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Let Obama be Obama

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As expected, Charlie Gibson’s interview of vice president candidate Sarah Palin has the cable news world tied up in knots. As expected, they’ve missed the overall point.

It matters little to the vast majority of voters what answers Palin gave the the pop-quiz style questions Gibson asked. She could have said that Barry Manilow was the president of Russia and Britney Spears is the ambassador to Mars and no one would have much cared. In the end, her views on much of anything aren’t going to change anyone’s mind, uUnless, of course, ABC News had the foresight to put Palin in front of Barbara Walters. Given the level of political discourse in this country, it seems like more people would have been far more interested in what shade of lipstick she’d wear if she were a tree than they are in her views on Israel. Walters would have been the perfect choice to elicit the real hard-hitting stuff most on the minds of Americans.

Palin has been the focus of so much media attention since her rather oddball selection by John McCain as his running mate, it’s easy to see why she has Democrats nervous. Even before the McCain camp’s series of ads diminishing Barack Obama’s status as a celebrity, Democrats knew that much of their candidate’s appeal was just that—he’s a political rock star. Now they’re nervous that Palin is the new flavor of the day in a country with the attention span of a puppy. She is. Big deal.

Democrats need to better study the typical celebrity trajectory before they overreact to Palin’s emergence on the national scene. In a relatively short time Palin will have all the allure of Richard Hatch unless or until she demonstrates that there is something tangible behind the hype. Indeed, what really has sustained Obama through the campaign is the sense that the status his celebrity affords has been well earned. However thin one may view his actual accomplishments to date, it’s a resume that offers promise. Even if they don’t realize it, what is sustaining Obama supporters at this point is not a desire to see past successes repeated but a desire to see promise fulfilled.

Whatever one thinks of Bruce Springsteen and his politics, no one would dispute his status as a historical figure in rock music. But in 1975, he was just a scruffy kid with two minor albums under his belt and another waiting just released when he simultaneously made the covers of Time and Newsweek. It was dismissed as hype by those who felt that such accomplishments are only earned in retrospect. But all Springsteen has done in the 33 years since is prove that those who saw greatness then, despite a thin resume himself, were absolutely right. From a guy who seemed to be singularly obsessed with cars and girls as a youth has come some of the most mature and thought provoking music ever written. Who knew? Well, lots of people as it turns out.

The same fate is Obama’s to have, or so the theory goes, unless he blows it. Palin is really a symptom. The idea that Obama may choke is what is making Democrats nervous. Thus comes from every corner a similar almost singular piece of advice; channel your inner rage, fella. Arianna Huffington is just the latest to weigh in. Her premise is that Americans are in a rage over the last seven and a half years and need to see someone who not only can share that rage but express it far better than they can. While her individual points are well taken, her premise is faulty. If the success of the McCain campaign to date has demonstrated anything, it’s that people aren’t nearly as fed up as Huffington would like us to believe.

The fact that McCain can resonate with any voter is proof that far too much of the populace either is living under a grand delusion that all is well or that they just don’t much care. In fact, if there is any real conclusion to be drawn it’s that the populace really is a reflection of the cult of George W. Bush. He may be the worst and least popular president in history, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped him from turning us into a nation where results are far less important than the effort expended.

The Bush record is a disaster in so many ways that it should have resulted in McCain’s campaign having all the traction of a junk-yard tire. Instead, if the latest polls are to be believed, he’s running neck and neck on a platform where staying the course is the new change. Couple that with his new celebrity plaything that he marches out like the programmed Lenscrafter model she resembles and it’s enough to make you wonder exactly which Harlan Ellison novel we’re living in.

And while all of this may make many of us uncomfortable, it hardly seems to be reason enough to have Obama play against type and express a phony rage that the average person just doesn’t feel. Listening the other day to Joe Scarborough on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, he thinks that what people want to see is Obama call out McCain for the bully he’s become and challenge him to look Obama in the eye and call him a sexist. While he’s at it, maybe Obama can ask McCain to knock a battery off his shoulder, too.

Except for the media, which always likes a good fight, no one else is looking for any such thing. Obama had it right early and needs to hit on it often. Elections are won or lost on hope, always. His ability to articulate it in a way that resonates beyond the phony promises of McCain will win or lose the election.

Obama’s campaign will continue to evolve and it ultimately will go where the candidate takes it. He’ll win on his own terms or not at all. But stepping out of character to satisfy the wrongheaded advice of those who otherwise mean well in order to address another sleazy meaningless McCain ad has much more of a chance of being counterproductive as it does to being helpful. The same holds true with respect to Palin. Obama found away to tamp down the candidacy of a woman far more qualified and far more substantial without a whole lot of difficulty. Treating Palin as an even greater threat only elevates her at his expense. Give her all the attention she deserves and pretty soon she’ll be back in Alaska firing state troopers again in no time.

