree. Kerry’s problem was not his war record. The Democrats picked Kerry precisely because he was a veteran with medals. The reason Kerry turfed it in the end is because there was so much bad blood left over from his activities after he got out. Winter Soldier, medals over fences, etc. We can complain about the dishonesty of Swiftboating, but really, Kerry gave them the ammo when he went anti-war upon his return and helped (in the minds of many Vietnam vets and their families) tarnish the reputation of those who served in Vietnam. Speaking from my own military experience in 2004, very few people I knew in uniform at the time were enthused about Kerry, and they often cited his post-Vietnam activities as a reason. They weren’t necessarily pro-Bush either, but they didn’t like Kerry and it was because of his post-Vietnam record.

    I believe if Kerry had never done Winter Soldier, never become a visible anti-war activist upon his return, regardless of how he actually felt about the war itself, he’d have won 2004 and the Swiftboat campaign would have failed. He would have remained as a credible military candidate (“I am the reliable old soldier who saw battle and can guide us in this new war!”) for even the doubters. Alas, when Kerry jumps up on stage and salutes and mugs as the war hero, then people go read or listen to his Winter Soldier testimony, and find out about the other stuff, it rubbed a lot of people very, very wrong.

  80. He’ll spend all his time picking fights in his own party and might not get much done.

    How on Earth could this be considered a negative? I’d be delighted to have a candidate who campaigned on a platform of “If elected, I promise that nothing will get done in Washington DC.”

    Hell, it’s about the only part of Ventura’s administration that I remain happy about.

  81. Good point, squid.

    I’ve seen more than a few political wonks argue that the nation always thrives mightily when the guy in the White House only brushes the levers of power that are at his disposal.

    Sort of a less-is-more idea.

  82. Fair points on Kerry overplaying his military record, but the “other stuff” that people found out about (minus the Winter Soldier statements) was mostly lies that he shot himself to get his purple hearts/subsequent release, and that he lied about being in Cambodia, and then, alas, he was an elitist flip-flopper. Even Wes Clark couldn’t escape his military record being attacked in ’03-’04, and I doubt it would be different this year should any Dem. have that experience. I still gag whenever I see the picture of the old lady with the purple heart band-aid on her cheek at the 2004 RNC convention. But, I agree with your sentiment that Kerry overplayed that hand.

    Do you think that if Kerry were running this year, with the anti-war sentiment growing since 2004 and this war’s own Iraq Winter Soldier convention last winter, that his 70′s anti-war stance would have the same effect on the voting public? I’d be interested in seeing what you think.

  83. Scalzi

    While not exactly addressing why he is popular, i.e., that the Republican brand is massively unpopular

    For very many reasons, a good part of which is that they did not stay true to their purported values: which are antithetical to Obama’s.

    and that Obama’s policies are appealing.

    To some, of course. To many, possibly. To a majority? The jury is still out on that.

    But the point is that people should be focusing on that. And if they find his policies appealing, then so be it.

    It’s so much in their interest to trash Obama to deflect from their own defects that they don’t mind lying to make the point.

    Color me unimpressed.

    100 years in Iraq. Indeed.

  84. “Color me unimpressed.”

    I’d say there’s difference between third party ads, and ads coming from the candidate himself, to wit, the candidate himself has to sign off on the lying.

  85. “I’d say there’s difference between third party ads, and ads coming from the candidate himself, to wit, the candidate himself has to sign off on the lying.”

    He did. In the sense that, specifically challenged on it, he repeated the lie.

  86. Well, you know. If you don’t want people suggesting you’d be happy to have troops in Iraq for 100 years, you should avoid giving people the soundbite to play with. It’s not a lie to say that McCain said it, because he did. It’s disingenuous not to give it context. That is a bit different than blatant falsehoods in your campaign ads, however.

  87. Sub-Odeon in 89,

    I think that is an excellent analysis. I certainly think that Obama is a better person and has some great ideas, but I wonder if he will be able to pull it off. Carter was a good person and had some great ideas, but wasn’t able to work well enough with Congress and sell his ideas once he was in office.

  88. Griz,

    Kerry would have to decide, once and for all, which kind of President he wanted to be: John Kerry the Navy medal-winner, or John Kerry the anti-war activist.

    If he picks anti-war activist he clearly differentiates himself from McCain and can absolutely exploit the current anti-war sentiment, and do it fairly cleanly, unlike in 2004 when he seemed to be trying to be both the anti-war candidate, and the wartime hero. I think that kind of sell failed him.

    If Kerry were to run in 2008 as a ‘war president’ and hype his military record, McCain is an intimidating foe, on record alone. McCain spent years in a POW camp, has a DSC on top of his purple heart, bronze and silver star, and spent additional time after the war serving in the Navy. McCain was also never vocally or visibly anti-war after Vietnam, so then it’s Swiftboat Part Two and as much as I think some Americans soured on Swiftboat Part One, I think we still have enough current and prior servicemembers and their families who think it’s patently un-American to be a servicemember who comes home from war and denounces the war effort.

    Even Army guys I know who think Bush is a buffoon and dislike the invasion of Iraq, would not be receptive to any candidate who made the kind of statements that were made during Winter Soldier.

    Perhaps if Kerry had said something like, “I believe we are failing in our strategy in Vietnam and must reconsider.” he’d have been OK in 2004 and would now be running as an incumbent. But it was the accusatory, personal language of Winter Soldier that, to this day, rankles vets, and their families, and their children and grandchildren who have also entered or passed through one of the branches of Service.

    In fairness to Kerry, Winter Soldier was a long time ago, and he was young, and he probably should be forgiven for saying things that were, in hindsight, uncalled for. But unfortunately there are some words that can’t be taken back, and servicepeople tend to have long memories on this sort of thing, and well… I’m not sure Kerry could pull it off, even with the Republican Party in a shambles and a public clearly tired of Iraq.

  89. John @ 8: One of the two candidates household net worth is over $100 million, and it’s not Obama.

    Here’s the trick: however wealthy McCain and his wife are, they don’t rub people’s noses in it. The family with hundreds of millions who don’t talk about money will be better received by a person making $50,000/year than the family who complains about how difficult it is to spend $10,000/year on their children’s extracurricular activities.

    Being rich is one thing. Making other people feel poor is another.

  90. 100 years of war (which is what Obama said that McCain said) is not the same thing as having troops stationed there for a 100 years (he also said that duration was, “as long as Americans are not be injured or harmed or wounded or killed”). I wouldn’t say that Obama’s assertion is a complete fabrication, but it is more than just a contextual error. That being said, I still think Obama’s plan for Iraq is better than McCain’s plan, but he needs to avoid these kinds of statements.

  91. John, I’m sorry about the length of this, but I am in a snit. And I don’t mean to aim this specifically at you, Sub-Odean, but I have seen this sort of discussion everywhere lately and it’s driving me CRAZY.

    I have too much conveyed the idea I think blue-collars can’t “vote with their heads” I apologize. That’s not been my intent….It’s just that in my short 34 years in this country, Presidential campaigns seem to be won as much on intangibles as on policy.

