Kevin Drum and Digby are annoyed by a recent Jeff Greenfield segment about Obama’s wardrobe in which he compares the junior Senator’s style in New Hampshire to that of…Ahmadinejad! Greenfield is probably mockingly rebelling against the Obama overkill that has flooded the airwaves and filled the commentariat by taking the Obama obsession to “wretched excess,” as he called it. In other words, he is saying: you journalists are embarrassing yourselves with this adulation of a political nonentity, so let me show you how ridiculous the Obama fixation can get. You want to draw comparisons with Middle Eastern rulers? I’ll go one better and make a trivial fashion comparison with a Middle Eastern ruler!
The entire segment was, I am almost certain, a big joke that lefty bloggers seem not to have gotten at all. Haven’t these people ever watched Greenfield before? He does these tongue-in-cheek bits all the time. Good grief, if we can’t all laugh at the inanity of the Obama coverage right now, imagine how oppressive and dreary the next year will be! If Obama is half as smooth as everyone says he is, he probably would laugh if he saw something like this. “I don’t look anything like Ahmadinejad–I don’t have a beard,” he would joke. Meanwhile the blog left throws a conniption fit. No wonder some people think Obama is a big step up for the Democrats–he doesn’t seem to respond to these sorts of barbs and satire the way liberals often do.
Besides, talking about the man’s clothes is rather fitting. After all, since Obama flourishes by dint of his entirely superficial “hope and unity” spiel, why can’t observers make an issue out of something as superficial as clothing? If his middle name invokes Saddam Hussein in the American mind, it seems only fair to other Near Eastern leaders that his dress should remind us of the wild Iranian. If he could get a different haircut, he might be able to mimic Kim Jong Il and go for the axis of evil hat trick.
Drum complains that this report shows the frivolity of the cable news channels, who have so much time on their hands that they wind up broadcasting the stupidest of things. (They do broadcast the stupidest of things, but it isn’t clear that this is necessarily one of them.) Whereas bloggers who comment on the time-filling cable news channels are, I’m sure, being deeply serious by pointing out the frivolity of cable news.
Digby sees it all as part of a sinister right-wing plot to unman or otherwise discredit Obama and other Democrats by focusing on questions of fashion, since no one in the media has ever paid attention to, say, Condi’s keen fashion sense. Here is the Post on the Secretary of State last year:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived at the Wiesbaden Army Airfield on Wednesday dressed all in black. She was wearing a black skirt that hit just above the knee, and it was topped with a black coat that fell to mid-calf. The coat, with its seven gold buttons running down the front and its band collar, called to mind a Marine’s dress uniform or the “save humanity” ensemble worn by Keanu Reeves in “The Matrix.”
As Rice walked out to greet the troops, the coat blew open in a rather swashbuckling way to reveal the top of a pair of knee-high boots. The boots had a high, slender heel that is not particularly practical. But it is a popular silhouette because it tends to elongate and flatter the leg. In short, the boots are sexy.
Rice boldly eschewed the typical fare chosen by powerful American women on the world stage. She was not wearing a bland suit with a loose-fitting skirt and short boxy jacket with a pair of sensible pumps. She did not cloak her power in photogenic hues, a feminine brooch and a non-threatening aesthetic. Rice looked as though she was prepared to talk tough, knock heads and do a freeze-frame “Matrix” jump kick if necessary. Who wouldn’t give her ensemble a double take — all the while hoping not to rub her the wrong way?
Rice’s coat and boots speak of sex and power — such a volatile combination, and one that in political circles rarely leads to anything but scandal. When looking at the image of Rice in Wiesbaden, the mind searches for ways to put it all into context. It turns to fiction, to caricature. To shadowy daydreams. Dominatrix! It is as though sex and power can only co-exist in a fantasy. When a woman combines them in the real world, stubborn stereotypes have her power devolving into a form that is purely sexual.
So, which is worse: being compared to Ahmadinejad or Keanu Reeves? I don’t know about you, but I’d say that’s a tough call. Just consider how idiotic the image conjured up here really is. Picture, if you can, Condi the Dominatrix. Would that she were actually so effective at commanding the respect and attention of the men around her!
Back to Obama. It isn’t as if right-wingers really want to stop Obama from running in ’08. Go ahead–it will be hilarious! Mark down an Obama-led ticket in the “historic defeats” column.
Separately, as a confirmed political cynic, I look forward to watching the Optimism Express that is Obama’s campaign derail and plunge into the ravine of harsh political reality. I swear, if I hear one more JFK comparison….We need a few mocking comparisons to Ahmadinejad to keep everyone from getting a little too carried away with someone who is a political nonentity, has accomplished nothing, whose every stump speech is the essence of vacuity (“Americans want unity! Americans want a fresh start!”) and whose politics are as unrepresentative of the nation as a whole as anyone in office today.