Obam-meh? Hold the Fanfare Until He’s Done Something.
Baramania continues unabated, even though the election is over and cloudy crises fill the sky.
“He’s still selling papers,” a colleague told me the other day. When was the last time you could say that about a politician? Another baby boomer here suddenly realized this was the first Nov. 22 he hadn’t thought about the assassination of John Kennedy, probably because he’s so jazzed about the halo of hope and promise around Mr. Obama he’s finally willing to let go his grasp on the last superstar president.
My own 23-month-old son knows what’s up. He points even to rough illustrations and cartoon caricature renderings of the lanky chief-in-waiting and says, with great enthusiasm, “Barack Obama.” Of course he’s enthusiastic about everything and he can also name all the planets, including two moons of Jupiter, so maybe I’m just bragging on my kid. But someone other than me obviously had a chat with him about the epic nature of the last election. Is the under-two set, like everyone else, marveling over this phenomenon on the teeter-totter?
When, if ever, will the messy and oil-stained work of the Barackcracy replace the glitter and awe?
Bush White House press secretary, Dana Perino, who I think was unfairly short-changed and elbowed out of the way by Governor Palin in the guilty pleasure Democratic male crush club, gives Mr. Obama eight months before the honeymoon’s over.
I don’t know. Could be longer. Just as one example: Look at Monday’s SF Chronicle op ed page which, if you take op ed literally, means views opposing those on the editorial page. Almost every inch was devoted to gleaming Obamia. (OK, that’s the last rancid Obama name play in this post.) There’s a piece by a college student on “Why I voted for Barak Obama.” My old friend Cynthia Tucker at the Atlanta Constitution writes that “Bin Laden and his bullies worry about Obama,” which is upbeat unless you’re a Qaeda terrorist. And an abortion essay, referring to an Obama comment during a debate, starts with, “Be still, my heart.”
It remains a love fest out there. Especially for a guy who hasn’t done anything yet in the new job. Reputable magazine covers picture him as FDR, JFK or AL (Lincoln)
But the honeymoon could be shorter, too. There is some wilting around the edges. Avoiding the in-the-tank cliche, Time magazine’s Mark Halperin jammed media bias for Mr. Obama at a Politico/USC conference Friday. “It’s the most disgusting failure of people in our business since the Iraq war,” he said. “It was extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage.” Not everyone there agreed, it’s fair to say, particularly other reporters. The press always struggles with a contradictory need both to defend ourselves in what may be the last great unregulated craft, now that Wall Street is being put in diapers, and a dark and compulsive masochistic streak.
And while the Chronicle had a straight-ahead front page story Monday about the Obama organization’s continued use of the web for better tech communications and policy sales pitches, other writers have been a little skittish – even critical – about a YouTube presidency. People can find plenty of new age ways to send their views to the new Administration, but with comments on Mr. Obama’s YouTube videos disabled, how is all of this shiny platform stuff helping people actually participate? This is the same dilemma we have in journalism. The public speaking up is great; having them get involved is better.
“New” doesn’t necessarily mean different or effective or appropriate. Let’s see how all that goes.
Then there’s the whole Clinton machine thing, which filled the hectoring talk shows all weekend and isn’t worth adding to here. I’ll just say that questions were raised about just how complete that “change” deal is.
Monday also brought some ominous readings at the bottom of the news cycle teacup if you were a liberal/progressive supporter of the President-elect. “Tax cuts for the wealthy likely to stay until 2011,” was one headline. Tough-on-immigration Governor Janet Napolitano was named the new Homeland Security director. Protestors called on Mr. Obama to close the always controversial School of the Americas in DC (Looks like he’ll close Guantanamo but maybe not this homeroom class for foreign regimes) and to kiss and make up with Cuba.
Adoration continues, though. I’m not trying to dampen the enthusiasm or the historical moment. I’m just saying, as my pal Lance Williams says. I don’t want Mark Halperin ever claiming that I gave the highest public official in the land a free pass.
Read more at Bronstein at Large.