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My Favourite Planet > Blogs > Edwin Drood's Column > February 2013
back Edwin Drood's Column
26 February 2013
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the Mysterious Edwin Drood's Column
Life imitating art
In which Edwin wonders whether the Obama presidency has not been scripted by Aaron Sorkin ...
and finds that he is by no means the first to imagine this.

So there I was, in an idle moment, checking out, as one does, the latest buzz on youtube, when I came across Michelle Obama demonstrating the evolution of “mom dancing” with comedian Jerry Fallon dressed as a less-than-desperate housewife.  The clip touches all the classic bases including the “out of sync electric slide”, the “oh my God, I love this song” and the “hands part from single ladies”. Fallon coasts it, the first lady kills. Mrs Obama is so naturally cool that she can even “play” someone, let’s say a forty-something mum, embarrassing her own daughters at a party and make it look hip. Could America have constructed itself a First Lady from a wish list and come up with a better result? I doubt it. The nation has definitively broken the Mamie Eisenhower mould and said goodbye to Nancy Reaganite self effacement.

When Fallon finally leaves the stage because his “mum” character isn’t quite up to doing the Dougie with Michelle, we are left with five seconds of something that is, well, actually quite hot in a polite way. Mrs O comes across like someone made for TV, as if her entire character, and not just the dancer, had been written by West Wing creator, Aaron Sorkin. I was irresistibly reminded of the sincerely hot Abbie Bartlett (Stockard Channing) somehow crossed with Alison Janney’s even hotter C.J. Cregg doing “the Jackal”.

It’s interesting to note, that the first time many Americans were made aware of the name Obama, if only subliminally, was in the background of a “West Wing” scene in which a senate vote is being called (we get it via remote monitor in Toby’s office) and the senator for Illinois votes “yay”. He thereby became the first, and I think only, living politician to be name-dropped into the virtual presidency of Josiah Bartlett. A coincidence? Maybe not. The Obama presidency has been in many ways a re-run of West Wing, despite the obvious differences between the clean-cut, carefully-dispassionate, ex-Harvard, just-black-enough-for-the-White-House lawyer and the emotionally committed, classically erudite, Nobel prize-winning economist and New Hampshire patrician. Both men have daughters of a vulnerable age. Both men are theoreticians first, politicians second. Both have telegenic wives whose agendas tend to outpace, even outshine their own. Both suffer the mind-numbing and enervating effects of a Republican congress. Both freak out their communications staff by going off-prompter, and their security detail by going walkabout. Both wrestle with the demons that are unleashed by the exercise of supra-constitutional powers and, in both cases, this involves the extra-judicial assassination of otherwise unreachable enemies. Both defeat cardboard cut-out opponents to win their second term. For despite the number of brilliant, principled and colourful Republicans that we meet in West Wing, the candidate the GOP finally chooses to run against Jed Bartlett is, predictably, a “.22 calibre mind in a .357 magnum world”.

In an informal poll taken during the series, an overwhelming number of viewers said that they would have preferred President Bartlett to be running the country. And they definitely meant Josiah Bartlett, not Martin Sheen. Even Sheen is rumoured to have said that he’d rather Bartlett were running the country ... as long as he didn’t have to play him. Today, years later, there is still a lively community of “wing-nuts” and bloggers ready to admit that most of what they have learned about the US political system, the constitution and principles of good governance, they got from watching West Wing. Generations of Edwardian statesmen modelled their comportment and principles on emperors and senators they had read about in Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, so it should not surprise us to find the Obama presidency imitating art. Fortunately the art is good and has set the bar pretty high.

In a perfect world, these two would get to console each other on the back terrace of the White House over a clandestine cigarette - neither man is overly-committed to the non-smoking thing - whether on the evils of raising daughters, wrestling for every measly vote (and that’s before they even start on Congress), being the smartest man in the room when you’re expected to take advice, or just how irritating it is to one’s amour propre to have your entire presidency scripted by someone even smarter.

So maybe Sorkin should consider making a bid for 2016 ... with Michelle Obama as his VP. That would make Hillary's ticket anything other than a sinecure.

© Edwin Drood, February 2013

Photo above: US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama
ride in the inaugural parade in Washington, D.C., 21 January 2013.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza. Source: The White House's photostream at Flickr
US First Lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama at the Mysterious Edwin Drood's Column

First Lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama at a wedding in Chicago, June 2012.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

Source: The White House's photostream at Flickr

"Presidential Debate", video clip from the TV series West Wing at youtube.

"President", video clip from the US public radio series A Prairie Home Companion,
16 February 2013.
Edwin Drood's Column, the blog by The Mysterious Edwin Drood,

at My Favourite Planet Blogs.

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