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If Hillary Clinton could deliver a political speech half as effectively as Oprah Winfrey, she might be president today.

Rich Lowry mug

Rich Lowry

The actress, media mogul and erstwhile queen of daytime TV gave what, if she ever becomes president, will be known to history as the Golden Globes Address. The first de facto convention speech ever delivered at an awards show, it brought down the house and predictably stoked talk of Oprah 2020, with people close to her fueling the speculation.

In the era Before Trump, this would have been risible. Once upon a time, military service, political experience, a policy portfolio and national-security chops were mandatory to plausibly run for president. That time feels like a long time ago. Now, when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who has mused about running himself, stood and applauded Oprah’s speech, you could see the early pecking order of a potential Democratic nomination battle establishing itself (“The Rock” would be a second-tier candidate).

What Donald Trump proved is that a celebrity with charisma, performative ability and gobs of free media can, in the right circumstances, stomp conventional politicians who lack all three. People who were merely governors and senators, who had never really performed on a big stage or truly mastered the media (they were just politicians, after all), stood at a distinct disadvantage.

It’s very easy to see Oprah Winfrey doing to the likes of New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand what Donald Trump did to the likes of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

A common cold-water argument against Oprah running is that Democrats will want the opposite of Trump in 2020, an experienced, boring politico who’s well-versed in the issues and a reliably competent executive. This line works on paper. Republicans said the same thing about Barack Obama, who prior to 2008 had come as close to genuine celebrityhood as a working politician can get. Yet Donald Trump succeeded where the worthy, earnest, managerial Mitt Romney failed.

On the current trajectory, what Democrats will most need in 2020 is someone with a big enough personality that Trump can’t diminish and negatively brand him or her. This is what he did with the rest of the Republican field and Hillary Clinton in 2016, and he easily could do the same against “Pocahontas,” aka Elizabeth Warren, and “Crazy Bernie” Sanders.

Oprah, used to commanding a massive microphone and managing a matchless brand, might be relatively immune to this treatment. She could try Obama’s tack of running to the left substantively and to the center stylistically. She’d be the empathetic healer, the advocate of abused women, running to make history in the shadow of the civil-rights movement.

If, that is, she’s truly interested. Even the best campaigns have down cycles and bring humiliations of the sort celebrities usually avoid. Why would Oprah, who at the moment never has to encounter anyone who isn’t in awe of her, want to sign up for that?

Half the country would, by definition, begin to dislike her. She would have to fight with that part of the Democratic base committed to Bernie Sanders and suspicious of her as a Hollywood billionaire. She’d experience something that she’s never truly had to encounter: negative press.

For the first time, she wouldn’t be completely in control of her own image. She’d have to answer for her promotion of kooky products and theories over the years, and open up more about a private life that has been almost entirely shielded from public view.

If you believe Michael Wolff, Trump conceived of a presidential run as a way, if all else failed, to enhance his brand. Oprah’s brand needs no such enhancing. If she ran and lost, she’d become a failed presidential candidate and could presumably never quite return to being Oprah Winfrey again.

In short, there are compelling reasons for her not to make the plunge. The inherent absurdity of the idea is not one of them.


Photos: Oprah Winfrey through the years

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Syndicated columnist Rich Lowry can be reached at comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.

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(29) comments

johnnybragatti


Ms. Winfrey is a self -made billionaire, which means ,in laymans"terms ":she did it on her own". You could say: "she worked her way up the American success ladder".,
as opposed to the current American pres., a racketeer,money-launderer and callusionaire.

Snow Cougar Mary Burke

*Oprah for President????

The trib-libs need stop drinking the Brawndo (the thirst mutilator).

*This message was brought to you by Carl's Jr.

oldhomey

No your message was bought and paid for by the Koch brothers who paid you for your work on these posts, Snow.

Cassandra

"...a celebrity with charisma, performative ability and gobs of free media can, in the right circumstances, stomp conventional politicians ..." but still not have the mental capacity to govern, or even be a decent human being.

Rick Czeczok

Wow that's different, everything you stated sounds like the guy you were and are so against. Kind of hypocritical, but so is hiding behind a false name and a false gender name.
Stop hiding and use your real name buddy boy.....

kingman10

I guess you don't know irony when you see it rick, or whatever your real name is. Doesn't matter, using a screen name is a safe alternative from crack pots like you.

Rick Czeczok

You know my real name it's on top of all my posts. As you must have something to fear to hide behind your name. Might it be all the sarcastic, attacking, name calling and all things that are so easy hiding behind a curtain of lies and deceit.
Please don't write me if you are so afraid of who you really are.
My name has always been on the top of my posts and I have never been bothered, but then I treat most people with respect. Something I am really finding hard to do with a few of you, that are always complaining, using sarcasm as there protective front and having very little empathy for anyone. Now attach, attach, attach, didn't see that coming. HA HA HA

oldhomey

Duh. Rick, perhaps you should retire to the sidelines. You chose to use your real name, then you show extreme stupidity in your posts, like your 3:19pm post.

Rick Czeczok

There's kings counterpart, now we have all three of them on board. Attack, attack,
attack. Well old boy with the stinky brain Cassy figured it out, now read it, again read it,,,,,,again, did you get the satire yet. Ok, take your meds they will help you stay on subject and let some of that bitterness go away. The Dr. says it's time for your stinky brain bath.

kingman10

oh poor rick- what ever you name is, you accuse people of the same thing you are doing, attack attack!!! You want to use your real name, go ahead, doesn't change a thing, don't expect the rest of us to do the same. You don't set the rules, even though you keep trying. I chose to use a screen name, my cia and deep state covert activities make it necessary to use various aliases in order to carry out my mission and protect national security interests. So maybe you better step on the sidelines and retire.

oldhomey

Here is your calm, well-reasoned, purely observational first post on this string, Rick. No attacking or name-calling in YOUR post! No siree!:

Rick Czeczok Jan 10, 2018 3:19pm

Wow that's different, everything you stated sounds like the guy you were and are so against. Kind of hypocritical, but so is hiding behind a false name and a false gender name.
Stop hiding and use your real name buddy boy.....

johnnybragatti

Sounds like an ethnic gig,which is never good, when the boulder is on your shoulder.

