Sunday, August 03, 2008

Carving Out Space

In standard form for one of its unsigned editorials, the Washington Post has some silly things to say about the current election campaign. The sort of thing that, understandably, would make any self-respecting columnist hesitant to sign the thing:
There was, no doubt, a calculated element of tactical foul-crying in the McCain campaign's loud and immediate protestations that Mr. Obama had not only "played the race card" but dealt it "from the bottom of the deck." This assessment was overstated. But just as the Obama campaign is free to do what it can to counteract the complications of running as the first African American nominee, the McCain campaign needs to carve out space to wage a vigorous campaign without fear of being labeled racist at the slightest criticism.
I agree with the assertion that Obama shouldn't be suggesting that his opponent is making an issue of race when that's not the case. But when I first heard an actual recording of the "dollar bills" comment and found out that Obama used the line to elicit a laugh from his audience, it seemed pretty clear that he was attempting to defuse race as a potential issue, not inject it. And I still don't see how anybody but McCain benefits from making race an issue - as evidenced by his campaign's working overtime to keep it front and center.

Beyond that, as the Post describes,
[McCain]'s not entitled to be dishonest, as he was, for example, in the ad suggesting that Mr. Obama preferred to play basketball rather than visit wounded troops on his trip to Germany.
And boy, was that dishonest. After all, didn't that footage in fact come from a military base? But hold on a second... did you say basketball? You have an ad comparing Obama to two young, white women whose recent media attention has been driven by scandal, followed by an image of him playing basketball (and playing it well)? [Addendum: David Gergen states that McCain's "The One/Messiah" ads are racist "code", adding yet another example to the series of dubious allusions.] With the ads produced by some of the most sophisticated smear artists in the business? Who clearly want race to be an issue? We're supposed to believe that it's all innocent, because the smear artists say so?

If Fred Hiatt and his gang wanted to be honest about what is going on, they would confront the McCain campaign based upon the most reasonable interpretation of their over-the-top statements and continued effort to keep this issue at the top of the news - they're trying to set up a context where when they inject race into the campaign (whether deliberately or accidentally) and Obama responds, they can shrug and say, "There he goes again". Is Hiatt being deliberately obtuse in playing along?

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