Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to say that the press corps is in the tank for Obama even if they're voting for him in overwhelming numbers. Obama irritates many of the reporters who cover him because he's so controlling and inaccessible. So they're not as much in love with Obama as they're in love with the idea of Obama, of the "meaning" of his run for the presidency, of the redemption he offers a sinful nation that scratched slavery into its liberty-loving Constitution.As he says, get ready for the rapture as they try to top their already extreme prose.
The windows of this mind-set are provided by Slate's Jacob Weisberg, for whom the Obama election is a national referendum on racism; the New York Times' Nicholas D. Kristof, for whom an Obama presidency is an opportunity to "rebrand" our nation and "find a path to restore America's global influence"; E.J. Dionne, who sees an Obama presidency as representing a chance to "rekindle the sense of possibility and transformation" in American life; and a swooning Andrew Sullivan, who almost a year ago speculated that Obama might be "that bridge to the 21st century that Bill Clinton told us about." For Chris Matthews, of course, the Obama candidacy is a "thrill" going up his leg, one that will arc over his torso and detonate his head in the event of a victory.
The leading Obama cheerleader among the commentariat is Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, whose "erection of the heart" for the candidate has no match. Alter sees the presidential election as a world referendum on the United States and "the common sense and decency of the American people." Obama symbolizes hope over fear, and his election would produce an "Obama Dividend" that would "blow the minds of people in the Middle East and other regions, and help restore American prestige." Obama, Alter continues, "knows how to think big, elevate the debate and transport the public to a new place."
Such overwriting leaves Alter little acreage upon which to build a monument if his candidate wins, but the problem isn't Alter's alone. Even political reporters who have scrubbed from their copy any evidence of Obama lust face the same Nov. 5 dilemma as the commentariat. How do you pack all the Obama touch points—healing, hope, change, civility, the second coming of Camelot, post-boomer politician, inspirer of youth, great uniter, world president, and so on—into one story without sounding hagiographic? Isn't that what the commemorative issue of People magazine is for? Then again, how do you write about Obama's victory without looping in the touch points? Hence the performance anxiety. (see the site for the links)
Can any president live up to being an "erection of the heart?"