It is debatable whether or not in the long run the McCain campaign's latest series of ads questioning Sen. Obama's "celebrity" or popularity will make a difference in November. But what is clear is that the Republicans have decided that their newest tack is to focus their energies on belittling Obama by making him into a joke. The added benefit of this strategy is that in defending himself Obama can then be painted as humorless, a further sign that he takes himself too seriously.
The McCain campaign's new "it's all in fun" and "Obama is a joke" tactic is evident from the numerous times in the last week, McCain and many of his surrogates have used the reasoning to defend the Spears/Hilton TV ad as well as the Heston web spot.
ABC News reported this comment from Sen. McCain in an interview a couple of days ago. McCain was commenting on how they are just having fun with the Sen. Obama ads, and he added:
We'll continue to have humor in our campaigns...I kind of enjoy 'em (the ads). You gotta have a sense of humor in this.
Here is what Mitt Romney said about the ads in an interview on CNN today:
John McCain is humorous and it hits the nail on the head. Barack Obama's like an Internet date...
This is McCain's senior adviser Nicolle Wallace talking to reporters on McCain's plane last Friday, referring specifically to the Heston ad:
It was a communication to our supporters and it was kind of a bookend to a week that we thought was very successful and it was the intention to use a bit of humor.
They were not alone in this refrain. It was heard being used by Republican surrogates on several news shows in the last few days, from Joe Lieberman to Pat Buchanan. The message has been the same: Obama is a joke and if he and his supporters don't get the joke, it is further proof that he is taken way too seriously.
The seeds of this tactic began to become evident in the aftermath of The New Yorker cover when many on the right also tried to make the point that Obama's supporters simply didn't understand or were too uptight to get parody and satire.
Right on the heels of the controversy over the magazine's cover. Monica Crowley appeared on "Fox and Friends" and said this about what she perceived to be an overly sensitive reaction:
...The Obamas should have laughed it off. Their expression of disapproval their 'sensitivity,' prompts people to ask, well, what are you so defensive about?
This week the McCain campaign continued with the Obama-as-joke theme by mocking Obama's energy position and his comment on properly inflating tires by distributing tire pressure gauges to the press corps. The gauges were emblazoned with the words "Obama'a Energy Plan," another attempt at humor.
The strategy and its meaning has not gotten past everyone. One theme that resurfaced in some blogs and responses to articles was this, which appeared in the comments section of the "Political Punch" blog on the ABC News website:
The strategy that Camp McCain is trying to use is the belief that the highest level of notoriety/fame an African American can attained in America is that of celebrity. They are tapping into the psyche of a group of Americans who are ONLY comfortable witnessing African Americans ascend to popular status as entertainers and sports legends. Goes back to 'they can only sing and dance.' The underlying theme is RACE, RACE and Negroes, please 'stay in your place.'
So if you cannot understand why McCain used Britney and Paris alongside Obama, the man who has shattered the glass ceiling on what an African American can achieve-- now you know. It's all about psychological exploitation.
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