The president is a glamour figure, i.e., a beautiful illusion, says Virginia Postrel, former editor-in-chief of Reason magazine and creator of DeepGlamour.net. But the flip side of glamour is horror, and that, says Postrel, is the president’s problem.
reason: You’ve called glamour a beautiful illusion. A lot of people would say that describes President Obama.
Postrel: Yes, President Obama is a very glamorous figure. Glamour is a particular form of illusion. It’s an illusion that tells a truth about the audience’s desires, and it requires mystery and distance. During the campaign people projected onto Barack Obama whatever they wanted in a president or even in a country. Lying is usually a bad thing, but they would project onto him that he was lying about his positions because he secretly agreed with them: “Anyone that smart has got to be a free trader at heart. He’s just saying this to pander to those idiots. He can’t really mean it.”
You’ve seen, as he’s taken office and tried to govern, this back and forth where he is consciously or unconsciously trying to maintain his glamour—which requires a kind of distance from the political process so that people can continue to see him as representing them, regardless of their contradictory views—while actually trying to be president, which means you have to decide what to do about Guantanamo. You have to decide what health care bill you’re going to back. You have to decide all these things, and you’re going to make somebody disillusioned. This morning I saw that the former editor of Harper’s is about to write a book, The Mendacity of Hope, attacking Obama from the left. That’s the power and the downside of glamour.
The whole interview is here.