The New York Times‘ report on Obama’s stunt quotes a former press secretary fretting. (“We have to worry about the dignity of the presidency,” said Mike McCurry.) Former Bush administration spokesperson Dan Senor has likewise registered his displeasure. At the White House briefing today, ABC News correspondent Jim Avila asked if the presidency had lost dignity due to the appearance.
One can certainly understand why the White House would be concerned about upholding the dignity of the office. Presidential dignity is one of the most powerful tools the president has. He commands a vast state apparatus designed to create a sense of grandeur around him, and this aura bestows upon him a power unavailable to his rivals.
Is this apparatus really too weak? Why is it the role of the press to worry that the president is coming across too much like an equal citizen and not enough like a monarch? Washington’s dignity fetish is one of those manifestations of the cult of the presidency that expresses some really weird ideas about how democracy is supposed to work.
Aren’t these the same people who were concerned that President Obama was too aloof, that he kept his distance from people, wouldn’t mingle and chat with the important movers and shakers, and risked alienating possible connections that could help him accomplish his goals? Oh, wait… they were complaining because he wouldn’t hang out with them, the Kool Kidz, but would go on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart six times.
Jealousy rears its shiny head.
The last time the Washington Post had an interview with Obama was in December 2009. The last time the New York Times had one was July 2013.
Oddly enough, I don’t remember the same outrage from the Village when George W. Bush went hunting for WMD’s on his hands and knees in the Oval Office in a video for the White House correspondents’ dinner. They thought it was a real knee-slapper. (The families of the dead and wounded soldiers were not so amused.)
Yesterday healthcare.gov was getting a ton of hits from the link at Funny or Die. That’s what’s got them really honked off.