Who are Romney and Obama? Why do they wear those shirts?


The latest from Ashley’s uncle: On Tuesday, we mentioned the grooming of the next generation—Ashley Parker.

The fatuous scribe had started a piece by detailing Mitt Romney’s clothes. As we cited Parker’s work, we should have cited her uncle too.

Good lord. One Sunday earlier, Ashley Parker's Uncle David had started his column like this:
IGNATIUS (10/30/11): Public figures in camouflage

The art of modern politics involves creating the illusion of intimacy with our leaders. But two new biographies remind me that even the most famous personalities remain elusive and, in some ways, unknowable.

This combination of closeness and distance will be on display in the 2012 presidential election, in which, I’m guessing, the candidates will be Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. These two politicians have worked overtime to seem relaxed and accessible; they make a point of wearing open-neck shirts and casual clothes, to appear like ordinary folks. Each has written a book that explains his life story in fastidious detail.
Really? They “make a point” of wearing open-neck shirts? How does Ignatius know that?

This is of course a highly standardized novel. It was composed during the summer and fall of 1999, when it was relentlessly used to savage Candidate Gore. Candidates had been wearing casual clothes for decades, but now the practice was put to work against a disfavored candidate. Fatuous royals from Ingatius' set frisked every part of the candidate’s clothing. This included his boots, his suits, his blue jeans and khakis, the number of buttons he wore on his suits. And yes, it included his open-necked shirts! Eventually, this discussion occurred between the Welch-owned man-on-the-make, Brian Williams, and Newsweek’s own Bill Turque:
WILLIAMS (2/9/00): He has become the first vice president to campaign in kind of three-button sweaters [sic] and polo shirts, though we're seeing him in a rare moment in a suit on the screen right now. What in his personality, when an adviser came to him and said, "Ditch the suits," what aspect of his personality said, "You know what? You're right. They're gone! Here I go."

TURQUE: I think the aspect was a willingness to do whatever it took to survive. And that has been a thread throughout his career, his willingness to reinvent, if you will, himself and to take on whatever coloration he needed to, tactically and strategically, to survive.
Candidates had been campaigning in polo shirts roughly forever. Gore had campaigned in such clothes in the last three White House elections! But Williams pretended that this was all new. And when Gore wore a polo shirt this time, it meant that he had “a willingness to do whatever it took to survive!”

What makes these life-forms say such things? Whatever it is, the penchant was back on display in Ignatius' recent column. In this case, Ignatius was semi-disturbed by the fake phony way Romney and Obama wear those open-necked shirts! And good lord! This is where the inanity led, just two Sundays ago:
IGNATIUS (continuing directly from above): And yet, for all this seeming self-revelation, Obama and Romney remain two supremely mysterious people. I find that the more the packagers try to show the inner man, the less I understand what makes him tick. The politicians remain camouflaged, even as their surface features become ever more recognizable.
Really? Ignatius can’t understand who these two people are? Let us help him:

Romney is the greatest chameleon ever let loose on the presidential stage, by a very large factor. In recent campaigns, the “press corps” has pretended to be upset by flip-flopping—by the alleged flip-flopping of Candidate Kerry, for instance. They were so eager to be upset by Kerry, they pretended that he had flip-flopped on funding the troops, although he hadn’t done so.

No one in either party has ever come close to flipping as much as Romney has. He is in a class by himself, by a very wide margin. How difficult is it to say such a thing? For Ignatius, it’s tres difficile! Instead of noting this obvious point, he talks about open-necked shirts.

What kind of person is Obama? Among other things, he’s a person who lacked a clear social/political vision when he entered the White House. He inherited a very bad situation, but his lack of a clear worldview has shown. Instead of discussing those open-necked shirts, why not simply say so?

Ignatius wrote an amazingly foolish “Who is Gore” column during Campaign 2000 (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/26/99). Today, he still opens columns with daft musings about those open-necked shirts.

In fatuous players like Parker, these life-forms are grooming the next generation. When we mentioned Parker’s latest, we should have cited this too.


  1. "What kind of person is Obama? Among other things, he’s a person who lacked a clear social/political vision when he entered the White House."

