David Brooks yesterday wrote a column calling Obama the 'ESPN Man.' Apparently, that vague term means something different than merely watching ESPN religiously. It means that, along with accomplishing little as president besides eating dinner with George Clooney, Obama has embodied 'a kind of ESPN masculinity': "postfeminist in his values, but also thoroughly traditional in style — hypercompetitive, restrained, not given to self-doubt, rarely self-indulgent. Administrations are undone by scandal and moments when they look pathetic, but this administration, guarded in all things, has rarely had those moments."
I was not aware that men either on, featured, or who watch ESPN were their own genre other than what I expected them to be: sports fans, which anyone can tell you are rarely restrained.
So besides Brooks just totally making up a distinction that doesn't exist, his resulting example is far from consistent:
"The key is his post-boomer leadership style. Critics are always saying that Obama is too cool and detached, arrogant and aloof. But the secret to his popularity through hard times is that he is not melodramatic, sensitive, vulnerable and changeable. Instead, he is self-disciplined, traditional and a bit formal. He is willing, with drones and other mechanisms, to use lethal force."
Because formal and traditional means giving the Queen of England an ipod.
Because changeable is not, apparently, reversing a condition on gay marriage. Then why on earth have we been inundated for almost the past week with stories about Obama's public flip flop ? Can we cancel that Ricky Martin fundraiser in retrospect?
Melodramatic. This doesn't sound melodramatic: "This congressional Republican budget is something different altogether. It is a Trojan Horse. Disguised as deficit reduction plans, it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It is thinly veiled social Darwinism." ~Obama, 2012
Finallly, I don't know about you, but when I think about using lethal force with drones, the masculinity doesn't strike me nearly as much as that shown by the Navy SEALs who go in themselves to war zones.
"In 2008, Obama had that transcendent, messianic tone. This year, he has adopted a Clinton 1996 type of campaign — strong partisan attacks combined with an emphasis on small and medium-sized policies — like the Buffett Rule and student loans — intended to display his common man values. As a result, Obama has come off aggressive, but also, (unlike Romney) classless and in touch with middle-income groups. "
So now partisan attacks count as a masculine style of leadership, which probably isn't comforting to women like Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Nancy Pelosi. And apparently, partisan attacks plus small and medium-sized policies makes you in touch with middle-income groups?! David, don't think so poorly of us!
The thing I find most telling about Brooks, however, is that he thinks this administration has never looked pathetic or undone by scandal. Apparently, the terms "Solyndra" and "Fast and Furious" have not penetrated Brooks' conscience.
And since we're supposed to be ignoring serious matters like Solyndra for superficial terms such as 'ESPN masculinity,' that allows me to bring up the rather pathetic display of Obama and Mrs. Obama jetting across the globe in the honeymoon of his presidency to beg for the Olympics in Chicago, only to be refused.
"But his leadership style is keeping him afloat. He has defined a version of manliness that is postboomer in policy but preboomer in manners and reticence."
Pass the arugula, please.