GOP frame on Obama gains traction

Carrie Budoff Brown:

Barack Obama’s critics laid down the foundations of the strategy months ago: The Republican National Committee started the “Audacity Watch” back in April, and Karl Rove later fueled the attack by describing the first-term Illinois senator as “coolly arrogant.”

It wasn’t until the last week, however, that the narrative of Obama as a president-in-waiting - and perhaps getting impatient in that waiting - began reverberating beyond the e-mail inboxes of Washington operatives and journalists.

Perhaps one of the clearest indications emerged Tuesday from the world of late-night comedy, when David Letterman offered his “Top Ten Signs Barack Obama is Overconfident.” The examples included Obama proposing to change the name of Oklahoma to “Oklobama,” and measuring his head for Mount Rushmore.

“When Letterman is doing ‘Top Ten’ lists about something, it has officially entered the public consciousness,” said Dan Schnur, a political analyst with the University of Southern California and the communications director in John McCain’s 2000 campaign. “And it usually stays there for a long, long time.”

Following a nine-day, eight-country tour that carried the ambition and stagecraft of a presidential state visit, Obama has found himself in an unusual position: the butt of jokes.

Jon Stewart teased that the presumptive Democratic nominee traveled to Israel to visit his birthplace at Bethlehem’s Manger Square. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd amplified the McCain campaign’s private nickname for Obama (“The One”).

And the snickers about Obama’s perceived smugness may have a very real political impact as McCain launched its most forceful effort yet to define him negatively. It released a TV ad Wednesday describing Obama as the “biggest celebrity in the world,” comparable to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, stars who are famous for attitude rather than accomplishments. (Watch the ad)

The harsher treatment from comedians and columnists - coupled with the shift by McCain from attacking on policy to character issues - underscores the fine line that Obama is walking between confident and cocky. Once at pains to present himself as presidential, Obama now faces criticism for doing it too well.

“I was puzzled by this notion that somehow what we were doing was in any way different from what Senator McCain or a lot of presidential candidates have done in the past,” Obama said Sunday, speaking about his trip at a conference of minority journalists. “Now, I admit we did it really well. But that shouldn't be a strike against me.”


They stayed personal later in the day when responding to Obama’s suggestion at a Missouri town hall meeting that Republicans would use his unusual name and his race to paint him as a risky choice.

“This is a typically superfluous response from Barack Obama. Like most celebrities, he reacts to fair criticism with a mix of fussiness and hysteria,” McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said.

Notice that even when he is responding to the charges of arrogance, Obama remains arrogant--“Now, I admit we did it really well. But that shouldn't be a strike against me.” Then he falls back on the race card by responding to phantom claims that "Republicans would use his unusual name and his race to paint him as a risky choice."

Where in the Republican or McCain ads did that happen. Obama has had this defensive theme for sometimes but he is yet to show any evidence that the GOP is making that kind of attack. Jack Tapper at ABC News just destroys this Obama line of attack.

One of Obama's goofball supporters did suggest that because Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton are white babes it was somehow a subtle message that Obama was going after white chicks. Huh? Where did he get that? The ad was clearly comparing people perceived as being famous for being famous.

Letterman's Top Ten list on evidence of Obama overconfidence is here.


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