How Obama Has Kept His ‘Cult of Personality’

In the immediate aftermath of the 2008 election, when Barack Obama had just been declared our next president, the media was understandably jubilant. They had suffered through eight long years of a president whose decisions, policies, and mere demeanor went so far against their deeply-held liberal sensibilities, that their coverage of him often reached the level of derangement.

Yes, their day had finally come. They had found their messiah.  A youthful, charismatic, true-believing liberal was the country’s new leader. History had been made. The nation’s first African American president was going to be sworn in, and the media knew they had played a substantial role in making all that happen.

Amongst all the celebrating and congratulatory back-slapping, there was one member of the liberal media elite, however, who absorbed the victory a bit differently than the rest. While his colleagues were still floating along the radiant arch of a euphoric rainbow that emitted tranquil whispers of ‘hope’ and ‘change’, Newsweek’s Evan Thomas acted as if he had suddenly been slapped awake from a deep, months-long hypnosis.

Speaking to Charlie Rose, Thomas (whose publication was a staunch advocate for Barack Obama), surprisingly expressed some rare misgivings about the president-elect. “There is a slightly creepy cult of personality about all this,” he said in reference to the Obama phenomenon.  “It — it — it just makes me a little uneasy that he’s so singular. He’s clearly managing his own spectacle. He’s a deeply manipulative guy.” He went on to say, “He had — he has the self-awareness to know that this creature he’s designed isn’t necessarily a real person.”

If only people like Thomas would have taken notice of such things BEFORE the election. Media laziness and embarrassing infatuation let a man with no leadership, management, or business experience become the leader of the free world. He hadn’t been properly vetted or firmly challenged. An individual who essentially never held a job outside of the halls of academia and politics (where he never produced any legislative achievements) excelled to the presidency solely on the power of his charisma, feel-good speeches, and endless media hype. A larger than life persona – that was the winning formula.

Evan Thomas’ analysis came way too late, but he described the Obama spectacle perfectly with his “cult of personality” comment. For people my age, who graduated high school in the early 1990’s, that term holds some pop-culture significance beyond its text book definition of a circumstance that arises when, as Wikipedia describes it, “an individual who uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise.”  It was also the title of a popular rock song by the band, Living Colour. The song’s lyrics, if you listen to them now, so eerily describe Barack Obama (even down to the mention of a Nobel Prize) that you have to wonder if the band had somehow managed to get a hold of a Delorean and traveled twenty years into the future for their inspiration.

More astonishing than the victory Obama’s cult of personality gave him in 2008 is the fact that the cult is still very much alive today. I never thought it would have survived his entire first term (even with an adoring media) unless his policies had proven to be a resounding success. They, of course, did not. In fact, they took us in exactly the opposite direction. Yet the cult has retained most of its disciples, and there’s a real possibility that its shelf-life will be extended by four years.

How can this be? I think the answer goes back to a brilliant remark Vice Presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, made during his speech at the Republican National Convention: “President Obama is the kind of politician who puts promises on the record, and then calls that the record.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

If you listen to what the president says in public appearances, it’s as if he hasn’t been the incumbent for nearly four years. He repeats promises that have already been broken, and speaks of his ideas for the country as if they are new, and haven’t already resulted in failure. He presents this empty rhetoric as his record. One has to only listen to his recent stump speeches for examples.

The president has been traveling around the country and actually telling cheering crowds (with a straight face) that we need to bring down our national debt, and that he’s going to do it. It’s the same message he delivered when he was campaigning four years ago. If you’ll remember, he promised back then to cut the deficit in half. The problem is that he has been in office for nearly four years and he has done absolutely nothing to achieve anything that remotely resembles that goal. Not only has he shown less fiscal discipline than any president in our history, but he has added far more money (over $5 trillion) to our national debt in a single term than any other president has in two terms. He has spent more of our money than our first 42 presidents… combined! And if that wasn’t bad enough, he has demagogued and killed every serious solution offered up by congress to address the national debt problem, while offering no solutions of his own.

Over the past couple of weeks, he’s been touting to crowds his willingness to reach across the aisle to work with Republicans to fix our problems. He even joked in Ohio on Monday that he’d be willing to “wash their cars” in order to work together. Stuff like that always sounds great, but the reality is that he’s had FOUR YEARS to do this, and as Bob Woodward’s new book describes in great detail, Obama has never made any serious attempt to work with Republicans. Beyond that, he’s repeatedly blamed the Republicans for all of our country’s problems, despite the fact that they had no power during his first two years in office, and currently only hold one branch of congress.