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About Gary D. Benz

  • marny

    I try to channel my inner patience. I will never be as good at it as Gary.I respect the faaar-right-arch-conservative’s right to have any thought or opinion that comes to them, but as expressed here, could never in a healthy state of mind agree with, or respect most of it.My lack of respect for Palin supporters, and Palin herself is and will remain about what she thinks and what she would do in terms of domestic and foreign policy, and in terms of the very personal freedoms and rights she claims to be fighting for.Not to worry, my lack of respect can’t actually hurt Palin in any real way,–unlike her stand on abortion rights and her lack of respect for all other females. I say females rather than women because so many victims of rape and incest are children, and many do get pregnant.The upside is DNA testing. How about this–just in cases of rape and incest, so I don’t appear too radical–we test all rape suspects,[sorry for the invasion of personal sovereignty],and those that match up with victims of rape or incest get an automatic 9 month prison term.[I know, not long enough–but most don’t pay in any way at all.] They can all be locked up together just to be nice. I know what you’re thinking, lets lock up all the dead-beat dads for 9 months too. Put them with the rapists and see how long it takes them to get over it. Oh, and lets not insist that anyone wears condums–no one likely to get pregnant in that love fest. HIV? Oh my–are you sure you don’t want sex education in schools? Certain it’s being taught at home? It’s the Palins of this world females need protection from.This is one personal issue that affects females more profoundly than males. It’s about personal choice and having one. It’s about sanctity and governing of one’s self.Rights a man would never give up.There are no easy choices,–that does’nt make them less personal, but more so.

  • Arch Conservative

    Is that what you mean by hemorrhaging support?

    No. What I meant is that in the past two weeks virtually every major poll has shown McCain gaining support while Obama loses it.

  • Cannonshop

    Obama’s got a good fundraising machine, certainly. It also helps to have Soros in your corner with the rest of the senate’s renters.

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    hhhmmn, maybe that is why obama raised 86 million dollars in august, his biggest month ever. Is that what you mean by hemorrhaging support? (btw arch, the word is spelled that way….. buy that dictionary yet?)

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    (re #8 which I could not post yesterday because of posting problems)

    If you go to France, as I have done very frequently (and I also lived there for two years) they talk about their own politics all the time AND have lots of good meals AND are interested in American and world politics. I have also been to Italy sevearal times and hear them bemoan over and over their terrible infrastructure and corrupt government. Guess it depends on who you talk to and listen to.

  • Arch Conservative

    The liberal mainstream media is doing their best to hide the fact that Obama is hemmorhaging support. They’re going beserk trying to find something that they can throw at Palin that will actually stick.

    Mr. “new kind of politics” has proven that he’s just another politician (as if we didn’t already know that) by going negative and resorting to making fun of McCain level of technological aptitude.

    Two more months and this Obama fad will be relegated to the dustbin of histroy where it belongs, alongside the pet rock and a couple of barely used bean bag chairs.

  • Making Born to Run means you’ve goddam DONE something, whether the broader public had entirely caught up to it or not. That his first two albums had done only so-so business was not the critical point – which is that they were really great records. Plus, Born to Run was a drop dead classic even if no one had picked up on it. Then again, I’d have been putting Elvis Costello on the cover of Time and Newsweek by about the time of his third album, Armed Forces. Also, my covers with Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band might not have been the biggest sellers in publishing history.

    None of that applies to Barack Obama though. He ain’t done squat. What’s his accomplishment, voting present? You might feel like you like him real good and he’s got a nice voice, but he has ZERO accomplishment. Vanilla Ice actually wrote at least one pretty good song.

    As to Sarah Palin, I can understand where you might wish to be skeptical. Of course, arguing that she’s no more accomplished than Obama is STILL a losing argument for Obama. She’s actually done some stuff and at least partways proved her mettle in actual governance, but she’s still a little green.

    So yeah, it remains to be seen whether she will live up to the hype of her national debut, or whether she will wilt in the spotlight. Will she be just another dumbass veep like Al Gore, or will she turn out to be a true playa like Dick Cheney? Only time will tell – but she’s looking pretty good so far.

  • Gary Benz

    You’ll find no bigger Springsteen fan than me, but anyone who thinks Springsteen was anything more than a east coast rock critic phenom at the time he was on the cover of Time and Newsweek has no clue what they’re talking about. It was precisely because he was so little known and with seemingly so little accomplishment that he was viewed as the next great hype at that time. It’s laughable to read Cannonshop say that all three albums were classic before the album presses even cooled. Hardly, but I understand why you say that–because you think it makes your point. In reality, Born to Run had only been out for a few months and Greetings from Asbury Park and the Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle had languished. Again, hardly anyone thought they were classics, except of course the few who could discern talent from the outset, which is my point.

