America’s National Casting Session.

Michelle Obama’s convention speech was a failure in one way, and a grand success in another.

As an attempt to erase the unfortunate aftertaste of that “first time I’m really proud to be an American” remark, it was too transparently calculated to be convincing. If I can see the ropes and pulleys behind last night’s “that is why I love this country”—and I can—then by definition it is unsuccessful as an act of contrition.

However, if you view her speech not as an attempt to persuade anyone of her real convictions, or to present her true self, but rather as an audition for the role of First Lady, it was a stunning success. You could see her as First Lady. She’ll be charming. She’s smart. She’s assertive. Stylish. She has a sense of humor. She’ll be an inspiring example at home, and a great ambassador abroad. You know you can enjoy her in the role for the next four years. Okay, done. The audition was an unqualified success. And the daughters she’s bringing along as part of the deal—they’re great, too.

Good auditions are what we want, not just from our potential first ladies but from our prospective presidents. This isn’t a campaign that’s happening now. It’s a quadrennial national casting session we conduct. And that doesn’t make it superficial. When you cast a movie, everything rides on your choice; will you end up with the blockbuster of the summer, or will your movie go straight to Blockbuster? 90% is in the casting.

We look at candidates and we ask ourselves, “Hmm, can I see him in the part? If I project a few months out, and envision this guy taking the oath of office, do I feel good? Does it feel right, imagining the things this guy will say in his State of the Union addresses? Most crucial of all, do I see a happy ending to America’s movie because of him, and will I want a sequel?” This is not a bad way to choose a president, and it’s a good thing that it’s not, because it’s what we do.

Since our candidates are actors in audition, we don’t ask them to believe the words they are saying. That is irrelevant. We only ask that they make a good show of believing the words they are saying.

As far as I’m concerned, Michelle Obama’s got the part. Next.


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