Thursday, March 11, 2010

Barack Obama: The Film

Much of America saw Barack Obama as a savior. After eight years of George W. Bush and a country literally run by oil men, military contractors and Neo-Cons promoting a pro-Israeli agenda, many people had the feeling that their government was the same as the mega corporation they worked for; all lies, marketing, and incredible amounts of money going to a select few.

Barack Obama had something about him that reminded us of a Hollywood film. That should have been the first warning sign. I was a late comer to the Obama bandwagon only because I didn’t own a television and was living out of the country when he gave his famous key note address at the 2004 Democratic convention. A speech he gave as an Illinois State Senator and candidate for the US Senate. What state senator gives the Keynote Address at the Democratic Convention?

I now look back at my infatuation with Obama and think I should have known better; I work in advertising. But I, like so many Americans, wanted to believe that he was real. Akin to watching Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and wanting to believe in Jimmy Stewart. I am afraid Barack Obama is no Jimmy Stewart, and the director of this film is no Frank Capra.

Could the timing of his rise coinciding with the financial crisis have been more dramatic? The primary opponent more Machiavellian than Lady Macbeth herself? As the world falls apart and the evil bankers try and steal our country out from under us, in rides this charismatic, honest, and naïve man who reflects the backgrounds of all Americans. Now I can see the script writers laughing at the over-the-top staging, but we all wanted to believe.

Obama, Colombia undergrad, a year at the CIA front company Business International Corporation, then off to Chicago for few years of community activism, then Harvard Law School where he was selected as an editor and was the first black president of The Harvard Law Review and then a book contract as he finishes law school about race relations that becomes Dreams from my Father. It all seems a little too smooth.

More social activism, seven years in the Illinois State Senate, and voilà, US Senator and four years later President of the United States. Now I look back and see that Mr. Obama doesn’t have enough resume to manage a big Wall Mart, no less the United States. But we broke that taboo when we elected George W. twice, who probably had enough resume to run a big used car lot, at best.

How didn’t we see it? The too good to be true story, the heartwarming diversity, international exposure as a youth in Indonesia, his half sister the Buddhist, Obama the Southern Baptist with a Muslim name handled by Jews. We should have smelled a rat.

George W. tries to send the world into eternal war while he chokes on potato chips watching football games in the Whitehouse.  In the meantime the international community begins to truly loathe the US. The land of Ford, Google, Marlboro and Disney was having a very serious brand problem. So what did the producers of this film do? Yes, they found the perfect man for the role.

I distinctly remember how disappointed I was the first time I watched Mr. Obama give a one-on-one interview. It was on education, and he seemed tremendously bland, not very informed, and a master of American corporate speak. But I brushed it off, like a first date with a girl who was so pretty I tired to ignore her doing eight shots of tequila and falling off the bar. Bill Clinton, with all his faults, is a very smart man. All people who have sat down with him are astonished by his capacity to suck them dry. Obama isn't that smart.

You would think that all that Ivy League education would give him a little more eloquence than this when he was asked about Mr. Blankfein’s , (one of the producers of this film), and Jamie Dimon’s multimillion dollar bonuses.  “I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen. I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.” A seven million dollar bonus for helping to collapse the world economy?

Than he adds the baseball comment, “there are some baseball players who are making more than that and don’t get to the World Series either, so I’m shocked by that as well.”

Maybe there was a new writers strike?

What Hollywood film can ever get off the ground without good Jewish producers? This film is produced by Larry Summers, Rahm Emanuel, and David Axelrod, Executive Producers Robert Rubin and Lloyd Blankfien. A Goldman Sachs production.

But who is the Director?   I really wish I could tell you that it was a group of nasty, cigar smoking men on a yacht somewhere, but it wasn’t. I know exactly who it was, my colleagues in advertising. We spend our days creating messages to make you buy things you don’t need, and we finally have come up with the recipe for candidates. Unfortunately, all we can do is sell you the candidate, we can’t fix the country.

And, ultimately, we the people are the ones who refuse to elect mature, responsible people to run our nation. Do you think the board of General Electric, or Intel, or Google would have ever made Obama CEO of their corporations? Or McCain for that matter? I think not. We in advertising know how to make brands, brands that really have nothing to do with the products they represent and with the demise of newspapers people are getting their information from more and more dubious sources, making the advertisers job that much easier.

Bill Clinton, George W, now Barack Obama, our first three presidents born after WWII, and all in the White House for all the wrong reasons. Their father’s generation didn’t need Madison Avenue to create them, something else made them. Bill Clinton had a very successful presidency and I personally like him. It warms my heart that there are people with less scruples than I still walking around without getting hit by lightning, but then again, if Yogi Bera had been elected president in 1992, he probably would have done an equally good job.

How many Presidents have the good fortune to have the Cold War end and the Information Revolution begin just about the time they become president? George W. was so pathetic that his presidency needs no comment, and Barack Obama is nothing more than a very clever ad campaign. Many people believe that soon the events of the world will demand real leadership, the problem is, where do we find it.

CLICK HERE to purchase Robert Bonomo's novel, Cactus Land, on Amazon.

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