The co-mingling of the media's favorite small screen drama and America's commander-in-chief is the direct result of the president's genuine fascination with the '60s throwback series, he watches it on the campaign trail, and the press's eagerness to insert the show's plot lines into dry horse race narratives.
This week, a review of David Maraniss's new biography of the president revealed that Obama likens the life of copy writer Peggy Olson to his real-life grandmother Madelyn Dunham, who ascended from bank secretary to bank vice president. "That's my grandmother, you know, starting out with the low-level secretary job and working her way up," Obama told Maraniss. Olson, of course, defies all odds at the fictional ad firm Sterling Cooper Draper Price as she goes toe-to-toe with the show's chauvinistic, hard-drinking characters. "That's where you started noticing her alcoholism," Obama said of his grandmother, mentioning that she would come home at night, "exhausted from work, tightly wound and go into her room." He said the show's heavy drinking (e.g. Don's four martinis at lunch), "explains my grandparents, their tastes."
Of course, if his grandmother is Peggy Olson, his arch-nemesis is Don Draper. That, at least, is the view of his re-election campaign, which has associated the bland Mormon candidate with Jon Hamm's drinking, cheating, charismatic ad-making Don Draper, with the help of Politico. Months ago, Obama's chief strategist David Axelrod said Romney "must watch Mad Men and think it's the evening news," in a pointed criticism that Romney would usher in a social agenda from the 1950's. Politico scribes Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman pegged it "The Draperizing of Mitt Romney." "Democrats, despite the potential perils of such a strategy, remain determined to paint Romney as a throwback to the Mad Men era," they wrote, "a hopelessly retro figure who, on policy and in his personal life, is living in the past."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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