The Canonization of Barack Obama

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The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is amusing if you can set your politics aside for an hour or so, and President Obama proved once again this year that he is adept at delivering a joke. If you could take the measure of a president by how many laughs he’s able to get, Obama would go down in history with the best of them.

And if it’s up to the mainstream media, that’s exactly what will happen.

Watching CNN and MSNBC cover the dinner as though it was the Oscars was embarrassing enough, but their unabashed fawning over the president was even worse. Now that Obama is sliding inexorably towards lame duck status, the media is ready to finally toss off the pretense and embrace America’s first black president with the respect they feel he deserves. It’s 2008 all over again, and the canonization of Barack Obama has begun.

Hillary Clinton saw it coming. She had a front-row seat to the show when it began. If there has been one consistent theme throughout her campaign, it’s that she is the closest thing out there to a third Obama term. Sure, that’s pandering to black voters. Sure, that’s pandering to the liberal base. But most of all, it’s playing to the inevitable media narrative sure to dominate the last six months of Obama’s presidency. By the time the tear-jerking retrospectives are over, they’ll have us believing that we should carve Obama’s face into Mt. Rushmore.

Historical accuracy matters less and less to the media. They aren’t interested in presenting the truth, especially if that truth runs counter to their goals. Saint Obama can help them reach those goals; Real Obama cannot. Real Obama exposes the lie of liberalism, the pitfalls of identity politics, and the dangers of putting charisma before character. Saint Obama still stands for “hope,” “change,” and all of the vague dreams that put him in the White House the first time around.

The facts of Obama’s presidency will become immaterial. Comedian Larry Wilmore, who hosted the event, said as much. Wilmore noted that Obama’s blackness was, to him, the most important thing about him. And as we wrap up what any objective historian must regard as a failed presidency, that’s the story we will hear from the media. It’s not about what he did or didn’t do; it’s about what he symbolized. And if they can get enough Americans to buy that, then Obama will indeed go down in history as One of the Greats.