Learning about the Candidates
As the general Presidential election campaign proceeds, voters, especially young ones, are going to be learning more about who the two candidates are. John McCain has been around for a long time, but his positions and record are actually not that well known outside of Arizona, particularly among young voters. Barack Obama is so new on the scene that everyone has much to learn about him. Both campaigns, and their surrogates, are working to make the candidates better known to the voters, painting a positive picture of their own man and a negative picture of the other.
The McCain camp portrays their man as a Vietnam War hero who is tough on national security and long on international experience, with a history of reaching across the aisle and being independent of party domination. The most noted aspect of McCain's heroism is his defiant survival during five years of North Vietnamese imprisonment. But quietly in the background, there have always been those who question the affect his imprisonment has had on his psychological makeup. Coming from a family with several generations of naval officers makes it easier to understand why McCain's concept of national security includes the perpetual military occupation of any nation we subdue for whatever reason.
McCain's bi-partisanship has been limited to only a few areas, while his overall voting record is essentially quite conservative, with occasional eccentric lapses that have garnered him the maverick label he relishes. The Obama campaign has done a good job of boxing McCain into the frame of running for the third term of George Bush, on whose side he has voted 95% of the time. To young voters, it is obvious from the start that in McCain they would be getting an old, awkward white man who has been around Congress forever and who does seem to represent more of the same failed Bush style Republicanism.
Barack Obama continues to be of more interest to voters, because he is fresh, young and not just another white man. He is a central casting gem for the role of a legitimate change agent. His personal story is fascinating in its diversity of experience. His intelligence, understanding, eloquence and dedication to progressive ideals is inspiring. But the full reality of his story is not known by most voters. The Obama campaign must get his personal story across to voters in the next few months, while also stifling the many false rumors that are being spread against him and his wife.
The anti-progressive right has falsely labeled Obama as the most liberal member of the Senate, but if the majority of voters actually compared the positions of Obama and McCain on the issues, without letting anyone label the positions as liberal or conservative, they would see they are actually more in agreement with Obama.
The Obama campaign has started a web site, FightTheSmears.com, to correct false stories being disseminated about the Obamas. Chris in Bangkok has sent me an interesting piece from Christopher Beam, a political reporter at Slate, who does not think the rumor squelching site is a good idea and suggests instead a satirical treatment. I don't agree with Beam, because voters sophisticated enough to appreciate the satire don't fall for stupid rumors. But the humor is great and my reader [s?] are sophisticated enough to get it, so below is what Beam wrote.
The Barack Obama presidential campaign introduced a new site last week, FightTheSmears.com, that it hopes will debunk persistent myths about the senator: that he's a Muslim, that he won't say the Pledge of Allegiance, etc. As we have argued before, restating the myths often reinforces them, no matter how persuasively they've been refuted.
Rather than restate untruths about Obama, the campaign would do better to start some rumors of its own. Here's a template e-mail the Obama campaign might consider disseminating.
Subject: WHO IS BARACK OBAMA?
There are many things people do not know about BARACK OBAMA. It is every American's duty to read this message and pass it along to all of their friends and loved ones.
Barack Obama wears a FLAG PIN at all times. Even in the shower.
Barack Obama says the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE every time he sees an American flag. He also ends every sentence by saying, "WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL." Click here for video of Obama quietly mouthing the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE in his sleep.
A tape exists of Michelle Obama saying the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE at a conference on PATRIOTISM.
Every weekend, Barack and Michelle take their daughters HUNTING.
Barack Obama is a PATRIOTIC AMERICAN. He has one HAND over his HEART at all times. He occasionally switches when one arm gets tired, which is almost never because he is STRONG.
Barack Obama has the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE tattooed on his stomach. It's upside-down, so he can read it while doing sit-ups.
There's only one artist on Barack Obama's iPod: FRANCIS SCOTT KEY.
Barack Obama is a DEVOUT CHRISTIAN. His favorite book is the BIBLE, which he has memorized. His name means HE WHO LOVES JESUS in the ancient language of Aramaic. He is PROUD that Jesus was an American.
Barack Obama goes to church every morning. He goes to church every afternoon. He goes to church every evening. He is IN CHURCH RIGHT NOW.
Barack Obama's new airplane includes a conference room, a kitchen, and a MEGACHURCH.
Barack Obama's skin is the color of AMERICAN SOIL.
Barack Obama buys AMERICAN STUFF. He owns a FORD, a BASEBALL TEAM, and a COMPUTER HE BUILT HIMSELF FROM AMERICAN PARTS. He travels mostly by FORKLIFT.
Barack Obama says that Americans cling to GUNS and RELIGION because they are AWESOME.