The Plank

Mccain: Gay-baiting, Not Race-baiting

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There's been a lot of speculation that John McCain's latest as has racial overtones. John Riley writes:

We just got off a conference call with Camp McCain, defending their new ad comparing Barack Obama to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

They said they thought the ad was legitimate because Obama is a big celebrity (which happens to be what John McCain was, too, when he came home from Vietnam and started to build his political career), and Britney and Paris were Number 2 and 3.

The problem: Anyone with even a vague sense of pop culture knows that Britney and Paris are yesterday's news. Here's a link to Forbes' Celebrity 100. Paris and Britney don't even make the list any more.

Instead, the top 10, in order: Oprah Winfrey, Tiger Woods, Angelina Jolie, Beyonce Knowles, David Beckham, Johnny Depp, Jay-Z, The Police, JK Rowling, Brad Pitt.

So, they didn't pick other big celebrities, who were either men, or black, or married.

What they picked was two sexually available white women.

I don't really buy this. Obviously McCain picked Paris Hilton and Britney Spears because they're extremely unpopular celebrities.

On the other hand, this statement is a revolting attempt to use gay-baiting to impugn Obama's manliness:

"This is a typically superfluous response from Barack Obama. Like most celebrities, he reacts to fair criticism with a mix of fussiness and hysteria," says McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds

In my book, I explain that Republican campaigns to impugn the character of Democratic presidential nominees have two major themes. The primary one is slipperiness or flip-flopping (which is the subject of my last TRB column.) The secondary theme is to portray the Democrat as effete, intellectual and un-manly. ("Effete" is a common epithet used against Democratic presidential hopefuls of the last two decades, along with "Harvard Boutique," "Blow-dried," "drag queen," and "Breck Girl."

--Jonathan Chait

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