Parsing Obama's Snl Cameo

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NOVEMBER 5, 2007

Parsing Obama's Snl Cameo

Just a quick thought about that Obama "Saturday Night Live" appearance you've no doubt seen by now. The obvious punchline is that Obama is comfortable enough in his own skin to show up to a Halloween party as himself, as opposed to Hillary, who is constantly rooting around for a winning persona. "I'm not going to change who I am just because it's Halloween," Obama says. But there's another interpretation of the sketch that's less flattering to Obama: That he's so self-absorbed it didn't occur to him to come as anyone other than himself. There's already a low-grade chatter among journalists about how Obama is a little egotistical, that he's never more engaged than when reflecting on his own identity or his own achievements, that his campaign is one big exercise in navel-gazing. (See, for example, here.) I wonder: Was the SNL sketch intended as a kind of inside joke--Obama's way of making fun of these tendencies? Or is he so oblivious to them he didn't realize the joke could be interpreted that way? Knowing what I know about Obama, I suspect it's the former. But who knows?

--Noam Scheiber

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