Gerard Baker compares the relative merits of the celebrity endorsements that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton just scored, Oprah Winfrey and Barbara Streisand respectively, and judges the probable impact of each. Decision: Obama got the better deal by far.
Streisand long ago crossed the blurry boundary between celebrity and politics. She is yesterday's news, proudly waving the banner of liberal preposterousness since 1965. Her only memorable recent cinematic performance, for all the wrong reasons, was as the oversexed sexuagenarian alongside Dustin Hoffman in the utterly tasteless Meet The Fockers sequel.
Her intervention this week is fitting, though, precisely because it captures what looms as the largest impediment to the increasingly troubled ambitions of Mrs Clinton ? that what the former First Lady is offering is a better yesterday. Mrs Clinton's campaign might in fact be summed up in the lyrics of Streisand's most famous locution, back when she was still a bona fide celebrity:
Memories, like the corners of my mind,
Misty, water-coloured memories
Of the way we were
Despite her efforts to portray herself as something new, voters know well enough that Mrs Clinton represents a restoration rather than a revolution. For many Democrats, angry and bitter about the direction of US politics these past eight years, this is just fine ? the dewy memories of The Way They Were in those aquarelle days of the 1990s is good enough.
But there's clear evidence now that this won't do: 2008 is shaping up to be what political strategists call a change election. It is not just eight years of George Bush that voters want to consign to the past but the whole political culture of the past 20 years or so.
Even the press release that Streisand put out announcing her support for Clinton made sure that Streisand got top – and bottom billing:
Legendary filmmaker, artist, and Democratic activist, Barbra Streisand, today endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. Streisand cited Clinton's ability to bring about change and the historic nature of her campaign as reasons why she is supporting Hillary's candidacy.
[Insert obligatory mention of someone else]
Barbra Streisand is a singer, theatre and film actress, composer, film producer and director. She has won Oscars for Best Actress and Best Original Song as well as multiple Emmy Awards, Grammy Awards, and Golden Globe Awards. She is considered one of the most commercially and critically successful female entertainers in modern history.
As Baker points out, Streisand is so very yesterday. Will celebrity endorsements be enough to tip things? Who knows. But what obscure book last became a best seller because Streisand endorsed it? Think about that for a moment.