March 18 2014
Quote of the Day:
We need a president who rarely thinks and never speaks about how he looks in jeans.
That’s the subhead on Bret Stephens’ column this morning on “How Obama ‘Gets Things Done.’” The column begins with President Obama’s recent interview at the hands of Zach Galifianakas, which I’ve avoided mentioning. What could I say beyond moaning that, though hardly a fan of President Obama's, I cringed at seeing the president demeaned in that way? Of course, many have made the point that appearing on this show was the best way for the president to pitch ObamaCare to young people. If so, we are truly doomed.
But I noticed something fascinating in the president's own perceptions about the episode, recounted in the Stephens column:
In case you're wondering why I'm writing about this—well, I am too. A Malaysian jetliner has vanished into thin air, while Russia has completed its seizure of Crimea and may yet invade other parts of Ukraine. Serious stuff, you might say. But the big story of last week as far as the president is concerned is his appearance alongside the star of "The Hangover" movies, the guy who last year smoked a joint live on the Bill Maher show.
"Zach actually was pretty nervous," Mr. Obama later told Ryan Seacrest, the"American Idol" impresario, in a radio interview. "His whole character is to go after the guest and I think he was looking around and seeing all these Secret Service guys and thinking, 'I wonder what happens here if I cross a line?'
"But we had a great time."
Incidentally, I quote these lines from the Us Weekly report of the Seacrest interview. Us magazine is where I go for my political news these days. The online article also had a link to a photo gallery of Mr. Obama hanging out with various celebrities, like Justin Bieber. "What's up, my dude!" the Canadian teen star says to the president of the United States. "What's up, Biebs!" the president of the United States answers back.
What strikes me is this line: "His whole character is to go after the guest and I think he was looking around and seeing all these Secret Service guys and thinking, 'I wonder what happens here if I cross a line?'
While the world is facing a crisis in the Ukraine, the economy is in the toilet and somebody may have filched a plane capable of attacking us, the president of the United States actually knows about the way a minor comic conducts interviews? : "His whole character is to go after the guest….” Now, I know (hope) the president knows this because he was briefed and not because he has time to watch the Galifianakis show. But one can't be sure about this.
The other thing that struck me is the giant ego of the man who has been president of the United States for five years: He still loves the trappings and he he still notices that—wow!—he has Secret Service scurrying around him with those little thingies in their ears. This is a man who dearly loves sparkly things.
And yet he is at the power center of our nation. He is the power center of our nation. Yahoo News had a fascinating article yesterday headlined “How a Presidential Phone Call Gets Made.” It was pegged to President Obama’s recent phone conversations with Vladimir Putin. (“On a Saturday afternoon at the start of March, President Barack Obama set a new record for his administration, holding what aides say was his single longest phone call with another world leader.”)
The mechanics of a presidential phone call being placed are complex: and, I could not help thinking that, at the center of this vast complicated web of action and protocol, there is President Obama. And indeed, there he was, pictured standing by the Resolute desk, in a macho posture and sports clothes. He looked cool.
Back to the Galifianakas interview, here is part of the president’s fond recollections that I didn’t doubt at all: “But we had a great time.”
He loves being the center of attention—which is sort of ironic, since he was formerly the most powerful man in the world until he cut the office of the presidency down to his own size. Even if Galifianakis was rude to the president of the United States, being on the show was a hip thing. On second thought, maybe POTUS was fudging about having had a ball with Galifianakas, who, after all, put hard questions to POTUS, something less likely at a White House press conference.
I can’t comment on the administration’s response to the crisis in the Ukraine—let people more versed in world affairs than your humble blogger do that. But I can comment that the President of the United States looks silly doing whatever it is that he is doing.
He imposed sanctions that affect--oh, let's see--seven Russians and four Ukrainians:
The sanctions were so light that one of the intended targets, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, instantly spat back his contempt in a tweet: "Comrade Obama, what should those who have neither accounts nor property abroad do? Or maybe you didn't think of that?"
Maybe he did, maybe he didn't: Even now the unanswered question about Mr. Obama's personality is whether his insouciance is a mask for ideology, ignorance, or simple indifference. When the president goes before the cameras to announce tough sanctions, and the sanctions are not only not tough but laughably weak, what's going through his head?
Should he be wearing loose jeans more often so he can feel less confined geopolitically?
Alternatively, the president might consider rearranging his work schedule. Last year came the news that Mr. Obama was unaware of the problems plaguing his health-care website until after its rollout and that he never once had a private meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius between July 2010 and November 2013. How does something like that happen?
An answer of sorts comes in an article by Sean Blanda on "How Barack Obama Gets Things Done" on the 99U website. The president, Mr. Blanda reports, wakes up at seven o'clock. He works out 45 minutes a day every day, not including his regular basketball games. He watches a lot of "SportsCenter." Dinner each night with his family. To limit "decision fatigue," he likes to set policy via memos where he can check the box on "agree," "disagree," or "let's discuss."
What do I take away from all this?
The obvious: A cavalier foreign policy by an inattentive president that elicits the contempt of the people it intends to punish ultimately encourages their aggression as well.
The less obvious: We need a fat president. Or at least one who rarely thinks and never speaks about how he looks in jeans.
When Americans vote in 2016, they should give serious consideration to whether they again want a pop idol in the White House.