Thursday, June 10, 2010

Not Enough Drama?



It's bad enough that the harsh realities of this media age require that all of our presidents be "telegenic", it is now apparently mandated that they comport themselves like drama queens. Not only do they need to look like the model in an Esquire ad, they now have to behave like Greta Garbo: "I VANT TO BE ALONE" Since when the hell is this a prerequisite for effective presidential leadership? This new reality is just one more of the many nasty hangovers from the era of Ronald Reagan.

Many years ago when I was still in high school, I bore witness to an argument between a teenage couple that still makes me laugh when I think about it thirty-four years later. The guy had experienced a minor mishap of some kind - so minor, in fact, that I cannot recall even a single detail. After explaining to his girlfriend what had happened, this clown became indignant when she didn't break into tears on hearing about it. Seriously! He actually became incensed because she didn't cry! The reaction of so many in the media this week at President Obama's inherently calm demeanor during the Gulf of Mexico crisis brought this cherished memory back to life with a comical vengeance.

So the president of the United States is not "angry" enough. He's not "weepy" enough. He doesn't "emote". Has the mainstream media been hijacked by a cabal of petulant sixteen-year-olds? Do they expect Barack Obama to behave like the half-witted antagonist of a Lesley Gore tune?

It's my party and I'll cry if I want to!
Cry if I want to!
Cry if I want to!
You would cry to if it happened to you!

Please. In this one respect Barack Obama is a lot like JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Although many of us are not old enough to remember those thirteen awful days in October of 1962, we've certainly seen enough film and videotape footage of it. How did Jack Kennedy behave during that confrontation with Russia? He was as cool as a freakin' cucumber, Buster! Can you imagine how the Soviets would have reacted had the president taken the suggestion of some media adviser and "freak out" on Khrushchev ? Many of you reading this would never have been born. I would probably be dead. We would never have known the name "Sarah Palin". There would today be no such thing as FOX News. Oh, the humanity.

What is it with these black guys? Why the "cool detachment" of so many of them? What's that all about and where did it start?

It started with the jazz musicians of the thirties and forties. They adopted their apparently indifferent, "cool" demeanor simply as a means of survival. The fact of the matter is that back then (and even now in some cases) the very sight of an African American showing any emotion tended to put a certain type of white person ill-at-ease.

Seventy years ago these musicians traveled throughout the country on what was called the "Chitlin Circuit" - black performers traveling to venues where they would entertain predominantly black audiences. Their mode of transportation were buses or caravans of automobiles. Oft times they had to travel though the deep south which, if you'll recall your American history, was not Valhalla for people with dark skin in the weird old days. Remember, up until the mid-twentieth century, the quaint tradition of lynching was perfectly legal in that region of the country. In order not to draw attention to themselves, these groups of performers had to remain (figuratively and literally) COOL! So was born a very cool tradition. Ya dig?

Last night on Hardball with Chris Matthews, Newsweek's Jonathan Capehart - a "person of color" - related the story of how, as a boy, his stepfather once admonished him for showing "too much emotion in your face", and how he would be much better off getting through life as a black person by not revealing the intensity of his feelings. In his autobiography, Barack Obama wrote of his determination to present himself to the world as the most amiable of men in order to pacify the anxiety of white people. He knew instinctively (as do most African American males) that he would avoid a lot of problems if he were not perceived as "AN ANGRY BLACK MAN". By the way, his strategy worked. The guy is at this moment waking up - snug as a bug in a rug - in his bed inside the Executive Mansion. Smart fellow, that Obama.

As I have mentioned too many times to count, this president has been a bit of a disappointment. Although this is definitely "change", not all of it is change I can believe in. But I must give the man credit where credit is due. The calm, unemotional manner in which he carries himself I do not find unsettling. In fact, it gives me more confidence in this president than I have had in any president in my lifetime - and I was born when Eisenhower was in the White House.

He doesn't get angry or emotional? I'm cool with that. He tends to be contemplative and thorough? No problem! He keeps a poker face? Deal me in! I don't find any of these characteristics troubling in the least. In fact, I can't help but find them reassuring! Folks, let's remember that for eight years we had a shoot-from-the-hip, half-witted frat boy in charge of our country! We don't want to go back there, do we? I didn't think so.

Again, the comparisons to President Kennedy are unavoidable. What was the angriest statement he made during his all-too-short time in the White House? It was during an April 11, 1962 press conference, when he acidly condemned the "utter contempt for the interests of 185 million Americans" that Roger Blough and the executives at U.S. Steel were showing by raising the price of that metal by six cents a ton. But even in this instance, although his words bore anger and even rage, his presence exhibited the calm grace for which he was justifiably famous. Can you even imagine Jack Kennedy behaving in any other way? What the heck, let's give it a try, shall we?

"These contemptible bastards at U.S. Steel stabbed me in the back! That's it, man! No more Mister Nice Guy! I'm gonna kick the shit out of somebody, baby! WHO DO YOU THINK YOU'RE MESSIN' WITH, ROGER BLOUGH? WHO YOU TALKN' TO? YOU TALKIN' TO ME? ARE YOU TALKIN' TO ME???"