    Well, sure. Intangibles. “Intangibles” does not, however, equate to “blue collar folk will vote for someone gritty” or, for that matter, someone “anything.” The whole idea is so freakin’ condescending…the idea that as some monolithic subgroup, blue collar people vote based on superficial characterizations in the media (and just one! at that) or are less concerned with maybe, you know, actually making the right decision come voting day, for their families, their communities, and the entire country.

    Annalee is right about what my point was, and, I mean, I guess I just find it very and personally offensive to think that my family and extended family and lifelong friends and all of my neighbors from when I was “comin’ up” pick a candidate in some sort of media vacuum, based solely on what some talking head on CNN or FOX News tells them to (not that there aren’t some individuals that will do that just as there are white collar folks who do that).

    I grew up Blue Collar with a capital UAW. My first memory is a union pancake breakfast. My dad worked in a forge for Ford, on the line, in a very physically demanding job, my whole childhood. My mom was usually a stay-at-home mom, trained as a hairstylist, but saddled with me (a sickly asthmatic). Sometimes she would be an Avon lady, and for a while she worked part-time in a bakery to make a little extra cash when we really needed it.

    My neighborhood when I was coming up, in SE Lower Michigan, just outside of Detroit in a tiny downriver suburb, was purely blue collar. I think there were a couple of medium high level Ford folks (engineers, plant personnel heads) in the back of my neighborhood in the really big colonials…no one from corporate or anything like that, though. Everyone worked for one of the big three, or drove truck, or worked for a big three supplier.

    You know, I’m a lawyer, now, but I didn’t go back to community college (and then eventually university, and law school), until I was 25 years old and had already gotten married and had a baby. But I was the first person in my family (extended and all) to get a graduate degree and the second person to even get a bachelor’s (the one who preceded me? my cousin, 3 years my junior). And we’re still it; I presume my son will be the next. I went to a top ten law school and I work in BigLaw surrounded by white collar lawyers who grew up white collar and most of them are Republicans. But me? I’m how I came up. You can take the girl out of Taylor but you can’t take the Taylor out of the girl.

    Thing is, all of my blue-collar friends and neighbors, family and my teenaged buddies’ parents? Vote and discuss politics EXACTLY the way the white collar lawyers I work with do. They think about a large variety of very nuanced issues. They don’t vote for people because they think they’re “grittier.” They value all kinds of “smarts,” experiential and educational. My dad doesn’t sniff at a Harvard education; then again, he did sniff at GWB’s degrees, because he thought he bought them on legacy admits and prestige, with oil money, and lived off of his family until he could start messing up our country.

    I grew up in a household, in several households, characterized by many political debates, I had political arguments with my blue-collar grandparents, uncles, neighbors, friends in high school, etc. the whole time I was growing up. It was no different than a political discussion you’d see on this blog, really, except they spend a hell of a lot more time talking about the actual candidates and real issues that matter to them than talking about how other broadly categorized “types” of voters are likely to be swayed by a media blitz or some “trick” or portrayal of a candidate in sound-bites.

    My parents and their peers understand when the economy is a mess and whether or not this war is bad policy (and no, they don’t always agree with each other, either). My parents and their peers understand that there is, in fact, more going on in the world than just their struggle to get their food on the table and the mortgage paid, and decent healthcare, and they know that there are domestic policies that tie in to that happening or not. My parents care about the environment and global warming even if they can’t explain to me how it works in scholarly scientific jargon. They certainly care about oil and gas prices, and interest rates. They care about health care. They care about student-loan funding and access to education because they have a grandchild that wants to go to Harvard and friends with grandchildren who need jobs and because (despite their lack of four-year college degrees–hell, my mom didn’t get her diploma until my 3rd year of law school, when I was 31–an office, or a trust fund to speak of) they know that education is a public good.

    My parents care about their community and their country. They aren’t going to vote for the guy they see as grittier, and they aren’t going to vote for the guy someone on CNN tells them to. Neither are their peers. They are going to weigh all of the things they care about; some of them may not be things I think are important, and they aren’t going to do it as a monolithic group.

    For some, their choice might be related to but not based entirely on respect for military service; some might pick a candidate based on party preference. My parents and all of the other “blue collar folk,” after all, haven’t been in Antarctica for the last 8 years and will, in fact, make a decision about John McCain based on his actual record (which, I think, is not the boon to McCain others have asserted it is) and his participation in the mess we’ve got going on today; my dad and several of his friends (many of whom were Republicans) have taken to calling McCain McSame, for one thing. I think my dad liked John Edwards better than anyone this time around. He had a great respect for John Kerry’s military service and did not find his education off-putting. My mom thought Al Gore was the smartest man she’d ever heard talk.

    My parents put a lot of weight (but not all of it) on who the Teamsters and the UAW endorse. They’ve voted against union picks in their lifetimes. But they listen, and not just to the endorsement, but to the reasons therefore.

    I know “my parents” are not every blue-collar voter and that the plural of anecdote is not data. But you know? I grew up steeped in blue-collar. To a large extent, I still self-identify that way on a lot of issues, because I thought of myself as “blue collar” for the first 30 years of my life. And the values of my formative years were NOT that “grit beats schoolin’” or that any particular characteristic mattered more than another; or, gods forbid, that politics doesn’t matter very much and you could just pick a candidate endorsed by a media personality or the Church or whatever without thinking about it yourself, because you’ve gotta get to work and pay the bills. My parents taught me that voting was a responsibility, not just a right, and you took it very seriously because it affected people. It was a social norm in our community. Our *blue collar* community.

    That’s how blue collar people are going to vote. Just like lots of other people are going to vote. Just like I’m going to vote.

  92. Gerrymander:

    “Here’s the trick: however wealthy McCain and his wife are, they don’t rub people’s noses in it.”

    You’ve got to be kidding me, Gerrymander. That’s so laughably wrong on its face I’m embarrassed for you that you even say it.

  93. After reading through this discussion, and the one prior to it relating to Orson Scott Card’s beliefs on gay marriage, I have learned one thing for certain: I like it when science fiction writers write science fiction. They’re really good at that.

  94. Sub-Odeon: Thanks for your thoughts. I’ll leave it there, since it’s really off-topic and my political opinions don’t add much to the conversation here. But thanks.

  95. Eloise:

    If you’re not ready to handle science fiction writers saying whatever they damn well please, you’re best off not visiting their sites or following their links. Simply done, that is.

  96. I probably deserved that rudeness, so I will apologize. I’m seeing so much snarky rhetoric going back and forth on this discussion and in the previous one and it just seems too much like schoolyard taunts and posturing. I’m almost waiting for the inevitable whipping out of members. I’m not sure there has been anything of substance said yet, and I’m guilty of that as well. I was trying to make a gentle, heartfelt point, but I can see that it wasn’t received in that fashion, which means I didn’t express it well. As you say, it’s your sandbox and it’s yours to crap in. I try not be presumptuous, but I believe I was, so again, I apologize. I hope you will accept it. I won’t comment further.

  97. If only it were that simple. Every February, we get packs of those SF writers coming door to door, espousing weird philosophical beliefs and other matters.

