WHEN THE UTTERLY charmless and uncharismatic Gordon Brown (remember him? – he was Chancellor of the UK for years and even its Prime Minister) said “Obama Beach” instead of “Omaha Beach” at the 2009 celebration of the Normandy landings it wasn’t just a gaffe. It was not that kind of understandable confusion you can suffer when you have to speak in public. No, this was a slip of the most embarrassingly Freudian type. This was a sign of Brown’s infatuation with Obama, an infatuation, it has to be said, shared by so many politicians around the world. Watch them in his presence and you see at work the kind of spell-binding and fascination that you’d expect at high school when the Cool Guy walks into the room. All the girls swoon and the all the boys want to be his best buddy.
After he was elected the European leaders were almost pushing each other out of the way to be first in line for his attention when he came to visit. Later, when he popped into Australia, PM Julia Gillard gazed and simpered over him like a trembling-kneed schoolgirl. It was such a gut-churning spectacle I couldn’t believe the mass of the Aussie people didn’t rise up in disgust and ditch her in the ocean.
This sort of behaviour is acceptable for adolescents but not for grown-ups. And certainly not for political leaders who have serious stuff to do. It’s an example of the Princess Diana Syndrome, a form of celebrity worship which is most successful when the person endowed with it has done almost nothing to justify it. Clearly Diana, given her age, had little to boast about in terms of achievement. Barry (for such he called himself before he, or more likely his handlers, decided the more ethnic Barack had the greater electoral appeal) had at least been to Harvard and Columbia universities. Who paid for him and what he really achieved there is a bit vague, but the vagueness just seems to add to the romance.
In fact, Obama is always vague when he’s off the teleprompter. His famous oratorical skills often turn to dust when he doesn’t have a script. He waffles, stumbles, makes mistakes, and yet no one seems to care. In this he’s a sharp contrast to Tony Blair, who rates far below him in the charisma stakes, but who has the unfailing ability to blag his way through anything. I watched him talking about the infamous Good Friday Agreement “hand of history” soundbite. The interviewer asked him if he had come up with this phrase himself. Within one sentence Blair first of all denied it, then said it was a combined effort with his speechwriter and then finished with the affirmation that he had indeed come up with it by himself. It was an effortless, confident, unembarrassed performance that would have tested the skills of a Jesuit. It was so good it went unchallenged.
You wouldn’t expect that kind performance from Princess Barry. It’s almost as if inarticulacy were another sign of his saintliness. He is rated according to his glamour, not his deeds. Celebrities don’t need to worry about results. Politicians should. Eventually the deeds yield consequences and some of the patina of glamour wears off.
WE DON’T KNOW much of the aura would have remained if Diana had survived into old age and the decline of her looks. We do know that Princess Barry still has some of that old magic left, enough at least to garner the race vote for a second term. It certainly helped him survive the diplomatic catastrophe of Benghazi and the cack-handed cover-up that continues to follow it; a disaster that would have sunk any other President. He can thank the fawning American media for helping him out on that.
And so Princess Barry enters his second term, adorning the couches of chat shows, scattering his pixie dust of redistribution and regulation everywhere, knowing that once he’s finished he can play golf to his heart’s content and there’ll still be enough people besotted with his magic to think he was a saviour and enough politicians who’ll treat him as a world statesman.
Except for the Arab leaders, of course, who are not fooled for one minute by this flim-flam. They need him and despise him at the same time. They need him because he is weakening American power around the world, particularly in the Middle East, thus strengthening their own hand. And yet they despise him for being so weak, so unwilling to stand up for his own people. They know that Princess Barry is a useful progressive idiot, a preening fake surrounded by sycophants and thugs, intent on bringing his own country to its knees.
The American Dream used to be about success. Princess Barry’s American Dream is about the destruction of that success. When he’s gone, secure in his own wealth and self-righteousness, he’s going to leave a lot of people with less than than they started with, wondering how they could have been taken in so easily.