In delivering her rousing Golden Globe Awards speech last Sunday, Oprah Winfrey made us ask if being a celebrity is sufficient qualification to be President, or are there experience and skill requirements? Does the President of the USA have to be able to identify all 54 countries in Africa, and be adept at managing a large staff of experts in many fields?
During my lifetime several presidents collectively have proved that the answer is No. President Gerald Ford told a vast television audience that “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe” in 1976, when all 16 countries between Moscow and Germany — plus half of Germany — were locked into “the Soviet bloc”. (Gerry was not well read.) President Ronald Reagan told other world leaders he’d been at Buchenwald concentration camp when US soldiers liberated it when, in fact, he only saw footage of it in Hollywood. (Living in a dream.) President Clinton thought it was OK to encourage an intern to suck him off in the Oval Office. (Living in a wet dream.) George W. Bush was ignorant enough to believe Cheney, Rumsfeld and Co. that Iraq was responsible for 911 and Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. (Too easily swayed by thugs.)
The indigestible truth that we’ve learned this past year is that if enough voters like a candidate, for whatever reason, they can elect a President who has the knowledge level of a below-average fourth grader and the temperament of a gored bull.
So — how come millions of American voters fell for Trump, and now can’t believe the shithole they’re in?
Part of it is because they do elections differently over there. Here in Australia we vote knowing, roughly, who’ll be Prime Minister and who’ll be in the cabinet, and that the somewhat permanent public service will run the government’s business.
But in America, to imagine what life under President X will be like, you need to find out who X plans to appoint to be in the pyramid of the next 100 most powerful people in the administration. Despite nice-sounding provisions for Senate “consent”, the President effectively chooses every member of the Cabinet, and the public servants who work for them, and none of these people need to be named until after X has won the election.
Most Australians (and a lot of Americans) don’t realise what a handicap this is to predicting the quality of a potential President, so we ask questions like does Oprah have more empathy than Joe Biden, when we should be asking who are the 100 people who’ll form the human power pyramid below her, or him.
The other key to decision-making American-style is who runs Congress. Today, 268 out of 534 members of the Congress are millionaires, but with the cost of campaigning now in the billions, almost all Representatives and Senators owe their seats to corporate backers. My American political co-conspirator Jim Hightower and I have long demanded that politicians have their sponsors logos sewn on their suits, like racecar drivers do.
Oprah, like Trump, gets enough free media to run a doozy of a presidential campaign without an expensive ad campaign, and like Trump, she has a personal net worth of more than three billion so you’d reckon she could get through the election without selling her soul (Trump long since declared his bankrupt). But who would she choose to be the 100 decision makers in the pyramid below her as President?
Oprah is such a cultural icon that multiple researchers have studied every interview she ever did and read all her books and magazines, but they still have trouble identifying what political goals a President Oprah Winfrey would pursue. I agree with one Oprah scholar, Nicole Aschoff, who concludes that “Oprah is appealing precisely because her stories hide the role of political, economic, and social structures. In doing so, they make the American Dream seem attainable. If we just fix ourselves, we can achieve our goals.”
Oprah is also easily swayed by men in suits promising to drop bombs on people who don’t obey America.
There’s a clip here that shows her letting shills for the invasion of Iraq bully her and her audience into cheering them on (starts at the 47 minute mark).
There are already more than 40 politicians making a plausible claim to the Democratic Party nomination for President at the 2020 elections. Oprah Winfrey is just one of them.
the people most likely to duke it out to the Democratic Party nominating Convention in mid-2019
Andrew Cuomo (59), Governor New York. Savvy politician from birth — his father Mario was also Governor of NY — he’s as progressive as the wind blows. He’s also a grump, but more problematic is that his top aides in state government were recently indicted for corruption.
Senator Amy Klobuchar (57), from Minnesota believes, as much of the country does, that it’s time for women’s rights and perspectives to lead America’s political agenda. She also stands up for the “middle of the country”, where Minnesota is, but has yet to inspire widespread enthusiasm.
Martin O’Malley (54), former Governor of Maryland, got a few votes in the 2016 primaries but he reckons the Party’s so riven now anything could happen. Has smarts, experience, plays guitar pretty well.
