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A Star Falls Over Chicago

The Obama Campaign, that strange 4 year marriage of Generation X hipsters, inner city bosses, suburban college educated boomers longing for racial healing, Big Green businessmen and shady Saudis, appears to be finally sinking beneath the waves. It isn't going out in a blaze of glory, but with mumbles of trending topics.

Obama was always a petty man and his campaign has descended into pointless pettiness, into Team Big Bird, binders full of women and bayonets and horses. Like so much hipster culture, it exists so that the participants can entertain each other with something that no one else thinks is funny or clever. And that elitism is precisely the point. It's the last resort of losers who hide from their lack of taste behind walls of exclusivity.

Abandoning mass appeal, Obama is getting back to his roots of entertaining upper middle class college kids with his 'hipness'; both actual  college kids and the overgrown middle aged variety that make up the professional class of the mediacracy who treat the rest of the country the way that they treated the natives on their Peace Corps assignments.

The Obama Campaign was never serious, but it once aspired to an Oprah level of seriousness, to the dignity of the self-help sections where trite observations are recited with great solemnity so that they sound like they must mean more than they do.

For the Northeastern New York Times reader, Obama held out the promise of atonement for the country's grave racial sins. For the San Francisco wind farm executive, he offered the prospect of a presidency that would be one long endless TED talk with plenty of subsidies for the cunning Greenvestor. And the college student would finally have a president who watched the same shows, listened to the same music and got the same jokes making him the perfect Resident Adviser for the country.

Two biographies and four years later those same people have learned that like that party guest who mentions that he's a nuclear physicist, a poet and an explorer of supernatural phenomena, Obama wasn't actually interesting, he just seemed interesting in a cursory sort of way. Obama's biography made him an interesting party guest, but not past a 5 minute chat, and it in no way qualified him to hold the country' top job during an economic crisis and two wars.

Obama's seriously intent tone, the one that signals you to pay attention, no longer works on even the faithful. Like Pavlov's dogs, they have stopped coming once they realized that just because the bell rings doesn't mean that dinner or a functional economy will be served. The weighty tone that he once used to deploy to great effect, borrowing the tricks of the preachers that he encountered in his huckstering days, has come to seem as empty as Oprah's smile or Bill Clinton's sincere head nod, just another of the tricks of hollow public personalities signifying nothing.

For years and years, he has talked and said nothing of any import. All the talk, the endless speeches and addresses, the verbal and facial tics that indicated seriousness of purpose, have never led to one single thing. Not one problem solved, not one crisis resolved and not one plan laid out and completed in four years with something to show for it.

Somewhere along the way, Obama became boring. He became that one man at a party that you don't want to talk to because he will go on forever and all his chatter leads nowhere, because for all his conversational skills, he is capable of nothing but talk. And after talking to him for ten hours, you don't know him any better than you did after ten minutes.

Voting for Obama was never the right choice objectively, but it was the right cultural choice, it was the trend, the impulse that everyone seemed to be following, the style that everyone was wearing and the book that everyone was reading. But trends like that don't last. How many people will have Lady Gaga songs in their players or Fifty Shades of Grey on their bookshelves ten years from now? This too is the fate of the president of the trending topic, the commander-in-chief of the pet rock and the mood ring with his binders full of women and t-shirts with pictures of horses and bayonets on them. A joke that like Snakes on a Plane or All Your Base Are Belong To Us never gets old until 5 minutes later.

When times are bad, people have a well-known escapist streak. During the Great Depression, lavish musicals were popular. After September 11, Zoolander topped the box office. Facing two wars and a failed economy, the American people followed their own escapist streak to a smooth talking trickster with a soothing bag of promises that were too good to be true. Who wanted to listen to McCain, a man who looked like a walking war injury and kept talking about sacrifice, when you could get big bags of free stuff from a man who offered a post-racial society as a free gift with every vote.