    I had Ben Bova lecture me on why salamanders shouldn’t be allowed to play chess. WHY!!!?!?!?!?

  98. 37: “Obama on the other hand, has a very thin resume.”

    Well, let’s see what’s on it.

    He’s a lawyer from Illinois. He has some experience in the state legislature and a couple of years in Congress.

    Last time we elected a President with that resume, he turned out to be pretty good.

    It’s not the resume; it’s the man. Dan Quayle pointed out that he’d been in Congress in 1988 as long as John F. Kennedy had been in 1960. But that only gave Lloyd Bentsen the chance to say, “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

    Anyone who wants to try to claim that Obama isn’t fit to wear Abraham Lincoln’s shoes but that McCain is, is welcome to try.

  99. Well, Patrick M., because it’s just wrong.

    Eloise:

    No worries, and no apology needed. You touched on a subject I’m prickly about; you’re not to be blamed not to know right off that I get prickly about it.

    That said, I don’t think the particular threads you mention have gone off the rails yet; people are being spirited and occasionally snarky, but by my adjudication that’s within the bounds of acceptable discourse. It’s possible I have a higher tolerance for certain levels of rhetorical dick-waving than others do, however.

    DB:

    “Last time we elected a President with that resume, he turned out to be pretty good.”

    He was a Republican, too!

  100. John: I personally consider something that is true when read absolutely literally that is nonetheless calculated in every respect to represent an opponent as having said something whose contextual meaning is so hugely different from its clipped, literal meaning to be no great improvement on a “blatant fabrication”. Obama’s campagin has a history of of such literalism-leaning-toward-fabrication, especially when it comes to his “new-politics” image.

    Which is, in large part, why he gets up my nose. I freely admit I’m biased against the guy- I have issues with a candidate that consistently tries to represent themself as above the tactics of “old politics” when as far as I can tell he’s nothing of the sort unless the stars align to his convenience. Not my most rational position- the bulk of my opposition is that I think the policies he’s actually been consistent about are either in direct opposition to my principles or won’t work- but this whole thread is about the irrational intangibles that turn people on or off, which is what all this spinning, fabrication, and half-truths of the ads are aimed at.

  101. LabRat:

    That’s fine, although I certainly hope that actual, totally blatant lying gets up your nose, too.

  102. Sub-Odeon @91: “I believe if Kerry had never done Winter Soldier, never become a visible anti-war activist upon his return, regardless of how he actually felt about the war itself, he’d have won 2004 and the Swiftboat campaign would have failed. ”

    Uh, it’s not just Kerry.

    How about Max Cleland, who gave three limbs for his country?

    Heck, the Republicans crap all over Chuck Hagel, and he’s a Republican.

    The GOP only respects vets when it is politically useful. Just look at how quick they are to slash VA benefits, or look at the Bush administration blocking voter-registration drives in VA facilities.

    Oppose the GOP, and it doesn’t matter if you’re Audie Murphy risen from the dead and running with Colin Powell as VP and the risen Christ as omnipresent media surrogate. They will slime, slander, and defame you to the best of their ability.

  103. gerrymander said, “Being rich is one thing. Making other people feel poor is another.”

    Marvelously put!!

  104. gerrymander said, “Being rich is one thing. Making other people feel poor is another.”

    One good way to make people feel poor is by cutting taxes on forms of income that poor people can’t even afford to have.

  105. HockeyMom: That was a great read! Thanks for posting it. Again, if I have too much pushed the idea that blue collar votes with its heart, not its brain, my apologies.

    Jon H @ #116 said, “The GOP only respects vets when it is politically useful.” Jon, I would argue that BOTH of the Big Two do this. It’s unfortunate, but true. I seem to recall Bob Dole came in for his ration in 1996, and he was a decorated WWII vet and one of the more harmless Republican candidates in recent memory.
    I think it just goes to show that when it’s politics, there are no sacred cows. If you have an opponent on the other side, you do whatever you can to skewer him in the public arena. It’s nasty, but it’s the way it is. And the way it has been since the start.
    It would be nice to think that our elected officials could uphold and abide by some sort of honor code or something of that nature. But then, we in our time are seeing a somewhat neutered politics. Imagine if our current-day reps beat each other senseless with walking sticks and brought knives and pistols with them to the Senate or Congress floor, expecting to shoot it out over policy!

  106. Punkrockhockeymom @ 105: Serious thanks for that comment. My father was a card-carrying member of the Local 26 until injuries he’d sustained at the hands of an Air Force surgeon during Vietnam finally made it impossible for him to continue with electrical work. He’s never voted for the ‘folksy’ candidate. He’s always voted for the one he thought would help him put his kids through school, safeguard his civil liberties, protect his well-won veteran’s benefits, and avoid disastrous foreign policy choices.

    Not that any of that stopped me from making idiot generalizations about the people living in the small, rust-belt town where I went to college, but when I started volunteering for Obama, I got disabused of those generalizations pretty fast. It wasn’t a bunch of other small liberal arts college students showing up at the teamster’s hall for Obama meetings– it was bank tellers, soccer moms, church ladies and veterans; janitors and truck drivers and waitresses. And those people knew what was what. They weren’t volunteering for the candidate they thought was cuter and a better speaker. They were volunteering for the guy whose policies they believed in. You know, just like everybody else.

  107. oh, and The Griz @75: Thank you :). The really funny part about your comment is the part where I’m always a little hesitant to get into the comment threads here on the Whatever, because I’m afraid that I’m not quite smart enough to keep up. True story.

    I think the real credit goes to Scalzi, though, for creating a space where conversation can be as constructive as it is here (and to everyone who’s actually trying to contribute constructively to said conversation). This thread might have its fair share of snark and fluff, but most of the political discussions on the internet (even the geek corner of the internet) make me question our collective definition of sentience. Places like this and Making Light are rare indeed.

  108. Gilderoy Obama’s appeal is simple: he comes across as smart, good-looking, and friendly. It doesn’t matter that every single policy position he’s taken has been either an outright lie or a disaster-in-waiting. To his shallow, superficial, appearance-bedazzled groupies, Obama looks and sounds better than McCain, therefore they support him. This is the same reasoning that turns a Hollywood starlet into an expert on a subject simply because they played an expert on that subject in a movie twenty years ago. That’s the real thrust of the McCain ad: Obama is the Hollywood candidate. A perfect choice to play the President in a movie, where all he has to do is say his lines and everything is guaranteed to turn out all right. But the real world doesn’t work that way. As the real President with real problems to deal with and no chance to call for a script rewrite, this ignorant, naive, corrupt, narcissistic snob will be a disaster.

  109. John: It does. My intent is not to defend McCain’s campaign, but rather to dispute that Obama is not an “actual, totally blatant” liar, in contrast to his opponent. On his campaign ads he’s mostly stuck to the pre-school definition of “the truth”; his most blatant falsehoods have mostly been with respect to which positions he has and has not taken in the past, in new-speak fashion.

    I don’t mind when politicians reverse themselves in and of itself. I don’t even mind when they do it for expediency, to pander to the base in the primary and to the center in the election. I do mind when they tell me we have always been at war with Oceana.

