Ed Driscoll

Mystery Science Theater 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

It’s long been said that Washington is Hollywood for ugly people; a decade ago, John McCain flipped that equation over and said that “Hollywood is a Washington for the simpleminded.” Asking, “Does Everyone in the Administration Think They’re in a Movie?”, in today’s Campaign Spot email (click here to subscribe), Jim Geraghty links to multiple pundits as diverse as Ace of Spades, WaPo lefty Dana Milbank, centrist Peggy Noonan, and PJM’s own Andy McCarthy, with examples of Obama administration and their most rabid fans, who appear to view politics as a movie:


Allow me to turn your attention to a disturbingly insightful essay from Ace over at Ace of Spades. I’ll presume you’re familiar with the concept of the MacGuffin — Hitchcock’s term for the object that drives the plot of a movie. Ace’s observation is that our political coverage and dialogue has become so wrapped up in the language and narrative of movies, that the condition of the country and actual results of policies have been reduced to MacGuffins:

For Obama’s fan-boys, this is not politics. This isn’t even America, not really, not anymore.

This is a movie. And Barack Obama is the Hero. And the Republicans are the Villains. And policy questions — and Obama’s myriad failures as an executive — are simply incidental. They are MacGuffins only, of no importance whatsoever, except to the extent they provide opportunities for Drama as the Hero fights in favor of them.

Watching Chris Matthews interview Obama, I was struck by just how uninterested in policy questions Matthews (and his panel) were, and how almost every question seemed to be, at heart, about Obama’s emotional response to difficulties — not about policy itself, but about Obama’s Hero’s Journey in navigating the plot of President Barack Obama: The Movie.

As with a MacGuffin in the movie, only the Hero’s emotional response to the MacGuffin matters.

Again and again, Matthews and his panel focused not on weighty questions of state, but on what toll these important-sounding MacGuffins took upon the Star of the Picture, Barack Obama.

Matthews was not terribly interested in hearing about the problems with Obamacare, or how Obama planned to address them.

But he was very interested in learning how Obama was coping with the challenges.

Matthews didn’t care all that much about disputes over the budget. But he was keenly interested in Obama’s thoughts on his opponents in such struggles.

Of course, it’s not just Obama’s fans who think they’re watching Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing. Back in January 2010, the Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank had this diagnosis:

Gibbs acts as though he’s playing himself in the movie version of his job. In this imaginary film, he is the smart-alecky press secretary, offering zippy comebacks and cracking jokes to make his questioners look ridiculous. It’s no great feat to make reporters look bad, but this act also sends a televised image of a cocksure White House to ordinary Americans watching at home.


And then just last week, Peggy Noonan echoed that assessment, applying it to the whole administration:

From what I have seen the administration is full of young people who’ve seen the movie but not read the book. They act bright, they know the reference, they’re credentialed. But they’ve only seen the movie about, say, the Cuban missile crisis, and then they get into a foreign-policy question and they’re seeing movies in their heads. They haven’t read the histories, the texts, which carry more information, more texture, data and subtlety, and different points of view.

Andy McCarthy wrote last week that at a time of serious, deepening problems and crises, most of the coverage of the highest levels of our federal government seem reminiscent of a soap opera[.]

At the Daily Caller, Mark Judge takes a slightly different tack, comparing Obama worship to the cult worshiped by many of those who make the movies, and asking, “Is Obama worship like Scientology?”

The cults of Scientology and Obama have attracted well-intentioned, wealthy, but dim celebrities. Scientology has Tom Cruise. Obama has Jay-Z.

In both cults, the leader has bizarre past associations with crazies,  connections that the leader would rather forget. The most incredible figure in Lawrence Wright’s book “Going Clear” is not Hubbard himself, but his old associate John Whiteside “Jack” Parsons. Parsons was an occultist, sexual libertine and groundbreaking rocket propulsion scientist (yes you read that correctly). In the 1940s Parsons held weird rituals in his bohemian mansion in Pasadena. These included free sex and chanting to incarnate to goddess Babylon, who would give birth to the AntiChrist. One of his borders was L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard seduced Parson’s girlfriend and stole his money. Hubbard would later play down the association, much the way President Obama has played down his associations with his own crazies, Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers.

