"Race" For The White House: Who's Driving The Straight Talk Express? genre: Polispeak

I suspect that John McCain is no longer the driver of the straight-talk express. I say as much in light of two developments. One, in the last few weeks, the McCain campaign has been retooled with a number of former Bush campaign operatives...operatives who cut their teeth under the tutelage of Karl Rove.

I would equate it with the principle of, "If you can't fight them, join them." McCain, struggling to gain traction in light of the Obama campaigns ability to control the news cycle, has apparently opted to hand over the reigns to the folks who assisted George Bush in negatively defining John Kerry, the Democratic nominee in 2004.

The second piece of evidence is far more subtle but it may also be far more telling. Take a look at the following video. First, I note that McCain opted against speaking to the media as a group regarding his campaign's assertion that Obama has played the race card. Instead, McCain spoke very briefly with CNN's John King in what seemed to be a forced performance by a man uncomfortable with the task at hand.

Most telling is McCain's evasive and pained response to King's final remark. When King shares the Obama campaign's view - "They say that's not the case" - McCain offers no further justification for his views. Instead, McCain simply states, "OK John, I'll let the American people judge." I see this timid and tepid response as evidence that McCain may not be completely comfortable with the assertions being made by his handlers.

My impression is that McCain's strategists believe they can make race an issue by saying it shouldn't be an issue. In fact, I suspect the goal has been to find the right opening to accuse the Obama campaign of injecting race into the campaign. Once identified, the plan was to quickly express outrage while positioning their candidate to claim the moral high ground.

In other words, they want the question of Obama's race to be viewed by voters as an integral part of an Obama persona that views whites in a manner consistent with the now infamous statements of his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Obama needs to be seem as the angry black man who has an axe to grind with the white establishment. If they can succeed, they believe some white voters will be turned off at the prospect of a black man having the power to exact some level of retribution.

The sad reality is that the McCain campaign knows exactly who they are targeting and what they are attempting to achieve. They also know that it must be achieved without soiling the image of their own candidate to those voters who would take offense to the use of race.

Suffice it to say that the Bush operatives directing the McCain campaign understand constituent politics and the wedges that must be used to exploit them. Fully cognizant of the splintering of the religious right, the waning benefit of social issues, and the tepid acceptance of a McCain candidacy, the new drivers of the straight-talk express have simply shifted gears and identified the voting block most vulnerable to their tried and true tactics.

I'd like to mention one late breaking situation that could well play into this strategy. In the first of the following two videos, three young black men, members of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, holding a sign that states, "What about the black community, Obama?" heckle Senator Obama at a campaign stop in Florida.

Obama Heckled In Florida

Later in the appearance, Obama called upon one of the men to allow them to ask a question and voice their concerns. The gist of their grievances could well play into the effort to portray Obama as a risky choice for those who have reservations about a black president...especially one whom they believe may have animosities towards the white establishment. That exchange takes place in the following video.

Obama Responds To Heckler's Question

While Obama handled the situation with grace, it may well be an adjunct to an ongoing narrative designed to play upon the susceptibilities of those who hold some level of latent racial bias. I would call it a campaign of guilt by association. If the GOP can succeed in weaving a tapestry that mirrors the caricature image found on a recent cover of Vanity Fair, they may well be able to move a large enough percentage of the electorate to prevail in November.


The bottom line...the straight talk express may have morphed into little more than the vehicle by which those in power are able to maintain it. John McCain, once the unsuspecting victim of these tacticians, may simply be along for the ride. If he wins, the image of him hugging George W. Bush may well capture the moment at which John McCain handed over the keys.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, John McCain, Race, Racism

Daniel DiRito | August 1, 2008 | 12:12 PM
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It’s debatable if John McCain is actually driving the “Straight Talk Express”. With the hiring of several former Bush campaign operatives and an apparent effort to create a racial wedge, John McCain is looking more and more like a George W. Bush three-... [Read More]

Tracked on August 1, 2008 3:15 PM

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