    And I see no indication he has one now. Advocating a weak jobs bill out of desperation is hardly the sign of having a clear vision.

  2. Character? Meh. Like Bob, if we must look at the "character" of a candidate I would rather look to policy related character flaws like hypocrisy or lack of fidelity to claimed goals, etc. ('selling out' should be a high character crime, imo).

    Most of these jerks are narcissists. And most of them are merely servants of power. No one rises to a position of power in the two legacy parties unless they have demonstrated their allegiance to the 1%. Gore does the best job of playing the good cop Democrat whose heart is the right place, but ultimately he serves the same masters that Herman Cain serves. Gore still thinks capitalism is the answer to our problems. He still supports neoliberalism and American Empire and his change merely consists of tinkering around the edges of an increasingly fascist global machine.

    But Gore did get screwed by being the scapegoat on the trumped up clothes charges--he took the blame for something other candidates were doing. But it still doesn't make it a good thing to do--to micromanage one's clothes choices in this manner. Screw that. Likewise, screw the Whole Foods liberals that want to purify the Occupy Movement so as to hide from sight members of the 99% that have dreadlocks or piercings or tattoos or are homeless, etc.

  3. Interestingly, Cindy Sheehan interviews a psychoanalyst who has a book "Obama on the Couch".

    Besides the analysis of Obama's character and personality what's interesting is Cindy's story about when she first met Obama in 2005 the first thing he did is criticize her for what she was wearing! Obama's advice to the Left: "Clean yourself up, hippie, or no one will take you seriously."

    Here's part of the interview:

    "CS: So after Camp Casey in 2005 I was pursued by the Democratic Party. You know they recognized the power of the antiwar movement in the United States at that point. I met with everybody. I met with Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, John Kerry, you know from Congress people, a lot of Congress people both Democratic and Republican and they were very open meetings where their staff would be there, my staff would be there. My staff who was really my sister who ran behind the scenes…Barack Obama insisted that it just be he and I. No press. None of his staff, none of my staff and um…

    JF: He was the only one who did that?

    CS: Yes, the only one that did that. You also know me very well that when I am out on the protest line it’s shorts and a protest t-shirt. So I had been going from Crawford Texas to Washington DC. It took us 3 weeks to get there. Stopping, flying and very busy. So I am still mostly in my protest attire. I walked in and the first thing he did was criticize the way I looked. Then he was very, very sarcastic, very dismissive of my input and I got the impression almost the same as when I got the face to face with George Bush.."

  4. Bob makes a valid editorial critique of Ignatius' comparison of Romney and Obama. But Ignatius does have a good point somewhere in there--if it's the one I think he is trying to make.

    The convention of candidates occasionally "dressing down" by simply taking their tie and jacket off is annoying to many ordinary people. It's also contrived and planned, etc. The convention of a candidate rolling up his sleeves if he really wants to show he is "getting to work", is also silly. This explains all modern R and D politicians though. They all have pretty much the exact same dress code (and to my West Coast eyes they seem to be getting more East Coast Wall St. douchey looking . . . with their pastel ties and two toned shirts and nicer and nicer suits). But I guess Romney and Obama both pull off this look just as well if not better than the average pol.

    And both Romney and Obama have a practiced way of speaking that annoys the hell out of me at least. I've always hated the way Obama speaks. It's pompous. I can only imagine his first day in law school and how annoying it would be to hear a 20 something year old trying out his senatorial voice for all to hear. Romney isn't as practices but he doesn't take many chances . . . he's conventional.

    However, both Romney and Obama are very good examples of the a politician who speaks in platitudes so that they please a lot of people yet mean nothing. They do change positions occasionally as well when their masters demand it. All the leaders engage in this, but Obama and Romney are particularly obvious (Obama is less obvious to some people for some reason--some liberals still love his meaningless platitudes).

    Also, on the frigging policies these two right wing jerks are two peas in a pod!!!!!!!!!! Couldn't have picked two closer comrades.

