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Celebrities mocking celebrities

Democratic Voices

Posted: August 12, 2008 1:15 p.m.
Updated: October 13, 2008 5:01 a.m.
I opened my last two columns with my thoughts on this being the best presidential election ever.

We have been treated to the historic contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination. We were entertained by the B-list candidates the Republican Party threw at us - and who would not be amused by a contest that featured a doddering actor, a serial adulterer, a wacky preacher, a zillionaire businessman and Sen. John McCain.

The fact that Sen. McCain was able to rise from the political ashes and win his party's nomination says a lot about the quality of his opponents. But about him, not so much.

In any case, it was shaping up to be a substantive campaign on the issues. The economy, energy policy, war and foreign policy, health care, deficits, torture, and the executive branch assault on the Constitution have the United States in crisis mode, affecting every American citizen. This is an important election, and I expected serious candidates for a serious job to treat it as such.

Sadly, John McCain and the Karl Rove acolytes now running his campaign have decided that flag pins and tire gauges are what voters should be talking about. Typical of Roveian campaign strategy, an opponent's strengths must be mocked and diminished before the final wall of mud is applied to bury their candidacies.
The issue chosen to tarnish Sen. Obama is "celebrity."

Sen. McCain and his surrogates are trying hard, gamely sticking to their talking points, but this time the smear tactic does not appear to be working as well as it has in past campaigns.

The Swift Boat lies against Kerry may have been repugnant, malicious and the low-water mark in political attacks, but they were effective.

They drove the media narrative for months leading up to the conventions, they allowed self-proclaimed Republican uber-patriots to mock the Purple Heart medal with impunity during their convention, and they painted Kerry into a defensive political corner.

By contrast, this attack on Sen. Obama's "celebrity" seems hypocritical, lame and out of step considering the serious issues facing America and the world today.

Sen. Obama went to Iraq, met with world leaders and capped his foreign tour with a speech to 200,000 cheering Europeans. That same day Sen. McCain met with dozens of mall-goers at Schmidt's Sausage Haus.

One can clearly see why the McCain brain trust saw the need to attack Obama's celebrity; he is using it to talk about the issues and spread his message of hope for the future.

John McCain is running in the past and has embraced the failed policies of the Bush administration. By attacking Obama's strength, his ability to draw huge crowds and his charismatic effect on them - his "celebrity" - McCain hoped to shape the media narrative and diminish Obama and the Democratic Party.
Instead, and in delicious irony, he has done what I believed to be impossible: He has given Paris Hilton the opportunity to appear clever, witty and intelligent.

Responding to an ad run by "that wrinkly, white-haired guy," Ms. Hilton and the folks at have made a terrific political video in which they not only solve the energy crisis, they decide where to get the best tan (Maui).

When the major premise of your campaign can be brilliantly and successfully mocked by Paris Hilton, your campaign is in serious trouble.

It is interesting that the same Republican Party that has given us a presidential candidate with 51 television and film credits listed on the Internet Movie Database would consider celebrity a liability.
Fred "Gopher" Grandy, Fred "Dalton" Thompson, Arnold "Governor" Schwartzenegger and Ronald "Bonzo" Reagan might disagree on the whole "celebrity is a bad thing" attack ads.

Barrack Obama and John McCain are competing to be the next president of the United States; one of them will be the leader of the free world and the most powerful man on the planet.

Both men are followed 24/7 by television, print and Internet reporters; every word they utter in public is dissected by "experts"; celebrity is the default setting for American presidential candidates.

Either the Right Wing Noise Machine has lost a step politically, or it just can't get excited enough about electing "the white-haired dude" to gin up some decent lies - or both.

We'll see how and what they do after the Olympics (USA! USA! USA!) and the conventions, when the rest of the country finally engages in the race.

Kevin Buck is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal. "Democratic Voices" runs Tuesday in The Signal and rotates among several SCV Democrats.


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