Monday, August 04, 2008

Why So Serious?

Regarding the left's reaction to the John McCain Spears/Hilton ad, Bob Somerby says we screwed it up:
Instead of laughing at the ad and saying it showed that McCain is a fly-weight, we did what we most love to do — we started a fight about race, casting ourselves as the high-minded party and squealing, shrieking, complaining and yelping about McCain's misconduct.

To which Kevin Drum responds:
Bob's post gets at a critical point: one of the lessons that liberals learned from the 2004 election is that laughing it off is never the right reaction. No matter the subject, the right response is to hit back often and hard, and the oftener and harder the better. That, I think, was behind the reaction to the Britney/Paris ad.

But (and maybe I'm misreading Somerby and/or Drum here) I don't think those two instincts are necessarily in opposition. One can use humor in quite vicious ways, and I think Somerby is right that McCain's ad opened himself up to that sort of attack. Certainly, one can dismiss certain types of attacks as frivolous and thus "laugh them off", and that might be an instinct that Democrats were hurt by in 2004. But I think a hard response that focuses on the utter triviality of McCain's argument here might (might!) have worked, and certainly isn't philosophically inconsistent with a policy of "hit back hard, hit back often."


Unknown said...

The Obama campaign certainly chose to focus on the utter triviality aspect in their responses, and I'm guessing they've won more primaries than most of these bloggers [/snark].

PG said...

As Joe notes, the Obama campaign made the right move on this. I think Democrats can hit back and hit hard without raising the issue of race prematurely. As Bob Herbert noted (after stressing the Celebrity ad's racial aspect too hard), having race come up in this campaign never is a winner for Obama. There are too many white people in this country, most of whom are extremely defensive about being called a racist, for that to work.