Monday, August 4, 2008

That Dollar Bill

More fuss over John McCain accusing Barack Obama "playing the race card" recently of course, most of it quite manufactured. As Bob Herbert points out in his recent NY Times column Obama's remarks about "not looking like all those other presidents on dollar bills" was a direct response to attacks on him from the McCain faction, not something he had simply invented on the spur of the moment. This is not to say that the Obama campaign is entirely innocent of playing the race card--they played it against Hillary Clinton, taking her remarks about Lyndon Johnson's role in passing the Civil Rights Act and Bobby Kennedy's assassination entirely out of context--but in this case the Democratic candidate was responding to McCain advertising which smeared him.
However, there is a sense in which all this is a false issue. If Obama plays the race card--so what? Presidential candidates play the cards they are dealt. JFK played the "Catholic" card, (while pretending not to), while George Bush played the "white guy" card. Presidents and Presidential candidates from Andrew Jackson to Hubert Humphrey have played the "war" card. Obama will also be subtly playing the "age" card against McCain.
It really is all about who ends up on that dollar bill--or that ten or twenty or fifty--and getting there involves a lot of card dealing, sometimes from the bottom of the deck.

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