Roger L. Simon

False transparency: we know more about the Obama's marriage than we do about healthcare

The cover story of this week’s New York Times Magazine is a lengthy piece entitled The Obamas’ Marriage that could come straight from the pages of People. I didn’t make it through, not because I was angry with its fawning hortatory tone (no surprise there), but because I got bored. I’m not very interested in the etiology of the Obamas anymore, particularly bowdlerized versions in the Times. I’ve given up hope of ever finding out what young Barack actually did at Occidental and Columbia or even reading a snippet of what he wrote, if anything, for the Harvard Law Review.

No, when I read this tedious New York Times piece, I was reminded of Lerner & Lowe’s immortal “Show Me.” We all remember the lyrics: Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words/ I get words all day through/First from him, now from you/Is that all you blighters can do, etc. (Here’s Julie Andrews in the original Broadway production.)

So I’m not really interested in Obama as a man (or as a husband). I’m interested in what he does. And most of that, of late, he has done in secret. We know more about his marriage than about how the healthcare legislation was drafted or how its contents are being negotiated. As Politico told us a few days ago:

When Barack Obama was running for president, he vowed to lead the most open and transparent government in history. Candidate Obama even promised to negotiate health care reform live on television.

Then it came time to govern, and President Obama has negotiated major parts of the health care bill behind closed doors. Earlier this year, he announced deals his administration had cut with drug companies and hospitals after brokering them out of public view. And now his top lieutenants are working in secret with leading Democrats to craft the health care bill that will be debated on the Senate floor.

What the Times is giving us then in their Couples Hagiography is a form of distraction that is probably deliberate. If you love the people, you wont care what they are doing. Trust them – they’re nice folks. Well, okay, but the reaction of someone like me is that I trust them less. Sure, you could say that I am already an Obama skeptic, but I suspect I am not alone in recoiling at this public relations flackery. It even makes me suspicious when I read things about the Obama administration I applaud, like the recent news from Jerusalem that US has for once given the Israelis a break – but perhaps that was Hillary’s doing. You can bet the Times isn’t writing puffery about her marriage… Well, maybe they would.