Americans escaped to Obama and now they're escaping from Obama. The vacation was already being cut short in 2012 and now it's approaching its blackout date. Instead of taking Americans away from everything, Obama took everything away from them, and now they're gearing up to take it all back and put him on a back shelf next to last summer's beach reads and last decade's pop hits.

Obama is over. And confronting his 'overness', that deadliest of fates for a hipster, he is crawling back to pander to his original audience, the graphic designers who put together posters of him on their free time, the celebrities who were eager to form his Jack Pack, to be his Joey Bishop or his Marilyn Monroe, the musicians singing about him, the netroots bloggers cranking out their sensations of euphoric immediacy at being in his presence and the professional leftists cheering for him to take down the American Empire like Godzilla took down Tokyo.

But all the trending memes with hashtags and Tumblr pages, the calculatingly overexposed Instagram photos and the celebrities scribbling things on their hands and Twitpiccing the results, can't bring back the thing that's over. And even if they could, it won't make a difference to the election. Hipsters like things that are different before they become popular, because it makes them seem like interesting people. Once something is popular then liking it no longer means that you're interesting, instead it comes with the ego-deflating revelation that you are just like everyone else, except more so.

There's no point to liking Obama anymore. Not when Obama is everywhere, more overexposed than Instagram, grinning from every corner, from every screen and magazine cover, selling out to get ahead and making the old faithfuls wonder if he ever stood for anything at all. Theirs is the sad burden of knowing that they will never have their own JFK who died, tragically and horrifyingly, before he could dive all the way into Vietnam, before stories of his carousing hit the papers forcing him to go on television and insist that he never had sex with any of those women.

Obama will not be immortalized by a Communist with a rifle. Instead he is doomed to be mortal, his hair turning white and his musical tastes turning worse. Any day now he will admit to a fondness for Kenny G and after that there will be no saving him from the dread ravages of time. And so he is over because the alternative to him being over is the tastemakers having to confront their own overness. Their own mortality.

If Obama were cannier than he seems, then he would embrace his own fakeness, becoming a self-constructed celebrity, glorifying in his own artificiality, until like Lady Gaga or Lana Del Rey and every third hip hop star with a pulse, his very fakeness would serve as proof of his inventiveness and his media savvy. Such an Obama would present a birth certificate showing that he was born in Kenya to challenge our notions of identity, admit to squandering all the country's money for its own good and keep us entertained with his latest antics. It might not win him the election, but considering the example of Zoolander, it might, because then instead of being over, he would be a new escape all over again.

But Obama is determined to be a hipster to the very end, instead of embracing the shamelessness of his own media manipulations, he veers erratically between an insincere sincerity and the sneer of the spitefully superior. It's the performance we saw in the third debate, the antics of every college kid you ever argued with, that combination of smugness and insecurity that marks the hipster as an impossible conversationalist.

The only thing sadder than a hipster is a wannabe hipster and that's what Obama is now, a man in search of a meme, a one-man band in search of an artfully touching documentary about its travails in the wilds of Portland and a flat line in search of its trend.

Obama does not know how to govern. He does not know how to address the economy or war. The one thing he knows how to do is be popular. That is the one and only skill that he has cultivated in his life. And it is a good skill for a politician, but a politician whose only skill is popularity had better avoid taking responsibility for anything that might make him unpopular.

Popularity is a trend, and like every reality show star still pounding away on Twitter five years later, trying to move their latest CD or comedy club appearance, Oprah's most popular boy toy since Dr. Oz has failed to realize that he is no longer popular, his moment has passed, his relevance is through and no one wants a man whose only skills are on-camera skills to be the one standing between them and economic oblivion.

The country doesn't hate him, but it is tired of him. It wakes up every morning, remembers the time everyone got drunk and decided to vote for the cool black dude who talked a lot about hope, winces and then forgets about him all over again until it looks at the latest economic news. It's over him and it wishes that he would show some dignity and walk away from a job that he isn't qualified for on his own.

