Thursday, November 06, 2008

Judging Barack by his cover?

OK, so my guy won and I'm thrilled. Let there be no mistake. The observations contained herein have nothing to do with the "buyer's remorse" that several of the pundits on Brit Hume's FOX show kept wishing on entrenched Obama supporters in the final days, when a McCain defeat began to look inevitable.

But now that the election is a done deal, I want to say a few things about what we seek in a candidate and leader. I'm mindful of this primarily because of all the chatter about
Sarah Palin's natural ascension to the leadership of the GOP for 2012 (and I can't even believe people are already talking about that at a time when that silly jingle from McCain's TV ads still rings in our ears). Thing is, I have to say it applies, at least somewhat, to Barack, too. We've talked around the edges of this before. I think we need to address it head-on.

What makes someone a good candidate? That he or she "connects with voters"? Has "charisma"? Is "attractive" and "telegenic"? I'm
thinking that all of that should be irrelevant, or close to it. Yet evidence suggests that such attributes are increasingly important in determining candidate viability. In fact, that understates the case: They are so important that they dwarf characteristics like intelligence, knowledge, fairness, temperament, experience, etc., which happen to be the characteristics that should matter. (To be accurate, this has been true in varying degrees ever since the telegenic JFK made Richard Nixon look klutzy and vaguely sinister by comparison in those infamous televised debates of 1960. It's just truer than ever today.) Now, I do believe that Obama proved himself over the course of the past year. He showed that there was substance behind the flash; I'm not sure I've ever seen a more impressive public figure. That doesn't take away the question: On the list of reasons, the real reasons, why Barack Obama is our president-elect today, where does competency, or at least the presumption of same, fall? Or was this about him "giving great speech," and being suave and cool and young* and inspirational and black.

To return to Palin: By the end of it all I was sick of hearing apologists like the ubiquitous and virtually interchangeable Buchanan siblings, Pat and Bay, praise everything
about Sarah Palin except what really makes someone a good candidate for the nation's second-highest office (and maybe its highest office, on an unscheduled basis, if you're backstopping 72-year-old John McCain). How many times did one of them gush, "The crowds love her!" Are we talking about a presidential candidate here...or Taylor Swift? Then there's the thing about how she has a special-needs child, which was also presented to America as a plus. No offense, but we're looking at personal marginalia like that in a member of a presidential ticket? (And I say that as someone who adores kids and chokes up at the mere sight of a handicapped child; I can't even handle the visuals on the solicitations I get from St. Jude's.) While I'm at it, let me ask: Should a presidential candidate be advocating on behalf of niche causes that touch directly on that candidate's own life? Isn't that what we call, in other settings, a conflict of interest? Or, dare I say, a special interest?

No matter. The Buchanans and a host of others regard** the fl
irty, effervescent, plain-spoken Palin as a frontrunner for 2012, even though disgruntled McCain aides told reporters the other day that she didn't realize Africa was its own continent. Those early, joking parallels between Palin and that geographically challenged beauty queen don't seem quite as jocular and unfair anymore, eh?

Personally, I've always thought Joe Lieberman was excellent presidential material, and I also applaud Dennis Kucinich for giving it the old college try time and again (although seriously, dude, if you're reading this, you need to stop talking about alien visitors, because it makes people think you are one). On the other side, I think Ron Paul has some great ideas, and often makes a whole lot more sense, if you actually
pay attention, than many candidates who are considered electable. But Paul is a good case in point. He comes off as dweebish and way too jittery. He's got that high-pitched, cartoon-character voice, and too often when he stares into the camera, it occurs to me that all we'd need to do is supply a set of antlers and he'd be the classic deer-in-the-headlights. Lieberman is another emigre from Dweebistan, and gets so whiny at times that he sounds like he's doing self-parody.

On the other hand we have the prototype of masculinity and bearing, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Here's a guy whose
starring roles in Terminator and other high-profile action flicks gave him an instant following (or "base," in political terms) in California the moment he declared for governor. He even drew upon that in his campaign, famously vowing to "terminate" government waste. (Political observers to this day will refer to him as "the Governator.") Is there any doubt that Schwarzenegger would be a major player in a GOP weathering a serious leadership vacuum, had he simply had the foresight to avoid disqualifying himself from the presidency by being born in Austria? To be fair, most agree that Schwarzenegger has done a credible job as California's governor (though like all Republicans, he's been tainted by his ties to Bush as well as his state's recent financial travails). But I'm not sure that's the point. Or maybe, in a way, it's precisely the point in reverse: that there are lots of supremely qualified people who might do credible jobsKucinich? Lieberman? Paul?—who'll never get the chance because they lack the Pizazz Factor. They can excite us with their ideas, but nowadays that's not enough. They're not cute or hot enough. They don't swagger or swish. They haven't perfected their winking skills. Or, just perhaps, their MLK-inflected oratory?

