Capital Steps is a legendary political satire that has played in Washington DC for the past 25 years. It began when a group of senate staffers set out to satirize the people they worked for. It is biting, sarcastic, really takes the mickey out of the politicos in Washington, very irreverent (there are no holy cows), and updated regularly to spoof on the latest world events.
I was fortunate to have seen a performance in June this year and laughed my sides out. How I wished we could pull off something like that in Delhi but all our holy cows would bleat and be offended and a show like capital steps would be “persuaded” to shut down or tone down.
The night I saw the performance, attended by Congressmen, senators, journalists and academics, there were jokes aplenty and innuendoes about “frigid” Hillary interacting with husband Bill Clinton and freezing world leaders. There were skits on the economy, US engagement with with Iran and North Korea, Republican scandals, George W and Dick Cheney reminiscing about their legacy and so on.
But till this summer Barack Obama had not proved humour- worthy. So the Capital Steps instead pilloried the ditzy Washington press core that was so starry eyed about him. A gaggle of scribes were shown falling over each other to get close to the president as they sang “Obama Mia” set to the tune of the Abba classic “Mama Mia”.
Now that Obama has become a Nobel laureate, I would love to see the show. In one stroke he’s become the butt of jokes and been weighed down by the burden of expectation placed on him by the five gentleman from Norway who comprise the Nobel committee.
My 10-year old daughter asked me why I was criticizing Obama getting a prize when I usually sing praises of him. I explained in childspeak that five men from Lapland, the land where Santa Claus comes from, gave Obama the wrong present some months before Christmas. The kid got the joke and grinned, “you mean they were bad elves”!
Yes, very bad elves. Till now Obama was being attacked by the right wing that was getting more and more hysterical over policy reforms, particularly health care, an issue that Americans get all charged up about. Post Nobel, the man is being pilloried by the very lot of TV hosts and journalists who support him. My favourite in the US is the ultra liberal Bill Maher who is both delightfully funny in his commentary and incisive in his interviews and debates. Here’s what he had to say: “Obama said he will attend the ceremony in Oslo to accept the peace prize if he’s not too busy with the two wars he is conducting.”
But the best line has come from the Saturday Night Live show that declared, “Obama won the Nobel for not being George Bush!” That’s both funny and true. Like most Europeans (and most of the world, actually) the earnest Norwegians were no doubt celebrating the fact that, hey, Bush is gone.
And Obama is not merely "not George Bush". If we look at the galaxy of world leaders, he still stands out for his civility, and the dignified and charming manner in which he and wife Michelle carry themselves. We have Gordon Brown of the UK being so dull and stodgy, Nicholas Sarkozy of France being towered over by his glamorous wife, Silvio Berlosconi’s endless saga of cheap one night stands... No wonder Obama looks like a saint to the five men in a cold Nordic country.
The leadership standards across the globe are certainly not inspirational. The Muslim world is ruled by despots and dictators, the Chinese leadership incomprehensible to most of us, Africa a great mess. Then there is Russian prime minister (formerly president) Vladimir Putin. His countrymen apparently hold him in high regard but he comes through as a bully to the rest of the world, fighting a cruel war in Chechnya and always trying to bulldoze former Soviet republics. Putin deliberately seeks the macho man image and recently posed exposing his bare chest and strutting around like GI Joe during a vacation where he apparently did so many manly things.
Compared to all these leaders, Obama is a gentleman (besides the fact that he is a black man in the White House). Yet the Nobel peace prize will remain controversial. There are some controversial and towering personalities still on the world stage who have commented on Obama and his Nobel. Here’s what the US baiting socialist president of Venezuala, Hugo Chavez wrote in a column: “It’s like giving a baseball pitcher a prize for just saying he was going to win 50 games and strike out 500 batters…”
But the legendary Fidel Castro saw it differently although he is close to Chavez. He described the Nobel for the American president as a “positive move that implies criticism of the genocidal policies of Obama’s predecessors.”
In other words, Castro also believes that Obama got the Nobel for not being George Bush.