Sunday, January 31, 2010
Barack Obama = Tiger Woods?
It's pretty clear that Tiger Woods' downfall would not have been so steep had he not had such a pristine image before. Had he occasionally opened up to reporters and maybe winked at them and made appreciative remarks about females, they might have cut him a little more slack. Had he had presented himself as more human and less saintly, the public would not have been so fascinated -- perhaps even gleeful -- about his troubles.
But Woods kept a tight lid on the information he fed to reporters, and kept his public image unrealistically pure. So now he is suffering the consequences.
Likewise, had the hopes for Barack Obama not been so high before, the disappointment in him wouldn't be so acute. But the image he crafted for himself, with the media's connivance, was simply too good to be true. So now we have Barack Obama, Part II: The Backlash.
Of course, the people who are most disappointed in Obama deserve to be, because the clues were there during the campaign for anybody not willfully blind. He distanced himself from Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayres, though he had obviously been close to both. He criticized corruption, but had taken a sweetheart real estate deal from Tony Rezko. And he had positioned himself as a liberal centrist, when all previous evidence indicated he was a far left liberal. (He was on record as having said that the great tragedy of the civil rights movement was that it hadn't legislated "economic justice" and he was supportive of the redistribution of wealth.) Obama said that he was a strong believer in the public option for campaign finance, but as soon as it became apparent that he would raise more money than McCain through the private option, he opted for that.
If you didn't connect those dots, it was only because you didn't want to. Now the gap between Obama's words and actions is clearer than ever, and his approval ratings have plummeted commensurately.
There seems an almost mathematical correlation between how saintly the public image and how steep the subsequent fall.
The American public also loves redemption, though, so don't be surprised when Woods and Obama bounce back.