September 6, 2012
When President Barack Obama asked stoners Harold & Kumar to help with his message, the inevitable was bound to happen.
And it did, dude.
The first two days at the Democratic National Convention have been a disaster of biblical proportions as far as political messaging. There was that squabble over whether the party platform should even mention God, and include a reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
And there was also the uproar on the right from that convention video in which the DNC introduced a new Orwellian slogan:
"Government is the only thing that we all belong to."
It didn't get better. Later Wednesday, just after former president and multitasker Bill Clinton delivered his big speech to rekindle visions of Democratic glory days, a rabbi was scheduled to come onstage. That's the rabbi of Clinton's former Oval Office intern and sex partner Monica Lewinsky, and he was invited to give the closing benediction.
Who spilled the bong water at the DNC? If this isn't a messaging disaster caused by post-traumatic bowl syndrome, what is?
It makes you wonder what might come next. Obama naming Kim Kardashian as his chief of protocol?
The stems and seeds of this disaster were planted when the Obama campaign, desperate to rekindle the cool factor with younger voters, appeared in a commercial with actors who play the noted Hollywood potheads in the movies. Obama was promoting a live-stream event of his convention address Thursday night. In the commercial, the one thing I couldn't spot on Harold & Kumar's iconic coffee table was their bong.
And soon after that commercial came the wrestling over God in the platform.
This issue was highlighted in a confrontation between U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat and consummate political survivor, and Fox News' Bret Baier, who asked Durbin why the Democrats had dropped "God" from their platform this year.
"God is not a franchise of the Republican Party," said Durbin, who accused Baier's network of trying to suggest that the Democrats are godless. Baier said he was just asking why the almighty wasn't there. The Democrats got similar blowback over leaving Jerusalem out of the platform.
On Wednesday, the Democrats finally found religion — and the capital of Israel. They put both back into the platform, but not before a messy scene on the convention floor, with the convention chairman, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, pretending that the ayes had it while delegates yelled nay at him.
Many delegates were so outraged that they unleashed a chorus of boos, leaving them open to charges that they had booed God.
But that was the noise. What was nearly as bad was the lack of noise after the DNC showed an odd video on Tuesday night, the one the DNC is now formally disavowing.
Just a few weeks ago, American small-business owners were punched in the gut by Obama's "You didn't build that" comment, reminding them that the feds had a hand in their success and on their throats. And now comes the "Government is the only thing that we all belong to" line, which reminds everyone where America seems to be going.
More government, and more belonging.
That video from the Charlotte in 2012 committee — representing the host city of the convention — showed pleasant scenes of a man on a horse, bicyclists riding free (but helmeted) and a school bus rolling past an American flag.
"We are committed to all people," the video's narrator said. "We do believe you can use government in a good way. Government is the only thing that we all belong to. We're in different churches, different clubs, but we're together as a part of our city or our county or our state. And our nation."
Government is the only thing that we all belong to?
What's next, we'll meet in cells of three until somebody takes us to Room 101 and straps on the rat cage?
We asked a few citizens on the street whether they belonged to government.
"I think it's bogus," said Nichole Kourvas, a 26-year-old research coordinator from Hickory Hills. "We all live under the government, but we don't belong to it. That's why we get to pick every four years. If we all belonged to government, we wouldn't get that chance."
Griffin Sims, 21, a student at Columbia College, was worried that it would give Republicans rhetorical ammunition. But, he said, "it should be the other way around and the government should belong to us. Isn't that the point?"
"We're not here to serve them, they're here to serve us," said Todd Konigson, 45, a furniture business owner visiting from Minneapolis. "We don't belong to them."
I couldn't find any news reports of delegate outrage. But then, it probably didn't occur to them to be outraged. The Democrats weren't angered by slogans like "Government can't afford a tax cut," either.
When the DNC started taking heat over the video, the Charlotte host committee fell on its sword and said the national Democrats had nothing to do with it. "The intent of this video was to tell the story of this region, and it is completely unaffiliated with the Obama campaign or the Democratic National Committee," an official said in a statement.
So Obama's handlers, who measure every image for effect, just forgot to screen the video? Obama media genius David Axelrod must have been helping Rahm Emanuel whip up some Mrs. Grass onion dip for the Thursday night watch party at the Obama headquarters in Chicago.
At least we know where Harold & Kumar's bong is. It's somewhere in Charlotte.
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