  5. Yes. When Obama makes a rousing, emotional speech, our reporters and conservatives accuse him of spouting empty platitudes with no real substance.
    When he makes a speech with specific facts and information, he is attacked as being a boring pedant who is lecturing us like we were a bunch of children.
    The point is; attack, attack, attack! And when the target attempts to defend himself, call him a whiner and a bully for attacking us po' innocent folks.
    So what else is new?

  6. gravymeister,

    Obama is a huge dishonest prick. Just like Bush. Just like all the Republicans running for office. He lies. He misleads. He obfuscates. Most importantly, he pretends to represent all the people when he represents the top 1%.

    For instance, re the signature policy "achievement" of Obama's first term, Obamacare, just count the lies:

    1. Pretending he supported the "public option". He was lying to his supporters as he was selling them out. He also hinted at supporting single payer health care but wanted to take incremental steps, blah, blah, blah.

    2. He agreed to let the pharmaceutical industry keep their monopoly and keep drug prices high. Obama previously promised to do the opposite. Evidently, the agreement prohibited or prevented an advertising campaign against the Democrats. If the Democrats are negotiating legislation based on the amount of money they spend on advertisements I don't see why there aren't criminal or impeachment proceedings.

    3. Obama lied about the process. He claimed to be an open administration yet he conducts shady deals giving industry sweatheart deals in secret. He didn't tell his supporters or the American people he was horse trading drug importation policy in exchange for favorable advertisements.

    He didn't tell his supporters that he already sold them out on the public option and drug importation, in secret, behind the scenes, as he was encouraging them to fight for these things in public. Instead, he encouraged (suckered is a better word) his supporters to "make him do it" and "hold his feet to the fire." He also asked for their help to "get this car out of the ditch" and yada yada yada. I'm sure you've heard the other platitudes at the time. . . . up to and including the very carefully chosen 'public option'. . . so don't tell me Obama doesn't do platitudes. That's that guy's expertise!

    Also, Obama and his co conspirators like Nancy Pelosi and Reid and gang all played games with the legislative process. The fix was in and that whole thing was one big lie. It's actually like they were administering water torture because they knew the end result they just played these games pitting everyone against each other and made everyone frustrated and then in the end they just did what they wanted to in the first place.

  7. What's next, Walter Wit Man?

    Obama says it's ok to go into these pregnant women and pull the babies out of them and put a spike in the baby's head." Glenn Beck.

    Obama believes it is proper to kill a baby that has survived an abortion. Rush Limbaugh.

    Obama wants the doctors chasing it through the delivery room to make sure it gets killed. Ann Coulter.

    These clowns all read from the same script.

    Why don't you try informing us (and yourself, while your at it) instead of flogging the same old tired conspiracy theories? We've been hearing them for years. Wise up!

  8. Actually gravymeister, that subject is not next for me. I wouldn't go there.

    I am certainly no fan of Beck, Limbaugh or Coulter and I am certainly not going to claim Obama kills [American] babies because of his abortion and family planning policies.

    I do, however, believe that Obama has murdered a number of mostly African and Middle Eastern babies. But they aren't important to either Republicans or Democrats.

  9. Walter complains about Obama lies: 1. Pretending he supported the "public option". He was lying to his supporters as he was selling them out. He also hinted at supporting single payer health care but wanted to take incremental steps, blah, blah, blah.

    Obama's given reason was that "the votes aren't there." Why have you decided this is a lie? For extra credit, see if you can answer with an acknowledgement of the power of filibuster, and without resorting to the invocation of meaningless intangibles like "political capital" or "leadership".

    That's the first of several big fat Obama lies you mention, but they're all along the same lines: According to you, the reason Obama didn't do whatever it is, is because he is a big fat liar; he never wanted to do it.

    My girlfriend once promised to meet me for lunch and didn't show up; she didn't even call. I've never forgiven her for this. I didn't even visit her in the hospital she wound up in after she was hit by a car on the way to lunch that day.

    Hey, a promise is a promise, right? The lying bitch!

    Look, all kidding aside, you need to think more critically and less cynically. No president gets to do everything he wants. Or, for that matter, what you want. I don't know what your deal is with Obama, but it looks to me like it has nothing to do with what you say it does; it looks like you're furiously parsing his actions for things to be butthurt about.

