Wednesday, April 16, 2008

News Coverage of Bush's Torture and Obama's Bitterness

If you go to the Google "News" page and type in the search words "Bush Torture", you will get about 4032 search results. If you type in the words "Obama bitter" you will get about 7796 search results. This gives you a rough idea of how much play Obama's ill-chosen remarks in San Fransico are getting compared to the fact that the President' of the United States may have personally authorized interrogation methods that are considered by the U.S. military to be torture.

Now, of course, there are a lot of reasons for that. One of them is that both the Clinton campaign and the McCain campaign are pushing Obama's remarks. If, for example, you add the word "Clinton" to the search terms "Obama bitter", the search results number 7118, whereas if you add "Clinton" to "Bush torture", you get 548 results. Adding the word "McCain" to the words "Obama bitter" and you get 5536 results. Add the same word to "Bush torture" and you get 544 results. This is a rough way of showing that both McCain and Clinton are going after Obama on his remarks. As any school kid will tell you, being in a fight where two are ganged up on one is no fun and, usually, the one loses the fight.

Apparently Clinton has decided that the way to get the nomination is to run the same kind of campaign against Obama that McCain will run against him in the fall: Push the theme that Obama is not really like "us", whoever "us" happens to be. This is the same theme that was used by Republicans against George McGovern in 1972; Walter Mondale in 1984; Micheal Dukakis in 1988; Al Gore in 2000; and John Kerry in 2004. It obviously works for Republicans. Whether it works for a Democrat to use against another Democrat is open to debate, but we will see.

Of course, one reason why it works is that the media never calls a candidate on its use. The media didn't point out in 2000 and 2004 that good ole' George W. Bush was the product of an upper-class upbringing whose father and friends bailed him out of every problem he ever encountered and who made millions off of Texas baseball by being a president's son.

Clinton might also get away with it. Run the words "Clinton millionaire" and you get about 119 search results. So, apparently, the media isn't going out and reminding voters that Clinton is a very wealthy person.

All of this is not to say that I think that Obama's remarks are not subjects of legitimate political debate. Since Republicans are certainly going to use them in the fall, we might as well see how it plays in the spring. I also happen to think that Bill Clinton's support of NAFTA and his activities with Monica Lewinksy are also legitimate subjects of political debate, and for the same reason. Republicans are going to use them in the fall and we might as well see how they also play in the spring.

The solution for Obama isn't to play defense, it is to play offense. What Obama should do is run a 30 second spot in both Pennslyvania and Indiana that says something like "I don't need to be lectured on elitism by a woman whose husband shipped millions of good jobs to Mexico by supporting NAFTA and who has made millions out of being married to that same man." My guess is that about a week of those ads would go a long way to stopping Clinton's use of his San Fransico remarks.

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