Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Oprah For WHAT??

Have my fellow Americans lost their minds?

At the Golden Globe Awards thus past Sunday, Oprah Winfrey accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement, the apparent Golden Globe equivalent of the Albert Mason Award (you have to be a "Mary Tyler Moore Show" fan to get that joke), and she gave an incendiary but inspiring speech urging women to stand strong against sexual harassment and make certain that men like Harvey Weinstein are banished to the dustbin of history.  Her speech prompted many people to assume that she is, in fact, preparing to run for the Presidency after all.  Her friends have urged her to run, and her male companion, would-be First Gentleman Stedman Graham, says that she's ready to run if enough people want her to.
Let's stop for a moment and review Oprah's qualifications for the Presidency here.  She has none.  She's a former talk show host whose career is all about promoting . . . herself!  Exactly how does any of that qualify her to negotiate climate change agreements or budget deals?   
Winfrey is a feminist icon who embodies the ideal of black female success in America, an individual who became rich and successful and overcame obstacles stemming from her race and her gender.  But she achieved that success by offering dollops of pseudo-wisdom about life and how to live it, and she became more or a less a pseudo-therapist for bored women everywhere.    She's managed to equate material reward with spiritual well-being - remember when she gave away Pontiacs to everyone in her studio audience? - and in spite of everything she's done in her life, she's more famous for being than for doing.
Although she's primarily known as a talk show host, she's played several roles since ending her show.  She's a media mogul, having started her own Hallmark-style cable TV channel and a magazine that tries (successfully, apparently) to outdo Martha Stewart Living.  She's a journalist, taping "reports" for "60 Minutes." Heck, she's not only a media mogul, she's an actress, starring in movies that either win no Oscars or flop at the box office.  Now she's a dietitian, coming out with her own line of soup and getting on the board of Weight Watchers, in which she owns a 10 percent stake and for which she does commercials that would embarrass Marie Osmond.  In none of those endeavors has she offered any clear understanding of politics or policy, but people think she'd be a great President because she can empathize with people?
So how is she going to get Kim Jong Un to give up his nukes . . . show him that she understands his feelings?
Orpah is merely a continuation of the American tradition of showmanship and fraud, much in the style of P.T. Barnum and the Duke and the Dauphin in Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn."  Or, for that matter, Donald Trump.  In "Fantasyland," his book about America as a world of make-believe and magical thinking, Kurt Andersen, who goes viciously after Trump, also exposes Oprah as a narcissistic charlatan who is really not that different from Trump in how she sells and promotes herself with all sorts of useless products and through mesmerizing media savvy. Her biggest accomplishment, Andersen explains, is that she has convinced generations of fans to believe that you can become whatever you imagine you can become.  Right now she's imagining herself as President.
Which, indeed, shows how bankrupt the Democrats are these days, as so many of them are hot for the idea of President Winfrey.  Writing in the New York Times, Thomas Chatterton Williams says that "the magical thinking fueling the idea of Oprah in 2020 is a worrisome sign about the state of the Democratic Party. That Ms. Winfrey could probably beat those considered likely front-runners - Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand - is testament to how demoralized and devoid of fresh political talent the post-Obama party has become."  Heck, prospective Democratic presidential prospects for 2020 who want to give policy speeches might as well instead read excerpts from Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle In Time," which is being made into a movie starring . . . Oprah Winfrey. 
In the meantime, Weight Watchers is doing pretty well, with Oprah's speech having generated more business for the company and for, of course, Oprah herself.
Personally, I don't think she'll end up running for President; she wouldn't be able to do what she does best, which is, make money.  But the fact that we're ready to embrace celebrities for public office who can imagine themselves leading or legislating without any prior governmental experience and whose appeal is based entirely on their fame speaks volumes about how seriously we take democracy.  That is, we don't.  We think some big star is going to come along, take over, sprinkle some magic pixie dust, and make America a better place - if only we just believe!  This isn't the attitude of a mature nation; this is the attitude of a nation of six-year-olds who want to live in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Room.
I can still imagine though, that, fifty years from now, people will be studying what America was like when Johnson was President.
Not this Johnson . . .
. . . or this Johnson . . .
. . . but this Johnson!
Like a Rock.

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