Two Weeks To Go

Within hours of Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama Sunday, three leading voices of the Republican chattering class asserted the same, benighted conclusion about the motive for the former Secretary of State's move: clearly, they all said, Powell acted because both men are black.

In separate venues, radio gasbag Rush Limbaugh,cable motor mouth
Pat Buchanan,
and oh-so-wise-man George Will each offered the view that Powell, an authentic American hero who loyally served two Republican presidents named Bush, had put his thumb on the scale in weighing Obama's candidacy against that of John McCain because of the color of his skin.

Coming as McCain campaign manager Rick Davis disclosed that his guy may have to change his mind about using Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's former pastor, as a wedge issue to attack the Democrat, and as McCain kept loudly reminding everyone that he was criticized by John Lewis, the Georgia Congressman and civil rights hero - criticism that was barely noticed until McCain started talking about it on a daily basis maybe this was all just, uh, coincidence.

But with Obama building a solid national lead while forcing McCain to defend a batch of traditional GOP states, including Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, it might also be that the McCain camp is desperate enough to try to turn the last two weeks of the campaign into a referendum on race, in a bid to pull out a last-ditch red state electoral college win.

To many analysts, race is still the elephant in the room, as McCain increasingly relies on volatile character attacks on Obama, who has surged ever since the meltdown of the economy became the dominant issue. At a panel discussion about media and politics at UCSB Tuesday afternoon, for example, my friend and colleague, investigative journalist Anne Louise Bardach, suggested that inoculating himself against racial attacks was part of Obama's calculation in quitting the campaign trail for two days to visit his ailing white grandmother in Hawaii.

The last time Obama went to Hawaii, to vacation with his family in August, McCain took the opportunity to bash his rival as weak on national security, in the wake of Russia's military strike against Georgia. That attack, which helped McCain pull even at the time, was tough but absolutely legitimate; here's hoping the Republican's campaign stays above the belt this time around, too.

The Media and Politics: Threat or Menace?

The Santa Barbara Press Club will host a panel discussion of the coverage of the campaign in a changing media landscape on Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 6:30 p.m. It is the third and final event of the club's 2008 discussion series, "Changing Media in a Changing World." The event will be held at the Victoria Hall Theater located at 33 W. Victoria in Santa Barbara. Tickets at the door are $5 for club members, $10 for guests.

Panelists include Santa Barbara Sound columnists Randy Alcorn and Cheri Rae; writer and Santa Barbara Writers Conference honcho Marcia Maier; Melvin Oliver, the SAGE Sara Miller McCune Dean of Social Sciences at UCSB, and yours truly.

Elephant Gives Birth to Mouse

After all the hype, Oliver Stone's George W. Bush biopic, "W," is a letdown.

A dozey, down the middle narrative of widely-known events in the life of still-the-president-for-three-more-months, "W" has neither the dark, raw edge of Stone's "Nixon," nor the full-bore, conspiratorial nuttiness of his "JFK."

Josh Brolin does a first-rate job playing the man who grew up being called "Junior," Elizabeth Banks is reel purdy as Laura Bush, Richard Dreyfuss almost steals the movie with his portrayal of Dick Cheney and Thandie Newton absolutely nails the sycophancy of Condoleeza Rice. But the Oedipal angle is way overdone and, in the end, "W," is less than the sum of its parts. Joe Bob says wait for the DVD.

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