The Spectacle Blog

Post Cushions Olympian Obamas

By on 10.3.09 | 11:40AM

When Hell freezes over five times in succession and rhinoceri write sonnets on Pluto, the Washington Post's Robin Givhan will stop writing love letters to Michelle Obama. Here the Obamas broke precedent and put the prestige of the presidency on the line, as well as ignoring much more pressing problems at home, all for a spectacularly unsuccessful and remarkably narcissistic effort to secure the Olympics for the Chicago Way, and all Givhan can do is gush about how wonderfully Michelle Obama had performed anyway. Givhan wrote that the First Lady "was her team's most valuable player." And, quoting others, ""She was truly elegant, articulate and persuasive." Givhan again: "In the end, the failed bid notwithstanding, not even the leader of the free world managed to outshine the first lady. Officials who met with her were impressed, particularly with her ability to quickly shift gears as she chatted with everyone from up-and-coming athletes to heads of state."And: "The first lady could just as easily have received a gold star."

Meanwhile, the Post's other news stories spent paragraph after paragraph after paragraph providing excuses for why the Obamas fell short and why it wasn't their fault. Reading the coverage is enough to give you the sick feeling you get when you eat way too much cotton candy.

Here's the truth: Both Obamas' speeches to the Olympic voters were ridiculously self-referential and self-reverential.

The Prez: "I ran for President because I believed deeply that at this defining moment, the United States of America has a responsibility to help in that effort, to forge new partnerships with the nations and the peoples of the world.... Nearly one year ago, on a clear November night, people from every corner of the world gathered in the city of Chicago or in front of their televisions to watch the results of the U.S. Presidential election. Their interest wasn't about me as an individual. Rather, it was rooted in the belief that America's experiment in democracy still speaks to a set of universal aspirations and ideals."

Right, it's all about the message sent to the world by his own election.

Mrs. Obama: "I never dreamed that the Olympic flame might one day light up lives in my neighborhood....

I'm also asking as a daughter. See, my dad would have been so proud to witness these Games in Chicago. And I know they would have meant something much more to him, too.....If he had lived to see this day -- if he could have seen the Paralympic Games share a global stage with the Olympic Games, if he could have witnessed athletes who compete and excel and prove that nothing is more powerful than the human spirit, I know it would have restored in him the same sense of unbridled possibility that he instilled in me...."

This is solipsism at its greatest heights, or rather depths. The message wasn't about why Chicago itself is worthy and competent to hold the games, but about why the reflected glory of the Obama's should give an added glow to Chicago. Call it the penumbral theory of Olympic pitches.

Obviously, though, the Obamas' penumbras aren't anywhere near as bright as they themselves, much less the Post, seem to believe.

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