"It is possible," Gore Vidal once wrote, "for any citizen with time to spare, and a canny eye, to work out what is actually going on, but for the many there is not time, and the network news is the only news even though it may not be news at all but only a series of flashing fictions."
The barbecue media script for this election, a work of unabridged fiction and co-written by the modern Rove Republicans, has crow-barred Senator Obama into the incongruous frame of the exotic effete elitist, irrespective of the fact that, on all counts, he's absolutely none of those things. It's the same script that's been wheeled out during the last several presidential elections -- designed as a way of sculpting reality into a neatly packaged prime time dramatic narrative that both reinforces and exploits fear-based stereotypes.
This week, for example, Cokie Roberts and Michael Crowley, along with a creepy monster squad of Republican stalkers, have been trying to peg Senator Obama's vacation in Hawaii as proof that the script is accurate. Hawaii, they say, is only for exotic elitists. Senator Obama is in Hawaii. Therefore, Senator Obama is an exotic elitist. See how that works?
Never mind that this Hawaii-is-exotic-and-elitist gripe came from a not-elitist millionaire with the not-exotic name "Cokie." This Cokie phenomenon is a solid example of the script's paradoxical, fictitious awfulness. Despite similar griping from the McBush Republicans, the truth is that Senator McCain is far and away the more elitist and exotic of the two candidates. Fact. No bias here.
Let's start with Hawaii and do the list.
Senator McCain met and fell in love with his current wife, Cindy Hensley, while on vacation in... exotic and elitist Hawaii. He was 42, she was 24. He was still married to his first wife at the time, who was disabled as the result of a car accident, by the way. The whole scene -- Hawaii, cheating on a disabled wife with a super-rich beer heiress -- is just about as exotic and elitist as it gets according to the standards of the script.
For the sake of contrast, Senator Obama and Mrs. Obama's biography as a couple is about as ordinary and traditional as Americana itself. No weird cheating or ugly divorces. No trophy heiress nearly half his age. Just an ordinary American love story. How the barbecue media and far-right talk radio has managed to spin the Obamas as the African-American version of Mickey & Mallory is one of the most wicked examples of dishonesty from this dark ride -- worthy of the most backwards of Karl Rove's non-reality-based conspiracies against the truth.
Cindy McCain's beer distributorship pulls in upwards of $300 million annually. Hardly relatable to the middle and working class families who are losing their homes to foreclosure -- one of many consequences of the last 30 years of the Republican war on the middle class. So it's not a stretch to suggest that being married to a woman whose family business is worth a quarter of a billion dollars is -- what's the word? -- unusual? Atypical? Irregular? How about exotic?
Such cash allows for certain not-elitist and not-exotic perks. A private jet for example. According to Mrs. McCain, getting around Arizona is hard work so thank goodness the McCains have their own jet. Just like you and me and the Obamas, right? But maybe it's unfair to badger the McCains about their personal jet airplane. How else are they going to travel around to their eight houses (this one, for example). Walk? Drive a car? That's just silly talk. Senator McCain would totally ruin his not-elitist and not-exotic $520 Italian shoes engaging in such an effort. Then what would he wear while he's hosting SNL or visiting the set of a movie he's appearing in? Jelly shoes from Payless? Yeah right. Try installing Senator McCain's lifts inside of those hideous things.
The only truly "ordinary" thing about Senator McCain is that his first name is "John" (there are just over 5 million guys named "John" in the United States, so they win this one). He's also white. Really, really white. Like, squishy subterranean cave dweller white.
Yet irrespective of what white, upper-class Republicans or Mark Penn or Very Serious Mark Halperin or Pat Buchanan might think, Senator Obama quite literally looks like 21st Century America. Mixed-culture, mixed-heritage, middle class roots. Senator Obama, in terms of his racial composition and family history, has more in common with average Americans than just about any modern Republican presidential nominee.
The only way he's not is if somehow we've been transported into an episode of Leave It To Beaver -- or if by "America" the Republicans and the barbecue media mean to suggest "Kentucky." Even with that as a qualification, half of Senator Obama's racial composition is rooted in rural Kansas. His parents were divorced. He barely knew his biological father.
Now, Cokie, drive down (or have your driver take you) to the nearest Wal-Mart. Line up 100 people and ask them whether they can relate to a man who owns eight houses and whose wife is a gazillionaire, or if they can relate to a man who represents the American melting pot -- a man who just recently paid off his student loans -- a man who was raised by a single mother -- a man who is (shock horror!) still happily married to his only wife. Then drive back (or have your driver take you) down to ABC's Newseum studio this Sunday and look directly into the This Week cameras tell us that Senator Obama is the more exotic or elitist of the two candidates.
And that goes for you, too, Buchanan. (Pat Buchanan has recently been engaging in some concern-trolling by wondering aloud, "Why can't Senator Obama close the deal?" This is one of Buchanan's more subversive race-baiting tricks. The answer he's begging is very likely his favorite lamentation about the senator: "Because he's too exotic.")
The modern Republicans have hijacked the label "real American" and stapled it onto the foreheads of a platoon of phonies. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Mitt Romney, John Sidney McCain, Rush Limbaugh. Hell, even the poster boy for this hillbilly dark ride, Larry the Cable Guy, is a fraud in redneck drag. And the very serious barbecue media has accepted this trickery as reality because it fits perfectly into their antiquated election year narrative.
Throughout the course of this seemingly interminable election cycle, it's been well-documented by various blogotubers that the key to winning this election will be to fight the barbecue media's script -- to debunk the "series of flashing fictions." I would suggest that reversing this "exotic elitist" frame is, to borrow a familiar phrase, a central front in the war on the barbecue media. In the case of Senator Obama, reality is on our side. It's simply a matter of repeating the reality until the script is slowly immolated and the truth rises to the surface. And in the process, perhaps the barbecue media will begin to realize that the modern liberal movement has more in common with "average Americans" than any fraud or flimflam artist the Republicans have dropped onto the stage.