Again, don't get me wrong. I think we got it right this time, for reasons I've enumerated since I first came out for Obama, and that I restated with emphasis in yesterday's post about "healing."

Except...are those the reasons why he actually won? I'm not sure. Not sure at all. And that makes me a little uneasy.

Maybe all of this falls into the bulging category my wife labels "just the way things are." Like a lot of the things we bemoan on this blog. Still....

* Youth is a tricky one. I think it's a valid consideration if it's being viewed through the proper lens: vigor, vitality, resiliency, mental alertness, etc. But if it's being viewed in the sense of the Culture of Youth with which America is obsessed
the hip, celebrity sense that McCain was referencing in those early Paris Hiltonthen that gives me pause. And not just because I'm 58.
** At least they're saying they do, at the moment. We'll have to see if that's just a temporary, face-saving position.


RevRon's Rants said...

Steve - While people like Paul and Lienerman might be technically very qualified to handle the day-to-day administration of the office, we need to keep in mind that the capacity for statesmanship is a vital quality for the president of the US. Beyond displaying the intelligence and judgment to make the right domestic and foreign policy decisions, our president also - appropriately or not - represents the direction in which the free world goes during the course of his administration. In that capacity, the very charisma you question is essential. Whereas the president can exert considerable influence (even pressure) on American legislators by virtue of the office he holds, his power beyond our borders is either economic, military, or the less-quantifiable, but equally important ability to inspire.

We've gone eight years without a leader that the rest of the world found credible or trustworthy, and for good reason. W was rightly perceived as a cowboy whose ambition greatly overshadowed his wisdom, judgment, and trustworthiness. As a result, even those who were previously our most loyal supporters grew increasingly suspicious and unwilling to align themselves with our policies. In Obama, they see one who weighs alternatives, who is obviously intelligent enough to understand the repercussions of his decisions, and who is not so blinded by some ideological agenda that he is unwilling to even discuss and consider anything outside the narrow borders of that agenda. Plus (a BIG plus), he appears to be a fundamentally decent man who strives to live up to his values, rather than just proclaiming them. As a result, people are inclined to trust him, and to give him the benefit of the doubt that experience had told them to withhold from the current administration. While Clinton had many of the same qualities, and was generally liked and respected by people around the world, he was also possessed by character flaws that impeded his ability to lead. Obama appears not to have those same character flaws.

I think the bottom line is that even the supposedly trivial qualities we look for in a leader carry significant relevance in determining his (or her) ability to lead. Even a less competent administrator can perform well if surrounded with the right advisors, whose advice he/she heeds. But that hard to pin down quality that makes one a true statesman is not something that can be feigned or faked, no matter how effective the support system. That is a quality Obama has in droves, and will, I believe, serve him well in his efforts to improve conditions, not only within the US, but in the world at large. Even if for that reason alone, I don't think we should discount the value of a candidate's image when choosing our leaders. The other qualities are important as well, but that "charisma" is the face - and the most powerful tool - our president has in dealing with the greater world.

Ironically, the efforts of a bitter far-right to dismiss Obama's administration will only result in their further marginalization. I believe there will be enough Republicans with the wisdom to realize that the US - and the rest of the world - have little use for the divisiveness their party has created. Now, on which side of the fence Lieberman lands is anyone's guess. We'll have to wait until he's held his finger in the wind long enough to make up his mind.

renee said...

Steve -
Years ago, I wrote a piece about whether or not we needed what I termed a "president lite," for all the reasons you describe.

It kills me that someone who doesn't quite get the "Q" rating, someone with a whiny voice, or 'weird' eyes, or a funny look, or who's too short, or is too "fill-in-blank" BUT IS BRILLIANT - will never lead this country.

Wouldn't it be great if we could hire (vote in) that person anyway, and then prop up a President-lite -who would do NOTHING MORE than deliver the message of the brilliant person behind the curtain - and make us all feel so darn good about how we present to the world?

It's like Martin Sheen or Michael Douglas in front of the mic; and Bill Gates or some other not quite as telegenic genius doing the work.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron: I don't disagree with you in anything you say, really--as things turned out. My problem, though, is that our susceptibility to "surface" makes us vulnerable to politicians who don't happen to offer the deeper, more qualitative traits we find in Obama. And it does concern me that a lot of people apparently made up their minds for Obama before anyone could tell whether or not he was an empty shell--when for all they knew, he might have been just smoke and mirrors. You'll recall that this was, in fact, THE core objection raised by a certain now-departed provocateur.

If you think about it, we promote people to positions of incredible power and influence nowadays based on criteria that really are more relevant to movie-stardom. We obsess over Q ratings and the "likabilty factor."