    It probably makes you feel better to compare Obama to Vanilla Ice and that’s all well and good–but inaccurate. But then who does that make Sarah Palin? MC Hammer?

  • Cannonshop

    But your worst mistake in this article is the argument that 1975 Bruce Springsteen hadn’t yet proven himself to deserve the magazine covers and accolades. He’d only made three albums, but they were each major classics – notably including his then new album BORN TO RUN.

    Game, set, match. In 1975 Springsteen had three albums that were knock-out-of-the-park good, outstanding, really, really excellent music.

    Not average music, but outstanding music, Springsteen by ’75 was standing out from the pack in his career not based on his promotional machine, but based on the music, or, to put it another way, his performance in his chosen career- he had three albums, and they were CLASSIC before the album-presses were even cooled.

    Lots of accomplishment over a short period, and those accomplishments stand out.

    By way of comparison, Obama’s no Springsteen, he’s Vanilla Ice. Great big promotion machine and he makes the teenybopper girls sigh, but when it comes to playing the music, he’s basically a product of talented production work and a loud promotion machine run by his label. In ten years, it’s going to be “Obama Who?” a one-hit wonder that will disappear when his fifteen minutes are completed, leaving a few mediocre albums nobody, not even the nostalgia stations, will play except for a laugh.

  • Gary, your ideological blinders are on and make you see things all backwards and sideways and such, like when you say what really has sustained Obama through the campaign is the sense that the status his celebrity affords has been well earned. That’s just silly. In what way has he EARNED any reputation?

    Basically, the Democrats have jack squat for a credible candiate, and along comes Barack. He’s the first black dude to come up who passes the very low hurdle of being, as his running mate would say, clean and articulate. He’s an empty suit of a black dude, but he won’t absolutely pee on the carpet like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. However, a lot of us started smelling a slight odor of urine coming from his church and his WU buddies.

    Sarah Palin is by resume at least as qualified as Barack or Hillary, probably more so. Hillary’s a first term senator. What else is her qualification, unless you count humping President Clinton? But if you’re counting that, then Monica Lewinsky should run for POTUS.

    You automatically want to disrespect Sarah Palin simply because she’s a conservative Republican. But so far, she looks like a sharper tool than Barack or Hillary – though I need to see more of her to form a firm opinion. It’s not an oddball selection that McCain picked her. It’s that he recognized major league political talent in the AAAs.

    In retrospect, it seems obvious that OF COURSE McCain would pick this gal for his veep. She’s the exact perfect response to Obama on about 20 different levels. My late father would say that she’s “common as an old shoe,” as opposed to the condescending Harvard elitist. She’s actually run things besides just her mouth, like Obama yakking away amidst the styrofoam Greek columns. She actually has smacked down corrupt people within her own party, while the supposed reformer Obama sought out to make his reputation by being right in the middle of the most infamously crooked political machine in the nation.

    She’s a real human being who knows who she is. He’s a walking identity crisis struggling to establish his blackness. Palin has more substance to her person and to her actual governing history by far – though you may or may not approve of the content of that substance.

    That said, certainly a big part of the Obama and Palin phenoms is celebrity and novelty. The blush wears off the bloom with a lot of that in time. But Obama’s been the flavor of the month for at least a year, and that novelty is rapidly wearing off. Whereas Palin’s only a couple of weeks in, and only needs about seven more weeks of being fresh and cool to seal the deal.

    But your worst mistake in this article is the argument that 1975 Bruce Springsteen hadn’t yet proven himself to deserve the magazine covers and accolades. He’d only made three albums, but they were each major classics – notably including his then new album BORN TO FRICKIN’ RUN.

    This commenter Kwaayesnama makes the kind of rebuke that would make most normal people considerably more likely to want to support McCain. Wonder is she really a clever McCain supporter in disguise.


  • Cannonshop


    “earmark” may not be a dirty word for you, sir, but I contend that the trading of Earmark favours likely contributes as much to the current debt of the nation and financial instability, as any other policy or action taken in the last sixty years.

    It’s out of control, man. “bringing the pork home” is supposed to be a Congressman’s job at any rate, the Senators are supposed to be the serious ones. (I know they aren’t, but they’re SUPPOSED to be.)

    Considering that McCain was elected in ’82 and has never been Un-Elected by the people of Arizona, I kind of wonder if maybe your view of his performance is not shared by your fellow Arizonans.