  110. I am curious, and hope to see what people think.

    If you are voting for Obama in November, name your top three reasons why.

    If you are voting for McCain in November, name your top three reasons why.

    I’m undecided, and haven’t gone obscure third party yet. But I would like to know more precisely why people are voting who they are voting for. And no, this is not flame bait. I am genuinely curious.

  111. I seem to recall Bob Dole came in for his ration in 1996, and he was a decorated WWII vet and one of the more harmless Republican candidates in recent memory.

    You recall wrongly.

    To his shallow, superficial, appearance-bedazzled groupies, Obama looks and sounds better than McCain, therefore they support him. This is the same reasoning that turns a Hollywood starlet into an expert on a subject simply because they played an expert on that subject in a movie twenty years ago.

    You would be more convincing if we couldn’t see Karl Rove’s hand working the wires. Try at least not to make the talking points of the day so obvious.

  112. @ 122

    I am not voting for Obama because he is “smart, good-looking, and friendly.” I am voting for him because of his intelligent, considered views on the issues.

    It sounds like you are buying into a lot of Republican propaganda (i.e. Obama as “naive, corrupt” and “narcissistic”). Take a look at the actual policies that they espouse, especially the economic policies, and I think you will change your mind. Unless you think that the top one percent deserve more cosseting.

  113. wolfwalker @ 122

    I’m an old fart who should be right in McCain’s demographic. I am surely not a “shallow, superficial, appearance-bedazzled groupy” (leastways I hope not). I have been observing people, facts, backgrounds and positions since before Nixon. I have been watching and researching *My Senator* since I came back to Phoenix in ’91. No way in hell am I going to vote for that man.

  114. John @ 106:
    So, on one hand, we have Michelle Obama complaining bitterly about what a burden it is to spend that $10,000 a year on sports and piano and summer camp and so forth while taking the position that she’s never been proud of America.

    On the other you’ve got Cindy McCain getting her private pilot’s license so she can fly herself around Arizona during campaign season.

    A rich woman complaining bitterly about how hard life is in a hollow bid to ‘connect’ with poor people is rubbing poor people’s noses in their poverty by talking down to them.

    A rich woman talking about a pretty respectable personal achievement that she undertook to make life better for herself is just being candid, which translates to NOT talking down to people.

    The McCains may very well be the snobbiest elites out there, I haven’t made a study of the matter, probably won’t. But that clip sucked vigorously as an example of McCain ‘elitism.’

  115. Skar:

    Your opening paragraph is so rhetorically dishonestly constructed that I didn’t even bother to read past it.

  116. Indeed.
    If the Obamas don’t want people putting together what they say on one day with things they say on another day, they probably shouldn’t ‘give people the soundbites to play with.’

  117. RE: posts #127 and #106
    I just watched that clip. I gotta agree with skar. McCain’s wife getting her pilot’s license so she can fly around Arizona doesn’t exactly ring the same way Michelle Obama’s statements do. Michelle Obama couched her complaints in the rhetoric of, “I understand how hard it is for poor and working families in America”, then proceeded to draw parallels between poor and working families, and her (apparent) $10,000 extracurricular budget for her kids. And the Obama’s have millions in the bank, right?
    I could see the parallel if Cindy McCain had said, “Oh God, it’s so hard, I just went and got my pilot’s license and it cost, like, thousands of dollars! Like, how do working Americans do it?” But this wasn’t what she said in the clip at all.
    If you’re gonna bitch about stuff and pretend empathy for the middle class and the working poor, it’s probably not a swift idea to cite your astoundingly upper-crust kids budgets as an example of how tough it is for middle class and working poor.
    That’s like when NBA superstars talk about poverty and oppression in the ‘hood. Perhaps at one point, they knew. But after even a rookie deal in the NBA, every NBA star leaves the struggle of poverty far behind. They can speak on it in the past tense only. (at least until they leave the NBA and keep spending like they’re making millions a year….)

  118. John @ #134,

    I’m not a McCain fan. But I haven’t seen either McCain or his wife go on camera this election cycle and “feel” Middle America the way Michelle Obama attempted to “feel” Middle America during her now-embarrassing expense comparison gaffe.
    I have not read nor seen McCain or his wife citing a personal expense figure for what are essentially trivial pursuits, and using it as a segue into or out of empathetic talk about how Middle America is getting squeazed and nobody is doing much to help Middle America make ends meet.
    I think maybe if Michelle Obama had been thinking on her feet a little more, maybe she’d have ommitted the expense citation and simply said, “Yes, it’s hard for Middle America, and Barack and I want to help!”
    This would have been a far more authentic way of putting it, than saying basically, “Oh wow, it’s so hard, Barack and I spend ten large every year so our kids can have an upper-crust after-school life, I know how it is!”
    Because the fact is, no, Michelle does NOT know how it is. Not presently, and not through personal experience at any point since they began bringing in millions.
    if she’d said, “Back when I was a girl I remember how tough it was, and you didn’t have money…” this would ring true to her experience and would sound vaguely insulting to those who truly struggle with money and budgets.
    It’s all about the tense, really. Present, versus past.
    And yes it does seem like a mighty silly nit to pick, but it’s gaffes like this sort that feed the “Obamas are snobs!” bonfire that continues to burn in the anti-Obama camp.
    Best way to win elections is to NOT give the opponents free ammo like that.
    JMHO.

  119. Gah. I meant to say, “this would ring true to her experience and would *NOT* sound vaguely insulting…”

  120. Skar@136:

    I did edit indeed — what I had originally posted had been inaccurate, so I cleaned it up. No one had commented on it yet, so I thought it to be a fair edit.

    As toward “Who spoils their kids is a far cry from who rubs poor people’s nose in their poverty,” and using the Obama quote about how much they spend on kids extra curriculars as an example, by that logic any discussion of how much one spends on one’s children (or any other expenditure) is tantamount to “rubbing poor people’s noses” in poverty, and that’s not an excellent argument in my mind. The poor are as equally able to read articles about the McCain’s wealth as the Obama’s, and the McCain’s ability to be ostentatious about their wealth is considerably larger than the Obamas, as a detailing of their respective assets show.

    Basically, I just think making the argument that the Obamas discussing their money equals offending the poor to be a bad one, and the argument that the McCains are somehow more circumspect about their considerably larger wealth an even worse one. Likewise, I think suggesting that the Obama’s spending small five figures on their children’s extracurriculars is somehow offensive while suggesting that Cindy McCain spending substantially more so she won’t have to schlep about on the highways is somehow laudable to be a really interesting argument.

  121. Who spoils their kids is a far cry from who rubs poor people’s nose in their poverty.

    And the intellectual dishonesty continues. One person comments about their money and it’s “rubbing” the other does the same and it’s “spoil[ing] their kids.”

    By the way, I’m sure that poor people everywhere are just overwhelmed by your concern for them and their feelings. I’m sure that they appreciate that you feel their pain as, night after night, they are exposed to TV reporting that makes it clear that the Obamas simply live to Rub Their Nose In It. I’m sure that they are glad that their weeping and lamenting reaches your ears, so that you can report it to the rest of the world and convince that world to elect the Other Multi-Millionaire In The Race.

