Thursday, August 28, 2008


Barack Obama is going to get a lot of attention tonight. Every four years, of course, there's a night like this on which the Democratic nominee monopolizes the news, just as there's a night when the Republican nominee does -- but John McCain and his people just can't stand it, and they keep desperately trying to get attention, like a first-grader who can't sit in his seat and focus.

In addition to floating a hundred different rumors about a running mate -- has McCain made up his mind? has he still not made up his mind? will the name leak tonight? -- there's McCain's absurd attempt to grab attention by running an ad tonight. First, the McCain people announced that there would be a "very exciting" ad in which McCain would speak directly to the camera, an ad "a lot of people are going to focus on." Now, you'd think the point of all this would be to keep us in suspense -- but that didn't get them enough attention, apparently, so they released the ad, which turned out to be a somewhat unusual but utterly unexciting spot in which McCain congratulates Obama and alludes to the anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech.

And that still doesn't seem to have been enough. Yet another attention-getting move appears to be emerging from the McCain camp.

Six days ago, Team McCain released one of its near-daily attack ads, Now, suddenly, a local TV news outfit has discovered that a shot of Obama in the ad with the word CHANGE in the background may have been altered so CHANGE kinda-sorta looks like HANG.

But here's the thing: The TV news operation that first noted this was a Fox affiliate.

I smell a rat. A lot of people on the left side of the Internet are treating the Fox report as just good journalism, but I suspect the McCain people couldn't bear to wait for this to emerge on its own, so they arranged to leak it themselves to a friendly news outfit -- just in time for Obama's speech. Now they get to have the usual song-and-dance -- you know: they say "Who, us?" and accuse the "nutroots" of paranoia. (That's what happened in 2000 when the word RATS was spotted in a Bush campaign ad.) This time, though, there's a racist component, so, if the story gets traction in the press, it's a dog whistle to voters who might be uncomfortable voting for an African American (ducks we assume Team McCain will be hunting all fall), and who might actually think it's kind of funny if the McCain people did this deliberately. (Such people will certainly be pleased to hear it said that Obama supporters see racism everywhere.)

If I'm right about this, it's rather interesting counterprogramming for McCain's gracious words in tonight's ad -- and if I'm right about how this all emerged, it reveals a campaign in desperate need of attention.

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