Thursday, August 14, 2008

Obama's Song of Himself

Ever since then Governor Bill Clinton answered the "boxers or briefs" question, presidential campaigns have from time to time become pre-occupied with pop-culture questions designed to demonstrate the candidate's hipness. Generally, they are harmless curiosities, even if they may actually provide some small subset of voters a reason to support or oppose a particular candidate.

But sometimes a candidate's answer to the iPod playlist question or the favorite book question can reinforce a narrative against him. And that is exactly what Barack Obama did when he submitted a list of his ten favorite songs to Blender magazine.

Obama used this to great effect during the primaries, when he chastised Sen. Hillary Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards for their self-serving answers to a debate question.

Obama poked fun at John Edwards and Hillary Clinton for their response to the "what is your weakness" question at the MSNBC debate. Obama said that he answered the question as an "ordinary person."

"Folks, they don't tell you what they mean!" exclaimed Obama.

"I thought that they meant 'what’s your biggest weakness?!' So I said 'well you know I don’t handle paper that well, you know, my desk is a mess, I need somebody to help me file and stuff all the time.'"

"So the other two they say well my biggest weakness is 'I'm just too passionate about helping poor people.' I am just too impatient to bring about change in America.'"

Obama joked, "If I had gone last I would have known what the game was. I could have said 'well you know I like to help old ladies across the street. Sometimes they don’t want to be helped. It’s terrible.'"
The exchange helped Obama reinforce the narrative that Clinton and Edwards were typical Washington politicians, unable to answer a simple question without trying to gain some political advantage.

But now that he is the nominee, Obama has fallen into the same trap. The list of Obama's favorite songs is mostly unremarkable, until you reach the last entry. Here's the list:

1. Ready or Not Fugees
2. What's Going On Marvin Gaye
3. I'm On Fire Bruce Spingsteen
4. Gimme Shelter Rolling Stones
5. Sinnerman Nina Simone
6. Touch the Sky Kanye West
7. You'd Be So Easy to Love Frank Sinatra
8. Think Aretha Franklin
9. City of Blinding Lights U2
10. Yes We Can
Obama actually listed a song written about himself and his campaign as one of his favorites.

Maybe Obama doesn't know 10 songs, and threw in the ode to the Senator from H.O.P.E.™ just to fill out the list. Maybe some staffer got a little carried away filling out the questionnaire. Or maybe the explanation is a bit more telling: namley, that Obama is quite arrogant. That observation was made by Blender's own resident political analyst, Girl Talk.

Weirdest pick?

Girl Talk: I couldn’t tell if it was cool or creepy for Obama
to have "Yes We Can." Maybe he’s in love with himself and wants to hear his
speeches over and over as collaged by

You go, Girl Talk!

Nothing against Girl Talk. He is probalby a pretty smart guy. But if he can notice that Obama couldn't help but express his enormously overinflated opinion of himself and his comparatively minor accomplishments, average voters can certainly notice as well. And that helps to set the emerging narrative on Obama.

The public does not really have a good handle on who Obama is despite the media coverage of his campaign. Voters will look to any little snippet of information they can find about Obama to try and get a handle on just what makes him tick. This little list, should it get some play, will have an impact. Voters will read that list and begin to wonder just what Obama has done that makes him so full of himself. And that will be a much tougher question for Obama to answer.

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