Inside the Washington, DC beltway, a particularly obnoxious form of etiquette reigns surpreme. Handsome, dashing, and somwhat enigmatic, Senator Barack Obama was at the White House the other day measuring the drapes and going through the motions of discussing pointless Iraq options with the President and an unnamed motley crew of his patrician colleagues in the upper chamber.
Outside the West Wing, he gave a “presser” to the assembled throng of print and TV reporters. Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, 5 years Obama’s senior and with a 25 year political resume, stood off to one side looking paunchy and pasty as the reporters pressed in closer to the microphones to interview our Lord and Savior, Barack Obama.
Trim and immaculately attired, the Junior Senator looked in command and lapsed into the arcane vernacular of “Washingtonspeak” in which nothing informative is really said but “I am In The Know,” “I Am Important,” and “Touch Me, Feel Me, F#*k Me.” Obama’s pronouncement fully conveyed that he is a “Safe Negro” fit for the Presidency and he seductively beckoned all of America to behold, “I am the Way, the truth, and the light.”
Obama is the perfect courtier because he understands the dynamics of power. The book, “The 48 Laws of Power, explains the 24th Law of Power: The perfect courtier thrives in a world where everything revolves around power and political dexterity. He has mastered the art of indirection; he flatters, yields to superiors, and asserts power over others in the most oblique and graceful manner. Learn and apply the laws of courtiership and there will be no limit to how far you can rise in the court. Obama has mastered the game and is intent on rising as high as possible.
Obama’s “presser” was a classic performance in the Washington power game of political choreography. I am often struck by how often more senior female politicians are routinely overshadowed by their junior male colleagues in the absurd, contrived rush for media coverage. The aforementioned scene contrasted starkly with the “presser” held on the other side of the Hill by the so-called “Blue Dog Democrats” an odd assortment of wonky, right-wing fiscal hawks in the House.
Composed almost entirely of male, southern and mid-western politicians past their prime, they made a point to showcase their more junior colleagues and in particular, South Dakota Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth, an attractive, 36 year old Lawyer that has taken to lightening her hair and the stylish power suits of a politician on the make.
You could almost see the desire in their eyes and the lust in their hearts as they tilted their “just for men” enhanced heads toward her and repeatedly lavished praise on the bottle blond Congresswoman in their soft southern drawls for her smooth, extemporaneous recitation on fiscal policy. It seems that Washington is no different than anywhere else in its treatment of women. It pays attention if you present an attractive package and ignores you like a bag lady if you don’t.
The beltway is also very predictable in its perennial efforts to dress up “fiscal discipline” as anything other than code for dramatic and draconinan cuts in domestic social programs. We all have sense enough to know that President Bush’s tax cuts for the rich are sacred and that the blasphemous proposal of repeal will never be seriously considered.
Most people I know whould rather spend an evening with their grandmamma looking at old family albums and listening to the same, tired stories over and over and over again than to watch C-SPAN as I do. I guess it is an acquired taste. The same spicy dialogue and juicy innuendo that makes fans of Desperate Housewives tune in every week, can also be found on C-SPAN if you know how to read between the lines.