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Monday, August 4, 2008


McCain's allegorical aim may not be Carter, or Adlai Stevenson, after all. It may be New York Governor Thomas Dewey, who lost to Truman:
But Dewey's snobbishness went far beyond looks. Indeed, a single display of it may well have cost him the White House. On Oct. 13, 1948, in Beaucoup, Ill., Dewey was speaking on the rear platform of a train—part of a response to President Truman's 30,000-mile whistle-stop campaign—when the engineer mistakenly backed the train up a short distance. Dewey snapped that "this is the first lunatic I've had as an engineer. He probably ought to be shot at sunrise, but I guess we can let him off because nobody was hurt." Dewey may not have realized it, but to the hundreds of thousands who worked on railroads, their families, and the millions of others in blue-collar jobs, this smacked of something less than respect for the working folks. And on Election Day, such voters helped deliver Truman razor-thin pluralities in Ohio and Illinois, giving him enough electoral votes to pull off the most remarkable upset in presidential history.

In essence, the McCain camp aims to Deweyize Obama. It was explicit in Karl Rove's description of Obama as "the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by." Rove has a bit of a tin ear: The country club is the wrong image for Obama. But put him, say, at a "wine-tasting benefit for NPR," and the attack may come into better focus. It's implicit in the McCain ad charging that Obama could find time to work out at a fancy hotel but not to visit wounded troops. And the idea that Obama is on a premature victory tour fits perfectly with the way Dewey carried himself in 1948—as a candidate who'd already won and did not need to bother asking voters for their support.

Anyone with sense knows that's not what Obama is, despite the "bitter" slip-up during the PA primaries. Sadly, the strategy could prove effective...but isn't it particularly remarkable that...
...the first African-American nominee of a major political party, raised by a single mother, whose shaping political experience was as a community organizer on the mean streets of Chicago, is facing a campaign based in some measure on the idea that "he acts like he's too good for us."

Sigh.

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