Posted on | September 20, 2012 | 20 Comments
Back during the 2008 GOP primary campaign — most of which actually happened in 2007 — I wasn’t yet an independent blogger, but was “a man under authority” at The Washington Times.
Working on the news side of the operation, the public expression of my opinions was streng verboten, which of course didn’t mean I had no opinion. So it was only in private that I was able to bitch, bitch, bitch about the stupidity of nominating a bald septuagenarian. Never mind that John McCain was an unprincipled backstabbing crapweasel; the real problem was that the “optics” were all wrong.
Even if you could tolerate his self-serving mendaciousness and erratic temper, Crazy Cousin John never looked or sounded remotely presidential in the superficial way that candidates are judged in the TV age. No Hollywood producer would cast someone who looked and sounded like that as president, except in a thriller-drama where the good guy is a rogue CIA agent who exposes the hidden betrayals of the corrupt and craven leadership.
I said that — often and loudly, in private conversations — at a time when it was thought the Democrats would nominate Hillary Clinton, who doesn’t exactly exude empathy. Maybe in a contest against the Chilly Bitch stereotype, the Embittered Old Bald Guy could squeak out a win, just barely, but John McCain never stood a snowball’s chance in hell against the Allstate Man.
It is perhaps unnecessary and unwise to invoke the phrase, coined by a liberal writer for the Los Angeles Times but made notorious by Rush Limbaugh, “Magic Negro.” What the phrase originally suggested was a certain type of modern Hollywood casting, in which the Good Wise Black Man serves as a sort of moral symbol, an embodiment of virtue, the voice of authority.
If there is anything “racist” about the Magic Negro, it is a liberal racism in the souls of the liberal screenwriters and directors who seem psychologically trapped with Jim Crow-era white guilt manifestations. A $250-an-hour therapist might be able to help them with those hangups, but instead these Hollywood people keep foisting their weird insecurities on us as TV primetime crime dramas and Oscar-bait movies that feature this stock character, the Magic Negro, as an emblem of righteousness.
Whatever. I’m over it.
As soon as Obama emerged as a genuine contender in the Democrat primary field — after the October 2007 debate in which Hillary got tripped up over a question about driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants — I witnessed with increasing horror the GOP primary campaign in which John McCain, counted out in late summer, gradually worked his way back to front-runner status.
“No! It’s all wrong! It doesn’t work!”
Millons of Americans have been programmed by their voracious consumption of popular culture to react automatically to superficial perceptions — “image” — and the match-up between Obama and McCain was a disaster for Republicans in that sense.
Denzel Washington vs. Tim Conway? No, dear God, no.
Beyond the purely racial component, the problem was that Obama has a deep baritone voice and a calm demeanor (the Allstate Insurance Man) whereas John McCain’s voice is a raspy tenor, and his manner is nervous and edgy. This presented an insuperable political problem in the 24/7 Media Age, where the President of the United States is a celebrity — famous for being famous — and is judged by People Who Watch Too Much TV in the same superficial stereotypical way they judge everybody else.
Obama seems presidential, and vast numbers of Americans have lost the ability to distinguish between seeming and being.
The election of Obama was made easier by the media, which provided this superficially appealing celebrity with a personal narrative that didn’t quite match the reality of Obama’s life. Correcting that mythos is the purpose of a series entitled “The Obama You Don’t Know” in the Washington Examiner.
As Jeff Dunetz says, this report has blown a huge hole in the fake biography of our 44th president, and the question is whether the realization that they’ve been conned by media image-makers will cause the American people to re-think the difference between seeming presidential and being presidential.