Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 14, 2008
POLITICS: Watch For The Bait And Switch

One of the things I have been watching carefully in Barack Obama's pushback at the "Rubegate" controversy over his remarks at that San Francisco fundraiser is his attempt to change the subject of what the controversy is about. With Obama, always watch for the bait-and-switch.

Recall that Obama's response to the controversy over his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and Wright's preaching of extremist, hateful and anti-American ideas and - worse yet - outright lies (e.g., HIV being invented by the CIA) was to give a speech widely billed as a conversation about race in America. The speech itself, standing alone, was in some ways a thoughtful effort to deal with that issue, and had Obama given it unprompted it would have been a positive contribution on that issue. But what the speech actually was, was an attempt to switch the subject matter, so Obama could get headlines like "Obama takes on race in America" without actually answering the difficult questions about his "I went to the church but didn't inhale" position: whether he could continue to tout the depths of his Christian religious conviction (exactly as he is doing now) while suggesting that he wasn't really paying attention to the man he credits as his own spiritual mentor; whether he was financially supporting Wright's church and lending his own prestige as a public official to Wright's congregation without ever raising a peep of dissent; why, regardless of his and his wife's ability to shrug off Wright's poisonous rhetoric, he kept bringing his two young daughters to hear this man preach and whether he ever told them that they were being sold a bill of goods in church every Sunday.

That's why I wasn't impressed with the speech. John F. Kennedy's Inaugural ("ask not...") was a great speech; if it had been given by Richard Nixon in July 1974, it would not have been a great speech, it would have been a gigantic red herring. It's like the Lewinsky thing: a lot of people didn't like Bill Clinton cheating on his wife, but very few people wanted to throw him out of office for doing so. So Clinton made the story about whether or not he should be impeached for cheating on his wife, even though the real issue was giving false testimony under oath in a civil lawsuit and offering inducements to others to do the same, and the real issue even about the sex wasn't infidelity but rather a powerful man taking sexual advantage of a young subordinate employee in the workplace. (Hollywood went this one better with the film The American President, which suggested that the issue was exactly the same as whether a widower could date a single woman his own age). That switch worked like a charm, and Obama has obviously learned to imitate the master.

The switch here (see the video I linked to Sunday) is to say that the issue is whether or not people are frustrated over the economy. Um, no, that's not it at all. The issue is Obama's characterization of the reaction of people in small-town Pennsylvania to those circumstances - the fact that he (1) equated religion and guns with bad things people believe in only because they are frustrated, (2) suggested that people in places like central PA are racists, (3) suggesting that people in places like central PA don't know what's good for them and that their beliefs are artifacts of their economic circumstances and (4) implied, by this litany, that he himself doesn't believe in things like religion and, amusingly, anti-trade sentiment, even though he has made both out to be key themes of his campaign and even though he has lately been pretending at outreach to gun owners.

So, next time you hear Obama or one of his surrogates arguing that he's being criticized for saying that people in this country are frustrated or even bitter, just remember: always watch the bait and switch. And don't let him get away with it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:57 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (21) | TrackBack (0)

Kinda like when McCain talks about his POW experience every time he fails to recognize the difference between Sunni and Shiite?

They all do the sidestep. If you start your analysis from this position, I would probably agree with much of what is said. But acting like Obama is the only one that tries to divert attention is preposterous.

At least this controversy was over something HE actually said. And frankly, he's very accommodating and off the cuff in his remarks, so it will be very easy to cut, paste and edit his statements out of context. But there is truth to what he said. Racism often comes out of the angry, desperate, lonely and uneducated. It also largely comes out of communities that have very little contact with other cultures; and yes, that is the rural communities, by and large.

He's going to make a great president. But he will cause controversy for having the guts to say what people are saying in their houses all the time.

Posted by: AstrosFan at April 14, 2008 3:34 PM

If what Obama said isn't true, why has the GOP ascribed to the "Southern Strategy" since the Nixon era? Other than it's successful, of course.

Posted by: Robert in BA at April 14, 2008 3:42 PM

The real "bait and switch" that Crank is counting on is that voters will switch their attention from the endless war and horseshit economy over to nonsense like this. Of course what Obama said is true, but that's beside the point isnt it.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at April 14, 2008 4:02 PM

So here is a candidate who thinks the following: that my faith in God is some kind of a crutch; my ownership of firearms is some kind of bad thing even though the Founders thought enough of it to include protections to do so in the Constitution; that my concern over a border without reasonable control over who enters the country is due to racism instead of respect for the law.

I'd like to see a BO supporter address the issues that Crank brought up, but the previous commentors are rushing into bait and switch much as the candidate has (finally he shows true leadership).

