By David Sirota
Author of “The Uprising: An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt”
Last night, I appeared on Rachel Maddow’s new MSNBC show to discuss John McCain’s new ad attacking Barack Obama on education. You can watch the discussion here:
In airing this ad, McCain has done something I never thought I would see: He has sponsored a new television commercial that effectively declares his support for child molester rights.
I’m dead serious here: The ad explicitly criticizes Obama for supporting state legislation that the Kansas City Star notes was designed to give “schools the ability to warn young children about inappropriate touching and sexual predators.”
So by basic logical deduction, then, McCain’s ad attacking Obama for supporting that bill means McCain would have opposed it – meaning he would have taken the side of the Pedophilia Lobby that wants young children to not understand when they are being molested. I’m wondering – is there a NAMBLA endorsement in the works for McCain? The Arizona senator sure seems to be courting that interest group with this latest declaration.
Of course, McCain’s ad is aimed at pushing the kind of cultural populism Republicans have been using for at least a generation. In this case, McCain is willing to put himself on record as supporting child molesters, as long as it helps him depict Obama as not just a child molester supporter, but a child molester himself – which is what the ad’s voiceover basically suggests when it hysterically implies State Senator Obama tried to fondle small schoolchildren while whispering sweet porn nothings into their ear.
Put into pop culture terms, this is McCain’s effort to turn the 2008 presidential campaign into the infamous, multi-part Different Strokes child molester episode – starring Barack Obama as the pedophile.
On Rachel’s show last night, we discussed how Obama can – and should – respond to this kind of cultural populism. I reiterated that, in general, he needs to do what I suggested in a newspaper column a few months back: namely, voice strong economic populist themes that keep the campaign debate focused on the issues of most import, and that Democrats win on.
In specifically responding to this ad, I told Rachel that Obama has to learn a lesson from perhaps the most famous of failed methods of responding to such issues – the one from the 1988 presidential debate, where Michael Dukakis answered Bernard Shaw’s question about raping and murdering Kitty Dukakis not with an emotional attack on Shaw’s inappropriate inquiry, but with dispassionate platitudes. Watch that moment here:
If Obama reacts forcefully and emotionally to McCain’s ad – not through a spokesman but on his own – he could make this ad and the right’s whole cultural populist meme backfire on McCain. But that’s a big if.
As one addendum: If you haven’t checked out Rachel’s new show, you should. It’s great – fast-paced, funny, informative – and anchored by a real movement progressive. It’s also doing really well in its first few days of ratings.
This blog was first published on Huffington Post
Posted September 10, 2008 at 7:35 pm, in From David Sirota