Up Front


As Barack Obama, backlit by the golden light of sunset, spoke to 200,000 cheering Germans in Berlin on July 24, the moment certainly looked to be a good one for his campaign. Maybe too good, said CNN correspondent Candy Crowley.

"I have to tell you that there is some danger here," she said after the speech. "Do people see him as too presumptuous, sort of trying to look like a president?"

A presidential candidate trying to look like a president—a high-risk strategy, indeed. Within a week of Crowley's comments, the McCain campaign released a new ad, "Celeb," taking aim at Obama's presumption in delivering big speeches to even bigger crowds. The spot begins with images of Obama from the Berlin speech juxtaposed against videos of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton -- with whom Obama is frequently confused -- as a female voice intones, "He's the biggest celebrity in the world."

The Republican National Committee has launched a Web site called Audacity Watch that compiles instances of Obama acting too much like a president, as evidenced by his creating a presidential transition team and pledging that he would not keep a TV in the Lincoln bedroom.

If Obama's excessively presidential behavior is a campaign problem, then what could be more reassuring than John McCain's stumbles and gaffes? As The Daily Show's John Oliver says, "The one thing that's more powerful than hope and change is pity."


Kanye West is known for his glow-in-the-dark concerts and his larger-than-life sunglasses—certainly better than for his political opinions. But West is one of a youngish group of stars who will perform at the Democratic Convention, joining hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean and N.E.R.D., a hip-hop group beloved by tight-jeaned, cigarette-smoking hipsters everywhere.

The scope of the generational transition in the Democratic Party is clear when we compare this year's entertainment to the lineup assembled for John Kerry's convention four years ago. Kerry's Golden Oldies included John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, and Carole King. "You've Got a Friend" brought people back to the glory days of the Democratic Party—the early 1970s. Oh wait.

Republicans have yet to announce the musical guests for their convention. We hope they'll outdo their 2004 lineup, where the biggest name was Lee Anne Womack. With John McCain at the helm, the smart money is on a surprise appearance by Lawrence Welk.


Karl Rove and Howard Wolfson have both found their ways to Fox in recent months, and with any luck, they will become the new versions of Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala, with gloves (and bowtie) off. But what about the other members of the Bush administration, now facing a future of mass unemployment? With a track record like theirs, television may be their only refuge. If we might be so bold as to make some suggestions:

Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell have both been out of the public eye since leaving their Cabinet positions. Who better to revive The Odd Couple? "Rummy, your dirty socks are covering my Middle East maps!"

Scooter Libby's miraculous evasion of jail time makes him a great candidate for Prison Break.

Scott McClellan might get a gig on Gossip Girl, where spilling secrets is more appreciated than it is in politics.

And Dick Cheney's unparalleled experience at court intrigue and Tower-of-London-period torture, not to mention his firsthand memories of the time, makes him the perfect addition to the cast of The Tudors.


One of the revelations of Barack Obama's overseas journey is that John McCain is not necessarily the favored candidate of conservatives in other lands. In July, London's Daily Telegraph asked the conservative members of the British Parliament who they were supporting in the American presidential race. Of those that responded, 63 backed McCain, but 28 supported Obama, and 22 more denied a preference. Douglas Carswell, the member of parliament for Harwich, gushed that Obama was "Edmund Burke.com," and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former foreign secretary, said he supports Obama because America "needs change."

Obama's trip abroad brought out the hope in conservative politicians from Berlin to Tel Aviv. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany called him "well-equipped—physically, mentally, and politically." President Nicolas Sarkozy of France referred to Obama as "my pal," adding that he'd be "delighted" if Obama won. And while not an Obama man himself, die-hard Mideast hawk Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud party leader and ex-prime minister, fawned over Obama's dubbing of Israel's security as "sacrosanct."

As Obama finished up his trip in London, Tory leader David Cameron paid heed to his care and feeding. "You should be on a beach," Cameron urged. "You need a break."


The question: which ambassadorship would you like under a McCain administration?

"The Ottoman Empire. The Turks knew how to keep the Arabs occupied for hundreds of years."

--Lane Greene, correspondent, The Economist

"Czechoslovakia. McCain seems to have a soft spot for it."

--Ben Greenman, editor, The New Yorker

"New York City, which I hope and expect will secede from any country so stupid as to pick John McCain to be president."

--Eric Alterman, Media Matters for America


Parody by T.A. Frank

Preemptive Presidential Pardons:


Offense: Politicized hiring and firing at Department of Justice

Presidential statement: I know that some folks are mad still about the hard work Monica did. I also know that Monica asked job-seekers what things about George W. Bush /made them want to serve him. I don't see what's political about that and think it is a good question. In fact, I think it should become standard in most job interviews in America, replacing "Where do you see yourself in five years?" Monica is also a fox. I fully pardon her.


Offense: Political firings and political prosecutions at DOJ

Presidential statement : Turd Blossom is a good man, and I don't want all these investigations getting drug out. He has an important message to send to us all about how John McCain's opponent may be a Muslim and a Black Panther with a God complex. I therefore fully pardon Karl.


Offense: Torture, illegal DOJ hiring and firing, wiretapping

Presidential statement: I know some folks are saying Gonzales this and Gonzales that. But I don't know how anyone could look Fredo in the eye and stay mad at the fella. With that thick black hair and that adorable, Labrador-retriever expression, Fredo could go out and catch and eat a baby and I know I'd still wanna give him a big old kiss and a new baby to practice on. Pardon him? Hell, I just want to give him a bone and hug him.


Offense: In 2000, when serving as an aide to McCain, ate George W. Bush's only peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich during flight to Texas, causing anger

Presidential statement: I was real mad at John Weaver there for a minute. Still am. He's a major-league asshole. But like all Americans under my presidency, John Weaver has suffered greatly already. So I forgive him and order him released.


Offense: Irritating, French

Presidential statement: Now, I respect that good people can disagree about Jacques Chirac, although they cannot disagree a lot. A few years ago, I issued an executive order to bunker-bust Jacques. But since our action was not successful, I am now pardoning him, provided that he goes into exile on Elba. 

T.A. Frank is an Irvine Fellow at the New America Foundation.

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