Then There Was the Time Jimmy Carter Woke Up Playboy to the Notion of Committing Adultery in One’s Heart

Perhaps it started when then-President Richard Nixon invited Elvis Presley to the White House to discuss the possibility of the drug addict taking on a role as “federal-agent-at-large” with the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

It definitely gained momentum when Chevy Chase began regularly spoofing Gerald Ford’s clutziness on Saturday Night Live.

It felt like glamour in the Reagan era when an ex-actor stood up and delivered his lines with George H.W. Bush as his sidekick monkey.

It became a natural part of the national psyche when “usually-briefs”-wearing Bill Clinton blasted his saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show.

Often to the detriment of policy and platform, modern presidents and pop culture have become irrevocably intertwined. While Nixon issued his invitation to Elvis out of a sort of bewilderment about how to rein in the counterculture, today’s presidential candidates act not out of bewilderment but savvy.

They know that getting elected these days rests on their ability to tolerate Joy Behar’s fidgeting, to act as though Jay Leno is the nice guy he pretends to be, to tweet anniversary wishes to their wives, to eat dinner at Sarah Jessica Parker’s house, to “slow jam” the news with Jimmy Fallon, to throw a few special-filter photos up on Instagram.

The plural pronoun in that previous paragraph should be changed to singular, truth be told.  The guy who does all that is Obama.

Romney, who suffers from the combination of Brobdingnagian personal finances (which release him from the impulse to pander to the plebes) and Mormonism (which assures his wife wears Temple garments beneath her dresses and that he sidesteps the caffeinated dangers of Mountain Dew), has struggled to harness the power of pop culture. Yes, he’s doing the circuit of talk shows; yes, he’s got a reliable staffer sending out tweets. But mostly, he’s still the guy who wonders why airplane windows don’t open.

I can’t get too indignant about the mixing of nominees with Ellen and Oprah. Candidates have always relied on media outlets to package their messages. The difference is that “media” has morphed into something beyond straightforward journalistic reporting, and today’s audiences have been trained to expect dancing along with their policy messages. It may be dumb as dogs jumping through hula hoops that a politician has to list his favorite television shows before he can talk taxes, but that’s the new reality (incidentally, Romney enjoys Friday Night Lights while Obama favors Homeland). The game has changed, and those who want to win the game have to play along.

Whether unfortunately or simple fact, pop culture can swing an election.

Because something in me (perhaps the fourteen-year-old who still just wants to wear really high heels) savors nearly every aspect of pop culture, I actually see value come out of the seemingly-irrelevant moments when politics intersect with celebrity. For example, it does say something to me that Romney likes a tv show about Texas football and Obama looks forward to a CIA thriller that focuses on Al Qaeda-influenced mind games.

Even more, I actually had to stop the elliptical trainer at the YMCA the other day when I encountered a slick “Overheard on the Campaign Trail” blurb in the light-as-air magazine US Weekly. The piece was meant to be innocuous enough, but the quotes contained within in hit on fundamental values differences that explain why I’ll vote the way I do next month.

In the piece, both long-suffering candidates were caught attempting to connect with celebrity culture–and, as a by product, with voters.

First:

President Obama spoke at Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club in New York City, joking, “Jay-Z now knows what my life is like. We both have daughters. And our wives are more popular than we are. …We’ve got a little bond.”

Then:

On September 14th, Mitt Romney got gossipy on Live! With Kelly & Michael, when he admitted, “I’m kind of a Snooki fan. Look how tiny she’s gotten. She’s lost weight. She’s energetic. Just her spark-plug personality is kind of fun.”

The fact that Snooki gave birth on August 26th makes me laugh about Romney’s comment, as I know he wasn’t referring to post-partum weight loss. I doubt he even knew she’d had a baby a few weeks before. Rather, he was referring to last year, when Snooki cut her weight to 98 pounds through the use of a diet pill program (something else I’ll wager he’s unaware of).

His comments make me screamy.

SCREEEEEEEEEEAMY. And SHOUTY.

First, we’ve got Obama who, with his usual facility, gives rapper Jay-Z an all-in-fun poke about how wonderful it is to play second microphone to one’s hugely charismatic wife. Obama is down with Jay-Z.

But Romney? Seriously, I had to stop my non-diet-pill approach to genuine and lasting health for a minute there and pause the elliptical. That his first thought about a female pertained to her weight and size was seriously dismaying to me. That his subsequent thoughts about her were patronizing, even condescending, infuriated me further.

Obama focused on a message of “Hey, friend: you and I are damn lucky to have powerful women in our lives.”

Romney sent a message of “Dither dither, blither blather, women should be thin but move around with enough vigor that their boobies bounce while they stir the spaghetti sauce for my dinner.”

 

Sure, they have differing agendas about The Real Issues, too, about the state of the middle class and the economy and education and health care,

but it turns out I’m a values voter.

