(Photo: Dan Delzell)
It has always been about image for our current president. He rode a wave of euphoria into office four years ago as a "Celebrity-in-Chief." The media and Hollywood have spent much time drooling over him. And this guy is now a pro at soaking up the adulation. Therefore, when he was invited by Gov. Chris Christie to tour storm damage in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy....well, it was a no-brainer. It would provide a measure of much-needed relief from the momentum which Mitt Romney had generated since their first presidential debate a month ago.
Whenever the president's glamorous smile breaks forth, I have to remind myself that I am not looking at Denzel Washington. Barack Obama knows how to play for the camera, in spite of his rather angry and grumpy performances in the debates. When he is not forced to discuss substantive issues with a conservative, he seems to know how to whip out the charm and play his celebrity role quite well. His all-star status among the elites is built around his persona....not around any real results during the past four years.
In addition to the elites, the many others who are swayed by this White House celebrity are generally people who don't realize the true financial and social implications of the Obama presidency. These "groupie-like" followers seem to be in a trance when they fantasize about this man. It is almost identical to the way people gawk over Hollywood celebrities. The less the public knows about the personal views of movie stars, the more the average American tends to be drawn to their performances on the big screen. That is the way many Americans like it.
Celebrities are placed on a pedestal and most Americans don't like the idea of viewing their celebrities in a negative light. They prefer to imagine that everything a celebrity does is wonderful, perfect, and helpful to humanity. Obama plays up his celebrity appeal because he knows that celebrities in America can garner applause as long as they are seen as charming and larger than life. This flair now seems to be an ingrained aspect of his shtick.
A second theme that flows out of the Obama/Christie photo-op is one of buying your way into office by paying off the electorate. We could call this role "Santa Claus-in-Chief." Chris Christie simply did what so many others do when wanting a government handout....he fawned over Obama in an effort to get money from him for his state. That is one thing the President has a knack at pulling off....giving away as much of our money as possible. It advances his ideological agenda in the direction of socialism....and it generates more support and more votes for him politically. Who is going to vote against the person is who paying for your toys and even your personal expenses with America's credit card?
Despite the fact that his $800 billion stimulus failed, the president has not seemed to change his philosophy one iota. Obama sounds as convinced as ever that he can give his way out of this economic mess. As with Santa Claus, there always seem to be enough toys for everyone....so why stop giving them away now? Especially when it has made you so popular with those who don't know any better. Many voters are living in "la la land," so why burst their bubble and have them wake up from their dreaming? Especially if them waking up means that Santa has to give back the red suit and sleigh. (Or in this case, the presidential limo and Air Force One.)
In addition to "Celebrity-in-Chief" and "Santa Claus-in-Chief," the Obama/Christie photo-op demonstrates that we have an "Opportunist-in-Chief." The president knows when to make an appearance which will benefit him personally. He knows when to put himself in the limelight....even if it means hanging out with a well-known Republican. Interestingly, Obama showed no such interest during the past four years when it came to meeting with reporters....or meeting with Republicans. They were almost always snubbed by the president. He seemed far more interested in golfing than in meeting with any reporters or Republicans. Now all of a sudden, he and Chris Christie appear to be bosom buddies. What gives? It's just another day in the life of the "Opportunist-in-Chief."
Chris Christie has his own reasons (maybe a 2016 run himself?) for wanting to have such a public display of affection with the president. In doing so, he has played into all three of the president's most persistent traits. First, he gave the celebrity a national stage upon which to perform. Secondly, he gave the Santa Claus figure an opportunity to be seen as willing to give a present to everyone in New Jersey. And thirdly, he provided Obama with a timely opportunity to appear presidential just when his opponent seemed to be sealing the deal for the White House.
It is ironic how that photo-op at a time of national tragedy and human sorrow seems to actually sum up the past four years for this president. And yet even with the big bear hug which Christie and Obama gave one another....it is very probable that many voters will not forget the first debate....and it is almost certain they will not forget the past four years.
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, could a photo-op be worth another four years? Or will voters see it for what it really is....and decide that they are not going to vote for image this time around....but rather, go with substance and real change instead. Whatever happens in this election, one thing is sure....there will be plenty more photo-ops in the days ahead for our next Commander-in-Chief.