    Wambulance chasing, in other words. Get over it, please, or we'll wind up with another Dubya in the White House.

  10. Bob Somerby writes: What kind of person is Obama? Among other things, he’s a person who lacked a clear social/political vision when he entered the White House.

    [somerby] But Somerby forgets to tell us how he knows this about the president's vision. Our pundits always do, even those of our tribe. [/somerby]

    Sorry, Bob, and I hope you'll appreciate the gentle spirit in which it's offered. We are none of us immune, and I most definitely include myself.

  11. Chris,

    How do we know if the votes weren't there? How do we know what would have happened if corrupt deals weren't made and if a true effort at REAL health care reform was made. The American people were hungry for real reform and the time was ripe and so Obama had to pull a miracle out of his hat to give insurance, finance and pharma industries everything they wanted.

    And you are grossly mistaken when you say I haven't thought critically about this debacle. You are toeing the incorrect yet conventional line; most political observers erred, you being included evidently, in assuming Obama had good intentions. You aren't being cynical enough, my friend. The facts are there when you look at them.

    This isn't the thread for it, since it's old and not entirely related, but I HEREBY CHALLENGE YOU TO A DUAL, regarding the premise of whether or not Obama is a huge pile of lying shit as evidenced by his health care "reform" wild goose chase he suckered the country into having.

    Plus, you never mentioned the deal with the drug companies. Why not? How does making a secret deal with these corrupt leaches comport with your defense of Obama?

  12. Chris,

    Valid criticism of Somerby's line. But here's what he may have been trying to say, with a little editorial license on my part:

    "Obama failed to articulate a clear social/political vision when he entered the White House, preferring instead to voice general platitudes appealing to a bi-partisan, consensus based approach to politics."

  13. In each case, Ma Main Wit Man, you are exprssing opinion, not fact, and I'm more than willing to let that be the last word.

  14. Da wit Man writes: I HEREBY CHALLENGE YOU TO A DUAL

    Weird, but my girlfriend says she's cool with it. How's that work, exactly?

    Sorry [laughing]. As you'll hear from me more than once, I couldn't resist, Walter.

    By the way, I'm not your enemy. You know that, right?

  15. Well, it seems to me to be mixture of fact and opinion hat is admittedly hard to prove.

    But to me it's obvious that the Democrats are the Washington Generals to the Republican Harlem Globetrotters. Or, the Ds are the good cops while the Republicans are the bad cops. In other words, both the Republicans and the Democrats pursue roughly the same agenda and play a game or put on an act to fool us into thinking we have a chance of "winning".

    It's just frustrating because there is so much propaganda and it involves a herculean effort just to fight back . . . so some other time.

    But I also noticed that you yet again failed to respond to the charge that Obama negotiated a secret deal with pharmaceutical industry. Even when there are smoking guns Democratic partisans refuse to believe their lying eyes.

    So yeah. Let's duel dude (not dual, that would be weird). It's mano a mano. You are defending Obama and the Democrats--that they tried their little heroic hearts out to get real health care reform but came just a biiiiiiiiit short because the meany Republicans wouldn't play nice and Obama made the "mistake" of trying to work with them.

    I'm going to expose Obama and the Democrats for the corporate scum sucking frauds they really are. Too bad Bob posts so much because it would be a lot of work for only 3 people or so to read it (me, you and your gf).

    And I do realize we aren't "enemies" as far as us being fairly close ideologically. However, I consider Democrats to be about the most dangerous criitters there are right now. Only Democrats can expand wars with hardly any domestic opposition and only Democrats can cut social security, or enact drill baby drill, or continue Bush's tac cuts, etc., etc..

    Democrats are worse than Republicans so in that sense, if you're a true believer partisan Democrat, you are not my ally. The Democrats are not my friends and the Democratic party is the enemy. I don't blame you for being misguided though. I too was similarly deluded at one point. There was a time I too thought Gore got screwed and the Democrats were the last best hope . . . . then I woke the fuck up.