Saturday, August 30, 2008

Three Simple Rules

I think it was the legendary actor James Cagney who once explained that there were three simple rules to connecting with an audience: "You hit your mark. You plant your feet. And you tell the truth." Equally-memorable actor Spencer Tracy once said that the three basic rules of performing before an audience were: "Be on time. Know your lines. Try not to trip over the furniture."

On Thursday evening at the DNC, I believe Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama did Jimmy Cagney proud. On Friday morning, in Ohio, in introducing neophyte Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, I'm pretty sure presumptive Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain violated Spencer Tracy's third rule big time.

Does the Republican political machine really assume that supporters of Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton are so shallow that they will switch their allegiance to the opposing party simply because Governor Palin shares the same plumbing as Senator Clinton? If I were the good Senator from New York, I think I'd be spending most of the next two months reminding prospective voters that they need to support her agenda, rather than merely her gender.

I'm just saying...

1 comment:

Richard said...

As told in this story in the NYT, there was a bit more calculation behind the choice than just picking the first available Republican without a y chromosome. If that had been the extent of their thinking, they might have embarassed themselves a lot more by choosing Condi Rice or Carly Fiorina, both of whom were named by pundits as possible VP choices in the past few months. Instead, they've picked someone who has a built-in fanbase among the anti-abortion and religious segment of their audience -- precisely the Christian conservative demographic who were previously unenthused about McCain. Credit where credit is due: this choice shores up a lot of support for him on the right. No, they weren't going to vote against McCain; the question was whether they would turn out at the polls at all. Now we can be pretty sure they will. So as bad as I think it was, this wasn't a dumb choice.

As far as the disaffected Clinton supporter vote goes...this really depends on how much the right can play on the perception that Obama and/or his surrogates were unfair and sexist during the primaries. If the criticisms directed at Palin start to veer into sexist and demeaning and belittling comments, some feminist Democrats will perhaps not vote for McCain/Palin but might just decide to abstain. This is precisely what the Republicans are aiming for and it's up to the Obama campaign to make sure they don't fall into that trap.

Putting the responsibility on Hillary...well, she's kind of in a double bind here. We've already seen her criticized by some quarters for giving a convention speech that was "too good" -- seriously! -- and claims in the mainstream media that she tried to make the convention all about her. If Obama loses in November, some will blame it on Hillary for not doing enough to help him. If she goes around pushing for him, campaigning like mad, she'll be called a raging narcissist who doesn't know when to get off the stage and accused of trying to overshadow him or of running a shadow campaign for 2012. But you're exactly right, she still has to do it.

All that said, I agree with what you said too!