…is gone. Thoughts on the loss of the president’s glamour, from the glamour expert:
What happened? In 2008, after all, not just political pundits and regular folks were expecting big things of Obama. So were certified leadership gurus. Warren Bennis of the University of Southern California and Andy Zelleke of Harvard praised Obama for possessing “that magical quality known as charisma.”
This charisma, they predicted, would give Obama “the transformational capacity to lift the malaise that is paralyzing so many Americans today” because “a charismatic leader could break through the prevailing orthodoxy that the nation is permanently divided into red and blue states … and build a broader sense of community, with a compelling new vision.”
There was only one problem. Obama wasn’t charismatic. He was glamorous — powerfully, persuasively, seductively so. His glamour worked as well on Bennis and Zelleke as it did on voters.
What’s the difference? Charisma moves the audience to share a leader’s vision. Glamour, on the other hand, inspires the audience to project its own desires onto the leader (or movie star or tropical resort or new car): to see in the glamorous object a symbol of escape and transformation that makes the ideal feel attainable. The meaning of glamour, in other words, lies entirely in the audience’s mind.
That was certainly true of Obama as a candidate. He attracted supporters who not only disagreed with his stated positions but, what is much rarer, believed that he did, too. On issues such as same-sex marriage and free trade, the supporters projected their own views onto him and assumed he was just saying what other, less discerning voters wanted to hear.
Even well-informed observers couldn’t decide whether Obama was a full-blown leftist or a market-oriented centrist. “Barack has become a kind of human Rorschach test,” his friend Cassandra Butts told Rolling Stone early in the campaign. “People see in him what they want to see.”
It was pretty obvious to me what he was from the get go. His faux pas with Joe the Plumber was a big tell.
[Update a while later]
Isn’t it time we grew up?
I want to underscore the fact that it is not just Barack Obama who is living in la-la land. It’s the whole apparat. The suits in Washington have ingested and then regurgitated the neo-Keynesian socialist pabulum that mesmerized elite opinion some time in the 1960s and has never let go.
But we are letting go. By “we” I mean the people who these fools and scoundrels in Washington have misled. They couldn’t help it. They don’t know any better. How cruel it is going to be when the mentally-challenged Joe Biden is exposed as the Grecian formula empty shell that he is. And Barack Obama . . . It was a good show while it lasted. If you closed your eyes and said “spread the wealth” he might have seemed, for a moment, like a serious politician. Really, as everyone sees now, he is a Gatsby-like figure who smiles and smiles but is imploding before our eyes.
On a summer-stock stage, it might have been an illuminating melodrama. Alas, we threw caution to the winds and elected someone who resented this country, was suspicious of wealth, and whose reflexive commitment to left-wing nostrums would gravely damage the most productive economy the world has ever seen. Tens or hundreds of thousands of people will suffer because of our naïveté and Barack Obama’s malevolent stupidity.
It is deeply ironic that so many in the media have referred to the president as “the adult in the room.”