Posted on June 13, 2010
Obama's contrived combustibility
Like so much of what goes on in politics these days, President Obama's recent campaign of calculated anger calls to mind The Flintstones. In one particular episode, Fred has some Swedish musicians as unwanted houseguests, and tries to get rid of them by having Barney call the police about the noise. "Remember," he tells him, "you've got to be mean and mad." After having the Swedes arrested, Barney marches into the police station, dutifully reciting, "My name is Rubble! I'm mean, and I'm mad!" That's about how authentic the president's talk show Tour O' Fury has been.
Upon being criticized by some of his liberal supporters for not appearing emotionally invested in the BP oil leak, Obama immediately took to the airwaves, declaring himself to be "furious" on Larry King Live, and threatening to start punting people's posteriors in a Today show interview with Matt Lauer. These displays of contrived anger are transparent not only because of their conspicuous timing, but also because we have seen Obama's temper, and this isn't it.
Contrary to popular perception, Obama is not a moodless automaton. How he'd ever come by that reputation is a mystery, given his undeniable irascibility. If President Bush had been so temperamental, his psychological fitness for office would have been publicly questioned on a daily basis.
When Obama's friend, professor Henry Louis Gates, was arrested for disorderly conduct, the president publicly pronounced that the police had "acted stupidly," and not too subtly suggested that they were racists. This, despite prefacing those remarks with an admission that he had no idea what had really happened.
He had an equally weak grasp of the facts when he scolded the Supreme Court during his State of the Union Address. Even if his absurd accusation, that the Court had legalized campaign financing by foreign corporations, had been true, the unprecedented affront would have struck any even-tempered president as wholly inappropriate.
Shocking as Obama's behavior toward the justices was, it paled in comparison to his treatment of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Enraged by the construction of Jewish settlements in Jerusalem, and frustrated by a lack of progress on a new agreement on the matter, the president walked out of their meeting to have dinner in private, leaving Netanyahu and his aides alone in the White House until he returned. The hostility the president showed had been such that the Israelis were reportedly reluctant to continue discussions among themselves, for fear of the room being bugged.
Such a total abrogation of diplomacy would be troubling under any circumstances, let alone during a visit from one of America's (if not Obama's) most trusted allies. Obama was the one throwing a temper tantrum, yet he arrogantly assumed the authority to give a visiting head of state a timeout. That's not the kind of behavior we should demand from an American president. It's more like what we'd expect to see from a spoiled monarch, portrayed in a movie by Peter O'Toole
These are a few examples of Barack Obama's genuine anger, which is as spontaneous as it is vivid. He didn't have to wait a month and a half for Bill Maher or Spike Lee to tell him to get angry at the police, an unfavorable Supreme Court decision, or Jewish settlements. He didn't need to say the words "I'm furious" for people to be able to see that he was.
Compare these instances with those that do not involve personal offenses against Obama, or challenges to his policy agenda. In the aftermath of the massacre at Fort Hood, for example, he was not too upset to thank his staff, and give a "shout out" to Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Joe Medicine Crow, before explaining almost as an afterthought that 13 American soldiers had been murdered in a premeditated act of terrorism.
If his advisors had made him aware that a little righteous anger was expected of him in that situation, then maybe he'd have skipped the light-hearted preliminaries. He might have even announced, "I'm righteously angry! Bring on the posteriors!" Few people would have believed him, but at least he would have been credited for outwardly showing concern.
Everyone becomes angry sometimes, even Barney Rubble and Barack Obama. It all depends on what the subject matter is. Swedish musicians, oil-soaked pelicans, and mass-murdering, treasonous jihadists simply don't rate high enough on the angri-meter. After all, it's not as if they'd ruffled one of Obama's intellectual pals, or obstructed a Democrat legislative initiative, or anything.-- Daniel Clark is a Staff Writer for the New Media Alliance. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.
Return to Shinbone
The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press
Mailbag . Issue Index . Politimals