Monday, July 14, 2008

Feigned Stupidity

How can you tell that the Obama campaign's reaction to this week's New Yorker cover was insincere? It's simple, the people running the Obama campaign couldn't possibly be this stupid:
"The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Senator Obama's right-wing critics have tried to create," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said.

These guys were smart enough to beat the dreaded Clinton machine, but they needed to have that explained to them? Maybe it's part of a plan to demonstrate that Obama isn't surrounded by a bunch of smarty pants elitists.

I understand that ginned up outrage is a part of modern politics, I just don't understand the need to act so stupid about. Because I assumed that everybody who reads the New Yorker would realize that it was parodying right wing attacks, I didn't find the cover offensive. I can believe that Bill Burton might have been offended, but I don't believe for one minute that he needed to have the New Yorker staff explain it to him. Also, I thought that I had seen similar New Yorker covers in the past, and, it turns out, I had. But, I suppose, there's always the chance that some child would see the cover and be traumatized to see that a presidential candidate is really a terrorist.

Don't worry, this won't affect my vote in any way; I'm still planning to vote for Obama. I just find the whole thing depressing. Not as depressing watching the Democrats send pushovers out to face Republican cutthroats every Sunday morning, but depressing nonetheless. On a political level, I think that the Obama campaign mishandled it. I certainly understand the need for a rapid response to right wing slanders, but this wasn't a right wing slander. It would have been far better, IMO, to let people outside of the campaign express outrage and then give a more measured response.

Oh, if anybody from the Obama campaign is reading this, the line about a child being traumatized was a joke.

I thought I was alone in feeling this way. Thank you for proving that others get it too, and that we should stop pandering to the lowest common denominator.
Well, I suppose I can understand some people -- humorless puritans, people who have been warped by watching too many political talk shows -- taking offense, but I doubt that one New Yorker reader in a thousand would have have failed to recognize the satire. Of course, you could argue that the fact that the intended audience would get the meaning doesn't mitigate the offense. I wouldn't make that argument, at least not in most cases, but I might accept it in some circumstances. If Bill Burton's statement hadn't sounded too stupid to be sincere, I probably wouldn't have posted about it.

Also, I think that people who are turned off by politics are probably as turned off by the manufactured outrage as the mud-slinging, and I think it's a game that Republicans are better at than Democrats. It also strikes me as a misuse of the campaign's rapid-response team. I thought it was supposed to nip rumors in the bud and address opposition distortions before they became accepted as fact rather than rush to take offense.
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