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The American Idol’s Poker Face

February 3, 2008
In the Feb. 4, 2008 edition of The New Yorker, James McManus uses his love for poker in order to sell Senator Barack Obama to voters before Super Tuesday. Of course, McManus never comes right out and says it, but it is evident throughout his little sycophantic valentine. Actually, I find it a little disingenuous; why not just say he is in love with the man instead of trying the old subliminal drive-in movie trick. I told you Obama is being sold as the man to party with, —paint him into the velvet painting of poker night with the boys and Citizen Q has an instant new mate.

First, we are treated to some good old fashion name-dropping. McManus tells us that other great historical figures who played poker thus placing Obama in good company are, “Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Warren Harding, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and Richard Nixon.” No worries if Nixon is used as a doppelganger of Obama, revisionists will spin Nixon’s legacy to fit the bill the way Reagan is being sold as the ultimate man’s man. If you are old enough to remember that nauseous carnival ride, it will be explained away with no problem. Your memory is not your memory.

Next, if you have an objection to poker, politicking after hours or Obama’s history of opposing the expansion of legal gambling, don’t worry, McManus has a rationalisation for that as well, “And, like Teddy Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, Senator Obama seem to have played the game at least partly because it enabled him to form political alliances that he might not otherwise have formed.” See, he had to play, he did it for his constituents. That was so thoughtful of Obama to gather around with other men, perpetuating patriarchal norms in order to benefit the little people. His poker playing came in handy when “soybean farmers viewed him as an overeducated bleeding heart and a greenhorn,” nothing like a game of poker to seal the divide with supposedly polar ideologies and interests: one winner, the rest losers, bluffing, posturing, flinching, lost wages, etc.

However, McManus is contradicted by Terry Link, although I suspect Link is also trying very hard to make Obama appeal to the manly men. Referring to the poker games Link says, “You hung up your guns at the door. Nobody talked about their jobs or politics, and certainly no ‘influence’ was bartered or even discussed. It was boys’ night out—a release from our legislative responsibilities.” Okay, so if it was no influence or political conversation then what’s that whole bit about wooing downstate soybean farmers and the Chicago machine pols.

Just to prove how popular and well-liked Obama is among men of every stripe, we are informed how an innocent little regular five player game quickly turned into the numero uno place to be. So in demand, it required a waiting list. Yes, a waiting list. Those striving to get in to the prime party were not all overeducated bleeding hearts but “Republicans and lobbyists” as well. Whom do the modern lobbyists work for nowadays? I forget, the occupation is often romanticised in textbooks as the small shop owner who was once so enraged by big businesses that he threw himself into changing the hearts and minds of all the politicians. Is that still the case?

Wait it’s not over, Obama is not all about the menz, there is the whole code of conduct on how the ladies need to behave, “When a married lobbyist arrived at a Springfield game with a person described as ‘an inebriated woman companion who did not acquit herself in a particularly wholesome fashion,’ Obama made a face indicating that he wasn’t please. Link says that the lobbyist and his date were ‘quickly whisked out of the place.’” Sounds like a scene from the Godfather. Obama does not even speak, he just makes a face and the boys handle the dirt. Nonetheless, that little quotes needs examined. We are told the lobbyist is married, but the sentence does not make it clear if the inebriated woman is his wife. Companions seem like an odd word to mean wife, fiancé, girlfriend or any other nomenclatures acceptable in the heteropatirachal world of coupling. Is she an extramarital affair, a prostitute? What? At first, I even considered a homosexual lover but my mind was straightened when the word woman preceded companion. So what is really being said here? Obama could have care less if the men were cheating on their wives, engaging in prostitution or flaunting extramarital affairs (look at this dish boys!). He did not even demand that they not bring this immoral conduct around him; he only demanded that the woman acquit herself in a wholesome fashion! Ah. Look the part, who cares if you are the part, but look the part. Know your place woman.

The rest of McManus’s treacle comment has a few historical analogies with mundane poker insertions until the crown jewel tops the long awe-inducing love fest into its conclusion with, “On the campaign trail, Obama has been known to play Uno with his daughters, but no card games involving chips. It may be that his advisers are being cautious. In some forms, poker, after all, remains illegal in much of the country.” He understands how one must look like they are doing the proper thing while others are watching but, do something else behind closed doors.

Playing poker is code for men among men. I don’t care how many women play poker, the number is inconsequential in the grander scheme. Do you think Senator Clinton would host poker parties? She has work to do, no time for fraternising with the manly menz. She would more likely throw in her ten or twenty dollars for one of those twenty-four hour casino trips. You know the kind. Back in the day, the casinos wanted business because casinos were not on every corner. So the casinos would pay for a charter bus for any group who could round up a specific number. Each person would get a pass for a buffet lunch and so many chips. The bus pulls out of whatever designated spot shortly before 2:00 am arriving home the following morning right before 2:00 am. Every one will lose their little begged borrowed or stolen twenty-five or fifty dollars and sister stank attitude wins the jackpot with one lousy quarter right after you finished off your whole bucket of coins. On the ride home, she had the nerve to be all happy and talk about how she planned on giving the money to her pastor come Monday morning.

~Simon Cowell, American Idol Judge

*This is not a political endorsement for anyone in particular, just saying. And don’t talk about no damn issues. It’s the insulting that’s kewl.
  1. A-mazing Amazon permalink
    February 7, 2008 1:00 am

    i was totally with you when this was just signed “Simon”. 😉 i used to be addicted to American Idol. i love to sing and hold on to some kind of dream of…..yyyeah, anyway. whatever my dreams are, they don’t involve selling my soul to Simon.

    your writings make me giddy sometimes. i don’t know what to say. i just love this post.

  2. Kitty Glendower permalink
    February 7, 2008 2:57 am

    You are so good to me, stop, no, go on….LOL! I started to leave it at Simon but I am often accused of being too subtle or expecting everyone to get the super light allusions that I draw from, so I am trying to bring more people into the fold, to convince others why I often slay myself while being dead serious.

    This is “look like one thing but be something else behind closed doors” is like your neighbor’s daughter’s husband, the cop.

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