One More Time: Race Excites The Base

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"Even if you never met him, you know this guy. He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by."

--- Karl Rove, describing Barack Obama

When I first read about this comment, my immediate reaction was that I couldn't think of a single country club that would admit a black man named Barack Hussein Obama. Then I thought Rove was doing his usual shtick, i.e., take his greatest weakness and ascribe it to his opponent. In other words, I felt that he was describing George W. Bush at the club, not Obama. Makes much more sense that way, given Bush's history with alcohol -- and his smart mouth. It was much the same technique Rove used to destroy John Kerry's Vietnam war record in 2004, all but accusing the nominee of being a liar and a coward. All this while Bush was hiding his "war record" in plain sight.

But a commenter at Talking Points Memo unpacked Rove's comments differently than me and I think he nails it:

The key to the statement is that (in the image) he is with "a beautiful date." Not Michelle Obama or, in the abstract, his wife, i.e. a wife like Michelle Obama. When you think of a "beautiful date" specifically at a country club, do you picture an African-American woman? Would Rove's target audience?

Or do you picture him there, a black man, smoking a cigarette indoors at a country club, with a white woman on his arm?

When I thought of this, I got a chill. When you think of Obama's vulnerability, I think the primaries showed that race remains a real and very serious obstacle, particularly with white Americans over 50. When you think of where we are with racism in this country, I think its a pretty safe bet that the final freak-out factor to overcome may be black men dating white women, in particular, one's daughter.

If I were a completely amoral Republican operative, I'd try to find some white women that Obama dated before Michelle and get them into the public's stream of consciousness anyway I could. Its a tactic so vile I don't even like speculating about it, but if you want to be ready for the worst, I think Rove just tipped his hand at where they plan to go.

In all fairness, I have to ask if there is (or isn't) the analogous scenario that an "amoral Democratic operative" could spring on McCain? Remember, in order for it to work, it has to resonate at the emotional level and be absolutely radioactive in the extreme. It has to address a fundamental fear that the electorate has about McCain.


shep Author Profile Page said:

"Remember, in order for it to work, it has to resonate at the emotional level and be absolutely radioactive in the extreme. It has to address a fundamental fear that the electorate has about McCain."

Yes, I suppose that a public official cruelly dumping the mother of his children to marry a rich liquor heiress who is young enough to be his daughter just doesn't impress these days.

Guess we'll have to go with "why not a million years [in Iraq]...bomb, bomb Iran," McCain is insane.

Ara Rubyan Author Profile Page said:

Crazy is close to what I'm getting at. But, believe it or not, I'm thinking of something worse.

No, I think it would have to be something to do with his age -- the (as yet unspoken) fear that McCain will die in office.

That said, his VP pick will have to jump over a pretty high bar. Bobby Jindal? Speaking as a Democrat, I hope to God they pick him because it will assure a landslide victory for the Democrats.

And they'll have to pick someone at least as conservative as the Louisiana governor (who has participated in, what do you call it, exorcisms) to pass muster in the run up to the convention.

The press thinks the question is going to be "Is Obama ready?"

The real answer is another question: Is Bobby Jindal -- or pretty much anyone else McCain might pick -- ready?

Romney? If the Republicans wanted him for President, they would have voted that way. But they didn't. Same for Huckabee, same for a whole host of other potential VPs.

Tim Pawlenty for (Vice) President? Is he really ready to be President on Day One? I welcome that discussion.

"Actuarily speaking, is America ready to take a chance on McCain?"

shep Author Profile Page said:

Well, if you think about it, McCain was the best they could find in the entire party for the number one slot.

I still like crazy better than dead. It's a sure thing and it's way scarier.

Ara Rubyan Author Profile Page said:

You make a good point. Too bad they don't poll on "crazy" like they do for "dead."

What's that you say? They don't poll on "dead" either? Well, what do you think they're probing for here?:

Age continues to look like a major hurdle for McCain. Thirty-nine percent of Americans say they'd be uncomfortable with a president first taking office at age 72, far more than say they'd be uncomfortable with a woman (16 percent) or African-American (12 percent) as president.

The greatest risk of losing votes is among those who are "entirely" uncomfortable with the idea; that's 15 percent for a 72-year-old president, vs. 6 and 7 percent, respectively, for a black or female president. Slightly more seniors say they'd be entirely uncomfortable with a president that age, 20 percent, as do adults under 65, 14 percent.

Well, I don't know where they get "slightly more." The difference between 20 percent and 14 percent is half-again as large a group (although we don't know the size of the sample in either case).

My hunch is that people feel like McCain is tempting fate and they simply don't want to go along for THAT ride.

Ara Rubyan Author Profile Page said:

FWIW, Miss Julie momentarily thought that Rove was talking about another guy he hates: John McCain.

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