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Inside the Beltway: The celebrity president

Question of the Day

Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

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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.)

BIDEN'S BURDEN

Oh, the opportunities. Vice President Joseph R. Biden's "buried" remark just keeps resonating.

"The Obama economy has crushed the middle class – with more than 23 million Americans struggling for work. Yesterday, Vice President Biden finally admitted that the last four years have 'buried' the middle class. We couldn't have said it better ourselves."

And that's the official reaction from Mitt Romney's campaign to the remarks made by Mr. Biden at a campaign stop Tuesday. Yes, the Romney camp is well aware that President Obama's re-election strategists are attempting to co-opt the pro-middle class message that has been one of Mr. Romney's major talking points for some time now.

And now it's time for a return volley. The Romney campaign already has converted Mr. Biden's "buried" moment into a well-received video titled "Couldn't say it better," complete with the convenient Twitter hashtag "#cantafford4more."

FAITH AND ELECTION

Can a member of the clergy endorse a candidate from the pulpit or speak on political issues of interest to voters? Is a church or other house of worship legally permitted to register voters or distribute voter guides?

Complicated questions. Answers to these and some 30 other concerns are available in "Preaching Politics and the Pulpit," a free guide from the Pew Forum for Religion and Public Life that parses out the Internal Revenue Code in "plain English." Download the guide here: pewforum.org.

Meanwhile, it's "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" this weekend, organized by the Speak Up Movement, a group of pastors who say that First Amendment rights are at stake, and call for other churches to "Join a growing movement of bold pastors preaching biblical Truth about candidates and elections from their pulpits on October 7." See their information here: speakupmovement.org/church.

POLL DU JOUR

• 86 percent of Americans say a strong work ethic is essential to achieving the "American dream."

• 91 percent of Republicans and 86 percent of Democrats agree.

• 80 percent overall say parents and other adults who teach honesty, responsibility and persistence is essential to achieving the dream.

• 85 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Democrats agree.

• 60 percent overall say access to basic health care and nutrition pay a role; 44 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Democrats agree.

• 46 percent say a government that creates opportunities is essential; 39 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of Democrats agree.

• 41 percent overall cite a free enterprise system as essential; 60 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Public Agenda/Galewill Center survey of 2,041 U.S. adults conducted Aug. 15 to 29 and released Monday.

• Comments, complaints, evidence of the American dream to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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