It’s the fall of a new election year, which means we can smell the crispness in the air, revel in the gentle breezes, and watch the parade of quick play-and-pull political smear commercials. Ahh, autumn!
One of the latest is the “Paid for by McCain-Palin 2008” ad that uses Katie Couric as a tool to slam the Obama campaign (TV Newser had the story). Funny how the media is only useful when there’s a real, you know, use for them.
The ad counterpoints Sarah Palin’s “Lipstick” hockey mom-pit bull comment from her rousing Republican National Convention speech, with Barack Obama’s more recent “You can put lipstick on a pig” comment. Then we read the line “Katie Couric on: This Election.” And Couric, the CBS News anchor says, “One of the great lessons of that campaign is the continued, and accepted, role of sexism in American life.” The ad ends with a photo of Obama and the written lines, “Ready to Lead? No. Ready to Smear? Yes.”
Let’s forget whether or not this last line is an example of the pot calling the kettle black (McCain wasn’t quite so offended when a supporter asked of Hillary Clinton, "How do we beat the bitch?"). And let’s even forget how much Couric’s comments are taken blazingly out of context. She’d made the comments in June, and they were about some of the coverage of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The comment had nothing to do with Palin, but that’s politics, and criticizing that is like shooting fish in a barrel—as opposed to, you know, shooting wolves from an aircraft, which is much harder.
The real offense is in using Couric to begin with, and it’s the reason the McCain campaign has removed the ad from circulation. Of course, they put the ad in circulation to begin with, knowing that using Couric’s comments spelled an endorsement of sorts from CBS News, which went understandably ballistic.
They’re not idiots at the McCain campaign. They know that putting out an ad with a quote you’re not supposed to run and then pulling it back garners much more attention and curiosity. Neither party is alone in such practices. But it reminds us of the grand old days of professional wrestling, when wild-eyed bad-guy wrestlers would sneak a “foreign object” into the ring, using it to gouge at their opponents. Once caught by the ref, said bad guy would toss the “object” to his manager and raise his hands innocently, after already turning the tide of the match.
It’s one of the uglier practices of presidential campaigning. Obviously, someone over McCain-Palin is a real barracuda alright. (Barracuda: © 1977, Ann Wilson, Nancy Wilson, Michael DeRosier, Sue Ennis, Roger Fisher, performed by Heart)
By Robert Edelstein
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Rob has written for Broadcasting+Cable since 2006, starting with his work on the magazine’s award-winning 75th-anniversary issue. He was born a few blocks away from Yankee Stadium … so of course he’s published three books on NASCAR, most notably, Full Throttle: The Life and Fast Times of NASCAR Legend Curtis Turner. He’s currently the special projects editor at TV Guide Magazine. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post and his origami art has been in The Wall Street Journal. He lives with his family in New Jersey and is writing a novel about the Wild West.