  122. Ok, I’m curious now, because I don’t have any kids. I know $10,000/year is a chunk of change for most people (myself included) and not so much at the Obama’s current income level, that’s a given.

    But a year of extra-curricular activities for two kids, even just middle class kids, it doesn’t sound outlandish. How much would a ‘normal’ American family expect to pay for a year of piano, camp, etc?

    $100 bucks a week per kid, assuming you’re adding weekly/monthly costs like lessons to big costs like camp seems like an above average but not shocking amount.

    Mind you, I didn’t do any of that stuff when I was a kid but from what I gather of folks with kids a certain amount of classes and activities is considered normal-to-vital.

  123. My point was never that the Obamas spend a ton on their kids, therefore they are elitists who rub poor people’s noses in it.

    My point was, first, that John’s example of Cindy McCain and her flying lessons was a poor one for the purpose, and later, that one millionaire was trying to ‘feel poor’ while the other is just rich and candidly lives that way.

    The ‘feeling poor’ is, I think, what gets people’s goat because it’s so obviously a hollow pandering to people they must think are stupid enough to buy it.

    David: You should really read the linked articles before you comment, it helps the image.

  124. My point was, first, that John’s example of Cindy McCain and her flying lessons was a poor one for the purpose, and later, that one millionaire was trying to ‘feel poor’ while the other is just rich and candidly lives that way.

    The ‘feeling poor’ is, I think, what gets people’s goat because it’s so obviously a hollow pandering to people they must think are stupid enough to buy it.

    You should stop speaking for anyone but yourself.

  125. “Reagan’s got that kind of broad-based philosophy about how he wants the government run, and he’s got all these killers who are willing and able to do that for him.””

    That was the myth from the 1980s–Reagan was a dumb actor who just had good advisors and good line.

    History showed something different. Reagan had deep conviction that the US could win over the Soviet Union. Other leading polticnas and academics in the 1970s and 1980s predicted an unending cold war and many thought the US was still losing. Rememebr the late 1970s anyone?

    Former Soviet officials, network news anchors and politicans from both parties now acknowledge that Reagan was a great leader for that time.

    Now we’re stuck with McCain and Obama–Bush III and Carter II…..

  126. Nice try David, but I don’t think that will get through. What we need is to paraphrase a movie line, like the whole, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means,” from The Princess Bride. Only we switch a few words here and there and come up with:

    You keep talking about ‘poor people’. I do not think that ‘poor people’ think like you think they think.

    OR

    You keep talking about ‘blue collar workers.’ I do not think that ‘blue collar workers’ vote like you’d like to think they vote.

    Or we could just project all of our own liberal faults onto all conservatives, stick our tongues out, and then yell “yes you do, yes you do” over and over. Because that’s about how I’m starting to feel about this election right now.
    And I wake up this morning to see that the WSJ has an article about Obama being too skinny for fat people to vote for.

    You keep talking about ‘fat’ people. I do not think that ‘fat’ people think like you think they think.

  127. That was the myth from the 1980s–Reagan was a dumb actor who just had good advisors and good line.

    That should be the base starting point for our elected leaders, or slightly above that if we’re feeling greedy. More than a dumb actor with historically bad or crooked advisers, at least. Please.

  128. Interesting. I think Obama is in real trouble. Last time I recall reading an Obama thread here, the comments were far more pro-Obama and there was less, “yea but, but McCain did it to.” I still don’t think McCain is going to win, but it will way too close to call.

    *cough* Hopechange doubleplus good! *cough*

  129. Last time I recall reading an Obama thread here, the comments were far more pro-Obama and there was less, “yea but, but McCain did it to.” I still don’t think McCain is going to win, but it will way too close to call.

    *cough* Hopechange doubleplus good! *cough*

    Wow. Do you make a living diagnosing political races? “The comment threads are turning against Obama! The race will be close.”

    Stick with your day job.

  130. Just to set the record straight, I’m not voting for Obama because I’m somehow dazzled by his popularity or intelligence (tho’ he is certainly an intelligent man), or for any, other “drink the Obama Kool-Aid” reason.

    Heck, back when the Democrat’s primary field was wide open, I was a Dodd supporter, with Edwards coming in at second. But I’m voting for Obama because I haven’t seen a Republican I’d choose over an inanimate carbon rod since… errr… uhhhh…

    ::pauses, looks off into distance::

    Eisenhower ?

  131. 3, out of many, reasons I’m voting for Obama.

    1. He knows constitutional Law. Therefore when he games the system he won’t blow it to smithereens and leave a smoldering wreck behind.

    2. He advocates taking time to stop and think about things, not just react.

    3. He has been and lived overseas, interacting with a verity of different people. The biggest lesson I learned from being enlisted in the Navy is that no mater where you go, people are people.

    Jim

  132. Jim @ 151 – Huh. I agree with half of point 3, and have a totally differnt take on the second half. What had an impact on me from living overseas was that people in other cultures are really different. Very few people I’ve known who’ve not been expats have a deep understanding of how other cultures view us, and a sense of respect for other cultures while seeing the flaws they have clearly, and contrasting them to our flaws.

    Obama actually talks about our flaws and our strengths. It’s a dangerous thing for a presidential candidate, but it makes me respect him more for that.

  133. Sub Odeon @ 72 It also doesn’t help that Obama bowled a 37. I mean, really. A 37?

    When was the last time McCain nailed a point 3 shot with no warm up? It’s not like Obama plays “liberal elite sports”. Basketball is not water skiing

    FOX news talking point failure. Please try again.

  134. Oh, and to answer 124 -

    3 reasons, which are really strong. I don’t know if they’re the top reasons, but they’re compelling.

    1) He’s the only major party African American candidate we’ve ever had.

    2) Based on his record in the Illinois Senate, I think he’ll actually try working cross party, and cross ideology. Since his time in Harvard, one of the notable things people have said about him is that he was good at getting people with different viewpoints to work together. If you look at his speeches today, they’re attempts to be inclusive towards people with liberal and conservative values. Not just liberal values. I’ve had 8 years of a conservative president sneering at liberals. I don’t want 8 years of a liberal sneering at conservatives. It’s divisive, and it needs to stop.

    3) I personally identify with him having lived part of his childhood overseas. I think it gives him a unique perspective, especially into how real Muslims think and act in liberal Islamic countries like Indonesia. We need someone who can actually hold a conversation with the Muslim world without starting a war. We need a peacemaker. Note, I’m not saying someone who’ll surrender, but someone who’ll make peace with the peaceful parts of the Muslim world, and encourage them to start internal peace efforts among all Muslims.

  135. 3 reasons out of many more:

    1) smart which is good, thoughtful which is much better and maybe wise which is yet unproven but would be even better.

    2) They may be well off now but haven’t been for long and are more likely to understand those who aren’t than those who have been gargle-ing a silver spoon their whole life.

