Friday, September 12, 2008



Published: August 26, 2008

One of the hallmarks of the global digital age is that anyone with a computer can participate in the political debate. That can be wonderful. Or it can be appalling, like the new video Madonna is showing on her tour.

Times editorial writers.

Go to The Board » It shows a montage of genocide (a Nazi death camp, Asian and African killing fields) and faces of evil and oppression (Adolf Hitler, Ayatollah Khomeini, Robert Mugabe). Then it cuts to Mike Huckabee, who ran for the Republican nomination, and Senator John McCain, who is about to become the official Republican nominee.

This year’s presidential campaign has already been marked by far too much negative advertising, with coded racial images and sophomoric insults. It was outrageous when Mr. McCain’s campaign juxtaposed Mr. Obama with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears as part of its effort to denigrate him as a person, rather than debating him on this country’s huge problems.

Madonna’s video is immeasurably worse. If she thought she was helping Mr. Obama by juxtaposing his image with that of Gandhi and Bono, she was wrong.

We do not subscribe to the “shut up and sing” notion that celebrities should stay out of politics — a position most often espoused by Republicans about stars who support Democrats. There is no room in decent discourse for comparing a candidate for president to Hitler.

Tucker Bounds, a McCain spokesman, was exactly right when he called the video “outrageous” and “unacceptable.” Mr. Obama’s team also swiftly denounced it. “These comparisons are outrageous and offensive and have no place in the political process,” said a spokesman, Tommy Vietor. But it was a distressing sign of how low the political debate has gotten this year that neither side could resist using the moment to hurl more mud.

“It clearly shows that when it comes to supporting Barack Obama, his fellow worldwide celebrities refuse to consider any smear or attack off limits,” added Mr. Bounds of the McCain campaign. And Mr. Vietor could not resist his own gratuitous jab. “We hope that John McCain will offer a similar condemnation as his allies increasingly practice sleazy Swift boat tactics,” he said.

At least the song Madonna was performing during the video was aptly named: “Get Stupid.”