Claims that Republican presidential nominee John McCain was not playing on white voters' fears of black men seducing white women in his "celeb" advertisement are hard to swallow coming from a party that has exploited racial tensions for decades, says a New York Times' columnist.
Bob Herbert, the most prominent African American voice on the paper's op-ed page, authored a Saturday column outlining his objections to the GOP's race-based attacks against Democratic nominee Barack Obama. He expanded on his thesis Monday morning in an interview with MSNBC's Joe Scarborough.
"You tell me why those two phallic symbols are placed there, Pow! Right at the beginning of that ad," Herbert said, referring to images of Berlin's victory column, where Obama spoke last month, and what appears to be the Washington Monument juxtaposed with clips of Hilton and Spears.
Perhaps not coincidentally, both celebrities' sultry images contributed to their fame. Hilton became a household name after the "leak" of her amateur sex tape, and Spears' late-90s stardom arose from her sexually charged dance moves. Both also have repeatedly greeted paparazzi while wearing short skirts and no underwear, Herbert noted in his column.
Herbert traced McCain's reliance on a racist dog whistle to his very first general election ad, where the GOP senator portrayed himself as the "American president Americans have been waiting for," as if there was any question about which country he was running to lead.
"What was the subtext of that comment? ... My contention is that the subtext is that Barack Obama is the other," Herbert said. "And you just have this whole thing playing out in the context of a Republican party that has used and exploited the race issue for political gain for decades now."
This video (scroll down) is from MSNBC's Morning Joe, broadcast August 4, 2008.