    3) Having grown up immersed in diverse viewpoints, he has shown the ability to be comfortable with others not like himself and for them to connect with him (look at any of the pictures of Obama with foreign leaders vs. those with Bush or McCain with them.) Having empathy with others allows for win-win discusions rather than another 4 years as declared by McCain of the same attitude that gave us open mocking of death row appeals, flipping off of the people (us) behind the camera when he thinks it is safely off or foreign countries rushing their nuclear research because they see it as the only possible way to be left alone.

    This doesn’t even *touch* the manifold reasons that should disqualify McCain from even being considered.

  136. # wolfwalker on 31 Jul 2008 at 9:36 pm

    Gilderoy Obama’s appeal is simple: he comes across as smart, good-looking, and friendly. It doesn’t matter that every single policy position he’s taken has been either an outright lie or a disaster-in-waiting. To his shallow, superficial, appearance-bedazzled groupies, Obama looks and sounds better than McCain, therefore they support him. This is the same reasoning that turns a Hollywood starlet into an expert on a subject simply because they played an expert on that subject in a movie twenty years ago. That’s the real thrust of the McCain ad: Obama is the Hollywood candidate. A perfect choice to play the President in a movie, where all he has to do is say his lines and everything is guaranteed to turn out all right. But the real world doesn’t work that way. As the real President with real problems to deal with and no chance to call for a script rewrite, this ignorant, naive, corrupt, narcissistic snob will be a disaster.

    Man, how many Super-Duper Fox News points do you get for all of those clichés? Will they be enough to finally get you that golf shirt with Roger Ailes’ autograph above the left nipple?

  137. The McCains may spoil their children, but how many of his sons have put on the military uniform? Isn’t one currently serving as an enlisted Marine in Iraq or Afghanistan (I forget which)?

    For all the McCain bashing because he, and his children, was born into privilege, he, and apparently his sons, seem more than willing to take their lumps. Which is not the impression I get from the Obama household.

  138. Top three reasons why I support Obama:

    #1) Transparency. Specifically, he’s an advocate of governmental transparency, and has sponsored – and gotten passed! – relevant bills. That alone would win him my support, as I’m practically a single-issue voter on the topic.

    2) The fact he’s displayed a willingness to admit to error. He can change his mind, and it seems to be because he legitimately believes he was wrong before, not merely because he wants to profit from switching to the “more popular” position.

    3) His policy positions are significantly closer to my stance on the vast majority of issues than John McCain’s are. I don’t think I could really identify an exception except maybe gun control which I just don’t care about at all. Everywhere I disagree with Obama, it seems like it’s because he’s agreeing with McCain.

  139. @ stevem # 157- For all the McCain bashing because he, and his children, was born into privilege, he, and apparently his sons, seem more than willing to take their lumps. Which is not the impression I get from the Obama household.

    You’re telling me that you’re not criticizing the Obama household because his two daughters aren’t “taking their lumps”?

  140. Yes, Stevem, how do you propose that the Obama daughters, the oldest of which is 10, “take their lumps” in a manner sufficient to satisfy you?

  141. For all the McCain bashing because he, and his children, was born into privilege, he, and apparently his sons, seem more than willing to take their lumps. Which is not the impression I get from the Obama household.

    Gosh, Steve, you’re absolutely correct. Okay, Obama’s daughters are aged 10 and 7. So which military service do you recommend they enlist in, to ‘take their lumps’?

    Does it hurt much to hit yourself with stupid stick, over and over again?

  142. Re: 157: Aren’t they the right age to move to Asia and sew uniforms for McCain’s son?

  143. I have to say, the bowling score is VERY concerning. Ever since the 1951 Canadian border dispute was resolved with a bowling tournament of leaders, the annual border renewal decided by said tournament…

    Well, Obama better have someone bowling a 300 for VP. That is all I am saying. I don’t want to lose Maine. I mean, it’s VACATIONLAND!!!

  144. David, that last sentence of yours wasn’t actually necessary.

    Especially since I left the “the” out, which is not a good thing to do when accusing someone else of stupidity.

  145. Can someone please explain to me (and I’m not being sarcastic) where people get the impression that you haven’t served your country if you haven’t joined the military?

    How have social workers and teachers and firefighters and cops done any less for their country? How have civil rights lawyers, who defend our society from its most immediate and insidious threat, done any less for their country? How have community organizers who work to improve conditions in the poorest neighborhoods in America done any less for their country?

  146. John, Josh and David, etc.

    My point is, that despite a life of privilege, both McCain and his children step up to the plate. You might want to demonize them as rich, spoiled, etc., but they, as a family over multiple generations, are willing to sacrafice for this country. Despite their riches, privilege, being spoiled, etc.

    Obama and his wife, by contrast, have hardly projected a pro-America image. While they’ve profited from America (to the tunes of millions, AFTER being elected to office) they haven’t bled for it or risked bleeding for it. Hell, they haven’t even sweated for this country, but they want to lead it.

    Is Obama family unpatriotic? No, I can’t say that. What I can say, however, is that the McCain family, time over time, genaration after genaration, demonstrates that they are and are willing to sweat, bleed and even die for this country. I don’t think its unreasonable to support a known quantity over a “maybe”.

  147. Is Obama family unpatriotic? No, I can’t say that

    Then perhaps you should stop saying that.

    (By the way, I’m sure that the same logic led you to vote for John Kerry in 2004, didn’t it?)

  148. David,

    Remove the blinders. I have never said the Obamas were not patriotic. Your interpretation of my statements indicates some insecurity on the subject.

    As to John Kerry, I did not vote for him based on his policies, not his military record. I would point out that McCain apparently spoke up on his behalf during the Swift Boat attacks.

  149. steven, I think most of us would agree that public service is a mark in favor of a candidate. Most of us would, like you, elect to bring in other factors besides military service in choosing a president – such as their economic knowledge, respect for the Constitution, and probability of sending troops to the Iraq/Pakistan border.

    I’m disturbed by your apparent willingness to judge presidential candidates based on their breeding stock. It seems to me like you’re picking McCain as good American stock and rejecting Obama’s breeding line as untested. To me, that’s both wrong and not even wrong.

    McCain was race-baited in a most repugnant fashion in South Carolina in 2000, and he did speak up for Kerry during the Swift Boating. However, several people who did that are now working for McCain.

    McCain has experience, but he’s learned the wrong lessons from it.

  150. Remove the blinders. I have never said the Obamas were not patriotic.

    You can disavow what you said all you want; that doesn’t mean you didn’t say it. You held up the McCain children as being willing to “take their lumps” with military service. You did not detect the same willingness in the Obamas, despite the foolishness of comparing the adult McCain children with the 10 and 7 year old Obama children. That you never used the word ‘patriotic’ doesn’t help.

    As to McCain and the Swift Boats, is there a reason why McCain used Bud Day–one of the prime moves behind the Swift Boating–to speak for him?

  151. Fungi and David,

    Pointing out that the McCains have, over generations, served and sacrificed for this country had nothing to do with “breeding stock”. It has everything to do with rebutting the argument that the McCains, including multi-millionaire many times over Cindy McCain, were out of touch, self serving elitists. The McCains live a life of privilege and luxury, but they also put themselves in harms way for this country. Over and over again. Priviliged? Yes. Selfish and spoiled? No.

