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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Monday, July 09, 2012

THE CASUAL PRESIDENT

"Obama has surpassed Ronald Reagan, a former actor, in TV and movie appearances."

President Obama recently said that he had "tried real hard" to do his job and that most people would acknowledge that. I expect he's right, being president is very hard and I'm sure he did try. But that statement comes across as weak and whiny (in fact, he keeps saying the job is hard and he is doing his best) so I question how much it helps him. His political foes believe he did do his best, and his best is far beneath what we need from the job.

However, people could not help but point out a few things about this president when he claims he's been working so very hard. For example, his 100+ days of playing golf, or his continual fundraisers, or images like these:




Now, unlike a lot of people I'm not that concerned about how often President Obama plays golf or goes on vacation. My concern is that the left screamed in terror when President Bush would spend any time at all away from the White House and acted as if he was lazy and worthless for not sitting in the oval office 24 hours a day. And it doesn't exactly depict solidarity and understanding for the American people's economic woes when you're running off to swank resorts and playing golf so often. Its an image thing that he'd be much wiser to avoid, but I don't think he can help himself.

President Obama goes out of his way to project his image as super cool, super casual, never worried, always calm and in control, never concerned about anything. So he goes without ties, he kicks his feet up on the desk, he chews gum at the G20 meeting (probably trying to kick the smoking habit), he goes on TV talk shows and yuks it up, he "slow jams" the news on Jimmy Fallon in a stunt that wasn't very effective, but was part of the image.

President Obama wants to seem cool, he's really working hard at it. Its not something that comes naturally, he strives to be cool in the way an actor struggles with a role he's uncomfortable or unfamiliar with. And it works, or at least it did in 2007-2008. President Obama came across a smooth and relaxed.

He's been trying to be relatable and cool for his whole presidency, dancing on iCarly, singing soul at the Apollo, working out on The Biggest Loser and so on. He wants that celebrity vibe, to be someone people cheer about and adore rather than someone people respect and honor.

Now, some people find this troubling. At Ace of Spades HQ, my source for several of these pictures, some complained about how undignified, unprofessional and overly casual the president comes across. They were upset that he keeps putting his feet up on the Resolute Desk which is over a hundred years old and demanded he show a little respect for the office. And they're right, he is undignified. He is too casual.

The problem is, if he was more conservative, the same people would be defending him for being relaxed and not such a stick-up-the-heiny prude. That he was showing how calm he is in the job, that he was cool, that he isn't one of those stuffed shirts who pretends to be all dignified, but one of us you'd have a beer with.

And that's what he's shooting for: he wants to seem appealing to young people and modern, not old fashioned. It probably works, because being dignified and proper seems stiff and unrealistic to younger people. It seems fake to people brought up on foul-mouthed frivolity, to a generation that bristles at the very word "appropriate" and thinks wearing jeans everywhere isn't just a choice but a God-given right that only an ass would question.

Oh yes, I went there. Remember George Will's column on bluejeans the one in which he was frustrated with a culture that thinks everything should be casual? I agreed with his complaint that people seem to think work clothes and casual clothes are reasonable everywhere and in every situation.

My mom grew up in a generation that changed their clothes to go out shopping because they wanted to look nice. Today women go out in their sweatpants because they just don't care. That sense of respect for others and wanting to look your best has been lost.

And the reason is that this concept of being "cool" and casual has eclipsed every single other concern in existence. People want to stay eternally young and socially relevant. They want to be "sexy" and admired by everyone around them. Concerns about dignity, professionalism, respect, honor for the job, and so on are trumped by the need to be cool. And president Obama is Exhibit A of that cultural pattern, started by President Clinton campaigning while telling teenage girls what underwear he wore on MTV and playing the saxophone on late night television.

But at least President Clinton understood that when he was in the job, rather than campaigning, the ties go on and the dignity has to be there, at least when on camera (being the scumbag he is, he couldn't keep it up and ended up dragging the office through a sewer of sexual depravity and personal lack of character, but at least he didn't try to seem casual in office).

Dignity is irrelevant, even offensive to people. The concept of something being inappropriate is thought of as tyrannical and stupid. How can I be appropriate in every situation when I want to be a beer-chugging eternal 19 year old? Chill, brodawg.

And the President of the United States is and always will be a reflection of the nation's cultural mood, not a leader of it. The president doesn't make the culture, he represents it. President Kennedy didn't stop men from wearing hats, he just went along with the trend that was already in place. So we have the president we wanted, we have the image of the man the American culture we've created. Don't blame the media, although they played their part. Don't blame beer companies or comedians or movies, they're popular because they play to the culture, not because they force us into any patterns. Blame ourselves.

In a culture where being comfortable, happy, healthy, and having as much sex as humanly possible with whatever we want in whatever manner and place we want are supreme concerns, why should anyone be surprised when we get leaders who reflect that? Face it, the American people don't want adults in office any more. They might say they do, but they keep putting idiots and children in their place. Americans don't want dignity and professionalism, they want a bro they can hang out with.

And President Obama is just playing up to that. Its not contrived in the sense of trying to win power, that's just who he is, he wants really badly to be considered cool, and that fits what we all are too often like. Its just a bit tough to take a guy who acts like that too seriously when he says he's been trying so hard. I mean, if your image is a relaxed, casual guy who isn't stressed about anything, who is going to buy that you've been grinding away tirelessly to accomplish anything?

Especially when he calls other people lazy:

2 Comments:

Anonymous Eric said...

I generally agree, with one caveat: I will never, under any circumstances, fault somebody for not wearing a tie, because ties are ridiculous male fashion accessories that should go the way of Scottish kilt, the sooner the better, and any public figure willing to make a stand against the deeply ingrained cultural Tyranny of the Tie has my full support in that endeavor. Putting a noose around your neck in the name of fashion and dignity is retarded, and there is no inherent virtue in doing so other than to not piss off your family at your grandmother's funeral by underdressing. If we want to reserve ties for weddings and funerals, I can live with that, but otherwise we should ditch them as fast as humanly possible.

But otherwise, yeah, our culture has grown too casual and undignified.

:-)

10:43 AM, July 09, 2012  
Blogger Christopher Taylor said...

But it covers up your buttons! Actually the primary purpose of the tie these days is to give men some shred of individuality and distinctiveness in our matching suits.

11:19 AM, July 09, 2012  

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