Thursday, April 24, 2014


Here are the opening paragraphs of today's column by George Will. It's titled "Barack Obama, the Adolescent President":
Recently, Barack Obama -- a Demosthenes determined to elevate our politics from coarseness to elegance; a Pericles sent to ameliorate our rhetorical impoverishment -- spoke at the University of Michigan. He came to that very friendly venue -- in 2012, he received 67 percent of the vote in Ann Arbor's county -- after visiting a local sandwich shop, where a muse must have whispered in the presidential ear. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) had recently released his budget, so Obama expressed his disapproval by calling it, for the benefit of his academic audience, a "meanwich" and a "stinkburger."

Try to imagine Franklin Roosevelt or Dwight Eisenhower or John Kennedy or Ronald Reagan talking like that. It is unimaginable that those grown-ups would resort to japes that fourth-graders would not consider sufficiently clever for use on a playground.
Reagan? Will actually included Reagan on that list?

Yeah, right -- Reagan was way too mature to say anything like that:

5/18/83 During a speech to the White House News Photographers dinner, President Reagan sticks his thumbs in his ears and wiggles his fingers. Says the leader of the free world, "I've been waiting years to do this."

And Reagan would never have stooped to Obama's level rhetorically, as is abundantly clear from these excerpts from his speeches (hat tip: Paul Slansky's 1989 book on the Reagan era, The Clothes Have No Emperor):

You know, when it comes to this yearly budget process, I keep thinking of that current movie hit, "The Little Shop of Horrors." [Laughter] Now, the budget isn't exactly like the man-eating plant in that movie. It isn't mean, and it isn't green. It doesn't come from outer space. But it does only say one thing: "Feed me! Feed me! Feed me!" [Laughter]
And the way I see it, if our current tax structure were a TV show, it would either be "Foul-ups, Bleeps, and Blunders," or "Gimme a Break." If it were a record album, it would be "Gimme Shelter." If it were a movie, it would be "Revenge of the Nerds" or maybe "Take the Money and Run." And if the IRS, Internal Revenue Service, ever wants a theme song, maybe they'll get Sting to do, "Every breath you take, every move you make, I'll be watching you."
...we were being led by a team with good intentions and bad ideas -- people with all the common sense of Huey, Dewey, and Louie.
You know, when we got to Washington, this country was in the fast lane headed toward economic oblivion. The folks who'd been at the wheel were more reckless than the Dukes of Hazzard....
And let's not forget one of his most revered quips, which doesn't involve popular culture, but does involve, er, stink:
If you will forgive me, you know someone has likened government to a baby. It is an alimentary canal with an appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.
Dear George Will: Yes, presidents talk like this now. They speak in a way you find vulgar and immature and degrading. Do you know why? Because they're trying to follow Reagan's example. He changed the tone of American political rhetoric -- while you were cheering him on. It's his fault.

(Quotes repurposed from a post I did a few years ago.)


Jules said...

Will struggles with the urge to call that uppity negro in the White House "Boy."

Glennis said...

The people who routinely call our President "Obummer" and "Obambi" think that he's resorting to juvenile insults.

FWIW, I've always though insults based on someone's name is the lowest form of humor.

Victor said...

In a different, much more potentially serious league, here's Ronald "Maximus" Reagan joking about bombing the USSR:

"My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes."

Anonymous said...

George H.W. Bush called Clinton and Gore "bozos" in the 1992 campaign.

Anonymous said...

Since when did we demand our politicians be serious all the damn time.

Ken_L said...

People like Will and David Brooks always strike me as the true juveniles. They are like perpetual adolescents, handing down smugly condescending advice to their inferiors from a background of very limited life experience and middle class comfort. Excellent examples of people famous for being famous.