I recently sat down to watch one of my favorite movies, Chicago, for the 127th time (or thereabouts) and I was suddenly struck by a bizarre revelation: President Barrack Obama, who learned the art of politics in Chicago, is the real life Billy Flynn.
For those of you who need reminding – Chicago is a story of jazz, liquor, sex and murder in 1920’s Chicago. Through the eyes of the heroine-murderess, Roxie Hart, the audience learns of the corruption and manipulation that is prevalent throughout the city. The master of all this intrigue is Billy Flynn, the big city lawyer who has never lost a case. Billy knows and understands the Chicago system better than anyone else; and Billy, himself, is the primary beneficiary of his considerable skills.
Billy is first introduced to us in his extravagant number “All I Care About.” The parallels to 2008 Obama are tremendous. Just as Billy does in the movie, Obama assured us that all he cares about is love. He wants to change the culture in Washington for the better: there is no red America; there is no blue America; there is only the United States of America. He is caring and considerate; he is a crusader for justice. However, in the film, we quickly learn that you can only get Billy’s attention if you have $5000. Correspondingly, in 2008, Obama wanted us to believe in his benevolence by refusing public campaign finance money while modestly securing more than $1 billion for his campaign – more than any other presidential candidate before him.
Billy’s next number is “We Both Reached for the Gun.” Billy understands that Roxie needs to gain the city’s sympathy if he is to win her acquittal, so Billy has quietly concocted a fantasy of events that led to Fred Casley’s death by gunshot. Now he needs to sell it to the press. He does this at a press conference outside the courthouse steps where Billy, the master puppeteer, pulls the strings as the reporters type their stories. Again, the similarities with President Obama are astonishing. Every utterance of Obama and his subordinates is taken as gospel by the acquiescent media. Obama always has the best intentions for everything he does. The media seldom questions Obama’s motives, assumptions, facts or conclusions. Obama can pull those strings as proficiently as Billy.
Billy is also the master of “Razzle Dazzle.” At Roxie’s trial, Billy’s skills are especially evident. He is able to confuse the obvious and twist the undeniable. And if he ever gets into any trouble, he breaks into his tap dance, changing our focus and attention to something more spectacular. (“Long as you keep ’em way off balance, How can they spot you’ve got no talent.”) Certainly the comparisons to President Obama are beyond doubt. A terrorist attack in Benghazi becomes a hateful, anti-Moslem video; an IRS witch hunt against the Tea Party becomes overenthusiastic bureaucrats hidden in the bowels of the Cincinnati office. And when the healthcare.gov website becomes an embarrassment, he will shift our focus to the more ‘critical’ issues of the day: income inequality, gun control and climate change. If Billy were around, he would be applauding President Obama’s talents.
Yes, President Obama is the real life Billy Flynn. He endears us by gaining our sympathy and promising to reconstruct a better world while all along plotting his own partisan objectives. He manipulates the media to present a world as he wants it seen, not as it actually exists. And he obfuscates and bewilders when necessary if this will advance his goals or deflect criticism. Both President Obama and Billy Flynn are remarkable men. Too bad President Obama is much more than a character in a cinematographic masterpiece.