On the flight from Billings, Montana, to Denver, Colo., Obama senior strategist David Axelrod responded to the criticism.
“I know that Sen McCain and his people have been shooting barbs about the ‘opulence’ of our convention from the mountaintop at Sedona at the McCain estate. I don’t think it warrants a response.”
Well, no, it’s not that the setting is “opulent,” it’s that it’s a manifestation of the olympian mythology surrounding The One. (Replete with Greek chorus!) As I write this, the tu quoque is already being made, with Ben Smith dutifully reporting that George Bush spoke before practically the same backdrop in 2004. Judge for yourself. The columns are fewer, set far back, and (apparently) lacking the frieze in Obama’s set, suggesting to my jaded wingnut eye not so much an actual building as something “stately” an unimaginative set designer decided to toss in there to fill out the space between the flags. Regardless, though, if it’s true that Obama’s getting a harder time about this than would other politicians if they used the same set, it’s only because the scenery plays into his own image as something more grandiose and timeless than a mere presidential candidate. Seeing Joe Biden on that stage would feel absurd; with Obama, it’ll feel like psychology.
Even Democrats think it’s a mistake. But to the extent Bush’s set does glancingly resemble Obama’s, I’ll happily concede the left’s point: Yes indeed, it certainly is embarrassing to make fun of the opposing party’s nominee over something your own nominee four years ago was just as guilty of. Exit question: How many hundreds of millions of dollars will be onstage tonight? By my tally, just one.