Between a rock and two ferns… Everything Obama does apparently diminishes the office of President

    President Obama is taking some heat today for his decision to appear alongside Zach Galifianakis on his mock public access interview show Between Two Ferns. The segment, which went live on the Funny Or Die site last night, runs a little over six minutes in length, and includes a number of cutting exchanges between the two men on everything from the comedian’s waning box office bankability to the President’s country of origin.

    [The line that's getting the most attention today seems to be, "How does it feel to be the last black President," but I prefer the exchange where Galifianakis asks the America-hating Obama which country he rooted for during the recent Olympics.]

    While I certainly have issues with the President, and was none too happy about the joking references to drone strikes and domestic spying, I have to say that it was a brilliant move on Obama’s part. If the Affordable Care Act is to be sustainable in the long term, we need to get young people to visit the HealthCare.gov site and sign up for coverage, and this appearance alongside Galifianakis gave him the platform he needed to reach that population. And, all signs are that it worked. As of today, 4.2 million have registered for health care through the federal marketplace, which is still below what the White House had been shooting for, but, according to White House Senior Communications Advisor Tara McGuinness, the Between Two Ferns segment is now driving more people to the site than anything else.

    And people on the right, as you might expect, are up in arms… Before we get to that, though, here’s the segment.

    Upon seeing the interview, Representative Randy Weber of Texas took to Twitter and said the following: “Instead of wasting time with a parody interview, he should be focusing on finding answers re: #Benghazi.” Most on the right, though, from what I can tell, were just content with calling it “un-presidential.” (I would think that, by definition, anything a President does would be presidential, but guess some interpret the English language differently.) If you have the stomach for it, check out the comments on Glenn Beck’s site, where a lot of people are talking about how this President has “diminished the Executive office.”

    This is actually the second time in the past few weeks that I’ve heard someone observe that Obama has “diminished” the office of President. The last time was about two weeks ago, when I was visiting my extended family in Kentucky. At some point during our stay, I found myself in a room with an older male relative when a story came on the television about Obama’s appearance in a video promoting his wife’s Let’s Move campaign, which is aimed and increasing physical activity, especially among America’s young. In the video, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are seen leaving the Oval Office and going for a run together. It’s a corny little piece, but, given the costs associated with obesity in America, I didn’t react negatively. This relative of mine, however, snorted and dropped the “diminishing the Executive” line… Apparently, it would seem, it’s beyond the pale for a a President of the United States to jog.

    I’ve yet to send it, but I made the following image for said relative.

    PresidentsExercising

    That’s Obama in the bottom right… He’s the one next to Biden, in THE FUCKING SUIT!

    Yeah, I should have mentioned that. This relative of mine was upset that Obama was essentially walking fast in a suit. It’s not like he was dressed like Richard Simmons, dripping sweat, and collapsing into the arms of the Secret Service. HE WAS WEARING A FUCKING SUIT.

    Obama, I imagine, had to wear a suit because he knew that the insane Republicans out there, if he were wearing anything less, would question his ability to serve as President. Apparently, however, the criticism came anyway. It didn’t matter that he was wearing a tie, or that we’ve had jogging Commander-in-Chiefs for as long as I can remember. And, if you want to talk about demeaning the office, just look at Reagan up there, sharing his exercise routine on the pages of Parade magazine. But, when Obama walks fast IN A FUCKING SUIT, it leads to conversations about him disrespecting the office the office of President. And the same goes for Obama’s appearance with Galifianakis. It’s as though people don’t remember, or don’t care to remember, Clinton playing saxophone on the Arsenio Hall Show or Nixon saying “sock it to me” on Laugh-In. The truth is, all of this has been done before, just not by a black Democrat. And that, I think, is the point where we lose our minds. It’s one thing to have the strong and fatherly Ronald Reagan lifting weights, but it’s another to have a black “community organizer” running on the grounds of the White House. That’s just disrespectful.

    [note: For what it’s worth, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked today whether or not Obama’s appearance with Galifianakis “damaged the dignity of the office.” His response… and emphatic “No.”]

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      14 Comments

      1. Posted March 12, 2014 at 7:33 am | Permalink

        Interesting.

        I forgot how fit the past Presidents were, but they still seem to get old and die.

      2. anonymous
        Posted March 12, 2014 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        Always with the brilliant insight. Thank you, Dr. Larson.

      3. Meta
        Posted March 12, 2014 at 8:37 am | Permalink

        From Rachel Maddow’s blog:

        Conservative media was more unreserved in its outrage. Bill O’Reilly went so far as to complain, “Abe Lincoln would not have done it.” A Republican congressman seriously suggested the president shouldn’t talk to Funny or Die, but should instead focus on Benghazi.

