Not overwhelmingly proud of it, but when I was in eighth grade, I took regular part in a strange, white-knuckle game called “Jack Mehoff.” The rules were deceptively simple: you had to slip the name “Jack Mehoff” into actual classroom discussion, as unobtrusively as possible.
For example, when discussing World War II in Social Studies, you might ask, “Mr. McCarty, I heard that there was a secret squad set up to assassinate Hitler at one point, led by one of the early Marines named Zack Myrnoff or Jack Mehoff or something like that. Do you know anything about that at all, that Mehoff guy?”
And then you kept your face absolutely straight, not even a ghost of a smile. No matter what the other guys let loose with in the back row.
Having managed it, you were in the clear. But those who waited until near the end of the game were trying to slip the name “Jack Mehoff” by teachers who had already heard it 4 or 5 times in the previous week. And they were generally busted, and made to explain the whole rotten enterprise in the Principal’s office, one at a time.
If you need to understand why eighth grade boys were interested in foregrounding the name “Jack Mehoff” in the first place, then you really need to be reading another blog at this point.
But teenage onanism isn’t really the point.
The point is that more or less the same game has been run on the mainstream media for the last year, except that instead of “Jack Mehoff” the new version is called “Barack Osama,” and it’s played exclusively by GOP candidates, against Democratic hopeful Barack Obama.
It works like this: GOP candidate X “stumbles” or “commits a gaffe” by confusing Obama for Osama, and the media tut-tuts for a day or so. Mitt Romney is only the most recent player.
The MSM then “helps” Obama, the injured party, by broadcasting the “gaffe” complete with apologies and denials and histories of other times that various officials and candidates have made the same mistake.
And this has two predictable effects: 1) willy-nilly, Obama’s name is further linked in the public mind with America’s Public Enemy #1, and 2) the GOP candidate responsible for the “gaffe” shows the base (or the cool kids, think of them how you will) that he is willing to keep this Fox News gag running, even at the risk of a tongue-lashing in the Principal’s office.
It all boils down to the same thing Republicans have been doing to Democrats for years: oddly overt, bullying tactics that seem straight out of middle-school to you and me, but that nonetheless put Democrats in the position of the kid being bullied. Bush and his “Democrat Congress” taunts, to take another example.
And at that point, generally clueless voters only ever pick up on the aftermath: one kid looking innocent and indignant, while the other kid whines and cries.
Jack Mehoff, indeed.