GET POLITICAL with VIC LIVINGSTON (Opinion) The 'Obama Dollah' + McCain's 'Celeb-Obama' = Ludacris!
• Whose "bad" -- playing "race card" or subliminal racism?
• And what about that nasty rap from a big F.O.O?
That McCain ad featuring the bad girl visages of Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears superimposed over scenes of Barack Obama's Berlin mega-speech got most of the media third-degree: Was the McCain camp doing some race-baiting by putting the white trash queens in the same frame as the first African-American with a serious shot at the White House?
Pundits also ruminated over whether Obama was the first to play the race card by noting with a sly smile that the GOP is likely to remind voters that he "doesn't look like all the other presidents on the dollar bill" (apologies, I'm sure, to George Washington, the only president to appear on the dollar bill).
But while most of the media let sparks fly over those angles, another piece of potential political dynamite drew far less fire -- the incendiary, racially-charged chanson noir by the rapper and F.O.O. (that's "friend of Obama") -- Ludacris.
"Oh, Luda -- you FOO'! Why didn't you just keep your big rap yap to yourself?"
That's a paraphrase of Obama's response to a piece of sonic "nasty" that's sure to get heavy airplay on right-wing talk radio -- at least the parts that the FCC will allow to be broadcast without risk of an obscenity fine.
At the risk of mixing metaphors, this angry anthem, this admonition to the "other politicians tryin' to hate on my man," is aural "white lightning" -- sure to arouse mixed emotions even among those voters who otherwise might be predisposed to judge Obama on his political positions or his inspirational qualities, and not on his tastes in hip-hop, or the friends he keeps.
A BAD RAP?
For those of you who haven't heard the word, here's a sample of the lyrics:
Paint the White House black and I'm sure that's got 'em terrified
McCain don't belong in any chair unless he's paralyzed
Yeah I said it cause Bush is mentally handicapped
Ball up all of his speeches and just throw 'em like candy wrap...
...Get out and vote or the end'll be near
The world is ready for change because Obama is here
Luda doesn't stop with George Bush; he says this about Obama's primary campaign rival:
Hillary hated on you, so that bitch is irrelevant.
And he asks Obama, who has said Luda is his favorite rapper, to give him "a special pardon if I'm ever in the slammer."
With friends like Ludacris, who needs the Reverend Wright?
Long after the dust settles on the Brittney-Paris kerfluffle, Ludacris' odious ode to Obama is likely to be exploited by anti-Obama fear-mongers as yet more proof that he's a dangerous choice for the presidency. It's not really fair; just because Ludacris professed support for Obama and met with him more than once, the candidate is no more responsible for the words to his lyrics than he is responsible for the words of Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
And that's precisely the problem. The "guilt by association" fallout from the Rev. Wright countretemps still sticks to Obama like flies on honey. And the Ludacris rap song, with its hateful imagery and its exhortation to "paint the White House black," is certain to resonate among not just the bigots, but among great numbers of fair-minded "undecideds" who harbor doubts about this talented but flawed young man and what he's really all about.
It should be noted that the Obama campaign condemned the song's lyrics and its author, saying that Ludacris should be "ashamed." But far fewer voters will have heard the apology than those who will get an earful of the rap rant as it's played incessantly on right-leaning talk radio.
WHATTUP WITH OBAMA AND THE YOUNG WHITE BIMBOS?
But stop for a moment; let's not let John McCain off the hook for a much more insidious form of racial invective. It's no accident that the architects of his "Celeb-Obama" ad chose the images of two young, white "skanks" (to employ the vernacular) who, as the famous phrase goes, are "famous for being famous." As former Clinton aide Donna Brazile noted on CNN, the ad makers could have chosen any number of other famous folks. But they chose these two. Was it an appeal to subconscious sexual stereotypes about black men and white women and fears of miscegenation, a racist gambit not unlike that nefarious ad used against former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford in his failed Senate bid?
Certainly, the McCain treatment displayed greater subtlety than the Ford ad, with its "call me" come-on. But the McCain ad still seems to travel that same low road -- why the Obama campaign immediately applied the term "Low Road Express" to McCain's new turn in attack ads.
Remember, this was the candidate who vowed to run a "respectful" campaign, the candidate who still smarts at the memory of what the Bushies tried to do to him in South Carolina in 2000, when operatives spread the false charge that McCain was the father of an illegitimate black child. Now McCain says he's "proud" of the Brittney-Paris "Celeb-OBama" advert. Can Mr. Straight Talk really have it both ways?
So I ask you, my readers: Which is worse: Obama foolishly stating that the GOP will try to remind voters that he "doesn't look like all of the rest of the presidents on the dollar bill," an indelicate statement of the obvious, or McCain's calculated attempt to link his opponent with two pieces of young, white "celebritante"?
Seems to Get Political that Obama's remark was a bit too much realpolitik -- playing the race card, yes, but at least it was a rejoinder based on unspoken truth. It may not have been politically smart, but it was his way of saying that there does seem to be a covert effort to remind voters that Obama is "different." Why else did those McCain surrogates make a point to use Obama's Muslim-sounding middle name when speaking about him?
That doesn't mean the "Obama Dollah" remark wasn't stupid and self-defeating, leaving him open to the "playing the race card" charge. But at least it wasn't as subversive as McCain's pairing of Obama with the white bimbos.
Both Obama and McCain looked "ludicrous" in the week just passed. Get Political leaves it to voters to decide which performance was worse.