He mocks the Republicans’ claims that tax cuts will help the economy grow, when just three years ago, he was making this very same case himself.

He complains about how small and vindictive our politics are while refusing to denounce his super PAC for accusing his opponent, Mitt Romney, of killing a cancer victim!

He says these things without a hint of apprehension. They’re even applause lines for him. It seems unfathomable that he can escape political blow-back for such comments, but he does because there is no media appetite to hold him accountable for his own words. Aside from outlets like FOX News and conservative radio, the media lets him effectively separate himself from his record, and run his campaign on little more than hope, change, and pure hypocrisy.

Imagine if George W. Bush’s 2004, re-election stump-speeches included lines like, “War is never the answer” or “Democracy is not something we should be promoting abroad.” Do you think for a second that the national media wouldn’t have been excoriating him for his gall, or even questioning his sanity?

President Obama not only goes largely unchallenged for his hypocrisy, but also for the accuracy of what he touts as his achievements.

Obama often brags about the four million jobs being created under his watch. That sounds like a big number to most people. The problem is that the media rarely explains to Americans that the number doesn’t include the number of jobs that were lost. More importantly, they don’t explain how obscenely low that number is in context with historical recession recoveries.

Obama does the same thing when talking about energy and gas prices. He likes to point out that domestic oil-drilling has increased during his presidency. What the media fails to explain is that it has only increased on private land where the government has no control. Through Obama’s policies, there is less government-land oil-drilling going on in this country than before he took office.

The media not only shies away from providing the proper context, but they set the bar so incredibly low for any measure of success from the Obama administration, that the president can effectively hail sub-standard and even downright poor results as major achievements. Whenever there’s a mild, positive uptick in an economic number, the media tone is that a corner has been turned, and that we’re on the right track… And when that uptick disappears a couple of weeks later, you don’t hear much about it.

Many once-controversial policies (aka policies that were controversial under the Bush administration) receive practically no media attention now that Obama has adopted them. When’s the last time you heard anyone in the media bring up the Guantanamo Bay detention camp? Four years ago, its existence was a framed by Democrats and the media as a moral collapse of American values and a major recruitment tool for Islamic terrorists. Bush’s position – that he’d like to close it, but couldn’t due to lack of a better solution – was soundly rejected by critics. Candidate Obama even ran on the promise of closing down the facility, and pledged again to do so shortly after taking office. Yet, it’s still open and active today, with Obama’s rationale now parroting Bush’s, and the media couldn’t care less.  It’s been years since any news organization have given publicity to Gitmo critics, if there even are any more.

What has the media paid close attention to during this election cycle? It certainly hasn’t been the shocking number of Americans on the government dole, but it has been Mitt Romney’s in-artful description of the problem on hidden-camera. It hasn’t been the high unemployment rate of female workers, but it has been a fabricated War on Women controversy and Todd Akin’s idiotic comments. It hasn’t been the Obamacare taxes, but it has been Mitt Romney’s tax records, which are always good for a front-page headline or fifty. Oh, and of course we can’t forget about all of that award-worthy, investigative reporting on that pathological liar, Paul Ryan, who thought he could get away with citing the wrong marathon running-time from twenty years ago.

Now, media bias against conservatives is nothing new, and it’s not going to change anytime soon. Complaining about it isn’t going to do much good as far as the November election is concerned. The Romney campaign needs to find a way to deal with it, and do their best to work around the media. Their biggest challenge, though, will be to break through Obama’s cult of personality and slap the country awake to the realities of what is on the line when it comes to our country’s future.

When you strip away Obama’s record, you have a personable, charismatic charmer who sounds great on the microphone – a viable candidate. But when you strip away his cult of personality, you’re forced to recognize the reality that our nation is in deep decline, and may very well be broken beyond repair if drastic changes aren’t made very soon.

Author Bio:

John Daly couldn't have cared less about world events and politics until the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks changed his perspective. Since then, he's been deeply engaged in the news of the day with a particular interest in how that news is presented. Realizing the importance of the media in a free, democratic society, John has long felt compelled to identify media injustices when he sees them. With a B.S. in Business Administration (Computer Information Systems), and a 16 year background in software and web development, John has found that his real passion is for writing. He is the author of the Sean Coleman Thriller series. His first novel, "From a Dead Sleep," is available at all major retailers. His second novel, "Blood Trade" is available for pre-order and will be released in Sept. 2015. John lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and two children. Like John on Facebook. Follow John on Twitter.
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  • Archangel1357

    thinking people like you? really

  • troglodyte

    Wait a minute….do you mean Obama did not earn that Nobel Prize? I guess only smart people can see why he “earned” that once prized pat on the back.

