Can Oprah put Obama in the White House?

At least she didn’t give away expensive gifts to every attendee when the icon of the airways spread her charm in behalf of Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. But the gospel according to Oprah Winfrey — as shopworn as it was in this case — still seemed to resonate with the thousands of Iowans who heard it.

“What we need,” she said after a reportedly nervous beginning, “is a new way of doing business in Washington.” It is an approach that is as old and cliched as any in the history of campaigning. When one is an outsider or relative newcomer to the political scene, running against the capital city is almost de rigueur. Jimmy Carter did the same thing very successfully, if regrettably.

Well, pardon me, folks. But if all those good Democrats in Iowa who go to their caucuses soon decide to vote for the freshman lawmaker from Illinois on the basis of an appeal by Winfrey, they are far less perceptive than I think and probably should not be as important as they are in the presidential-selection process. This is just a tad more significant than deciding to buy a book on the strength of her recommendation or purchasing a consumer product for which she fronts. The depth of her own experience in these weighty matters just about matches her candidate’s, even granting that she is a bit more than just another crowd-building celebrity.

“Experience in the hallways of government isn’t as important to me as experience on the pathway of life,” she told her enthralled audience in a clear admission that Obama’s political resume is as thin as she is after one of her celebrated diets. He is a perfect example of what Lyndon Johnson called “Senate-itis,” a malady the former president described as leading one to believe that after five minutes in the upper chamber of Congress that one is now ready to run the entire country.

Not only has Obama been in the Senate a very short time, he has not been a regular there for months, spending most of his time talking about issues he seldom has helped decide. As for experience on the pathways of life, I’m not certain that years spent in an expensive prep school and the Ivy League quite qualify him for that claim, either. He did have a few years in the Illinois legislature, if that counts for very much.

Is he a bright, charismatic young man with a great future? Yes, of course he is, and if he earns his bones in the crucible of national politics, he can look to another chance. He has not done so yet. So why should we take it on the word of a television entertainer or Obama himself that he can do the job? Perhaps with the true experience necessary, as we have noted, he would not have to run against Washington, the straw man that is always the easiest to blow over until the time comes to face up to the realization that, if you are elected, Washington becomes you.

Having said that, is it time to elect a black to the presidency? Indeed it is. But it probably is equally as important to break the male hold on the office, to say once and for all that not only is one’s race not a valid reason for rejection but neither is one’s gender. Nor for that matter should race or gender be the sole reason for voting for a person.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., excites mixed feelings. Why? Because she has been exposed to the perils and pitfalls of the national political landscape for a great many years. She has survived some pretty rough experiences in both her personal and public life. She has put herself on the line. She has made enemies as well as allies. One doesn’t have to take it on good faith she can do the job. One may not like what she proposes, but that is a different issue.

In the sole interest of breaking down the racial and gender barriers to the White House, we could hope that a highly credentialed woman of color would emerge. Undoubtedly, there are those who believe Winfrey would herself be such a person. Unfortunately, interviewing people on a talk show from which she has made herself a billionaire, while certainly admirable, hardly qualifies her for that job or, for that matter, for telling us whom she thinks is.

(Dan K. Thomasson is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.)


  1. Steve Horn

    Hopefully, if Obama wins the nomination and gets into the Whitehouse it will NOT be due to Oprah.

    I’d rather that a candidate make it to the highest office in the land based on his/her own merit than the recommendation of a media figure.

    If Oprah really wanted to do this nation a service she’d encourage her audience to learn about all of the candidates, do their own research and participate in the electoral process using their own minds.


  2. Steve Horn

    Mr. McClellan –

    Thanks – I just hate to see the selection of the holder of the most powerful office in the world come down to an uninformed popularity contest fueled by celebrity endorsements and big money donations –

    I was listening to some comments from people who had attended an Oprah/Obama event on NPR and was quite disturbed by the logic expressed – should they endorse Hillary because she’s a female or Obama because he’s an African American. I understand that people are tired of having rich white guys as President, but the choice shouldn’t be predicated on an individuals gender, race, what church (if any) they attend, what God (if any) they believe in but rather on the true character and demonstrated leadership and intellectual capabilities of the candidate in question.

    Winning through superficial popularity was fine for High School Senior Class officer elections, but is totally inappropriate, in my opinion, for national political offices.

    Somehow we need to take this nation back.



  3. almandine

    Another piece of vapidity by DKT. Bashing Iowans again for their electoral primacy, bashing Oprah for her temerity in taking a stand, bashing Obama for his own political audacity, yet swooning over Hillary for her “exposure to the perils and pitfalls” of politics, as if that somehow made her positions more worthy. All in all, this is just another political endorsement parading as studied analysis. Give it up, Dan.

  4. JudyB

    “Professor” Horn had it right in saying that if Oprah wanted to do this nation a service she should have encouraged her vast audience to study ALL of the candidates before voting. I am aware that Oprah has the right to support any candidate she chooses, but I am sorry she hs chosen to do so. I have said before that I think Oprah has more power to influence than most celebrities. Her prower to influence is more comparable to that of a Billy Graham say than a Tom Hanks, and her using that power can make, and probably will make a difference. This is one time I am not supporting what Oprah is, and I am hoping others will make up their own minds as well.

  5. Marion in Savannah

    It will be interesting to see if Oprah’s non-union position will make any difference. She herself is a member of 3 craft unions, but has a completely non-union shop. Hmmmm… I guess her ox would be rather severely gored if she supported the striking writers’ union. This may become especially interesting since Obama specifically invited union members to a speech at the non-union Wachovia Center…

    Edwards in 2008

  6. Carl Nemo

    My compliments to Obama and Oprah for this electioneering gimmick that just might have sent the Clintonista juggernaut to the bottom!

    All I can say is that if Americans are foolish enough to elect Hillary to the presidency; they will soon discover they are getting a Dem version of Bushco in spades!

    Nothing Bushco has done to trash the Constitution from the Patriot Act to his signing orders scam will change. Hillary will simply continue the process of eroding our freedoms. We’ll also continue to remain in Iraq and Afghanistan for a long time to come.

    I simply know too much about the Clintonistas and their unholy alliance with the Bushistas going back to Bill’s days as governor of Arkansas;ie., Mena, Iran/Contra, CIA drug-smuggling in CONUS, etc.

    Flowchart for transgenerational tyranny…

    R.Reagan/H.W.Bush > H.W.Bush/Quayle > Clinton/Gore > G.W. Bush/Cheney > Hillary Clinton/? >Jeb Bush/?…

    If this were a grade school fractions class and we had to determine the lowest common denominator we would come up with Bush/Clinton for 30-40 plus years or more…!?

    We need fresh blood in the presidency to say the least. This can only happen with the complicity and blessing of the MSM with their constant referencing to poll results. This is their way of pre-conditioning the electorate to accepting their choice for this high office. “We the People” get to simply indemnify the shadowy NWO oligarchs’ choice for our national leaders via the voting process; now compromised too, via the “Diebold Overide” phenomena…!

    America and it’s citizens are in harms way with this continual stream of pre-selected mattoids in control of the U.S. and it’s people.

    Carl Nemo **==