Time: McCain Mocking Obama's Celebrity Is 'Unpatriotic' -- Like Al-Qaeda!
In this week’s Time magazine, TV writer James Poniewozik laments the McCain’s campaign against Barack Obama’s celebrity in an eye-popping way: he says it’s "almost unpatriotic," and that in denigrating America’s celebrity culture, McCain’s like "al-Qaeda and the French." Here’s the graf:
Why, after all, is celebrity an insult? Personal magnetism, the ability to galvanize attention and rally masses: this is a bad quality in a Chief Executive? J.F.K. and Ronald Reagan managed to soldier on with this handicap. Besides, celebrity is America's chief international export. There's something almost unpatriotic about denigrating it; it's like insulting Obama by comparing him to a GMC truck. (You know who complains about American celebrity culture? Al-Qaeda and the French, that's who!)
This is one of those media moments to remember when the suggest that political commercials are far too negative. Which is more negative? McCain throwing in pictures of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton for a jokey two seconds, or Time suggesting McCain’s like al-Qaeda?
Can everyone remember how many liberals have strenously imagined that Sen. Saxby Chambliss was comparing his opponent Sen. Max Cleland to Osama bin Laden in a TV ad? Bill Clinton, for one, never lets that go.
As for Ronald Reagan’s celebrity, the liberal media regularly trashed it as a negative, suggesting he was a master showman selling snake oil. Even before the 1992 convention, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift suggested he was like the con man in a old musical: "[Bush] is about to make matters worse by hauling out Ronald Reagan at the Republican convention. Reagan has become a symbol of what went wrong in the '80s. It's like bringing the Music Man back to River City, a big mistake."
Poniewozik then reports that if Obama weren’t so attractive, McCain would be seen as the celebrity, since he has appeared in "The Wedding Crashers" and on "24." He then suggests McCain is running a "TMZ campaign" of the sort that relies on mocking celebrities for "DUI write-ups and nipple slips." Once again, the journalists have a wild imagination about those two seconds:
The McCain of 2008, however, is a recovering celebrity, and he has discovered that fame is a terrible thing. His ad implies that Obama is an empty suit, a D lister. McCain is trying to frame his opponent the way gossip websites like TMZ, Dlisted and PerezHilton.com frame celebrities like Spears: by appealing to a mix of fascination and resentment. Old-fashioned celebrity outlets, like Entertainment Tonight and (TIME sibling) PEOPLE magazine, look up to celebrities--putting them on "most sexy" lists and paying top dollar for their baby pictures. The new-style celebrity outlets prefer to publish DUI write-ups and nipple slips--and they're thriving.
So McCain is running a TMZ campaign. "Life in the spotlight must be grand," one McCain ad hisses, oozing contempt, as flashbulbs pop and pictures of Obama on magazine covers flip past. Like a snarky blog, the McCain campaign argues that Mr. Thinks He's All That is overexposed--in part by doing as much as it can to overexpose him.
Poniewozik at one point attempts to claim that all this Obama celebrity-goo treatment is floated largely by the voters themselves, but then he acknowledges that the celebrity magazines have done a lot of it. (He fails to note that Time and Newsweek have done a lot of it):
Whereas Clinton literally blew his own horn, Obama's iconography is largely an outside job: people make videos and posters of him, write rap songs about him, dedicate fashion lines to him, even peddle bootleg T shirts at his events. Like an illegal dvd of The Dark Knight, he has been pirated.
Besides, someone is buying all those magazines in the McCain ad. Snark aside, Americans still like celebrities. The trick for Obama is to be the right kind: less Britney, more Bono or Brangelina. Part of that is what former Us editor Bonnie Fuller calls his "Stars are just like us" strategy – appearing with his family in Us and PEOPLE and on Access Hollywood.
Poniewozik also fails to acknowledge that Time – and Us, and People – don’t feel like putting the McCain family on the cover of their magazines. Part of the argument about Obama’s celebrity is McCain making a media-bias argument to the conservative base. But Time magazine would rather glide right past that message and imagine much wilder subliminal motives.
Poniewozik and his wife attended a John Kerry fundraiser in 2004, but he proclaimed when it was exposed that the amount was tiny:
I did attend a fundraiser for John Kerry in 2004, which I believe Mrs. Tuned In paid for, that consisted of a $20-a-ticket concert in a friend's backyard by children's folk-rock musician Dan Zanes. There is probably no more yuppie-Brooklyn phenomenon than a Toddlers Against Bush concert.