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Can We All Just Lighten Up? March 23, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in Barack Obama, Economy, National Politics, Obama Administration.
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I didn’t see the “60 Minutes” interview with President Obama last night, but as I watched “Morning Joe” on MSNBC this morning, I assumed the President entertained Steve Kroft with a stand-up routine worthy of Dave Chappelle. 

The “Morning Joe” crew played an excerpt where the President was punctuating the interview with some wry, ironic laughter.  “Why are you laughing…” asked Kroft, “Are you a little punch-drunk?”  The President responded that sometimes a little gallows humor goes a long way toward helping one deal with problems.

“I couldn’t believe it,” harrumphed grumpy-old-man-in-training Willie Geist.  “He just kept laughing and laughing.”  “I know,” responded chief curmudgeon Joe Scarborough.  “Even my wife – who keeps me straight on these things – said she couldn’t believe how much he was laughing!”  (I’m not sure if the quotes are exactly correct, but they are reasonable approximations of what was said.)

To her credit, Little Miss Silver Spoon – Mika Brzezinski – said she didn’t care how much the President laughed, there were BIG issues facing the country.  “Well,”  added Geist, “I just want top say that if it were George W. Bush up there laughing and making jokes – he would have been crucified!”  I walked out of the room to set myself on fire (actually just to dry my hair) as Joe was enthusiastically agreeing.

So, about an hour ago, I watched the interview.  Now I know that I’m a VERY partisan person, but I really couldn’t see what the problem was.  I thought the President was doing the old  “You gotta laugh ’cause if you didn’t – you’d weep” routine.  I  know it well – that’s the way that I deal with a lot of the stress and anxiety in my life.  David Hinkley, the TV critic for the NY Daily Newsseems to see it the same way I do, “His laughs last night were designed as laughs of reassurance.,” Hinkley writes.  “They were designed to tell the TV audience he understands the severity of the situation, that it is what it is, and you know what, he’s going to take this pair of deuces and turn it into a winner.”

Last week, the hoopla was the Presisdent’s appearance on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno.  Countless Republicans, led by Sen. John Kyl of Arizona, trooped up to the podium on Friday to denounce the President.  Kyle practically accused Obama of a Nero-esque fiddling while the country burned.  Pundits of all media were wringing their hands and bemoaning how “un-presidential” the Tonight Show gig was.  Then, there was the Special Olympics gaffe.

Oh, dear, the talking heads could not wait to slice, dice, mince, and pulverize an off-hand quip the President made about his bowling average being a 129.  Saying it was “kind of like the Special Olympics” created a firestorm of controversy.  How dare the President make fun of special-needs athletes!  Did he know how insensitive the remark was?

You know, I’m getting tired of all this.  Yes, the President did Jay Leno’s show while the country was in crisis.  You see, he wanted to let the people know what’s going on.  At least he didn’t sit, panic-stricken, for 7 minutes while he listened to “My Pet Goat”.  At  least he’s out there talking to the American people and explaining things instead of waiting for over a week to tour a drowned American city.  At least he’s not been on vacation like King George was – Bush spent around 20% of his presidency out of Washington – vacationing.

Yes, the President laughed.  I am glad that we have a President who can see beyond the grim and can laugh even in the worst of times.  He doesn’t need to symbolically stop playing golf to convince me he cares.  And yes, the President did make a boneheaded remark about the Special Olympics, but does anyone really think he hates Special Olympians?  I’d say he likes them more than an Alaska governor who has a special needs child who cut Alaska’s funding for the Special Olympics AND rejected stimulus funds for educating special needs children.  Nice.

I’m going to paraphrase Rodney King here – Can’t we all just lighten up?

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