Ipso facto hubris from Obama?

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Some of my grumpier Republican friends are in a lather over the Obama campaign's hubris of late. Its tweaking of the official presidential seal was unveiled at a meeting of Democratic governors in Chicago last week.

Appropriating the official seal of the president of the United States to advance one's own presidential ambitions isn't unprecedented, though re-mixing its design elements to reflect unique campaign talking points probably is. (Click here to see AP story and photo.)

"Obama for America" and the campaign's Web site occupy the top and bottom of the seal's outer circle.

In the rainbow arch connecting the eagle's wings, "Vero Possumus" has replaced "E Pluribus Unum" as the presidential motto. For those who fell asleep during Latin class, the phrase means, roughly, "Truly we are able."

If that sounds suspiciously like "Yes, we can," you're starting to catch on. Still, there was nothing wrong with the original Latin motto which made the same point without appearing self-aggrandizing: "Out of the Many, One."

At the center of the seal is the Obama campaign's original symbol -- an open road that doubles as a rainbow with a sun setting on the horizon.

While not as egomaniacal as Michael Jackson floating a 32-foot steel-and-fiberglass statue of himself down the Thames River during a album promotion in 1995, it comes close. At least the motto doesn't say "Out of the many, Obama."

Having mounted the most successful insurgent presidential campaign in American history, Mr. Obama's people would have served their candidate better by sticking to the design that got them through all those grueling primaries.

Now blogs and Web sites are abuzz with freaked-out conservatives warning that this stylistically clumsy version of the presidential seal is only the beginning of the "radical" changes Barack Obama would implement as president.

Instead of seeing the design as a campaign gimmick, many of the more hysterical voices imagine an Obama presidency ushering in a new world order where Kwanzaa displaces Christmas, the White House becomes the "Black House," Air Force One is rechristened "The Spirit of the Tuskegee Airmen," and unthinkable plans are in the works for Mount Rushmore.

Of course, the media has been slow to report that Republican nominee John McCain is also looking into adapting the presidential seal for his own purposes, but he'll likely steer clear of the kind of the presumption that has gotten his Democratic rival into trouble.

While more respectful of the original design, Mr. McCain's modification of the familiar "E Pluribus Unum" motto is equally problematic: "Evado Meus Gramen" -- Get off my lawn, you little jerks.


Last week's Quinnipiac poll giving Mr. Obama a 52-to-40 lead over John McCain in Pennsylvania was a nice bit of vindication for those who refuse to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that our state is a vast, racist wasteland.

According to the same poll, Mr. Obama is beating Mr. McCain by healthy margins in Ohio and Florida, too. One acquaintance suggests that the "Bradley Effect" -- a reference to Tom Bradley, the popular black mayor of Los Angeles who believed he had enough white support to be elected governor of California in 1982, but fell short on election day -- is in effect.

He believes 9 out of 10 white voters are lying to pollsters to avoid looking racist -- and that we might as well skip the election and swear Mr. McCain into office yesterday.

The next time I see him, I'll ask him what he thinks of the recent Washington Post-ABC News poll that reports a slight majority of white voters feels "entirely comfortable" electing a black man as president.

According to the same poll, three in 10 voters of all persuasions acknowledge "feelings of racial prejudice," so we're not exactly in a racial Shangri-la, yet.

The percentage of folks with qualms about Mr. Obama's race is smaller than those who aren't thrilled about electing a 72-year-old to office at a time when the nation is facing bigger and more complicated challenges than anytime in our history.

Still, Mr. Obama has a lot of work to do convincing less educated working-class whites that he doesn't intend to introduce them to the joys of slavery or hand the launch codes to America's nuclear arsenal to al-Qaida.

Far too many folks who should know better are convinced that Mr. Obama's election represents an apocalyptic doomsday for the white race when all that it really means is that America will be electing a cool new boss who happens to be black.

For those who have never had a black boss, rest assured. Life will go on. Just work on getting your fist bump right.


UPDATE

: The Obama campaign saw the light and today announced that the seal is being deep-sixed. See this item on "The Swamp," the blog of the Chicago Tribune Washington Bureau: "Obama's Seal Now Retired: No Credit."


Tony Norman can be reached at tnorman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1631.


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