03 September 2008

Schadenfreude Redux

With respect to the last post, let's be clear about something: ever since at least Ronald Reagan's "We begin bombing in five minutes" supposed "open mic" gaffe, this gambit has been a consistent way of conveying a message in an 'off the cuff' sort of 'off the record' 'plausibly deniable' kind of way. Don't kid yourself, Peggy Noonan and Mike Murphy were not candid. Their remarks were surely scripted. The only question is what message were they trying to get across, and to whom.

It seems at first face they are telling McCain that the establishment of the party (which they represent) is unhappy with his choice.

But was there anything more to it? Part of the majesty of the Democratic convention was their setting up of all the putative dramatic tension between the Clintons and Obama. Hillary's gracious speech was the climax of Act 1, then the tumblers fell with Bill's ending Act 2 and setting up the expectations for the climax, and then, on Thursday night, Obama strode operatically on stage and in an orgy of hope and glory all the tension was masterfully relieved. With that in mind, let's look beneath the surface of the Noonan/Murphy gaffe. This is show biz, after all, and the aim of the convention is to rally the faithful to the cause of its leader which is to take the battle (your battle) to the entrenched establishment in Washington, D.C. Was this 'slip' representative of the 'obstacle' they were setting up like a straw man for their leader to knock down? Was this part of the heightening of the tension which must be relieved before the convention ends? Are they merely playing the part of the 'enemy' McCain must conquer through sheer force of his will and audacity in a show of patriotic gore? Given that they are PR professionals of the utmost rank (one does not write Presidential speeches or become a chief political strategist if one is chopped liver), I'm leaning toward the latter interpretation: the gaffe was scripted and these hardened pros were using the medium in a guerilla marketing sort of way. Political theater. Full stop.


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