Yes Astros Fan, he is going to make a great President as he clearly is a uniter for all time:) Look, if you like where he's at, good for you, but don't try to kid me or yourselves that this nonsense passes for leadership. If his goal is to annoy people who might have voted for him, he's clearly made a mistake, but go on, keep deluding yourselves.

Posted by: NRA Life Member at April 14, 2008 4:50 PM

Astros Fan:

"it will be very easy to cut, paste and edit his statements out of context."

This is exactly what Mr. Uniter himself has been doing with McCain's "100 years in Iraq" comment. But I'm sure you have no problem with that.

As far as the difference between Shiite and Sunni - you know full well that McCain knows the difference. The problem is, Shiites and Sunnis have amply shown a willingness to put aside their differences to fight together against the "Great Satan" and its interests.

So either Obama's view of foreign policy is so ridiculously simplistic that it doesn't take this reality into account, or he's betting that a significant portion of the public won't bother to look into the facts at hand. You're evidence that the latter is a safe bet.

Posted by: Joel B. at April 14, 2008 5:42 PM

C'mon Joel B. Take the next step.
Shiites and Sunnis are on the losing end of the world economy. So what do they do? They retreat into their religion and lash-out at their perceived enemy (the "Great Satan") because they are frustrated. Certainly you have heard this news since 9/2001.
So, it looks like the elitist (Obama) knows a li'l something about the human psyche, eh?

BTW, I don't know "full well that McCain knows the difference" between Shia and Sunni. Fact is, McCain's not the brightest bulb in the circuit. Of course, you don't know this because the MSM has been covering for "the Maverick" for at least 10 years. Just like they covered for the current President and representative of The Know-Nothing Party.

Posted by: Robert in BA at April 14, 2008 6:02 PM

Yes, Bush and the MSM have been remarkably chummy, haven't they? I'm constantly surprised by how much slack they cut him. They never mention his miserable poll numbers, and have always talked about the Iraq War in the most optimistic terms.

And you're right on your other point, as well. Osama Bin Laden was a terribly impoverished, disenfranchised Saudi. He retreated into radical religion because of "bitterness" over being left out of the world economy.

Posted by: Joel B. at April 14, 2008 6:36 PM

"Yes, Bush and the MSM have been remarkably chummy, haven't they?"

Ummm...have you seen the news lately? Not about dead American soldiers, a failed war or torture authorization but Obama's bowling score, his juice preference and that he is a Marxist. It's been like this for years. Wake up.

And stick to baseball, Crank. I can't believe someone actually quoted Mickey Kaus and weren't making fun of him.

Posted by: jp2 at April 14, 2008 8:24 PM


There are a million noteworthy things that the MSM isn't talking about. Thus has it ever been.

The MSM doesn't cover for anybody. They try to make money by pointing out things they think will be interesting to their readers, often with a bit of their ideology (usually left-leaning) thrown in. They've been hammering on the economy and how it's Bush's fault for months now.

The economy and the Democratic Primary are the things Americans care most about right now, so that's what the papers are writing about. It's pretty simple.

Posted by: Joel B. at April 14, 2008 8:45 PM

As an Obama supporter, this was a troubling misstep. This is something he'll be hammered away at in the general election, and will (and should) provide Hilary with some momentum through the next few primaries. Not nearly enough though, because with the delegates he already has he'll still get the nomination.

But the Bait and Switch--seriously? I know we all should be moving past Bush's mistakes at this point, and looking to the next election, but I can't fathom the difference between answering a question in a poor manner, then spinning that answer, vs. the biggest ticket Bait and Switch of the past quarter of a century. Let's just say it involves Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, and democracy. It's the difference between little mistakes and big mistakes -- I'll stick with the party that makes the smaller mistakes, thanks.

Posted by: D at April 14, 2008 8:53 PM

"Sunni=Shiite", said John McCain. Joe Lieberman was around to correct him, thank goodness.

"Working class white Americans gun ownership and religion=inner city black Americans' apologies for anti-Semitism and accusations of genocide", said Barack Obama. Where's his Joe Lieberman?

Posted by: seamus at April 14, 2008 8:57 PM

"Sunni=Shiite", said John McCain. Joe Lieberman was around to correct him, thank goodness.

"Working class white Americans gun ownership and religion=inner city black Americans' apologies for anti-Semitism and accusations of genocide", said Barack Obama. Where's his Joe Lieberman?

Posted by: seamus at April 14, 2008 8:57 PM

"Sunni=Shiite", said John McCain. Joe Lieberman was around to correct him, thank goodness.

"Working class white Americans gun ownership and religion=inner city black Americans' apologies for anti-Semitism and accusations of genocide", said Barack Obama. Where's his Joe Lieberman?

