Sunday, May 06, 2007

America: Barack Obama, the It Politician.

There are the naturals, like Bill Clinton, who can make grown-up women swoon. Then, there are the guys, like Barack Obama, who can make grown-up men lose it.

Forgive me if I'm missing something (1), and I know multimillionaire Republicans do not fit comfortably into that born-again NASCAR dad demographics, but when you see them giving money to a freshman senator with little experience managing anything bigger than a classroom full of law students, you know Mr. Obama's got something the rest of us don't. Maybe it's his Mandela-at-forty good looks and delivery, maybe it's his something-for-everybody backstory, maybe it's… well, maybe Joseph "Call Me Joe" Biden was right. Or maybe it's the public's demand, and the media's need, for something new after twenty years of Bush-Clinton that have seen their lows, as well as highs. America is looking for someone with a big upside, like the Celtics… but I digress.

Mr. Obama's analytical brilliance and oratorical skills may combine to render him guilty of emotional miscues, like the time he used the word "violence" to segue from the Virginia Tech killings to a soliloquy on everything that's wrong with America (2). (Hello, Virginia Tech was reality, not metaphor). And he can allow his inexperience to show through, like he did in the first Democratic candidates' debate (3). But he's obviously a quick study, and the media, taken collectively, likes him and wants him to succeed. Thus, the attention on the inevitable gaffes and exposés of each of the candidates will give him cover to grow into his role before the field narrows, attention focuses, and the media come around demanding, as inevitably they will, Barack's pound of flesh.

And he'll be ready. I don't think there's anyone in the US who would think a Chicago politician can be too nice to play hardball. In any case, Mr. Obama showed he could dish it out by the taking the biggest swipe at Rudy Giuliani when they all had the chance. Nor is he above sticking it to a fellow Democrat when he can get away with it, as he showed with this perfect, ad-lib dig at Hillary Clinton (4).

(1) Yes, I'm aware I'm omitting female politicians from this discussion.

(2) Read Charles Krauthammer about this. For more on this, read Glenn Greenwald on Charles Krauthammer. In Krauthammer's defense he was by no means the only media figure to note the likely influence from suicide bombers' videos. Then again, Islamist and Palestinian militants have often used the rap music video idiom to create their own promotion videos.

(3) Yes, that is Joe Scarborough, and I suspect the majority of the people who read this are somewhat to the left of the man. But he does not rely solely on his right-wing reflexes to entertain.

(4) This quip came when Mr. Obama spoke at Al Sharpton's National Action Network. For those of you who can't be bothered to read the entire article (it's short):

"Early in Obama's speech, he stopped briefly as a cell phone on the podium began to buzz loudly. 'There's something humming down here. Is that Hillary calling?' Obama asked, to an explosion of laughter and cheers."

Yes, it's just a throwaway line, doesn't have any substance, and "Hillary Clinton, who spoke Friday, won several standing ovations from the audience" before him. But he deftly placed an image of a nervous Hillary and a confident Obama in control of the situation (just the two of them) in the minds of the audience.


Tim Footman said...

Barack also has very funny ears.

Jun Okumura said...

Tim! Always good to hear from you.

Being something of a vagabond child and oddity myself, I think I understand why he goes off-key sometimes. I know that doesn't explain the ears.