Is Oprah Barack Obama's Secret Weapon?

Remember 1998? That was the year The Onion ran this headline:


Oprah Viewers Patiently Awaiting Instructions
Oh how I laughed. ("Funny 'cause it's true!")

Nine years later, a crop of Democratic operatives certainly hope it is.

This Saturday, the talk show host turned monster celebrity will host her first political fundraiser--or as the Washington Post is calling it, a "fundraising affair"--in honor of the man who has become her BFF, presidential candidate and fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama. The previously apolitical Winfrey has thrown her full support behind Obama--"her favorite U.S. senator!" according to her website--and full support means fawning interviews, the cover of O magazine, and, the secondhand adulation of throngs of lonely loyal Oprah fans nationwide.

As Oprah says, "My value to him--my support of him--is probably worth more than any other check that I could write."

Some are skeptical. After all, there's nothing more irritating and disingenuous to the average voter than a celebrity endorsement from a person who is basically richer than God. But Oprah is different. To many, Oprah...sort of is God.

Or at least a minor deity.

"When you think about Oprah's success in selling books, you can't laugh off the fact that she can sway many, many people," former Al Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile told the Post. "She has a very large following--and we're talking about people who hang on her every word."

Pamela Kolb, a homemaker from Mundelein, Illinois, concurs: "What book should I read? What low-fat lemon-bread recipes should I use? What made-for-TV movies should I watch to give me a sense of empowerment? In these complex times, it can be frightening to have to go...without any guidance from a television personality. But we must remain true to Oprah's vision. Our duty is to stay focused and on full alert until new orders are issued."

...Okay, fine, so that last quote is actually from The Onion. But Donna Brazile is right. Just recall the veritable fatwa Oprah issued against the unfortunate James Frey, when his so-called memoir, A Million Little Pieces, turned out to be a million little lies. Oprah, who had anointed his book an Oprah's Book Club Book, thereby rendering it an instant bestseller, was so enraged, she dragged Frey back onto the show, mercilessly grilled him before a seething studio audience (that probably would have tarred and feathered Frey if ordered to do so) and basically conducted the talk show equivalent of waterboarding on his ass. ("You went to the dentist. What's true about the dentist, James??) In the end, she let him live. ("I appreciate you being here because I believe the truth can set you free.") But such was Oprah's wrath and the ensuing scandal, a disclaimer (warning the unsuspecting reader that the contents of the book were fiction and thus did not really happen) was added to future editions of Frey's book.

But I've gone off topic. What I mean to say is that Oprah is, like, scary influential, and her endorsement could mean a lot of support for Obama from the average daytime television viewer.

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