Thank you, therefore, John McCain, for giving us "Obama Love." We luuvvvvvvv it. Because it's funny. And because it's (more or less) true.
The stunt is this: two online videos on the McCain website, identical but for the music track. On one, the song is Frankie Valli's "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You." On the other, it is Valli's "My Eyes Adored You." Both, needless to say, are expressions of endless love and devotion -- and so are the images and sound bites stitched together in the video: news-magazine covers beatifying Barack Obama, network anchors traipsing to Europe to cover him, TV journalists going all gaga over him.
"It's almost hard to stay objective, because it's infectious," says Lee Cowan of NBC News.
"It's like the Rolling Stones tour coming to town," says CNN's Jack Cafferty.
And, the star of the "Obama Love" show, MSNBC's Chris Matthews, who not only luuvvvvvvs the Democratic candidate but sees him as a Christ figure, a redeemer, a deliverer, a savior: "He's sort of a gift from the world to us in so many ways."
The joke of the thing is to solicit votes on which gooey love song best matches the gooey media lovefest for the Democratic candidate. Pretty hilarious, and pretty good strategy, too.
For one thing, as Tom Rosenstiel of the Project for Excellence in Journalism points out, it's "playing the refs," shaming the media into a little more balance. Secondly, it prepares the electorate for what they are about to spend three-and-a-half months witnessing: a rock star vs. a really old white guy with a high-pitched voice. Thirdly, it raises this red flag: If the liberal media are so smitten with Barack Obama, let the buyer beware.
Mind you, it's a political stunt and neither entirely evenhanded nor entirely true.
1) Many of the smoking-gun sound bites are from the likes of Tucker Carlson and other right-wing pundits explicitly floating the same biased-liberal-media argument.
2) It ignores the fact that much of the coverage of Obama has been quite skeptical of and damaging to his candidacy. Search "Reverend Wright" or "flip-flop." You'll see.
3) It's a bit ironic, and hypocritical, considering that pre-Obama, for 10 years, the biggest media darling in national politics was none other than Mr. Straight Talk Express, John McCain.
4) Of course Obama commands attention. He's a riveting orator, he emerged more or less from nowhere and -- duh -- he's a black presidential nominee. In other words, no matter your politics, he's a historic figure.
Nonetheless, the larger message is true. Journalists (owing to the journalistic mentality and values that coincide with liberalism) will overwhelmingly cast their votes for Obama, and their news organizations are paying disproportionate attention to him. This is not cause and effect, and McCain knows that, but this video isn't just a red flag; it's also red meat to (what passes for) the GOP candidate's base. And it also conceivably could train undecideds to be less susceptible to, and more suspicious of, the press' Obama fixation.
But it could also be a red flag of a different kind. Running against the media is a time-honored tactic but also a historically unavailing one, usually attempted in desperation by panicking campaigns unable to compete with the opponent himself. McCain would be wise to enjoy this funny interlude and then move on to the issues, lest his witty red flag be mistaken for a white one.