Monday, March 23, 2009

Rush Limbaugh on President Obama as Pop-Culture-Celebrity-in-Chief

Rush Limbaugh makes an interesting argument about one of the most dangerous things an Obama Presidency might wreak. Whilst most of the criticism for Obama's young Presidency can be chalked up to generic ideological complaints, Rush' critique of Obama's unprecedented popularity coupling with today's state of 'celebrity' is worth heeding.

president obama, magazines, rush limbaughThis blog is about the analogy that American Politics and Punditry is not unlike Pro-wrestling. Anyone familiar with pro-wrestling understands that wrestling ability is secondary to being a good wrestler. What's more valued is showmanship, charisma and one's ability to connect with the audience (love or hate). Similarly with Punditry, it is less about being prescient or precise and more about your ability to attract readers and provoke audiences. For politicians, less about policy than it is about mobilising and inspiring.

Rush Limbaugh on Barack Obama's celebrity
Vulgar Obama Acting Like a Pop Culture Celebrity, Not a President
What I really fear is that we have a culture in this country now that thinks this is what a president ought to do. I think we have a culture in this country that thinks that is cool, that finally the president is just like a real guy going on all these television shows like every other celebrity does, like every other pop culture icon does. So whereas you and I of a certain age and a certain generation have certain expectations and standards about what is presidential, it's changed with a lot of people. A lot of people think this is really neat and a lot of people think this is real cool. They don't care what Obama says. The fact that he went on the program shows that he's also a new president. He's in touch with us. He goes places that we watch...

Rush goes on to pinpoint why he believes it is effective to the masses
He's out circulating among the people. Because the people that voted for Obama wish they could go on these shows. They wish they could be on The Tonight Show. They wish they could get in the audience to see it. They don't care what he says. It's just he's there. They don't listen to what he says. All that matters is what they think he hears them say at a town hall...

All he's gotta do is listen. "Mr. President, I love you! I love you!" All he has to do is act like he heard what she said. He's a pop culture celebrity. He is a man of very little substance. He's a man of show, a man of the teleprompter.

Rush seems to overreach in his closing argument, but ends with a worthwhile question
But when it comes to real substance, he's lost without the teleprompter. He's a walking gaffe machine -- and the reason they keep that teleprompter tied to him at all times is 'cause when he's off that teleprompter, in addition to the stutters and the lack of focus, you find out what's really in his mind, and find out what's really in his heart. This is an angry man. His wife's mad, too. And he's not cool. He's cold. This is a cold, cold guy. It takes the prompter to create the aura of feeling and compassion. Think about that. It takes an electronic gizmo with a hard drive that works with nothing but ones and zeros, the binary code, to give humanity. I know a lot of people think, "Rush, how can you say this? This is one of the most warm and sensitive people ever." This man is participating in the destruction of the concept of the individual...

I really wonder how many real Democrats are scared out of their pants over what they see happening.

To be fair politicians have always had a "lazy constituency" of people who voted based on trivial self-identification or knee-jerk ideology. Barack Obama with his historic place as the first Black President, his natural charisma as well as his masterful use of technology and networking through his time as a community organizer has been able to activate a larger chunk of these disengaged voters.

If the right could mobilise a similar constituency they wouldn't be refuse it. RNC Chairman Michael Steele has said as much.
There is certainly envy at play here. Remember GOP Presidential nominee John McCain began as a formidably popular challenge to Barack Obama due to his own celebrity status.

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