Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

January 14, 2009


Sam Smith

I better say this before the new administration declares such statements an act of terrorism: Barack Obama is not the new Lincoln.

The only explanations for such an absurd claim is either dangerous delusion or deceptive propaganda.

Let's hope it's not the first. We have barely survived eight years living with a president who thought he was General Macarthur and deserve a break from high level pathology.

There is no doubt that Obama has a hyper inflated ego totally unperturbed by its underlying lack of achievement, experience or programs, but he is also the product of an era in which the ambitious see themselves as products of an era, which is to say some thing to market rather than a human to be.

Obama believes that, as a public figure, he doesn't really exist; he is an image and upon this recognition his successful campaign was based. The Association of National Advertisers, according to PR Watch, "voted for Obama's campaign over ad campaigns by major companies like Apple, Zappos, Nike and Coors. Ad Age called Obama's historic November 4 win the 'biggest day in the history of marketing,' saying marketers have a lot to learn from his campaign."

One way to think of Obama is as the only American vehicle to have ended the year with increased sales and larger market share - an ethnic hybrid that makes millions feel cool even if they don't know its miles per gallon, longevity, safety or reliability.

Of course, the fact that marketing creates an exaggerated or false image doesn't guarantee that the product itself is flawed. But it is a clue. A number of Obamaphiles have insisted to me that the president-elect is only palling with the right because he wants to soften them up. But if he is that manipulative why can't the left prove just as likely a victim?

Certainly his appointments - the most aggressively conventional of any Democratic president-elect of modern times - suggest that the change we need is no longer foremost on his mind; some are already referring to him as Status Quobama.

In any case, the fun is over. We have to live with our new hybrid until trade-in time. Reality has entered the story.

Obama, however, seems to think that any faults the vehicle may have can be overcome by even more marketing. The Lin Con is one of his favorite gimmicks that is reaching new fervor even as we struggle to find out real things like where the second $350 billion bailout is going.

From the London Telegraph:

"After he is sworn in and delivers his inaugural speech. . . he will then repair for a formal lunch modeled on foods enjoyed by Lincoln and eaten off replicate china picked out by his wife for his first inauguration in 1861.
The menu opens a seafood stew in puff pastry in honor of Lincoln's love of seafood, while the main course of duck breast with sour-cherry chutney and herb-roasted pheasant is a nod to the game that Lincoln enjoyed growing up in Indiana.

"The 200 guests seated in the statuary hall in the Capitol building, including supreme court justices, members of the cabinet and congressional leaders, will end with a dessert of apple cinnamon sponge, recalling Lincoln's fondness for apples.

"On Saturday, Obama will reprise part of the train journey taken by Lincoln before his swearing-in, traveling from Philadelphia, the first capital after independence, to Washington and stopping to meet ordinary people on the way."

From ABC News:

"President-elect Obama be sworn in using the Bible that was used to swear in President Abraham Lincoln, he will dine like Lincoln as well.

"The first course will even be served on replicas of the china picked out by then-first lady Mary Todd Lincoln at the beginning of her husband's term in office. . .

"Mr. Obama has often invoked Mr. Lincoln on the campaign trail, from his candidacy announcement in Springfield, Ill., where Lincoln once toiled as a state legislator, to the 16th president's 'team of rivals' in his Cabinet, which Mr. Obama has replicated by putting three former Democratic presidential primary opponents in his, to his pick of Bible for the swearing-in."

Perhaps the most misleading aspect of the endless Lincoln analogies is the claim that Lincoln was a uniter, just what we need now. This ignores a few things like the Civil War and, further, that there is absolutely no reason to seek a middle ground between common sense and the decent on the one hand and the most corrupt, incompetent and nasty administration in American history. That Obama should consciously pursue this such a goal is not only misguided, it is deliberately deceptive.

If Obama really wants to associate himself with Lincoln, there is a far better place to start than apple cinnamon sponges, moldy old Bibles, and sucking up to conservative columnists: don't tell lies.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

negatative, negative, negative. how much better positive, positive, positive?!

and stop expecting miracles, and impossibilities. we aren't giving an angel wings on the 20th, just getting relief from gwb & co.

truth yes. but some slack as well. at least for a couple of weeks! let's keep eyes open but hearts hopeful.

oh yeah. and symbols are important. especially when they're meant to uplift not powerwash. you may be lincolned out, but most everybody else isn't.

we've got a new day. let's think the best will come. even in the shadow of imperfection seeds can take root.

we need the seeds...and the tenders.

January 14, 2009 7:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about reality, reality, reality, 7:41? If you're sick of negativity, think how much the rest of us are fed up with illusions. Keep your eyes open for them as well.

January 14, 2009 8:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you, I will (keep my eyes open for illusions). perhaps you need to as well? the illusion that we are bound into the same scenario over and over, that all that's truly bad or wrong is destined to overtake the huge amount of good (potential, in reserve and actual)and leave us dangling ... again ... or, still.

we've been so used to getting nothing BUT the bad these last eight years, it's difficult to put our heads up for a little air without the expectation the toxicity will choke us dead.

i want the ideal just, caring, compassionate nation that has never yet been realized. under the people now leaving washington that ideal was trampled. under the people arriving, we all need to EXPECT the ideal will have some cause to be revived. the alternative is hopelessness, and that cannot be an option for any of us any longer.

this is just one moment in time that could tip the balance. personally, i don't choose to miss it.

January 14, 2009 8:46 PM  
Blogger Joseph said...

Snow job, snow job, snow job, that's all Obama is, one big snow job. There is record snow in the rest of the country and record snow-blowing in Washington.

The Clinton's are indebted to their Stealth Obama.

January 15, 2009 10:39 AM  
Blogger shishir said...

We will witness one of the most important inaguration of history and its a finale of a great campaign.
If we look it closely it resembls mix of top brands. have a look http://controversial-affairs.blogspot.com/2009/01/obama-on-20th-jan-campaign.html

January 15, 2009 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very excellent post. Time someone spoke up and pointed out that the Emperor has no clothes on. His choice of models is rather frightening. More Americans died violent deaths during Lincoln's administration that during all other presidents' administrations COMBINED. He didn't "unite" or "save" the union at all, but engendered divisions that plague us to this day. He was a horrible president, maybe the worst we've ever had.

Love the Status Quobama. :)

January 15, 2009 2:36 PM  
Anonymous Mairead said...

There are several claimants to the title "worst" who are higher up the shortlist than Lincoln.

He had to deal with a situation that no other person in that office, before or since, has had to deal with. That's a key fact, I think.

For all his shortcomings, for all the questions about how well he solved the problem -and even whether he should have- he didn't appoint many people to office who then stole the silver, he arguably didn't start the Civil War and certainly didn't do what he did out of personal greed, or to make cronies rich by handing over the Confederate lands to them.

I think it's fair to say that he was a great improvement over most of his successors (with apologies to Sir Tony for quoting him out of context).

January 29, 2009 1:12 PM  

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