“Dude”?

I cringed when Larry King, jacketless, as always, despite being a guest in the White House, ended an interview with President Clinton and Vice President Gore in 1993 with “Thanks, guys!” So I choked when Jon Stewart called the President of the United States “dude” in his appearance on “The Daily Show.”

I blame KIng for blatant disrespect to the office of the President. (I would like to think that Clinton privately told King that the next time, if there was one, it would be “Mr. President,” thanks.) I blame Stewart, too; I think it was a gaffe, and I think he should have apologized. Mostly, however, I blame Barack Obama.

Unlike King, Stewart was on his own turf, which has its own tone and culture. Stewart does not do respectful, restrained interviews on his show (Though he still sometimes lobs softballs at liberal Democrats that should be easy targets, like John Kerry). It was Obama who symbolically waived the dignity of his office by appearing on the show.

This is not only a mistake. It is irresponsible, diminishing the power of his office and all future presidents who occupy it.The post that has been held by the likes of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, and the Roosevelts carries its own dignity and status that has been built meticulously over the decades. It is every President’s duty to do nothing that reduces that status. George Washington wisely eschewed the trappings of royalty, asserting that in a democracy, “Mr. President” embodies the proper balance of modesty, eminence and respect. It still does. A president who sheds the basic armor created by a tradition of formal respect from all citizens addressing him unwittingly abandons part of his authority, influence, and power.

As with so much else connected with leadership, Barack Obama doesn’t understand this, and placed himself—and his office—in a position where familiarity and casual disrespect were likely to occur. That’s what he got, too. After “dude,” what’s next? “Mac”? “Wise guy”? “Jerkwad”?

I think Obama should concentrate on holding on the “Mister President.” It is a genuine case of use it or lose it.

18 thoughts on ““Dude”?

  1. Looks like he already HAS lost it. What’s remarkable really is that this is not such a surprise. Poll numbers reflect “respect,” if indeed such a term can be used in the context of assessing politicians at all, and we all know where those numbers are now.

  2. I agree… Stewart made a mistake – but I bet you MONEY he sacks up and acknowledges it tonight on his show. I’m going to defend both th president and Stewart however in this regard… This is a tactic that ranks up there with the ‘jacket required’ bull pockey that erupted when there was a pic early on of Obama in the white house. It lasted about 36 hours until pics of many former presidents were circulated of similar jacketless states of dress.

    That being said, Stewart I think held obamas feet to the fire, and obama fired back with some passion and gravitas. It is very telling that comedy central has more huevous rancheros than the so called ‘liberal’
    MSM to interview and ask such prickly, unsoftballish questions.

    PLUS, now that I think about it, I’d say that Stewart has1000x the respect for the office of president and what it represents than any neocon policywonk that ever occupied Fords, Reagans or either Bush’s administration. This is not a ‘miss Manners’ type of a deal. Andrew Jackson was of a similar ilk, and I am shuuure he was criticized and Harumphed in a similar fashion by th opposition bloggers in the 1800s. (snark, couldn’t hep mesef)

    • I’ll be interested in seeing whether Jon apologizes.
      As for the interview, it was certainly fairer than anything the major networks or CNN has done with Obama. The one Fox News interview (Bret Baer) the President did, however, represented good work by Fox—nobody was willing to give Fox credit for it.

      Anyone who dared to call Andrew Jackson “dude”—or the 1830 equivalent for him (“Jack”?)—would be looking at a cane in his skull. People were afraid of Andy—that carries its own kind of respect and power. Is anybody afraid of Obama? Would someone have yelled “you lie!” at Jackson?

  3. I like Blakearts third paragraph–Stewart shows more respect for the office than most of the msm, and more than all of FoxNews. I think the EthicsAlarms piece was ghostwritten by an old fuddy-duddy. Oops, I withdraw the “old.”

    • I’d put it a little differently. I think Stewart showed respect for his duty as a comedian/satirist/ journalist—whatever the heck he is, and the public. ABC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN, and NBC have fawned over Obama in every situation where they had him live.Obsequiousness and bootlicking is respect, I guess, but it doesn’t burnish a leader’s power, because the agent is so contemptible

      I am more secure with a leader whom citizens both want to and feel that they are bound to address as “Mr. President.”

  4. Jack – I would have lost the bet… he didn’t, and frankly (newt) I am kind of surprised. Talk about your ‘Teachable Moments’ – but I would be surprised if the topic was not discussed backstage in showprep – they probably made the tactical decision not to address it. Maybe it’ll come up later. Or not.

    As for Stewart’s ‘duty’- I think you really touch upon something that throughout history has been a very important but a generally lost aspect of what makes a good leader, and a leader of the people – is a ‘sense’ of humor. In any Civilized culture, especially if we are talking about one that has compassion and empathy for the common man and souls incarnating for the first time, the people are more apt to follow a leader that has the perspective to be able to laugh at himself. Obama, all his shortcomings aside, at least has a very highly developed sense of humor… and it’s well-rounded, not like W’s mean-spirited type.
    Reagan had a great sense of humor, which is a big reason why he is so revered today.

