There was a time, not so long ago, when interviewing the President of the United States was considered the pinnacle of a professional journalist’s career. Such an opportunity to probe the mind of the man responsible for directly or indirectly impacting the lives of virtually every person on the planet, was entrusted only to those with the qualifications and pedigree to handle such an important assignment; not to mention making the most of the president’s valuable and limited time.
Not so today. Rather than a Pulitzer Prize or Peabody Award as the prerequisite for the honor of personally interviewing the President of the United States, one need be nothing more than a self-described “Queen of YouTube” famous for bathing in a tub full of milk and Froot Loops.
Though it might seem obvious to question the potential insightfulness of an interview between the President of the United States and a woman who admitted to cutting off the hoods of her husband’s hooded sweatshirts because he might get “shot by the po-po,” this apparently bothered not a whit President Obama or his crack White House staff. Nor, it appears, did the question of how debasing to the institution of the presidency would such an interview be.
Can one possibly imagine any of the presidents whose visages adorn Mount Rushmore participating in interviews with late night comedians or self-styled blogger-journalists, talking about his preference in underwear, as President Bill Clinton did? Or, can you envision President John F. Kennedy fielding sophomoric questions from a cartoonish whack-job whose only accomplishment was gaining notoriety for inane Internet acts? Of course not; but that is exactly the trend being exhibited by those occupying the office of presidency in recent years; taken to a new low by the current occupant.
President Lyndon Johnson who, despite his personal and philosophical flaws, still managed to accomplish many of his legislative goals, once remarked, “[t]he presidency has made every man who occupied it, no matter how small, bigger than he was; and no matter how big, not big enough for its demands.” Johnson meant that role of president had a way of turning even men of diminutive stature (such as Jimmy Carter) into world leaders; though it was never sufficiently empowering to meet the myriad demands of serving as the leader of not only the United States, but in essence the entire Free World. It was in this way that the greatness of a president was measured.
Barack Obama, a man of no significant leadership or business experience before being thrust into the Oval Office, faced a similar test of character as did those before him. Yet, rather than rise to the challenges of the presidency presented in LBJ’s maxim, Obama reduced the position to a far more pedestrian level — namely, nothing more than a celebrity figurehead of his political party. Rather than designing and articulating actual policies to project and protect American interests on a global level, Obama has opted to spend his time and our money playing golf, vacationing in Hawaii, slinging sound bites at eager college students, traveling the fundraising circuit, and, now, granting pointless interviews to clueless interviewers.
Obama’s infantile interview with YouTube “celebrities” last week came in the midst of an extremely critical time; when a new Congress has begun to assert its independence and tackle important public policy issues left festering by Democrats, and as world events present extreme and growing challenges for the United States and our interests abroad.
As Obama made himself available for camera time with GloZell, he shunned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – a diplomatic faux pas of major magnitude on the world stage. The apparently clueless bureaucrats and advisors running Obama’s amateur-hour State Department, may laugh off this “GloZell-gate” controversy as nothing more than an example of how the President is “reaching out” to Millennials, or slough it off as nothing more than an “oversight.” But it is more; much more.
Obama’s actions convey a lackadaisical, if not whimsical, view of the Oval Office that engenders disrespect in the international community, and limits our ability to influence global policy. It endangers our country.
One wonders if our intelligence agencies listened in as Vladimir Putin watched and reacted to his American counterpart being televised sitting in a cartoon studio being interviewed by a comedienne with green lipstick smeared all over her face. How do our adversaries in Beijing, Tehran, or Damascus react to seeing the President of the United States thus debase himself and the office he holds? For our allies, what degree of confidence would they have in an American president who cares so little for the stature of the office he holds, that he would demean himself so blatantly and so publicly? In short, how can any world leader take Obama seriously in the aftermath of such nonsense?
Ronald Reagan is said to have had such high regard for the office of President – and of the symbolism that accompanies it – that even when he sat alone in the Oval Office, he wore a suit and tie. All the world can now see that Barack Obama has such regard for the office entrusted to him, that meeting with cartoonish figures sporting green lipstick is the new normal.
The Moral Liberal Contributing Editor, Bob Barr, represented Georgia’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 -2003 and as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986-1990.
Bob Barr is the author of The Meaning of Is: The Squandered Impeachment and Wasted Legacy of William Jefferson Clinton (2004), and LESSONS IN LIBERTY (2008), as well as co-author with Gary Aldrich of Thunder on the Left: An Insider’s Report on the Hijacking of the Democratic Party (2003)