Barack Obama's campaign has been seriously frightened by John McCain's celebrity-mocking ads. Those celebrities were virtually nowhere to be found for most of the Denver convention. While the Obama machine may control the inside of the convention, outside these celebrities are clearly out of control -- again.
That overbaked tart Madonna kicked off her latest concert tour with a fairly typical attempt to put her Kung Fu grip on media attention by signaling her preferences in the presidential race. In her first concert in London -- the same city where the Dixie Chicks professed their shame for being geographically associated with Bush -- Madonna performed a song titled "Give It 2 Me" with a video screen flashing images behind her.
First came John McCain's picture -- alongside images of Adolf Hitler, Zimbabwe's dictator Robert Mugabe, environmental ruin and starving children. (She also included Mike Huckabee in that odd hall of shame.) Then came the Obama segment, and the Democrat was surrounded by images of Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, John Lennon and Al Gore.
Gossip columnist Liz Smith proclaimed: "I hate to be a cynic, but it smacks of 'How do I get my tour opening night in the news during the Democratic Convention?'" She suggested that friends scoffed in disagreement, arguing that given Madonna's demonstrated lack of political acumen, it's quite possible she had no idea the Democratic convention was happening in Denver.
So what was the political message in the song accompanying those visuals? It featured hackneyed Madonna lyrics: "If it's against the law, arrest me. If you can handle it, undress me." By now, as she turns 50, the lyrics are beginning to sound desperate.
Five years ago, Madonna laid an egg at the start of the Iraq war with her video "American Life," in which she pulled the pin on a grenade and threw it at a George W. Bush look-alike. The look-alike picked up the grenade -- and lit his cigar with it. Madonna desperately tried to distance herself from the overt symbolism of presidential assassination, suggesting instead that she had meant to suggest that President Bush had the potential to take something violent and destructive and turn it into something more constructive. Blah, blah. The controversy didn't help. The song tanked.
McCain's campaign quickly threw Madonna's shtick at Obama: "It clearly shows that when it comes to supporting Barack Obama, his fellow worldwide celebrities refused to consider any smear or attack off limits." That forced the Obama camp to condemn Madonna, sort of: "These comparisons are outrageous and offensive and have no place in the political process. We hope that John McCain will offer a similar condemnation as his allies increasingly practice sleazy swift boat politics."
This is becoming a pattern for the poor, celebrity-loaded Obama campaign. Just a few weeks ago, the rapper calling himself Ludacris lauded Obama and slashed Bush and McCain in a YouTube video entitled "Obama's Here." In the lyrics, Ludacris called himself Obama's favorite rapper, noting the candidate said (to Rolling Stone magazine) that he listens to Ludacris on his iPod.
First, Ludacris offended all the Hillary-adoring feminists. "Better yet put me in office, make me your vice president, Hillary hated on you, so that b---- is irrelevant."
Then came the Republican-bashing: "Paint the White House black, and I'm sure that's got 'em terrified, McCain don't belong in any chair unless he's paralyzed." McCain deserves a wheelchair, and Bush is a moron: "Yeah I said it cause Bush is mentally handicapped, ball up all of his speeches and just throw 'em like candy wrap."
It says something about our screwed-up culture that the president of the United States, a man with an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, is mocked as a special-needs student by a guy with no college degree who misspells his album titles ("Word of Mouf") to look hip.
Obama spokesman Bill Burton expressed great shock and outrage: "As Barack Obama has said many, many times in the past, rap lyrics today, too, often perpetuate misogyny, materialism and degrading images that he doesn't want his daughters or any children exposed to ... it is offensive to all of us who are trying to raise our children with the values we hold dear."
Really? When he spoke to Rolling Stone, Obama lauded Ludacris as one of several "great talents and great businessmen" and hailed "the genius of the art form." He said he was "troubled sometimes by the misogyny and materialism" in rap lyrics and added, "It would be nice if I could have my daughters listen to their music without me worrying they were getting bad images of themselves." He didn't even claim his little girls didn't listen to it.
That hardly has the degrading and misogynistic rappers shaking in their boots.