Venus and Apollo On The Potomac

Vogue just released its Top 10 Best-Dressed List for 2010.  Number Three on the list is Michelle Obama, who has already been on the cover of Vogue once before.  This is the latest in a long string of awards for fashion and beauty bestowed upon the First Lady.  For example, People Magazine named her one of the 100 Most Beautiful People In The World in 2009.  In that same year, both American and international reporters wrote numerous stories about Mrs. Obama blowing Carla Bruni, fashion-model wife of French President Nicholas Sarkozy, off the stage. 

This is a very superficial topic, so there is no way to avoid sounding superficial while discussing it.  Let me put this bluntly: I haven’t got the slightest problem with the way Michelle Obama looks, and it wouldn’t matter a hill of beans if I did, but her accolades for fashion and glamour seem a bit disproportionate.

As the First Lady, Mrs. Obama is famous and powerful.  Fame and power generate their own sort of glamour, so that could explain how she ended up on the cover of Vogue… except Laura Bush never received that honor.  Hillary Clinton did, however.  Do you see a pattern forming?

Mrs. Obama’s husband, President Barack Obama, is a man of unexceptional physical condition who loves to play golf, and wrestles with a smoking habit.  He’s been on the cover of fitness magazines with remarkable frequency, and was named one of the 25 Fittest Guys In America by Men’s Fitness in 2008… alongside Ironman competitors and professional prize fighters.  You won’t have to search long to come up with purple prose from reporters swooning over his chiseled pecs.

This fawning adulation is harmlessly goofy, but it provides an important glimpse into the mindset of the Left.  There’s no urgent reason for them to exaggerate the physical beauty of the Obamas, whose bodies and wardrobes most Americans spend very little time thinking about.  Perhaps Men’s Fitness was making an in-kind campaign donation with their hilarious idolatry back in ’08, but there’s little political reason to continue with it now that he’s been safely elected.

The reason liberal reporters and magazine editors drool over the Obamas is that they have to.  Liberals see themselves as superior beings, so their leaders must, by definition, be godlike.  They don’t just have some good ideas – they’re towering intellects and Lightworkers, men and women whose minds function on a higher plane.  They don’t merely keep in shape – they’re paragons who belong on the same page as triathletes.  Michelle Obama gets roughly the kind of treatment Hillary Clinton got, but Laura Bush would never get.  Neither will the wife of the next Republican president… or the next Republican president, if she happens to be a woman.

This is part of a long tradition among collectivists.  Benito Mussolini was hailed as a superman who “wore out a different horse each day, and a different woman each night.”  German papers wrote ludicrous celebrations of the Fuhrer’s astounding physical powers.  You’ll never read a liberal’s account of meeting Castro without awe-struck praise of his strength or stamina.  Bill Clinton was a hunk of prime beef who could generate more heat than a room full of Hollywood stars.  Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift once giggled like a schoolgirl on national TV and called Clinton and Gore “the beefcake ticket.”

Some of this is obsequious sucking up, and some is a calculated desire to support favored political leaders, but a good deal of it is simply reflexive.  Leftists believe their leaders are amazing, so they never miss an opportunity to declare themselves amazed.  It seems absurd to the rest of us, and it can lead to uncharitable reactions against people whose physical attributes we wouldn’t remark upon, if they weren’t being shoved in our faces.