Criticism of President Obama’s NCAA Bracket Ignores Media Reality

Barack Obama
Win McNamee/Getty Images

There is a contingent in the U.S. media that will take umbrage over every non-serious thing President Obama does. And before the next president is sworn in, maybe it’s time to realize just how intensely silly that is.

The latest example, as detailed by the liberal watchdog site Media Matters, involved criticism directed at Obama for filling out an NCAA Tournament bracket while the world – and most specifically, the Ukraine – is going to hell in a hand basket. This follows a lot of hand-wringing over the president’s decision to appear on Zach Galifianakis’ Web series “Between Two Ferns,” ostensibly to help push the Affordable Care Act.

Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly actually suggested President Lincoln wouldn’t have appeared on the “Funny or Die” series, and he should know, having dug up the late president so he could kill him all over again.

The righteous indignation, however, ignores several key facts, among them that the world is always going to hell somewhere, meaning any lighter moment or round of golf could be derided as the equivalent of fiddling while Rome burns.

More significantly, the splintered nature of the media landscape practically demands the president use a variety of tools to get messages out to diverse constituencies. While certain pundits (many of them, frankly, still rooted in hoary nostalgia) long for the days when the president never deigned to speak to anyone less dignified than Walter Cronkite, that’s simply no longer feasible today.

On a good night, cable news’ highest-rated program, “The O’Reilly Factor,” reaches roughly 1% of Americans, and most of them are eligible for Social Security. So as any major advertiser can attest, conveying information in the digital age requires a kind of scatter-shot approach – which, in this context, includes everything from latenight talk shows to “The View,” from traditional newscasts to Huffington Post “hangs.”

Before this is construed as another defense of Obama from some bleeding-heart lefty, this policy should apply to all presidents going forward. It’s been roughly a quarter-century since Bill Clinton played the saxophone on Arsenio Hall’s syndicated show (that’s right, kids, he had another one way back then), and the republic has somehow survived.

The bottom line is those who fret about the dignity of the presidency or the president squandering time on what appear to be trifles are living in the past, ignoring that our media consists of a mix of high and low, with the low frequently outweighing the high. And that includes the analysis devoted to his NCAA picks — which only prove that wherever the road to the Final Four might lead, when it comes to pandering, politics and media have clearly boarded the same bus.

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  1. KenD says:

    It’s no different than throwing out the first pitch on Opening Day, or a photo opp with the Super Bowl winning team. And as long as he picked Michigan State to win it all, that’s fine with me.

    As Brian says, wishing more people would remember, 300 million people DO NOT watch O’Reilly or Fox News.

  2. Scuba Girl says:

    As opposed to GW Bush reading to a bunch of 2nd graders when the US was actually under attack? Seriously? Nixon went on Laugh-In. There’s a long history of Presidents doing less than serious, high-minded things during crisis times. These people are capable of multi-tasking.

    Unlike the mindless drones on Fox News.

    • sammyglick says:

      Actually the drones on Fox News can multi-task. They can lie to themselves AND the viewers all at the same time that they are being ‘fair and balanced’!

  3. Fred says:

    “The bottom line is those who fret about the dignity of the presidency or the president squandering time on what appear to be trifles are living in the past”

    Really? Say’s you?? Then your someone I won’t read in the future.

    It’s also about appearance. Putin is starting to move through area’s with military, and this leader is doing his NCAA picks on tv? Appearing on a cable outlet looking like a buffoon. Goes for another weekend of golf while the world looks to us for support and direction?? And this is not the first time.

    Just look at his track record, how much time he spends on ‘vacation’ vs this country and his ‘duties’.
    You may not take it too seriously on how we are perceived, however when our citizens and countries around the world see our President make the mistakes he does, the lies he tells, the program he and his party ‘shoved’ down our throats that is an Embarrassment and boondoggle, which is costing us now a ‘trillion’ and counting, yet still tries to push this horrible thing like it’s great……. it’s not ‘only’ appearance it’s results and yes…. it DOES matter. Nations follow those with strength, vision and drive. Our allies are not following us, yet instead will the other due these examples and more.
    Would you take financial direction from a comedian? Exactly.

    I’d advise you to stick to the smaller things like entertainment and leave the Serious stuff to those that know and care and intelligent enough to see the results of the past, the dangers of the present and the consequences of the future.

