As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Who Needs a 527?

I saw footage of Barack Obama's trip to Altoona, PA the other day, bowling a gutterball and scoring a paltry 37 (for 7 frames, not a full game, by the way) about 10 times on cable news. I mentally checked off the points that could be made in an attack ad using that footage ("Obama's plan for socialized medicine will throw your money right in the gutter") but quickly realized that they would be superfluous when the media is already so conditioned to view political fights as personal battles among who is more manly, that they're ready to do all the work for the Republicans:

SCARBOROUGH: You know, Willie, the thing is, Americans want their president, if it's a man, to be a real man. They -- 1984, I remember Ronald Reagan goes to South Boston. He holds up that beer mug --


SCARBOROUGH: -- in that South Boston pub, and everybody's like, "He's a real man," and I guess Barack Obama's trying to do the same thing, too.

BRZEZINSKI: Stop it. Oh, come on.

SCARBOROUGH: Awful. Good Lord.

GEIST: He's going to have to try a little harder than he did in Altoona, Pennsylvania, on Saturday night --



SCARBOROUGH: Oh, this is awful.

GEIST: -- at the Pleasant Valley Rec Center. He went bowling, and let's just take a quick look at it here. I guess I'll just give you the final numbers. Started out nicely, got the Velcro shoes.

BRZEZINSKI: Looking good, looking good.

GEIST: But then he started bowling. The score you're really after in bowling is 300; that's a perfect score.


SCARBOROUGH: That's perfect score.

BRZEZINSKI: Good, good, good.

SCARBOROUGH: But, you know, if you get 200, you're a good bowler.

GEIST: Sure. You know what?

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah. Two-fifty --

SCARBOROUGH: You get 150, you're a man --


SCARBOROUGH: -- or a good woman.


GEIST: Out of my president, I want a 150, at least. Barack Obama bowled -- well, you can see his form here --

[video clip of Obama bowling]



GEIST: A 37.


GEIST: That's a three, next to a seven.

SCARBOROUGH: Baby, if you go to Altoona, Pennsylvania, on a Saturday night and you're going to try to bowl --

[video clip of Obama bowling]

SCARBOROUGH: Oh, that's so dainty. Ugh.

Chris Matthews (of course) joined in on this yesterday, and added a racial twist:

MATTHEWS: You know, Michelle -- and this gets very ethnic, but the fact that he's good at basketball doesn't surprise anybody, but the fact that he's that terrible at bowling does make you wonder --

FINEMAN: That doesn't surprise anybody either.

BERNARD: Well, it certainly doesn't surprise anybody black, I can tell you that.

MATTHEWS: Is black a bowling --

FINEMAN: This is just killing him.

MATTHEWS: I don't know, I guess everybody bowls.

FINEMAN: This is just killing him.


FINEMAN: This is just killing him, Chris. Don't show this over and over again.

MATTHEWS: No, no, we're doing it again. This is a killer. Look at this killer. Because it isn't the most macho form there, I must say, but who knows?

The fact that Republicans distinctly try to feminize Democratic Presidential candidates is nothing new. Neither is the fact that the media has internalized this narrative so completely that Republican feminization efforts become redundant. If Clinton somehow takes the nomination, Republicans will have to recalibrate, but I'm sure we'll hear more "she's a castrating rhymes-with-witch" in the media.

This isn't about gender, of course, it's about weakness, it's about a B.S. macho worldview that you have to be tough and rugged to lead, that Democrats can never be tough or rugged, that Republicans are tough and rugged by default. The question is whether or not that works anymore, post-Bush. But it hasn't exactly been disproven in Presidential politics, and the media is so lazy (and of course, heavily invested in this worldview) that they'll continue to frame everything in this way. I'll bet Tweety and Scarborough couldn't stop giggling when they got that bowling footage. After all, it's easier than looking at a health care white paper.

P.S. The question is, how can they square the fey elitist non-bowler Obama with the fact that he's a scary black man responsible for all the nation's crime?

P.P.S. If as a left-hander Obama was bowling with a right-handed bowling ball it wouldn't matter how "macho" he was.

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