You write a story in the morning on a dead news day, you go to lunch, you come back and the whole world’s gone haywire. To whit: your correspondent drafted a careful pseffe… sephologi… fseffepho… electoral analysis of some swing state demographics, and had no sooner sent it off than the networks go haywire with some advance copies of the Obama family interviews given for — seriously — Access Hollywood channel, which will be airing tomorrow.

Having said he wouldn’t put his family front and centre during the campaign, Obama has done another brilliant/cynical switcheroo depending on your politics, and done an extended family interview lolling on the lawn in weekend casual clothes, the Obamas’ two daughters talking about how the best thing about going to the White House would be that “you get to decorate your own room” and “we can get a dog!”.

God, it was good. God it made me feel sorry for John McCain. The whole thing will further ram home the basic difference between Obama and McCain to millions of middle-American voters: we, the Obamas, are suburban parents just like you — young, vigorous, beautiful, in the prime of our lives, still living it. Of particular brilliance was the exchange between Malia Ann, the Obamas’ ten-year-old, chiding her father: “Daddy, you always leave…” “Oh, here we go,” says Barack, smiling, Malia continues: “you always leave your bag in the hall and I trip over it.”

Though Fox News may try and spin that last line as “Obama endangers daughter”, I suspect that it, and the whole interview, will go down in history as Obama’s Kennedy moment. And not merely a simulacrum of such — this is really our first look at a black first family. God they look so good, so fresh and cool.

The McCains, meanwhile, are looking less like the first family, than one-half of the casting of a Malvern Amateur Theatre Company version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. They’re that old couple who live next door in the big place from which you can occasionally hear raised voices (“at least I don’t paint my face like a f-ing trollop, you c-nt” is the one all the neighbourhood kids remember).

Their adult kids visit sometimes. He was something in the Navy. She’s, well, she’s had a little (make hand sign of shaking ice in an empty glass) problem, or something of the sort. Sometimes when she comes to the door in one of her red-leather jackets — we think it’s an Arizona thing — you can see the mascara’s run in the tracks of the tears. This couple is not a potential first family, they’re the middle chapters of a Larry McMurtry novel.

McCain, poor sod, like Orwell’s elephant, will age instantly as soon as this interview hits the news cycle. He’s already old and white — in the backwash from the Beautiful Baracks, he’s going to look like one of those Arcimboldo pix — “Man composed entirely of frozen chicken parts”. He’s developed a low key style of press conference, where he natters on to journos while slurping from a Starbucks bucket-o-joe on the rockstar bus couches in the Straight Talk Express. In the wake of the Obamas’ interview, he’s gone to look less like one of the boys in the back of the bus, and more like the old codger at the diner counter hanging around waiting for someone to talk to.

God knows it couldn’t get much worse for McCain. Today, for the second day in a row, the Iraqi government said they wouldn’t sign any continuing memorandum on forces without it including an explicit withdrawal timetable.

God knows what McCain did when he first heard that. The White House called the first announcement “an error in translation”, so the Iraqi government said it again the next day. In retrospect it vindicates McCain strategically, but who lives in retrospect? He’s backed the farm on transcendental threats and Iraq as a place we’ll be for a long, long time, and now the entire nation is chucking the Yanks out.

But seriously that’s the least of his worries, when you look at that interview. Even the story about the interview is good — that the Access Hollywood team, originally contracted to interview Mr and Ms Obama were setting up, “and the daughters just wedged themselves in between us.”

Well, either that’s true, or these daughters are trained girlbots, part of the Obama vast left-wing conspiracy, fed instructions (“squirm cutely Malia”) from the DNC’s mountain eyrie. Oh! And grand slam! Sasha (the six-year-old’s) birthday is July 4. I submit to you, ladies and gentlemen, that if that wasn’t planned, it is a sign from God that he was meant to be President, and that if it was planned, any couple who can hit that day on the money is either using some magical Kenyan folk medicine — creams from my father — or is so goddam on top of everything that we may as well let them run the UN as well.

MSNBC is running Obama family interview excerpts now, all the commentators are smiling and laughing, amidst all the hostility and drek, even while the dust moves, there rises the hidden laughter of children in the foliage quick, now, here, now, always… And I suspect, the nation, watching the Obama family interview will think as one, “if we follow them home, can they keep us?”.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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