Senator Bernie Sanders (76), leads some of the polls right now. His team of the next 100 deciders would include top US progressives like economists Robert Reich and Paul Krugman, Jan Schakowsky (underdog champion), Bill McKibben (climate change guru), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (68), promises to cut banksters’ claws and she has the guts and inside knowledge necessary to do it. Good speaker who makes guilty men sweat with her insistent “I’m onto you” tone. Gets big money from pro-women funders. Might go for a young, safe-ish, male VP like Castro or Booker (see below).
Joe Biden (74), Obama’s vice-president and a Senator since Gough Whitlam was PM, Joe is likeable like a frisky old Golden Retriever. Knows the political system and with a younger woman as VP might be a compromise pick. His 100-list would be slightly more daring, slightly less inclined to war than Hillary’s would be.
Senator Kamala Harris (53), former Attorney-General of California, is the strongest new star among Democratic Party women. Indian-born mother and African-American law professor father. Is smooth and tough in political battle mode. Proposes Medicare for all and overhaul of criminal justice system. So far she’s been more a reformer than an inspirer, but Oprah’s emergence might oblige her to get out there louder and clearer.
Julian Castro (42), Obama’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was raised in Texas by politically active parents of Mexican ancestry. Seen by the Clintons as a new Party leader, he has the looks, brains, and ambition, but the Clintons’ blessing is increasingly a liability.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (50), won Hillary’s old NY senate seat. Deferential to fellow politicians and the commentariat at first, she’s toughened up and become more progressive. Showed guts in dumping Al Franken and dissing Bill Clinton, but both her voice and her convictions waver. Not so much her language. When asked in a meeting if Trump had kept any of his promises she said “Fuck no!”
Jason Kander (36), former Missouri Secretary of State, progressive, Army veteran, Jewish, and proud of all those things. Check out his gun-toting campaign ad — really:
Senator Cory Booker (48), NJ is tall, shaved head, single, and a superstar orator in the black preacher-politician mode. The cadence of his speech at the 2016 Convention rang in the faithful’s ears for hours longer than the words did. He graduated from Yale but also from the Clinton school of corporate stroking. He might cut loose; he’s publicly confessed to a fondness for pedicures and manicures after midnight.
Tim Ryan (44), member from Ohio is also tall and handsome, but white. He offers plans for reviving dead towns across America (there’s a lot of them) so Millennials and Baby Boomers can live there enviro-friendly and mindful. With some of Bernie’s social democracy, a dash of New Age, and a surprising passion, Ryan could break out.
Tulsi Gabbard (36), member from Hawaii. She served two years in a US Army field medical unit in Iraq, and in Congress has voted against bombing Syria, for peace with North Korea, for legalised marijuana, and for improved government social programs. She adopted Hinduism as a teen and was elected to Hawaii state legislature at 21. She opposes theocracies, especially Muslim ones, which has won her admiration from Stephen Bannon, Narendra Modi, et al, and she was the only Democrat Trump interviewed for a cabinet position.
Senator Doug Jones (63), Alabama. Prosecuted Klansmen for murdering four black children decades ago, then last month defeated a racist Republican to become a US Senator. His proven voter appeal across class and race makes him a star right now.
Caroline Kennedy (60), daughter of President John F Kennedy, became active in politics to support Obama. Has learned not to say “you know” before every sentence, to become an effective progressive advocate.
John Delaney (54), is a House member (Maryland) who came from a working-class, union, Catholic family to establish banks for backing worthy new enterprises. Somehow, that’s built him a net worth of $92 million. Was the first Democrat to announce his candidacy.
Bill de Blasio (56), the Mayor of New York, shares Bernie Sanders’ proposals for social democracy, and just announced NYC will divest $5bn from fossil fuels and sue the big oil companies for contributing to global warming. While he says he’s not running for President, he’s watching the field.
Others who say they’re NOT running: Jerry Brown (79), Governor of California (don’t rule him out yet), Senator Sherrod Brown, Chelsea Clinton, Hillary Clinton, George Clooney, Tim Cook CEO Apple, Mark Cuban, Jamie Dimon CEO JPMorgan Chase, disgraced Senator Al Franken, Al Gore, Dwayne Johnson actor, Tim Kaine, Joe Kennedy III (don’t rule him out yet), Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg COO Facebook, Joe Scarborough (Morning Joe), and Mark Zuckerberg Facebook guy.
Phillip Frazer was recently on the west and east coasts of the US. Now in Lucca, he posts at coorabellridge.com