Consider: Despite everything that the Bush administration has wrought over the past eight years, Obama didn't exactly run away with the election; a little bit of a swing here and there made all the difference in the electoral college, and McCain did, in the end, receive some 56 million votes.

Would we be discussing a different outcome today if John McCain looked and sounded like Mitt Romney?

Steve Salerno said...

That is very funny, Renee. Mordantly so. But very funny and on-point.

The thing is, in today's world of teleprompters and the endless "woodshedding" that candidates do in order to get their message points down...we almost have that now. Isn't that very similar to what they did with Palin, in effect (albeit too little and too late)?

Dimension Skipper said...

Not sure if it really ties to this post in any way, but I just want to start off with saying I really like this headline...

Palin Once Greeted McCain Staff Wearing Only A Towel


My best friend is technically an independent voter (like me), but unlike me he had as far as I knew always supported Democratic candidates. In a discussion shortly before the election, I told him how I don't look at the party labels, but try to assess each candidate based on their own personal qualities, experience levels, and "what they say they're gonna do" to decide. My friend insisted he does the same.

So I asked him... "When was the last time you voted for a Republican? HAVE you ever voted for a Republican?"

He then, perhaps somewhat sheepishly, admitted that has never happened. BTW, like me he's 45 and white.

I know I shouldn't be, but I am constantly amazed at the difference between what people SAY compared to what they DO. (And I'm sure there must be such examples for me as well; I claim no great immunity.) Of course, I guess it's possible that his idea of "the best man" just happens to always coincide with Democratic ideals, but I would think that if he really just looked at individual candidates and voted for the so-called best man, then somewhere along the line he would have voted for at least one Republican at some level somehow. Wouldn't he?

He did admit to liking Reagan a little bit and that Carter probably wasn't the best President, but that was only years after the fact and apparently did not reflect his vote at the time.

I just want to say that I do not share in this euphoria that seems to be sweeping the internet, if not the nation. To back up my claim of independency I will state for the record right now that I did indeed vote for Obama despite the fact that I typically have leaned Republican through the years. Last Presidential election I voted for Nader, not because I knew anything about Nader, but mainly so I could eventually say "Don't blame me, I didn't vote for that guy." It was truly an anti-Bush vote as much as anything, but I just didn’t find all that much to get revved up about in Kerry.

So I think that my voting record (and even more so at lower levels) truly backs up my claim of party independence. And I honestly did feel that the differences between Obama and McCain tickets were significant such that I had to go the way I did.

But that doesn't mean I think Obama is hands-down a wonderful candidate destined for greatness or that all of a sudden circumstances are gonna trend steadily upward just because "that one's" in there. ;-)

Yeah, he's not Bush. But neither would McCain be, I believe. I think that McCain suffered mainly from poor campaigning decisions and perhaps listening to the wrong people. I don’t know necessarily that a McCain Presidency would have been as bad as the McCain campaign. (Though his selection of Palin did not bode well and was a huge—probably the biggest—factor, I admit.)

Anyway, I 'm rambling, I know, but I'll close by saying that I really, really want Obama to be the leader most people seem to think he'll end up being. But I do have serious doubts. I may have voted for him, but that does not mean he's won me over long-term.

Obama talks a good game, a very good game. But just like with my friend (though it may be cliché) talk is one thing, actions another. I prefer to wait and see. He'll have to prove to me he's the right man for the right time and he's only just starting out on that road. I'll wait to see how the journey takes shape before I start to form any real opinions on his "Messiah-hood."

And personally, I do not get caught up in all this historically significant racial thing. Yeah, I see how it is and can understand certain strong feelings about that. To which I say... it's nice, I'm sure, but when it comes to things that really matter it's completely irrelevant to me. I’m willing to give him time and be patient, but that’s as far as my “optimism” goes.

Not sure what it means, if anything, but...

Obama's Pick for Chief of Staff Tops Recipients of Wall Street Money

...Just throwin' it out there.

Steve Salerno said...

DS: Thanks. Worthy points all (both yours and his).

Getting back to the headline you like: So then, if you knocked on her door, she answered as described, then she "threw in the towel," that would've been a good thing, right? ;)

Steve Salerno said...

Actually, that was lame. But I've got a better one:

So is that what some media pundits meant when they said they wished that she would throw in the towel?

(On reflection, maybe that's pretty lame, too.)

Dimension Skipper said...

Steve, lame or not, I'd go for either scenario. It could even spur me to want to get more "hands on" involvement in politics. ;-)

Re divisiveness... To me it takes two (at least) to be divided. I see just as much initiated by both sides, though of course neither would admit to that. It's "funny" to me how we discuss Shias and Sunnis (and toss in the Kurds) in Iraq as potentially irreconcilably unable to get along. Then I look at our Republican/Democratic party system (and toss in the Independents) and wonder if it's really all that different. Red tribes and blue tribes with the white tribes stuck in the middle.

