I admit I have a man crush on Obama

My last column tweaked Joe Lieberman* for having a man crush on McCain.(The term gained popularity in 2005. link) I’ve written about the slavering masses willing to follow Sarah Palin off the White Cliffs of Dover. But I just came across a photo essay I’d missed from the November 5, 2008 Boston Globe and when I saw the pictures of Obama giving the fist bump to Robert Gibbs’s little boy (no. 27 – links to single photos), the photo of Malia and Sasha running to meet their dad as he was getting off an airplane (no. 32 link), and Michelle and Barack, foreheads together (no. 16 link), I knew I’d been smitten for some time.

Picture number 34 link in Chicago on election night with the new president elect, Michelle, Malia and Sasha is moving too, but I saw that live.

View the entire 35 picture photo essay here (link, long download).

I’d seen the Barack Obama pictured by himself, the earnest and the serious leader of the free world I wanted elected president, the man who had a ready natural smile. However, The Boston Globe favored us with full screen images which are more powerful and telling than the downsized photos we usually see online.

I read Obama’s books and knew what he stood for from reading and listening to him explain his positions and philosophy. He was the person I wanted to lead us out of the nightmare of eight years of George W. Bush.

But as much as I’ve both mocked and criticized those who responded to the aura of Sarah Palin, with her physical beauty and pretense at being everywoman, and as much as I lambasted those who back McCain because they bought the image of him as a heroic POW, I think I also was moved by the subliminal message imparted by seeing the Obama family.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t have been an supporter if he was cut out of the same stiff and tightly woven cloth as Al Gore or John Kerry.

I voted for both of them because of their positions and because the alternative was unacceptable to me. But truth be told I was never particularly enthusiastic about them.

Al Gore kept trying to reinvent his persona, and when John Kerry stood at the convention and saluted and said he was reporting and ready for duty I saw his chances fade before my eyes.

I didn’t pay any attention to Obama when he gave the convention speech that brought him to the attention of Republican insiders, but from the day he announced his candidacy I never saw him trying to present himself in any way different from who he was.

Even so I was torn between supporting Obama or Clinton until she started to attack Obama and showed a willingness to play political theater what with downing the shots and beers.

McCain, in unguarded moments, probably would admit that he rarely if ever let the true John McCain out on purpose. Still, his hostility and the chilly interactions between his own wife and his vice presidential candidates were obvious to anyone not blinded by partisanship. I have to think he lost votes as many votes because he seemed likable one minute and angry the next.

On the other hand, Obama was always likable and natural. Even his sorry attempt at bowling while wearing a shirt and tie was unscripted. After all, if anybody had any sense they would have at least had him take off his tie before the threw the gutter balls.

Believe it or not, I admire both the vice presidential candidates because like Obama, they were themselves.

Joe Bidden was, well, Joe Bidden. None of his gaffs made a whit of difference to the voters even when the Republicans tried to play them up.

Sarah Palin tried to be Sarah Palin, and only faltered when she let her handlers dictate to her about how to come across.

I have unmercifully skewed her on these “pages” and no matter how much she learns I don’t think she has what it takes to be a good president. Not that she doesn’t have native intelligence and people sense, she does. But she lacks intellectual curiosity.

I have to give Sarah Palin this, when unrestrained by beltway handlers, she is real.

This was demonstrated in the turkey decapitation video that has been repeated incessantly on television. The simple fact is that she didn’t give a screeching squawk about viewers being squeamish. She’d probably remind them that they’re going to eat turkey on Thanksgiving and “what did you think, they all died of natural causes?”

I have friends who were strong Hillary Clinton supporters who believed that Obama was too good to be true, that I was being taken for a sucker in believing that what I saw in him as a person wasn’t being feigned. They thought that for a therapist I ought to know better than being suckered in by a good actor.

I look at those still pictures, those captured instants in time that photographers know they only can hope for every once in awhile, and I just don’t believe I’m wrong.

Obama is the real deal.

* On Joe Lieberman: I’m especially glad I wrote what I did last week now that he couldn’t bring himself to say the simple words “I’m sorry about some of the things I said about Barack Obama” when he was on Meet the Press today. There’s a big difference between saying “I regret what I said” and an apology. Not to rehash my previous column though I wonder if Joe is still trying to ingratiate himself to his close friend John. I find Lieberman’s unwillingness to answer a straight question more that irritating. Tom Brokaw asked him specifically if he was sorry. This was his answer: “I do regret, as I said to the caucus and afterward publicly, there are some things I said during the heat of the campaign that I should have said more clearly and some things I shouldn’t have said at all. They stressed disapproval for some of the things I said. I accept that. That was the spirit of reconciliation. Now we move on together to get the nation’s business done. We don’t have the luxury of looking back. He is the winner, he is the President-elect.” I’d never have never gotten away with that in lieu of an “I’m sorry” with my parents and I can’t imagine Joe would have. Sam Stein wrote pretty much my thoughts on Huffington Post today.

