Mona Charen
Have you noticed how often the president's supporters talk about the "likeability" factor in politics these days? No longer do we hear that presidential candidates must convey "the vision thing" or "gravitas" or credibility as commander in chief. Not that those criteria were precisely calibrated. Four years ago, many commentators were assuring us that Joe Biden brought gravitas to the Obama ticket, which is a little like saying that helium provides ballast, but at least they thought a certain policy weight was important -- even if their perception was ludicrous. This year, however, we are told that voters cast their ballots based mostly upon which candidate they'd prefer to "have a beer with."

If that truly were the most important qualification in the minds of most voters, we might as well abandon the Electoral College, chuck the Constitution with its complicated rules and just select presidents by liking them on Facebook.

That would suit Obama. When he or his surrogates are not suggesting that the Romney/Ryan team will throw grandma off a cliff or kill steelworkers' wives, the president seems to revel in his favorite subject: the coolness of Barack Hussein Obama.

Nearly all politicians offer glimpses into their personal lives to humanize and endear them to voters. George W. Bush sometimes described his fitness regimen. His father let it be known that he disliked broccoli. Ronald Reagan had a fondness for jellybeans and horseback riding. Bill Clinton played the sax (to say no more).

But Barack Obama, the man who published his first (of two) autobiographies at the age of 34, has cultivated a cult of coolness about himself. Perhaps because he cannot run on trillion-dollar deficits, the looming fiscal cliff, increasing poverty, the loss of America's AAA bond rating, or the decline in middle class incomes. Or perhaps because he is just shallow enough to think that celebrity matters, he has indulged in record-setting levels of vanity during his time in office.

Obama doesn't just love himself, he also thinks it's uplifting for others to love him, too. So he has shared his NCAA brackets, slow-jammed the news with Jimmy Fallon and crooned a few Al Green lyrics at a fundraiser. Human-interest fluff, you say? Everybody does it?

Maybe. But consider that in the past few days even some members of the White House press corps are complaining that the president hasn't held a press conference in two months, but he has managed to make himself available to Entertainment Tonight and People magazine. The world was apparently panting to discover that the president is personally friendly with George Clooney. Yes, and Michelle Obama confides that Clooney is "cute."


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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