Barack Obama's lucky tie

The president has a favorite tie for big speeches. Who knew?

Published September 10, 2009 1:50PM (EDT)

You may think last night’s speech was important because President Obama clearly and forcefully outlined his vision for healthcare reform, and wasn’t afraid to tell off his mulish opposition. You may think the speech was important because the president was honest with his own allies, alerting them to the need to compromise. You may think it was a key point on our country’s path to universal healthcare. You might be right.

But there’s another reason the speech was cosmically, earth-shatteringly important. It provided nearly conclusive proof that we have a superstitious president. Yes, it’s true: though he seems to be an urbane, empirically-minded sort, Barack Obama has a lucky tie for the big speeches. It’s that flashy red-and-silver (or is it red-and-white?) guy, with the stripes running southwest-to-northeast.

My evidence, you ask? Well, there’s last night. Then there’s the president’s quasi-State of the Union speech. (He was standing in the House of Representatives chamber, with Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi behind him. It counts.) That’s not all, though. He wore this tie for his victory speech in Grant Park on the night of the election. That was a big one. He had it on when he delivered his “closing argument” speech in Canton, Ohio on October 27, 2008, and for the third debate with John McCain. And the clincher? This was his tie for the Democratic National Convention -- arguably the biggest speech of his life.

I will concede, however, that there are a few conflicting data points -- perhaps enough for skeptics to claim reasonable doubt. Obama’s tie at his much-praised, crucial “race speech” in Philadelphia was a disappointing blue-gray. And at the inauguration, he wore another red tie, close enough in color to trick you for a second, but with a subtle kind of checked pattern.

So what’s the story, Mr. President? An inquiring nation demands to know: Just how much like the West Wing’s President Bartlet are you?

By Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

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