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Marvin Kitman Headshot

Oh, No, Oprah

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Television and politics are closely related, an example of which is Oprah Winfrey becoming the Boss Tweed of the 2008 election now that she's decided to produce The Barack Obama Show.

Not since William Howard Taft decided to run for re-election in 1912 has so much weight been thrown into a presidential campaign.

Oprah coming out of the closet and announcing she will openly work for Obama in New Hampshire and other primaries has created shock and awe in the think tanks of candidates of all persuasions, especially in the Clinton camp.

What do I think of this possible turning point in the race?

Well, if I was an Obama partisan, it would be enough to make a person eat a marshmallow hot dog, smothered in maple syrup, or whatever else it took to get the nation's leading talk show host to regain the 67 pounds that she once considered her best fighting weight.

With the open mind of an objective non-partisan journalist, this is how I see the biggest news of the media campaign so far and its impact on the two Big O's.

Obviously, Oprah has shown very good judgment in establishing a school for girls in Africa, which turned out to be a good place for girls to be sexually assaulted.

She's put people on her shows who turned out to be frauds and conmen, from doctors who didn't have the proper credentials to authors who made up their supposed non-fiction.

For me the idea of Oprah throwing her considerable weight behind Obama might be a very good reason to vote for someone else.

On the other hand, she can't be discounted. She has a tremendous following, the so-called lemming vote.

Many TV viewers would follow her if she said, "Vote for Hitler. He's kind to his dogs."

Not to compare Obama with Hitler.

She tells people what to think, what to wear, what to take if they are sick with colds.

So what if Airborne, one of the breakthroughs in modern medical science she promoted, turned out to be nothing but a bunch of vitamins. Nevertheless, it suddenly sold like hotcakes. Oprah's cold remedy is more effective than the "I'm- Not- a- Doctor- I- Just- Look- Like- One" school of medicine in TV commercials.

She solves America's moral issues. Oprah made it okay for Ellen to be gay back in the 1990s.

She's the nation's school mistress today, scolding those who violate the unwritten laws of Oprah's Code, more powerful than the Napoleonic Code (except in Louisiana) She excoriates those who misbehave in public, and praises those who are examples of self-reliance and moral rectitude. She's the wagging finger of America today.

Oprah has more influence, I dare say, than the President of the United States.

I can see why she takes herself in politics as seriously as Sean Penn.

Still I worry about Oprah taking off her TV work clothes and rolling around in mud with other pols and their media manipulators.

What if Obama turns out to be the next James Frey (Oprah Book Club #54)? What if the campaign speeches turn out to be a million little pieces of phony campaign rhetoric, or even worse, stretching the truth beyond its usual limits in political races?

Will he need to go on the Oprah show and apologize to Oprah and the electorate for misleading them?

For example, would he sit down on the couch with Ms. Morality and retract the remark he made about how as president he would bomb Pakistan if they didn't go after Al Qaeda sufficiently.

Would he admit that he didn't know what he was talking about at that point in time, or that he was just shooting from the lip?

There is historical precedent. George Romney, who many think was Mitt's father, went on television and admitted he was brainwashed in Vietnam. I always thought that was the pivotal moment in the 1968 campaign.

If Oprah had remained on the sidelines, her show might be a good place for all politicians to confess their sins, a real contribution to democratic discourse.

I worry that Oprah's public endorsement of a political candidate might be her moment of hubris. She may now have finally jumped the shark. This could prove to the world that Oprah has no clothes, which would be a terrible thing. Up to now she has been Grande Dame of talk show hosts, heiress to Virginia Graham's crown.

I especially worry about her future on TV. How else will I know what book to read? I'd be wandering around aimlessly in Barnes & Noble's or Border's, picking whatever seemed interesting or aroused my curiosity. What a waste of time that would be.