  • Kwaayesnama

    I’m an Arizona Republican and am not supporting John McCain. Why? With out question it is his lack of support for our state in Washington. McCain’s call to fame is that he is the only representative in Washington never to request any earmarks for his home state. What does that prove besides that he is lazy and out of touch? To me it shows that in McCain’s mind Arizona is so wealthy that we do not need any assistance from Washington. It seems he is happy to see all the tax dollars that we send to DC go to other states. Will someone please wake up John McCain! Arizona has Indian Reservations with unemployment over 60%. Wouldn’t a call center in Indian Country work better then one in India? We have beautiful rural areas that would greatly benefit from an increase in tourism. His lack of concern shows that when John and Cindy fly over our state in their private plane that they do not pay attention to the people that live outside of Scottsdale. Lets see if in November the citizens of Arizona will send him a message and not vote for him.
    This is one Arizona Republican supporting Obama.

  • Arch Conservative

    Let Obama be Obama? Sounds good to me.

    Let him give his speeches in Germany while refusing to do town halls with John McCain here in the USA.

    Let him tell us how he’s going to enact billions of dollars in fed govt spending without raising taxes on the middle class.

    Let him tell us tell us he’s really not a radical leftist despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary.

    Let him lose the election and go back to Chicago.

  • Lee Richards

    RE #6:

    One of the nice things about going to Italy as I do occasionally is that you can escape almost totally from the incessant media coverage, and ceaseless public blather here about our crummy politics.

    They don’t cover it and don’t care about it, either. In over 2000 years they’ve pretty much seen and heard it all politically, and are more interested in a good meal.

    They do, of course, try to screw their own government in every way possible before it can screw them. A lesson there, maybe?

  • Extra points to the author for mentioning Richard Hatch. Is he even still alive?

    And I agree, let’s let Obama be Obama. Then we can have a final referendum, once and for all on whether the people of America really want to give up their rights and their property to an all-encompassing nanny state and be institutional slaves for all eternity.


  • Lisa Solod Warren

    Interestingly, if you listen to the BBC, as I do, they are running the news of our election daily because, as they put it, what happens in America affects the entire world.

  • Lee Richards

    America became a world leader because we really believed in something special and tried to make it work for everyone.

    We weren’t perfect, we moved too slowly in some areas, we made serious mistakes. But we tried to improve, we believed in ourselves and our great country, we stood strongly for principles, we fought and worked and built together. The world saw our united strength, great promise, and unlimited hope.

    Now, after the Bushes, the Clintons, the poisonous partisanship of our politics, our deliberate rape of our own economy and the world’s resources, and now this farce of a campaign between a student body president and an almost-extinct plutocrat, I don’t see how the rest of the world could look to us for anything except a handout or a belly laugh.

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    I agree….if ONLY THE PEOPLE would see that McCain’s first decision as a potential president was to pick Sarah Palin as his running mate. That should be enough to let THE PEOPLE in on enough information, if they hadn’t enough already: John McCain is in no way qualified to be our next president.

  • Miri

    Vote for the man who’s spent 26 years in DC fighting for the policies that led to the Fannie/Freddie meltdown.
    Heck, I’ll vote for a Martian first or anybody else who recognizes that we need to change the way we do business in this country

  • marny

    Kwaayesnama–beautifully stated.
    Gary–Your ability to reason and think situations through, your unfailing clear-headedness I liked from the start, not to mention that you are the smartest man Ron knows, well, I may never win a debate so thank you for this one. Why not see if you can score a Palin interview? You could give her the rope to hang herself.I think Obama can sit back and let her and McCain do just that. Great piece of writing.M.

  • Kwaayesnama


    Let’s see my choice is John McCain or that smart black man Barack Obama?

    McCain who does not know how to use a computer but is willing to learn if we elect him – I’ll just vote for that smart black man.

    My Choices are: John McCain who says the economic downturn is psychological? – Na! I’ll vote for the smart black man.

    McCain who says you are better off under George Bush? – Nope I’ll vote for the smart black man.

    Mc Cain who wants to continue killing more people looking for weapons of mass destruction that do not exist? – Gee! I’ll vote for the smart black man.

    McCain who believes that we should stay the course but is not willing to support the people he puts in harms way. – I’ll take a chance on the smart black man.

    Should I vote for a man that does not know that 9-11 was caused by Osama Bin Laden not Sedam Hussein? – Easy! I’ll vote for the smart black man.

    Vote for the man who does not know if the Sunnis or Sheits are our enemies? – No way I’ll vote for the smart black man.

    Vote for the man who helped put our government on the China, Saudi Arabia credit card? – Not a chance I’ll vote for the smart black man.

    Vote for the man with the worst temper in the Senate to have his finger on the nuclear button? – No way – I’ll vote for the smart black man.