Wednesday, August 6, 2008

So What if Obama is a Celebrity?

John McCain's much talked about ad comparing Barack Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton was meant to depict Obama as a clueless, out of touch, uppity Europhile. On first blush, this ad belongs to the same genre of the ad featuring John Kerry wind-surfing in 2004. Not quite, I propose.

The problem with the celebrity charge is that many celebrities are anything but out of touch. Their trade makes them consummate populists. Just look at the reaction to Paris Hilton's spoof ad in response to McCain's ad. Pampered, clueless star of the Surreal Life notwithstanding, people are lapping it up. Incidentally, Paris Hilton, like most celebrities, is cool, good-looking, and young. That's Obama. McCain, not so much. Oops.

Maybe Obama is a celebrity, but so what? Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Venture, Bill Bradley and Ronald Reagan were all celebrities. (For a longer list of celebrities turned politicians, see here.)

McCain's ad then, is sending out mixed messages, and, as his campaign consultants will soon find out, not all of them are bad. So contrary to the Obama camp's lamentation, the McCain campaign is not going all negative this week. And I suppose that is, inadvertently, a good thing.

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