And it’s pop culture that’s doing the best job of highlighting those differences and giving the populace the best sense of the place from which each candidate will work on any issue.

Because I’m in possession of a pair of bouncing boobies,

and because I want my boobies to be my business,

and because I want my boobies, which might get lumps in them, to be covered by health insurance,

and because my boobies delight that it’s my husband who makes the spaghetti sauce,

I respect the man who respects women.

Comments

comments

By Jocelyn

There's this game put out by the American Girl company called "300 Wishes"--I really like playing it because then I get to marvel, "Wow, it's like I'm a real live American girl who has 300 wishes, and that doesn't suck, especially compared to being a dead one with none."

16 comments

  1. Obama all the way (though my thoughts on the matter are of little pertinence being from up here in the Great White North and all).

    Um, who’s Snooki?

  2. We agree completely on this. I also saw a posting on FB from a friend showing each candidate holding babies. I know, how trite. But truly, The three being held by Romney were screaming bloody murder, trying to get away from him, while the three being held by President Obama were cuddling, happy, and obviously quite comfortable in his arms. That tells me that one of the candidates has been a hands-on dad who knows how to handle a young child and revels in it. That is the candidate who will be more likely to ensure that the needs of those children will be met. That is the candidate I want to have for President.
    BTW, did Romney really think we would believe that he knew anything about Snooki? That is kind of creepy just by itself.

  3. listen, in addition to getting screamy and shouty, you are a thinky person. of that i am glad. and though i don’t take issue with your thoughts here or your conclusion, most of the folks who will make conclusions based on pop culture references aren’t exactly inclined to be thinky. that bugs me. i’m also bugged that the 2 children i have who are voting age both shrug their shoulders and say….”meh, i’m sitting this out. neither candidate convinces me.” i want to rattle them both. i’ve told them they have a responsibility to vote because so many people want to and can’t in other places. i’ve told them it’s not because i want them to vote the same way i do…the beauty is…they get to vote their conscience! i’ve told them the person who gets in next will be making decisions that affect them longer than they will affect me. they are unswayed and both plan to just sit this out. heavy sigh…

    anyway, i do agree with your observations about the respective candidates views toward women and that they express it both consciously and unconsciously in policy platforms and in the way they interact with people and in how they refer to the women in their world.

  4. Superb!! Not only do I like the way you think, I really, really like the way you write. But here I would say that the two mesh so perfectly that I really wish the whole of the US of A could read this.

    I do love your combination of wry, dry and occasional slapstick, as well as the pace you set. Thoroughly enjoyable!.

  5. You’re right. A candidate’s ability to come off as a regular person in those arenas does matter, for better or worse. I remember reading something years ago that a video of Clinton throwing a football on the campaign trail was considered to be a turning point in his favor.

    Also, please never delve any further into the dangers of Mountain Dew. Some of us don’t want to know 🙂

    1. Trust me: this girl here can never bash soda. I try and try to get off it, and I have made big strides, but I still am a sucker for a huge Diet Coke. And my sister swears her entire personality is based on her intake of Diet Mountain Dew…

      1. It is. Mostly.
        I’ve been soda free before, for 8 months…but my aide told me she thought I was “a little bit nicer” when I had caffeine in my system. That’s all it took to get me back on the juice. Positive point, I won’t have to be embalmed.
        And, Romney’s Mormonism worries and scares me a lot… and that debate scared me too.

  6. You have concisely and precisely summed up the differences between the candidates, and put into words the uncomfortable feeling that Romney gives me. There’s something about him that just feels…off. I may not be entirely happy with everything that Obama has done or not done, but there’s no doubt about how he feels about women, and that’s important to me.

  7. You said it so well. Romney is a rich, out-of-touch, stick man married to a [expletive deleted]. Obama is a real person with a brain happily married to a strong smart woman.

  8. Mitt Romney reminds me of the main character in that old movie “Can’t Buy Me Love.” You know, when Patrick Dempsey became a major asshat after becoming popular? He’s like that. It’s sad. I liked him better BEFORE everyone else liked him. Now that he’s trying to pander, he’s just pathetic and kind of needy.
    On a happy note, however, he IS handing President Obama re-election gift-wrapped with a huge bow on top.

  9. Boobies can bounce? I had no idea! Mine are more like mosquito bites that occasionally jiggle a tiny bit if I’m lucky. More importantly they can vote (although, sadly, they only get one vote collectively) and they are in complete agreement with you on every topic covered in this lovely piece of writing.

  10. Your last sentence says it all 🙂

    The comments on soda made me want to go to my utility shed/pantry and take out a diet coke that is there for company. Sometimes I’m company. It’s not the caffeine but the artificial ingredients. Desperation days–I gave up everything white, sugar and anything processed. I am losing my mind but know there’s no correlation. Sure!

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