Monday, March 17, 2014

An Entertaining President

His signature health care plan is self-deconstructing, his party is preparing to lose control of the Senate, his foreign policy is more of a shambles than the healthcare program… so President Obama decided that it was time for a little comic relief.

Demagoguing the Bush administration and the Tea party is no longer working, so President Obama decided to reach out to his base by appearing on a show called Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis.

There he got to answer the question that no one dares ask him: “… how does it feel to be the last black president.”

Ostensibly, Obama was trying to incite his base of restless and disaffected youth to sign up for Obamacare. Apparently, he does not believe that he can reach young people by offering a cogent argument. To me, that feels like condescension. One wonders how well that is working out.

Kathleen Parker wraps her mind around it and decides that it was really a masterstroke:

Obama’s appearance on an absurd Web program that celebrates the absurd was a masterful, strategic move aimed squarely at Putin. How better to insult a shirtless, pec-flexing thug than to engage in a theater of the absurd? How better to display maximum disrespect toward a man with a child’s ego and a nuclear arsenal — who has invaded another country where peaceful demonstrators were gunned down — than by acting as though he hasn’t a care in the world?

I hope that Parker does not really mean what she is saying, but I am not sure. She is suggesting that Obama is really showing disrespect for the Russian strongman. Russia appropriates the Crimea; Obama shows that he can laugh at himself.

In the world of diplomacy it doesn’t matter what you think you are doing. What matters is how others read you and how they subsequently behave.

If Obama was trying to ridicule Vladimir Putin and reverse his invasion of the Crimea, it does not seem to be working.

While John Kerry is out there making threats that aren’t really threats, what makes you think that Vladimir Putin, or anyone else will take America’s word seriously when its president looks like he doesn't really care?

Jonathan Chait has also rushed in to rescue President Obama. Noting the outcry about how Obama has diminished the dignity of the American presidency, Chait offers this defense, in a sentence, it is fair to note, that is rather poorly written:

The idea that it is important to safeguard the dignity of the presidency is one of those ideas, like “reducing deficits is always good,” that’s shared so widely within official Washington that it is considered a bland truism rather than a point of view.

Since we have no problem with a president delivering a series of one-liners at a press dinner, why do we have a problem with the president doing an Abbott and Costello routine?

Chait would have done well to read one of my previous posts on the topic… link here.

But, Chait does make a fair point. How many of us really understand why the dignity of the office matters at all? It is true that we toss around the term, as though it was a “truism” without knowing what it really means.

Michael Auslin explains why he found it all rather discomfiting:

It’s easy to be churlish and to reflexively criticize Obama for everything he does, but while his national security officials are impotently complaining about Russia’s seizure of Crimea, and while his Secretary of Health and Human Services can’t (or refuses to) answer the most basic of Congressional questions about the on-going healthcare debacle (to list just two issues of rather large concern), the President feels its appropriate to show the world he is shopping for sweaters for his girls or to welcome a boy band singer with no expertise whatsoever to the White House to talk about healthcare?

And yet, Auslin continues, Barack Obama was elected because he was a celebrity, because he could entertain. By offering bread and circuses, food stamps and comedy… he was doing what he was elected to do.

Auslin writes:

…  it was his political celebrity status that got Barack Obama elected in the first place, a politician of the very thinnest of resumes, whose new-age blather caused vapors in a press that was itself as filled with celebrity worshipers as the viewers they seek. There’s no reason to re-litigate two elections, but the track record of this White House can only give credence to the judgments of so many who feared a popularity-driven candidate with no experience and who was so clearly hiding an ideological streak at odds with the majority of his fellow citizens. Yet none of that mattered next to the dancing and the star-studded endorsements and the coolness factor.

Auslin is correct. With Obama what matters is his coolness. When all else fails he always has cool.

But, isn’t there something wrong with judging our leaders by their cool, by their ability to pretend to be less than they are?

You might see it as a sign of strength, but what happens when adversaries see it as a sign of weakness and act accordingly.

Also, it might sound like yet another cliché, but leadership, in any enterprise, means setting an example. A leader sets a standard of decorum, propriety, self-discipline, dedication, respectability and perseverance.

If he is dedicated to his job and shows the right character traits, his staff is more likely to the same. If he slacks off, showing that he cares more for himself than for his job, his staff is likely to do the same.

Leadership by example is generally believed to be more effective than leadership by barking orders.

People tend to emulate their betters. It is one of the most important paths to self-improvement.

A parent who sets a good example as a responsible member of a community is more likely to have children who aspire to be the same. A parent who acts like an overgrown youngster will have children who dread getting older, who will do everything in their power to hold on to their fading youth.

A parent’s words are respected because he has more wisdom and experience. But this is only true if he manifests it in his appearance and demeanor.

If a parent acts like a child’s peer, his child will no more feel obliged to follow his counsel than he would the counsel of one of his peers.


Sam L. said...

Obama is not Cool. He's said to be, but nothing he's done, and the ways he does things, signifies Cool to me.

Anonymous said...

Cool? Well, I'm not sure why that matters in Obama's case. You're cool when you have nothing to prove, or when you have everything to hide. Confidence is cool in a real way -- it has an authentic air about it. The person seems natural, and is fluid off the cuff, in environments where he has to improvise. Everything with Obama is canned. I don't know that I've heard a thought pass his lips that seemed real. It's all vapor-speak, empty, nonsensical, or fill-in-the-blank pandering (and sometimes more than one of these elements in combination). And Obama isn't alone in this. Romney said just as little. That's where we are: living in the land where politicians go to a new event or rally every day and say nothing of substance. Obama has made this into his raison d'ĂȘtre. The "office" we're talking about here is hollow, and the people know it. And so do Putin, Assad, Khahmeini, Kim, etc.


Dennis said...

My wife and I were talking about Putin vice Obama this morning and I asked her to name one thing Obama has done that has improved this country or our standing in the world. She thought for a while and finally stated that Obama is making Putin look like a leader. One wonders if there is anyone outside this country who actually believes anything coming out of Obama's mouth. After all a community organizer is an instigator not a doer. It should not surprise anyone that the sanctions initiated by Obama are being mocked. A day late and a dollar short.
My hope, even though there are things I disagree with in the following, that more Obama supporters are having "the scales removed from their eyes."
One would hope that millennials have finally figure out that all that "hope and change" was/is going to be accomplished on their backs and will lead to nothing left from the money they "might" make, but change and the hope that their lives might improve.
In talking with one of my 23 plus granddaughters I said I really feel sorry for what Obama is doing to you. It doesn't make me feel any better to say "I told you so."

Dennis said...


Sorry that makes it seem as if I have 23 granddaughters where I meant age 23 plus. I do have a number of granddaughters, which I want to see do well, but not quite 23. We have been busy, but not quite that busy.

Anonymous said...

Michael AUSLIN, not Austin.

Jewish neocon, not Texas duder.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks... correction made.

Sam L. said...

Kathleen Parker, strangely enough, is not nearly as smart as she thinks she is...nor is Obama.

Jeff Dorsai said...

any good conman can hide his deceptions and lies behind a good speech or polished acting skills ... but he can't hide the attitudes and mindset of the people he surrounds himself with ... just look at twisted souls Obama surrounds himself with and you see the real Obama behind the mask ... Holder and Jarrett and Emanuel are all birds of a nasty feather and Obama is right at home in their presence ...