Quote Of The Day: On McCain’s ‘Obama Is A Celebrity Like Britney’ Ad

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?



  1. Joe said: “Could he win this way? Most assuredly yes.”

    I must disagree. I don't think McCain can win this way.
    It is not so much that because McCain is being Rove negative . . . but the McCain campaign is lacking Rove's laser-like negative focus.

    I recall Rove's campaign in 2004 to get the news media to ask Kerry to explain his flip-flops. Reporters laughed at him, and said: “We aren't going to do you any favors.”
    So Rove re-wrote EVERY Bush speech for two weeks, highlighting the question of Kerry's shifting position. No matter how much they hated Bush/Rove, the liberal MSM could not simply ignore the President of the United States for two weeks in a presidential election.
    So the question got asked of Kerry . . . and his response (“for it before I was against it”) defined the election.

    There is no Rove genius behind McCain. No laser focus of negativity.

    He is throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Obama. Didn't work for HRC, won't for McCain.

  2. He doesn't need to win that way. It doesn't really matter what McCain's strategists have him doing for the time being. (you do realize he operates on orders from time-tested GOP sharks?). They have an ace up their sleeve.

    You know, in case of emergency….break glass…

    There isn't a fire Obama can start that that sucker can't extinguish. It's turbo-charged.

    People shouldn't revel in McCain's apparent apathy and fumbling. They should be worried about it.. To me it's an indication that he intends to win by means other than running a sharp campaign.

  3. People shouldn't revel in McCain's apparent apathy and fumbling. They should be worried about it.. To me it's an indication that he intends to win by means other than running a sharp campaign.

    Sometimes a spade is a spade.

  4. The ad you mention is, I believe not intended to be about Obamas “cleb” status,but rather a cover for the real meaning. I started following elections in 1960-Kennedy/Nixon-and am a 60 year old white man.
    I believe there is an undercurrent in the ad-made by the same people who brought you the Harold Ford “call me” ad-and it is this: Huge crowds shouting O BAM A as we see in the background a huge black(phallic symbol?)-photoshopped to make it look blacker- tower,while we see interspersed pictures of young “hot” white women. One of whom is most known for making a sex tape, the other is known as a southern girl who loves to “partay”. The result intended-IMO-is to reinforce the idea among the selected demographic-older white men with little formal education(IOW sheeple)-that you better watch out because those uppity blacks are after your young-daughters?, lust objects?-white wimmin.(I wonder where the ad is running, what time slots, what networks?) Thus reinforcing the image that these people already have – generalized-of black men(so don't vote for Obama, if you do, you will lose all your young white women(sex objects) to blacks. Subtle message, more refined that the Ford ad, but IMO, very racist.-BTW, I voted for McCain in the 2000 Mi primary, but he has changed so much, ambition has totally claimed him, and I will not vote for him this year. He has lost his honor running these last few ads, and he will lose much more before Nov.

  5. I'll bet this sock-puppet for Obama who claims he supported McCain isn't at all bothered by Obama's rejection of publicly-financed funding. But the sock puppet raves about Rove while other REAL political analysts [like the Washington Post piece today by Eilperin/Barnes] point out McCain is off message more often than not. His handlers can't keep him on the reservation. A real “political analyst” might have noticed that instead of ranting about Rove.

    If this guy considers himself a political analyst, I have some well-watered acreage a few miles west of Boca I'd like to sell him!

    He's an in-the-tank hack/flack for Obama.

  6. CORRECTION: This was an ad about Obama's *** CELEBRITY STATUS ***.

    The fault with it is that McCain was weeks to months too late to run the ad, and it could have even been more critical because Obama's supporters go beyond mere groupie-dom to being worshippers of the man. An even more provocative an ad would show people looking up humbly at Obama with tears in their eyes or acting as robots while he was speaking, or praying on their knees before a picture of him. Perfectly valid even if it's deliberately provocative, and not racist in the least.

    It was this “racist” idiocy by the fringe that was ancitipated and predicted once the ad appeared. We weren't disappointed. Left-wing radio talkers are going crazy (while the looniness of their position is revealed by so many of their left-wing callers-in correcting them and arguing with them about it. But the hosts' minds are made up no matter what the facts are. It's great to imagine the worst about people and anything — while hypocrically saying that “Liberals assume the best about people,” as Bill Press, one of the “racism” idiots, did this morning on his show.

    The left-wing idiots on the radio have already screamed “racism” and because there is no true racism here, they qualify it by saying it's “subtle,” “hidden,” “coded,” and other idiotic lies. (I even heard someone today being obscessed about references to Obama liking Black Forest cake or something like that, and right away this idiot assumed this, too, was “racist.”)

    My only question concerns how much of this nonsense is due to the paranoid delusions of many on the left and how much of it is due to scrambling to find dishonest explanations of any denigration of the Messiah.

  7. Excellent post Joe. I too am an independent and supported McCain in 2000. No way I would support him or vote for him now. I heard someone say today that McCain has been a celebrity since he returned from the POW camp.

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