It’s not enough to negatively label a politician a “limousine liberal” or a “country club Republican” anymore. Now “celebrity” is the new dirty word.
When John McCain’s “celebrity” Internet ad juxtaposed Obama’s public appearances with paparazzi fodder like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, his attack on Obama’s “elitism” turned misguided. Just as there are different levels of celebrity, there are different types as well. Given the high-profile nature of both candidates’ lives, this might backfire for the “Straight Talk Express.”
Both John McCain and Barack Obama owe most of their success to their popularity in the media. After all, politicians depend on pundits and important people to hitch their wagons onto candidates’ names just as much as average voters. But recently, we’ve seen the dangers of the public getting too cozy with our representatives.
Enter, or rather, exit John Edwards. The “celebrity” critique has been en vogue since he was called out on his $400 haircut. The National Enquirer was credited recently with breaking the story of Edwards’ affair with a videographer covering his campaign.
Does this vindicate the gossip rag after years of libel lawsuits? Maybe not, but it’s ironic the former Democratic vice-presidential nominee was labeled a “celebrity” for his expensive haircuts, and his fall was brought about by the most recognized celebrity tabloid in the country. That doesn’t make the story any more digestible, especially if you are a part of the Edwards family.
Behind the flash of the cameras, these are normal people. McCain, who prides himself on being an imperfect person, said at Rick Warren’s “Faith Forum” that the failure of his first marriage was his greatest moral failure. Whether he cheated on his wife when she was vulnerable like Edwards did, no one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, right? Everyone’s human.
Judging from McCain’s ad, his strategy must be that Obama believes himself to be more than human. McCain could make a valid argument with that, but most of Obama’s adoration comes from outside his campaign. People have made Youtube music videos, posters and even an upcoming fashion show for him.
Like the surreal California recall election that gave us Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the media circus takes center stage and stars surface from the bottom of the D-list to have a say in the matter. Even celebrities like the “Terminator” star and Ronald Reagan can become respected politicians. That’s because they used fame as stepping stones for more important work. For Paris Hilton, 90 percent of success was showing up. We should all be so lucky.
Such is the entangled relationship between politics and entertainment. A lot of campaign money goes into prime time TV commercials. You might have even read both of the candidates’ bestselling books, or have seen them on “The Daily Show.” McCain made a cameo in the movie “Wedding Crashers” and the hit TV show “24.”
Being a celebrity and a visible personality is a requirement on the job application for the highest political office. Can you think of a bigger name than George W. Bush? Whether his name is famous or infamous, celebrity cuts both ways.
McCain and Obama have earned their fame in their own ways, making both of them real celebrities, whether they like it or not.
Chance Welch is a junior Radio-TV-Film major from Fort Worth.