Saturday, July 26, 2008

Broncos Play Before 75,000 Fans, Just Like Hitler!

Image credit: Denver QB from AP photo. Composited by Cujo359

[Adolph Hitler and a Denver Broncos quarterback - according to the fractured logic of Ben Stein, they're just the same. See NOTE]

Over the last week I've written a few articles critical of the silliness of Barack Obama's campaign for President. So, you might wonder, how are the Other Guys doing? Sadly, they've been doing even worse. I say "sadly" simply because it shouldn't be possible, not because I favor Republicans returning to power any time soon.

Let's start with the comedy stylings of Ben Stein. Stein, whose most recent work was as narrator for the terminally stupid Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, said this in an interview this week on Glenn Beck's bark show:

On the July 23 edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck, guest Ben Stein, while discussing Sen. Barack Obama's plan to deliver his speech accepting the Democratic presidential nomination at Denver's Invesco Field, stated that he did not "like the idea of Senator Obama giving his acceptance speech in front of 75,000 wildly cheering people" because "[t]hat is not the way we do things in political parties in the United States of America." Stein continued: "Seventy-five-thousand people at an outdoor sports palace, well, that's something the Fuehrer would have done. And I think whoever is advising Senator Obama to do this is bringing up all kinds of very unfortunate images from the past."

Stein on Obama's convention speech
Anyone who didn't sleep through elementary philosophy will recognize this as guilt by association. Ironically, people sometimes jokingly call this rhetorical fallacy Reductio Ad Hitlerium, as in "He <fill in the blank here>, just like Hitler!" It could fairly be pointed out, I think, that since this is the home stadium of the Denver Broncos, they must be just like Hitler, too.

Which, sort of, brings us to our next bit of Republican rhetorical excess. After all, if you're going to hire a big stadium so your politician can speak there, you're presuming that he'll be able to fill that thing with his fans. Little wonder, then, that presumptuous is the latest buzzword out of the Republican noise machine. Bob Cesca writes:

And today, the word of the day in the corporate press is... "presumptuous." Used in a sentence: Senator Obama is being presumptuous during his trip -- acting all presidential and dignified. How dare he be presidential while running for, you know, president. Presumptuous. During the live CNN web feed of the Berlin address, an anchor used it to describe the event. Joe Klein used it in a blog post today. Of course Joe attributed it to racist voters rather than very serious reporters -- racist because it's presumably a synonym for 'uppity' and we can't accuse the press of such awfulness. And Candy Crowley used it in her post-address analysis on CNN. That's a lot of coincidences. "Presumptuous" must really be a popular word. Odd that it's being used so often by people who want Senator Obama to win.

The Barbeque Media Wants Senator Obama To Win? That's Rich
[links from original]

Of course, Klein and Crowley can always be counted on to echo Republican talking points - it's the only reason such incompetents can stay in the news business.

Of course, all you need to do is Google for the phrase "Karl Rove Obama presumptuous" to figure out why the Republicans think this will play so well. That faux Presidential seal that the Obama campaign has chosen as a logo brought out lots of comments about how presumptuous it was. The Republican strategists, and their proxies in the press, caught onto that quickly enough.

Let's not forget, either, as Cesca points out, that one synonym for "presumptuous" is "uppity", as in uppity black guy. Or "elitist" black guy.

A thinking person might ask himself at this point, what's the big deal? Anyone who runs for President is going to have a large ego. Presumption, and even a little arrogance, are going to be part of the package. Do the people who repeat this meme think for one second that John McCain isn't just as arrogant or presumptuous? If not, they're damn fools. Of course, as I've observed before, that's an adjective that can be applied to much of the voting public these days.

Which brings us to our next example of Republican rhetoricians gone wild:

This is pretty extraordinary. A candidate for the American Presidency is using flyers printed in German to turn people out for his campaign rally in Berlin on Thursday. This flyer can be found on a bilingual page on advertising the event:

The German flyers bear Obama's campaign logo and say "Paid for by Obama for America."

I'm surprised at this lapse in judgment in an otherwise well-oiled and professional Obama campaign. The last time they printed up campaign paraphenalia in a foreign language, it didn't work out so hot for them.

Obama Campaign Prints German-language Flyers for Berlin Rally
[links from original]

That link, of course, leads to the aforementioned article on the Obama campaign's new logo. It contains two words in Latin, which as you might recall is one less Latin word than appears on American money. [As an aside, I'll point out to Patrick Ruffini that the first image that came to my mind when I saw that poster was "Jesse Owens".] Matt Yglesias observes:

Apparently it's now unpatriotic to so much as concede that they speak foreign languages in foreign countries. Or maybe American politicians should only be allowed to speak in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the UK.

Meanwhile, I understand that as a campaign tactic, contemporary conservatism's reliance on the national security issue and contemporary conservatism's embrace of xenophobia and insularity go together like a horse and carriage.

