Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Obama Campaign's Money Shot

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These ads are everywhere.  I glance at them -- how can one help it?

They come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are in black and white.

And they come in a variety of shapes:

Every time I encountered them, they gave me the creeps.  Why?  Lotsa Romney ads out there, too, shilling for dough.  Nothing wrong with that, part of the process.  First Lady out there shaking the tree.  Gotta have swag to run a campaign.  From what I read, the President needs it pretty bad.  So why was this particular ad so odd-looking and unsettling?

My first thought was that it did not seem very compelling to suggest that the candidate's wife was supporting him.  

I was also uncertain whether her endorsement is even a plus.  I have no idea whether Michelle is popular with voters.  She's a strikingly lovely woman, quite impressive at the lectern.  But after a good start as a candidate's wife and First Lady, it appears that -- the White House vegetable garden aside -- her main interests are celebrity hobnobbing, White House parties, and extravagant vacations with and without Barack.  Like her husband, she's gradually acquired a patina of unlikability.  

No, it wasn't her presence in the ad that was saying weird.

Suddenly, it struck me.

It was the slogan.

Join Michelle and tell Barack You're In.

I know, we all know, what it its author would say it means:   "Hey, we all like Barack -- he's my husband, you know, I call him Barack, you can too! -- so come along with me and join the Barack team!"

But  .  .  .  

Join Michelle.

Join her in what?

Must be:  join her in doing something 

What is she doing?

She is "telling" Barack, "you're in."

I know, I know, you don't have to say it, the "you" isn't "you, Barack," it's "you, reader."  

But I do not believe for an instant that whoever composed and approved this -- and I doubt the President or First Lady had anything to do with it -- didn't calculate that this is easily interpreted, even by those whose minds don't trend that way, as Join Michelle and tell Barack: "You're In."

There it was, the creepiness, the weirdness, the ick:  A pitch for cash accomplished in terms of a suggestion of POTUS coitus.  

Capitalizing, albeit subliminally, on what his handlers believe (and, I've come to think for other reasons, is the President's own belief) to be his sexual magnetism. 

I have some long thoughts about this President's emerging strangeness which I will spare you.  For now. But this bizarre and ubiquitous batch of Internet ads reinforces the thought that his handlers, some of them, seem somehow unserious about his re-election.  

The campaign's advocates for this ad knew how easily it could be read to summon up a carnal image.  (Try to imagine this ad with Hillary Clinton in that photograph in 1996 -- long before the Lewinsky scandal broke -- saying "Join Hillary and tell Bill You're In.")   Obama's ad guys think they're being clever, and that the clever people they believe to be their natural constituency will identify with it and applaud that winking naughtiness with their checkbooks.  Whether they are right, I don't know.  I do know they have diminished an already shrinking presidency, and man.  

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