>OP ED: Obama: Boom or Bomb


Poor Barak Obama.

It would appear that I am the only one in America … in the world … who feels sorry for Illinois’ junior Senator Barak Obama.

One would have to have been in a coma for the past couple years not to know of the guy. His every action is the subject of ubiquitous uncritical media hype. From the recent cover of Time magazine to the daily reports of his every breath. His omnipresence in virtually every media outlet – from national news providers, Internet blogs, gossip columns, trade publications, society pages, to the most local weekly newspaper – is devoid of even the modest criticism. He is the most renowned and flattered political figure of his day. (He even gets more publicity than the camera crazy Jesse Jackson – which must be a source of great pain to the good reverend.)

What makes Obama’s “coverage” so remarkable is that it surpasses his office, his accomplishments, his power, his almost anything. He has not broken any racial barriers. He is not the first black senator in modern times. That feat goes to former Senator Ted Brooke of Massachusetts. Obama is not even the first black senator from the Land of Lincoln. Carol Mosely Brown gets that honor.

He seems to generate endless puffy publicity because the press loves him. He is lionized and canonized by the leaders of the fifth estate. He is catapulted into the national limelight for things others do without notice. He is reported simply because he is. In that, he is the Paris Hilton of politics – only with a lot more charm and brains.

To be sure, Obama seems to be a very fine person. Maybe THAT is the news angle … a “very fine person” in politics. Hmmmmm. Not something you see every day. He is charismatic to be sure. I sense he is a very honest person – intellectually, morally and ethically. (Another political departure?) You cannot help but like and admire the guy.

So, why the pity for Obama?

Because, there will come a time in the future when the highly inflated and over exposed senator will have to re-enter the real world. As he gets more serious about a future in the White House, it will take more than a fab smile and charming talk to carry the day. In fact, the bigger than life image will turn into a detriment, as it has for those who traveled the rarified air of unbridled publicity before him.

I recall another senator from Illinois who machetted the path now being taken by Obama. Charles Percy, a very ambitious presidential aspirant, was a 29-year-old corporate wunderkind with the looks of a movie star. He too gave a speech at the national convention of his party (Republican, in his case) that set the political world abuzz. He was the most talked about “future president” in America. The likes of Senator Ev Dirksen flatly predicted that “just call me Chuck” Percy most certainly would be sitting in the Oval Office one day – and not as a guest.

Percy was grist for the media mill on a daily basis – and yes, there was even that September 18, 1964 Time magazine cover. He too had a picture perfect family – bright and beautiful. (His one twin daughter is now the wife of Senator Jay Rockefeller. Sadly, the other twin was tragically murdered.)

Percy was young enough to be a presidential prospect for maybe six or seven quadrennial national elections. He had it made, but he never made it. He never got close to being president. Not even a nomination – not even for vice president.

If history repeats itself, the intense exposure that highlights all Obama’s fine points will eventually draw attention to the chinks in his armor. Interest in his personality will give way to interest in his political views. The universality of his appeal will wane. He will find it impossible to live up to his glorified reputation. Disappointment will set in — disappointment proportionate to the level of past adoration.

Then there is the nature of presidential politics. It is not a process that appreciates those who gain early favor. Initial front-runners almost always fail. There are too many vicissitudes to ensure that ambition and careful planning will result in success. At the moment he is universally beloved by his Democrat peers – largely because his only current role is to raise money. Once he starts to stand in the way of the ambitions of other titans of the donkey party, even his partisan choir will start singing a different tune.

Obama should enjoy the media joy ride for its ego satisfaction. But, if he is serious about the presidency, he should to into hiding for a while. Cool down the klieg lights. Of course, to tell a politician to withdraw from such fawning publicity is like telling an alcoholic to close his lips while submerged in a barrel of beer.

My prediction. Obama gets to the Oval Office only as a guest.

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