    • sammyglick says:

      Lol — looks like this media analysis stirred up a member of the 1% of TV news viewers who think O’Reilly and the rest of Fox News’ phony rants are just them “looking out for the folks” and being ‘fair and balanced’ in how they discuss the issues of the day. By the way Fred, Pres. George W. Bush STILL holds the record for number of vacations taken while sitting in the Oval Office. Also, Putin INVADED another one of his neighbors (Georgia – the country, not the state) when GEORGE W. BUSH was in office and it didn’t lead to WWIII or N. Korea deciding to invade Japan or Iran dropping bombs on Israel. But don’t let pesky facts get in the way of your rant about how the current president can walk and chew gum at the same time. It’s 2014, Presidents don’t sit in the Oval Office for 9 hours with an hour lunch and two fifteen minute breaks.

      • Fred says:

        You’re wrong about the Fox news thing. It’s got its issues as does any outlet. So, not so easy.
        See, I go to numerous outlets to see what I’m missing from the others, from network, cable and the net.
        Diversity brings knowledge, if you’re open for it.
        Part of the problem is those that pick one side and stick by em no matter what. Those are the drones, the ignorants, big part of problem. Sound familiar?
        Yea, you’re right about Bush and vacation time, no argument here. He could have spent a lot more time doing his job as well, and a much better job at that! (troubling huh?)
        I was talking also about our Presidents timing with golf and vacation with Crimea, Putin… while he’s declaring, moving his troops in, same time, our President was shown…, hitting the course. So the past 4 weeks or so specifically.
        Georgia, you’re correct about that as well. Yet Georgia is a bit different in comparison with a look.
        Chew gum and walk… how bout him learning how to spell respect. See, the lil one’s can just keep coming yet the bigger things should be far more important. Yet they do add up don’t they?
        And no facts contrary were stated by me, so why did you claim so? False premise doesn’t look good on ya.
        Speaking of Iran, you hear how their defying us and the terms now? Yea, those talks are going well huh. Or Syria, how’s that going with Putin stepping in and taking over that after another false threat. We’re looking pretty strong aren’t we. (yea, right)
        How bout that N. Korea you mention, and the missiles they’ve tested and our response to that. (Oh yea, there is none)
        Or taking the missile defense down and how that’s biting us now. And again, Putin and others laughing (literally), at our Presidents responses to all that’s going on.
        Oh, and you’ve failed to bring up The Affordable Care Act, ObamaCare, fondly adopted by our President. Yea… I see why. Picking those sides blindly still huh?
        You know… with ‘just’ the money spent on ‘building’ (not correcting/re-programming from the ground up), yea, the one built by Mrs. Obama’s buddy from college, (was that a no bid contract by the way, I’m not sure?), you know with what the taxpayers spent on that, the President could have instead, given ‘Every’ living American $2 Million dollars cash, which they could have put in an account for their health care? A ‘whole lot’ cheaper and smarter than the Billions, now reported by the CBO a ‘Trillion’ this administration is wasting huh? Now, where’s the logic in that, no matter ‘what’ side you’ve picked?

        I know, it’s easy to pigeon hole or even demonize people, yet I couldn’t care any less what color, nationality, religion (for the most part), male, female, gay or straight or party someone is. I want my President, his cabinet and his party to stop acting like adolescent schoolboys trying to punish and one up each other instead of doing what’s in the Best Interest of this country and its people. They care for them, pretending to care for us.

        So chew on that oh condescending, aSSuming, punkish partisan one.
        I mean… I hope I brought some food for thought and you’d process with an open mind.
        Honestly, appreciated your view.
        Be well.

  4. johntshea says:

    ‘…Another defense of Obama from some bleeding-heart lefty…’!? How could anyone possibly construe that?

    • Brian Lowry says:

      “Would you take financial direction from a comedian?” Um, if it was Jerry Seinfeld or David Letterman, yeah. Might want to try a different analogy.

      • Fred says:

        Jerry and David made their money on their talent, not at advising on it.
        Clear difference. Hope you see it.

      • johntshea says:

        I take it you intended to reply to Fred, Mr. Lowry. To slightly offset the polarities of other commenters let me say I commend the President for his humor and work/life balance. Workaholics impress many people, but not me.

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