We Speak American Here
Ya think? I'd have to think that if a German politician spoke in America, he'd probably use English in his advertising, don't you?

What should we make of this? I think I'll take a cue from the average American voter and let someone else do my thinking for me. In this case, it's Digby:

Keep in mijnd that the GOP does not do this stuff for a knock out. They operate on the death of a thousand cuts. Little criticisms, relentlessly played, dribbled out over time designed to create a running theme. This one is obvious: elitist, aloof, and --- presumptuous. That last carries quite an amazing amount of freight --- presumptuous, uppity, doesn't know his place. It applies neatly to any Democrat who deigns to lead Broderville but the historical, subliminal American memory that attaches to such a word when the person in question is black is particularly powerful. (I smell the mark of Rove on that --- he's really good at stuff like this.)

Pressing The Press
OK, I can't help it - I can't stop thinking completely. I don't have a view of what the Republican playbook really is. I think that Digby's hypothesis is supported by the facts, though, which are that in the past it's never been one thing that's killed Democratic Presidential hopes. Whether it's Clinton, Gore, or Kerry, the Republicans have used many different memes, like "flip flopper", "no values", etc., to slowly erode the public's image of the candidate. Not all of the memes work, but when the press is willing to go along, as they inevitably are these days, it's a lot easier than it should be. They'll keep trying out memes until they find some that work, and then repeat them relentlessly. To know that, all you need to do is look at how they've worked in the past.

It's also safe to predict that in "presumptuous" and "elitist", they've found buzzwords that will work on a portion of the voting public. They'll paint Obama as the big-headed uppity negro who talks to foreigners and uses foreign words, and it will play to a particularly thoughtless portion of the population. Whether they're enough to tip the balance will remain to be seen, but as H.L. Mencken once observed, no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. Last time I checked, Republicans weren't going broke in excessive numbers.

(h/t Articles by Dana Hunter and PZ Myers led me to some of these articles.)

NOTE: I make this point with some trepidation. Inevitably, someone will be offended by this composite, even though its point is clearly satirical. I intend no offense to the Denver Broncos or their fans by this. In fact, I'm not even trying to insult Hitler. One would think the point is obvious, but we'll see how long it takes before the first complaint that I'm comparing a deliberately unidentified Denver QB with Hitler appears.

UPDATE: Over at Carpetbagger Report, Steve Benen writes:

Years ago, I was having a conversation with a jazz pianist who told me, “When I hit a wrong note, I keep hitting it — so the audience will think it’s intentional.” To move away from the wrong note would be a subtle admission of a mistake.

John McCain seems to apply the same standard to himself.

McCain can’t stop hitting the wrong note
He goes on to show that McCain has changed his position on what the Surge was four times in the course of a week. Actually, I think the idea of the wrong note anecdote is that your supposed to hit the same wrong note, not different ones. It appears the Republicans don't even need to get that right.

UPDATE 2 (Jul. 27): When I said that McCain was bound to be presumptuous, too, I didn't expect that guess to be so immediately and spectacularly confirmed. David Neiwert explains:

In his new ad touting his health-care plan, John McCain dubs himself "President McCain" at the ad's outset. In big block letters.

McCain's Already Crowned Himself President
Seems Mr. Straight Talk might have been a little too straight here. By the way, going by the subtitles, that's not much of a health care plan. It's more of a take care of the health care providers and insurance companies plan from the look of it.


Dana Hunter said...

Sweet! I love the way you put this all together: all of the buggery in one convenient place.

And the sports metaphor is priceless!

Anonymous said...

Obama wants everyone to learn a foreign language. However which one should it be!

The Brits learn French, the Australians prefer Japanese, and the Americans choose Spanish.

This leaves Mandarin Chinese.

It would be more courageous for Obama to suggest Esperanto!

Interestingly nine British MP's have nominated Esperanto for the Nobel Peace Prize 2008.

Detail can be seen at

One Fly said...

Great post Cujo! Of course we have the masses in the end believing what media machine spews out on a daily basis. This will not be good.

The "campaign paraphenalia in a foreign language" link did not work for me.

Cujo359 said...

Thanks, Dana. One of the reasons it's all in one place is that I think that these things are tied together. I've seen this process play out over the last five elections or so. It's rather annoying that it still seems to be a mystery to our news agencies.

Brian Barker, if I had to choose from your list I'd probably go with Mandarin. China will probably be the world's largest economy in a few decades. I'd suggest To young Americans that they might as well learn to speak with them. This is one way that we're somewhat handicapped as a large nation. We can travel a long way and not have to know any language other than English.

I learned French and German in school. While I don't remember very much of them, it at least gave me an idea where our own language comes from.

I don't know what happened with the link, One Fly. It works for me. It's to the New York Times, which has little traps set up to try to make people register before they can view an article. If you're using Firefox, you might want to try the BugMeNot add-on.