August 2, 2008

Obama's "Entitlement" vs. Plain Looking The Part


(last frame from latest Obama campaign video, “Low Road”)


(frame grab: McCain “The One” video ad)

In completely undisguised terms, the McCain campaign has been focusing on painting Obama with a God-complex — as someone who looks upon the White House with a sense of entitlement.

Sadly, many in the media have been infected with the same virus, propagating over-and-over the idea that (“Niccolo,” or now, “Moses”) Obama has been single-mindedly running for president practically since he was born.  The offshoot has been article-after-article — like the major Ryan Lizza piece on Obama’s political history in the New Yorker recently, or the latest background piece in the NYT on Obama’s teaching career — with the “life-long Presidential entitlement” thesis built-in, validating the assumption by selectively parsing the history and proffering key quotes from Obama antagonists.

There is a small, but important technical point to be made about this “entitlement” framing, however.

As both the first African-American candidate for president, as well as someone without a long legislative history or an established persona with the American public, the fundamental task of the Obama campaign — as it would be with any other candidate with the same profile, regardless of his or her character — has been to establish — in fact and in feeling — that Obama is equal to the job.  If you recall from the endless string of Democratic debates, one route Obama has taken to establish this has been through rhetoric.  I’d love to have a bill (one with Franklin’s face on it, not Obama’s), for example, for every time Obama finished a sentence by saying:  “… and that’s why I want to be President of the United States,” or “… and that’s what I intend to do as President of the United States,” or “… and we can make that happen when I’m the next President of the United States.”

The point is, it has been completely logical and understandable, especially from early on, that Obama would identify and associate himself with the office at every opportunity.  And yes, that is exactly what Europe was about.

Given that logic then, it is fascinating to see how the difference between “entitlement” and “association” is playing out, if just at the level of text, phrasing and (considering McCain’s just-released “The One” video sending up Obama as a presumed prophet) even typography.

Perhaps what really galls the opposition (and a lot of the media), however, is not just how Team Obama “religiously” associates the candidate to the office, but how easy and natural the linkage has been.  That being the case, perhaps that effectiveness has had a lot less to do with arrogance or entitlement  than with the candidate’s poise, confidence and the air of inevitability (in dramatic contrast to the wayward opposition).

(image 1: last frame from Obama campaign “Low Road” video ad.  image 2: frame grab: McCain “The One” video ad)

Post By

Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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