Saturday, August 30, 2008

The 4th Estate Is Obama's 5th Column

The 4th Estate:
Novelist Jeffrey Archer made the observation: "on May 1789, Louis XVI summoned to Versailles a full meeting of the 'Estates General'. The First Estate consisted of three hundred clergy. The Second Estate, three hundred nobles. The Third Estate, six hundred commoners. Some years later, after the French Revolution, Edmund Burke, looking up at the Press Gallery of the House of Commons, said, 'Yonder sits the Fourth Estate, and they are more important than them all.'"
The 5th Column:
Originated in a 1936 radio address by Emilio Mola, a nationalist (fascist) general during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War. As his army approached Madrid, he broadcast a message that the four columns of his forces outside the city would be supported by a "fifth column" of his supporters inside the city, intent on undermining the Republican government from within.
There are four columns arrayed against Barrack Obama in the 2008 election:
  • He is guilty of violating the unwritten taboo of RFPWB (running for president while black), otherwise known as the Bradley Effect.

  • He has violated the presumed right-of-way of the Clinton feminists, known as PUMAs (Party Unity My Ass) who maintain they would rather vote for McCain than the man who wronged their woman.

  • He is opposed by the well-funded swift-boaters 2008-version, represented by Obama Nation.

  • He is running, as are all Democrats, against the GOP dirty tricks & electoral fraud machinations in key battleground states such as Hans von Spakovsky's ‘vote-suppression agenda.’
As if that weren't enough, Barack Obama has to overcome a fifth column: an adverse press and electronic media, otherwise known as the mainstream media (MSM) or 'old media'. Why is this?

Some, to my left, would say that the old media has been bought and sold in the corporate system which means it is arrayed against Change We Can Believe In, if not all change. I'm not prepared to engage in such conspiracy theorizing.

In my view, the old media - for profit media - is not so much conspiratorial as it is dysfunctional. The MSM has a vested interest, I would argue. But its interest lies not in Obama losing, but in his not winning big. Whether you consider that the MSM is composed of pseudo-journalists, crypt-journalists, proto-journalists, or just plain stenographers, they perform like sports casters. The MSM presents electoral politics as a spectator's sport. They want to sustain the spectators' interest in the political super bowl at a high pitch. Their spinning coverage is driven by the need to pump up audience ratings. In order for them to secure their viewers', listeners' and readers' interest, the contest always has to be close. This means polls have to be, or be spun as, even. They have to attain the mythical illusion of the dead heat. This means that when any candidate emerges with a substantial lead, he has to have his alleged weaknesses discovered, listed, emphasized, scrutinized, and - most importantly - reiterated. This is not a leveling of the field: if Obama is seen as standing too tall, too colorful, too exciting, too inspiring, too photogenic, too articulate, too knowledgeable, then the field has to be tilted against so that his head not be elevated appreciably above that of his opponent.

Media figures - talking heads if you will - are less like referees than like moderators. Referees are neutral enforcers of the rules. Moderators want to moderate. They keep things moderate. Ratings-driven, moderators have to insinuate themselves into being a part of the story. They cannot merely report the story.

This is especially true for debates. A debate referee keeps the time, ensures equal time, and prevents interruptions and filibustering. Moderators jump in with their pointed questions to liven up the conversation with gotcha zingers which they think the audience wants to hear. Of course, as they do this, they are very aware that they will be part of the story. Most moderators want to be perceived as even-handed, and impartial. In order for that perception to have currency, a moderator could not allow either contestant candidate to be beaten up too much in his presence. Moderators thus becomes a part of the story. Referees do not influence the direction of the debate, but merely watch the clock. With a debate referee, only the debaters comprise the story.

So the MSM is systemically predisposed to moderating a presidential campaign so that it is close. And, as we have seen in the past, close presidential contests lend themselves to mischievous fraud in individual battle ground states. Thus, to come out on top, the Democratic ticket has to win "large"; the best antidote to Republican electoral fraud is a Democratic landslide.

Because of this array of forces against him, in a recent column I argued that Barack Obama ought to exploit his own strengths and McCain's weaknesses, emulate Republican 'Bitch-slap' behavior (disproportionate retaliation), and repudiate the Busheney legacy by humillitating McCain in a landslide victory. The best way he could telegraph his intentions, I argued, was to select General Wesley Clark as his running mate. Clark was an attack-dog whose bite on McCain was even worse than his bark. Sadly, Obama did not send this message; instead he selected Joe Biden. I am concerned.

Senator Obama is the most over-qualified candidate to emerge running for President in this generation.

Instead of repeating myself, I can find fresh support for my position from Frank Rich of the New York Times. Rich agrees with me that Obama offers presidential qualities vastly superior to McCain's. By Far. But the profit driven MSM will never allow for this possibility. Obama will have to step up his campaign style and substance:

..... It's because zero hour is here. As the presidential race finally gains the country's full attention, the strategy that vanquished Hillary Clinton must be rebooted to unceremoniously take out John McCain.

McCain should be a far easier mark than Clinton if Obama retools his act.

