Pundits from all sides of the political spectrum approved of President Obama's plan to appear on "The Tonight Show."
While a few nay-sayers objected that it was beneath the dignity of his office, the pundits thought it a winning tactic, a good way to get around the press and to reach out and touch the American people.
Of course, there is more to the presidency than popularity polls. Presidents are supposed to lead. However much we like Jay Leno, appearing on his program has nothing to do with leadership.
"The Tonight Show" is a great place to sell things. It is a major marketing platform. It is a good place to tell jokes and to become a more visible celebrity.
No president increases his leadership quotient by being fawned over by a comedian.
On "The Tonight Show" Obama revealed that he was uncomfortable in his role. He spoke of the trappings of the office of President of the United States as though they were props on a movie set.
Leaders take command. Especially in a time of crisis when the nation and the world is looking for someone to be in charge. Our sense of security depends on there being someone we feel we can count on to give the nation direction and purpose.
Obama, on the contrary, wants people to see that he is cool and detached by his job. If your ship has just struck an iceberg and the captain is joking around in the hold, you are not going to feel a rush of confidence.
You are not showing your command of a crisis by picking winners in the NCAA basketball tournament. It took a college basketball coach from Duke, Mike Krzyzewski, to speak truth to power: "...the economy is something he should focus on, more than the brackets."
New York Times television critic Alessandra Stanley watched the show last night and wrote: "Obama didn't look burdened by his office.... He seemed bemused."
His attitude reminded me of the great comic icon, Alfred E. Neuman, whose motto was: "What, me worry?"
Obama was telling Jay Leno what he has been telling all of us these last weeks. Whatever is going on, it is not his fault and it is not his problem. He did not invent it; he inherited it. Which means that he should not be held accountable for anything bad that happens. Politically, he feels that he does not yet have to worry.
Obama is not trying to calm the nation, to help it to pull itself up by the bootstraps. He is looking for people to blame. Then he complains that people are not rallying to his leadership.
But with Jay Leno last night he sounded like he was trying out his new stand-up routine. He wanted to make us all laugh. The trouble is: the crisis is not funny. It is deadly serious. A "What, me worry?" attitude tells the nation and the world that he just does not get it.
Obama's cool would be winning if he were not President of the United States. Unfortunately, he has not yet figured that out.