Obama has gotten desperate. His fundraising emails walk the thin line between emotional blackmail and hysteria. Increasingly they read like Cousin Larry phoning for bail money from Tijuana. Shrilly needy they demand that we pay attention to him, that we love him, adore him and spend money on him. They are the missives of a man who cannot conceive of a life outside the spotlight, the vapid fear of a celebrity who cannot confront the real world and cannot understand why their public is walking away.

In the last stages of his career, Obama has become Norma Desmond, waving around a social media gun and shouting, "No one leaves a star. That's what makes one a star." But the country has left and what they leave behind is a star falling from the sky over Chicago .


  1. Anonymous24/10/12

    Where will all the czars and their minions go?

  2. maybe there will be openings for them in Moscow?

  3. Anonymous24/10/12

    Or the Ivy League.(same difference)

  4. SoCal Observer24/10/12

    I hate to say this, but you took up an awful lot of space to say the obvious, that Obama is no longer the great deliverer of a new America. He was just more of the same old stuff (SOSDD), another self-enamored political hack, but with better hair than Blago. I think Romney's observations during closing of the last "debate" was what has sunk Obama: the economy stinks, and Obama was unable to spend and tax us back into prosperity. The swing voters don't care who is hip or not, what the foreign policy is, just 'where the hell are the jobs, dude?"

  5. George J.24/10/12

    I love reading your work. Every single piece that I have read of yours articulates exactly what I have observed in the world perfectly.
    Yes, it may not be appealing to a casual reader due to its length exceeding most people's attention span, but to someone who is truly interested in world affairs and were the world is heading, it is stellar work.
    I look forward to reading more of your sharp analyses and observations.

  6. Anonymous24/10/12

    Your writing style is like butter. Your posts are substantive and I enjoy reading them. You really can lower the boom, and I really got a good snort from line 2, paragraph 16.

    He truly is a priceless piece of work.

  7. The picture of BHO on Air Force 1 with the Presidential seal really symbolizes how much he has lowered the dignity of the office. Who knows if anyone can raise it back up again?

  8. Anonymous24/10/12

    Superb style and flow. When's your book coming out?

  9. Anonymous24/10/12

    Obama has gotten desperate. His fundraising emails walk the thin line between emotional blackmail and hysteria. Increasingly they read like Cousin Larry phoning for bail money from Tijuana.



  10. That just might be the single best analysis of the Obama "phenomenon" I have seen. If America truly gets it as you believe it has, than the narcissist-in-chief will be just a fading bad memory in 2 weeks. What will Jay-Z and Eva Longoria do with themselves once he has fled to Oahu?

  11. Great column. Write something about FEMA and the ammunition purchases and the private FEMA army.

  12. Anonymous24/10/12

    *** I hate to say this, but you took up an awful lot of space to say the obvious, ***

    SoCal Observer; sorry, old boy, you don't get it. Greenfield is quite capable of defending himself and, furthermore, it ain't any of my business but, you don't get it.

    The piece has a lighter touch than we're accustomed to. And that's the trick. The observations about "hipster culture" were rapier thrusts not atomic weapons - and more deadly. Of all the attacks that would mortify Obama, ridicule would be the most humiliating.

    I liked it especially because the piece contained a dénouement, albeit implied. His reign and its influence will not be Camelot, merely irrelevance - which is, for Obama, the ultimate insult.

    My mind wanders to the implications for MSM. How will MSNBC adjust to a new world? Do I care? Does anybody care? You may have some thoughts on this, Daniel.

    This is glorious and it is truly devastating.


  13. I didn’t watch the last debate, opting instead to wait for the highlights I knew would be forthcoming on Tuesday. It’s easier to get the gist when you are seeing the condensed version. It occurred to me that it was a performance better suited for the Letterman show. The reason he is more comfortable emoting on entertainment TV but needs a teleprompter for his presidential duties is because he is a performer/actor, not a president.

