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.