No One Listens to the President

Tonight, when the President speaks to the nation about Libya, let’s do something different.

Let’s listen. Let’s listen, and then turn the television off and think about what he’s said. Mull it over in your mind, but only after having watched the thing and having imagined that the President was really talking to you.

You see, a lot of helpful people in the media think the viewing public is stupid. Well, a lot of them damned well know it. And the ones who don’t, have actually convinced the viewing public that, because they happen to be  celebrity talking head on television, they know far more and far better what the President wants to say to you, and so they give you their interpretation and tell you that’s what he really, really, really meant to say.

Then they start bitching about what he didn’t say and should have said, and how he should have said what he did say differently. They twist and turn and bend and break down and analyse and parse his every word, his every inflection and his general body language to the point that one half of what the pundits do say is in direct contradiction to the other half, and that only confuses everyone.

But maybe they want that too. You see, the pundits all say – Right and Left – that the President has a communication problem. Some say he’s too high-brow, too elitist. Others say he depends too much on a teleprompter. Still more wonder how he could communicate so effectively as a candidate, but not as President.

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Well, he does. I see no different in candidate Obama and President Obama. From everything the candidate said, I was able to ascertain that he was a centre-Left pragmatist, who patterned himself after his Presidential idol, Lincoln. He was never an out-and-outright Progressive, not even the type. His one remark about single-payer healthcare insurance amounted to opining that if the US were starting from scratch, where no one had health insurance, single-payer would be the way to go. His mere mention of the fabled and infamous public option was to give a nod to the fact that if it were possible for the government to offer some sort of public health option as a means of healthcare insurance, that should be considered also.

He promised to ratchet down Iraq and ratchet up Afghanistan. He’s done both.

But then, I listened to what the man said, all the while noticing various members of whatever live audience, watching his speeches with looks of abject rapture, the way the born-again religious fundamentalists of the Right look when they think they see Jesus peeking at them in the sunlight through the leaves of a magnolia tree. I’d be willing to bet these people are the ones stamping their feet and shouting about the fact that the President’s done nothing (they wanted).

Remember John McCain’s catty election advertisement which presented the President as a shallow celebrity along the lines of Paris Hilton or Britney Spears? Well, in part, Old Man McCain was right. So many people were so caught up in their pre-conceived phenomena and self-constructed celebrity of candidate Obama, that they invested him with the sort of qualities with which a teenage girl invests a particular rock star on whom she has a crush. Suddenly, the rocker represents all her hopes, aspirations and beliefs – when he probably doesn’t at all, it’s all in her mind and heart.

So it was, I reckon, a lot of people thought they listened to candidate Obama with their ears, but they were really listening with their minds and hearts.  In a way, he captured the nation’s imagination similar to the way John Kennedy did – except Kennedy didn’t have the impediment of a 24/7 news media hanging on his every word and analysing his every movement.

The Rightwing call the President a tyrant, a fascist and a dictator in much the same way the Leftwing described Bush; but listening to some parts of the Left, I’m left with the impression that what they’d really like is a Leftwing Bush, and wish the President were more like his predecessor, albeit with a Progressive bend. In short, we’re all wanting Big Daddy, when we really have got a dedicated professor trying to get us out of the shitstorm the last guy left. We’re wanting JR Ewing, and we’ve got Bobby.

We’ve got talking heads who tell us the President’s a racist, we’ve got talking heads (from the Left) who tell us not to vote, who threaten the President with one term only, we’ve got others who, granted a Presidential interview, don’t deign to let the man get a word in edgeways. And we’ve got politicians who say outright that the President’s confused, that he’s a foreigner, that he’s weak, that he dithers. (Since when did “dither” become a euphemism or even a synonym for “deliberate?”) We’ve even got politicians from his own party, with degrees in communication, who condescend to say that a constitutional law scholar either doesn’t know or is in contempt of the Constitution. And then there are those who politicos who don’t trust the President to tie his own shoe without getting Congressional approval first.

Gee, I wonder why?

So, tonight, let’s do something different. When the President speaks, let’s listen to what he’s got to say. And when he’s finished, let’s turn off the television and think about it.

You might find that you’ve learned something.

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