        This is all a bit silly – and I’m not referring to the comedy.

        Look, online videos are obviously new, but Obama’s FOD appearance was hardly unprecedented. Eisenhower made an appearance on a show called The Colgate Comedy Hour. Reagan participated in comedy birthday specials for George Burns and Bob Hope. Two months before getting elected to the White House, Nixon did “Laugh In.”

        George W. Bush even appeared live on a Howie Mandel game show.

        I’m not indifferent to the prestige of the U.S. presidency, but I don’t think it’s as fragile as some conservatives and reporters suggested yesterday. Obama wants to get a message to the public, so he’s relying on a variety of media to reach disparate audiences. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and it’s probably time for the Beltway to get used to it, because future administrations will have no choice but to follow this same trail.

        It’s safe to say dignity of the presidency endures – and will no doubt remain intact in the wake of “Between Two Ferns.”

        As for O’Reilly’s concern that Lincoln wouldn’t have done this, it’s a little tough to compare mass communication strategies in the 1860s to contemporary times. That said, I’d remind the Fox News host (and ostensible author of a book about Lincoln) that the iconic president had a reputation for telling risque jokes in the White House, so much so that Lincoln’s media critics of the day “assailed his lack of dignity.”

        Somehow, the “dignity of the office” survived.

        Read more:
        http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/between-two-ferns

      4. Posted March 12, 2014 at 8:37 am | Permalink

        I think Mark will live forever.

      5. Mr. X
        Posted March 12, 2014 at 8:56 am | Permalink

        Mark has made arrangements, Peter.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOEaRtf5KWM

      6. Thom Elliott
        Posted March 12, 2014 at 9:11 am | Permalink

        The prestige of the US presidency is deplorably harmed by cornball jogging vid, but rest assured; the dark glamour of being a temporary figurehead of the global totalitarian plutocracy leading our tragic species in its headlong plummet into an ecological void of biblical proportions is left utterly undiminished. What a farce, and what hopelessly phoney nonsense from Maynard’s fascist uncle; the world is on fire old white man, who gives a shit.

      7. Eel
        Posted March 12, 2014 at 9:30 am | Permalink

        Was this relative of yours outraged when Bush put his feet up on his desk in the Oval Office?

        http://cloudfront.mediamatters.org/static/images/item/20100125-bushovaloffice.jpg

      8. Eel
        Posted March 12, 2014 at 9:31 am | Permalink

        It’s nice to have you back, Thom. I was worried that you’d combusted in a white hot flash of mega anger.

      9. Posted March 12, 2014 at 10:07 am | Permalink

        I remember that some Republicans were outraged when Carter wore a sweater in the White House. Many Americans really want a king.

      10. Bee
        Posted March 12, 2014 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

        Barack Obama (sp?)
        I think is my favorite.

      11. BrianB
        Posted March 12, 2014 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        Their idea of a dignified leader is shirtless on horseback.

      12. 734
        Posted March 12, 2014 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

        Obama should grow out an Afro and give them all heart attacks.

      13. Steam
        Posted April 21, 2014 at 5:57 am | Permalink

        I had a relative who said the same thing a few years ago when there was a photo of him wearing a short sleeve shirt in the White House.

      14. Meta
        Posted April 25, 2014 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        Yet one more example on Salon.com today.

        Oh dear me. Fox News superstar George Will is very offended. He’s calling for the smelling salts over that rude young man Barack Obama’s “adolescent” rhetoric. (Obama used the word “stinkburger,” a word so vile that poor George practically collapsed onto his fainting couch.)

        Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) had recently released his budget, so Obama expressed his disapproval by calling it, for the benefit of his academic audience, a “meanwich” and a “stinkburger.”

        Try to imagine Franklin Roosevelt or Dwight Eisenhower or John Kennedy or Ronald Reagan talking like that. It is unimaginable that those grown-ups would resort to japes that fourth-graders would not consider sufficiently clever for use on a playground.

        Heavens to betsy! What will that childish miscreant do next? Tell a U.S. senator to go f**k himself? Oh no, sorry, that was Vice President Dick Cheney, whose return to the halls of power was widely celebrated among the denizens of the Beltway as a sign that the “grown-ups were back in town.” (And said “grown-up” was still snorting and high-fiving to his buddies about it years later.)

        But if he wants a perfect example of puerile banter, it’s going to be hard to beat this one from the top “grown-up” of his day, George W. Bush, who ended a meeting with the G-8 on climate change by punching his fist in the air, grinning widely and saying:

        ”Goodbye from the world’s biggest polluter!”

        Read more:
        http://www.salon.com/2014/04/25/george_wills_humiliating_temper_tantrum_why_he_is_a_sensitive_stinkburger/

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