Kathleen Parker spends a column telling us that Sykes wasn’t funny and Rush Limbaugh isn’t a terrorist, which is why Sykes’s now oft-repeated joke wasn’t funny. Thank goodness she cleared that up! But she misses the boat when she says the real problem is “our thin-skinned intolerance and our reflexive lurch to take offense.” Yes, that’s a problem in society and would have been relevant if Limbaugh had actually taken offense. But that’s not what is at issue here.
The concern Pete and I (as well as many others) have raised has nothing to do with a foul-mouthed, unfunny comic. It has to do with the president. If Parker hadn’t noticed, the focus of the mini-kerfuffle has been on the president’s obvious amusement at the time, followed by perhaps the first time in history a White House press secretary has “walked back” a laugh. It’s not the biggest story of the week, but it provides some insight into the president’s lack of presidential-ness, which has become all too familiar.
It should be of concern that, after riding into office on the hope and promise to end the perpetual cycle of acrimony, Obama has intensified it through perpetual slights and jabs at his predecessor. It should be of concern that he doesn’t quite realize his job is to rise above nastiness; not to encourage it. It should be of concern that his administration has made a fetish of vilifying select media figures, a practice not seen since the Nixon presidency. And it should be of some concern, quite bluntly, that Obama thinks a joke about someone keeling over from kidney failure is a hoot.
Bottom line: we don’t expect anything better from Sykes, but we do from our president.