The world will little note, nor long remember this week’s Vox interview with President Barack Obama.
It contained one gaffe (the president’s reference to the terrorist who targeted a Jewish deli “randomly” shooting people), and no news. It was notable only for how perfectly it matched man and the medium.
The president has had plenty of worshipful media coverage, certainly back in the day when “hope and change” wasn’t so risible. But none has ever been so in keeping with his own self-image and pose as the dispassionate, above-it-all paragon of reasonableness.
Vox Obama is the only rational guy in town. Vox Obama is a non-ideological devotee of facts. Vox Obama speaks in dulcet tones. Vox Obama has data sliding beside his face to prove his points! (MSNBC should integrate this feature into its coverage of next year’s State of the Union address.)
Vox called the video clips of its interviews “films.” They had dramatic cut-aways and soothing music, as well as cute gizmos and other supporting material flashing on the screen to illustrate the wisdom and correctness of everything Obama said.
Why didn’t President Obama’s ad-makers hire these guys? The videos could have been produced by a naively progressive Leni Riefenstahl, provided she believed in the totemic power of tables and graphs (always supportive, of course — a hint of disagreement might ruin the effect).
“I’ve seen,” Jack Shafer observed in his assessment for POLITICO, “subtler Scientology recruitment films.”
The conceit of Vox Obama making his sagacious observations from an impossible height of data-driven Olympian purity is, needless to say, ridiculous.
President Obama is obviously — although word hasn’t reached him yet — a grubby politician like any other. The Vox interview landed as David Axelrod’s memoir hit the shelves with the “news” that prior to coming clean in 2012, President Obama lied when he said that he opposed gay marriage.
Axelrod relates that after one “awkward” public exchange over his faux position, Obama complained, “I’m just not very good at bull——ing.”
Don’t be so hard on yourself, buddy. Obama lied quite ably. His lines on marriage were as superficially reassuring and sincere as when he said if you like your health care plan you can keep your health care plan, or any of the other deceptions integral to the Obamacare debate. Perhaps more so, since the president sometimes invoked his faith in explaining his dishonest position on gay marriage.
Now, for someone paying very close attention, the president’s statements were never credible. He said he favored gay marriage on a 1996 questionnaire and his administration soon did all it could to unravel the legal basis of traditional marriage, even while the president professed his devotion to it.
It’s quite rich to have the president’s campaign maestro write a book titled, “Believer,” wherein he reveals a deception by the man we’re all supposed to believe in. On “Morning Joe” the other day, Axelrod opened the discussion of his book with a stirring denunciation of political cynicism, then bristled when asked about the marriage lie.
The president, per Axelrod, was merely trying “to square” his real view with public opinion and he was “frustrated” that he had to deceive. The implication is that the president’s lies are noble. They are excesses of his forward thinking. They are forgivable because it is so hard for Vox Obama to exist in a fallen political world.
Vox Obama loves the disguise. At the same time he professes his deep-held belief in nothing other than the facts, he ignores ones that are inconvenient. At the same time he advertises his own reasonableness, he considers the opposition almost by definition illegitimate. At the same time he assumes the mantle of pragmatism, he has fixed philosophical beliefs that won’t give way no matter what.
For all his self-styled thoughtfulness — buttressed by mood music and graphs — Vox Obama is closed-minded and small.