Don’t Hate Barry for Being Popular


Published: August 28, 2008

One of John McCain’s most recent ads attacking Barack Obama has caused a bit of a stir.

The ad calls Obama “the world’s biggest celebrity” and compares him to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. The implication is that Obama is little more than a pretty, empty shell, a likable politician with no substance to offer. But in the context of the current political climate, both here and abroad, is likeability such a bad thing?

On the campaign trail Senator Obama is greeted by wild crowds. (Corey Lowenstein/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT)

Bush’s approval ratings are in the tank. The current government has alienated even the closest of our allies, and we are now entrenched in a war that we just may not win. We are running out of oil, the dollar’s value has plummeted and many Americans are losing their homes. We need to get out of this mess and chances are, we will not be able to do it alone.

The ground has become shaky beneath us. It is as though America is balancing at the peak of a mountain, literally on top of the world, and the rocks are starting to slide away. We may go one way or another. It is possible to maintain our position as the leaders of the free world, but one more misstep and we could tumble to the bottom.

We are fortunate in that the ideal of the American lifestyle is still popular around the world. I spent my last semester in England and travelled through Europe. I was surprised at how well I was received. While none were fond of American politics, many seemed almost obsessed with American culture. Baseball caps stamped with the Yankees’ logo were almost more common in Europe than in New York, and when I said I lived in New York City I was often greeted with “’Ey, fuggit about it” in a myriad of different accents. My American friends and I were universally received with humor and a hearty welcome. These experiences have shown me that while the damage of the last eight years is great, it is not irreparable. However, if we want to repair the missteps of the last administration, we need a leader who is well-liked around the world. We need someone who will show the rest of the world that Americans are not simply aggressors drunk with power. We must never again allow patriotism to become a polarizing force.

I am absolutely backing Barack Obama. It is time to repair our diplomatic ties around the world, and I do not believe that the ardent Bush supporter and serial panderer John McCain is capable of doing the job. McCain’s military experience is enticing on the subject of the Iraq War, but I honestly believe there is no good solution to the war that rages in the Middle East, and that we are better off with a skilled diplomat to lead us out of the mess.

But what if McCain’s campaign is right, and Obama is simply a well-liked celebrity? If this is the case then, in the event that he wins the general election, the worst-case scenario is we will have a president who does not do much more than pal around with world leaders and let his advisers and Cabinet do the work. After the last eight years of damage to our allies, our soldiers and the international community, four years of a really nice guy who wants to make friends with the rest of the world doesn’t sound so bad.

McCain’s campaign is attempting to depict Obama as a vapid staple of the popular culture, yet they are the ones who are bringing the celebrity world into the political arena. I believe popular culture may have a place in politics, but only as a tool to spread ideas and galvanize a population. By running this ad, McCain has invited just the sort of people he attacks to the political stage. Does America really need a president who goes out of his way to make Paris Hilton relevant?