    As to Bud Day, the man is a legend. He might be wrong on Kerry, but Day is still a hero. Heroes are human beings, flawed as the rest of us, not omniscient beings.

    And Day’s comments (however potentially wrong) and his support for McCain does not change the fact that McCain stood up for Kerry. If you want to tag McCain for Day’s comments, its only fair to tag Obama with Rev. Wright’s, etc.. Neither is fair and I haven’t done it (though you apparently are willing).

  152. The McCains live a life of privilege and luxury, but they also put themselves in harms way for this country. Over

    And had you said that, I wouldn’t have a problem. What you actually said, however, suggested the Obamas’ 10 and 7 year-old daughters were not showing the same selflessness. Rather than trying to change your point on the fly, you should at least admit that you misstated.

    his support for McCain does not change the fact that McCain stood up for Kerry

    It’s not Day’s support for McCain that’s the problem, it’s that McCain explicitly used him for defense. The Wright comparison isn’t the same, as Obama didn’t have Wright up there defending Obama’s religious views. McCain _did_ have Day up there defending his military service. What’s next? McCain gets John Hagee up there to talk about what a fine Christian the Senator is?

    By the way, nice use of weasel words on Swiftboating: “[Day] _might_ be wrong.” and “_potentially_ wrong.”

    Neither is fair and I haven’t done it (though you apparently are willing).

    Shockingly, people actually pay attention to who a politician has speak for their campaign.

  153. As to my “weasel” words, its because I am fairly sure that I do not know the truth. I do not read minds. Whether the Swiftboaters were being truthful or whether Kerry was, I don’t know. I wasn’t there.

    That said, as a matter of personal opinion, I prefer to go with Kerry’s military records. But its just that, a preference/opinion, not the God given absolute truth. I’m vouching for neither side.

    As to my supposedly blasting the Obamas, you are being hyper sensitive. I discussed two items in the compare and contrast to the McCains and Obamas. First, the McCain family’s record of military service. The Obamas have done nothing comparable. It does not mean that they are not patriotic. What that means is I have plenty of information which is pro McCain on this issue and NOTHING to go with on the Obamas. This may not be fair to the Obamas (their daughters are mere children), but even looking only to the Senators and their parents, the Obamas still have done nothing comparable.

    This is not a negative, its a neutral which is trumped, IMO, but McCain’s positive.

    Second, each families wealth. Both are millionaires many times over. Obama earned 4 million this last year, apparently, though Cindy McCain is richer still- based on her father’s very succesful beer distributorship. By contrast to the McCains (specifically Cindy) I pointed out that Obamas’ wealth came fast on the heels to his being elected to office. This fact does not comfort me.

    The issue raised early in this thread was whether Obama could be labeled by McCain as an “elitist”. While Scalzi correctly pointed out that both were equally “elitist”, in my opinion that label is going to stick more to Obama than it is to McCain, fair or not.

    Its a matter of Annapolis over Harvard, retired military officers over law professors, and a dozen other personal advantages that McCain has over Obama. For example, McCain donates his book earnings acquired in office to charity; Obama uses those same earnings to establish his family’s affluence. This is not necessarily fair (I would do the same) and McCain, a kept man by most definitions, doesn’t need his royalties and Obama wouldn’t be a millionaire without his.

    Regardless, perception tends to make itself known in the voting booth and it will likely bite Obama at the end of the day. Something we may now be seeing in the more recent polls.

  154. Whether the Swiftboaters were being truthful or whether Kerry was, I don’t know. I wasn’t there.

    Ah, the rhetorical loveliness of being “fair to both sides.”

    The Swift Boaters spat on someone’s military career and by doing so they enabled 20 year old Republican Convention attendees to wear band-aids with purple hearts on them. Leaving Kerry aside, that disrespected every single person who was awarded a Purple Heart at any time.

    As to my supposedly blasting the Obamas, you are being hyper sensitive.

    No, I’m not. And along with the weasel words, telling someone that they’re overreacting is an old rhetorical dodge, one normally brought out when someone doesn’t really have a good response.

    You made a silly remark about the McCains and the Obamas, you got called on it, and you’ve spent every post since then trying to dodge around the fact that it was a silly remark.

  155. David,

    Please quote, exactly, my supposedly “silly remark”, to quote you exactly. Please cite to were I claimed that Obama was unpatriotic (as opposed to your bare assertion). Claiming that McCain has demonstrated it, has bled for this country, has placed himself in harms way (as have his sons, father and grandfather) is not the same as claiming that Obama is not.

    What I have done, to paraphrase Kerry, is underline that McCain’s deeds, not merely his words, have demonstrated his commitment to this country as compared to Obama. While an imperfect gauge, it is one factor that I can add to the scales in McCain’s favor. Adding in experience (Barack’s 2 years vs. McCains 20+ in federal government, on top of McCain’s 20 years in the Navy), judgement (the surge worked, which McCain was instrumental in putting in place and got Rumsfield fired in the process), policies (McCain has never taken an earmark, is solid 2d amendment, etc.), I find him the more attractive candidate (though by far from ideal in my mind) as compared to Obama.

    And I am very sorry to be unable to unequivocally proclaim the truth of the Swiftboaters v. Kerry. Sad to say, I don’t live in a black and white world. It must be a very comfortable place. Kerry (and his supporters) should be proud that he put on the uniform and, as a result, risked his life. Whether he was Rambo or not is beside the point, making the Swiftboaters v. Kerry argument somewhat moot in my personal view.

  156. Please quote, exactly, my supposedly “silly remark”, to quote you exactly

    That was easy:

    “For all the McCain bashing because he, and his children, was born into privilege, he, and apparently his sons, seem more than willing to take their lumps. Which is not the impression I get from the Obama household.”

    It’s comment 157, if you need a further reference.

    Sad to say, I don’t live in a black and white world.

    The world is mostly shades of gray. Sometimes, just sometimes, along comes a moment when it’s not. The failure of most people is being unable to recognize those moments.

    Whether he was Rambo or not is beside the point, making the Swiftboaters v. Kerry argument somewhat moot in my personal view.

    Whether he was Rambo or not? The only way you think that the dispute has meaning is whether Kerry was really Rambo? A fictional Sylvester Stallone character is your measure of service in wartime? The sad thing is that really may be the way you’re evaluating things, and you may not have any idea that the Swiftboaters devalued _everyone’s_ Purple Heart because the lesson they sold to a lot of people was that–like Clinton’s blow job wasn’t really sex–a Purple Heart ‘isn’t really a medal.’

  157. David,

    Thank you for the citation. Since I would assume you’d acknowledge that McCain and his sons have taken their “lumps”, I’ll go with the last sentence of the post where I state “Which is not the impression I get from the Obama household.”

    Exactly, how is this sentence an attack on Obama’s patriotism? Its a pure, and I believe factually accurate, comparison between McCain’s record of service and Obama’s lack of such a record. Everything Obama has done *seems* to be about advancing Obama, which is not the case with McCain. If you have some noteworty citation to some self sacrificing behavior on the part of Obama, I would like to see it. I might be willing to reconsider my position.

