In one of Saturday Night Live’s best sketches, Chris Farley played Matt Foley, a three hundred pound, disheveled divorcee and motivational speaker. In one memorable episode, Foley gives a speech entitled, “Go For It” to lethargic teenagers caught possessing pot. Foley emphatically tells the kids they will not amount to “jack squat,” and will likely end up “eating government cheese” while “living in a van down by the river!”
Further, Foley belittled the professional aspirations of his clients with an emphatic “La dee frickin da,” insulted the parents who hired him, and often ended up destroying an innocent coffee table in the course of his presentation.
More often than not, Foley’s recommendations fell on deaf ears. There was no chance Foley would ever be taken seriously, or that his audience would leave his seminar any more encouraged. Notwithstanding his obvious energy and passion, Foley represented failure masquerading as wisdom, hype over substance. But he was entertaining to listen to, if only because he provided a brief, unserious distraction from the more pressing concerns of the moment. In that sense, he perfectly foreshadowed the 44th President.
Like Foley, President Obama comes to the 2012 campaign full of rhetoric, hype, and entertaining speeches. His stump speech elicits laughs, applause, and in some cases, fainting. When armed with a cooperative TelePrompter, he can string phrases together with ease, work his audience into agreement, and leave those in attendance feeling like he gets them and is for them. Like Foley, the President likes to lecture his audiences, and both are hard to stomach.
Like Foley, President Obama highlights the beneficence of the federal family. But whereas Foley belittled his audience by predicting their future subsistence on government cheese, President Obama proudly defends his record of food stamps, unemployment benefits, disability enrollment, and now the gutting of welfare reform. Matt Foley mocked his audience for eating government cheese. Obama boasts for doling it out to millions.
Like Foley, the President demeans the aspirations of those who work to pursue their dreams. Channeling erstwhile Native American Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, Obama says that those who built businesses by themselves in fact did not: “If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Perhaps it was the government cheese that made it happen. Indeed, “La dee frickin da,” perfectly epitomizes Obama’s attitude towards private sector hard work and its rewards. How else to explain his bashing of Mitt Romney’s enviable private sector success at Bain Capital?