Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Fat Lady Sang (Daily Northwestern 10/31/08

[Okay, this column kinda sucks. Again, what a stupid headline.]

A weird thing happened Wednesday night: I got a taste of what it's like to hear from the president and look forward to it. That's new for me and for most kids my age.

As you may have seen, Obama ran a glimmering, half-hour Hallmark special about himself on Wednesday. Surprisingly, given the hokey, almost masturbatory concept, it was good. With the help of Davis Guggenheim, who directed "An Inconvenient Truth," Obama created something reminiscent of FDR's fireside chats. It was intimate, informative and downright American. It didn't mention John McCain even once. I imagine if McCain produced a similar ad, he would do the same - not mention himself even once.

The ad reminded me of the kind of vision and eloquence that drove Ronald Reagan's success. Say what you will about his policies, Reagan created the image of the president that we imagine today. He spoke with measured tones in a very visual language, assuaging our fears and guiding our hopes. He had great respect for those who came before him and even for the desk at which he sat. He promised always to wear a suit in the Oval Office.

Sadly, I was far too young to remember any of this. But I hear, mostly from the parents of my friends, that they - Democrats and Republicans alike - looked forward to an address from Reagan.

I can of course remember all the presidents since Reagan. I remember George H. W. Bush's presidency, but I think of it in terms of Dana Carvey's impersonation of him. And while Bill Clinton was swell, he lacked the gravitas Reagan and Obama possess. Whenever I imagine Clinton, I see him wearing a baggy sweatshirt with BBQ sauce stains dribbled down the front of it. And what else can be said about George W. Bush?

And now we may elect another president who brings dignity, gravitas and class with him. Obama strikes me as the kind of guy who will always wear a suit in the Oval Office.

The ad also revealed why Obama's campaign has been called one of the most effective in history. Everything in the ad was perfectly calculated and coded. The first time we see Obama, he's standing at a room that looks an awful lot like the Oval Office. The stories about the average, American families all came from swing states. We heard about two white families, a black family and a Hispanic family. Yes, this was a grand depiction of America, but we can't forget that it was a politically convenient America. 

Even Obama's interview on the Daily Show that same night demonstrated the Obama campaign's attention to detail. At first glance, it appeared Obama was sitting in a library, the shelves lined with hefty, leather-bound books. But if you look closely, you can tell it was just a photograph of a library. Yes, Obama's as great as they say, but let's not forget the political artifice and handiwork that floated him even higher.

Above all else, the ad marks the end of two long years of constant campaigning. The critically acclaimed Obama Show has finally ended with this last half-hour. Here's hoping the spin-off is worth watching for the next four years.

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