Monday, September 8, 2014

Too many pundits think Americans need a Daddy

By now we all know that Maureen Dowd longs for a "Daddy-in-Chief." But she's not the only one. Lately lots of pundits are complaining about what President Obama called "political theater" in his interview with Chuck Todd. What it all amounts to is that they seem to agree with Jack Nicholson's character in A Few Good Men when he yells "You can't handle the truth!"

For example, here's Frank Bruni at the New York Times:
He’s [Obama] adopted a strange language of self-effacement, with notes of defeatism, reminding us that “America, as the most powerful country on earth, still does not control everything”; that we must be content at times with singles and doubles in lieu of home runs; that not doing stupid stuff is its own accomplishment.

This is all true. It’s in tune with our awareness of our limits. And it reflects a prudent disinclination to repeat past mistakes and overreach.

But that doesn’t make it the right message for the world’s lone superpower (whether we like it or not) to articulate and disseminate. That doesn’t make it savvy, constructive P.R.
Do you see what he did there? He admits that what President Obama is saying is true. But its not "savvy, constructive PR." Jay Rosen rips him (and other journalists) a new one for that mess.
Dig it: Obama is speaking truthfully, treating us as adults, and being prudent, but there’s a problem because Bruni wants better P.R. Is this what we need journalists for? He quotes two other journalists, Karen DeYoung and Dan Balz of the Washington Post, making the same point. Obama, they said, was speaking candidly but in no way projected “an image of presidential resolve or decisiveness.”

This style of analysis is so common among American journalists that it passed by without comment. As your blogger, I cannot allow that. Worrying about image projection and the degree of savviness in the Administration’s P.R., asking “Where are your infantilization skills, Mr. President?”— these are signs of a press corps that can be deeply unserious about international politics.
A press corp that values PR skills (i.e., optics) over reality is all the proof we need that they find the President's "infantilization skills" wanting. In other words, they think we're immature and "can't handle the truth." And yes, we should all be offended by that!

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why many pundits struggle so much with understanding President Obama. He plants himself squarely on the opposite end of that continuum with his "shocking, almost certifiable faith in humanity." He thinks we are adults who are capable of handling the truth and is more interested in being a partner than a Daddy.


  1. What they really mean is that the President isn't making it easy for them by dishing out easy-to-digest sound bites that 'make news' for them.

    1. I actually think it challenges their belief that pundits are somehow needed as the interpreters for an infantalized public. They're looking down on us from their perch of superior understanding. PBO treating us like adults threatens that position.

  2. It's no surprise that nearly every decision Obama makes (or doesn't make) seems to send so many people into a tizzy. With all of the craziness that has surrounded his presidency, the maturity of his leadership was cemented a long time ago.

    I'm often reminded of what Obama said during his victory speech in Nov 2008:

    "There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can't solve every problem.

    But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it's been done in America for 221 years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

    What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night.

    This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were"

    1. Thank you for recalling these words, because it seems that many in the mainstream political media and on the Far Left have flushed them down the memory hole.

    2. I thank you as well!! Those were just the right memories for me to re-connect to once again! His brilliance continues to shine! I have his back!

  3. I wonder whether these attitudes are part of a general "reluctance" towards democracy that has plagued American society since the days of slavery. We desire so much a government that is "above us", which shields ourselves of the responsibilities demanded of us in a real government of the people.

    1. In the United States the sovereign is the citizenry ("We The People" is not just a flowery turn of phrase).

      (Please note that this does not mean the same thing as the Sovereign Citizen movement. In that conception, each citizen of the United States is a sovereign unto themselves. A sovereign citizenry is different because it implies the sovereignty rests with the citizenry *as a whole*, not just each individual.)

      It may be good to be king, but it is never easy.

  4. When you read comments like Bruni's you begin to see why so many of the press just rolled over for Bush prior to the war in Iraq. The press conference Dubya gave in the final days leading up to the start of fighting was one of the saddest days in journalism. The press was not just cowed but, as Bruni demonstrates, they wanted to be cowed.

    It's so much easier to abdicate responsibility when a strong daddy shows up.

  5. "And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were."

    And yet this seems to be the longing we see on the Right and in the MSM. They want things the way they were instead of how they can or should be in a very complicated world. I liken it to children who worship their parents as infallible and then the reality that their parents are not super heroes crushes them. Children eventually become adults and realize that even imperfect parents can be awesome and inspiring.