Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Maureen and the Obamanauts

Cyclops and Cunning
Published: July 30, 2008

Maureen Dowd is still hooked on mythology and references a Daily Show bit about Obama slaying dragons.

At home, Jon Stewart was poking fun at the grandiosity of the “Obama Quest” and “the Obamanauts.” He showed film clips of “our hero” in chain mail fighting off dragons and a Cyclops in his crusade to come home and rule over Dreamerica.
She is also trying to get Obama to play her literary allusion game by tricking him into comparing himself to brave Ulysses:
By happenstance, on O-Force One I raised the matter of quests and Cyclops with the candidate. Having read that he had left the trail in early June to go back to Chicago and see his daughter Malia perform in The Odyssey for theater class, I wondered if that rang any bells on this trip? The hero on a foreign journey, battling through obstacles to get back home, where more trouble would wait?

“The whole sort of siren thing, the Cyclops, that’s interesting,” he said.
Note how cleverly Barack evades making any confirmation or denial of the validity of the analogy. Since he won’t open up to her, she uses the Icarus myth that he told a different reporter.
Unlike an idol, Bobby Kennedy, Obama does not see himself in terms of Greek myth, although he did tell The Times’s Jeff Zeleny on the trip that he knew the risks of “flying too close to the sun.”
And to truly mix the milieus, she throws in a newly appropriated and repurposed term Obamanaut (the phrase has been informally floating through the ether for several months now) as a portmanteau of Obama and Argonaut as in Jason And The Argonauts, today's Movies With Maureen®.
The Obamanauts were so pleased with navigating their complex thicket of global photo-ops — without even one embarrassing picture of Obama hugging an Arab — that they weren’t as wary with the press.
Maureen then lurches into a pointless anecdote whose only purpose is to reveal Obama’s choice of alcoholic beverage is not the beer he swigs on the campaign trial. This is important because Dowd has chronicled the vices of the other candidates.
The senator left his briefing books behind for a rare instance of mingling with his journalism posse at a Berlin restaurant as he sipped a rare “very dry” martini with olives.
It seems Obama is not familiar with the ways of international diplomacy and failed to get his hosts gifts even though they brought him White House warming presents.
I said he could be forgiven for not knowing the customs of a trip that had never taken place before — a mere presumptive nominee of one party being feted like a president. Or, given W.’s repellant effect on Old Europe and Obama’s pheromone effect, better than a president.
And the mention of Barack smelling nice is going to have to do as today’s Veiled Gay Slur®. It’s a stretch, but people expect and look for these small asides so that they can take umbrage at the continued existence of Maureen Dowd.

And speaking of pointless anecdotes, another involves Obama learning the German analogue of one of Maureen’s favorite phrases.
His meeting with Angela Merkel taught him a whole new expression.

“When we were talking about Iran,” he told me, “it turns out that carrots and sticks in German is sweetbread and whips, which I thought was a little more evocative.”
The mention of whips really drew a twinkle in Maureen’s eye, since she had once written a column about Hillary and Barack using nothing but bondage metaphors. She also name checks Borat's other alter-ego showing that she is in tune with all the top satirists.
I said it sounded like a skit with Ali G, sitting on a settee, talking to Madam Chancellor, the “Iron Frau,” about whips.

“That’s the equivalent German expression,” he continued, with an amused smile. “That was a little cultural lesson. Sweetbread and whips. I thought, man, we’re in Berlin ...”
But Obama stops himself before saying anything revealing, which makes him a smart man. And Maureen admires that with yet another tortured take on the Icarus myth.
Odysseus’s heroic trait is his cunning intelligence. Given his inability to get lift off, even flying close to the sun, Obama will need all he can muster.
And if he keeps taking language lessons from foreign heads of state, he may become a cunning linguist as well.

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