Oprah: The Un-Hillary
BY RUSS WELLEN
12.14.2007 05:47 | DISPATCHES
As more and more people are beginning to sense, the Democrats may have missed the boat with Hillary Clinton. If she's nominated, winning the election will be no promenade up the gangplank of the ship of state. Instead, it will be a flying leap from pier to deck, hands grasping at the railing.
The sitting Republican president's poll numbers are lower than his cardio-buff sitting pulse rate. As for America's pulse, none of the 2008 Republican opponents seem to have a finger on it. That Democrats, with victory theirs for the taking, would settle for a candidate only capable of winning by the skin of her teeth beggars credulity.
If the Democrats go the woman route, it's too deep in mid-stream to change horses. But they might have been better off riding the woman who, as Howard Fineman wrote at Newsweek, just made "her maiden campaign trail voyage," appearing with Barack Obama, "and yet already she was better -- more cogent, more effective, more convincing -- than anyone out there."
He refers to Oprah, of course, who shares with Hillary (and Madonna) the privilege of being the only women known to almost all Americans by her first name. But, in contrast to Hillary, Oprah, whatever her flaws, is endowed with a bounty of humanity.
As the most successful black woman –- or woman, period –- in American history, it goes without saying how tough Oprah is. Hillary, on the other hand, labors under an inferiority complex about women being the weaker sex. She continues to concentrate on projecting toughness about national security, thus obscuring whatever compassion she may have.
Meanwhile, to party hacks, nominating someone with as little political experience as Obama is a stretch. Considering someone with no political experience whatsoever, even though her constituency comes built-in -- her candidacy in effect, turn-key -- is not just outside their box, it's beyond the space-time continuum.
Still, bloggers and columnists can't resist speculating on Oprah using Obama's candidacy as a springboard for a future presidential run. (Even if, as one said, it would "involve a really big pay cut.")
At Huffington Post Robin Gerber writes, "Don't get me wrong, I'm not cynical about Oprah's support for Obama." In fact, it's because she doesn't do ulterior motives that Oprah boasts a "base," if you will, as sprawling as it is solid.
"But there's no one she believes in more than herself," Ms. Gerber continues. "And she's certainly capable of multiple motivations." Perhaps it's not just her motivations -- supporting Obama this year and running in the future –- that are multiple, but also the political positions to which she aspires. On Democratic Underground, a poster named Quinnox wonders if "Obama is going to offer her a spot in his cabinet or something for her support if he wins?" Meanwhile, Gerber reminds us that "if Obama wins the presidency, there will be a U.S. Senate seat open in Illinois."
Or, if she can't wait, how about chairperson of the Federal Communications Commission?
Finally, Oprah may have considered backing Hillary before she chose Obama: Should I support the first woman with a chance of being elected president or the first black?
It might seem like throwing her lot in with Obama was a decision to make history with her race rather than her sex. But, in fact, by backing Obama she has a shot (however long) at having her cake and eating it too.
Should she one day run and actually win the nomination, she'd become the first (or second black president if Obama wins in 2008) and, with Hillary defeated and unlikely to run again, also the first woman president.