Our modern information age can be overwhelming at times, what with newspapers, C-SPAN, political magazines and countless blogs. That is why I recommend choosing one trustworthy information source and sticking to it. Personally, I rely on a bastion of journalistic integrity – Glamour magazine. After reading Glamour cover to cover, I often find myself craving more, so I access Glamour’s cleverly named political blog, “Glamocracy.”
There, I discovered an interview with Senator Barack Obama, in which he scolded the media for relentlessly attacking his wife, Michelle, and questioning her patriotism. Obama called the attacks “infuriating” and said, “I don’t have a thick skin when it comes to criticism of my wife.”
Indeed, Republican attack dogs went too far. Anchorwoman E.D. Hill of Fox News Channel (no surprise) commented on the couple’s much-debated fist pound: “A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab?” I doubt that Michelle Obama is a terrorist or that terrorists even use the fist pound (I’ve always thought of terrorists as the high-fiving type). I also believe that questioning Michelle Obama’s patriotism is wrong and uncalled for.
However, Obama is naÃ¯ve to assume that his wife can escape this election unscathed. She has been anything but a timid bystander. She advocates his policies on talk shows, in interviews and at fundraisers. Her forthright way of speaking is a strong asset to the campaign, but the senator must accept that outspokenness walks hand in hand with criticism.
Likewise, somebody needs to tell Obama that, in this election, he’ll need to grow some thicker skin.
If he thinks a few comments about his wife are infuriating, he should take a look at the election of 1800 in which Federalist newspapers claimed if Thomas Jefferson were elected, “murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest will be openly taught and practiced.”
He should also recall the mudslinging election of 1828, which pitted National Republican John Quincy Adams against Democratic Republican Andrew Jackson. Jackson accused Adams of misusing public funds (buying a chessboard and a pool table). Adams fought back, accusing Jackson of murder, dueling and adultery. The adultery charge humiliated Jackson’s wife, Rachel; she grew ill and died before his inauguration. Jackson blamed Adams for his wife’s death. Imagine being at that presidential debate – one word: awkward.
Or who can forget the 2004 election and those wily “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth,” who transformed Vietnam veteran John Kerry into a coward but did nothing to discredit President Bush – a man who fought with the Air National Guard in the hairy skies over Texas during the Vietnam War.
The moral to this brief history lesson is that politics requires tough skin. Even U.S. mudslinging is tame compared to the gun-slinging that accompanies many elections around the world, such as those in Kenya and Zimbabwe. If Obama believes that he or his wife can waltz through this election unscathed, he’s in the wrong business.
Not only does Obama need to toughen his own skin, but he also needs to start poking at McCain’s. During Friday night’s presidential debates in Mississippi, Obama spent most of his time on defense. As Tom Shales of The Washington Post observed, “Many of McCain’s answers were preceded with belittling references to Obama as if he were talking to a college freshman way out of his depth.”
Two of Obama’s answers began with “Senator McCain is absolutely right” – interesting debate tactic.
Obama picked up some steam when he said, “You said we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. You were wrong. You said that we were going to be greeted as liberators. You were wrong. You said that there was no history of violence between Shia and Sunni. And you were wrong.”
But he could have used a lot more of this fire. For example, here’s how I would have answered moderator Jim Lehrer’s first question, “Where do you stand on the financial recovery plan?”:
“Well, to answer your question, John McCain is a dirty liar. He claimed in an attack ad that I, as Illinois senator, supported sex education for kindergartners – a gross lie referring to legislation that would teach school children age-appropriate methods for rejecting advances by sexual predators. He also said that his maverick vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin – who courageously said `no’ to the bridge-to-nowhere after Congress had killed the deal – refused to accept earmarks as governor of Alaska. The truth: This year alone, Alaska asked for $197 million in earmarks. I don’t know what they call that in Alaska, but in America we call it lying.
And another thing – you claim to be a champion of our troops, but when it comes to helping our veterans, let’s compare grades, shall we? The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America gave you a “D” rating, and the Disabled American Veterans reported that you vote for legislation benefiting veterans only 20 percent of the time. Guess what grades they gave Joe Biden and me: B+. Speaking of grades, remember when you graduated near the bottom of your class at the Naval Academy and I served as the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review?
One more thing. Since you’re fine with bringing wives into this discussion, I’d just for the record like to say that your wife really creeps me out. And that’s where I stand on the financial recovery plan.”
I may have strayed from the topic slightly, but good politicians never answer the question.
In closing, here are my three tips for Obama:
First, in the next two debates, don’t be afraid to throw some punches. You can say almost anything and still come off as classier and milder than the hothead next to you. If nothing else, it will get your fans excited. Everybody loves a good fight. People don’t go to hockey games to watch hockey.
Second, thicken that skin. You still have another month in the trenches. They’re sure to throw everything they’ve got at you. You can’t afford to curl up into a John Kerry-like ball and allow conservatives to insult and attack their way into the White House again. Let no slander go unanswered.
And finally, don’t use Glamour magazine to gripe. Go with something manly like Popular Mechanics or GQ. It doesn’t look good when the man who will soon hold the keys to our country’s nuclear arsenal is wedged between “High Heels With a Bathing Suit” and “Big Earrings: Would you Wear Them?” (incidentally, both great debate questions).
Andrew Dubbins is a sophomore in the College. He can be reached at dubbinsthehoya.com. BREAKING NEWS appears every other Tuesday.