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Friday: “His whole life is narrative”

Charlie Rose had a fascinating post-election wrap up with John Meacham and Evan Thomas of Newsweek that suggests why Americans make the decisions they make based on the jounralism they get.  Meacham and Thomas had the evidence in front of their faces and even admit that Obama’s cult of personality is “slightly creepy” but they are stuck in a frame of their profession and their social circle so they can’t make sense of the pieces of the puzzle they hold.

See if you agree.  The really interesting stuff starts at about the 6:00 minute mark:

There are a couple of moments that make me want to slap both of them.  First, they have reporters covering the campaign since the convention with all kinds of interesting information that would have been swell to know *before* the election, but they are saving it for the post-election issue.  This has been a tradition since the 80’s.  Well, that certainly explains Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II.  I’m not sure how we dodged the bullet with Bill Clinton.  They also have a tape of Obama’s debate prep where he tries to figure out why he is completely failing as a debater while he flatters himself as being a great writer.  This is a moment of introspection that we should have all had the privilege of seeing.

Secondly, they have some really warped perceptions about the election.  They think that Obama went out of his way to make sure the election was not about race.  Actually, the election had *everything* to do with race.  Obama bludgeoned people with it.  No one was to forget for one moment that Obama was black and he went out of his way to remind people of it on a daily basis.

He’s compared to Reagan.  To many of us out here who were right about how destructive Reagan really was, that is not a compliment.  They speculate that Reagan was a teflon president because his supporters made him that way and the same would hold true of Obama.  The truth is that CLINTON was the teflon president.  The difference is the way the press treated these presidencies.  Reagan did really bad stuff and there were a lot of us who despised the reactionary idiot but the press gave him a pass so the voters let it slide.  Clinton had some minor pecadillos that were blown completely out of proportion but the electorate liked him anyway.  Bush also got away with murder.  Probably literally.  How many times have you heard some older relative say something like, “Well, Bush *can’t* be that bad, otherwise the press would be covering it.”  The coverage of the press matters a great deal and they are already signalling here that they are about to give Obama a reach around.

The other thing that is baffling is their analysis of what voters were rejecting.  Their conversation is typical of the Villager mindset.  They are convinced that voters were rejecting “the 60’s”.  I’m always really puzzled by that statement.  There is a huge swath of voters today who were little children during the 60’s (moi), who only remember the 60’s vaguely.  We remember things like assassinations and the walk on the moon and in the corner of our minds, we understand a little bit about the social stuff. But for us, the 60’s ushered in what was more or less the status quo.  There wasn’t a huge shredding of culture.  The culture was pre-shredded and settled into its present form by the time we came of age.  I’m not sure what it is we are supposed to be rejecting.  Are we rejecting the fact that women made enormous progress during the 60’s and 70’s?  Are we supposed to be upset that African-Americans shattered their own glass ceilings with the civil rights era?  I’ve always thought statements about rejecting the 60’s are “out of joint” statements made by baby boomers who know they pushed the envelope back then and then blamed themselves for the Reagan backlash.  Fine, blame yourselves, guys, but what does that have to do with us?

Then there is this bizarre notion that we are a center right country.  You know, I don’t really think that’s true.  I think a lot of people voted for the Democrat because he wasn’t a Republican.  They didn’t really like Republicans this year.  Of the sane, non-Obamaphiles I talked to, they just planned to vote for the Democrat.  It was a complete and utter rejection of everything that has to do with movement conservatism.  In fact, they were pretty convinced that nothing could be worse than a Republican in office.  I’m not sure that’s true but we shall see.  Voters wanted something other than the nasty, brutish and short lifestyle that the Bushies ushered in.  They want a stronger economy, better jobs, better healthcare.  It remains to be seen whether they want equality for all people.  I think they do but leaders have to lead and Obama shows no inclination for doing that.

They did get the “risk averse” nature of Obama right.  He is going to be a very cautious, non-transformative president.  They acknowledge that he owes the people who gave him the $600,000,000 to run his campaign.  Meacham and Thomas are onto something here if they just bothered to step outside their box and followed up on some of what their intuition is telling them.  All of the pieces are there to see Obama for what he is: a clever, manipulative person who constructed and sold his own story.  He’s a man who was in control of his campaign from the beginning, so he is also responsible for its corruption.  He is a cipher and doesn’t even know what he is.  He is a screen onto which we project our own desires, a tofu president.  And he uses his ability to appeal to many people at once to get what he wants.  The question is, what does he want now that he has it all?

Meacham and Thomas do not have an answer to that question because they never bothered to ask it.  And besides, Sarah Palin asked for more clothes!