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TV Escapism

Matthew Continetti writes:

Unemployment is close to 10 percent. The government is embedded in the auto, banking, housing, and insurance sectors. The president’s domestic agenda hangs in the balance. Things aren’t rosy on the global front, either. Public opinion has turned against the war in Afghanistan just as a major decision on troop levels must be made. The Iranians are busily working to obtain nuclear weapons. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains as intractable as ever. It’s a dangerous world at an uncertain time, and last week the president responded by going on the Late Show with David Letterman.

Now Obama is going to plead his case for the 2016 Olympics—because he can’t imagine any better use of his time, one supposes. After all, making a decision on Afghanistan can wait, and we have oodles of time to talk to Iran before we have to actually do anything.

As Continetti points out, the Obama media-saturation strategy doesn’t seem to be paying off. This raises the issue as to whether this is anything more than Obama’s “vanity” on display. Well, it may be a good deal of that. And it may also be that Obama doesn’t really have other interests or skills except those associated with a perpetual campaign. That may account for his TV obsession and also for stunts like the Olympic pleading session. It’s all part of a trivial-pursuit approach to the presidency, which elevates itty-bitty issues over massive ones and seeks to make every event, no matter how local (e.g., supposed racial profiling in Cambridge), the president’s business.

In the swarm of speeches, pronouncements, legislative gambits (how’s cap-and-trade doing these days?), and endless appearances, Obama has become omnipresent but ineffectual. He talks about everything but accomplishes virtually nothing. He has a single domestic “achievement”—a failed stimulus plan. His foreign policy is in disarray. Maybe he is everywhere on TV because that’s what he knows how to do—with no follow-through, hard decision-making, or consensus-building required. If he didn’t do all that TV, he might have to govern.


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