The Corner

Cynicism! The Horror.

After backing down from his accusation that the McCain campaign was engaging in racism — the worst sin in our current morality — you would think that Barack Obama would have the good sense to apologize, or just say nothing more. But no, Barry himself announced that, if it wasn’t racism, the McCain campaign was certainly guilty of cynicism. Cynicism! In politics! Not that. Can you believe it?

My own personal definition of cynicism is met by behavior in which you attempt to conflate any, as yet potential, criticism with racism. You would think that Barack’s campaign would understand this above all things. If they respond to too many substantive criticisms by bringing up racism, they will alienate many voters, who might be attracted to Obama as an individual. No one knows where the line is, but it is in Barack’s interest to keep things as “post-racial” as they can be. He knows this, of course, or did, when he wrote his book, The Audacity of Hope. In it, in a discussion of affirmative-action policies which is analyzed at length and with a modicum of objectivity in today’s New York Times, he warned that, “white guilt has largely exhausted itself in America.” (FYI, Barry is for affirmative action, but sympathetic to those who oppose it, especially talented minority members who worry that people will suspect they got ahead without equal merit. Both ways, as always.)

It is also extremely cynical to attempt to ward off any possible challenge to his qualification for high office, to the content of his resume, and the content of his policy positions, by telling audiences that Republicans are mean, so we have to discredit them before they show up to “swiftboat” us. Everyone in the room must have thought this was a clever tactic when someone suggested it six months ago. But now it’s really old.

By the way, “swiftboating” only works when the accusation is true. It requires that the candidate lied about or exaggerated previous actions or policies. The practice that the Obama campaign should want to avoid is slightly different. It is the one in which normal activities, decency and intellectual interests are made to seem suspect, lurid or politically extreme. The name for that is “Borking,” and it is a Democrat specialty.

This all came up around the McCain campaign commercials that mocked Barry’s celebrity and the messianic overtones of his campaign. Those were clearly the most effective commercials the McCain campaign has put out — ever. The celebrity one made a clever point. The “The One” ad was brilliant. It was very funny. Funny attracts younger voters. It demonstrated a very disturbing pattern in Barry’s campaign rhetoric and self-conception. It shattered the emotional manipulation on which the Obama campaign is based. And it mocked him. There is time for substantive critiques of his economic and defense policies. As Richard Nixon, who thought a lot about these things, always said, politicians can recover from almost anything but being laughed at.

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