As soon as you become an adult, you stop playing in sandboxes. You would think that the corollary is too obvious to mention, but apparently not. So, here it is: If you are the President of the United States you should not be playing in Jon Stewart’s sandbox.
As the King James Bible tells us: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
Which means, when you are President of the United States you do not go on a fake news show to trade quips with a comedian.
Forgive me the inexact analogy, but we can understand the problem this way: if you are the parent of a teenager, you should not pretend to be a teenager. You are not going to fool anyone, but you are certainly going to make a fool of yourself.
As a parent, you avoid adolescent slang and the lingo; you dress like the adult you are; you speak with a certain gravitas and authority; you exercise responsibility; and you set a good example of the kind of behavior your child should aspire to.
Whether you are a parent or an executive, as soon as you arrive at a place where others are prone to emulate you, you should make a decided effort set a good example. It’s basic to the job description.
If you fail to fulfill these duties, then your adolescent child will, naturally, not respect what you say, not aspire to become more like you, not set his moral compass by your behavior, not believe that there is a higher authority, and therefore, not really believe that he or she needs to follow rules and behave properly.
George Washington notwithstanding, there are still some differences between fatherhood and the presidency. Most prominently: the electorate does not consist of a bunch of child-like beings who need guidance and direction and care.
When you are President of the United States, you should know that, politically, you symbolize the unity of the nation, and that you should provide an example that inspires people to hope for a brighter future.
Ronald Reagan was a master of inspiration; Barack Obama is not.
If you act your age and embody the dignity of your office you will be giving people something to feel proud about. And that is far more important than the gauzy blather about hope and change.
A president who spent no small part of his first year apologizing for America should be doing everything in his power to embody a nation’s pride, not its adolescent coolness.
From pride comes confidence; from emulation comes the promise of a better future. If you cannot fulfill those ceremonial requirements of office, people are simply not going to respect you. And if they don’t respect you, they are probably going to lose some respect for themselves.
If you are Barack Obama, you have missed this point. You think nothing of allowing yourself to be dressed down by a stand-up comic-- that is, after all, Jon Stewart’s business-- in exchange for his giving you yet another opportunity to gin up young voters in the forthcoming election.
When I said “dressed down” I was referring to the moment when Obama mentioned that Larry Summers had done “a heckuva job.“
To which Jon Stewart retorted: “You don’t want to use that phrase, dude.”
Thus Stewart gave us yet another glimpse of the incredibly shrinking Obama presidency. It used to be that no one outside of his family addressed a president by his name. Now our president is: Dude!
How did Obama reply to Stewart’s dressing down? He declared: “Pun intended.” Nancy Franklin of The New Yorker replied: "Which would have been fine if it had been a pun."
This tells us that serious writers are no longer willing to declare that Obama’s gibberish is a sign of consummate brilliance.
If Obama had been using the phrase to ironic effect, he would have been comparing Larry Summers to former FEMA Director Michael Brown, of Hurricane Katrina fame.
Since he seemed to be saying that Summers had really done a great job, his retort was incoherent.
But, you have to ask yourself:What they were thinking. Surely, someone at the White House took a college course in public relations.
Didn’t anyone learn that if you are perched atop the status hierarchy people should come to you, to rise to your level, to be their best. Don’t we motivate ourselves, don’t we strive to work harder, because we want to better ourselves?
You do not think to descend to the level of a stand-up comedian, on the comedian’s set… lest the nation, to say nothing of the world, start thinking that you are just not up to your job.
You want to be respected for the dignity you embody, not for the hip coolness that you are pretending to possess.
Moreover, a president appearing on a fake news program gives the impression of being a fake president.
Of course, Obama defended his administration’s accomplishments with passion. And yet, given the setting and the situation he could never have come out ahead.
If you lie down with stand-up comics you are going to end up looking like a joke.
What happened to hope and change, the high rhetoric of the campaign, Jon Stewart asked. How is it, he continued, that Democrats are running away from the Obama presidency as fast as they can? As he expressed it, Congressional Democrats are running this year on: “Please, baby, one more chance.”
Obama replied by descending into complaining mode, asserting that people did not recognize his administration’s accomplishments.
To which Jon Stewart replied with a devastating retort: “Are you planning a surprise party for us, filled with jobs and health care.”
That, pretty much, says it all. When you are a pretend adolescent on a pretend news show, you cannot really be expected to take real responsibility for what has been happening in the country.