He was ready for prime time years ago. His oratory is masterful, his expression full of studied sincerity. He’s had no real freakouts, meltdowns, bimbo eruptions or wardrobe malfunctions. And, hey, the first dog will arrive soon. And the White House now has a swing set.
Yes, President Obama has it all.
Maybe he has too much. Or maybe, we’ve seen too much of it, too soon.
There are those who wonder if Mr. Obama is already overexposed, not 100 days in office. He is the first sitting president to Twitter, get cozy on the “Tonight Show” and be seen or heard on average every 10 seconds somewhere on the global airwaves. Could Obama fatigue be setting in?
I don’t have it. Yet. A civility freak, I have a certain wistful naivete that makes me wish the esteemed Office of the President of the United States was not subject to the constant rude probe of news and celebrity hunters. I pine for a line between viable watchdog journalism and snarky commentary or personal invasion. Yeah, well. Dream on.
“For a president who ran more as a megastar than any kind of working politician, the dangers of overexposure are greater than average. Charisma alone rarely withstands the kind of scrutiny movie stars get these days,” says Lisa Schiffren of National Review.
“And it is only diminished when paired up with the ordinary, run-of-the-mill celebs who come on late-night TV to hawk movies or other projects. To be sure, speech is Obama’s talent. But, sooner or later, people will understand the limits of words. For now, enough.”
It does make one wonder, though. What would Reagan do?
Ronald Reagan was a professional actor before he became a politician, hero and uber-statesman. And it is worth pondering what Mr. Reagan — or Mr. Eisenhower or Mr. Roosevelt or even Mr. Lincoln or Mr. Washington — would have done when confronting the open maw of not communism or redcoats but predatory press and a disquieting public appetite.
Almost eight years have passed since Sept. 11. Perhaps public fear of the economy has supplanted fears of Osama bin Laden, though that might be tempered if we all sat down and listened to, say, Darryl Worley‘s “Have You Forgotten” or read up on rumors that Middle Eastern “terrorists” disguised as Hispanics have been reported along our southern border.
Still, the lexicon of diplomacy looks like it’s getting scrubbed.
Newly minted Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is setting a clear lead.
Terrorism — the dreaded t-word — is always a threat, she admitted in an interview with Der Speigel. The German magazine asked her why she never used the term “terrorism” in her first appearance before Congress.
“In my speech, although I did not use the word ‘terrorism,’ I referred to ‘man-caused’ disasters. That is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur,” she explained.
Man-caused. Oy vey. How clinical. And there might be some female suicide bombers who might take issue with that description as well.
Days of yore
Lest we forget, the Gutenberg Bible became the world’s first printed book on this very day in 1457.
Somebody please call Al Gore and inform him about this important global warming anniversary: Niagara Falls ran out of water due to drought — 106 years ago today.
And imagine the clucking and squawking that would rise up from the press in our day and age: 62 years ago today, President Truman ordered a check of the “complete and unswerving loyalty” of each and every federal employee — anything less “constitutes a threat to our democratic processes,” he said at the time.
Last and certainly not least, March 22 is also special for one Oliver North — who began two days of tough testimony before Congress during the Iran-Contra trials exactly 20 years ago, in that long lost year of 1989.
By the numbers
44 percent of Americans say President Obama is “listening more” to the liberals of his party.
30 percent say he is listening to moderates.
26 percent don’t know who he is listening to.
39 percent say Mr. Obama is spending too much money.
34 percent say he is spending the “right amount.”
13 percent say he is spending too little.
59 percent approve of the job Mr. Obama is doing, 26 percent disapprove.
55 percent approved and 25 percent disapproved of President Bush in March 2001.
53 percent approved and 34 percent disapproved of President Clinton in March 1993.
Source: Pew Research Center survey of 1,308 adults conducted March 9 to 12.
Quotes of note
“There’s a lot of people in Congress who drink a lot of alcohol. And they won’t vote to legalize hemp.” — Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican, to CNN.
“The more security you have, the faster you can develop your civil capacity.” — Army Col. Daniel R. Ammerman, commander of the Army Reserve’s 304th Civil Affairs Brigade in Iraq.
“White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said this afternoon that Barack Obama has ‘complete confidence’ in flailing Treasury Sec. Timothy Geithner. Which means he will be fired shortly.” — John Cook, Gawker.com.
“General David Petraeus is planning on delivering the commencement address at the University of Iowa in 2010. Hmmm.” — Michael Goldfarb in The Weekly Standard.
• Contact Jennifer Harper at email@example.com or 202/636-3085.