The Obama Watch

The MTV President

It's not cool to have a leader one can only look down at.

By 3.25.09

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In America, those who exude a certain type of attraction or charisma are often christened with the sobriquet of "rock star." For those of us who've outgrown the allures of the brain-shattering, soul-stealing muck that has masqueraded as music for the last few decades, this term is not exactly a desirable one for those engaged in anything but narcissistic and immature pursuits.

Yet for many in this country, comparison to a rock star is the ultimate compliment and a cherished goal. Into this sad state of our country comes President Barack Obama, whom many have labeled our first post-Baby Boomer president and naturally, a rock star who can dance too!

Bill Clinton was the first Baby Boomer president and he was followed by another, George W. Bush. Yet Clinton, who was also accorded presidential rock star status, was, by the time he reached the White House, an accomplished politician, having spent 15 years as Attorney General and Governor of Arkansas. Similarly, Bush was the twice-elected Governor of Texas.

But despite their differences in posture and policy, both were products of basically the same electorate; one still largely made up of those who recalled the tumult of the 20th century and made the handling of serious issues a priority in choosing their leader. Obama, on the other hand is the product of another constituency; one who has no memory of the sacrifices and hardships endured by the Greatest Generation; one for whom a rock star in office is worthy of the supreme adjective: cool.

Baby Boomers were the first generation to be reared on television, but not to the extent of their children and grandchildren. The advent of cable and satellite technology brought 24/7 news, MTV and other so-called entertainment in a such way that television and those who make it became the omnipresent arbiters of social mores. If TV was the babysitter of the Boomers, it became mother, father, teacher and preacher to all who came after.

So it's not surprising that two-thirds of the biggest turnout of the vaunted "youth vote" in years turned out to elect a man of scanty credentials and no executive experience at all. Since the 1960s, maturity is not considered cool, and most kids since that awful decade have grown up thinking that their goal in life is to clean up the messes made by their parents; the reasons behind them be damned. And Mr. Obama is the essence of that modern mantra: coolness counts most, and consequences be damned.

This is not to say that voters in this country have never favored style over substance before, but in the confluence of Obama's packaged persona and the adoration heaped on him by a fawning press, we have reached a truly frightening stage in our history. We have heard zombie-like children singing psalms to him and witnessed eerie loyalty oaths sworn to him; the testimonies of those who have promised to be better people simply because of his election.

However talented the man might be, Barack Obama as silver-tongued savior, is in reality a creation of the mainstream media. When George W. Bush was inarticulate at times, he was the butt of jokes and worse; a buffoon who got through life on the coattails of his father. Yet, when Obama stutters through rehearsed speeches or maniacally laughs while discussing our ailing economy on 60 Minutes, these gaffes are either ignored or oddly offered as further proof of his oratorical genius.

But why? Because those who control most major newspapers and TV are immature dreamers still stuck on their vision of a socialist utopia; the stuff of teenaged vows to "change the world." And their hero epitomizes all they hold dear; a hip, youthful knight who champions activism -- whatever that means -- and looks good doing it.

And so we have managed to elect a man whose brief time in office has reeked of political immaturity. It's as if like a child, he is constantly trying on his father's shoes by purporting to accept responsibility, while seconds later claiming, "It wasn't me...I didn't do it!" Try this from a recent town hall meeting in California:

Listen, I'll take responsibility. I'm the president. We've got a big mess that we're cleaning up. Nobody here drafted those contracts. Nobody here was responsible for supervising AIG and allowing themselves to put the economy at risk by some of the outrageous behavior that they were engaged in. We've got a lot on our plate -- but it is appropriate when you're in charge to make sure that stuff doesn't happen like this.

Can you conceive of your own father, much less the President of the United States, alibiing his way out of responsibility in this manner? Can you imagine a real statesman using the word "stuff" when speaking of issues of vital, national importance? Such is not the stuff of a great, oratorical leader. The fact that he feels it necessary to demean the office of the presidency by going on late-night talk shows and making childish jokes about the Special Olympics only adds to the immaturity factor.

This country used to favor electing presidents that it could look up to, that possessed the kind of maturity needed in tough times. Like George W. Bush or hate him, there were very few accusations of frivolity surrounding his presidency. And despite what went on behind closed doors, Bill Clinton at least made an outward show of gravity; he made sure to tell us that he felt our pain, he didn't laugh at it.

So here we are. Either we have three or more years of being regaled by the cool and the hip -- watching our president dance and laugh while America burns -- or we can encourage Americans to hold Obama's feet to the fire. Because style will only go so far; even among kids, who will hopefully one day grow up into responsible citizens who'll have to pay the piper for this economic farce. And when that time comes, they'll only have themselves to blame.

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About the Author

Lisa Fabrizio is a columnist who hails from Connecticut (mailbox@lisafab.com).