Sunday, May 30, 2010

All Cattle and No Hat?

The President has an odd job... One half "leader of the free world," one half "head cheerleader and ribbon cutter."

Perhaps some presidents enjoy the public relations aspect of their job - throwing a pitch to open the baseball season, helicoptering in to the scene of an emergency to give a speech, appearing at celebratory dinners and sharing some jokes, giving commencement speeches and collecting honorary degrees.... But it seems like these "responsibilities" expand with each President, with the creation of "customs" and expectations that are difficult for a successor to break.

Perhaps the P.R. side isn't excessively distracting from the President's official duties. And sometimes the country "needs" the President to appear to be in charge of an event, disaster or catastrophe, even if he has no actual control over the situation or if it's best deferred to others with more time, relevant experience and relevant skill.

But must the media be so shallow? How many pundits need to write a column that amounts to "President Obama is doing as well as anybody can, but he's not performing his cheerleader routine with sufficient aplomb." Take it from the queen of shallowness herself:
“The media may get tired of the story, but we will not,” he told Gulf Coast residents when he visited on Friday. Actually, if it weren’t for the media, the president would probably never have woken up from his torpor and flown down there.
Yeah.... The media can educate the public, explain why it's so difficult to stop the spill, investigate how we got into this situation, analyze the environmental consequences, or yammer that "The President is too Spock-like, so he needs to go to Louisiana to give a speech"... And Dowd's patting herself and her peers on the back for focusing exclusively on that last task, "waking" Obama up to the need to showboat?

Dowd skips over G.W., whose carefully staged and at times excessively dramatic public appearances provided cover for his general incompetence, suggesting that we need the return of President Clinton as a "Feeler in Chief." To somebody like Dowd, and an unfortunate number of her peers, the story will always be whether the President looks good in a jump suit, and how well he stood up to the G-forces of a fighter jet. Form over substance. If the right heartstrings are plucked, who gives a crap if the mission is actually accomplished.

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