Idol minds

Odd worship of presidents echoes personality cults of dictatorships

They remade the presidential seal to include his name. They changed the American flag to bear his likeness and his logo. They taught young schoolchildren to sing his praises. They took photos of their hands over their hearts, with adoring messages written on them pledging allegiance to him.

The news media were no less shameless. Newsweek’s Evan Thomas said he was “standing above the country, above – above the world. He’s sort of God.” MSNBC’s Chris Matthews admitted “I felt this thrill going up my leg” after hearing him speak.

He’s been photographed and Photoshopped to have halos on his head. A Newsweek cover depicted him as the Hindu god Shiva – with a headline “God of all things.”

A campaign crowd recently was overheard to chant “Hail Obama!” Voters on Tuesday at a Philadelphia precinct were treated to an iconic mural of him painted on the school’s wall.

This is just some of the unhealthy – and decidedly un-American – idol worship that has gone on over the past four years for President Obama, and which helped him get re-elected.

People like him, certainly; he has an affable persona. But really. This has been just sick. And, in our opinion, it has led people to vote against their own interests.

Hero worship of Democratic presidents is nothing new, of course. Despite numerable peccadilloes, the media built up the Kennedy mystique into a fairy tale they lovingly called “Camelot.” Saturday Night Live, which made its mark mocking Republican President Ford as dumb and clumsy, actually made fun of how smart Democrat Jimmy Carter supposedly was. Then the comedy show supposed that Republican President Ronald Reagan appeared so hapless that it had to be an act.

Bill Clinton was hailed by the media as so hip they referred to him variously as the first black president and Elvis.

But the hero worship surrounding Barack Obama has been nothing short of irrational.

This cult of personality perpetrated by the lapdog media is contrary to everything America stands for. Our forebears risked everything to escape lands where leaders were bowed down to. And the notion of public service in America is just that: these people are supposed to be public servants. Not kings, potentates or gods of all things.

The cultish devotion to a single person is more in line with the kinds of Latin American dictatorships that have long been the bane of this hemisphere. How perilously close America is coming to that model.

We can only hope that Americans’ feet are more on the ground in Mr. Obama’s second term, and that he will be held more accountable for his performance.

We won’t hold our breath, though. The same media that went out of their way to raise him up and shelter him from criticism – and largely ignored the administration’s scandal that got four Americans killed in Libya – has no doubt only been emboldened by their success in getting him re-elected.

Whatever this president does in his second term, the most lasting and lamentable legacy may be the kind of news media he leaves behind.

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