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Obama: The James Dean of Professional Politics

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I am signed up for all of the presidential candidate’s e-mail listservs which both keeps me informed and makes me feel like a good person when I get a personalized e-mail from all the candidates asking for my help with something (recently for Hillary Clinton, it was picking her campaign song!). I got a great e-mail from the Obama campaign the other day:

Dear John,

Barack has been traveling across the country asking people to speak out and let their Senators know that it’s time to end the Iraq war.

One Republican colleague has already called this “not Senatorial”. But this isn’t about Washington etiquette, it’s about bringing our troops home…

No one of us can do it alone, and it’s not going to happen tomorrow. But a movement to create the kind of change we need starts with you.

The e-mail was titled “Not Playing by the Rules” and I swear i had to read it 5 or 6 times to make sure they didn’t spell “playing” as “playin'” I guess I understand the emphasis in the Obama campaign on being a Washington outsider, using his inexperience to his advantage, but is there a point where this sort of thing goes overboard?

One Republican colleague has already called this “not Senatorial”. But this isn’t about Washington etiquette

I’m not even really sure what that means, or what Obama did that was “not Senatorial” but I’m afraid the next e-mail is going to have a picture of Obama in a leather biker jacket with a pack of Newports. I like it when candidates don’t “play by the rules” but when they revel in that fact they are usually sacrificing a little bit of their street cred. Barack Obama is a Columbia and Harvard educated Senator, it’s a pretty big leap to make him seen as an anti-establishment James Dean-esque outsider.

David Axelrod, one of Obama’s chief political advisers has spent so much time crafting Obama’s image as an insurgency candidate that it sometimes rings false when I get e-mails entitled “Not Playing by the Rules.” The Obama campaign is no less calculated than the Clinton campaign, it’s just calculated to seem uncalculated with his tie-less blazer and seemingly off-the-cuff remarks.
The New York Times wrote an article about Axelrod’s involvement in the Obama campaign a while ago:

Axelrod says viewers are more likely to be arrested by shots that look rough, like “a hybrid, part political commercial, part news.â€Â? He found a grainy, C-Span-style shot of Obama talking about homelessness on the floor of the State Senate, which Axelrod now uses to establish Obama’s prior political experience. The consultant picked out a lingering, distant shot of Obama walking down a sunny southern Illinois road with his long arm around an older, short white farmer. He says this was intended to convey his candidate’s ease with conversation, his cross-cultural capability… When you finish watching the video, you don’t have a particularly good sense of Obama as a politician (you might be able to say that he’s for change), but there is an intimacy â€â€? you have been drowned in his life, and you feel as if you know him.

Unless he’s going to hold up a fruit stand or he learns to sing and dance and joins the Jets or Sharks, I have a difficult time buying the credo that Obama is not “playing by the rules.”

(crossposted from RealityCheck08)