- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 3, 2008

Quotes of note

“I smoke cigars.” — Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, denying he used marijuana after announcing a proposal to end federal penalties for Americans carrying under a quarter-pound of the substance.

President Obama Continues Hectic Victory Tour.” - tongue-in-cheek headline, The Washington Post.

“We are here to express our gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifices made by these great warriors, in freeing the Iraqi people and in helping us in Iraq recover from tyranny and dictatorship.” - Jawad Karim al-Bolani, Iraq’s minister of the interior, while visiting wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Old man and greenhorn

The press is equally infatuated with Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, apparently.

“We seem to have a new phenomenon here in modern presidential politics — the specter of dueling media darlings. Both candidates say that the media is fawning over the other guy, protecting the other guy, elevating the other guy. The campaign is increasingly taking on the air of a Smothers Brothers routine, in which both camps complain that, ‘Mom always liked you best,’” observes Katharine Q. Seelye of The New York Times.

The campaigns are shelling out much money in this duel, she says. But it is all part of the plan, according to Marty Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California.

“Both sides believe there is something called the master narrative,” he said. “Yes, there is an abundance of voices and sources trying to influence that master narrative, but it does finally get set and once it’s set, it’s virtually impossible to change. So everyone is doing their best to stop the master narrative from setting in a way that disadvantages their side.”

On the positive side, Mr. McCain’s narrative is that he is a plausible commander in chief; Mr. Obama represents change. On the negative side, Mr. McCain is perceived as an angry old man and Mr. Obama as a greenhorn who is full of himself.

“It’s all in play right now,” Mr. Kaplan said. “Accusing someone else of being a press darling is an element in the effort to destabilize a hardening narrative.”

Conventional thinking

“Nowadays, the Republican and Democratic conventions to nominate a presidential candidate are little more than coronation ceremonies — carefully choreographed political theater in which the outcome is preordained. Every detail is accounted for, from the text of the speeches to the number of balloons dropped on the red-white-and-blue-clad delegates. The overall goal is to project an image of party unity, a ritual coming together following an often divisive primary campaign,” notes the August Smithsonian magazine.

“But there was a time when the Republican and Democratic conventions were bare-knuckled political brawls. It was democracy at its messiest, as delegates bartered their allegiances, secretly courted candidates, challenged the authority of their party’s leadership and even stormed out and held their own protest conventions,” the magazine said, citing the 1912 and 1964 Republican conventions and the 1948 and 1968 Democratic conventions as the century’s most interesting.

The whole bunch

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