    I knew early on that he was an ASPD psychopath, which most people do not recognize the signs unless one has been victimized by personal encounter. I have been and I know too well the signs. He is a liar, glib and convincing, completely charming and empty of any real substance. He is a narcissist who believes his own lies, even when they are contradictory and is shocked when others challenge his contradictions. But the one trait that sets aside an ASPD from all other sociopathic mental disorders is a complete lack of conscience. Dr. Robert Hare, a psychologist who has studied ASPD for most of his career, defines it as “knowing the lyrics but not the music”. He wrote a definitive book on the subject - Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us.

    It’s worth the read, not just to define the phenomenon of Obama, but because this is a growing problem. If we are not equipped to recognize the liars/manipulators among us, we are doomed to be fooled again. Those with Antisocial Personality Disorder are hard-wired to rise to the adoration of which they deem themselves worthy. And because they have no conscience, they don’t care who they destroy to get to that pinnacle.

    An entire country would almost be enough.

  14. Groucho Marx offered the country a "seven-cent" nickel, and then an "eight-cent" nickel. Obama offered the country his version of the "seven-cent" nickel. The difference is that Groucho was a comedian and was trying to be funny as he pulled the legs of his audience. Obama, speaking from the vast swamp of his socialist ignorance, was being serious and not funny at all as he reached into people's bank accounts and lives and robbed them blind with trillion-dollar nickels.


  15. In thirteen days we can all go out do our part to make the pain go away. Thanks, Daniel, for your analysis.

  16. Anonymous24/10/12

    Wow. Truth well put. I did notice Marylin instead of Marilyn, but wow, you can write.


  17. Fantastic read. Hits the nail right on the head. Hopefully, this election spells the end of the trendoid president.

  18. Anonymous24/10/12

    I was alarmed by perhaps unintended soothing and calming effect of Daniel's article.

    And then I realized why, what was missing from the picture: "at desperate times desperate people may resort to desperate measures".

    "Evil is not the character of inhuman monsters; it is the character of corrupted men."
    Daren Jonescu, Time to Demythologize the Authoritarian Impulse

    Desperate times, desperate people, massive overt and covert power under the fingertips, dangerously close to slipping away, what a mix.


  19. Another great article!

    He's certainly yesterday's news. The sooner we're through with him the better.


  20. Anonymous24/10/12

    When the veneer of his prettiness has worn away, what we are left with is pure ugly. He is not just a liar, but a big lie and Mr. Greenfield nails it.

    Fool me once...

  21. Anonymous24/10/12

    If we do get rid of him,

    be ready for round 2.


    Next UN Secretary General?


  22. Anonymous24/10/12

    Something in a similar vein:


    (hope I haven't broken one of the rules)


  23. Man I hope you are right. Because 4 more years of this man-child will be the end of America. I saw an ad by a PAC yesterday of a proffessor in China giving a lecture (in Chineese) about the fall of America. Scariest thing I ever saw.

  24. "Any day now he will admit to a fondness for Kenny G and after that there will be no saving him from the dread ravages of time."

    Hahahahahahahahaha... That might be the funniest line you have ever written, Daniel.

    I do take exception to the last paragraph. More like a piece of space junk... :-)

  25. Anonymous24/10/12

    WOW! ... great work Daniel ... thanks!

  26. George, thank you. It's clear there is an audience for these kinds of articles. And I'm glad there is.

    Anon, it can be fun to do pieces like these

    fsy, it will depend on the kind of men we elevate to that office in the future

    anon 2, who knows

    crechem72, put him in a music video

    Churchill, it'll be easy for the media. They will turn the clock back to the Bush years. It'll be a golden era for MSNBC

    Edward, Obama is what both Marxes predicted was coming, Groucho and Karl

    JimK, indeed

    jvnvch, thank you

    Leo, true. Nothing is inevitable and sometimes a nail can change a battle.

