Beaton: He’s lost that lovin’ feelin’
Without even asking if we wanted to know all about his little love life, a TV talking head on Election Night in 2008 confided — right in our living rooms, with the kids there — that the president-elect generated “a thrill up my leg.”
His co-talking head suggested that maybe he was getting carried away. He insisted he wasn’t. “Seriously,” he reiterated. Thankfully, the TV captures only their talking heads and not their thrilled legs.
At his 2008 speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, the campaigning future president drew an enraptured crowd of 200,000. Many fainted as he took the stage, and some reached out to touch his clothes.
The throngs enthused that he was “almost like the Messiah.” Oprah Winfrey didn’t disagree. She proclaimed, “I believe he is the one.”
At his victory speech the night of the election, he said he thought so, too. In the delirium he intoned, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.” More delirium ensued.
He was more than the messiah to them. He was a rock star.
But what a difference four years make. First, there was Obamacare. Then there was a “shellacking” (to use his own term) in the midterm elections. Then he was re-elected but with fewer votes than the first time — another historic first but not a good one. Now there’s an endless string of scandals about government spying on private citizens and targeting them with the Internal Revenue Service. On tap for next year: more Obamacare.
Maybe the thrill is gone. To find it, recapture it and send it back up the unseen and unsuspecting legs and loins of TV talking heads, he recently returned to the Brandenburg Gate for another really big show.
You could almost read between the lines. His lyrics were euro-banalities, but his rhythm was pure Motown:
“You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling,
Whoa, that lovin’ feeling,
You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling,
Now it’s gone, … gone … gone … wooooooh.”
It was a bust. Attendance was down by 97 percent. At exactly the same historic forum, where he’d drawn 200,000 four years ago and President Kennedy had drawn 450,000 50 years ago, he drew less than 5,000. The messiah who used to deliver the inspiration that made the whole world inspired drew fewer people than Barry Manilow does for “The Songs That Make the Whole World Sing.”
As for the scandals, he didn’t exactly mention them, but you could almost hear his embittered heart:
“And now you’re starting to criticiiiiiiize little things I dooooo.”
It got pathetic:
“Baby, baby, I get down on my knees for yoooou. If you would only love me like you used to doooo.”
OK, I’m exaggerating. He didn’t get down on his knees. But he did take his jacket off. Even that didn’t win their love or thrill their legs. Those Germans can be tough.
Toward the end, he and his handlers tried repetition and more rhythm:
“I need your love,” he crooned.
“He needs your love!” harmonized his backstage handlers.
“I need your love,” he repeated.
“He needs your love!” Now the backups were right behind him in turquoise tuxes, doing swivel-hips and hand-twirls in unison.
OK, I’m exaggerating again. But it’s no exaggeration to say that the few Germans who showed up for this free extravaganza got what they paid for it. They looked unthrilled, unmoved and, in some cases, unawake.
It didn’t help that the former messiah mispronounced their mayor’s name.
But it could have been worse, and later in the trip it was. He referred — three times — to the British finance minister, George Osborne, as “Jeffrey.” He didn’t want to risk making a fourth mistake in his apology, so he just said, “I’m sorry, man.”
He later explained that he’d confused the person he now calls “man” with an American rhythm and blues singer named Jeffrey Osborne. (No, they are not similar-looking.)
Does this mean that, in order to avoid such mistakes in the future, he will start calling everyone “man”? I can see it. To Vladimir Putin, “Hey, man, let’s fix Syria.” To Tiger Woods, “Hey, man, let’s do golf again.” In the Oval Office when he mutters, “Man, oh, man,” everyone in earshot will come running.
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, presumably will be called “woman.” Will he call her “Pretty Woman”? “L.A. Woman”? “Witchy Woman”? “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress”? I can hardly wait for Merkel to deck him.
Which brings us back to the not-so-big show in Berlin. German magazine Spiegel deadpanned, “The shine has come off Obama’s image.” Even the American talking head who’d been leg-thrilled in 2008 complained that “the late afternoon sun in Berlin, I think, ruined his use of the teleprompters.”
You see, even messiahs can have an off day when the late-afternoon sun melts their teleprompters (must have been global warming). The important thing to remember is it’s not his fault!
So now what? What do we do with a one-hit wonder who sticks around long after closing time to give eight years of bad encores?
If he were a concert tour, he’d be canceled.
Glenn K. Beaton lives in Aspen.
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