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Mr. Cool Drags Down the Presidency, Too

Well, at least he didn’t “slow-jam” this time.

No, President Barack Obama demeaned himself and, more significantly, his office with that avert-your-gaze spectacle last spring over at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Last week, on David Letterman’s Late Show, he generally limited himself to reflections on fairly weighty topics. True, he briefly held a stuffed animal on his lap, trading fist bumps at one point with the comedian/host (after a dubious Letterman quip about the President’s never having seen him naked (!) True, he was unable, when asked, to provide an approximation of the national debt. Also true, he managed the Letterman gig even though it’s lately reported he’d told Israel’s beleaguered Bibi Natanyahu he’s too busy to squeeze in a face-to-face with him. But at least on this, his latest, foray into midnight television the president’s comportment was more-or-less “presidential”. 

With Barack Obama, you just never know for sure what you’re going to get. Used to be the American public was afforded a closely-scripted peek at their Chief Executive’s allegedly letting his hair down, self-deprecatingly cutting up, only at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. Other than that? Pretty much business — and I mean sober business — as usual for the successor to George Washington.

For years, however, our increasingly celebrity-sozzled culture has demanded our elected officials, including the East Wing resident, pander to their Entertainment Tonight sensibilities. And, oh! – is Barack Obama accommodating them 

This week BHO descended on the New York City coffee-klatch over at The View,  where he giggled with the gals about Barbara Walters’ 83rd birthday, home-brewed beer and assorted White House tchotchke. 

Again, all this after offering our staunchest Middle Eastern ally the back of his hand; and mere days following the monstrous debauching of our Egyptian and Libyan embassies, the murder of three consulate staff and savage slaughtering of our Libyan Ambassador. At best, it looks really bad: frivolity in the face of inflammatory fiascoes. At worst, it betrays a galling and alarming fecklessness in the Leader of the Free World’s priorities.

Dispensable talk show appearances, obsessive shoulder-rubbing with Hollywood luminaries and never-flagging photo ops with today’s music royalty: it seems a determined — and occasionally inappropriate — frolicsomeness is a pattern with this White House. Its practical fall-out? A cheapening of an already decreasingly revered presidential office.

There was Obama’s recent guesting on Miami’s 106.7’s morning-drive program. Before embarking on eight minutes of truckling, Obama-friendly questions, DJ Laz (” The Pimp with the Limp”) greeted the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES with a chummy, “OHH-bama!!”, followed up with mutual, playful schmoozing about their respective football loyalties and an HBO special; finally the small talk capped with Laz’s glibly addressing the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES as “my friend”.

“I’m the one who should be humbled. You’re big time,” oozed the  PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, cheesily dazzling listeners with rapper-conversant allusions to “Pitbull and Flo Rida and all these guys just beating a path to your door … I’m hoping,” swooned America’s Commander in Chief, “I can get a little of that magic from you in this interview.” 

Granted, as laughably cornball as was this groaner, it was outdone by Obama’s mid-summer drop-by at New Mexico’s “Morning Mayhem with Carlos, Kiki and Danny” (KKOB FM). That radio trio plied the most powerful man on the planet with interrogatories about: red chili, his favorite New Mexican food, recommended Chicago “Soul Food” (isn’t that a racist topic?), his work-out music of choice, and — seriously, now — which “super power” he would prefer. Note: the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES spunkily gave extended responses to all. 

Political handlers market all this as “humanizing” a candidate/politician. Okay, I’ll bite; but at some point “humanizing” ickily crosses over into “trivializing”, particularly when it involves the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.  

For nearly a full term we’ve watched this man degrade everything he touches: America’s economy, military, social policy, public discourse, race and class relations, worldwide image. That degradation is now extending, conspicuously and rather ambitiously, to the honorable, centuries-old station he occupies. 

The day after the Egypt/Libya atrocities, the never-resting Campaigner was greeted at a Colorado stop with hysterical choruses of “We love you!”  “I love you back!” he chirped. Then, attempting a solemn comment about the violation of our embassies and  four slain Americans, the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES was repeatedly, wince-inducingly interrupted by his groupies’ adulatory shrieks.

Perhaps from the same event, video footage began circulating of Mr. Obama greeting one of his hosts. He embraced the woman, she returned the favor; pressing herself against the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES while he draped himself over her like a trenchcoat, for what seemed uncomfortably longer than Bill Clinton’s last DNC peroration. In this Obama-age, I guess a warm hand clasp wouldn’t suffice?

Genuinely appalling — but since Barack Obama’s been selling himself from the first days of his 2008 campaign as the political equivalent of the Beatles’ disembarking at JFK airport, what’s the surprise? It’s the response one would expect towards this bizarre combo of movie-star/rock-god/everyman president.

Time was, voters preferred their Oval Office occupant maintain a certain public formalism, a bit of dignified detachment from the common, the flippant. For the same reasons people expected parents to function at a more reserved level than their children and teachers to keep some emotional distance from their adolescent charges, Americans encouraged their government’s most visible figure to prudently keep some parts of himself to himself.

Of course, that’s not particularly “cool”; and, we’re tirelessly reminded, Obama is nothing if not “cool”. What’s becoming evident, however, is that “cool” doesn’t necessarily translate into respect – stateside or internationally. And where Barack Obama fails to generate respect, he certainly won’t inspire heart-in-the-throat fear among this country’s adversaries.

Still, it might earn him a high-five or two along the rope lines.

Image: The Late Show; Courtesy of: Hey Paul from State College, PA, USA;
Image: The View; courtesy of:; U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley; public domain

Steve Pauwels

Steve Pauwels is pastor of Church of the King, Londonderry, NH and host of Striker Radio with Steve Pauwels on the Red State Talk Radio Network. He's also husband to the lovely Maureen and proud father of three fine sons: Mike, Sam and Jake.