Rick Czeczok

She has stated unequivocally "I will never run for a political office".

oldhomey

Rick, I am upfront in my opposition to Oprah running, but to criticizer her for that quote, you had better be prepared to be inundated with decades of videotaped statements from Trump saying he would be interested in running, then saying he had no interest in running. In fact, that would be true of most of our past presidents, too.

But you're Rick Czeczok. You use your REAL name on the posts that make you look both stupid and petty.

oldhomey

Please, Tribune, put the album of Oprah photos in its own slot and get them off of this comment string. For one thing, it plays right into this sick American fascination of entertainment celebrities that is now dangerously spilling over into our political life. I am sure, as others have said, that Oprah is herself a supremely honest, admirable and worthy human being with extraordinary talent and intelligence. I like her and admire her. I certainly, however, don't want her running for president. Somehow all this Trump Vs. Oprah talk makes me think of Nathaneal West's brilliant 80-year-old novel about American celebrity worship, "Day of the Locust". Here is a nice, terse plot summary (not mine): "This undercurrent of society captures the despair of Americans who worked and saved their entire lives only to realize, too late, that the American dream was more elusive than they imagine. Their anger boils into rage, and the craze over the latest Hollywood premiere erupts violently into mob rule and absolute chaos."

I would not be so quick to dismiss the idea that she could make a run and be accepted by rank and file Democratic voters as their candidate. It would sicken me if it happens, but I am stunned by the popularity of the idea expressed since her speech after, of all things, receiving a Golden Globe Award. Good speech but this, ladies and gentlemen, should not be a forum to launch a presidential campaign. And Democrats who rightly saw the danger of electing a Republican show biz personality who had no government experience, no training for the job, no background in national and international. The GOP candidate came with the added baggage of having no personality, no scruples, no sense of curiosity and no inclination to grow and change. I think Oprah is far superior to Donald as a human being, but she is not prepared for the presidency, either. Please. Let us return to sanity before it is too late.

kingman10

probably the dumbest column Lowry has written in a long time. No one is taking Oprah seriously except the hard right trying to conjure up a celebrity candidate just like they did with Trump. Now they are stuck with him and hope the other party makes the same mistake.

Rick Czeczok

What? Boy if you have nothing to write, just don't write.

Cassandra

Take your own advice.

Rick Czeczok

Oh, look it's the man behind the girls name. FAKE FAKE FAKE!!!!!

kingman10

oh look its rick again, the school yard bully trying to impress someone-anyone. Not working, stop trying.

Hey19

oh, my! i spy!
kingman tweaked his standard go-to playbook response of "alt right" to say "hard right."
very good, kingman. variety is the spice of life... lol

Rick Czeczok

Kingboy, I only attach when ganged up on by the same 4 people who drove so many people off this board. Is it possible you guys are with the democratic party HMMM. That makes more sense then ever. I will stop answering anything you write because I know your message of insult, negative thoughts, never see good in anything anyone else says and posting facts that only you can find. So if I see you insulting someone I will give you what you deserve. And that by the way is not much.

oldhomey

Who was ever "driven off" this board by a gang of liberal bullies, Rick. Name some of them. I don't recall any.

oldhomey

We haven't seen your list of names, yet, Rick. Is it coming, or is it nonexistent because you made up this accusation?

kingman10

my goodness, Rick whatever his name is, is the self appointed enforcer on these boards now. Well that must be a step up from the manure hole you crawled out of. Well I will disagree with whoever I wish and there aint a thing you can do about it but whine. You must be with the republican party HMMM. That makes more sense than ever. Well good for you, glad you found some employment, and something to occupy your time between belching and crushing beer cans against your forehead.

Kronosaurus

Don't listen to him. The right is egging the Dems on to get Oprah to run. She is not worthy. She exploits people with quacks like Dr. Phil and that Oz guy. Not worthy. Great entertainer, great person, but not worthy of being president. It's the Republicans' way of feeling good about themselves for voting in that fool Trump. If Dems get behind Oprah they just validate the stupidity of the GOP.

tower

Totally agree. We can see the chaos we get by electing a totally unqualified idiot to the office. Being a businessman does mean krap when running a country. Neither does being a celebrity. Though she could easily do better than dotard. He set the bar really low.

new2Lax

Looks like in the case of the Trumpster,you got it wrong again. Now that he got NK and SK to sit down and negotiate,only Trump could pull this off. I don’t want to go over the economy, GDP is now expected to exceed 4% 2018, something you never seen in the prior 8 years, lowest unemployment in 17 years, highest consumer sentiment in 17 years, illegal immigration down by 70%, lower taxes, finally investigating the Clinton Foundation pay to lay, Clinton email server with Huma Abdein and Carlos Danger, the FBI’s Andrew McCAbe, Peter Strzok @nd his girl friend Lisa Page, Fusion GPS and the dossier, DOJ’s Bruce Ohr and his wife an employee Of Fusion GPS, Jim Comey,
, the IRS’sLois Lerner. So I’ll take this @nytime.

oldhomey

You forgot your $2,500, new2. You usually squeeze in that false talking point, too.

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