    Haywood, indeed

  27. Very well said, and very well written! The length, to me, is necessary to accent the length of the topic matter... the Obama administration! His minutia goes on and on, along with his obvious lack of substance. And the culmination of his time in office adds up to exactly what you have said... nothing!

  28. Anonymous24/10/12

    Mr. Knish you always have interesting and well thought out columns but lately you have elevated your "game" tremendously.

  29. Ouch!!!!!!! that's gonna leave a mark


    Also ping to Rush, Hannity, Mark Levin, et all....

    This work is going to elevate you to world-reknowned stature, and it should.


    (you can tell because I said it in all caps!)

  30. He who marries the Zeitgeist will soon be a widower. (attributed to Dean Inge)

  31. People wallowed in his "otherness" and it has turned into "overness." Good point.

    Who wanted to listen to McCain, a man who looked like a walking war injury and kept talking about sacrifice, when you could get big bags of free stuff from a man who offered a post-racial society as a free gift with every vote. I hope Obama has been the apex of capitalist consumer culture.

    And the college student would finally have a president who watched the same shows, listened to the same music and got the same jokes making him the perfect Resident Adviser for the country. All his recent rallies have been at college campuses... Trying to get out the slacker vote.

  32. Anonymous24/10/12

    Superb article. The POS showed us his true colors from the get go. What does Bathhouse Barry do at his first press conference? He ridicules Nancy Reagan. He has the opportunity of 10 lifetimes and that's at the top of his list?

  33. Anonymous24/10/12

    Bradbury's hero from "Kaleidoscope" ("The Illustrated Man") was about to burn in the night sky above the Illinois, returning to Earth, succumbing to gravity after a fatal spacecraft incident in orbit ... I guess this could be where this comes from, by association, some illustrated man indeed.

    "Look, mom, look! A falling star!" - "Make a wish, son".


  34. Anonymous24/10/12

    "Obama's seriously intent tone, the one that signals you to pay attention, no longer works on even the faithful. Like Pavlov's dogs, they have stopped coming once they realized that just because the bell rings doesn't mean that dinner or a functional economy will be served."

    He promised a chicken in every pot but people have begun to realize they actually elected a chicken who likes pot.

    ~ arasina ~

  35. Anonymous24/10/12

    "He promised a chicken in every pot but people have begun to realize they actually elected a chicken who likes pot."

    ~ arasina ~

    Oh, now that's funny stuff, too. I appreciate the giggle.

    But, can I quickly say something to that? I don't think he's chicken. I believe he's playing a part- a cog in a very big wheel. He's just the pretty face (not really but play along with me) of something much, much bigger and it's aim is to destroy this wonderful nation.This country that has given so much to so many, including these stupid ingrates that are acting in concert with each other to bring it down.

    No more sixty year naps, people. No more being hushed for being in-politically correct or supposedly hurting others feelings. The type of bs we allowed to happen is the fault of everyone of us who has lived comfortably thinking that the elected ones were law abiding, good citizens. We weren't paying attention. And, when we were, those that spoke out were called kooks and conspiracy theorists.

    God help us. We're up to our armpits in alligators.

  36. I blame those who elected him and will vote for him again for it all.
    Character didn't matter to them. Background and truth didn't seem to interest them either as they were willing to put a man in office about whom they knew absolutely nothing.
    People allowed themselves to be bought off by empty promises and vain rhetoric.

    Obama is falling, but sadly he may take a lot from the nation as he goes.

  37. Anonymous25/10/12

    Daniel, you have a unique talent of writing gripping prose.

    I stumbled on your site after Rush Limbaugh mentioned you on his radio program.

    From your writings, I am convinced that you have a great future in mainstream political punditry.

    I am looking forward to a day when your voice/words reach the masses.

  38. Anonymous25/10/12

    Great analysis, but I'm not persuaded that what ought to happen is going to happen. The Electoral College numbers still favor O. Maybe the "witty" bayonet jabs are meant to boost his base, even as they offend the rest of us. He's saying that the battle still is between consumers of hip and consumers of hip operations, and that sitting it out is not an option.

