Is Senator Barack Obama the next John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon? This may seem like an odd question given their party affiliation, but simply labeling them Democrat or Republican fails to get at their personalities and styles.
In terms of style Obama clearly wants to emulate JFK; as the next young, handsome intellectual, with the fashionable wife and adoring crowds. Like the young Kennedy, Obama seeks to rise above mere politics to iconic status.
But despite his rock star status, Obama shares some of Nixon’s personality and style: a touch of paranoia and a tendency to stretch the truth in his own defense. And if you get Obama away from a teleprompter, and the large adoring crowds, he is far less eloquent and a great deal more combative. There is an arrogance and obsession with secrecy that is Nixonian.
As I have noted before, as soon as he became the presumptive nominee Obama immediately accused his opponents of racism and smear tactics. And it wasn’t long before the campaign created a web page to fight these alleged smears. They even went so far as to diagram what they called “Smears, Inc.” the nefarious individuals and groups behind these smears. Unfortunately, the information on the site is not only inaccurate, it does the very thing it is claiming to stop, namely smear campaigns.
This paranoia, and lack of a sense of humor, is pervasive in the Obama campaign. When comedian John Stewart mocked the campaign for creating its own presidential seal Obama supporters argued that he was promoting “right wing talking points” merely by laughing at Obama.
Say what you will about the recent New Yorker magazine cover, but it was clearly a publicity stunt and a poor attempt at satire. Obama could have brushed it aside as just that, but instead he took great offense and tut-tutted that he was disappointed that the magazine would fuel such offensive stereotypes.
For Obama and his supporters his image, some say brand, is too important to be sullied by satire. The bitter and unsophisticated voters he needs to win over wouldn’t get the joke anyways. And if the public complaints weren’t enough, Obama refused the New Yorker a place on his press plane for his trip abroad. The message was clear: anger Obama at your own risk.