Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Obama - A 'no symbol' symbolic candidacy

There are certain symbolic norms that are expected when a candidate is running for Presidency. They are usually followed for the sake of expediency. Barack Obama has managed to forsake some of these norms and has managed to remain successful, proving that he is a transcendent Presidential candidate. Barack has made headlines, among other things, for consciously not wearing a flag lapel pin or putting his hand on his heart during National Anthems. Barack has also made other symbolic moves - riding in an undecorated black Campaign bus and going without a campaign slogan early in his campaign.

Barack's glowing press coverage, his undisputed appeal and recognition have afforded him the luxury of going without the usual bells and whistles. Things like the blank campaign bus are perceived as subtle cues for a prudent candidate who transcends symbols rather than a frugal contender with poor financial backing. It is clear Barack is aiming to be the first symbolic president, paradoxically without the use of symbols.

No Hand on Heart During National Anthem
Images have been circulating of Obama not displaying the proper etiquette of putting one's hand on the chest during the playing of the national anthem. This has been picked up by Obama critics as a gesture of disrespect and lack of patriotism. This charge was argued on an episode of Hannity and Colmes between Dick Morris and the hosts.

Barack Obama National Anthem No heart
Barack Obama showing "no heart"
Read the transcript and watch video at MediaMatters.org
Read Conservative comments on Joe Scarborough's take on Obama's perceived protest at Newsbusters.org

Obama's Campaign Bus
This was spotted in passing during a NewsHour news clip. Barack is using a no-frills, blank Campaign bus rather than the standard decorated bus with the candidate's face and name on it we are accustomed to. Not quite sure if this is the bus he's been using the whole campaign. This matter hasn't received much media coverage but why should it.

Blank Obama campaign bus
Obama's non-use of a Campaign Slogan
I noticed in a previous issue of Time Magazine (October 22, 2007) that Obama was listed as not having a Campaign Slogan. He has seemingly adopted an official campaign slogan since then "Change we can believe in".
Barack Obama, Campaign Slogan, Time Magazine
View Time Magazine's full article here

No flag lapel pin
Obama has also famously been known NOT to wear a flag lapel pin. In an interview he explained:
"The truth is that right after 9/11 I had a pin," Obama said. "Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we're talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security.
- Barack during a TV interview with KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Read the full story on FoxNews.com

Whilst Barack has enjoyed success in spite of the charges of stubbornness and lack of patriotism due to his forsaking of expected symbols. David Frum (Author and former George W Bush speechwriter) lays a possibly more damaging charge - Barack believes his own press and has an inflated ego. More charitable detractors may put it down to naivete or blind idealism.

VIDEO: David Frum on Barack Obama
- Real Time w/ Bill Maher, February 22

DAVID FRUM: ...Barack Obama then said, “But, there are some things that – that only the president can do. There’s this special magic” – I don’t think he used that phrase – “that comes from a presidential meeting.”
I think one of the things that, if he becomes president, is going to be his real Achilles heel, is he seems to have a great over-estimation of the power of his personality. That he has been drinking his own bathwater, so absorbed with all of this—
BILL MAHER: [he laughs]

FRUM: [overlapping]—so absorbed with all of this enthusiasm and applause, that he thinks – he thinks he’s going to go apply that Obama magic to a meeting with America’s enemies, and that they will rhapsodize just the way—

MAHER: [overlapping] No, no.
AMY WALTER: [overlapping] Yeah, but—

FRUM: [overlapping]—because, for him to be over-committing the procedure of the presidency in advance of actually having it, you can only imagine what he’s going to do when he does have it. If he has it.
Read the full transcript of this episode from Bill Maher's website

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