In a recent consideration of President Obama’s leadership, we noted his unique presidential style and more specifically, how he has changed the public face of the American Presidency. He has made what seem to us, drastic and dramatic alterations in the manner in which that institution is conducted; we believe that deserves consideration.
Past presidents have upon election, more or less disappeared into the White House, popping out from time to time to deal with major events with a broadcast to the public or an appearance before Congress. That constructed a remote and — usually — dignified figure to represent the USA in the minds of its citizens. The President was always there, but seldom visible but at necessity. That provided a presidential mystique that could be magnified to fit the enormity of the job. In line with this approach, paraplegic President Franklin Roosevelt, a polio victim, was never photographed in his wheelchair if it could be avoided. His famous ‘fireside chats’ were conducted over radio; TV was still in the future. We saw little; what we saw, was what he wanted us to see. And his public image was that of a giant, appropriate to lead America.
President Obama has gone far in the opposite direction. His presidency has been a continuation of his campaign, with near daily speeches on TV, constant news coverage on video and breathless minute by minuet-seeming bulletins about nearly every breath he has drawn. No newsday seems complete without some recognition of his presence and of his thoughts and wishes. It’s as though upon election, he has moved in with all of us. With this, he is humanized and thereby, diminished. No giant here, President Obama is very much merely a man. The wisdom of that perceived shrinkage seems worthy of examination.
Historic leaders of men have always presented an image that imbues their followers with confidence; men do not widh to follow perceived weakness for obvious reasons. That has usually relied upon a certain remoteness, a distance between the mighty leader and the rest. We well know that our leaders burp, pass gas and act foolishly on occasion, but we do not wish to see them doing it; it makes our choice of leader appear foolish. We are happier to announce the foolishness of others than to face our own.
Our President, it seems to us, has not done wisely by publicizing the Presidency to the point of familiarity; we are told that familiarity breeds contempt and that, for our species, seems true. That is, if anything, multiplied by President Obama’s own contempt for speaking truth; we know now that we aren’t going to keep our doctors. We feel the contempt in one who lies to us for his purposes and we repay that with our own contempt for a liar.
Putting this together; it seems to us that the Obama style has diminished the prestige of the American Presidency, reducing it to the level of hucksterism exemplified by for instance, a used car salesman. We visualize a smiling photo of President Obama captioned: “Would You Buy A Used Car From This Man?”
That is our take of course, you should decide for yourself. And if you disagree, feel free to say so and explain your reasons. We are not custodians of revelead ruth here … just of opinions.