Posted by: seamus at April 14, 2008 8:58 PM

"The economy and the Democratic Primary are the things Americans care most about right now..."

Really? You don't think Americans care about the war? The top two issues, in every poll, show that the war and the economy are the two most important issues. Not bowling scores. Nice try though - I think you fall into the majority of this poll:

Posted by: jp2 at April 14, 2008 9:10 PM

Uh-oh. The National Paranoid Republican Committee must be sending Crank new instructions again!

(Guess it's the whole Obama closing the gap on Hillary in Pennsylvania thing.)

I believe the text of the message from the committee must've gone something like this:

"Dear Fellow GOP blogger. Obama is once again gaining momentum, threatening the chances of GOP victory in November. Please commence criticizing him. This time, you are to write a post explaining the danger and moral disgrace of his unprecedented use of the tactic known as . . . {whispering} . . . 'spin.'

"We of the Right Wing Attack Machine™ have been unable to gain traction with the American people regarding Obama's (accurate) comment. We have been heretofore unable to create the next "Gate" -- in this case, "Hickgate" -- and your vitriolic & hysterical skills as frothing right wing bloggers are needed to secure GOP victory in November.

Please do your part."

Let me be the first to say, Crank, you've done well. After a few weeks hiatus from nutty attacks on Obama for absolutely nothing, it's good to see that your skills haven't eroded due to your focus on excellent baseball writing.

By all means, continue to embarrass yourself in the eyes of your longtime readers with silly posts you'll be ashamed to have written when you read them in a year.

Carry on.

Posted by: Mike at April 15, 2008 6:44 AM

This is what McCain said:

"Al-Qaida is going back into Iran and is receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran."

He did not say, "Sunni = Shiite." And there is ample evidence that Iranian intelligence groups have been providing support to Al Qaida for at least a year, if not longer. So what he is said was not only true, it also wasn't a simplistic "Sunni and Shiite are the same thing" type of statement.

Posted by: alex at April 15, 2008 8:29 AM

Yeah, the GOP really plucked this one out of thin air, didn't they? Noting like Rovian Jedi mindtricks to make a guy stereotype rural voters.

Posted by: tsmonk at April 15, 2008 9:28 AM

That, and the nasssty right-wingers at the HuffPo.

Posted by: The Crank at April 15, 2008 9:30 AM

Yeah, I almost fear for that lady's safety.

Posted by: tsmonk at April 15, 2008 10:20 AM


I agree w/ you. My point was to highlight the ridiculousness of the "everybody makes mistakes, and MCain's was worse" rationalization many Obama devotees are making.

Grant them, as I did, their premise. Obama's remarks are still a disaster. If McCain made a mistake, at least he's got folks around him to point it out, and at least he'll correct himself.

Obama, on the other hand, dissembles and contextualizes. He has advisers, certainly, and they advise him on how to dissemble and contextualize, but no one, it seems, is capable of telling the Great Man: "You were wrong". No one he'll listen to anyway.

An incidental benefit of this fiasco, to my mind anyway, is precisely the lame equivocations Obama and supporters keep making. First, Obama, fresh off rationalizing anti-semtic bigotry and allegations of genocide as an understandable victim's lament, offers the same exoneration to folks who own guns and go to church in small town America. They're victims too, and their emotional self-medication is exactly the same as Wright, Farrakhan, Sharpton, Meeks, etc. St Obama understands, and will heal all.

His supporters realize that just maybe this isn't a wise tactic, and so try to mitigate the damage by crying that even if Obama made a mistake, it's akin, and all things considered not even as bad as, McCain slipping up on Sunni/Shiite.

The inflation of a half-term Senator into a world historical hero is evidence enough that Obama and his supporters lack judgment and a sound sense of proportion, but episodes like this drive the point home. The prosecutor usually beats the dead horse, but in this case the defense is doing the work for him.

(As far as Obama supporters moaning that MSM coverage is unfair to Obama and isn't focusing on real issues, unless Cosmo Kramer's crashing through a door, the American left has a hard time recognizing irony.)

Posted by: seamus at April 15, 2008 11:22 AM

What I find particularly amusing is that BHO insulted non-elites in front of some very wealthy elite intellectual types, Obama's kind of people. He never intended for all you little people supporting him to hear the disdain he has for you.

But you all will rush right out to defend him just like you were at his right hand as he spoke. Well, you weren't. He isn't like you, he's talking about you. You aren't his kind of people, you're just there to facilitate his election with money and a vote. And if you buy any of the various excuses he's been making for this gaffe, then you can bet he's still laughing at you.

Posted by: spongeworthy at April 15, 2008 12:06 PM
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