    Looking to the two candidates “deeds”, John McCain has demonstrated time after time, his devotion to this country. Obama has not, though that does not mean that he isn’t devoted. That leaves me only with Obama’s words, to contrast with McCain’s actions.

    But even focusing on the candidates’ words alone, Obama and his household appear very conflicted vis a vis a positive view of America. The quotes and behavior that have come out over the couple of years don’t need to be rehashed. I’ll even acknowledge that one or more incidents may have been taken out of context. Reporters are known for doing so, especially if they can stir controversy and sell copy. But the impression (which is the word I used in the last sentence that you took issue with) left, fairly or unfairly, is that Obama, and his parents (at least his mother), and his spouse have, on ocassion expressed a conflicted, negative view of this country. This conflict is not apparent in John McCain and his family, who present as confident in the innate goodness of this country.

    As to the Rambo comment, you need to take a chill pill. Rambo, as you apparently are aware, is a fictional, unrealistic super soldier who has never existed and never will exist (outside a John Scalzi or Robert Heinlein novel). In real life, bullets do not respect tough guys. That is exactly why I made the comparison, as even if Kerry, McCain, etc. were such an utterly ridiculous super soldier, it would not sway my vote. What counts for me, in part, is whether the candidate put on the uniform (equal credit is given for the Peace Corps). Kerry, McCain, Bush (both), Gore, Dole, Carter, Reagan, etc. all did, to their credit. How many medals they collected along the way is irrelevant so far as I am concerned. They all get equal points when running for president. Clinton, by contrast, was docked.

    Which means, if you’ve managed to translate my comments, the Swiftboat ad meant and means diddly to me. Ditto Dan Rather trying to torpedo George Bush with false National Guard reviews.

    By the way, exactly what does the Swiftboat ads have to do with McCain v. Obama? Is it limited to a Medal of Honor winner (which I reference only since the issue of medals seems important to you) who supported the Swiftboaters supporting McCain? If so, rest assured that I am well aware the Col. Day’s hero status does not render him an expert on economics, politics, etc, so I’ll form my own opinions irrespective of Col. Day’s.

  158. Exactly, how is this sentence an attack on Obama’s patriotism?

    The issue, as it was from the beginning, is that you didn’t just limit it to Obama, you broadened it out to Obama’s “household” while explicitly talking about McCain’s sons. The sly comparison in there was to Obama’s daughters. When about four people pointed out that Obama’s daughters were 7 and 10, rather than admitting that you’d misspoken and moving on, you essentially ignored it. You’ve ignored it ever since.

    Obama and his household

    And you do it again in this one. How exactly are his daughters, age 7 and 10, conflicted about America? Have they given lengthy speeches about it? Protested against the war in Iraq? Tell me, I’d be fascinated to know.

    The quotes and behavior that have come out over the couple of years don’t need to be rehashed.

    Really? So the youngest daughter started speaking out against the U.S. when she was 4? Or 5? That’s an impressively early start. Perhaps she wore a Che Guevara onesie in the crib?

    As to the Rambo comment, you need to take a chill pill

    Again with the telling people they’re overreacting. You go for that rhetorical device a lot, don’t you?

    (which I reference only since the issue of medals seems important to you)

    You’re just full of rhetorical devices today, aren’t you? “Sigh,” you say heavily. “Since the issue of medals _seems important_ to you (subtext: you silly man), I’ll deal with it.”

    You know as well as I do that the Swiftboaters deliberately and maliciously went after Kerry’s military service for partisan reasons. By doing so, they planted a seed about anyone’s military service. McCain has (at least) one of those people speaking for him. He’s thrown a lot of his principles overboard in his quest to be President. That was one of them.

  159. First, the Swiftboaters. The Swiftboaters were not the first to go after a man’s military career and they will likely not be the last. NBC went after Bush’s and, prior to that, kooks were going after McCain’s (Did you know that he confessed to war crimes after days of torture? Shocking!). Going back to the the Civil War and beyond, I bet historian’s can point to politicians whose military credentials came under attack.

    Second, also as to the Swiftboaters, Kerry hurt his own case. He did so by exagerrating his military experiences (Christmas in Cambodia which he repeatedly stated was seared in his memory, only to have it pointed out he was wrong). Once he told one “fish” story, it was easier to attack the rest of his military experiences, however unfair.

    Third, to critique McCain for Col. Day is wrong on multiple levels. First, if every “spokeperson’s”, official or not, past mistakes were to be attributed to the candidate, then both Obama and McCain would have precious few people available to them. Second, McCain directly stood up for Kerry (was likely the first public figure to do so) and specifically denounced the Swiftboaters. Third, Obama’s own surrogates, most recently Wesley Clark, have taken aim at McCain’s military carreer in a hypocritical effort to minimize the effect of that in comparison to Obama’s lack of service.

    As to the Obama “household” you seem fixated on his daughters. I pointed out that looking to parents, spouses and the candidates themselves, all members of thier respective households, the comparison favors, for impression purposes, the McCains. I do not judge them based on thier minor children (the McCains also have a minor daughter, adopted out of Asia). The fact that the McCains have adult sons whom many parents would be proud is certainly an asset though.

  160. As to the Obama “household” you seem fixated on his daughters.

    And he goes for the rhetoric again. “Fixated”? I didn’t bring ‘household’ into the discussion, you did. If you’d wanted to criticize Obama, you should have criticized Obama. Discussions of McCain’s sons and ostentatious mentions of the Obama ‘household’ have only one implication. You got caught in a silly remark, and many many comments later, you’re still dancing and filling around that.

  161. How often do you yourself Windsurf or do you just write about it?

    Can I ask though – how did you get this picked up and into google news?

    Very impressive that this blog is syndicated through Google and is it something that is just up to Google or you actively created?

    Obviously this is a popular blog with great data so well done on your seo success..

    Windsurfing greats you should write about next.

  162. @ Squid in 92

    “How on Earth could this be considered a negative? I’d be delighted to have a candidate who campaigned on a platform of “If elected, I promise that nothing will get done in Washington DC.”

    Hell, it’s about the only part of Ventura’s administration that I remain happy about.”

    I agree regarding Ventura’s campaign and administration. He said he was going to try to get things done that he thought needed to be done, and went out and tried to get them done.

    I have two reasons for pushing for Obama.
    1) War with Iran is stupid, McCain has said that something needs to be done about Iran, and has attacked Obama for wanting to talk. That leaves sanctions and war, and we all know how well sanctions effect the ruling class of a country.
    2) I have no idea what McCain’s policies are regarding anything else.

    What is he going to do about the downturn in the economy? Balance the budget? That is all I hear… how is he going to do this. Obama claiming he wants a bi-partisan group setup to fix it is something that might work.

    What other policies does McCain have? Stay in Iraq until we are done? Good! I thought the Mission was already Accomplished? Seriously, calling the ‘timeframe’ to leave Iraq a ‘time horizon’ is a mistake… you never ever reach the horizon.

    As an aside, the government site lists McCain as graduating from West Point 893 in a class of 898.

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