The leader of the Free World was once just that – a canny stalwart with gravitas intact, ready to take on evil empires, stock market crashes, terrorists, Communism. Yes, once. Celebrity appears to have taken over the office, however, a phenomenon that likely got its start when Bill Clinton broke ranks with the adult population in 1992, donned cool shades and played “Heartbreak Hotel” on his tenor saxophone on late-night TV when he was pursuing the White House.
“It’s nice to see a Democrat blow something besides the election,” host Arsenio Hall told Mr. Clinton, who won the race five months later.
“The pop culture stuff – the cameos on ‘Saturday Night Live’ and ‘The Daily Show,’ the celebrity guests at rallies, the appearances on non-news programs – used to be the frosting on the cake of a campaign. Now it’s the cake,” says National Review contributor Jim Geraghty, who points out that the “post-Cold War celebrity president” is now a very real entity.
President Obama and his campaign team “have either adapted to changing expectations of the president, or accelerated the change in those expectations, by reinventing the role of president as a permanent pop cultural icon,” Mr. Geraghty observes.
“A certain number of Americans who do not watch the news but watch ‘The View’ see the president on that show, joking about himself as ‘eye candy’ and like him. They see him on ‘Entertainment Tonight,’ and Jimmy Fallon, and doing his NCAA bracket picks on SportsCenter, and grilling with Bobby Flay, and so on, and like him because he’s there with the apolitical folks who they like for their comedy, sports coverage, cooking shows.”
THE GLAMOUR PRESIDENT
The aforementioned Mr. Geraghty has attracted the notice of Glamour magazine, which is publicizing its “President Obama’s Glamour Interview” that showcases a sharp focus on women’s rights and abortion. It is not the first time Mr. Obama has taken time to sit down with editor-in-chief Cindi Leive. And it is not the first time that Mr. Geraghty has tracked the evolving glitz of the White House right to the publication.
“The last time I’d met with President Obama, in 2008 as the country was just getting to know him, we’d talked at length about his family, but this time our conversation had a more serious, sober tenor,” Ms. Leive proclaimed in an earnest personal blog.
“All of which made it ridiculous to me that when word of our interview spread a few weeks later, some pundits pounced on the fact that the president had sat down with Glamour as evidence of a fluffy media strategy: ‘Can’t wait to see what he thinks of the new fall collection,’ scoffed Mr. Geraghty,” the editor pointed out.
Yeah, well. The magazine is on newsstands Oct. 9,; the interview is online for the curious: glmr.me/obama-interview
THE HISTORIC CAMPAIGN
“Politicians employ speech writers as ventriloquists.”
(Columnist George Will, to Newsweek, Dec. 31, 1990.)
Oh, the opportunities. Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s “buried” remark just keeps resonating.