The Denunciation Game

You can't run for president these days without a lot of money, a strong You Tube presence, and of course denouncing someone or something thing every time you turn around. It's become almost a sport. Here's the formula:

Person X (somehow connected to Candidate Y) says blah blah blah.

Candidate Y then denounces Person X's comments, calls them horrible, reminds everyone he/she doesn't stand for the politics of personal destruction, but rather the politics of hope.

That's pretty much how it goes. Conventional Wisdom says the quicker you do this the better, to get it out of the news cycle. Sometimes Person X has to quit being affiliated with Candidate Y. Sometimes not.

The main thrust is to get out of the news cycle. Everyone seems to agree on this. As one inside political operative I talked to this week said, "Why turn a one day story into a four day story?"

(picture courtesy of the white devil)

For example, Barack Obama's pastor (Reverend Wright) gave a lifetime achievement award (named after the reverend himself) to Louis Farrakhan. This caused Obama some minor problems the notion that Obama might be Muslim. Much more problematic is that Farrakhan has said some of the most outlandish things of any public figure in America this century. He practically makes Pat Robertson Amish, and folks: that's hard to do.

At first Obama was able to skirt the controversy, but it came back up again recently, when Obama was endorsed by Farrakhan. This led to Obama quickly denouncing the endorsement.

(You watch: getting unsavory characters to give public endorsements of your enemies could become a cottage industry.)

I'm not accusing Hillary Clinton of setting up the endorsement, although no one would be shocked if she had. The point is: for whatever reason Obama has not had the press all over his past as of yet, and doesn't need that, so his denunciation was quick and harsh. Not sure what more he could do, but mark my words: this will come up again.

Some would say unfairly. After all, it's not like Obama is hanging out with Farrakhan talking about the white devil. Then again, some would say if Obama is going to stand behind his pastor who goes around giving awards to someone so overtly racist, well, that's an issue. After all, if McCain had a pastor giving awards to a Klansman, that would probably reflect on John McCain. (And don't even begin to tell me that Farrakhan and a wizard of the KKK aren't virtually the same thing.)

I'm not taking sides, but I repeat: this one will NOT go away.

Next we have an issue related to the issue, this time centered at Obama. Last month conservative radio talk show host Bill Cunningham was warming up a McCain crowd (McCain wasn't there), and repeatedly called Obama, "Barack Hussein Obama," with a heavy emphasis on his middle name.

(Terrorist? Or just really dorky crossing guard?)

This happened close to the same time that "someone," and most people think it was a Clinton person, released a photo of Obama over in Africa, wearing traditional Sudanese garb, as politicians are wont to do. More importantly, the picture included a turban! [Gasp!] I mention this because both Clinton's camp and Cunningham had the same response when questioned.

Basically, Cunningham said, and I'm paraphrasing, "Well, that's his middle name, isn't it? Is he ashamed of it? I'm not criticizing his name. That's his name and he should be proud!" The Clinton staffer had a similar response to the picture (again, paraphrased), "What's wrong with the picture? Are you saying there is something wrong with the picture? We're not?"

Both situations remind me of someone making a clear sexual entendre, and then when called on it, angrily saying, "I wasn't saying anything of the kind. It's YOUR dirty mind that went there. So, who's really the pervert?"

Look: Hussein IS Obama's middle name. And it happens to be Saddam Hussein's last name. And it happens to be a common name for many Muslim people around the world. That's just the way it is. Obama knew he would face this, and in some ways the continued controversy is his own choosing.

I said last year, before Obama mania was even thought of, that if Barack Obama had really wanted to be president, he should have changed his name back in 2002. Changed it to Brock Alabama, or at least Barack Alabama. Now, you laugh at such a name, straight out of a Keanu Reeves movie, but I'm right about this. People would now call him Alabama, and with Obama's rhetorical and people skills, and everything else he brings to the table? He wins in a landslide.