Steve, again it's cliché, but I agree with you that it's often a case of perception vs. reality.

I often muse internally on the old perception vs. reality of the Presidential office. So many folks out there have such strong opinions on foreign policy, but how many of those folks really have the full picture. I would submit virtually none.

We don't KNOW what the intelligence is/was. Did Bush deliberately lie about WMDs? Or were he and our intelligence operatives duped by a systematic bluff from Saddam Hussein?

I've said for some time that in that region and with Hussein's record I can see where it would have behooved him to go to very great lengths to create the illusion of working toward (if not actually possessing) WMDs as a means of maintaining his power.

That being said, should "we" have been smart enough to see through such a sham? Could we have? Colin Powell seemed pretty sure, but was he duped by the, as it turned out, false intelligence? Or by the "lying administration?"

And I know that certain bits of "evidence" (Nigerian yellowcake?) have been bandied about on the blogs and touted as obviously false yet used to deceive the American public. I don't really want to get into particulars. My point is only that no matter what intelligence becomes public, there has to be a significant percentage left unpublicized and we cannot know with any certain (or even assume) what else weighs in various decisions. This is why we elect leaders—to do all that for us.

I'm not saying we aren't all entitled to our opinions, only that I for one rarely find myself all that close to 100% certainty about such things. And if I do approach 100% certainty then that alone almost forces me to reconsider.

I don't claim to know the answers. In fact I emphatically claim to NOT know the answers. I just happen to think that most of the average Joes/Janes like to think that THEY know when in fact they don't. It all boils down to perception, but who really, really truly knows? And just stating an OPINION with forcefulness does not automatically make it FACT (even if prepended by phrases like "The fact of the matter is...).

Just my 3 cents worth.

Elizabeth said...

are those the reasons why he actually won? I'm not sure. Not sure at all. And that makes me a little uneasy.


And what are you gonna do about it?

RevRon's Rants said...

"My problem, though, is that our susceptibility to "surface" makes us vulnerable to politicians who don't happen to offer the deeper, more qualitative traits we find in Obama."

I agree. I would like to think, however, that the last 8 years have left us with at least a willingness to consider that something deeper. I think Obama demonstrated that something in measure beyond what a Bush-weary world had hoped for. And I truly hope he lives up to the potential so many see in him.

A cynic (or a die-hard right winger) might claim we elected him based solely upon his charisma. A skeptic might opine that we did what we always do, but might have actually chosen the right man, albeit for the wrong reasons. And the fawning Obamatron might honestly believe we've elected a political messiah (in the more extreme cases, including the religious connotation). I personally think there are elements of all three in my having supported him (less the second coming part!). We'll just have to wait and see how he does. I, for one, feel pretty confident that he will move us in the right direction.

Elizabeth said...

Steve et al, I do think the election would look differently if McCain looked like Romney, but even more so if he acted like the McCain that showed up during his concession speech. Obama would still win, but there would be far less damage to the country at a time when we very much need unity and cooperation, and not an increase in bigoted divisiveness. Alas. How the candidates run their campaigns is evidence of their characters -- so we all saw what we needed to see from both McCain and Obama.

I think it's obvious that in politics, like everywhere else -- well, no, actually more so -- appearances matter (that's why my favorite, Kucinich, will never become the preznit -- though he snatched a hot wife, good for him).

But appearances that cover an empty (and/or dumb) shell are easy to see through and will not carry a candidate far* -- see Palin. Yes, I know that being the new shiny thing she has energized the base of the party and the GOP places its hopes for the future on her pretty shoulders -- but unless she gets a brain transplant, she's not gonna get there. (And what does it say about the GOP that Palin is its best hope for the future? She and Joe-the-Non-Plumber... It is a reckoning time for the GOP.)

I think that Rev's comments are right on about the importance of the charisma in a politician. Thank goodness Obama's got that and then some.

As to your doubts whether people voted Obama in "for the right reasons," I have several comments, the shortest of which would be, "that's democracy for ya." :)

And, ahem, I keep thinking that you voted for W way back when. For the right reasons, no doubt. ;)

*Ay. I take it back. See Dubya... Sigh.

Dimension Skipper said...

Just found this oldie, but goodie from August 3, 1986 on the whole black/white "is it racism?" perspective thingie.

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz: I'm uneasy about the phenomenon, not, in this case, the man. But I think you're being a little quick to dismiss the point about Romney (and, if I may say so, sort of missing the larger point). I'd bet serious money that if Ah-nold were eligible, and had been the GOP candidate--and if Barack looked more like Rep. John Lewis--we'd all be buying our Teutonic-to-English pronunciation guides right about now. Looks mean everything. If Sarah Palin looked like Barbara Mikulski...there's just no way.

