Even Barack Obama’s blogosphere fans and the major mainstream press aren’t buying Obama’s “Who, me?” defense on playing the racial victim. If David Axelrod fesses up, there isn’t too much more they can do for their favorite candidate. (And when The Chosen One says “I don’t think it’s accurate to say my comments have nothing to do with race,” it is time to pack in the denials.) Yet everyone is so dismayed, so disappointed that John McCain would make an issue of it. The double standard — bad for Obama to do it, really bad for McCain to mention it — is glaring, but should not be surprising.
But it’s not just on the subject of race that the campaign umpires find infractions. And the fouls are only called on one side. Obama and his surrogates can call McCain old and confused. No problem there. Obama can construct a weird cult of personality. Silence. But when McCain points the latter out, with humor and a pop culture sensibility that many thought they’d never see from his camp, the campaign etiquette police swing into action. He’s lowering the debate! He’s imitating Karl Rove! They feign disappointment and whine that politics should be conducted on a higher plane. We are not amused, they announce.
But really. This is another version on the New Yorker magazine cover flap. The Obama apologists don’t want Him mocked. They want everyone to take his cotton candy rhetorical rubbish as gospel and to pretend he is uttering words of great import. They certainly don’t want him reduced to the status of mere mortal politician. And they absolutely won’t abide by efforts to unmask the post-racial canard.
The McCain camp gets plenty of advice, some good and some atrocious. The pleas to knock off their attacks and return to treating Obama with kid gloves falls into the latter category. But I suspect they know that, and have no intention of discarding a winning hand. That doesn’t mean they can run a campaign solely on skewering Obama, or that they can ignore big issues. (But they haven’t, and indeed their singular focus on energy has been one of their most successful policy forays.) By the same token, though, they cannot win without engaging the public in debunking the New Politics and post-racial myths. And that, of course, is why the Obama media minions don’t like the newly aggressive McCain campaign. Not one bit.