(the closest Keanu ever comes to the presidency)

(And don't' tell me that his old name would continually come up. It would come up once or twice and then we'd let it go. Do we call Whoopi Goldberg Karyn White? Are you a Marion Morrison fan, or just root for John Wayne? Ever thump in your car to Cordozar Broadus? Or do you just call him Snoop? People accept the name they are given.)

Of course, I can just see outraged people yelping that "Obama shouldn't have to deny his heritage." You're right. He shouldn't. (Although: he's half white, so you could argue that Barack Alabama would be a perfect mix. Why is it that half-white people are always considered 100% black? Well; best leave that to another day.)

The point: Obama didn't need to change his name. And look: low and behold: how awesome is he doing without doing so? However, this issue will continue to plague him until he is more open and forceful about it. Ignore my cool advice all he wants, but he has to deal with it if he gets to the general election.

Back to the picture and the radio guy. I don't know what's in Bill Cunningham's heart, but I suspect he was either trying to tie Obama to that name, or at least mock the man and his people. In either case, he's certainly not just trying to call the guy by his name, and anyone pretending it's innocent is disingenuous. It is racist, in the sense that because Obama is some shade of brown, people are hoping to tie in that fact to the name, and play on people's vague fears of terrorism.

For his part, McCain, before he'd even heard the remarks, denounced them and everything about them. Whatever criticisms you have of the guy, you have to give him this; he's not a hair-pulling dirt-roller. After McCain did his denouncement, Cunningham attacked McCain! Since Cunningham was at a McCain rally, he had to know that was coming, which makes you think: maybe that was his purpose all along: getting coverage to attack McCain.

As for the picture, since it wasn't provable the media laughed about it for two days and it went away. Maybe Clinton tries something like that again. She certainly has brought race into the picture more than once.

This brings me to the last two "denouncements" I want to talk about, the "monster" comment from Obama's camp, and the Ferraro comment about Obama being where he is because he's black. In all the cases above the candidate did not have much choice but to disassociate, but these two instances are different, and worth exploring more in-depth. However, as this is running long, I will post the rest of my thoughts later in the day.

Until then, look out for the white devil, Bill Cunningham, and Johnny Utah. All things equal, you just can't trust 'em.

March 13, 2008


Anonymous said...

I'd have to agree with what G Ferraro was saying. The problem was she didn't phrase it correctly. Basically what she was saying is that Barack has a segment of the population voting for him that Hillary can't get her hands on. The black population overwhelmingly is voting for Obama and not for Hillary.

Think of it this way. Say back in the early 1900's there weren't many Irish people in public office. Suddenly some Irish guy runs for office. All of these Irish constituents say 'hey we need one of our own Irishmen to represent us in office' - So, lets all vote for him.

This is the same thing, it's almost a novelty.

Now that there have been hundreds of Irishmen in office it's no big deal anymore and people vote more or less based on candidates positions rather than their heritage. If there had already been 5 Black Presidents in the US, it would be different. Black people would be voting based on positions rather than on skin color.

Anonymous said...

In theory I agree with what Ferraro was saying, only in the sense that Obama would be in a different situation if he was not black. Let's face it, no matter how much we don't want it to, skin color does affect how many people vote.

The real question is whether Obama would be better or worse off? Sure, the majority of blacks are voting for him, but are they making a difference in the outcomes of the primaries--meaning would he have won anyway, or would he have lost states that didn't have a high delegate count? Would he have won other states?

Furthermore, does his skin color affect the way that white people or hispanics vote? How many people really are racists who would not vote for a black man? How many whites feel guilty because of our history and vote for him to alleviate that? How many would think that getting a black in office would eliminate any justification for blacks to complain about unfair treatment?

I think the situation is fairly complicated and a lot of conjecture can be made. Who can really say?

In the end, what I think we should strive for is to just argue the issues and leave race out of it.

One caveat: If Obama himself brings up race, then it's fair game. For example, it is a legitimate to ask why Obama reveres Jeramiah Wright. Which church he attends is a choice that Obama made, and I think it is totally relevant because the value system taught there will influence the decisions that he makes.