A Prospective Obama Administration (Updated)

I’ve been thinking about what the new Obama Administration might be like for some time now, indeed, since well before the election and I thought I’d drop a few thoughts on the subject here. In doing so I thought I might use the symbolic vocabulary that Americans are most familiar with: movies.

It’s actually easier to say what an Obama Administration won’t be like. For example, it won’t be The Wiz:

—a fantasy with an all-white cast remade with an all-black cast. I believe that Barack Obama really is post-racial in that sense.

It’s not going to be a re-run of Camelot. Despite the large youth vote for Obama I haven’t seen much in his campaign to suggest that we’re seeing a generational shift on the order of the Kennedy Administration.

It’s also not going to be Reds

—brave Bolsheviks bringing down a corrupt Tsarist system, cheered on by a dashing journalist who, remarkably, occupies center stage. I have a funny feeling that’s a common fantasy among professional journalists and it’s one I believe is soon to be dashed.

It won’t be Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

or, at least, it won’t be the picture as most people think of it. I suspect that, if you asked most people what Mr. Smith was about, those who were familiar with the picture at all would say it’s how one person can matter. An idealistic young man goes to Washington and cleans it up.

But that’s not what Mr. Smith is about at all. Go back and watch it again. Jeff Smith doesn’t change anything. In the picture Washington very nearly destroys him.

The message of Mr. Smith is that Washington needs changing. For every Jeff Smith there are one, five, maybe ninety-nine Joseph Paines (the Claude Raines senator part). Indeed, the picture may be about Every Senator: they come in as Jeff Smith and go out as Joseph Paine.

In fact, that’s one of my concerns about a Barack Obama Administration, i.e. that it will be like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, but as the picture really is rather than as people imagine it to be.

I don’t believe it will be All the King’s Men

—the rise and fall of a populist demagogue. For one thing I don’t think Barack Obama is that vivid. For another I don’t think you can simultaneously be an elitist and a populist demagogue.

I hope it won’t be Hamlet, with President Obama in the role of the Melancholy Dane, unable to decide to act. Time will tell. Vice President Elect Biden has already warned us that the challenges will probably come sooner rather than later.

I don’t think it’s going to be Babes in Arms, you know, the picture where the kids decide to stage a show to save the old playhouse.

Hey! Let’s put on a show!

I suspect it’s going to be a lot more like that scene from the end of Casablanca:

Captain Renault: Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects.

Judging by the recent announcement that Rahm Emmanuel has been tapped as chief of staff, the members of the transition team, and the names being floated for cabinet officers, that’s certainly how things look.


It’s been suggested that the Obama Administration might resemble the end of the 1972 move, The Candidate:

The original movie tagline certainly is appropriate:

Too Handsome. Too Young. Too Liberal. Doesn’t have a chance. He’s PERFECT!

May be. So far the difference is that it looks like it’s us rather than the candidate left wondering what do we do now?

13 comments… add one
  • The Mummy
    Obam-ho-tep… Obam-ho-tep… Obam-ho-tep…

  • Amusing but not very insightful.

  • PD Shaw Link

    When I went to Starbucks, I asked if I was entitled to a free coffee for voting today (see my sticker?). The person behind the counter said, “Depends, who you vote for?” I said, “Howard the Duck, Get Down America.”

    It’s time for a laugh my fellow countrymen.

  • How about Obama in a scene from Duck Soup

    Now how about taking up the tax

    How about taking up the carpet

    I insist we must take up the tax.

    He’s right. You must take up the tacks before you take up the carpet.


    What type of Army should we have

    Standing of course.

    Why a standing army?

    So we can save money on chairs

    Don’t give me five and ten at woolworth for recalling these priceless marx brothers scenes. Why a duck?



  • I’m sure the tag line of The Candidate will apply. Redford, looking like a prodded cow tries to make himself heard by his campaign manager over the celebration:

    “What do we do now?”

  • kreiz Link

    Love Reds– a fine and memorable film- in spite of its politics. As for The Candidate… not so much- although its insight was way ahead of its time.

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