The debate over McCain’s “the One” anti-Obama ad that erupted last Friday raises several profound questions about the nature of the McCain presidential campaign.
First, the easy question – does the ad actually intend to subtly suggest a resemblance between Obama and the anti-Christ or was it – as the McCain campaign argues – simply a tongue-in-cheek satire of Obama’s supposed presumptuousness and inflated self-opinion?
One can review the quite substantial body of evidence cited by Amy Sullivan in the Time magazine article that brought the controversy to national attention here, and draw one’s own conclusions, but a very easy analytical short-cut is simply to note that the combination of the faux biblical words “The World Will be Blessed, They Will Call Him ‘The One’” and the image of a politician speaking before huge cheering crowds effortlessly invokes mental images from several dozen major Hollywood films, TV movies and mass market paperback books of the last 30 years dealing with the Devil/Satan/Anti-Christ.
This very substantial genre of popular entertainment began with “The Omen” series in the 1970’s and has continued unabated to the present (leaving in its wake a vast trail of earnest village priests impaled by iron fence stakes, eaten by ants or killed by vicious giant hounds as they raced to warn an unsuspecting world). Quite apart from the massive niche audience of the Left Behind series, there is probably not a single popcorn-eating movie-goer in America who is not familiar with the “Satan or Anti-Christ as sinister, charismatic politician” trope in American popular cinema, TV and paperback books. The ad’s creators, as communications professionals, knew this perfectly well.
If one therefore sets aside as totally implausible a “Gee, it never even crossed our minds” excuse from the ads creators, the remaining possibilities raise several deeply disturbing questions about the nature of John McCain’s presidential campaign. The designers of the ad could not possibly have avoided knowing that during the primaries the “Obama as Anti-Christ” notion was being widely circulated and discussed in conservative Christian circles. This leads to three mutually exclusive possibilities.
1. That John McCain understood that the ad might be interpreted as having an “Obama as anti-Christ” theme and nonetheless approved it.
2. That John McCain understood that the ad might be interpreted as having an “Obama as anti-Christ” theme and disapproved of it, but was overruled by his new campaign managers who ordered its release anyway.
3. That John McCain did not realize that the ad might be interpreted as having an “Obama as anti-Christ” theme because his campaign managers deliberately avoided discussing that possibility with him when they requested his go-ahead.
It is difficult to decide which of these three possibilities has the most disturbing implications, but the press should certainly take it as their responsibility to try and find out. The question goes to the heart of John McCain’s character, his ability to manage and what kind of president he would become if elected.