The political Quote of the Day comes in two of Marc Ambinder’s three points about the Republican Senator John McCain’s Obama-is-a-callow-celebrity-just-like-Britney ad:
1. John McCain is the Republican least associated with the Bush brand of politics. His appeal is based on his independence, and particularly on his independence from partisan bickering. Eroding his brand could be really dangerous. The political cognoscenti thinks these new Marquess of Schmidtberry rules may work to McCain’s benefit in the short term. Longterm: tba.
2. Celebrity? How many movies and TV shows has McCain appeared in? How many SNLs has he hosted? Wasn’t a movie made about his life? Wasn’t McCain the original politician celebrity? Celebrity?
Two reactions from yours truly:
1. AS A POLITICAL ANALYST: I couldn’t post last night due to the Internet at my hotel here in Sundance, WY (which is now waning again) but my post was going to raise the same point as Ambinder’s second point. In 2000 McCain got HUGE media coverage as a new kind of candidate. He was a political rock star. He was on the cover of magazines, at the top of newscasts, and stories about him got top play in newspapers. He was SWAMPED by young crowds on campuses, and if progressives feel the press swarmed like him now, they need to look at back at 2000. He was a new kind of candidate who seemed to be breaking the tiresome partisan mold so typified if you listen to an afternoon of conservative and liberal talk radio back-to-back.
So he WAS the big celebrity then — but nary a peep from McCain, or his staff…or even opposing Republicans then….about how this emphasis on his PERSONALITY and his STORY and what was then called his CHARISMA and his clear CELEBRITY should not be considered by voters deciding between him and the less dynamic George Bush.
So celebrity isn’t the issue. This is part of the ballet of American politics where you know what is going on but pretend it isn’t or run official spin as if it’s what people really mean or really accurate. This is all about defining Obama and going after him to drive up his negatives and defuse his politics. It’s using his positive (the way crowds react to him) and trying to turn it into a negative. And who was famous for this tactic? It’s same old Karl Rove style politics that McCain seemed to suggest could be eschewed in 2000.
Celebrity and charisma is bad? Presidents such as FDR, JFK and Ronald Reagan had “it.” And it helped them lead. You can have celebrity, charisma AND an agenda that differs from an opponent. McCain should focus on demanding Obama engage him on issues on Obama’s agenda — IF he wants a campaign of issues.
Which, clearly, his advisers are now deciding this won’t be: the are going to make it be a referendum on whether Obama is too famous — and whether being a good speaker and having large number of people feel drawn to you therefore means you makes you are an empty suit.
2. ON A PERSONAL NOTE AS A REGISTERED INDEPENDENT AND 2000 JOHN MCCAIN SUPPORTER: I get lots of emails asking me to give my blunt reaction to this. It is this: seldom in my voting life, which began voting in the Presidential election of 1968, have I been turned off so quickly by someone who I once supported and admired. This is NOT over policy. The present McCain campaign has clearly been taken over by “informal adviser” Rove and the Rove protege/Bush campaign veterans who have taken over the McCain team and message. For four years this site has advocated issue-oriented elections and a rejection of the politics of character definition.
The real dynasty isn’t the Bush dynasty or the Clinton dynasty. It’s the dynasty of campaign strategists — and McCain now is beginning to symbolize the reaffirmation of the Atwater-Rove dynasty of campaigning.
So when it comes time to vote, if I put my vote where my blog posts and personal discussions have been, how can this independent opt for McCain — who with each day seems to be the epitome of the continuation of the kind of negative, Rove-style, character definition politics that many of us independent voters reject?
Before our eyes McCain, who once seemed like an honorable if hot-tempered guy opposed by many in the GOP establishment is morphing into the kind of politician he seemed not to want to be in 2000.
It is change many former McCain supporters don’t want to believe in. But the evidence is now nearly overwhelming that the 2000 McCain has gone the way of massive production of SUVs.
Could he win this way? Most assuredly yes.
But at what price to him and — to the goal of many independent voters of decreased national polarization and governing consensus?