Rev: To repeat, yes, I think Obama is "the right man."

DS: Great addition to the blog. Sure, this goes way back. I remember having relevant talks with my dad back in the early 1960s, when he was telling me about Roy Wilkins' endeavors at the NAACP, and I thought at the time, "How can you advocate progress when your organization is called the National Association for the Advanced of Colored People." Why not just have an association for the advancement of all people, and try to get blacks, whites and everyone else to join?

Elizabeth said...

Why not just have an association for the advancement of all people, and try to get blacks, whites and everyone else to join?

Because whites were not discriminated against for centuries, Steve.

I'd bet serious money that if Ah-nold were eligible, and had been the GOP candidate--and if Barack looked more like Rep. John Lewis--we'd all be buying our Teutonic-to-English pronunciation guides right about now. Looks mean everything. If Sarah Palin looked like Barbara Mikulski...there's just no way.

Agree on Palin (vs. Mikulski). But if Barack looked like John Lewis, he would never be a viable black presidential candidate to begin with. Our first black preznit just has to be perfect (and not too black, btw), outshining the competition (from both the Repubs and other Dems) in all departments, including looks.

However -- and this is the larger point, IMO -- in this election Ahnold, or any GOP candidate, would simply have no chance. Americans are fed up with the party that has brought in W, his misbegotten war(s), increase in tax breaks for the rich, (Lots of) Children Left Behind, healthcare crisis*, and ultimately the economic collapse. Even if Ahnold looked like Ahnold, were eligible, and acted like Ronald Reagan himself, the Repubs were cooked this year. And the people have spoken clearly enough about it.

*About 20,000 people die each year in the US because they cannot afford medical care. That's more people than the number of murder victims, btw.

Cal said...

How can Palin be considered a serious candidate for a GOP nomination even at this early date? Isn't this a case of reverse sexism? Isn't she basically Dan Quayle -- just 20 years later? And when he later ran for the GOP nomination, he was one of the first to drop out. (Of course, his further "potatoe" and "United Negro College Fund" gaffes as VP didn't help).

Even Bush #43, I consider just a variation of those two. I remember in '99 when Bush referred to the "Kosovians" when they are known are "Kosovars". I didn't know the distinction myself, but I wasn't running for President of the United States. (Also not to mention "the Internets", "the Google", and his definition of a "sovereign nation".)

Palin does have four years to completely make over her image. But I do think whoever she would run against in the GOP primaries in 2012 would bring up her performance during this period.

Talk can be cheap. I do believe all this emphasis on charisma and great oratory skills has the potential to go overboard and obscure other considerations in a leader. But how can we get our children to understand geography and science when our leaders don't know it themselves? I just can't believe the story that Palin didn't know Africa is a continent is true. But it was reported by Fox News. Peggy Noonan and George Will (conservative columnists who were not impressed with her) are being proven right about Palin.

Steve Salerno said...

Cal, yes, I think Palin was very much an "affirmative action" candidate this year, an obvious attempt to pick off a few unhappy Hillary fans (though of course they'd have to sell out on just about all of their principles in order to back the fundamentalist, super-capitalist, anti-abortion Palin).

And while as you know I'm not a big believer in role models, I do believe that you make an excellent point about the futility of impressing scholarship and the like on our young people at a time when some of the top political players give every indication of being imbeciles who've lived in caves for the past 20 years. I have to feel that the selection of someone like Palin in particular sets true feminism back a generation or so: It says that if you look right and dress right and wink and smile and have a nice shape--and have shown your ability to pump out babies by the handful--that's really all that matters in a woman/candidate. Very unfortunate.

Cal said...

I do agree with opinion on role models, Steve, because I think a person is apt to be disappointed in those who get that designation.

And to show I'm bi-partisan in my criticism of these gaffes, I cite Biden's comment of FDR going on television in 1929, and Hillary Clinton's comment of going to Bosnia in 1995 with daughter Chelsea and facing sniper fire.

Steve Salerno said...

Cal: Everybody knows it was actually Teddy Roosevelt who made the inaugural use of television, throwing out the first pitch in a night game in Yankee Stadium in 1879. I heard Palin say that she lived across the street at the time, and could "see it from my house."

In all seriousness, I'm sure McCain would remember the occasion.

Steve Salerno said...

Btw, did anyone else catch CNN's infamous hologram(s) on Election Night? What the hell was that about? It added nothing and looked self-conscious and silly.

Cal said...

Looks like someone from CNN is a fan of Star Trek. This is something that they shouldn't do again. It is kind of like the NFL game on NBC about 25 years ago where there were no announcers. NBC never did it again.

