Sunday, April 29, 2012

President Obama at the 2012 Nerd Prom as "politics degenerates into mere spectacle"

The White House got the video of Obama's annual stand-up comedy act at the 2012 Nerd Prom, aka, the White House Correspondents Dinner, onto YouTube while it was still Saturday, with the clunky title The President Obama at White House Correspondents Dinner 04/28/2012:

He starts with a joking reference to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Then he goes to a Birther joke.

Then there's a weak joke about Congress.

You get the drift. He even made two jokes about eating dogs. And one about the War on Christmas. This is just sadly dumb.

I just think the whole thing is bad.

It's bad enough that we started expecting the President to be the national pastor. Now we expect him to be the Comedian-in-Chief, too.

And of course, the occasion calls for non-partisan, good-natured humor. But it's one thing for a comedian whose not, you know, a responsible elected official to poke fun at the serious goings-on of the day. But for an incumbent President to do a 15-minute stand-up comedy routine about the serious issues of the day just feeds the celebrity-ization of politics and conveys that the Serious People don't actually take the real problems of governance seriously. Or at least they don't take the issues that affect real people's lives seriously.

The White House Correspondents Dinner has become an annual enactment of the problem Jerry Brown warned about in his Inaugural Address as Governor in 2011: "Perhaps this is the reason why the public holds the state government in such low esteem. And that’s a profound problem, not just for those of us who are elected, but for our whole system of self-government. Without the trust of the people, politics degenerates into mere spectacle; and democracy declines, leaving demagoguery and cynicism to fill the void." (my emphasis)

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