Friday, August 01, 2008

A Proposal

Responding to the poorly directed McCain, Obama-big crowds-Paris Hilton-Britney Spears ad, Barack Obama on July 30, 2008 declared

Since they don't have any new ideas the only strategy they've got in this election is to try to scare you about me. They're going to try to say that I'm a risky guy, they're going to try to say, 'Well, you know, he's got a funny name and he doesn't look like all the presidents on the dollar bills and the five dollar bills and, and they're going to send out nasty emails.
And, you know, the latest one they've got me in an ad with Paris Hilton. You know, never met the woman. But, but, you know, what they're gonna try to argue is that somehow I'm too risky.

The controversy has centered over which campaign played the race card: Obama's, or the McCain campaign in a)pairing the Illinois Senator with two white female clebrities or b) claiming Obama played it "from the bottom of the deck," as campaign chairman Rick Davis put it.

The selection of Spears and Hilton in the McCain spot had nothing to do with race, notwithstanding the New York Times blog editorial comparing it to the ad run against Harold Ford in Tennessee in 2006. Rather, it implied (or, being poorly done, meant to imply) that Obama is vacuous, an empty suit, all hat and no cattle. As for Obama: maybe by saying "they're going to try to say..... he doesn't look like all the presidents on the dollar bills and the five dollar bills" the Illinois Senator was noting that he is taller or thinner or better-dressed than the others. Not likely.... I think he meant that he is black, though the ensuing controversy suggests a lot of people disagree.

But I'm not apoplectic about it. I've been hearing for a long time, since at least then-Senator Bill Bradley ran for the Democratic nomination for President, that we cannot hope to resolve the issue of race in American society until and unless we begin talking about it.

So let's have the dialogue. But I'd suggest a starting point: let's stop saying "they" as in "they're going to try to say that I'm a risky guy...." Decades ago, people (most of them white) frequently would complain about "them" (mostly blacks). These individuals, lacking specificity in their attacks, were thought to be bigots, or what are today known as "racists." It's a little disheartening to hear Barack Obama carelessly- or strategically- doing the same.

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