From the beginning of his first campaign in 2007, President Obama has harnessed socially aware celebrities to help his cause like no other politician in history. Such pals as Jay-Z, Beyonce and Bruce Springsteen have proved the most noteworthy surrogates, but over the course of three campaigns, his rallies have featured performances by an abundance of artists and musicians.
Among them is The National, a Brooklyn-based indie band that has fronted for Obama during all three of his campaigns, including both presidential runs and the 2010 midterms. The group’s five members are seen meeting the president during the documentary Mistaken for Strangers, so during an interview about the film, The Hollywood Reporter asked frontman Matt Berninger whether he knew Obama’s favorite National song.
“Every time we’ve met him, he’s been a sweet and gracious guy, but he’s called us the Nationals,” Berninger says with a laugh. “I do think that sometimes, he might be — when he’s being prepped on the way to the room to meet us — he thinks he’s meeting the Washington Nationals. And he comes, and he sees a bunch of weaklings, five weirdos, and we’re definitely not the Washington Nationals. So it’s like, ‘Oh, hey guys …’ “
Berninger — a fervent supporter — wasn’t being critical of the president just acknowledging how busy he is as commander in chief. And, the Cincinnati-born singer quite understands his role in the political process.
“It’s a total thrill meeting him a couple times. And he’s been really cool, and he shakes your hand, and he looks you in the eye, and you honestly feel him saying, ‘Thank you for helping out, it means a lot,’ ” Berninger recalls. “Because he knows the youth vote — in Ohio, I don’t know if we had any effect at all — but he knows how important it is. So many young people volunteer for his campaign, his presidency. The reason he’s in the White House is because of our generation and a younger generation. So when he looks at us as a rock band from Ohio, he sees us as sort of ambassadors to this younger group. Maybe we are a tiny bit. It’s been a real awesome thrill, but I don’t know if he’s got a favorite National song.”