Talking Past Each Other

Bob Somerby critiques the left’s reaction to the “Celeb” ad:

What happened last week when McCain ran that ad? Instead of laughing at the ad and saying it showed that McCain is a fly-weight, we did what we most love to do—we started a fight about race, casting ourselves as the high-minded party and squealing, shrieking, complaining and yelping about McCain’s misconduct. Josh Marshall was one who leaped to this stance, insisting that the use of Spears and Hilton was racial—and racially troubling.

And Kevin Drum responds:

I’m no political strategist, so I don’t have a big axe to grind here. But Bob’s post gets at a critical point: one of the lessons that liberals learned from the 2004 election is that laughing it off is never the right reaction. No matter the subject, the right response is to hit back often and hard, and the oftener and harder the better. That, I think, was behind the reaction to the Britney/Paris ad.

I think Kevin misses the point here. Somerby isn’t saying that the attacks should be ignored, he’s saying, as I read it, that they should respond with mocking laughter, and I think he’s right. The matter never should have been about racial matters, and Marshall kicked off a really damaging round of media activity. The ad was so ridiculous and childish that it always should have been addressed simply in that frame, belittling and embarrassing McCain by association. The racial aspect was always specious, even through the Harold Ford prism. The difference is that the “Celeb” ad, in content, wasn’t even implicitly sexual in nature, whereas the Ford ad was explicitly so. I’m not defending the ad by any stretch, but so far as it’s concerned, the McCain campaign didn’t bring race up, Josh Marshall did. Not that I’m chastising Marshall for “playing the race card,” but he needs to eat the blame for the subsequent attention the narrative has done to Obama, in the short term anyway, and bloggers should keep this in mind in the future before flying off the handle with accusations. Especially the well trafficed bloggers.