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White House: The Cool, the Crass, the Collapse

My last column took Barack Obama to task for his palpable, pop-celebrity spin on presidenting. Apparently, he prizes talk show gigs and validating his personal hipness above more quotidian Oval Office burdens like, oh, meeting with foreign leaders, sticking around headquarters in time of national crisis, preserving some kind of baseline presidential decorum  — that kind of thing. 

To be fair, culpability for ransacking the dignity of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave doesn’t fall on the cool Chicago Trendsetter’s narrow shoulders alone. His zany sidekick – y’know, the fellow in line to fill BHO’s office in case it becomes unexpectedly vacant — has heaped his not incidental share of quirky ignominy on the ideal of POTUS. 

Fairly early on in Obama’s first term, Vice President Joe Biden set a pattern for flippant, downscale behavior. Remember the administration’s  triumphalism when “Obamacare” initially became law? With TV camera’s rolling and Muttering sotto voce into his boss’s ear about the victory, ” Middle Class” Joe was snared by an unfortunately placed open mic: “This is a big f***ing deal”, he fawned. (Note: I’ve done the service of editing the VICE PRESIDENT’S  colorful blandishment – be assured, the actual profanity was enunciated quite clearly  — for the whole world to hear, it turns out). 

So — pretty soon, after all the juvenile sniggering  quieted down among the Obama-and-His-Acolytes-Can-Do-No-Wrong set, what turned up? T-Shirts sporting the VP’s classy formulation! See Democratic Underground: “Get your ‘Big F***ing Deal’ Biden Tshirt” (again, I’ve edited.) Or: “Big f***ing Deal Gifts”. Yes, not just T-shirts, but buttons, coffee mugs, baby bibs and blankets (!), emblazoned with the uncensored f-bomb.

You see, not only was a solemn, White House photo-op sullied with what’s considered THE most obnoxious obscenity in the English lexicon; we now get to see it plastered across folks’ chests and wrapped around infants when we’re strolling through the mall — all courtesy of ol’ “Lunch Box” Joe, our illustrious Vice Prez. 

And, as anyone with a pulse knows, this contretemps was no one-off. Joe B has made a cottage industry of soiling the office formerly occupied by the likes of  Adams,  Jefferson  Coolidge and Teddy Roosevelt.

Not long ago in Danville, Va, the Vice-Patronizer, aping a smarmy, African-Amerian accent while attempting to sound the alarum about the evil Romney, boorishly bellowed to a 50% black audience: “He’s  gonna … UNCHAIN Wall Street! He’s gonna  put y’all back in chains.” (Thankfully, no f-bombs in that outburst.) 

Then there was “Coal Miner” Joe’s  “biker chick” incident. Dropping by  a southern Ohio diner in September, the VP invited  a bandana-and-leather clad female motorcycler to come alongside him — whereupon he proceeded to paw and nuzzle her as her fellow, seemingly unamused, male cyclists looked on, askance (doubtless the presence of Biden’s Secret Service detail discouraged any biker retaliation).  

“Biden pulled a chair in front of himself and pulled her nearly into his lap,” observed the normally Obama-friendly AP. It all suggests a new, under-the-surface meaning for the “vice” in vice-resident, no? 

Speaking of “vice”: a little over a week later “Second-Lady” Jill Biden floated an, apparently unintentional, quip regarding a rather, umm, intimate matter. Speaking at New Hampshire’s Dartmouth College, Missus B gushed, ” This election is personal to me, and it’s deeply personal to the man I’m about to introduce.” Then making what’s been called “a wide motion” with her outspread palms, she confessed, “I’ve seen Joe up-close… “. The crowd’s nervous, scandalized  tittering interrupted her pre-scripted remarks; she faltered, giggling herself as she realized how her words, coupled with those  inconvenient hand motions, sounded. In the background, ol’ Joe was visibly delighted, shaking his head mischievously, flashing those smirking,  ten-thousand watt chompers. 

I’d say Mrs. B’s  implied detail about her garrulous hubby is one  most of us could have done without? He didn’t seem to mind, though; no surprise there. Whaddya expect? This is “Everyman” Joe Biden, after all. Sure, he’s “a heartbeat away” from stepping into the leadership of the free world – but really, he’s not all that different form the joe next to you in the gym locker-room. It’s just the kind of questionable, high-visibility shenanigans we expect whenever “Scranton Joe” swaggers onto the scene. 

Two weeks ago, during a Florida campaign event, the Vice President said this of his introductory speaker, the clearly elderly Heleen Stoddart, “If I were not married, I’d ask her out on a date.” Followed by the weirdly inscrutable, “And, uh, now I, uh, now I know what it means to be young.” Inappropriate? Unprofessional? You bet — but that’s our Vice President at work. 

Founding Father Samuel Adams warned, “A general dissolution of the principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.”

Whatever happened to the antique notion of prominent figures — particularly governmental public servants — encouraging an elevated tone in society, reliably presenting emulation-worthy conduct? By their behavior challenging citizens in every way to be better, reach higher? Instead, from this administration’s top hands, along with their rotten policies and incompetence we get trickle-down tackiness.

Some Americans might find our  Entertainer-in-Chief or Vice-Wisecracker good for a chortle. But it’s dignified leadership we need, not a presidency cheapened and collapsing into buffoonery from the antics of its main players. 

Image: 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.