THE BLOG
10/20/2007 08:44 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Features, Bugs and Cheesesteaks

In today's segment of FoB: Is it a feature or a bug, that Rudy Giuliani's campaign hires a Minnesota law enforcement official who's know for using the "N" word? You decide!

This, by the way, ties in nicely with this week's Philadelphia Weekly cover story about Rudy's recent visit to Joey "Speak English" Vento's cheesesteak stand, and what I said when they interviewed me:

Rudy's visit to Geno's was classic 'dog whistle' politics--a symbolic gesture that's clearly understood by your rabid base, but appears innocuous to everyone else. This event had to have been very carefully vetted. The campaign manager, the scheduler and the communications team sits down and has a discussion: Is this a plus or a minus for our guy? What message are we trying to send, to whom? The answer's pretty clear. Rudy's base is white ethnics, and he's aiming for the 'anti-illegal-immigrants' sentiment, which substantially overlaps with the racist vote. Of course no one admits they're seeking the racist vote, so Republican campaigns say it in code.

What pisses me off is how often the lazy media obliges the campaign message machine. They ignore obvious subtext, preferring artificial issues like John Edwards' haircut. If the media challenged these subliminal messages directly--if they could stop talking long enough about whether Hillary Clinton should have cleavage, and instead deal with the rather urgent question of whether Rudy Giuliani is a belligerent authoritarian who's fond of criminals--maybe we'd learn something useful instead.

Yeah, right.

I just have a couple of things to add to that. The first is, just about any neighborhood steak shop in Philadelphia turns out a product as good or better than those sold at the famous Geno's or Pat's cheesesteak stands. And I despise the political tradition of dragging a presidential candidate and his entourage to one of these places for their ritual cheesesteak hazing.

That said, I know that the media and the candidates will continue this endless cycle of bullshit stories. So I want to point out the VERY SIMPLE WAY John Kerry could have handled the Famous Cheesesteak Incident (and really, Dana Milbank, what a silly tool you are for writing these manufactured stories, anyway), in which he asked for Swiss cheese and was promptly and successfully ridiculed by the GOP message machine as a weenie for doing so.

It is this. John Kerry should have looked the first person who dared to ask him about it with a Clint Eastwood-like stare, the one that would have reminded people exactly what he'd seen in Vietnam, and snarled, "Yeah, Swiss cheese.

"You got a fucking problem with that?"

But he didn't. And the rest, as they say, is history.