I mean, seriously.

Yesterday, the unintentional comedians at FOX Noise were even more hypocritical that usual. On the one hand they were criticizing the chief executive for being a cold fish, on the other they were calling him to task for talking about "kicking some ass" during an interview the day before with Matt Lauher on the Today program. It's the same old story with these people. Damned if he does; damned if he doesn't.

The media's response to President Obama's "lack of emotion" is symptomatic of how dumbed-down we've become as a culture in the last three decades. I wish these people could realize how stupid they look when they complain - like that dopey teenager all those decades ago - that the president doesn't show enough emotion. As Capehart said last night on MSNBC, Obama "is just not wired that way". Indeed he's not. He is what he is. It's his party and he'll cry if he wants to. Some people really need to grow up.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye
by Dave Powers and Kenny O'Donnell

A funny and poignant memoir of their friendship with John F. Kennedy. A great book.


At 9:48 AM, Anonymous Will Shirley said...

Strangely enough, can you remember when Hillary was speaking to a crowd and she choked up and got teary for a minute? The Press and the Right ripped her apart for having emotions. They tore her a new ass hole for crying in an un-Presidential manner. These same back-talking freaks are now ranting at Obama for NOT CRYING!! I know hypocrisy when I see it. I know idiots when I hear them. The media in America is composed of 99% complete morons and 1% disgusted but hanging in there journalists. One of the worse aspects of this devolution in the "news" is that now even the local PBS station is babbling newsy crap with no substance. On cloudy days I can pick up Vermont public radio on 95.1 FM and it tells me that there is in fact real news and real news people, just not in New York or Washington. I have noted NPR beginning to stammer, mis-pronounce names and words and increasing the amount of pap they broadcast. I don't care if Lady Ga Ga sings nude at a concert or shoves a snake up her ass, really. I do care if a million gallons of oil a day are pouring into the oceans. I do care if we are continuing to blow up women and children in Pakistan or send weapons to Israel. Those, I feel, are important worries. Obama's inability to make a fool of himself on the air like Bush used to do is NOT NEWS.

At 11:19 AM, Blogger Rain said...

Good essay. The problem is we are living in a culture that adores symbolism and they make that more important than actions. It's very self destructive but maybe a product of the media age. I don't know where it will lead but to a gladiator world?

At 1:08 PM, Blogger Ellis D., Esq. said...

Tom, I think it is WE THE PEOPLE who need to show some emotion and that emotion is ANGER !!! WE THE PEOPLE need to embark on a mission that will probably end unpleasantly for most of us.....taking back our country from the capitalist pigs of the establishment. How many of WE THE PEOPLE are willing to die or be jailed to accomplish this ?? Not many I'm afraid and therein lies the problem. Amerikans have no guts when it comes to fighting the establishment. We should be organizing major boycotts of as many establishment goods and services as possible. WE THE PEOPLE need to organize cooperatives and create bartering networks where goods and services can be exchanged outside of the capitalist system. This will have a much greater impact than worrying about the perceived mental state of a President !!

At 2:04 PM, Blogger Kathleen Saulino said...

Great article, Tom!

I watched that Matt Lauer interview and I'm not surprised that Fox misrepresented what Obama said. In responding to a comment from Lauer that the American people want to see him "kick some ass", the president responded that he was speaking to the people on the ground in the Gulf, and experts so he knew "whose ass to kick". He was using Lauer's words, not being all cowboy on us.

It actually makes me proud to see a composed leader for once. I respect the fact that he is gathering facts, weighing the situation, and making calm decisions. I prefer a calm, smart president to a freaked out, stupid president any day of the week.

Thanks for speaking us, TD.

At 2:39 PM, Blogger Harley A. said...

Just don't take away the Camels, or he might start showing a little more emotion. I'm not even an Obama fan, but I like the fact that he smokes. I wish he'd show up to press conferences throw down the butt, stamp it out, and start taking questions. That would be intimidating the press lackies - I'd have a hard time not being a fan at that point.

At 3:11 PM, Blogger roseduncan said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have a lot of issues with Obama but his lack of emotion is not one of them. But we're in a twenty four hour news cycle now and they have to make news out of what? I believe Colbert does a nice job of mocking this.

At 4:02 PM, Blogger charles moore said...

Tom, another excellent article. And we have to realize that there are many who will never be satisfied with anything Obama does; too little emotion, too much emotion, too much anger, not enough anger. In their opinion, whatever he does is wrong. Another example of this is how many have been talking about government being too big, government interfering with states rights, government spending out of control Now with the oil spill they want more government involvement, more government money, more government take charge. The sky is falling; the government must do something!

It is a welcome relief to have a calm and collected president rather than the swaggering little shit head declaring "Bring 'em on" and "mission accomplished".

At 5:05 PM, Blogger Cosmic Navel Lint said...

