Monday, April 1, 2013

Legacy Lollapalooza

What's more absurd -- the national obsession over a New York Times obituary co-celebrating a female rocket scientist's domestic and professional skills, or the national obsession with the legacy of a president who's only halfway through his eight-year gig? There are tasteless obits and then there are tasteless obits. But to be frank, I find the hoopla over Stroganoff-gate to be no less silly than the endless awful offal about how every Obamian burp, tooth-flash and fart will contribute to his almighty Legacy.

Google "Obama Legacy" and you get 94,100,000 hits. Google "President Clinton Legacy" and you net only a measly 19.5 million for more than a decade's worth worth of leavings. George W. does a little better, with 23 million -- but look at all the piles of destruction he's excreted upon the body politic during and since his own eight-year reign of error.

 Of course, the Obama Legacy isn't really real. It's just an offshoot of the Obama Brand -- a product of Beltway hype, Hollywood, and Madison Avenue. A product that gives the propagandists something to prestidigitate about. A product that gives that elite subset of pundits known as "Villagers" the magical ability to turn the future into the past on the Sunday talk shows.

Take Sunday's Meet the Press, for example, when Revolving Door Glider Extraordinaire David Axelrod framed the ongoing immigration reform drama in terms of.... The Obama Legacy. "He wants this accomplishment," the lobbyist/campaign manager/presidential advisor/campaign manager/paid NBC contributor told Chuck Todd. "This is a Legacy Item for him." (More so, apparently, than a perilous legacy for all the thousands of immigrants on tenterhooks wondering whether they'll be slapped into solitary by ICE, or continue to be deported in the same legacy-ensuring, record-shattering numbers since Obama took office.)

Since actual history is so passé, the celebrity historians who make the rounds of the cable news shows have established the timeless Obama Legacy into a lucrative cottage industry. Michael Beschloss and Douglas Brinkley performed a show on the Future of the Obama Brand in Texas recently. They were upfront, somewhat, about what a fraud this premature Obama Legacy discussion really is:
If we are obsessive, it’s an insider’s club of historians. I don’t think we [as a country] know enough about our presidents,” Brinkley responded to (the moderator) McKenzie’s question of whether we lust too much for presidential leadership.
Beschloss said that in order to learn fully about the country’s leaders, we have to wait for inside sources to provide “what these people are like behind the scenes.”
“Usually presidents 40 years after office look very different,” Beschloss said. Issues and “obsessions” that were escalated during the presidency often are quelled or even better understood as the country moves forward.
“It’s good to wait and read books by historians and great journalists,” Beschloss said.
But we live in a hurry-up culture, we Americans, and waiting 40 years simply does not pay the bills. It's much more fun to instant-analyze, said the History B-Boys as they collected their handsome speaking fees and Mr. Brinkley appeared on the Obama Channel (MSNBC) to ignore Beschloss's draconian 40-Year Rule and indulge in still more Hasty Hagiographic History, predicting to the network's blogger that Barack's Inauguration Susurration alone is enough to make him one of the all-time greats:
Theodore Roosevelt was known to “dine with novelists and poets” and had a “gaggle” of journalists and cartoonists around him at all times, FDR was known for his famous “fireside chats” on the radio, and Brinkley points to Lincolns rhetorical skill and “eloquent” speeches like the Gettysburg Address.
Brinkley sees similar stellar communication skills in President Obama as well, predicting that Obama will be famous someday for invoking Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall as three key points along the civil rights journey. He also praised his most recent State of the Union.
“Someday somebody could do the speeches of Barack Obama, whether it’s his Nobel speech or his Cairo one, speeches at Newtown, Aurora, Tucson,” Brinkley says. “He’s been an extraordinarily gifted orator.”
And besides mouthing platitudes and belching bromides, there are such monster Obamian achievements as the pretend-withdrawal from Afghanistan, which Brinkley ranks right up there with the quasi-withdrawal from South Korea almost 60 years ago! (see: Obama sends stealth jets to South Korea, circa 2013). The MSNBC blogger, named Morgan Whitaker, does get a bit carried away into Legacy LaLa Land at the end of her piece, though, as she gushes:
 Of course, it’ll be impossible not to remember Obama for having broken the glass ceiling, becoming our nation’s first president, but at the end of the day, that it’s the policy that will lead future historians to rank him among the greatest.
And people are upset about Stroganoff-gate, when such truly toxic noodle-headed fungiforms are replicating themselves all over the Blogosphere? It's enough to turn the cream sour, I tell you. And curdle it!