Dimension Skipper said...

I don't get cable TV, but I saw the 1.5 minute youtube vid of it and was not impressed. A friend of mine pointed it out to me as really cool, but my reaction was: That's not a hologram!

A real hologram would be if anyone in the studio at the time would have been able to see Yellin appearing in "thin air" right there in front of them. I could tell right off that despite the anchor seemingly trying to indicate otherwise Yellin was NOT appearing before him, but merely on the TV screens of viewers at home. It's like when magicians say there are no mirrors or camera tricks being utilized—yeah, right! It's nothing more than the standard green screen effect with a slight gimmicky twist.

This article, Was CNN hologram straight out of science fiction?, sums up my exact opinion:

Blitzer kept calling Yellin's image a hologram, and that had bloggers and media analysts questioning the truth behind the technology.

"This technology turned out to be much dumber than I thought," Dallas Morning News columnist Victor Godinez noted bluntly in his blog.

"Blitzer didn't see a hologram at all. He was just staring into empty space, and the hologram was only visible to television viewers. In other words, it wasn't a hologram at all, but simply a 2D image superimposed onto the TV broadcast. What a waste of time!"

Anna Pickard of Britain's "Guardian" newspaper was another critic, writing on Wednesday that "this was one of the most gleefully pointless election-night gimmicks of them all."

On the other hand apparently the cheesiness of the effect was somewhat deliberate as this AP piece indicates:

Deborah Potter, a former CBS News reporter and executive director of the TV news think tank Newslab, said she found it strange that CNN would want to send a reporter to a location filled with people celebrating Obama's election and then make it appear as if she wasn't there.

News organizations need to make it clear they're not deceiving people when technology makes it appear someone is somewhere they're not. ABC once apologized, for example, when Cokie Roberts posed in a winter coat overlooking a picture of the Capitol, making it appear she was outside when she was in a studio.

Bohrman said CNN deliberately made the effect look cheesy so the network's intentions were clear. The eerie white glow around Yellin, in other words, was put in intentionally. Between Yellin and, the effect was on for about four minutes out of several hours of coverage.

"I don't think we overused it," he said. "We gave a little taste of something (viewers) may see a lot of in the future."

I hope not.

Anonymous said...

"Btw, did anyone else catch CNN's infamous hologram(s) on Election Night? What the hell was that about? It added nothing and looked self-conscious and silly"

Holograms? What about Ann Curry's virtual world on NBC? Every time she walked around, something would emerge from the floor. She looked liked she was in the video game Tomb Raider. Conan O'Brien put her in a porn and it was too funny. Were they smoking crack or weed at NBC on election night?

Dimension Skipper said...

This photo link was posted (by someone based in Sweden) to an online forum I frequent. Not a new effect or anything, but an interesting visual take on the American regime change. More interesting and clever than the CNN "hologram" imo.

Dimension Skipper said...

Oops. Should have included this... The person who posted that photo link had this short descriptive bit to say about it:

Here's the take on things from the Swedish free daily Metro. Headline says: America's new face. Obama's mission: Save USA.

...Just wanted to put it in fuller context. (Sorry for taking two comments to do it.)

Hmmm... verfication word this time is "shine".

Steve Salerno said...

Thanks for all the feedback on this.

Btw, I don't know about NFL games, but I think they should consider doing some of the election coverage without announcers; how tedious did it get after awhile? And on any game where Tim McCarver is in the broadcast booth, they should definitely turn off his mic.

Steve Salerno said...

You know, this is a small, catty point. And I hesitate to make it for fear of inviting various rants about this topic being "beneath me." (You'd think I'd conditioned you by now to the idea that nothing is really beneath me.) But for real--what are we going to do about Michelle Obama's appalling sense of style. You can tell that folks are trying to be nice about it, but come on. JEE-ZUS. I haven't seen anybody look that consistently bad--at such exalted social strata--since, well, the space-suit-like get-ups Hillary Clinton would occasionally show up in (when she wasn't wearing those dreadful pant-suits).

Think we could get Sarah Palin to donate all those nice tailored threads to the cause, at least?

Elizabeth said...

Steve, gasp! Isn't there anything beneath you? ;)

LOL! And I already wondered, would you bring it up before I did...? And what would happen if I did it -- how many chastising voices would ring out at once?

Thank you, Steve. I'm glad you said it first. :)

Okay, honestly? It's not *that* bad, Michelle's sense of style. Though, yes, the Tuesday black-and-red Rodriguez' dress was a mistake. My first reaction to it was, "Oh no, Michelle, dear, you didn't..."

Even my boys, who, as you imagine, pay much more attention to cars than fashion, felt compelled to express their bewilderment.