Tom, another great piece mate (glad you had a great trip to Abbey road Studios!)

I've nicked this and have posted on my wall on Facebook.

Keep 'em coming brother!


At 6:52 PM, Blogger Cosmic Navel Lint said...

Sorry guys, but I've been watching and reading US sentiment over the Gulf spill, and was minded to pen this:

The Gulf Spill: A Study in American Double Standards?

At 5:25 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Thanks for that link, Bren. Everyone should read it.

At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't care whether he shows emotion or not. All the concerned people care about is getting the spill contained and the oil leak stopped. Always, you make it a partisan issue and try to set up false choices and make those you disagree with look bad. There is more wrong with this administration and its approaches than the last but you'll never see it wearing your progressive, far left glasses.

At 2:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, i didn't think people could be so stupid and ignorant. Look the results of Reagan policy vs this shit we have with Obama. Obama's more like FDR than JFK ... JFK cut taxes while FDR prolonged a recession for a dozen years with his policy.

Market based economies always outproduce Socialistic types like the one Obamba is creating.

Hell, Obamba is out playing golf, having lavish parties and concerts at the White House while the Gulf fills up with oil. If Bush were in office the press would shred him !! Obamba gets a pass from these biased liberals ... This guy is no leader, no President, just a Alinsky trained agitator.

At 10:38 PM, Anonymous Charles Darwin said...

What mindless drivel. This gut just talks to hear himself.

At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Will Shirley said...

Holy Crap Batman! Is it deliberate, Tom, that the right wing nuts have rewritten history to such an extent that Bush becomes a reasonable man? I mean, could they be that stupid and still turn on computers? Geez Louise, I am NOT a lefty, I am NOT a Democrat, but I like to think that someday we might get the country we were told in school we already had. Bush went on vacations more than any other human being on the planet, especially during attacks on our cities. He and Condi, strolling hand in hand to Air Force One to spend a quiet weekend or two together at Camp David. Did you ever notice how that gap in her teeth is exactly the same size as Georgy Boy's cock? Have you Googled up the press conference where she slipped and called him her "husband"? Do it Now, you Bushies! You need to know what is really happening before you start in calling names and being stupid.

Why DO the trolls bother coming here, Tom? Are you making waves in the right places, or is it just that they wander around looking for places to insult people's intelligence?

Personally I don't think Obama is quietly thinking, I think he is just quiet. I think he spent his life quietly taking in money, trying not to be too black, (which is a very reasonable thing to do if you are black in America). Now he is trying to make it through two terms without anyone killing his children. His place in history seems set, except that the Texas Republican Committee is charged with writing the history books for all of the country!! HOLY SHIT!

I have a great idea, let's speed up the process some. Let's burn all the buildings in America and then all take rat poison. That should satisfy the millionaires and Cheney will make a lot of money through Halliburton, picking up the bodies and turning them into dog food, building new cities of happy fascist-Republicrats. That might just save the Earth, too, because instead of trying to kill us all off they can try to put out the fires and plug the oil wells.

Sorry Tom but I awoke this morning to a full blown migraine and it has made me grumpier than normal. But I truly believe everything I said.

At 11:24 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

That was a real gem, Will! Thanks!

I long ago resigned myself to the fact that trying to talk sense to these silly people is an exercise in futility.

Up is down. Day is night. Wrong is get the idea.

Thanks again for that marvelous post. You really stir the pot, Buster!


At 8:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will & Tommy, wonder how wide Michelle "My Bell" pussy is with Van Jones banging her every night and having her kids...come on tell me. Then Barry sticking it up Pelosis pasty asshole!!! you guys would get a thrill out of that.

You blog is classy Tommy Boy.

Harry from Mass

At 10:14 PM, Blogger Bill_in_DE said...

"Will & Tommy, wonder how wide Michelle "My Bell" pussy is with Van Jones banging her every night and having her kids...come on tell me. Then Barry sticking it up Pelosis pasty asshole!!! you guys would get a thrill out of that.

You blog is classy Tommy Boy.

Harry from Mass"

Wow! what a cogent, rational, mature and well thought out rebuttal. I'm sure everyone here is devastated by your wit. Tell ya what sparky, next time bring BOTH halves, and really show us what you 'think'.

At 9:51 AM, Blogger Harley A. said...

Guys – I think you have to be 18 to post on this site.

At 4:53 PM, Blogger guy said...

Tom... Feeling a bit nauseated by all the T-baggers lol I come here to get a break from these nutters.

Simpleminded folk love celebrity. They all called Obama a celebrity, yet somehow missed that Palin is up there with Britney Spears. As usual, per their double standards...

I was listening to Beck the other day and these fookers still cant come up a single solid logical reason as to how the oil spill is completely Obama's fault as they all seem to believe.

On this particular broadcast I remember something very strange. Beck stated something like "Racism is a Human Condition!" As if its perfectly natural and acceptable.

Anyway, great article as always Tom and I support you even if the T-baggers are spreading their hate here as they do everywhere else.


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