    The “smart” people pushing for Obama are the Joy Behars and Madonnas of the world. Speaking of Madonna…imagine if Rush would have called Obama a “black muslim”. Liberal media didn’t mind that one.

    Liberal hate and liberal media are blinded by their own agenda. They will do anything to “win” no matter what it does to the country.

    Just look at everything from Madonna’s comment to OWS and the violence by “liberal” groups.

  • If_you_ask_me

    The only person selling snake oil here is Daly.  

    It’s really sad how Daly can just summarily dismiss the fourth estate. Journalists are some of the most knowledgable, most informed citizens, and a constantly vigilante media is vital to the continued existence of democracy. It’s heartbreaking that a segment of society has summarily dismissed the media (and the highly educated) because it’s easier to just summarily reject everything they say  than to bring forward facts that contradict what they say. Our country is in danger but it’s not from the “liberals” or the media.

    • John Daly

       So… You believe that the media have been vigilantes when it comes to the Obama administration?

      My guess is that you didn’t actually read my column, other than maybe a few sentences.

      What I want from the media is CONSISTENCY. I wouldn’t care about the over-the-top media scrutiny of Romney if they treated Obama the same way.

      They don’t. They treat Obama like a fragile flower in comparison. In doing so they discredit their profession and damage our democracy.

      Again, it’s not about media aggression. It’s about the inconsistencies of that aggression.

      • If_you_ask_me

        John, you’re right, I didn’t have the stomach to finish your entire article. Just like I don’t have to listen to all of Rush’s show to know he’s a blowhard.  But, just to be fair I went back and read every single word. And nothing you said changes what I posted originally.

         You have such deep-seated biases that you can’t even understand why thinking people like me would actually support our president. Not just vote for him, but give him money and make calls and knock on doors for him. You are so hung up on your own biases that you can’t understand the other side. Sort of like Romney, you’re just giving up on a whole segment of the electorate without trying to understand what makes them tick. The polls that have come out since September 17th are showing how disastrous that approach was for Romney, and I suggest it’s not serving you any better.

        • John Daly

          I love it when hyper-partisans accuse other people of being bias.

          Surely a smart guy like you understands that having an opinion is not a bias, right?

          I’m opinion writer, not a hard news reporter.

          Now, if I were making up facts to support my opinion, you’d have a point. But I don’t do that.

          Understanding Obama’s appeal isn’t all that difficult. I get it. He’s a gifted speaker with a boat-load of charisma and a million dollar smile. He’s hip. He’s cool. He’s the cult of personality, and he’s convinced people like you (as the song goes) that one and one makes three.

          With a media that refuses to hold him accountable for the state of the country after four years, it’s not that hard to understand why the persona is all that matters, especially when his opponent is a stiff.

          • If_you_ask_me

            There you go again.  

            Yes, he’s a gifted speaker with a boat-load of charisma and a million dollar smile. He’s hip. He’s cool. (And he doesn’t come off as a total dork when he wears jeans or tries to sing.) But, where you go wrong (again) is assuming that he’s convinced me that one and one makes three. Why is it so difficult for you (or the GOP or Romney or Fox) to accept that the majority of the electorate actually are paying attention, actually have done their homework, and as a result they (for the right reasons) actually do like this Black guy with the funny name?
            What’s sad is that your bias, opinion, etc. won’t even let you give the guy his due. The Admiral who is head of U.S. Special Operations was effusive with praise for the President’s handling of the raid that killed Bin Laden.  But you can’t give him that? No credit for the little stuff like pulling the country back from the bring of the second great depression. Our allies in Europe  like us again. Passed universal health care, which presidents have been talking about for a century, since Teddy Roosevelt in 1912.

            For your theory to hold water, he’s not just “duping” ordinary college educated and graduate degree “guys” like me, who in three decades of voting had never pulled the presidential lever under the donkey. But he’s duping folks who are even more highly educated and have been paying even closer attention to history and current events, like David Brooks, Peggy Noonan, Kathleen Parker and other GOP stalwarts. And presidential scholars who rate him in the top third of American presidents.  See you still believe it is a snow job, that all of these people could not for valid reasons support our president. You sound a lot like Mitt Romney just summarily discounting “the 47%” without ever bothering to figure out how they think.Maybe in the next four years will give you enough time to finally figure out the appeal?

      • If_you_ask_me

        If you think Obama has done nothing, go visit this site:

  • Ernest

    Very informative.  Great article.  

