Good looks, a great voice and working hard on one’s speaking ability can lift someone to great heights.
That is the message of the hit musical “My Fair Lady,” where Eliza Doolittle—played by Audrey Hepburn or Julie Andrews—overcame a thick Cockney accent and humble beginnings.
It is also the theme of “My Fair President,” a show running to sellout crowds from coast to coast for four years, starring Barack Obama, the man who came from a busted home to the White House.
Critics are unanimous that Obama has real star quality, a warm charm mixed with a sonorous voice using the formal “East-coast” diction of Washington and New York, as well as the “folksy” accent for use in front of big crowds in rural areas or the inner city.
Obama’s performance is especially impressive because the real-life presidency of the United States has a much more challenging repertoire than the fictional “My Fair Lady.”
The presidential musical has hard dance numbers, from the chorus line of “Hope and Change,” moving to the quick-step of “It’s Bush’s Fault, Not Mine” and that rambunctious rolling rumba “Just Give Me One More Term, Oh Baby, One More Term.”
It is not simply enough to sing “The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain,” but also, among others:
- “The uranium in Iran stays mainly in the Gulf,”
- “The blood in Syria flows mostly in the Jordan,”
- “The sands of Libya usually blow toward Sinai,” and, in a duet with Hillary Clinton,
- “Let’s pet the Russian Bear when he’s not invading Georgia or menacing the Ukraine.”
Barack Obama’s role is especially taxing in many ways.
The president is also the playwright and choreographer as well as the on-stage star. George Bernard Shaw merely wrote “Pygmalion,” from which “My Fair Lady” was adapted, but Barack Obama adapted “the book” for his real-life show from two autobiographical books that he wrote about his own life.
Much of this material—that suggested Obama was a great mind, a great student, even an honor student—appears to have been exaggerated or based on “composites” of falsehoods and half-truths. He was elected to be editor of Harvard Law Review, but never wrote an article for it, and he was definitely not an honor student at Columbia College.
The media critics who gave Obama great reviews did not double-check Obama’s biographical claims. They overplayed what has become the pattern for media vetting of presidential and vice presidential candidates, almost always insisting Democrats are smart and dashing while insisting Republicans are dull, clumsy and even ignorant dullards.
From the time of Franklin Delano Roosevelt through Barack Hussein Obama, a halo of intellect has been wrapped around Democrats like FDR, Adlai Stevenson, the Kennedys, the Clintons, Al Gore, John Kerry and even that “foreign policy authority” known as Joseph Biden (who did not know the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas in one debate in 2008).
Meanwhile people like Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin were labeled dunces or clumsy for minor or imagined mistakes. Comedian Chevy Chase built an entire career, pretending that Ford (probably the most athletic man ever to be president) was clumsy.
Democrats’ worst faults and failures (flunking out, cheating, debilitating illnesses, serial philandering) were often hidden. Few reported FDR’s paralysis, JFK’s many maladies or Stevenson’s academic fiasco. No one reported how Joe Kennedy hired people to write JFK’s Profiles in Courage.
It is worth remembering that Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once said that FDR had “a second-rate intellect but a first-rate temperament”—a verdict that many Democrats and media experts would like to forget, but it is also an apt description of some presidential and vice presidential candidates since—many of them are Democrats.
How many remember how, at the Democratic Convention of 2004, John Kerry touted himself and his running mate John Edwards because they had “better hair” than George W. Bush and Dick Cheney?
The story-line that any candidate builds for himself or herself has to be vetted by a press corps that treats the real-life drama as worthy of serious consideration and criticism.
Mitt Romney and his backers present his life-story as a kind of heroic struggle—on a personal and professional level. This story needs to be vetted just as Barack Obama’s story SHOULD have been thoroughly checked well before November 2008.
The reason we have several new books and movies about Barack Obama is that our watchdogs in the press went to sleep in 2007-8, almost as if they were adopting as the world view of Alfred Doolittle, Eliza’s father in “My Fair Lady,” as their motto:
“The Lord above gave man an arm of iron
So he could do his job and never shirk
The Lord above gave man an arm of iron, but
With a little bit of luck, with a little bit of luck, someone else will do the blinkin’ work.”
When the press adopts the role of a worshipful chorus singing praises to one candidate, the presidential musical can turn into a national tragedy.