- The Washington Times - Monday, October 27, 2008


If on the evening of Nov. 4, joyous news anchors finally get to declare Sen. Barack Obama the president-elect of the United States, Michael Barone’s county-by-county postmortem will matter less in assessing the GOP’s grand old problems than the analysis provided by Ad Age and Daily Variety - industry trade papers better suited to explain how global brand-making and multimedia magic trumped very serious issues this electoral go-around.

The making of the Barack Obama franchise far exceeded the skill set of Washington’s best. In fact, the recipe for Mr. Obama’s global popularity can be attributed less to political minds and chance than to the enduring power of Hollywood.

Oprah Winfrey, who in 2005 tapped Mr. Obama as her pet political project, gets executive producer credit for this elaborate production, which has exceeded $700 million.

With its emphasis on star power, the Obama campaign from Day One emphasized the candidate’s perfectly cut presidential presence.

From its skillful editing to its out-of-control budget and its relentless marketing, Mr. Obama’s team played a different game at a different level than Sen. John McCain and his traditionalist staff.

For starters, top minds in Washington assessed an inexperienced ultraliberal of partial African heritage with the name Barack Hussein Obama as a hard sell.

But in his look, tone and temperament, Mr. Obama resembles some of the top domestic and foreign box-office titans of our time.

Studio executives know that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Will Smith and Denzel Washington fill theater seats. The latter two ranked second and fifth, respectively, in the 2007 Quigley Poll - an annual survey of motion picture exhibitors ranking the industry’s most bankable stars.

Morgan Freeman (“Deep Impact”) ranked second in a recent Moviefone.com poll asking which fictional movie president people would most want to lead the United States.

By pretending this strength was in fact a liability - aided and abetted by the mainstream media’s politically correct playbook - Mr. Obama, he of a privileged prep school and Ivy League background, gave voters the type of heart-tugging narrative that makes a good movie great.

The unforgettable image from Mr. Obama’s Iowa primary win featured an almost all human backdrop of Caucasians, the perfect extras for one of the most important scenes in American history. White America, always told it is institutionally racist, got to make the point that it isn’t. And all decent Americans - regardless of party affiliation - felt good.

Much of America rooted for Mr. Obama simply because he is black. Geraldine Ferraro got thrown off the set for saying so.

Hollywood films for years have understood that the majority wants racial reconciliation, and in the Obama candidacy, that was always his greatest promise.

The Obama campaign certainly had some off moments, but only when it went off script (“they cling to guns or religion”). By editing out the nasty aspects of the young candidate’s biography - the coke dealer, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, et al. - all that was left was a cinematic “kid defies the odds” tale.

Trained by smooth customer George Clooney, Mr. Obama looked the GQ president even before he appeared on the magazine’s cover. Media magnate Jann Wenner handed over Rolling Stone for the better part of a year to give him the same marquee appeal as Brad Pitt.

It didn’t hurt that Mr. Obama ran against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the primaries and against Mr. McCain in the general election. Youth trumps all in modern media, and Mr. Obama turned the media into fan-mag sycophants who made the youth vs. age juxtaposition painfully apparent in every shared camera shot.

It doesn’t take an MIT linguist to point out that “hope” and “change” might as well be code words for “No Country for Old Men.”

Mr. Obama’s world tour this summer, which culminated with his speech in Berlin, may have caused Op-Ed writers to lament his overconfidence, but no one who lives and dies by Hollywood and the celebrity-crazed media reads papers anymore.

Until the Republican Party commits to enter the media age, the Democrats will continue to grow their massive advantage in future elections.

Enter Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Mr. McCain’s greatest gift to America may have been his inadvertent discovery of the only person in American politics who can go up against Mr. Obama’s star power.

Come 2012, it’ll be “I Am Legend” vs. “Juno” - the blockbuster vs. the sleeper.

Andrew Breitbart is the founder of the news Web site breitbart.com and is co-author of “Hollywood Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon - the Case Against Celebrity.”

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