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MEMBER DIARY

When politicians embrace the vapidity of celebrity, their 15 minutes begin

Too much has changed since Camelot to recreate it

Promoted from the diaries by Erick.

If there ever were a vapid celebrity it was Andy Warhol. Yet he did manage to utter one memorable line: “In the future, everyone will have 15 minutes of fame.” It was remarkably insightful for the time. In fact, it was understated. A close friend said the line today would be “in the future, everyone will have 15 minutes of privacy.”

We now talk of “Clinton fatigue” and “Bush fatigue” because after eight years a media-saturated public wants to see a new face. Celebrities, in an attempt to attract attention, indulge in self-destructive behavior as their fans grow weary after too many MTV appearances. It seldom works, “it” being both the attempt to relaunch a career and the rehab and counseling.

Therefore, it is a surprise to see Sen. Barack Obama embrace celebrity and the cult of personality. It can’t last long in 2008, and indications are it has started to wear thin.When the likes of Richard Cohen and Dana Milbank are forced to acknowledge Obama is more pop star than accomplished public servant, something is terribly wrong in ObamaWorld. When a media-orchestrated world tour doesn’t help Obama develop a bounce let alone an actual lead, something is terribly wrong with his campaign.

“Hope” and “change” were nice themes for a primary, but as the masses have tuned into the election they have started to expect specifics. So far, there are few, and those that exist often aren’t exactly popular–opposition to domestic oil production chief among them. Celebrities don’t do specifics well.

It is small wonder, then, that a rather poorly produced commercial that eqautes Obama, Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton has rattled his campaign. It has that rare quality of a 60-second spot in that it is true. Granted, the point isn’t driven home enough in the commercial to do long-term damage, but it has fed into a narrative that a one-term state senator who followed up with a few days in the United States Senate cannot escape. There is no there there.

Much has been made about McCain’s age. Yet because of his long time here on Earth, he has accomplished much. I didn’t agree with quite a bit of it, but there is a record, a thick resume, and a long history of service to something larger than himself. McCain doesn’t do celebrity because it isn’t necessary. He has biography, and that doesn’t wear thin quickly.

Obama has done precious little outside of self-promotion. So his celebrity has started the clock running.

The question is whether the 15 minutes will expire before November.

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