Thursday, May 17, 2012

Conservative SuperPAC Plans to Attack Obama for Not Being the "Metrosexual, Black Abe Lincoln"

The New York Times published an article today detailing the leaked proposal for a $10 million dollar ad campaign by Character Matters PAC a group run by former McCain campaign strategists and funded by conservative Joe Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade.  You can read the 54 page proposal here, but in a nutshell it aims to create and spread the racist anti-Obama Rev. Wright attack ad that McCain refused to use in 2008.

Now, calling the ad racist before it's even been created seems premature.  I could respond by saying that attacking the first Black President as being unAmerican because of his Black preacher is definitionally racist (hint: it is).  Or that being upset that Obama isn't the "Metrosexual Black Abe Lincoln" is so crazy I don't even know what it means.  But that would only convince people who already agree with me.  So instead I'll just refer to the section of the proposal where they admit that creating a racist ad is part of their plan to earn free airtime:
Prepare for a great deal of howling and gnashing of teeth from all the usual suspects and some of their weak-kneed Republican co-conspirators.  Obama for sure will play the race card, as will the liberal press.
That gives us enormous free airtime and we will prevail provided our response is locked, loaded and ready. 
And what exactly is their plan to prove they're not racist when the media, Democrats, and Republicans all attack them?  The answer helpfully is in the section entitled "Fending Off Racism," where they outline their two pronged approach.

The first is the "I have black friends" defense.  They want to hire conservative African American radio talk show host Larry Elder to be their spokesman and "have also had very tentative talks with a group of African American business leaders who could get substantially behind this effort."  Basically they assume that if they hire Black people to say it, then it can't possibly be racist. pretty insulting racist.

I'll let them put the other prong in their own words:
The second way we will lessen their ability to attack from a racist angle is to carefully utilize a series of focus groups.  First on the storyboards, then on a rough cut of the final film, making fine-tuning adjustments in wording and visuals to increase the imapct, while lessening any elements that could reasonably be deemed "racist."
In other words, they'll start by making a racist ad, and then they'll focus group it to find out which elements pop as being too overtly racist and tone them down.  That's not the process you use if you want to make an ad that's not racist, that's the process you use if your goal is to make a racist ad and then defend against allegations of racism.....which was their stated goal.

Now the fact we're reading about this in May when they were planning to kick the campaign off in September at the Democratic National Convention probably means that at least this version of it is dead in the water.  But this is what Republicans are planning for the Fall campaign, and this is why SuperPACs are a problem.

Fortunately I'm not sure that this kind of campaign could even work.  There's a reason McCain didn't try it in 2008, and while Game Change says it's because he's such a swell guy, the more likely reason is the huge risk of it backfiring.  This type of ad might appeal to the rabid, bigoted portion of the GOP base, I don't think it has a lot of reach beyond that.  But either way, it appears we're going to find out.

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