But rest your stomachs.There is an excellent antidote to Official Obama Legacy Agita in the form of this must-read by Gaius Publius of Americablog. Correctly describing the Second Term as The Legacy Tour, he provides ample evidence of Barack's true agenda in the next four years as being a blatant money-grubbing prelude to a very long, cushy Post-Presidency. And it isn't a very pretty sight. Either in the past, the present or the future.


Suzan said...

Thanks, Karen.

Everyone needs this wake-up call.


Jay - Ottawa said...

Obama's legacy is the MacGuffin of this important post. The real story embedded in his legacy is the weather forecast for 21st century.

The most disastrous and enduring "accomplishment" of Obama's legacy will be his forthcoming approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Forty years from now, as the planet begins to bake, Obama will be remembered as the fool who encouraged the carbon industry to drive us to extinction.

Karen cites Gaius Publius at AmericaBlog. With a few more clicks at that site you can get to Gai Pub's clear and comprehensive series of articles about global warming: exactly what's in store for our children and grandchildren and what we must do NOW to save them. Bookmark it.

Zee said...


I guess that I'm a little surprised by your indifference to the hubub surrounding "Stroganoff-Gate."

In aeronautical engineering circles (not my field, admittedly), Yvonne Brill was SOMEBODY.

I think that it might be important to would-be women engineers and scientists to understand that she was a terrific chef and a successful wife and mother before she achieved her various accomplishments and distinctions, in the sense that for some brilliant people, "it's never too late," but her technical achievements and awards should have been itemized first by the NYT, before a discusssion of her family life.

They would have been for any man. So what's with the Times?

As for the obsession over Obama's "legacy," well, I predict that he will be quickly forgotten as a President save for the fact that he broke the "race barrier" to the Presidency. Even his Nobel Peace Prize will be forgotten, or perhaps actually laughed about out loud in future years.

Karen Garcia said...

It's not that I'm indifferent to Dr. Brill's life and achievements, but I do think the brouhaha over the sexist obit was a bit overblown. The lede was just typical shallow cutesy NYT fare, in vogue with the "have it all" movement. I think the obit just showed Dr. Brill in a human light, that's all. There's a lot worse stuff being perpetrated on women, so why waste time getting steamed over a glib NYT death notice? (And besides, the weasels changed it.)

Kat said...

As far as Stroganoff-gate goes, I'm with Karen on this one: a tempest in a teapot. Anyway, maybe the answer is to include more "humanizing touches" such as these in obituaries of men? I like to think everyone is somebody to someone.
So, the brain initiative thing seems to be more in the way of legacy burnishing. He made the announcement with the modest observation that this brain mapping could help millions, no "billions" of people. What I got out of it is "I hope they see this as my space race. I don't really have the money for that, but maybe this will suffice."
My guess is the end result will be fodder for pointless David Brooks columns and other neuroproselytizers:
What we probably won't get is a cure for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Of course, the more "commercial" applications of this research will be available sooner I'm sure.
This is not to say that a truly effective Alzheimer's drug is not commercial-- it's pretty much the holy grail from a monetizing standpoint (well, that and a safe weight loss drug.)

Outsida said...

Obama's Brain Project will undoubtedly serve the Pentagon and MIC profiteers, just as his actual brain does.

They're already developing a wide variety of NEUROWEAPONS. Don't tell me they won't get their fingers in that pie, or own it lock, stock, and barrel.

Kat said...

Yes, definitely that too. The goods that will be most easily realized from this project will be about surveillance, mind control, and marketing.

Anonymous said...

Pity the poor Media. They must be desperate for alternate stories to take the public's attention away from the really important issues of the day. That is, of course, assuming that the 'public' wants to confront the really important issues of the day. Bread and circuses never did go out of style, although the powers that be have been very stingy with the bread. Let them eat cake has been the leitmotif these days. And the MMM have been busy taking our attention away from the main ring and towards the side shows. Always a difficult task.

James F Traynor said...

Sorry, Anonymous was I.