Is Our President (Figuratively) Fiddling While Rome Burns?

Posted: Sep 04, 2012 12:54 PM
Yesterday's post discussed all the clues in Jodi Kantor's New York Times piece that suggest the President is a bit of a jerk.

It's worth looking at the same piece again, however, to highlight another troubling facet of it: The focus President Obama has placed on mastering trivial, unimportant hobbies while doing little to address the real problems America confronts.

Kantor's piece reveals that "For someone dealing with the world's weightiest problems, Mr. Obama spends surprising energy perfecting even less consequential pursuits."  Indeed.  The piece informs us that he has played golf 104 times.  He concentrates so hard on winning card games that he reproves fellow players he deems insufficiently attentive.  

Oh, and remember back in the 2008 campaign when the President's bowling score was such an embarrassment that he later inexplicably compared it to the Special Olympics?  Not to worry.  At his 2009 birthday celebration, we are told, he won the bowling tournament he proposed; he had, Kantor informed us, "been practicing in the White House alley."

No one should begrudge the President his moments of relaxation.  If he wants to play cards, or bowl, or whatever -- hey, everyone has to kick back sometimes (and frankly, he can do less damage out of the Oval Office than in it).  And at least his moments of recreation don't involve thong-snapping White House interns.

But what smacks of a little weirdness is what's presented as Obama's almost pathological need to be "the best" at everything, including the most meaningless pastimes -- to the point where he must perceive himself to be "winning" at card games or reading children's books aloud.  And he's apparently using a not-insignificant portion of his time in office to perfect his bowling or card playing or reading aloud or golfing skills in order to address what sounds like some pretty massive insecurities.

If the President were the CEO of a failing company -- one who had run up a staggering debt, had to borrow money to pay its bills, with a sobering percentage of its workforce un- or under-employed -- and we learned that he was "spending surprising energy" perfecting his golf or card game, what would we think?  If President Obama himself were called upon to comment on the behavior of this CEO, do you suppose he would be charitable toward and understanding of this behavior?

Most reasonable people would conclude that a CEO excessively focused on his golf or bowling skills -- despite the economic distress around him -- was a terrible leader.  So why would we hold the CEO of a company to a higher standard than the President of the United States?