..... McCain's trigger-happy temperament and reactionary policies offer worse than no change. He is an unstable bridge back not just to Bush policies but to an increasingly distant 20th-century America that is still fighting Red China in Vietnam and the Soviet Union in the cold war. As the country tries to navigate the fast-moving changes of the 21st century, McCain would put America on hold.

..... What Obama also should have learned by now is that the press is not his friend.

..... What should Obama do now?

..... sharper darts at a McCain lifestyle so extravagant that we are only beginning to learn where all the beer bullion is buried.

..... most Americans, for better or worse, know who Obama is. So much so that he seems to have fought off the relentless right-wing onslaught to demonize him as an elitist alien.

..... most Americans have turned their backs on the Iraq war, no matter how much McCain keeps bellowing about "victory."

How we dig out of this quagmire is the American story that Obama must tell. It is not a story of endless conflicts abroad but a potentially inspiring tale of serious economic, educational, energy and health-care mobilization at home. We don't have the time or resources to go off on more quixotic military missions or to indulge in culture wars .....

The argument against Obama's "going negative" is that it undermines his message of "transcendent politics" and will make him look like an "angry black man." But pacifistic politics is an oxymoron, and Obama is constitutionally incapable of coming off angrier than McCain. A few more fisticuffs from the former law professor (and many more from his running mate and other surrogates) can only help make him look less skinny (metaphorically if not literally). Obama should go after McCain's supposedly biggest asset - experience - much as McCain went after Obama's crowd-drawing celebrity.

.....McCain's experience has already reached its expiration date.
  • Is a man who is just discovering the Internet qualified to lead a restoration of America's economic and educational infrastructures?

  • Is the leader of a virtually all-white political party America's best salesman and moral avatar in the age of globalization?

  • Does a bellicose Vietnam veteran who rushed to hitch his star to the self-immolating overreaches of Ahmad Chalabi, Pervez Musharraf and Mikheil Saakashvili have the judgment to keep America safe?
In other words, Obama has nothing to fear from the inferior imposter McCain. It's only because of five columns of other forces now arrayed against the Democratic challenger that the nuanced mantra that served Obama so well in the relatively genteel Democratic primary, has to be abandoned. Obama has to rise to be more blunt and to insist on exposing Busheney's and McCain's red meat.

And, Change We can Believe In has to be ditched for the brutally and insistently honest Change Before It's Too Late.

The National (Un-Scientific) Bumper Sticker Poll

The regular T.G.I.R.F. (Thank God It's Republican Friday) feature in these pages is most probably in the process of lapsing.

I mean no disrespect. I just detect a lack of interest. However, Friday found me still idly surfing the web in a bipartisan frame of mind when Jay Bookman woke me from my reveries.The deputy editorial page editor of The Atlanta Journal Constitution is responsible for kicking me off my seat and on my feet in order to put into operation an idea that's been percolating for some time in my aging brain. Last Wednesday, Bookman seemed genuinely concerned:
..... I realized the other day that I see a lot of Obama bumper stickers and almost no McCain stickers. Now, given the part of town I live in, that's not surprising.

But I've asked conservative friends who live in more conservative parts of metro Atlanta, such as Cobb and Cherokee counties, whether they have seen McCain bumper stickers. And they both say no, they don't. Very few if any, they report. Not many yard signs either.

Bumper stickers don't decide elections. But I think they do accurately reflect the amount of enthusiasm generated by each candidate among his base, and that enthusiasm in turn helps drive voter turnout in November. The person with a bumper sticker on his car is more likely to vote, and more likely to encourage others to vote.

So I'd be curious - anybody out there seeing McCain bumper stickers?
That is the question that's been beguiling me recently. I don't know what a McCain bumper sticker looks like. I'm not curious enough to go shopping on the 'Net, of course. That's not the point.

My point of agreement with Bookman is this: sticking a candidate's name to your bumper or into your front lawn communicates commitment to vote. So?

Why not take an informal poll among my readers (all half-dozen of them) as to where McCainster bumper stickers are rearing their heads? Maybe, why not also shop the poll to other blogs where I occasionally read and write?

I am really curious as to how McCain-Palin will be playing in Des Moines. Some of my favorite bloggers like Utah Savage, Coyote Angry, Mad Mike, Carolina Parrothead, Wizard and especially Coleen Rowley (just to name the first who come to mind) don't exactly live in dark blue states. By responding to this poll, they could earn some solid street cred by documenting the fact that they reside and vote in battleground states, not to mention behind enemy lines. That would be huge and they're certainly entitled to the additional respect that is due them! No comfy, fair-weather, blue-state liberals should begrudge them their props.

So let's try to put up a poll with some
  • Statistics as to the ratio of Obama-Biden bumper-stickers to McCain-Palin stickers in your hood wherever it may be?

  • Trend indicators like what were the percentages dividing Kerry-Edwards bumpers from Bush-Cheney bumpers in 2004?
What I'm saying that such anecdotal data derived from our admittedly informal Bumper Sticker Poll might end up to be a better predictor of November 4th than the stupid, day-to-day crypto-polls stuck up on your teevees by snot-nosed network wannabe pundits.

Any takers?