Obama: A commercial rather than a president

Sam Smith

When I head that Barack Obama “looks forward to discussing with Pope Francis their shared commitment to fighting poverty and growing inequality,” I realized what has always bothered me about Obama: he’s a commercial, not a president. He’s like one of those things that pops up on your Internet screen when you think you’re going to a website and instead get an ad for some product as your desired information waits patiently in the background.

The difference between a commercial and a president is that a commercial promises you something but a president is supposed to deliver it.

Real presidents might want to meet with the Pope but they don’t have go to the Vatican to discuss fighting poverty and growing inequality, especially when they haven’t done a damn thing about it for five years.

But Obama is our first president fully trained in the contemporary notion that marketing something and achieving it are the same. He doesn’t even seem to notice the difference.

I imagine a few days ago his advisers were sitting around the table talking about how to get something out of “this Pope thing” and one suggested the jaunt to the Vatican. After all, it’s a little embarrassing when the guy in the white robe is getting better approval ratings than the guy in the White House.

When he first started his campaign, I found myself with the profoundly unacceptable reaction of considering Obama really boring. I kept quiet about it but as time went on I realized that he really was an endless commercial, constantly using abstractions in place of action. This helps, perhaps, to explain why he has so few real political friends, why he has such a hard time relating to real people on the Hill and elsewhere and why I want to switch channels whenever he comes on. It’s got nothing to do with politics; I use my zapper to fast forward through other ads as well.

And don’t get me wrong. Obama is just one political version of a transformation that is occurring widely in business, the media and even academia. The ability to relate and talk to each other as humans is fading in favor of manipulated presentations that are a modern and more sophisticated rendition of the techniques once relegated to snake oil salesmen.

Personally, I’ll take the Geico gecko or the kids in the ATT ads any day. And I just hope Obama doesn’t bore the Pope too much.

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