Don’t Act Like Him, Don’t Talk Like Him

Stephen Noriega – The McBeat

I just stopped watching John McCain give a press conference on the Georgia situation. He should be able to dominate Barack Obama in this. Obama released a less than inspiring release from Hawaii about the invasion by Russian forces into Georgia. For all of you who do not understand, yes, Russia is driving tanks down Peachtree Avenue, has captured Atlanta and only John McCain cares.

But seriously, John McCain looked good. He touted his experience with Georgia, his trips to that country, and his relationship with the leadership there. He almost had this in the bag until he mispronounced the name of the president.

New School Politics 2-2008

Now, Georgian names are not easy to pronounce for us English speakers. Josef Stalin was a Georgian and his original name was Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili. The Minister of Foreign Affairs is Ekaterine Tkeshelashvili. The President is Mikheil Saakashvili (Not Sashkavili or Shashkvili). The capital city is Tbilisi. This is translated from a writing system different from the Roman alphabet or the Cyrillic system used by the Russians. Still, it has become somewhat important to know these names.

McCain has now mispronounced his Georgian friend’s name at least four times in the media.

Normally this would not be a super huge deal. As Americans, we do not expect our leaders to give much linguistic respect to other states or their leaders. However, this election is a little different. This election might actually have to do with intellect, articulation and pronunciation.

It is a political given that the far left will make fun of McCain and the far right will make fun of Barack Obama for any gaff statements. Likewise these sides will defend their candidates to the very end. The Democrats and Republicans will not see massive defections. This is just not historically supported. The two campaigns need to focus on a particular group of people that have leaned to the right but make no promises for 2008.

The group that has awarded Bush in the last two elections for his personality more than his eloquence is the GDI – The God Damn Independents. They have looked at issues like national security, taxes (valid enough) and whether they would like to have a beer / go bowling with them (not so valid). Even with the GDI having major concerns about Iraq and a runaway deficit, they chose President Bush over Kerry. Kerry just was not one of them. While they worried about small business taxes and Al Qaeda, Kerry went windsurfing.

Amerika.nl 2004

In similar times, the dreaded elite label could drag Obama down. His snubbing of certain beverages and foods on the campaign trail while drinking organic teas and Starbuck potions could cost him much. His misguided and aloof comments in San Francisco about certain people clinging to guns and religion could be a death nail in 2004. However, in 2008, it is not.

Chicago Sun Times 2008

The GDI, as well as many more in the middle of political America, are less concerned about with whom we want to have a beer, or organic tea for that matter. The people in the middle have started to feel their own embarrassment glands ache as the world laughs at our leaders. It is not becoming enough to drink a beer with the President. The President needs to get things done. John McCain can fit the bill, but he must avoid looking silly. This is a rare time for any Republican candidate, trying to honor the brand of the party while still trying not to appear too much like the outgoing, two-term president.

Huffington Post 2008

I am willing to bet that Barack Obama, on his way back from Hawaii, is practicing names like Medvedev, Saakashvili and Tbilisi. McCain better do the same unless he wants a highlight reel like the one below. Unfortunately, McCain’s reel will be shorter because he will pay better attention or because he will lose the election.

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