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Palin Steals Celebrity Status From Obama

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Charles Krauthammer tends to grate on me, but I found an interesting thought in his column today. Not surprisingly, Krauthammer is being snide towards Barack Obama. He even hits the “celebrity” angle again. But he does so in a way that makes some sense:

Before [Sarah] Palin, Obama was the ultimate celebrity candidate. For no presidential nominee in living memory had the gap between adulation and achievement been so great. Which is why McCain’s Paris Hilton ads struck such a nerve. Obama’s meteoric rise was based not on issues — there was not a dime’s worth of difference between him and Hillary on issues — but on narrative, on eloquence, on charisma.

The unease at the Denver convention, the feeling of buyer’s remorse, was the Democrats’ realization that the arc of Obama’s celebrity had peaked — and had now entered a period of its steepest decline. That Palin could so instantly steal the celebrity spotlight is a reflection of that decline.

I don’t know if there was “buyer’s remorse” from Democrats, but I do think the celebrity side of Obama’s candidacy did peak with that speech in Denver. The media had clearly run out of new narratives for this candidate. So, enter Palin, the media’s new shining star.

Is Palin on the cover of every magazine on the stands or is it just me? At the risk of sounding snide myself, Palin is now the Paris Hilton of politics: enormously famous but makes you wonder what she has actually done to deserve such adoration.

I’ve often had the same thought about Obama. Outside of the wonderful words he’s spoken and taking down the Clinton political machine, what has he really done? Policy-wise, his career is undistinguished. Platform-wise, his “new” ideas aren’t significantly different from the ideas of John Kerry. He might have a strong supporter base but he doesn’t have a substantial ideological base – at least not one that stands out from the crowd. Is it any wonder that a politician with an equally flimsy resume and an equally historic candidacy has so thoroughly stolen Obama’s spotlight to the point that Obama’s poll numbers are suffering?

The good news for Obama is that the attention on Palin has gone supernova and will burn itself out quickly. If we’re lucky, that should leave the terrain barren of the celebrity overgrowth and let us finally see these candidates for what they really are. And I think that actually benefits Obama.

True, an Obama stripped of his celebrity allure will not seem as magical, but he will still be able to offer “change,” even if it is just the standard change of switching from one political party to the other. Outside of issues of race, we’re not electing a transcendent figure here. We’re electing John Kerry with a hipper style and better speaking abilities. The more people who realize that, the more reasonable expectations will be if/once he takes office. In the end, maybe the hyper-attention on Palin is doing all of us a favor.