GADFLY: "Barack, Call Me!" 

Have you seen the TV ad for John McCain in which he compares Barack Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, supposedly because he, like they, is a "celebrity." I was stunned by McCain's choice of whom to throw up on the screen for this purpose. Of all the people he could have chosen, these are the two vacuous, public embarrassments he comes up with? And they're supposed to be comparable, in any way, to the Harvard Law graduate and United States Senator who's the first African American to stand a chance of being elected the president of our country?

If McCain's point was simply celebrity, he could have chosen Michael Jackson (the all-time notorious celebrity), or Tiger Woods (no question he qualifies), or Opah Winfrey (they don't get bigger than that) or any of a number of prominent black people who get a lot of notoriety, for good reasons or bad. For that matter, he could have chosen famous men, black or white, to accuse Obama of resembling, like maybe Bill Gates, Bill Cosby, or Brad Pitt, any of whom are also card-carrying celebrities.

But no; McCain's point in the ad (if he has one) is sharper than that; it's not just that Spears and Hilton are celebrities, it's that there's no real reason for their celebrity, other than the fact that they've been made into that by a fame-besotted media that loves to build up its icons. McCain, we know, is angry at the media for paying so much attention to this upstart. After all, he's just the first viable black candidate for the presidency in history, who attracts throngs of spectators everywhere he appears, including upwards of 200,000 during his appearance in Berlin. How dare the media fawn over this pipsqueak! Don't they know that being a WARHERO trumps any other reason for covering a candidate?

It's no accident, either, that McCain chose two women of notoriously ill repute to make his comparison. Britney is famous for late-night jags during which she flashes beaver shots at the cameras, for neglecting her children, for bed-hopping, and for her public meltdowns and frequent visits to rehab facilities, and Paris is famous for being a spoiled little rich kid with lots of time (and money) on her hands, whose extracurricular activities include making a porn film with her "boyfriend" that's available for viewing on any of a thousand web sites. These are the people John McCain thinks bear comparison to Obama, not for their fame, but for their infamy. Shame on him.

This shouldn't surprise us, though. After all, McCain also thinks Obama is an "elitist" becaue of his highfalutin (read: uppity) rhetoric. This from the man who's married to the scion of a brewing fortune (even if she looks and acts more like a "Stepford Wife"), flies around in her company's private jet, owns fancy houses all over the country, wears $500 Italian loafers and doesn't have a clue how much gasoline costs because he's never had to pump his own. But Obama's the elitist.

So what is the real (i.e., subliminal) message in McCain's flashing these trollops on the screen alongside the image of Obama? And why did he pick two flashy, sexually-charged, blonde white women to throw in our face as emblematic of what he wants us to believe is Obama's empty suit syndrome? The answer seems pretty obvious: Be afraid of Obama because he's a black man, and we all know what a danger black men pose to white women, consensually or otherwise. Some believe that was the message in the equally infamous TV ad by Bob Corker's campaign during his campaign against Harold Ford, Jr. - you know, the one which featured the pretty blonde white woman at the end entreating "Harold, call me." Notice, the Corker folks didn't pick a black woman for that role either. But, according to McCain's most recent attack, it's Obama who's playing the "race card."

So will McCain pay the price for this kind of sleazy campaign propaganda? Or will, as they've come to be euphemistically called, the "low information" (read: stupid, racist) voters who are McCain's target audience (not to say base) buy into this kind of low-road tactic? If Mencken's philosophy (or a paraphrase of it) holds, namely that no one ever lost an election by overestimating the intelligence of the American voter, that is probably a rhetorical question.


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