BEING ONE OF THE BOYS – SIDE “B”
Readers’ reactions to “Being One of the Boys,” (Side A) startled us. People wanted to know if there would be a Side B, feeling, we guess, that more needed to be written, or perhaps even that there was more to the story and view already expressed.
Well, there is.
In Side A, we castigated press and public alike for seeking to make their president Just One of the Boys, someone with whom to have a beer, someone who did indeed take off his trousers one leg at a time as the rest of us do. In particular, we were distressed that the office of the Presidency was being damaged by comments from both the press and the television industry, as well as by the general public. To make a president Just One of the Guys did no one any favors, and whittled away whatever grandeur and influence the office had at home and abroad.
What we neglected to point out, even to ourselves apparently, was that there was no need for a president to go on television to gather votes as a squirrel in autumn hoards acorns. The choice was Mr. Obama’s, and that choice was a bad one.
There should be distance and perspective between a president and the country over which he presides.
In effect, President Obama had watered down his glass of persuasion in order to seem likable and engaging. It was, and is, unnecessary and hurtful so to do.
This was not a new approach of the President’s. Since his first inauguration, Mr. Obama has been on our screens daily, often for real and serious purposes, more often for what seemed (to us) to be slight and persistent reminders he was who he was and where he was and wasn’t he wonderful? Within a few months of that first swearing-in, because we had seen so much of Mr. Obama, he began to seem old hat, just part of the D.C. scenery, and eventually irrelevant to what was happening in the world. Over-exposed, we think is the term. He didn’t do himself, or us, any favors.
The other point of Being One of the Boys (Side A) was that since we have a president, elected if not by us but by other Americans, we should respect the office and its holder. To demean and dismiss everything a president says or does demeans us all. If we disagree, we have only to wait a few years to make a change. Meanwhile, the president is The President, and we should willingly have confidence in him (or her), respect the office, follow its directions for the good of all our citizens.
Our father instructed us in this. Not without peril to his own marriage.
In the mid-60’s, President Johnson said that the balance of payments between the USA and countries abroad was out of whack. He asked us not to travel and spend money in other countries and climes until a better financial picture could be seen.
Our parents were in the midst of planning a five week trip to England. When the President spoke, my father reacted in a way far different from today’s citizenry and followed his direction. The trip was called off, and our mother furious. (Happily, most of us are not privy to the confidential discussions between parents in matters great and small.) We think our father was thrilled not to have to go to England again; we know our mother was deeply hurt and angry.
But Father stuck to his guns. The President had spoken. The President of the United States had asked him to play on his side. Father was not flattered, but he was patriotic.
For whatever reasons, Father was upholding in a way his own constitutional oath, an oath long discarded in the years that followed. What came to matter more than the office and strength of the presidency was the self-importance of his critics who, we hasten to point out, had been elected by very small groups of like-minded people state by state.
So, “Side B” is really just more of the same…why can’t we remember how lucky we are to have our form of government? Why can’t we recall how hard it is to get to the point of occupying that White House chair? Why can’t we trust and assume that that chair’s occupant is going to do the very best job he or she can for all of us, at home and abroad?
If we cease to believe, the Presidency ceases to matter. It’s that simple.