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  1. pollchecker

    You may be right, Hal. Only time will tell.

    I hope he has more balls than previous presidents of either party.

  2. erinys

    Here’s my problem…when every single supporter seems to have a crush on a candidate. And they only ever speak of him/her in glowing terms as if they had just been on a first date. That’s how it seemed to me, still seems at times, and it’s unrealistic and, honestly, kinda creepy.

    If someone had asked you about this “man crush” months ago, would you have examined your reactions and admitted it? Would any supporter?

  3. Hal Brown

    Not in those terms, as I wrote, it was looking at the still pictures, especially those with his wife and the children, that made me realize how uniquely “real” Obama was.

    Reading his books made me aware of him as a candidate unlike any in my adult life.

    I know what you mean about the “first date” analogy. The wise response to “meeting” someone like that is that he or she seems too good to be true. In too many cases people who seem too good to be true are adept at conning others who they want to impress. As a therapist I have often discussed this with clients who are starting to date after a divorce.

    Time, of course, will tell whether those like me were wearing rose colored glasses over the skeptical eyes they usually view politicians with.

  4. Malibu

    I can understand your comments on a very unique man and his family. In my opinion, he is certainly leaning to the left more than I would desire, but I feel a sense of trust that I never sensed from Senator McCain.

    He gives all appearance of being “the real thing.”

    Good commentary, Mr. Brown


  5. Troyota

    I find it such a pity that in our culture, expressing any enthusiasm for an important public figure is automatically claimed by his critics to be the equivalent of uncritical, even fanatical, hero-worship.

    I would like to suggest that it’s a good part of human nature to be able to admire a superior person. In difficult times, don’t we need heroes? The problem comes when we admire without question, when we accept all actions of the hero figure without judgment. But admiration does not have to be blind.

    I believe that it’s a great thing to have a leader we can actually look up to. All through this last election, I told people, “I don’t want a President who’s like me. I want a President who’s better than me!” That doesn’t make me a mindless adulant; an idealist, perhaps, but my eyes are open.

    I think that many of Mr. Obama’s supporters have a similar attitude. So please, if you don’t share our passion, don’t deprecate us or yourself by claiming we are under some kind of spell. We’re smarter than that, and so are you.

  6. Hal Brown

    Welcome Troyota. Well said. I look forward to your continued posting on my columns, even if you disagree with me.

  7. zuzumamu

    Thanks for the great photo links Hal. I too was slow to pay attention to Barack Obama. I was suspicious and cynical. Once I did read more, and watched and witnessed the intelligence and grace he exudes , I realized we were very fortunate that this remarkable gifted man rose to the surface for this election.

    The odd part is the familiarity of his nature.He really doesn’t seem to be a “star”, an “idol”. He feels “normal”. Which of course in our dysfunctional society, is pretty damn special.

    It’s a great feeling to really admire and like a political figure, a leader. In fact, I feel like I have a case of the bends.What a corrupt and nasty eight years it’s been,and thank you America, for rejecting them.

  8. ckaye99

    Sickened and afraid of non-issue related media manipulation, tired of lies and misrepresentation, I tend to ignore the pictures, no matter who it is they feature. It may cut me off from information that say, a therapist might deem as telling, it may make me a bit inhumanly incurious, but it is a gut reaction. I didn’t vote for Obama because he was cute, or because his daughters are cute! And if you were nudged towards voting for him on the basis of pictures, well, maybe you get valid information from them that informs you on some gut level, or maybe you are brainwashed on this photo-op thing, which seems to be a big problem here in the United States; the look of things at the sacrifice of substance. Our big problem here in the United States, no?

    All the bases are covered for both kinds of thinkers, at any rate.

  9. Hal Brown

    True, but as I wrote above I voted for both Gore and Kerry based solely of position and policy. It didn’t really hit me that Obama exuded this charisma until I made my mind up. The personal reaction actually came when I saw him live with his family in Chicago on stage and then when I saw these photos. The former was a photo op as were some of the stills, but some of the other photos seem truly unstaged, candid glimpses that a photographer saved for us in 1/500th of a second.

    There are experts who research and write about how what are called micro-expressions communicate true feelings. The demonstrate how split second changes in facial expression can tell whether people are lying. Since the dawn of candid photographery and then with the faster shutter digital cameras which can take a dozen pictures a second, the best photographers have done this too.

    I’d heard about his “start power” from a close friend who met both him and Bill Clinton and compared the two of them noting that Obama’s was greater.

  10. Troyota

    I thank you! I used to hang around here but have been “away” for a couple years. Current events, however, have just been too engaging for me to be able to keep my trap shut….

  11. Hal Brown

    On the “thank you Sarah Palin” ads:

    “There’s a flock of people out there that would follow this woman over a cliff, she’s got a trance over these people.”

    Chuck Todd, 6:58AM on Morning Joe today

    “I’ve written about the slavering masses willing to follow Sarah Palin off the White Cliffs of Dover.”

    Hal Brown, this column