"How Can Barack Obama Win Keys to the White House?" wonders the headline of a 23 April piece in The Times: "Karl Rove Offers a Few Tips." Rove seems concerned that the Obama campaign may be going astray, and has selflessly gone out on a public limb to try to help. There’s nothing like a compassionate conservative.
Here is a Rove shortlist of Obama shortcomings:
- Obama is "frail." This is worrisome, and should Obama "win the keys" to the White House, we will miss the robust exemplars that have vitalized that sanctum of Democracy for the last eight years. Rummy the Wrestler, Cheney the Huntsman, Condi the Cold Warrior…. But topping the list, Dubya the Pilot. Who can forget his leather jacket and firmly-cupped crotch as he stood so unfraily on the deck of that aircraft carrier back when he’d won the Iraq War?
- Obama is out of touch… "tone deaf" to the concerns of ordinary Americans. Likewise worrisome. We’ll surely miss the perfect pitch that has distinguished the Bush Administration. God knows if Obama would have been in touch enough to start a war as beneficial as Bush’s to the economy, safety, reputation, and general wellbeing of the ordinary American.
- Obama is elitist. His mother was an anthropologist. He’s appealing to a voter base that resembles "George McGovern’s coalition of college students and white wine sippers." If there’s one thing I hate it’s an elitist president. Washington, Adams, Jefferson — just regular guys. Not one had an anthropologist mother, not one was attracted to George McGovern, and I submit that to a man they drank red wine in virile gulps, not sissy sips. As for Dubya, he’s regular as regular gets. In fact, if there’s one American president who can be said to have achieved office exclusively on his own merits and not because he’s somebody’s son, it’s surely Dubya. "God bless the child that’s got his own," as Billie Holiday put it.
- Obama does not meet Karl Rove’s impeccable standards of political hygiene. Rove recommends that Obama stop attacking McCain and Clinton, because this is "corrosive of his fundamental message about representing a new kind of politics." Some might view this as a classic case of the pot calling the kettle a utensil of color. Personally, I accept it as a classic sample of Rovian rectitude. There is no one in the world more distressed by political mudslinging than Karl Rove, and I wish Obama would cut it out.
- Obama is exploiting his person of colorhood. "Mr. Rove," says The Times, "suggested that race, far from hurting Mr. Obama probably works in his favour by attracting white voters who regard the prospect of a black president as a u2018hopeful thing.’" Yes, probably. I suspect that pale-skinned voters will turn out in droves to vote for a dark-skinned president because the idea will have filled them with an irrepressible sense of hope. Thanks to race, Obama’s essentially a shoe-in. If Clinton and McCain opt to conduct the remainder of their campaigns in black-face, who can blame them? Obama shouldn’t have all the advantages.
The Times goes on to say that Rove’s scorn became "almost palpable" when noting that Obama has developed a habit of "parsing." That really burns me up too, almost palpably. The last thing we need in American politics is a Parsee. So what can Obama do?
Obviously he must stop parsing as soon as possible. More time in the weight room and on steroids might help overcome the frailty problem. A leather jacket and plucky codpiece couldn’t hurt. If Obama is wise, he will become more attuned to ordinary Americans. The Bush Administration will be a tough act to follow in that department — few administrations in American history have shown such grasp for the ordinary.
Now that Obama has distanced himself from Jeremiah Wright, he needs to go after his mother, and all the other liberal anthropologist types who bedevil our proud nation. He needs to drink red wine like a man and take a swipe at George McGovern. At the same time, he should refrain from criticizing other candidates because that sort of thing is especially hurtful to people of Karl Rove’s tender moral complexion. Finally, Obama needs to become white, and cease once and for all his crafty exploitation of the "race issue."
And then, naturally, Barack Obama will need to thank the compassionate conservative formerly known as Bush’s Brain for his tips on running a more principled campaign.
John Liechty [send him mail] currently teaches in Muscat, Oman.