Monday, May 19, 2008

Big Talk.

Barack Obama is the latest politician to draw the line in the sand and demand that his family be left out of the political fray. Apparently Michelle Obama left a remark out there that was turned into a sound bite that is making its rounds among conservatives.

The sound bite in question features Mrs. Obama stating that for the first time in her adult life she is proud of this country. Of course the Red State take on that comment is that Mrs. Obama has spent a solid 20 years not being proud of her country which is supposedly a bad thing. It doesn’t matter that most Americans aren’t particularly proud of their country, people in politics are supposed to beam with nationalistic pride.

The video is nothing more than a partisan bone for conservative pundits to wrestle over. It’s not going to scare away any Democrats who weren’t already frightened by the fact that Obama happens to be black. However, the fact that Mrs. Obama is now in the crosshairs of conservative critics rightfully bothers the Democratic frontrunner.

He recently issued the obligatory “hands off” ultimatum. Of course there’s nothing he can do about it. His wife is out there on the publicity tour talking to thousands of people. She’s an intelligent woman who might have political aspirations of her own someday. Michelle Obama is fair game and Barack knows it.

So why the posturing? Because that’s part of the game too. If Barack Obama doesn’t puff out his chest and defend his wife he looks weak and that could hurt him more than anything Jeremiah Wright has to say. A man who isn’t willing to go to bat for his family isn’t a man and can’t be trusted to run the country. Not even when our current president never had a real job and spent more time partying than he did parenting.

Both Bill and Hillary Clinton played that card with Chelsea, although it played better for Bill because Chelsea was a child when he was campaigning. Now Chelsea is a young woman who is out there stumping for her mother. Still, when people put her on the spot Hillary voiced her displeasure. George W. Bush drew the same line with his binge-drinking daughters. It’s become such a typical part of the process that one has to wonder if the attacks on family aren’t instigated internally.

It’s funny because there is absolutely nothing these candidates can do about it. If a columnist lambastes Michelle Obama what’s Barack going to do about it? The Constitution prevents Barack from taking legal action and the basic laws of society prohibit physical assault. Barack is powerless to defend his wife and given the fact that his wife is pretty much on her own, he shouldn’t have too.

Bill Clinton couldn’t do anything about the pundits, like Rush Limbaugh, who took shots at his daughter while he was in office and George W. Bush had more trouble keeping his daughters out if trouble and in their pants than he had with critics who wanted to hurt him by attacking them.

Political opponents loath to play that game because attacking a candidate’s family tends to backfire. George H.W. Bush tried to question Hillary Clinton’s influence over Bill and it cost him a lot of points among women. And that was Hillary, nobody likes her. So John McCain isn’t going to put Michelle Obama in his crosshairs. That’s a dangerous gamble.

It’s OK for people like Glen Beck and Ann Coulter to stir that pot; they live in the muck and have no credibility. Aside from a handful of marginally retarded fans, nobody cares what they have to say. They’ll get the mindless masses worked into a frenzy but it’s only going to reinforce votes that were already iron clad. That’s assuming there isn’t a sale on Skoal on election day.

It would have been refreshing for Obama to laugh the criticism off and dismiss it as petty but that’s something McCain would have jumped on. As silly as it is, not acting macho would have given mainstream Republicans plenty of ammunition to question Obama’s courage. People don’t have time for nuance and they don’t like to think about the big picture. Barack Obama has to take a stand and defend the honor of his wife even though she seems perfectly capable of fighting her own battles…even though there’s nothing he Obama can do about it.

Those are the rules of the game and the game is played for your enjoyment. It’s too bad that we spend so much time obsessing about these petty antics and important issues get pushed to the side.

No comments: