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We Don't Like McCain's Ads, We Americans

Everyone [1] seems [2] to agree [3] that John McCain’s campaign ads are embarrassing and excruciating to watch.  Kaus noted the similarity to Bloomberg’s “can’t we all just get along?” bipartisanship spiel, and I was reminded immediately of every column ever written by David Broder, but let’s hang on a second.  How is it that when Obama says equally vapid things like “we are not as divided as our politics suggests,” he is praised as a demigod and his words become the lyrics to a treacly, saccharine anthem for hipsters, but stupid McCain ads rattling on (and on and on) about the same theme are regarded as insipid and condescending?  Granted, Obama delivers the line with more flair, and the awful announcer in most of the ads sounds like the narrator from a PBS documentary on marsupial grooming habits, but doesn’t it tell us something about the inherent emptiness of the unity talk that both Obama and McCain engage in that we can’t listen to it at length for more than a couple minutes without wanting to throw our computer/TV out the window?

P.S.  Contrary to the developing conventional wisdom, I think the Noah Daniels Powers Boothe-narrated ad [4] was infinitely better than the others that they have rolled out recently, which tells you something about how bad the others are.  The slogan about “the American President Americans have been waiting for” sounds stupid; it is stupid.  But this is why it works much better than lame civics lectures about mutual respect or boring re-tellings of McCain’s inspiring English teacher.  It makes an incredibly simplistic point in a short amount of time.  (The bit in the English teacher ad about McCain counseling forgiveness for a honour code violator is like one of these stories panegyrists tell about the youthful exploits of emperors; it’s as if Washington used the myth about the cherry tree during an election campaign and actually expected people to believe it.)

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3 Comments To "We Don't Like McCain's Ads, We Americans"

#1 Comment By jaloren On April 9, 2008 @ 10:32 am

H.L Mencken defined a demagogue as “one who will preach doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.”

I believe that the winner of the general election will be the more effective demagogue. As always when comparing Obama and McCain’s rhetoric to one another, you must ignore any possible substance (there is almost never any) and focus on the effect that their rhetoric has on their audience.

Both Obama and McCain’s rhetoric appeals to the media in different ways–that’s why they receive such adoring coverage. It also appeals to the masses. So the principal question is: Whose demagoguery will win 270 electoral votes?

At this juncture I believe its still too soon to tell. However, in this instance McCain’s style falls flat while Obama’s soars (unfortunately).

#2 Comment By Elvis Elvisberg On April 9, 2008 @ 11:17 am

The substantive difference between McCain and Obama is that Obama has much more detailed and well-considered policy proposals.

The rhetorical difference between McCain and Obama is that Obama is criticizing the heated language we’ve seen towards political opponents, while McCain, Bush-style, wants us all to come together as patriotic Americans.

Agree or disagree, “we are not as divided as our politics suggests” actually has some meaning– that partisanship for the pure sake of partisanship obscures agreement on some points. “What must a President believe about us. About America? That she is worth protecting?” has no meaning whatsoever.

#3 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On April 9, 2008 @ 11:43 am

Linda Wertheimer on the grooming habits of marsuipials? How titillating!