Okay, Obama is a Celebrity -- But What's So Wrong With That?

Oops! Anna Wintour and Sarah Jessica Parker announced a glitzy Obama fundraiser on a bleak economic news day

Let’s recap: On Friday, a bleak jobs report came out for May, sending the stock market into freefall. For Americans suffering economic burdens, it wasn’t exactly T.G.I.F. material.

Here’s what else happened that day: Actress Sarah Jessica Parker and Vogue editor Anna Wintour announced they are hosting a glitzy fundraising dinner for the president in New York next week, and they took to the media, inviting supporters to enter an online competition for tickets. Wintour courted support for the event in a Web video, and S.J.P. lent her image to commercials that ran during the MTV Movie Awards last night, coolly (or at least trying-to-be-cool-ly) referring to Obama as “that guy” when referencing his accomplishments.

Translation: Barack Obama is every bit the celebrity-aligned president Mitt Romney claims he is, playing on the same angle John McCain used in the last election cycle. But what’s so wrong with that?

Obama was the guest of honor last month at what was probably the biggest presidential fund-raiser in American history: a star-mobbed dinner at George Clooney’s L.A. home that brought in as much as $15 million. That showy event alone—neatly timed the day after the president announced his support for gay marriage—demonstrated Obama had embraced his celebrity status once and for all. And it also showed that Hollywood, after a period of tepid support, embraced him right back.

If Obama looks like a celebrity, quacks like a celebrity, and hangs out with celebrities, he obviously is one—and as a strategy, it’s working. First, America loves its stars, even if the relationship is a love-to-hate one. (Hello, Kardashians.) Second, the president’s Hollywood-backed fundraisers are undeniably bringing in huge bucks.

Romney’s campaign jumped all over Friday’s fundraiser announcement to underscore the candidate's message about the negative implications of Obama’s celebrity, juxtaposing Wintour’s video against messages about the suffering wrought by the economic crisis. Text at the end of the ad read, “Obama's focused on keeping his job. But what about yours?” (Fair enough: After the jobs report, the timing of the new fund-raiser ads was—ahem—not ideal.)

But for all of Romney’s demonizing of the so-called celebrity president, Obama’s fundraising approach is bolstering a reputation among young people that his challenger couldn’t conjure with a crystal ball. Unfortunately for Romney, he’s so far from being able to court the MTV Movie Awards crowd that his only option is to ridicule and rebuke “that guy” who can.

Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles-based writer.

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