My interest in US politics has been fading ever since I lived there, and saw it at first hand.
But it sank to near-zero during the last Presidential election, when the Obama campaign became a show business frenzy, devoid of reason and much more like the early, screaming years of the Beatles than like a bid for office
As Clarence Darrow once said ‘I was told as small boy that anybody could become President of the United States. As I grew older, I realised that this was absolutely true’.
Later, I read Robert Penn Warren’s matchless ‘ All the King’s Men’, one of the best books ever written about politics, anywhere, ever, which should cure the aspirant politician of any remaining trace of idealism; and then I read John O’Hara’s ‘Ten, North Frederick’, much of which is about a man who thinks he might become President, and is cruelly used and tricked by the men who really hold the power.
And then I read Allen Drury’s ‘Advise and Consent’, which seems to me to contain the nastiest (though fictional) account of Franklin D. Roosevelt that I have ever seen, showing that a ‘great’ President is also very likely to be an extremely merciless and unscrupulous man.And then I moved across the Atlantic and spent my days and nights attempting to report on the goings on in the White House and the Capitol and the Supreme Court...
It didn’t take long to learn that the place was as seamy as it was lovely...
And then, I went to Chicago and set out to find out a bit about Barack Obama....
I found that Obama was very much part of the unlovely Daly machine in Chicago, that his voting record in the Illinois State Senate was far from courageous, and basically that we wasn’t a very distinguished or experienced person.
It was pointless. The marketing men, and the machine men had got hold of him by then, offered him all the kingdoms of the world and swept him up into the world of bright TV lights where (as so many otherwise unqualified people do) he glowed with a sort of electronic virtue.
I think he is an intelligent person with some self-knowledge, and I do sometimes wonder if he ever regrets allowing himself to be turned into a brand and a star.