The dress, which is not that bad in daylight and on a hanger, looked, well, like a Halloween costume on Michelle at night. Or like a frock from hell, with the red parts erupting from the black ones like flames from the pits of hell. (Such was my first shocked impression.)

And it made her look pregnant.

Not the best get-up, to put it mildly, but the woman is, er, original in her choices, so we can expect a parade of fashion hits and misses from her. (And, BTW, the younger daughter looked too severe all in black.)

You know, I think that in the so-called large scale of things, this is a minor one. Michelle is an intelligent, warm and delightful woman, judging by everything we know about her, including her fantastic speech at the DNC in Denver. But she is a tomboy at heart, and does move like one too, not quite knowing what to do with those long legs and shapely arms. Fashion is not her thing and she appears perplexed by it. All in all, though, this not the worst thing to happen to a person, no?

I'd say her sense of style ain't that bad, it just needs a little, shall we say, tweaking. She would benefit from hiring a stylist, I suppose (am I really saying that...? LOL), or at least asking a trusted female friend or relative for a opinion from time to time.

But please, Steve, let's set such frivolous topics aside and move on to more serious matters -- like what kind of dog should the Obamas get? In keeping with the theme of CHANGE WE NEED, I'd say it's about time we broke with the tradition of Scottish terriers in the White House. The current First Pooch, Barney, represents everything Bush, has been Bush's best friend and dined with Bush 90% of the time. He even took a nasty nip at a member of the elitist media today -- no doubt a payback for the abuse that those liberal journalists have heaped on his master throughout the years. Barney may also be displeased with losing his privileged position and the White House perks in several weeks, who knows?

But regardless of the reasons for Barney's nastiness, I think we deserve a new, kinder and friendlier pooch -- like a beagle. Or a mutt (with a lot of beagle in it). My own old and wise... OK, my own old beagle-mix is grunting with approval under the desk as I type this.

P.S. We should not count on Palin sharing her fancy rags with Michelle. As it turns out -- and as sources in the know report -- many of her outfits have mysteriously disappeared. The GOP has now sent its own lawyer to Alaska to account for all of Sarah's lavish wardrobe. I tell ya, it's a real soap opera -- or maybe just gotcha lawyering ;).

roger o'keefe said...

There's an article in the paper about how Obama is already taking a harder edge as he gathers and shores up his team. I realize that you can't tell much from one photo, and the newspapers pick photos that match the tone of the story, but it's interesting that he smile on his face isn't even that big toothy one anymore.

The man is elected now so I suppose there's no point in whining. I'm just saying, many of you who voted for him without really knowing who he is, based on surface characteristics that Steve alludes to here, may find out that he's not who you thought he was, and he's not going to govern quite as you would've expected. Having said that, I of course hope he does a good job now that it's a done deal. If I end up in a position to say "I told you so", that means the country won't be doing well, and no one wants that.

Anonymous said...

Steve, LMAO! The dress she wore election night looked like something you wear to a costume party where the idea was to look as bad as possible.

Elizabeth said...

There's an article in the paper about how Obama is already taking a harder edge as he gathers and shores up his team.

Well, yeah, Roger, the selection of Emanuel for his Chief of Staff is surprising, IMO. Emanuel is described as "tough," which, I think, is an understatement. He is a well-known figure in Chicago and has somewhat of a reputation as a ruthless political operative. (He scares the heck out of me. Just looking at his face makes me want to hide. I didn't know the Chief of Staff position requires semi-psychopathic personality traits... And I hope I'm wrong about it (the semi-psychopathic aspects of the man's character).)

Steve Salerno said...

You know what makes me laugh about guys like Rahm Emanuel? They like to assert themselves, to act aggressive and even abusive towards others--but only in safe contexts, where they know they hold the power and no real harm can come to them. They're like the high-priced ballplayers who charge the mound, knowing that someone is going to pull them off the pile within moments, and that nothing much worse than a black eye will result, anyway.

A child of extreme privilege, Emanuel is well known for his profanity-laced rebukes, and even for poking reporters and other junior staffers with his fingers when making a point that he feels needs "punctuation." I'd like to see the guy try that in some of the places I grew up in Brooklyn, or maybe in Compton, or a biker bar, or anywhere else where you're basically on your own and you're going to be held accountable--personally and immediately--for the way you conduct yourself.

People like Rahm Emanuel are the lowest form of Washington life and the apotheosis of all that needs changing. It strikes me as an odd choice, to say the least. We shall see.

Elizabeth said...

Steve, there was an in-depth profile of Emanuel in the Chicago Tribune way back and I remember feeling sick with nausea (literally) reading it. It chilled me to the bone. I'm not sure I agree with you that his balls are just for show and tell. I think the guy is seriously missing the empathy chip (and possibly a human heart). I actually think he may have a psychopathic personality: there is a story from his youth where he seriously cut his finger working at Arby's, but instead of seeking medical attention (and his father is an M.D., btw), he went to a party(!) with friends and even swam in a lake, causing himself a massive and life-threatening infection.

