Archive for August 1st, 2008

Negative and, well, weird

August 1, 2008

When I posted yesterday on McCain’s “low road strategy”, I was a bit surprised by the latest attack ad, called “celeb” for another reason. It felt distinctly weird.

For one thing, who would buy the idea that a Harvard law graduate — indeed, editor of the Harbard Law Review, which signifies that he wasn’t any old law graduate — is as shallow as Paris and Britney? And then, why make an ad that highlights just how popular your opponent is?

The Obama campaign responded with humour:

“On a day when major news organizations across the country are taking Senator McCain to task for a steady stream of false, negative attacks, his campaign has launched yet another. Or, as some might say, ‘Oops! He did it again.’”

Others have noted more sinister messages. The spot has been compared to this:

Well, you know, massed crowd of Germans chanting in support of charismatic leader with classical monument in background… Not sure about that one.

US blogger Chris Bowers says that McCain has, “just played an entire campaign’s worth of identity politics in a single ad.” He believes the comparison with the sexually active young blondes suggest:

  • Obama is a girly-man.
  • Obama will sleep with your white daughters.
  • Obama is too young.
  • Obama is a Hollywood liberal.

I’d say the sexism is in the use of two women to suggest shallowness and preening celebrity. No male role models of that type were available. Yeah right.

Even former McCain strategist John Weaver has criticised the ad, calling it “childish.”

“John’s been a celebrity ever since he was shot down,” Weaver said. “There is legitimate mockery of a political campaign now, and it isn’t at Obama’s. For McCain’s sake, this tomfoolery needs to stop.”

Comedian Steve Young jokes that “Satirists Refuse to Spoof “The Spoofiest Campaign Commercial…Ever”. Sacha Baron Cohen: “I can’t tell if they’re joking.” But that’s the whole point of the exercise. The ad gets the pundits chewing over the latest Republican attack line (“no, he’s not really a preening celecbrity..”) and gets coverage way beyond the time bought to air it.

Bottom line: McCain is an arsehole.

[Update: William Bradley at HuffPo has a go at explaining the sudden burst of negative advertising from the McCain campaign.]

Peters saga & media conspiracy

August 1, 2008

Winston Peters’ struggle to avoid scrutiny plumbed new depths yesterday. Or, if you’re a Peters supporter, Winnie’s epic struggle with the media widened.

In Parliament, Peters dredged up a series of allegations against Rodney Hide, who seemed to be taunting him to do so.

It has to be said that Hide has been one of the chief beneficiaries of the whole saga, National’s hands being tied because (1) they might need Peters’ support in a few months time and (2) they’re the all-time NZ champions at taking large secret donations from vested interests. This exposure, and a degree of sympathy arising from the attempt at character assassination, may well boost Hide’s poll ratings.

Leaving aside the allegations of a sexual nature, in which I have no interest and nor should anyone else, the substantive allegations included:

  • Trading a large legal bill incurred in ousting convicted fraudster Donna Awatere Huata from Parliament in exchange for bringing an Asian MP into Parliament before the last election, with the party’s “Asian chapter” paying the bill.
  • Free telephone accounts when Roderick Deane was the chairman of Telecom.

These are serious allegations. Can we expect the media to pursue these matters with the same vigour that they have used to pursue similar allegations against Peters? I doubt it.

In which respect, from Espiner’s report (linked above):

“Peters again refused to talk to reporters, calling them “morons” for questioning him on revelations of a $19,998 donation to his party’s bank account in 1999 that was not disclosed to the Electoral Commission.”

Espiner knows full well that this is almost certainly two or more donations, and that there is therefore no story. He’s not a “moron”, as Peters put it, but he is knowingly beating up a hollow story and in the process adding fuel to Peters’ narrative of persecution by the media. Not a good look.

And for those of you without access to the hard-copy Herald, the Peters/Hide story is on page 2, and it’s billed as “Peters and Hide get personal in Parliament.” That’s all. Just a tiff. You can all go home now. Nothing to see here.