  39. ImNoDhimmi25/10/12

    Great article, well written and oh so true!

  40. Anonymous25/10/12

    Absolutely wonderful article! Very well written. Thank you!

  41. Anonymous25/10/12

    I think America is more than tired of him...I think it is HATE.

  42. You are a joy to read. I've thought this since 2007, but you've said it better.

  43. Anonymous25/10/12

    Thank you. What a beautiful writer you are .. be proud.

  44. Anonymous25/10/12

    My ex made a valid point yesterday. Even those who didn't support him (not everyone, of course, but some) really hoped he would do a good job of bringing this country together. Boy, were we fooled.

    As transparency turned to smoke and mirrors, all I saw was someone having a beer with an arrester and arrestee, and I couldn't help but think, "My tax dollars at work." Talk about taxation without representation ...

    God help us if this bozo gets re-elected.

    Great article.

  45. I really cannot put into words how wonderful this article is.

  46. Anonymous25/10/12

    Name: Anonymous 7

    This is a great article and nails the Obama mystique perfectly. The sad truth is that our culture in this country rates "hipsterism" as very important. Our culture no longer recognizes greatness of character or serious thought. Most of those under the age of 35 have been raised by the media via television, the internet, Hollywood etc. and dismiss anyone who does not have "credibility" which that generation measures by the amount of "coolness" or sarcasm or ironic smugness that is present. For them, the litmus test IS coolness, hipness, and "swag". Frankly, as horrifying as it is, we have to face the fact that a President represents/reflects the culture. When we look at Obama, he is a representation of what our culture has become: shallow, petty and careless. So, while I do worry about a second term for this man, what really causes me to lose sleep at night is the fact that people (46% of the country) are willing to vote for him again. This is a problem that one election (of hopefully Romney) will not solve. The problem is not just the elected officials but also the people who put them into office, those who valued what Obama was selling - coolness, hipness - over other important qualities like experience and knowledge. This is the true crisis - our culture. And it is not a problem that is going away any time soon if Hollywood, the music industry, and the media have anything to say about it.

  47. Anonymous26/10/12

    please don't lose your edge (or become hip)DG. in other words, take the admiration of others (as seen above and throughout your site) as an appreciation/respect for your genuine and honest perspective. i've been dropping in for a couple of years now but no more freeloading. i'm subscribing and hitting your tip jar in a small way to hopefully perpetuate your talent and blog for others to appreciate. Thank you

  48. The edge comes from the place where events slice at us. So I would like to lose it by way of things calming down. Though the odds of that don't seem good.

  49. Anonymous26/10/12

    You make it sound far too simple... the fact that obama (without a capital-O) will simply fade away. A petty, narcisist, self-agrandizing petulant, he won´t leave power as easily as many of us wished. The machinery that put him in place won't let go without a major fight, and the "Chicago thugs" won't agree to loose their grip on the power they have enjoyed for the last 4 years.

    The fact that polls reveal such a close match means a lot. According to it, up to one half of the voter's base stands with this man. It only takes some simple, basic voter fraud to tilt the scale. Many self-respecting Latin-American or African satraps would be more than willing to provide their expertise in such issues almost free-of-charge, just a couple million dollars.

    So don't shrug off obama so easily. It is highly possible that the US will have to dance to the tune of this pitiful person for another 4 years. The demise of the US as the world's leader is a very likely outcome of his second term.

  50. Anonymous27/10/12

    One of the best dissections of "Obama-mania"... EVER!

  51. Anonymous29/10/12

    Wow! You're a great writer. I enjoy every word. I would be harder on Obama. He is the destroyer and divider in chief. I can't wait until he is not in office anymore and hope he leaves this country and takes his cabinet and Communist and Islamist friends with him. They should go to Libya or Egypt. Bon voyage!


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