There are those who’d say—and they wouldn’t be wrong—that if Obama wasn’t black (or whatever he is, having a white mom), he wouldn’t be President. That reasoning neglects the sheer power of his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, a speech that was shockingly good. Of course, that speech’s power was driven, in part, by the fact that it was being delivered by a black man, a black man much of white America found compelling, a black man even white folks could love.
Obama came on the stage out of nowhere. He climbed into national fame without breaking a sweat. What McCain argued about him wasn’t a rhetoric—Obama was almost impossibly wet behind those huge ears and was, therefore, an unlikely candidate for President.
Much of America loved him—Chris Matthews spoke for millions when he talked about that wild chill up his leg when Obama delivered a speech.
But many hated him and still do. Whether the reason is race or not, millions can’t tolerate hearing him speak, almost as many as adore his every word.
Sarah Palin’s fine legs are rather prominently displayed on a recent cover of Newsweek, and all kinds of people—liberals and conservatives—are upset. Newsweek defends their choice to use an old photograph of Alaska’s one-time gov, something she posed for a Runners’ World-type magazine. They claim that the nation faces a significant question about Sarah Palin: is she or is she not a serious candidate for President.
Sarah’s supporters howl. But then, some may remember that cover photo of Obama’s pecs as he waded through some frothy surf in Hawaii.
Both Palin and Obama have been gifted by their looks; cameras love ‘em, both of ‘em. Obama wouldn’t be where he is if he looked like Tip O’Neill, and millions wouldn’t be chasing Sarah Palin if she had a mug like Golda Meir.
As a nation, we’re almost hopelessly divided these days, although maybe it’s no worse than it ever was. In 1980, I remember the halls of the University I attended falling into morgue-like silence—after all, the worst thing possible had happened: Ronald Reagan had been elected. Fifteen years later, even though the national budget was balanced, we almost had an impeachment because of stained blue dress.
When McCain picked Palin, Democrats hooted because he’d nullified his most pointed argument about his opponent—Obama’s lack of game experience. After all, who knew Palin? After an overpowering convention speech, not unlike another, she blew into national politics like Superman, or Superwoman, and things haven’t been the same since.
Me? I think the Newsweek cover is sexist; but that doesn’t mean the picture doesn’t go to the heart of at least a goodly portion of her attractiveness. Sarah Palin fills a screen very, very nicely. She is a fine physical specimen. But John Meacham isn’t wrong—the question millions and millions of skeptical Americans is asking is whether she’s more than that.
They both show very well. Millions and millions, on both sides and with regard to both Obama and Palin, have already decidedly made up their minds on our two media darlings.
What’s sad—or so it seems to me—is that so many of us, on both sides, are in grave danger of becoming media dupes. Maybe, in this 24/7 media age, we're the ones in danger, perhaps, of being skin deep.