Monday, July 21, 2008

Covering Obama

I don't mind a little political mudslinging, mostly for my own entertainment value. After all, most of the attacks that draw breathless media coverage are too stupid to merit serious consideration, and are often ripe for humor.

Unlike most media critics, I cracked up when I first saw the recent New Yorker cover satirizing the Obamas as actually living up to every ridiculous caricature they've been assigned in this campaign.

One of those caricatures is that Barack Obama does not know how to "lead the country", whatever that means. So, the big headline news of the moment is Obama's big trip abroad, where he supposedly will pick up those missing credentials. The fawning media coverage of the event comes in sharp contrast to John McCain's recent trips to Mexico, Canada, and Colombia, which were largely ignored. I guess it's a much more compelling story to report on the legions of Europeans who are gripped by Obamamania.

[Aside: It's nice to learn that polls indicate the French and Germans--by ludicrously lopsided margins--want us to make history and elect our first minority president. Well, their opinion (for what it's worth) is noted, and any reduction in Bush-inspired America-hating would be welcome. Yet it seems hard to ignore the obvious fact that these same European countries have their own work cut out for them with regards to making progress in electing minority candidates.]

The longer this election season drags on, the more I agree with the characterization of Barack Obama as a Rorschach test--both his supporters (at home and abroad) and detractors have manufactured their own image of him that isn't accurate. Critics think he is a zealous ideologue and dangerously inexperienced, when actually, he's a pragmatic politician. And while he does have a short tenure in public service, he is a smart guy capable of thinking about the problems facing this country and offering plausible solutions.

On the flip side, and this is important, I don't get where the prevailing image of Obama as a transcendent political figure has come from. If I had a nickel for every time someone described his "post-partisan" politics....I'd be a rich man. But of course, that's an empty label. There's no way to prove that he'll have an easy time of forging bipartisan compromise while President.

And the idea of a candidate claiming to heal divisions is far from new. Then-Governor George W. Bush, before the 2000 election, also made much of his claim to be "a uniter, not a divider". Remember that?

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