In recent years, both the cult of Obama and the cult of Scientology have increasingly lost members, largely due to mounting evidence about the competency of the leader. Books like “Going Clear” and the revelation that Scientologists believe in astoundingly idiotic things, such as the idea that all humanity’s problems go back 75 million years ago to an alien named Xenu, have caused some followers to abandon Hubbard’s empire. And as Obama’s charisma wears thin and he is revealed as a hollow and even malevolent demagogue, former worshippers are having their doubts. There is even talk of the collapse of the empires formed by both leaders.

Of course, in every cult there are always the dead enders. Tom Cruise will probably follow the ship of Scientology onto the rocks. And Chris Matthews, who has “gone clear” for liberalism, will always have a tingle for Obama.


Actually, the left comprises multiple alternate religions — environmentalism, vegetarianism, animal “rights,” and numerous other sub-religions. So it’s no wonder that the cult of Obama in particular can have an alternate universe/science fiction atmosphere to it; at NRO, Charles Cooke checks out the latest dispatches from its equivalent of Starfleet Command:

After all, what would one possibly add to Martin Bashir’s suggestions that someone should defecate in Sarah Palin’s mouth, that conservatives are using the acronym “IRS” as a stand-in for “n***er,” or that Ted Cruz is the “David Koresh” of the Republican party? What could be achieved by sexing up Chris Matthews’s conviction that tea partiers “still count blacks as three-fifths” of a person, or that the perpetrators of 9/11 “just have a different perspective”? What might a worker bee charged with feeding the outrage machine do to make more impressive Joy Reid’s asseveration that Republicans are “resentful” of “post-1964 America,” or to improve upon Ed Schultz’s faith that “God supports Obamacare,” or to render more absurd Michael Eric Dyson’s contention that Eric Holder is “the chief lawgiver” and the “Moses of our time”?

The channel is a lazy intern’s dream. Recently, a guest called Tim Wise nonchalantly announced that Republicans have “essentially gone in as a white-nationalist, Afrikaner, Boer party.” It’s all there, clear as day. Just rip from the Internet and upload. Bingo! One gets the uncomfortable feeling that the minds behind the programming are so strongly wedded to the cartoon impression of what they believe Fox News to be — sorry, what they believe the “FAUX NEWS ECHO CHAMBER!” to be — that they cannot imagine running a television station without emulating it. MSNBC, it seems, is a reaction against a Fox that never really existed — a progressive version of the How Utterly Ridiculous Can One Become Before the Commercial Break? game that has long been played more devotedly in the fever swamps of the Left than by the conservatives they like to denounce.


But of course — the left spent much of the previous decade building up cargo cult impersonations of long-running conservative institutions. No wonder MSNBC seems like a fun-house version of Fox News; failed Air America and other shrill lefty talkers are what the left imagines Rush Limbaugh sounds like. Media Matters was inspired by Brent Bozell’s quarter century-old Media Research Center (itself inspired by Reed Irvine’s decades-older Accuracy in Media), though unlike the MRC, has been caught routinely fabricating quotes. As a commenter at Tim Blair’s Weblog asked in 2011, when Media Matters was caught attempting to peddle a false quote from Limbaugh, “How is it that when Righties quote Lefties, they have video, audio, and notarized confirmation from the Pope, but when Lefties ‘quote’ Righties, they have Wiki entries contributed by ‘Cobra’?”

Because they’ve had decades of not having their authority publicly challenged, I wrote at the time. But then, considering that the left controls ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Headline News, HBO, NPR, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time magazine, Newsweek (before its implosion), Vanity Fair, Vogue, GQ, and most local newspapers — not to mention academia — it speaks volumes that they imagined, as Al Gore did in 2002 that “right wing media bias” was a concern, but their strategy appeared to work: from 2006 through 2009, the left recaptured both houses of Congress and the White House, and still controls two thirds of those institutions. That their control of the Senate is threatened next year is only due to Barack Obama attempting to build something that’s the equivalent of the Soviet Doomsday Machine from Dr. Strangelove, or the Krell Machine from Forbidden Planet if you’ll pardon our own science fiction movie references.


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