THE PLANK JULY 31, 2008
I had sort of assumed that, fast and furious as they come, celebrity opinions on matters of state would be confined to a succinct, well-crafted endorsement. Three sentences, delivered amiably--perhaps vetted with the campaign in question--and certainly not descending to the pettiness or mischaracterizations to which enough regular pundits subject the public. But this week, an improbable duo has proven me wrong. First, Jon Voight penned an incredible rant in the Washington Times, which reads as follows:
Sen. Barack Obama has grown up with the teaching of very angry, militant white and black people: the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Louis Farrakhan, William Ayers and Rev. Michael Pfleger. We cannot say we are not affected by teachers who are militant and angry. We know too well that we become like them, and Mr. Obama will run this country in their mindset.
"White and black people?" Surely Voight's thesaurus could come up with better modifiers to remind us all that Obama knows black people. Even casting aside the conflation of suspicion and action, past and future, Voight's argument is suspect. Why, on the issues, if I had to name a politician I'd describe as angry and militant, I'd choose white Senator John McCain. And while I agree fully that mentorship can have a serious impact on a fledgling mind, what's this "grown up" part? Obama was in his mid-20s when he met Jeremiah Wright, and "as far as I know" has never been under the tutelage of the latter three mentioned. But they exist, as do his dusky ancestors, and they frighten Voight. Further, this strange theory of education seems particularly risible given the fact that--at the same time Voight mentions--Obama played teacher himself, as documented by Jodi Kantor and our own Jason Zengerle.
Voight, who is 69, continues:
The Democrats have targeted young people, knowing how easy it is to bring forth whatever is needed to program their minds... [T]here's not a cell in my body that can accept the idea that Mr. Obama can keep us safe from the terrorists around the world.... If, God forbid, we live to see Mr. Obama president, we will live through a socialist era that America has not seen before, and our country will be weakened in every way.
Paranoid much? Of course, celebrity incursion can be helpful (See am, Will.i.) or fateful (See Fonda, Jane). But factlessly, and with Heston-esque existential outrage, the Midnight Cowboy is beating the fear gong in a way that sounds both scattershot and hopelessly dated.
As if on cue, the soapbox passed to Ludacris--he of the hot jamz--who released a single yesterday endorsing Obama and excoriating Hillary Clinton, McCain and President Bush. Representative unhelpful lyrics:
paint the White House black and I'm sure that's got 'em terrified/McCain don't belong in ANY chair unless he's paralyzed
Well, I'm not even sure that last line makes sense (what else rhymes with terrified?) And of course, Obama's campaign swiftly renounced the crudities of Luda's song. But the upside here, if there is one: We hear politics from earnest celebs because they're known; Obama is known for what he's done in politics. After a year and a half of presidential campaigning, we've more to go on than some flicks and songs. Seems obvious--or not. But if not his grounding in governance and the law, perhaps these unscriptably bizarro star turns give the lie to the meme that Obama is one of them.