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Patrick Hruby

Wacky Political Ad Watch: Cool Obama

According to Karl Rove, Obama is ... too cool?

Karl Rove is back for more. Roughly one month after attacking President Obama via a ludicrous -- and honesty, rather amusing -- James Bond spoof, Republican Death Star-cum-Super PAC American Crossroads is at it again, this time slamming Obama for being too, well, cool. Herein, my grades: Concept: B-minus. Here's Obama slow-jamming the news! And dancing with Ellen! And singing Al Green! And sipping a beer at a transparent rubbing-elbows-with-the-proles photo op! And -- gasp -- wearing sunglasses, without the simple common courtesy of holding a saxophone at the same time! Attention, all right-thinking Americans: you have a celebrity president, doing lots of dumb n' frothy celebrity things, a man who clearly thinks he's all that. Meanwhile, the economy sucks, especially for young people. I like the overall concept here. I really do. For one, it's an double-barreled attempt to pull of two of Rove's favorite political tricks: turn your candidates' weaknesses into strengths, and the other guy's strengths into weaknesses. (See Swift-Boating with John and George, 2004). For someone has been running for president since Facebook was a few lines of code on Mark Zuckerberg's Harvard dorm window, Mitt Romney is a total stiff, incomprehensibly awkward, a man with political Asperger's, a candidate one might reasonably expect to give the electorate a teary-eyed thumbs up while being lowered into a vat of molten steel. Meanwhile, Obama is -- whatever else you want to say about him or his administration's polices -- undeniably cool. He also has a sizable advantage over Romney among young voters, which may or may not be related. Solution? Make Obama's coolness seem trivial, empty and out of touch, downright Kardashian-like, a synonym for celebrity, while lampooning the entire notion of a cool commander-in-chief, something Romney will never, ever be. Then seal the deal by pointing out how crappy things are for said young voters. Like I said, solid concept. Except ... Execution: D-plus.... and here's where the ad starts to set course for the center of the sun. Let's go to the tape. If you're going to argue that the current president is a fame-whoring dilettante, you had better make a strong case. Rove doesn't. Obama looks like a clown in 3D movie glasses? Um, hello? So does everybody else. Obama thinks Kanye West is a jackass? Again, so does everybody else. These things don't make Obama too cool for school or woefully out of touch; they make him normal, the kind of guy that does not react to presumed store-bought cookies by requesting a Hazmat suit. Is Obama a dopey celebrity for appearing with Jimmy Fallon? Maybe. Or maybe he's just a national politician smartly mugging for votes. A politician like ... Mitt Romney, appearing with Jay Leno. Or delivering a David Letterman Top 10 list that references -- you guessed it -- Kim Kardashian. By the time viewers get to the spot's most compelling content -- young people have been taking it on the chin since the start of the financial crisis, and here are the stark facts and figures to prove it -- it's too late. The ad has gone off the rails. To use a courtroom analogy: why should anyone trust your closing argument if the preceding evidence and witness cross-examination came courtesy of  Lionel Hutz? Message: F.There's a bigger, related problem with the thrust of this ad: the entire notion of deriding Obama as the "world's biggest celebrity." It's passé. And frankly, pretty stupid. The GOP leveled the same charge in 2008, briefly gaining traction by poking a hole in the adoration bubble that blew up around Obama. At the time, the mockery made sense: Obama was a young, first-term Senator with a thin resume; his opponent, John McCain, was both a war hero and a Congressional war horse. In many ways, Obama was more hype than substance, more promise than accomplishment. But now? Obama has been President of the United States for more than three years. He's the world's biggest celebrity by default. Attacking him as such is both warmed-over and utterly pointless. Are you better off than four years ago? That, and that alone, is Mitt Romney's path to the White House. Stay. On. Message. (Oh, and at what point did Republicans become avid recyclers, anyway?) Lunacy Quotient: C-plus. The Barry White/Yello "Oh Yeah" isn't half bad.