And although scare tactics, thuggery and mudslinging are widely considered dishonorable conduct in a campaign, they have a hallowed history in politics, from the famed "Barry Goldwater nukes a little girl" TV spot to the lesser-known "Thomas E. Dewey is Hitler in disguise" evidence plant. Even the term "mudslinging" dates back to ancient Rome, when politicians would literally fling mud at one another, thereby deciding who would be Caesar that week.
But the potential mudslinger has always faced a potential problem: mud ricochet. After all, one of the public’s favorite things to hear a politician accused of (besides soliciting prostitution; that’s old hat) is being too accusatory. To hear the politicians tell it, every single one of them is “refusing to play dirty” and is “deeply disappointed by the conduct of their esteemed opponent.” And certainly, none of them have ever “taken the low road,” or “accused their gym teacher of molestation to get out of basketball drills.” High and mighty pricks.
So when Senator Obama recently spun some down-home charm into a schoolyard insult by tacitly calling Sarah Palin a pig, he not only displayed the insight of an eighth-grade bully, he also demonstrated the nimble skill of a master of the political art. Ever wily, Obama has mastered the art of insulting his opponent, without seeming to. Like a Judo master or a man farting next to a dog, he is adept at shifting the blame, feigning innocence, and undercutting the hate of his words without removing the stinger.
A simple example will illustrate the point. Imagine, if you will, Senator Obama making the following statements:
Of the two ways he could have presented his argument, he chose the one that, while still conveying the necessary information (ie, Sarah Palin’s love of rolling in mud and feces to compensate for her lack of sweat glands), doesn’t directly accuse his opponent.
He also gets bonus points for “riffing” off of her oft-repeated statement that she, in fact, is a trained pit bull that was slathered with lipstick. Why this is an improvement over a pig is debatable, but the point stands.
In fact, the only suggestion I would have made to Senator Obama is that he could have gone a little less subtle, and still gotten away with it. To my mind, the ideal statement would have been:
You’ve got to remember Senator: you’re addressing the American public. If they can’t pick up the subtext in According to Jim, they’re not going to pick it up in your speeches. The snorting noises may push the envelope, but you can always pass them off as throat clearing in later interviews. Just make sure to occasionally snort from now on, so it seems like you’ve always been doing it. If it worked for George Costanza, it’ll work for you.
And it’ll keep working. Don’t let any pantywaisted advisors or the media tell you you shouldn’t imply terrible things about Sarah Palin. Throw in some comparisons to Vanna White, maybe even roll out a veiled trannie joke or two. We, the public, may express our outrage, but deep down, you’re just saying what we want to hear. We can’t admit it, but we’re like the High School girlfriend who only wants to date the bad boy. You can be that bad boy, Barack, with just a little more venom and maybe a leather jacket or tattoo.
And what’s more, you’ll be joining a proud tradition of subtextual verbal abuse. All the greats have used the power of insinuation to clinch their political victories.
“I hope I’m not speaking out of turn when I tell you that I’ve met personally with the president, and I think re-electing him would cripple the nation.”
“It’s great to be here with my opponent Mr. Jefferson in the heart of cocoa country. As I understand it, Mr. Jefferson absolutely loves chocolate. He’s even been known to sneak the occasional piece when Mrs. Jefferson isn’t looking.”
“As they say in Illinois, there’s nothing quite like a stovepipe hat for smuggling illegitimate baby fetuses out of the White House.”
“I’ll admit, my opponent has a certain appeal. I too, want a President I can have a beer with. Or six. Or twelve. Or a snort of yayo, fistful of ‘ludes and a Munroe double team.”
“They don’t call him Tricky Dick because of his unsettlingly bent penis. Not to say that he even has a grotesque, warped penis. After all, how would I know something like that? I mean yes, maybe by tracking down his doctor and sneaking a peek at some x-rays, but that’s just a matter of conjecture.”
“Mr. McAdoo has been on this issue like white on rice. Delicious, steamed rice, just like the Japs eat.”
“My opponent is a whig. All I know about wigs is that they’re usually hiding something. Which is to say, baldness. I am of course referring to false hair. That first remark about my opponent being in the whig party was likely erroneous.”
I trust you’ve changed your mind about mudslinging, and now consider it a time-honored pastime and truly American craft. If not, I can only sigh and point out that there was also a retarded guy who shared that view. I’m not saying you’re retarded, of course. I’m just saying.
When not writing for Cracked, there's no reason not to believe that Michael is giving free ice cream to orphans as head writer and co founder of Those Aren't Muskets!