Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Obama’s Own: How Can Barack Turn The Sourest Media-Made Lemons into the Most Delicious (and Eloquent!) Lemonade?

APRIL 21, 2008:

Magicians pull rabbits out of hats and make people vanish with the wave of their wands. Barack Obama can make a news story disappear and turn a cloth of controversies into a reaffirming bouquet of flowers. It’d be fun to have a magician for president.

First came the cigarettes. A smoker in the White House? No way. Last time there was a cigar in the Oval Office, the leader of the free world was impeached. So Fox News’ John “Make More Babies” Gibson calls it Obama’s “dirty little secret.” How could this guy be a role model for vulnerable young people like me? Heck, I started to think, if a guy running for president smokes cigarettes, shouldn’t I? But now, when the press dares to bring it up, Obama appears to be a hero for young people like me ‘cause he’s trying to kick the habit. He tells a crowd of college students at West Chester in Pennsylvania during Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” college tour to “get straight” if they smoke. He jokes that it’s hard to keep it up when his wife told folks on “60 Minutes” to let her know if they see her husband lighting up. Somehow, a “dirty little secret” became Barack Obama’s emergence as one heckuva family man.

Only Barack Obama can lose a seemingly must-win New Hampshire primary and end up getting his losing speech sung by Scarlett Johannson. Sixteen points up by some polls the night before, the Obama camp seemed shocked by the halt of their one-state winning streak. He emerged as the loser of the night and still managed to give a speech that riled support from across the country. It inspired and Jesse Dylan to make a star-spangled video that got posted on every website from the to Zach Braff’s MySpace. It got shown to students at the Bronx High School of Performance and Stagecraft, which launched an exercise wherein students wrote their own “Yes We Can” speeches. What part of losing does Barack Obama not understand?

Then comes Reverend Wright—a pastor who yelled a bunch of times when he got angry at the country he fought for as a marine. And who likes to hear talk of the Tuskegee Experiment or someone saying “Goddamn America” during a presidential campaign? Evidently, cable news networks do, so they replayed clips of the controversial sermons like they were alternate shots of the O.J. Simpson car chase. People seemed surprised to see that Obama’s poll numbers didn’t really suffer from it…in some he even gained. Maybe it’s because the 13% of Americans who thought Obama was a Muslim heard talk of a pastor and figured out he too prayed to Jesus (the same 13%, incidentally, also believes that Paris Hilton is a virgin and that George Wallace is the old guy on “60 Minutes”). Low and behold comes what MSNBC’s Michelle Bernard called “the most important speech on race” since MLK’s “I Have a Dream” wherein Obama, said Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, “rang the bell hard and well.” Chris Matthews probably had to send his pants to the cleaners. “A More Perfect Union” gave cable news teams a choice, as Jay Rosen wrote, and although it’s hard to stop an ex-Clinton aide from asking “Does Reverend Wright love America as much as you do?” it allowed the controversy to settle down while tackling the issue of race in a such an eloq—okay, what can I say that our pants-wetting pundits haven’t already?

So we have three things that were supposed to blow this guy out of the water: an addiction to a national killer, a poll-shocking early defeat, and a pastor who cursed the country Obama’s running to lead. Yet somehow, they all amounted to Barack Obama, the frontrunner primed to beat John McCain in November. It just seems like we could find out Obama has a bunch of wives and kids sprinkled around the country and he would make a tearful speech about reviving the lost sex lives of women and showing them the magic of childbirth. This guy can turn crap into gold. And Iraq looks like crap to me. So does the economy. And the environment. And America’s stature in the world. Sure, these issues aren’t equivalent to political fumbles, but shouldn’t this all be a good sign? I don’t just want this guy as my president, I want him as my doctor, my teacher, my housekeeper, and my shrink.

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