    It’s mind boggling why so many blindly follow the lead of Obama (including mainstream media).  I was one of those who supported him in 2008.   His first 2 years could have been his defining moment when he have both house and senate on his side.  No significant accomplishment as what he promised. It was easy for me to realize that he’s a failure.  I  cannot fathom why many others still give him their support despite of the realities.   

  • wally

    It’s as if they have created an “affirmative action” for our leader. Can’t reach the level needed, no problem, we will lower the bar and try and make you look better.

  • Ed

    Great points. I hope the Romney campaign reads this.

  • potemkin_village_usa

    Hope and Change are the Articles of Faith…….. facts notwithstanding!

  • justlisa

    Agree… Thank you.

  • Frank Rizzo

    John, I absolutely agree. Look at what this cult mentality has condoned…

    With all that Obama has done, the scandals, the obvious media bias/dealings to promote agenda, skyrocketing of debt, economic failure, throwing Israel under the bus when our ally needs us the most in all of its history, snubbing of Netanyahu to instead visit a late night TV show, foreign policy disasters in Libya and Egypt that will have historic consequences, purposely throwing out mention of God in our national discussion and the DNC, declaring the US as not a Christian backed nation anymore, bowing to our enemies, repeatedly apologizing to our enemies, openly admitting a socialist agenda while advocating more government control of citizens lives, continuing almost every single policy of the Bush administration that many Americans at the time thought to be distasteful and even expanding them even further, kill lists, the leaking of secrets for political gain, sharing secrets of the Bin Laden raid with Hollywood, putting intelligence community at risk with leaks, the Pakistani doctor that helped us and remains in jail with no support from us, the continuing of aid to countries who hate us, the erosion of respect in the world by us looking weak,  the putting down of our veterans and soldiers when they speak out against leaks, the fast and furious debacle, the obvious class warfare and race warfare promoted by him, the worst over-regulated EPA in history, the refusal to drill our own oil/get off foreign dependence and ease the cost at the pumps by opening the Keystone pipeline, handcuffing the Border Patrol by letting illegal aliens go free, allowing 800,000 illegal aliens to gain citizenship by his order and bypassing congress, forcing the repeal of don’t ask don’t tell on our military, the gutting of our defense department, the threatening of further cuts by sequestering and using troops as politics, the massive Obamacare bill passed that the majority didn’t support, the lie that it wasn’t a tax, but it is a tax the Supreme Court, the intimidation speech to the Supreme Court, the continual anti-Constitutional executive orders and on and ON and ON….

    It is sad that I say this, but I don’t believe the world has seen such a self destructive cult mentality by a nations population since Adolph Hitler. Americans need to wake up!

  • cmacrider

    John:  You have captured the Obama reign in a nutshell.  You have artfully pointed out both the flaws and hypocrisy of the Obama administration.  The question is ….. why can’t the Romney campaign do the same thing??????  Lord knows they have plenty of fodder with which they should have by now completely denuded and decimated the Obama administration.

  • Ellis Dee


  • Ellis Dee

    This article should be on the front page of every paper in America. Great

    • John Daly


  • Bob

    Bush was demonized for his leadership when it was consistent with his message.  His platform was always about national security, and he did what he thought was best from Gitmo to the WMD issue. 

    I liked some of Obama’s major campaign planks (not that I voted for him), e.g. stopping the war, closing Gitmo, more openness in government, reducing debt, etc…  I was cautiously hopeful when he was elected.  As you have pointed out, Obama has been Bush Lite when it has come to military actions, the Government is more oppressive and less open than ever and we are more in debt than we have ever been.  I’m blown away that anyone believes anything that comes out of his mouth now.

  • Mike

    Great, great column Mr. Daly! I read your writings reliogously and you are spot on every time.

    • John Daly

      Thank you!

  • NS Sherlock

    I can hardly wait for the debates. I’m curious to see if obummah even shows up, and IF he does, will he bring his teleprompter or an earpiece? I already know it will be a lot of “uh”, “um”, “ah”, “hmmm”, “uh”…

  • Wheels55

    The many faces of Obama – none of them straight.

    • If_you_ask_me

      Get used to the face. Four more years, baby!

  • Deny916

    He’s a really good snake oil salesman.  For the life of me I can’t understand why the media loves, coddles, and protects him so much.  If they can’t see what he’s done to our country they should all be fired and replaced by news people who are real news people who will tell the truth.  

    I hope when it’s time to vote him out people will pull the right lever for Romney…but I don’t put a lot of faith in the intelligence of the American public.  God help us all if he gets another 4 years.