Merciless Punditry

During yesterday’s coverage of the US Presidential election, I was all over nearly every Australian, American and international news service, and of all the talking heads, Al Jazeera had the best. Unable to secure any Democratic pundits, Al Jazeera discussed the election with Mitt Romney adviser/Flash Gordon arch-foe Ming the Merciless. Oddly, they chose to superimpose his picture behind him during the interview.

(If anyone knows the actual name of the guy in question, let me know. I forgot to note it at the time.)

The Barack Obama FAQ

To my American friends:

It’s two days until your Presidential election, and I’m a little concerned. Sure, the electoral maths – or, in your language, ‘math’ – is suggesting that Barack Obama will be getting a second term, it’s not really the lock that it should be.

And though I may not live in your fair land, I do have a vested interest here. Whilst America isn’t quite the centre of the universe many of its citizens (though probably not you) believe it to be, the rest of us non-American countries do tend to feel the impact of your politics and policies. You know, the War on Terror, the Global Financial Crisis, all the fun stuff.

Although we may not actually get a say in whom you elect, we’d at least like to talk to you about it. And according to this BBC poll, the overwhelming majority of us would really like Obama to win. A lot.

So I thought I’d use the Google Autofill function to find out what’s vexing you guys the most. I’m a little surprised to discover what your ten most frequently asked questions are, but I’m happy to help answer them for you. Here is what you’ve been wondering:

1. Is Barack Obama gay?

No. You’re thinking of Harvey Fierstein. I can see why you’d make that mistake, though. Obama was recently called America’s first gay President, but – and this is key – that was due to his support for gay marriage, rather than a personal predilection for, let’s say, Commander-in-Chief action. Remember, Bill Clinton was called America’s first black President, but very few of Google’s users seem confused by Clinton’s skin colour. (For the record, my book of swatches tells me it’s Flustered Horn Blower.) Now, there would be nothing wrong with Obama being gay, but you guys seem to be Googling it a lot and it’s obviously a concern. Obama earned this title by being the first sitting President to come out in favour of gay marriage. Hey, if we’re lucky, your first actually gay President will be named America’s first time-travelling President, and then you’ll really have something to look forward to. Or back to. It’s entirely possible that Abe Lincoln will be born in 2018 and have an accident with the Large Hadron Collider. I just want you to be prepared for all possibilities.

2. Is Barack Obama a Muslim?

No. You’re thinking of Osama Bin Laden, the terrorist leader with the amusingly-similar name, whom Obama eliminated in the exact same way George W Bush failed to do for two full terms. Again, there’s nothing wrong with Obama being a Muslim, but if you’re after a literal yes/no answer, the answer is no.

3. Is Barack Obama a mason?

No. You’re thinking of James Buchanan, your 15th President, who held office from 1857-1861. (And, for the record, he may well have been America’s first actually-gay President.) I know that everything about Obama, from his unlikely background through to his even-more-unlikely name, makes it sound like he must have had the backing of some super-secret, super-powerful organisation in order to become President in the first place, but my basic understanding of these super-secret, super-powerful organisations it that they’re in place to prevent people like him from becoming President at all, so I think we can call that one a no.

4. Is Barack Obama black?

Yes. You are indeed thinking of Barack Obama in this instance. This is one of those times where the answer is self-evident, so I can only assume that this question has arisen from America’s increasingly-prevalent colour blind population.

5. Is Barack Obama a Christian?

Yes. Two in a row! You’re getting good at this. Yes, Barack Obama is a Christian. And not one of those crazy ones who distorts his religion’s intent in order to justify horrible policies, but one of those reassuringly-lapsed ones who pays lip service to his religion without coming across as being particularly committed to it. Which may sound bad to you if you’re a Born Again, but it’s positively reassuring to the rest of us.

6. Is Barack Obama left-handed?

Yes. Although I had to Google that myself to be sure. Not entirely sure why that’s your sixth biggest concern/query about the most powerful person in your country, but my role is not to judge. Not yet. We’ll get to the judging later.

7. Is Barack Obama a US citizen?

Yes. You know that Constitution thing you have which states that only US citizens can become President? That’s your first clue. Your second is all the overwhelming evidence that he was born in Hawaii, which is a part of your country. So why all the confusion? Well, you’ll need to refer back to question four. The confusion certainly isn’t stemming from the fact that his father was born in another country. After all, Mitt Romney’s father was born in Mexico, and nobody’s braying for Mitt’s long-form birth certificate, are they?

8. Is Barack Obama a communist?

No, you’re thinking of Joseph Stalin. If Obama was a communist, he would have slipped up at some point and revealed his hand, like saying ‘yes’ when someone asked ‘are you a communist?’. If he was a sleeper communist – and I’m assuming that’s a thing – and he was waiting for the right time to strike, surely he would have done so upon becoming President. Really, what’s keeping him? What’s the bigger play here? Is his true plan to create a Maoist Presidential library? If so, the pervasive spread of the Red Menace sure isn’t what is used to be.

9. Is Barack Obama a millionaire?

Yes. Although, impressively, he managed to become one without either inheriting it or acting like a parasitic venture capitalist who refused to reveal most of his tax returns because for fifteen years he wasn’t paying any. Obama’s two books, Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope, sold rather well, and he became a millionaire just before becoming President. And, as a bonus, here are his tax returns stretching back over more than a decade.

10. Is Barack Obama a socialist?

No, you’re thinking of socialists. The thing is, unless you’re prepared to privatise everything – from the army to the police force to disaster relief – you’re probably a teensy bit of a socialist yourself, and that’s no bad thing. The system in America (and, hey, Australia!) has in place a mixture of socialism and capitalism, and a violent lurch to either one would be disastrous. And as someone who lives in a country where a visit to the Emergency Room doesn’t result in crippling debt, I can tell you that taking vital services out of the hands of companies whose primary legal obligation is turning a profit does not impinge on our basic freedoms the way many in your otherwise-lovely country seem to think. But if you’re worried that Obama is trying smother your country in governance and federalism, you should know that George W Bush oversaw the largest increase of government in seven decades. So if you weren’t worried about socialism under Bush, then you’ve really got nothing to worry about from Obama.

I hope that’s helped to clear up some confusion. Now that you have a better understanding of the person you voted in four years ago and who has since been the most prominent figure in the world in that time, I hope you feel that you are informed enough to go out and vote.

Yours anxiously,