Friday, March 20, 2009

Here's.... Barack!

It hurts to write this, but Rush Limbaugh got it right, sort of. Criticizing on Friday's (3/20/09) program President Obama's decision to go on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Limbaugh contended

What I really fear is that we have a culture in this country now that thinks this is what a president ought to do. I think we have a culture in this country that thinks that is cool, that finally the president is just like a real guy going on all these television shows like every other celebrity does, like every other pop culture icon does. So whereas you and I of a certain age and a certain generation have certain expectations and standards about what is presidential, it's changed with a lot of people. A lot of people think this is really neat and a lot of people think this is real cool. They don't care what Obama says. The fact that he went on the program shows that he's also a new president. He's in touch with us. He goes places that we watch....

Limbaugh is right about this- but as Lawrence O'Donnell (at approximately 2:00 of the video) implied on Friday's (3/20/09) Hardball (video below), this all began with Richard Nixon on Rowan and Martin's Laugh In in October, 1968, when he exclaimed (video way below) "Sock it to me." Prior to Nixon's appearance shortly before he was elected President of the United States, U.S. Presidents and those who would aspire to the office consistently displayed dignity. (And candidate Humphrey, classy to the end, declined an invitation to appear on the program.) When Matthews referred to Nixon- whom a young Patrick J. Buchanan served as speechwriter- Buchanan remarked that he had opposed his boss' appearance.

The ironic, thing, of course, is that Barack H. Obama was not elected President because voters related to him, believed he was "in touch with us," or even liked him. Rather, he was viewed as an extraordinarily intelligent, eloquent, and able individual- having risen to the brink (as of then) of the presidency after overcoming a difficult upbringing and minority status in a nation which had elected only white males to the office. In a time of economic turmoil, Obama was the picture of calm. Now, though still calm, Obama is something else, or so he appears-"blase," to Buchanan.

Buchanan concedes that it's not a "lack of respect for the office" but "too much familiarity." There is a reason, as Buchanan (who argues that Obama "is bringing himself down to the level of campaigner again") understands, that politicians do this sort of thing. It humanizes them, insinuating into voters the idea, the feeling, that the candidate (or office holder) is one of them, not a member of the elite who doesn't understand their problems. But as Buchanan (and Matthews, who nevertheless appreciated Obama's appearance) understand, President Obama's style probably doesn't suit the gravity of the moment.

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