Senator McCain is attacking Barack Obama with an ad claiming Obama is the world’s biggest political celebrity, on a par with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. Others have noted that McCain is a bit of a celebrity himself, and, more importantly, the two blond starlets are not exactly at the top of today’s celebrity charts. Indeed, as Jonathan Chait points out, neither is in the Forbes list of the top 100 celebrities. Nor are either in the current celebrity hot-list at People magazine.
The only reason anyone can offer for putting them in the ad is to race-bait. It’s just like what Republicans did in Tennessee two years ago, presenting African-American Senate candidate Harold Ford as a black man out to steal white women. This fear of miscegenation is a key part of racist imagery since at least The Birth of A Nation (and again). (Interestingly, historians of my acquaintance argue that the rise of creationism in the early 20th century has a great deal to do with anti-miscegenation sentiment, and they argue that its current resurgence may have a great deal to do with increasing acceptance and visibility of homosexuality.)
McCain surrogate Joe Lieberman responded to the race-baiting by telling MSNBC that “people ? should just relax and enjoy it.” This is oddly reminiscent of a joke which was in the news lately. A few weeks ago, John McCain postponed a fundraiser after reminders that the host, Clayton Williams, commented during his 1990 gubernatorial bid that rape was like the weather: “As long as it?s inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”
Sadly, McCain share’s Lieberman and Williams’s approach to such assaults. McCain allegedly told a conference of the National League of Cities and Towns this off-color joke:
Did you hear the one about the woman who is attacked on the street by a gorilla, beaten senseless, raped repeatedly and left to die? When she finally regains consciousness and tries to speak, her doctor leans over to hear her sigh contently and to feebly ask, ?Where is that marvelous ape??
If McCain thinks the American public will react similarly to his savage attacks on Barack Obama, I suspect he’s very mistaken.