By Pat Hughes
There was a time in our not too distant past when Americans were famous for a reason. They had accomplished something of significance and the public wanted to know more about them. As a young boy I learned about the courage of Charles Lindbergh and Audie Murphy, the struggles of Susan B. Anthony and why my grandmother loved Clark Gable—even though the time of their greatness had passed. I thought about this recently when Apollo Astronaut Neil Armstrong died. In his time, he was an American icon and with good reason. But the news of his death came in a blur and then disappeared from our collective consciousness.
Fame comes cheap these days. All you need to do is tan on the Jersey Shore, get pregnant at 16 or be willing to humiliate yourself by professing your love to the Bachelor. First Paris Hilton is in a sex tape and before long the Kardashians are a household name. This is the only environment in which Barack Obama could have been elected president.
Obama fit the narrative for which a nation weary of war, partisanship and economic crisis was longing. He was cool and above the political fray—even when skewering straw man opponents. He transcended race—even when he used it as a political tool. His golden tongue and orchestrated cadence made even the absurd—like healing the planet—seem reasonable. He was, as Oprah said gleefully, the One.
In the process, too many of us didn’t recognize that the rise of Obama was just a TV show produced by his handlers and distributed by a complicit media. We voted everyone else off the island and left Obama in the job he was born to do—ultimate reality star. Unfortunately, he was not up to the job of being president. Not because he isn’t smart or talented—he is—although no more so than countless Americans who aren’t president. But because he had no real track record of accomplishment and all the mistakes and failures that go with getting one. As such, he had no frame of reference, no experience that really mattered.
That is why he was so thoroughly exposed by Mitt Romney in the debate two weeks ago. The reality show was on hiatus—no spin, no filter, no media lap dogs—and so 67 million American voters tuned into something more akin to a boxing match instead. And by the end it was clear to them who is smarter, more accomplished, and more ready to be president. They declared it a knockout, one four years in coming. Romney has been rolling since.
Will it last? I believe that it will. I believe that the American people are ready to revisit a time when they valued ability over rhetoric and accomplishment over showmanship. I believe they are ready to usher in an American future where what you do makes you who you are. So that when the next American hero leaves us to take his place with God, we will recognize his unique greatness and act accordingly.