Friday, August 1, 2008

The Value of a Sense of Humor

Andrea Mitchell's sparring match with McCain campaign manager Rick Davis underscores one of the fundamental differences between Barack Obama and the traditional Republican candidate. In the piece, there's footage of Obama contending that McCain camp is trying to scare Americans away from voting for him, but he does so with self-deprecating humor. Contrast that with Davis' relentless, strident dissembling. He's utterly humorless and combatative as he tries to construe Obama as negative and get away from raising the issue of arugula and MT-RX bars, baldfaced lying when he says that McCain's commercials repeatedly spell out his economic plan (in the "Celebrity" ad? Really?).

A sense of humor is a sign of intelligence, and attenuating his responses is obviously deliberate. By treating his own difference and McCain's attempts to scare the voters about it as if it's no big deal, he sends the message that it's not. On the other hand, Davis' fight-hard-then-fight-harder strategy treats everything as a matter of meteor-aimed-at-Manhattan urgency. When it's tied to obvious untruths, it becomes clear Republicans don't trust their candidate and are content to bully and confuse voters to reduce the election to a referendum on who you're more likely to have met at a PTA meeting or neighborhood barbecue. While Obama treats us like we're smart enough to understand the fear tactics, the McCain and Republican strategy assumes we're dumb enough to buy into their bluster or be confused enough by it to throw up our hands in disgust.

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