Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How To Attack Barack

May We Mock, Barack?
Published: July 16, 2008

Maureen Dowd takes the issue of the allegedly satirical New Yorker cartoon and asks the bigger question - What can we make fun of about Obama? The comma in the title is significant. It infers we need his permission to ridicule him.

This is a real concern because unless Hillary makes the lower half of the ticket, all of Dowd's Clinton material is staler than a week old bagel.

So this week, she explores the options:

Obama’s Dad Was A Furr-nur

Fortunately, Dowd has done some previous legwork on this topic while palling around with America’s top satirists (and the full article can be found here):

When I interviewed Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert for Rolling Stone a couple years ago, I wondered what Barack Obama would mean for them.

“It seems like a President Obama would be harder to make fun of than these guys,” I said.

“Are you kidding me?” Stewart scoffed.

Then he and Colbert both said at the same time: “His dad was a goat-herder!”
This angle hasn’t aged well. Since one of the major knuckle-dragging slurs is that Obama is a crypto-Muslim, any jokes about his dad have to be done very delicately if they aren’t going to just feed that insanity rather than debunk it. Hence why the New Yorker cover missed the mark.

Obama Has A History of Drug Abuse

Colbert and Stewart also saw the comic potential of this one:
When I noted that Obama, in his memoir, had revealed that he had done some pot, booze and “maybe a little blow,” the two comedians began riffing about the dapper senator’s familiarity with drug slang.

Colbert: Wow, that’s a very street way of putting it. ‘A little blow.’

Stewart: A little bit of the white rabbit.

Colbert: ‘Yeah, I packed a cocktail straw of cocaine and had a prostitute blow it in my ear, but that is all I did. High-fivin.’ ’
Maureen has already plowed this field pretty well. By our count she used 20 different drug references in her “Reefer Madness in Iowa” column back in December.

For the rabid right-wing, Cindy McCain’s struggle with prescription pills is problematic and do liberals really want to make drug laws an issue? Either way, it’s a tough topic to play without coming off hypocritical one way or another.

Obama Is Just Too Perfect
At first blush, it would seem a positive for Obama that he is hard to mock. But on second thought, is it another sign that he’s trying so hard to be perfect that it’s stultifying?


If Obama keeps being stingy with his quips and smiles, and if the dominant perception of him is that you can’t make jokes about him, it might infect his campaign with an airless quality. His humorlessness could spark humor.
Dowd sees this one failing as well because his supporters can be so self-righteous.
[Have] eight years of W. and Cheney [] robbed Democratic voters of their sense of humor?

[Obama] does not want the “take” on him to become that he’s so tightly wrapped, overcalculated and circumspect that he can’t even allow anyone to make jokes about him, and that his supporters are so evangelical and eager for a champion to rescue America that their response to any razzing is a sanctimonious: Don’t mess with our messiah!
Maureen has to tread this one lightly. She has already gotten her wrist slapped for implying limp-wristedness, so she has to stay away from anything the smacks of effeminization. While Obama may be Felix Ungar prissy, the into homophobia can't be crossed. Dowd has also tried the Saint Obama approach with indifferent success. Maybe he really is too good to be true.

Obama Is A Fussy Eater

Here is a well that Maureen has gone to several times. Most recently on Sunday. While it is really just a sub-set of the previous category, making fun of Presidential food choices goes back to Bush 41 and broccoli.
He’s already in danger of seeming too prissy about food — a perception heightened when The Wall Street Journal reported that the planners for Obama’s convention have hired the first-ever Director of Greening, the environmental activist Andrea Robinson.
Rampant political correctness has already hit the dinner plate:
The “lean ‘n’ green” catering guidelines, The Journal said, bar fried food and instruct that, “on the theory that nutritious food is more vibrant, each meal should include ‘at least three of the following colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple, and white.’ (Garnishes don’t count.)
The trick to the tank-driving, internet-bragging, wind-surfing meme is that it has to be some mild personality tick that can be used to infer a larger character deficiency. If Barack’s primness can be exaggerated into runaway nanny-ism, the caricature has a chance of becoming a wedge. Otherwise, we may be looking on grim times.
Bring it on, Ozone Democrats! Because if Obama gets elected and there is nothing funny about him, it won’t be the economy that’s depressed. It will be the rest of us.
And by ‘us’, she means ‘her’. Because a politician without easily parodied peccadilloes promotes poor performance from punning pundits. We’re praying for you, Maureen.


Read/Think/Live said...

I clicked! Just sayin.

I think Obama has a very good sense of humor and he's witty, too. I think it's funny when he talks about Michelle, jokingly implying that she's keeping his ego in check by criticizing him on a regular basis, making him take out the garbage, and so on.

Timothy said...

I suspect what bugs MoDo is that he appears to be an ordinary decent guy with a sense of duty and some ambition. Not a larger-than-life sinner (especially good for imputations of hypocrisy), not a rigid ivory-toweresque saint. It must be maddening.

Bob S. said...

I'm guessing that Big Mo will manage to muddle through somehow.