    This is a strength and not a weakness… and sorry to say, the more extreme the view, the general correlation points to the less tolerance for humor. This is why the those to the right of the Tea Party, which seems to be WAY to the right, lack this sense, Especially those of the NewCon ilk. Taking themselves, their opinions and the bible verses they point to (for political gain only, they don’t really believe it) for their hateful motivations are the evidence – very similar to those of any extreme belief system where they take life and themselves a bit too seriously.

    I think the Omniverse™ itself not only injects irony into this particular reality on a regular basis, but also has this sense of humor, and it is a natural, good and Holy part of existence – and a big part of why people fall into bits of uncontrollable laughter after awesome sex, or imbibing in any natural hallucinogenic substances.

    The court jester usually was the one of any of the King’s ‘advisors’ who could get away with basically ‘telling the truth’ without losing their head. Stewart, Colbert, Chris Rock, Richard Pryor, Dave Chapelle, Bill Maher (even though he is a douchebag, he’s talented) among others, and to a greater degree George Carlin & Bill Hicks – These are not only Comedians per se, but modern day Truth-Tellers and Prophets IMHO.

    I know you’ve got a different take on this Jack – but I’ve seen enough alternative videos that are attempting to explain this reality being rolled out for us right now, and the dominant voiceovers in the clips are bits from Carlin and Hicks routines, that touch on and embrace what is the real, unvarnished truth of what is being spoon-fed to us as how reality is being positioned to work.

    For your reference, Hicks:

    http://bit.ly/awQRr9

    Carlin:

    http://bit.ly/zaOt7

    I could go on and on down this busier and busier avenue… but I will also include this link to help verify what I am talking about –

    http://bit.ly/G33F2

    At the end of the link above, this 10 minute video that has Scientist after Spirirtual Guru after Quantum Physicist explaining how they are just now starting to figure out the true ‘physical’ nature of reality itself, and the very end of the video, is Bill Hicks, explaining his ‘Comedy Bit’.

    So to Dismiss Stewart or anyone (myself included) as a ‘comedian/satirist/ journalist—whatever the heck he(they) is (are),’ – I think you’re missing out on a pretty big chunk of what the true nature of politics, nature, and reality itself, is.

  5. Is “sir” acceptable? I tend to use “sir” a lot, and I know some judges prefer to be called “your honor” or nothing at all, which seems a little much (if only because your honor flows poorly in conversation).

  6. I agree, Jack, that Obama may have made a mistake by coming on The Dailey Show in his capacity of President. But maybe not. I don’t think that Jon Stewart intended disrespect. After all, the two likely agree on far more issues than not. But when Obama went on his show, it had to have been with a foreknowledge of the “somewhat” frivolous nature of that show. Therefore, by doing so, he gave tacit approval to the usual level of familiarity. Stewart likely saw it that way, too.

    As a hard core “neocon” (by some people’s thinking!) I have virtually nothing in common with Obama’s agenda. But I think a President does no harm to the dignity of his office and stature if he occasionally indulges in such familiarity, depending on the setting. I remember that I cringed a little during Reagan’s first Inaugeral Ball when Donny & Marie did a “Hello, Dolly” tuned spoof song aimed at him. But they meant well, it was a light hearted moment and Reagan enjoyed it hugely. I’m sure that Obama is big enough to handle being called “dude” in jest.

    • This is exciting: it’s not often that I can get to be more conservative and traditionalist than you! I think some lines have to stay hard and unbroken. The President’s image and the traditional repect to the office is one of them: address should always be “Mr. President” or “Sir”…even if POTUS is in a nudist colony, a circus, or an AA meeting.

  7. “Nudist colony”?? Let’s hope it never comes to that! We may have narrowly escaped that scenario during the Clinton administration. Speaking of him, I doubt the image of the Presidency has recovered from his manhandling of it yet. Obama has actually done a better job in that respect. But the office of President is still an elected office held by a citizen. It doesn’t involve a throne room. Occasions of State are one thing. So are formal interviews. The Dailey Show is neither! But it was a friendlier environment than Obama could now expect from a lot of news-oriented shows. Just more “informal”… and more watched. I would likely have gone on myself in Obama’s situation, accepting the occasional informality- as long as it was in good humor.

  8. Again, I’m visiting the archives and finding more morsels. I agree that the Office of the President does indeed deserve a level of respect and deference, especially the way in which we citizens address the President. That said, what do we do with media images showing President Bush wiping his nose on his shirt sleeve while playing golf, or gnawing on a sandwich and overheard speaking with a full mouth of food with Prime Minister Tony Blair using “colorful language,” to put it politely?

    • That’s easy: don’t show them. The Golden Rule applies. Just like the Star showing unflattering photos of celebs with their cellulite hanging out. Gratuitously mean, with no justification.

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