So, on Tuesday night, after our grueling flight down from Spokane to LAX, I stayed up. I watched on CSPAN Mrs. Michelle Obama give a speech at what I think must have been the University of Florida. Then came The Main Event: The President interviewed by David Letterman. It was a stunner.
First, when Mr. Obama came out, the crowd went wild. That's not surprising. The first question that Dave asked Mr. Obama was something like this: "You look great. How much do you weigh these days?"
Mr. Obama answered, as if the question were not insane, "About one eighty."
"Looks good on you," said Dave. "You carry it well."
The first question should have been, "Mister President, what on earth are you doing here? The Middle East is on the brink of war. Iran, the most dangerous nation on earth, is about to get a nuclear bomb. Why did you blow off talks to save the world from an Islamic bomb and the Mideast from war to appear on a comedy talk show?"
Of course, that was never asked.
Instead, we got a lot about Republican obstructionism in Congress and the greed of the Republican rich. (Mr. Letterman makes about $30 million a year.) After one particular sally, Dave actually asked, "Is this just the attitude of the country club rich?" or something like that. Well, duh. It takes one to know one, Dave. How dare you talk about "the rich" as if you were a peasant laborer in Sinkiang?
It was a spectacularly ass-kissing performance, but just about what I expected from Dave. However, Mr. Obama is so smooth, just so incredibly, unbelievably smooth, it just left me gasping.
At one point when Dave was fulminating against Republicans, Mr. Obama, who is about one hundred times smoother than anyone else running for President this year, said something like, "Look. I have been traveling all around this country. I meet a lot of Republicans. They're good, hard-working people."
This was genius. Why don't we have any geniuses (besides Karl Rove) on our side? It made Mr. Obama seem almost huggable for that instant.
But, more to the point, Mr. Obama, like his charming and very likeable wife, made a simple point that the Republicans just cannot seem to answer. He said, and she said, and they've been saying for months, something like this. "We want to help everyone get into the middle class and to be as successful as they can be. And when we make it to success, we want to help others to make it to success, too. That's not what the Republicans want."
That is nonsense on many counts.
First of all, Americans make it into the middle class not by entitlements, not by affirmative action except in a few cases, but by something that the Obamas rarely mention: extremely hard work and thrift.
We Republicans want everyone to succeed. We have had student loans, too. We had the GI Bill, too. But we recognize that there is no government program that can substitute for hard work. You cannot pass a bill to make everyone middle class. That takes work and thrift.
We are the party that believes in work. (We used to be the party that believed in thrift but that was a while ago.)
Second, what have the Obamas done to encourage hard work? Putting people on food stamps? Putting people on welfare? No. That's a short-term expedient. But work is what does it and Mr. Obama has the street cred to tell his friends and brothers and sisters that they must stop complaining and actually work.
Of course, he never does. It all reminds me of years and years ago when I ghost wrote a book for a very famous civil rights leader of black heritage. He would repeatedly tell audiences, "Look, demand equal rights, and I'm with you. Demand equality of opportunity and I am right there with you. But if you learn to plumb a house or fix an electric circuit you can feed your family for life."
I wonder if Mr. Obama ever thinks of saying that. Nahh, why should he? He has things going his way just fine.
Meanwhile, one more little note. Dave pointed out that at the GOP convention, there was a debt clock and the dollars on it scared him. "How big is our debt right now," Dave asked him.
"I don't really know," said Mr. Obama. I AM NOT KIDDING!!!!! What? The POTUS doesn't know how big the national debt is? Can that be? I guess that if he is so uninformed that he thinks that a small tax rise on the rich and a few trims in federal projects here and there will solve the deficit catastrophe, it is possible he actually knows almost nothing except to be slick. And, wow, is he slick.
I want to be back in Idaho.