From the hysterical reaction it provoked you would have thought it was the kind of injury that makes pigs squeal — a TV commercial that used humor as a weapon to cut the high-flying Barack Obama down to size.
It's always been axiomatic in politics that you don't shoot arrows at dead tigers, meaning that attacks on a political stratagem are launched only when that tactic is working, not when it's failing.
Such is the case of the two TV commercials created by the McCain camp to more than suggest that Senator Obama is . . . well . . . full of himself, a celebrity who is celebrated merely for being a celebrity.
In the first ad, Obama is by implication compared to the Misses Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, both world famous by virtue of merely being famous. It's an effective way of conveying the idea that in Obama's case, as in the cases of the two women, there's no there there, as Dorothy Parker would have put it.
The second ad is even more cutting, using a photo of the late Charlton Heston as Moses parting the Red Sea to imply that Obama sees himself in that miraculous context.
Both ads are funny, and, for Obama, lethally so. They make people laugh, and in both cases, the laughter is directed at Barack Obama. Nothing is more fatal to a candidate's aspirations for higher office that something that causes people to laugh at him. He is transposed into a figure of humor — more joke than candidate.
Nothing could be more illustrative of the deadly effects these ads are having than the near hysterical reaction of the Obama campaign and among his supporters.
The New York Times' Bob Herbert, an avid Obama supporter, shot this arrow at what he obviously understands is a very live tiger. As Pat Buchanan noted, Herbert accused McCain and the GOP of producing ads that are "slimy . . . foul, poisonous . . . designed to exploit the hostility, anxiety and resentment of the many white Americans who are still freakishly hung up on the idea of black men rising above their station and becoming sexually involved with white women."
Not to be outdone in hysteria was The Washington Post's Gene Robinson who said that McCain is "running a desperate, ugly campaign."
Translated: McCain is now running a very effective campaign and winning vast numbers of supporters with his inspired use of humor in reducing Obama's image to that of a mere mortal, and we don't like it one bit.
It's more than obvious that there is a serious lack of a sense of humor in the Obama ranks. They should have joined in the laughter and in turn spoofed the McCain spoof, but being obsessed with the notion that Obama is indeed the messiah he seems to claim to be ("We are the ones we've been waiting for"), they can only view the ads as sacrilegious, if not outright blasphemy.
How dare McCain link their savior's name with the likes of Paris Hilton (a person, by the way, not a hotel in Paris) they ask. Well then, one might ask, how dare Obama link himself with her?
Unfortunately they seem to forget that it was Obama who hooked himself up with Miss Hilton, having been quoted in a Feb. 24 article in The Washington Post as saying, "There's nothing exotic or complicated about how phenoms are made in Washington, and, more to the point, how they are broken. Andy Warhol said we all get our 15 minutes of fame. I've already had an hour and a half. I mean, I'm so overexposed, I'm making Paris Hilton look like a recluse."
It's always instructive to examine the matter of negative campaigning which the media universally condemns and any politician worth his salt recognizes as an effective weapon to which the public well responds.
In other words, properly done, it works. And one might ask, What on earth is wrong with pointing out your opponent's weaknesses? If he or she is a scoundrel or a nincompoop, should not the voters be made aware of it?
The fact is that it has become routine for candidates stung by revelations they'd rather have kept unmentioned to complain that they are the victims of "negative campaigning." The media eats up that kind of response. They want it to be known that the negativity weapon is theirs alone. Nobody else may use it.
And when so-called negative ads such as those being used so effectively by the McCain camp hit home, the media tends to go berserk, hoping to force the offenders to cease and desist and stop using a sword that is killing their opponents.
The next time you hear the sound of pigs squealing, keep in mind that they have been wounded and don't like it one little bit.
Phil Brennan is a veteran journalist and World War II Marine who writes for Newsmax.com. He is editor and publisher of Wednesday on the Web (http://www.pvbr.com) and was Washington columnist (Cato) for National Review magazine in the 1960s.
He also served as a staff aide for the House Republican Policy Committee and helped handle the Washington public relations operation for the Alaska Statehood Committee which won statehood for Alaska. He is also a trustee of the Lincoln Heritage Institute and a member of the Association For Intelligence Officers.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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