NPR Discusses How Barack Obama Hype Shows He's a Black Kennedy

November 3rd, 2006 3:54 PM

NPR's weekend program "On The Media" ran several interviews on Obama-mania in their last edition, including a talk with National Journal media writer William Powers. After discussing the many steps of national media hype, Powers suggested Obama was really a black Kennedy:

NPR host Brooke Gladstone: "In this recent round of what a lot of people are calling Obama-mania, would you say that there is now a media consensus about Obama, that he's just a natural?"

William Powers: "Oh, I think there's a consensus that he is The Natural, the most preternatural political figure we have seen since the Kennedys. The Kennedys come up constantly in these comparisons.

Gladstone: "The Kennedys or one particular Kennedy?"

Powers: "Bobby and John come up sometimes together, sometimes separately. All kinds of combinations of Kennedys come up. The Kennedy trope is actually a part of this whole process of the arrival of the new Democratic politician. You have to work in a Kennedy in some way. But Obama's arrival is unusually Kennedy-rich, partly because he himself harks back in a lot of his positions and his aspirations to those figures and that period. You know, Brooke, one of the things that hasn't come up in any of these pieces that I note about him is just kind of aesthetically the way he dresses, the way he wears his hair, his mannerisms, the way he talks. He's kind of a 1950s, early 1960s-looking guy. [Brooke laughs] Have you noticed that?"

Gladstone: "I know what you mean. He has the boxy suits and the narrow ties, but it's sort of in a retro way, sort of more David Byrne than Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. [Laughs] It's got a hip feeling to it, but he also, it's like he stepped out of a Jack Lemmon movie or something -- that period. And it kind of, in a subconscious way, I think, it echoes this connection that people are making to that time. You know, I am put in mind a little of the mania for Colin Powell that happened, partly because he is how we want to think of ourselves."

Powers: "Joe Klein writes about this in his Time cover story about Obama, the kind of the pleasure factor, particularly in the white person reacting to Obama. You know, there's almost a -- he didn't use this word -- but a self-congratulatory element to it, where we feel even better about ourselves because he is of mixed race and because he seems to represent this principle of the kind of country we'd like to live in."