Reagan made Carter into a laughingstock, and now McCain's primed to become a similar target of ridicule.
What's the most important gift we can receive from the GOP? Learning to tap into the psyche of America, its pathos and humor and frustration. Who understood this better than any? Reagan.
Let's be honest: Reagan was an idiot who spent a significant portion of his presidency intellectually incapacitated from Alzheimer's disease. But in 1980, he squared away with a genius, incumbent President Carter and resoundingly cleaned his clock. The lessons of Reagan solidified what should have been a tenuous 32 year political realignment into a 40 year one.
Only a political wunderkind like Reagan could have created the generational coattails for a doofus like Bush I, John Sununu (current NH Senator about to face karma) and Bush's moron child.
Reagan should not have won 1980. He was risky. He was "different". Exchewing the politer tone of the WASP politicians (and to a lesser extent the Kennedies) before them, he pulled out the mockery endemic to Scotch-Irish working grunts from Pennsylvania and Missouri (home of Limbaugh) to Idaho, he found political gold. He spoke directly, fiercely stubborn.
When Carter rightly criticized one of Reagan's many idiotic schemes, Reagan turned the tables on Carter with four words: "There you go again". Thenceforth the upside for the elections changed. Landslide. Carter was forever doomed to be a laughingstock.
So it actually warms my heart to see that Obama, raised in Reagan America, knows how to stand his ground in the modern political consensus. On McCain's big phony cries about the very Washington that he cannot seperate from himself, Obama used direct, aggressive language:
McCain's campaign "ran an ad saying Washington is broken. No kidding. It took him 26 years to figure it out," Obama said.
That's hilarious. Hello. Senator? You've found your groove! Do this again and again.
There was this exhilarating moment back in Indiana during the primary campaign. The Terre Haute speech in response to "bittergate". I've yet to see something like it since.
I think Obama's campaign has backed off this style because it's too angry/negative. I disagree, as have a lot of political analysts. "Things suck" is a powerful message to hammer away with, although there is a fine line between having it ruin the image of Obama as a positive figure. I'd err on this side. Anyway, here's where he gets good:
[Setup]Here's what's rich. Sen. Clinton says, 'well I don't think people are bitter in Pennsylvania. You know, I think Barack's being condescending.'
John McCain says, 'oh, how can he say that? How can he say that people are bitter. You know, he obviously is out of touch with people.'
Out of Touch? Out of touch? I mean, John McCain, it took him three tries to finally figure out the home foreclosure criss was a problem, and he says I'm out of touch?
Senator Clinton voted for a credit card-sponsered bankruptcy bill, that made it harder for people to get out of debt, after taking money from the financial services companies. And she says I'm out of touch?
No, I'm in touch. I know exactly what's going on. I know what's goign on in Pennsylvania, I know what's going on in Indiana. I know what's going on in Illinois. People are fed up. They're angry and they're frustrated and they're bitter and they want to see a change in Washington. And that's why I'm running for President of the United States of America. [soaring applause]"
Obama took the bitter controversy on, in about as red-hostile territory as it comes... and in a few paragraphs turned it on its head. He used the same type of hilarious mockery in the 26 years joke, but he also took the anger of people and tapped into it.
I just argued in my last diary that the American people are a "bull in a China shop". We are the ones who most naturally can tame that bull. I'd err on the side of assuming we're bitter over McCain's bullshit, nouveau-riche, self-help, rightwing porno vision of America.
But mainly, Obama camp: Make fun of McCain! Don't hit below the belt. Corruption, btw, isn't below the belt. His privilege, his wealth, his ideology but mainly his ego are all great targets! Prompting laughter is actually seductive.
By the way, McCain is a charismatic black hole. Did you read his joke at Sturgis?
"My opponent doesn't want to drill, he doesn't want nuclear power, he wants you to inflate your tires."
Har! Ho! Um... yeah. Obama's got teh funnier award.
I remember back to ye olden days when the (significantly less) Obama supporters (myself and poblano were some of the earliest, then icebergslim started doing her weekly diaries)had to deal with all the grief and idiocy caused by Obama calling Reagan a "transformational" figure.
All the fighting over the use of tone and the description has already been hashed, re-hashed and served with a Burger King breakfast meal. Paul Rosenberg correctly stated that, "Reagan was a figurehead, a rallying point for the conservative movement that has taken over many of the elite institutions of America, but it has not changed the heart of America". Reagan came as the apex of a rightwing political realignment, (Nixon to Bush II) its telegenic Golden Age. As was JFK, (also a comparatively mediocre president) placed between the transformative presidencies of New Dealer FDR and the failing Great Society visionary LBJ.
But Obama learned enough from what made Reagan likeable, and that's the most important lesson the GOP can give us. (You learn from your enemies. Don't be proud.)
Obama has the chance to be the usher of a new political age. He can deflate McCain's puffed up privilege and stature. Do it without being callous to McCain's age or Cindy, a sure backfire. But mock him.