This story, which is differently interpreted by different people, tells me a couple of things, one of which is that the guy has a high threshold for pain (typical for psychopaths) and will not hesitate to expose himself to danger for the thrill of it (another possibly psychopathic trait).

I think he is really THAT tough and THAT ruthless -- and it's not a pose or superficial bravado, that's how he is wired; he probably does not know any better or different.
I have no doubt that he would fearlessly provoke the biggest bully in that bikers' bar and, quite possibly, emerge victorious (or at least emotionally unperturbed) from the confrontation. And this, btw, is not a good thing in my eyes, though I know many would admire it.

BTW, Emanuel studied... ballet, for years, and was good enough to be offered a scholarship to Joffrey Ballet.

Here is an interesting profile of Emanuel (it's not the one I mention in the beginning, however):

And this is quite telling:
The Five Most Infamous Rahm Emanuel Moments

Here Time explains why Emanuel is the right man for Obama's CoS:

Steve Salerno said...

Yeah, Eliz, I'd already heard the dead-fish story, and also the infamous dinner-knife, "Dead! Dead! Dead!" one, too.

Did anyone actually die as a result? Was Rahm himself later found holding the bloody knife? That's my point.

Another point: Rahm himself is still with us. Anyone who conducted himself the way Emanuel has for 20 years--on the street--would either be dead or in jail.

Let's be clear: I am not saying any of this as an admirer of The Macho Code, or as someone who supports bullying behavior taken to extremes. I'm just saying, there's a difference between a genuine tough guy and a poseur, and in my opinion our pal Rahm is the latter. His balls may look brass, but I think they're more likely made of paper mache sprayed with metallic paint. Forgive my use of the word, and no offense is intended to anyone, but his behavior works only in a seriously pussified environment like D.C. Anywhere else this guy would've been six-feet under long ago.

Steve Salerno said...

One other thing: A real tough guy does the so-called "wet work." He doesn't engage others to do it for him.

RevRon's Rants said...

"A real tough guy does the so-called "wet work."

I have to agree with you about blowhards, Steve. From my own experience, the guys who beat their chests the most are usually the ones who start whimpering when they face a real challenge. The quiet ones, ya gotta look out for.

From what I've learned about Rahm, he does seem to enjoy wielding a big political/organizational stick, and that may well be exactly what Obama will need to lead effectively - a bad cop to his good cop. I don't think he'll let Rahm get too out of hand, but by the same token, Rahm will be pretty effective at enforcing the guidelines Obama sets. As even-tempered as Obama seems to be, I doubt he'd have much of a problem keeping his chief of staff in line (or removing him if all else failed). We'll just have to wait & see.

As to Michelle's fashion sense... she didn't get me all hot & bothered in the first place, so I don't particularly care what kind of clothes she wears. At least we're not getting a $150,000+ bill for them. :-)

Anonymous said...

It just bothers me, no gripes me, that folks get all upset about what someone wears. Even a First Lady Elect. Why have we become so darn bothered by clothing? Cloth? Fabric and how it is stitched together by thread? ? Why?

Bad sentence structure I know, but gosh,I think people are way to concerned about appearances.

I hate that!

Steve Salerno said...

Anon 1:31: You're right, of course. Which is why I was squeamish in making the point in the first place. Still, there's a fine balance here, and the reality is that some people in high places will draw conclusions about other people in high places based on the way they dress. So if we don't exactly want to encourage the Sarah Palin/Neiman-Marcus approach, nor, I think, do we want world leaders laughing at us behind our backs.

Steve Salerno said...

Then again, they've been laughing at all of us--specifically because of whom we chose for our president--for eight years.

Elizabeth said...

Cloth? Fabric and how it is stitched together by thread? ? Why?

Because it's not just cloth and stitching, Anon. It's the image it creates (of ourselves) and projects to the world. And the image we project, while not everything, is important, whether you are the president or a store clerk. Such is our human reality, whether we like it or not.

Having said that, Americans go crazy over image and lose sight of substance, IMO. Not surprising in a culture that worships celebrity and where obtaining one's 15 (and preferably more) minutes of fame is a goal to aspire to.

Dimension Skipper said...

On the subject of Mrs. O's fashion...

This morning I stumbled upon this Reuters piece from friday, Nov 7:

Michelle Obama's election outfit gets dressing down

Mentioned in there is the fact that there's a site,, seriously devoted to her fashion sense in an admiring and positive light.

Myself, I've managed to see virtually nothing of her fashions (or her for that matter) so I'm in no position to judge (especially since, admittedly, I have no real fashion sense of my own).