Time Tries to Turn Obama Into Cute, Cuddly Muppet
By: Warner Todd Huston
You want a blatant example of the Old Media’s over-the-top, gobsmacked love affair with Obama? Well, one would be hard pressed not to see Time Magazine’s latest piece by Nancy Gibbs as a perfect example of the media ignoring all ills and of projecting only what is wonderful onto the dearly beloved as this piece represents. The lionization of Obama is bad enough, but the selective memory of the writer is even more appalling.
Writer Gibbs begins her column trying to “place” Barack Obama in a “cultural map.” Most famous people are remembered for a certain place that formed their inner core, of course, and Gibbs tries to pinpoint that place for several presidents including Obama. She pegs Ronald Reagan to Hollywood, Clinton to Hot Springs and W. to Texas. But where does she place Obama?
But first, the other presidents are â€œplacedâ€ and Gibbs says that is fairly easy to do.
Most presidents are easy to pin down on our cultural maps. Ronald Reagan was raised in Dixon, Ill., but we placed him in Hollywood, telling America’s story on the big screen. Bill Clinton may have been the Man from Hope, Ark., but the mischief of nearby Hot Springs was in his blood. George W. Bush was practically born on the Yale campus, yet Texas was his true terroir.
Of course, her interpretation of Reagan is way off. Hollywood wasn’t Reagan. In fact, Reagan was far more a reflection of that small Illinois town than was Hollywood, but the Old Media would rather have had Reagan be “Hollywood” than small town America. And as to G.W.Bush being “practically born on the Yale campus,” well that also is a bit of a blinkered point of view. Still, this piece is about Obama. So where does Gibbs place the current president?
Which brings us to Barack Obama, who belongs … where exactly? Kansas? Kenya? Hawaii? Harvard? None of these quite fit our blender in chief, but it struck me recently that Obama does have a cultural home: he’s the first President from Sesame Street.
Before you ask if Gibbs is seriously trying to sell us the tall tale that our president is somehow just like the cute cuddly world of Sesame Street, let me assure you she is absolutely serious.
The President is every bit as much a product of the show, but it’s not just his age and mastery of the alphabet that make Obama the first Sesame Street President. The Obama presidency is a wholly American fusion of optimism, enterprise and earnestness — rather like the far-fetched proposal of 40 years ago to create a TV show that would prove that educational television need not be an oxymoron.
Oh, and it isn’t just that Ses”O”me Street is where we can “place” Obama, it’s also because he’s “post-racial,” don’t you know?
Sesame Street is now the longest street on the planet. It runs from Harlem to Honolulu; on to Obama’s childhood home in Indonesia, where Jalan Sesama celebrates unity through diversity; through South Africa, where one Muppet is HIV positive; through Israel and Palestine and Egypt, where girls are told how important it is that they keep reading and learning. It creates citizens of a highly globalized, post-racial world. “The only kids who can identify along racial lines with the Muppets,” genius puppeteer Jim Henson observed, “have to be either green or orange.”
This Time article is brought to you by the letters “B” and “S,” kiddies. Can you say “BS” with me?
It doesn’t get any better as this dreck rolls on, either. Next we are told that the Ses”O”me president is “highly cerebral,” an “Empirical President” (yes, it was capitalized), all because he “famously prizes intellect over instinct.” The sycophantic praise goes on and on, plopping like sugary waves of syrup dripping from Time’s pages.
Of course, it’s all too fantastic to take seriously and this can mostly be dismissed as a writer just trying to fulfill an assignment without attempting any deep analysis. Itâ€™s fluff and space filler. But one more aspect of this reveals another case of the sold out media. Re-read that list of the “places” that writer Gibbs notes that Barack Obama is “from” and you’ll notice one glaring omission. What famous home stomping grounds did Gibbs utterly ignore in her little list? You got it: Chicago. Yes that same Chicago that is one of the most politically corrupt, crime-infested cities in the entire country is conveniently forgotten by this star crossed Time writer.
Significantly, Gibbs seems to forget that many of Obama’s key appointments are pulled from his Chicago mafia back home. Absent in this piece is the fact that Obama cut his political teeth in Chicago, formed his personal identity there, and laid the foundation of his life’s work in Chicago. There is no other place that better speaks about Obama than the deeply corrupt, the rough-and-tumble political world, of Chicago, the Windy City. Home of the corrupt Daley machine, a place made famous for organized crime long before Obama ever set foot there, but a place he instantly saw as â€œhisâ€ city, the city that would make him a star.
But not one time is the city mentioned in this fluffy piece that makes of Barack Obama out to be a cute, cuddly member of the Sesame Street generation. Not one time is the word Chicago included but the truth of the matter is that Barak Obamaâ€™s actual â€œcultural homeâ€ is the most corrupt city in the country. Isnâ€™t it interesting that it isnâ€™t mentioned even once?
That omission says more about Time and Nancy Gibbs than it does Barack Obama.
But, I have to say, this Time piece upholds one of the crooked cityâ€™s most popular political pastimes. Gibbs is utterly silent on anything that could be perceived as â€œbad,â€ here. Chicagoâ€™s Mayor Daley uses this practice in every press conference, on every TV and radio appearance. He practices his shocked version of the what-do-you-mean? way of talking to the citizens as he double deals, endlessly raises taxes, and pays off his family and friends day in and day out. Never a cross word is heard, never a recognition that anything could possibly be wrong as all around him members of his administration and his government are indicted and sent to jail for corruption. Itâ€™s all good, you see? Donâ€™t ever tell the truth. Donâ€™t give those stupid voters the satisfaction of letting them know youâ€™re sweating.
It makes me wonder if Nancy Gibbs is a Chicagoan herself>
( Illustration by Gerard Dubois for TIME)