Michael Scherer at the Swampland discusses Robert Gibbs (Obama’s Communications Director) and thinks he is playing the age card. He cites two examples.
Scherer on the first:
Some weeks back, Barack Obama’s communications chief Robert Gibbs joked without any prompting that John McCain might have “misplaced the keys” to his houses. Hardy Har Har.
The second (my emphasis):
This morning on MSNBC, Gibbs returned to the make-fun-of-the-elderly joke well. “Just yesterday, John McCain said we shouldn’t fix blame. He took a breath and then fixed blame. He said the fundamentals of our economy are strong, and he flip-flopped. He opposed the bail-out of AIG, and then he supported it. This guy zig-zags. Look, if he’s driving a car, get off the sidewalk.” (Video here.)
Hardy Har Har. Back in the 2004 presidential election, one in four voters was 60 years old or older. I am sure they find these sort of jokes from Obama’s top message man hilarious. Just hilarious.
Now the first one recall referred to the fact that John McCain couldn’t remember how many houses he owned. And that attack was leveled at him for being a really rich dude who had no clue about everyday stuff. But the age think was inevitably part of that one–and may have been signalled in this ad. So on the first, I would say it’s more ambiguous than Scherer is making it out to be (i.e. Gibbs could have just been hitting the rich dude theme), but I think Scherer may have something on that one. May. Or at the least if he didn’t intend it, he should have thought that the losing the keys could be heard in a negative demeaning light.
But the second example…I gotta call BS on that one. “The guy zig-zags” means that he keeps changing his opinions/views every five seconds (hence the earlier reference to flip-flopping) and that charge has validity. In fact a whole lot of evidence behind it. Why jump to the conclusion that he meant anything other than the guy changes his mind every other day and that if that were analogized as driving a car it would be zig-zagging. And if you were in the way of said zig-zagging you would get mowed down, which to play the analogy back means that you don’t want to vote for this guy because his positions are erratic and will get “driven over” politically as a result if he gets “behind the wheel” of government. i.e. If he’s in the “driver’s seat” of the executive. [Can I find any more cliches relative to this analogy? Commenters feel free to add some...we can make it into a contest of sorts.]
Why does the zig-zagging have to be a shot at old people and a subtle signalling of stereotypes about older folks as bad drivers? This is as dumb in my mind as trying to argue for racism in those old Celebrity McCain ads.
On another note, I find highly amusing the (fairly youthful) Scherer projecting what all old people think. Who’s stereotyping now homeboy? Maybe some segment of elders in US society would have interpreted Gibbs in exactly the manner I did–i.e. Gibbs was just referring to McCain’s all over the place campaign and not his age). Or someone could argue that Gibbs didn’t intend his comment to be a shot at elders in society–but he could later be informed that his words could be interpreted to evoke ageist stereotypes, in which case he could (possibly legitimately) say something like, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that. Thanks for the info. I’ll try to remember to watch my words next time” kinda thing. Since when did all old folks become super sensitive all of a sudden?
The thing I don’t get in all this PC huffpuffing during the election has been this assumption that all of these surrogates (and sometimes the candidates themselves) are totally 100% consicous of all possible interpretations, particularly the most negative to their words, and intrinsically intended the worst possible interpretation. In my mind there have been cases where such an intention was operative (committed by all three campaigns, including Hillary’s primary run), but the extrapolation from individual cases to all cases just makes for people looking less than with it.
Edit I: And no, by with it, I don’t mean an age thing–either for elders (implying losing it) or ageist against younger folk (not mature enough). I just mean individual persons analysis which appears really off base.