Am I the only one who makes a connection between Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” and President Obama’s appearance on the David Letterman show this week?
It makes me think back to LBJ lifting his shirt to show reporters his scar. That wasn’t something we’d seen presidents do, at least not for a long time. But it made him seem more human, I suppose, more approachable. Later we had Nixon who had time before his ultimate fall to take populism to the masses, showing up on “Laugh-In” to chant, “Sock it to me.”
Ford followed, and although he wasn’t purposely calling derision to himself, his clumsiness became a staple for Chevy Chase and other TV comics to pan.
Remember when Carter thought carrying his own bags would make him seem more like the regular folks?
Reagan (who was a performer anyway) and George H.W. Bush didn’t contribute so much to the downward drift in presidential prestige (although Dana Carvey advanced his career with Bush impersonations).
Clinton at least tried to keep his extramarital indiscretions secret, but loved to chomp on Big Macs in public. “Slick Willie” entered the vernacular.
And we know about George W. Bush — or Dubya, or Shrub — and the stubborn pride with which he mispronounced “nucular.”
The plunge gained force throughout the 2008 campaign with candidates lining up for guest shots on Leno, Letterman, Oprah and Ellen, making comedians and talk show hosts vessels of political deliberation. Now a sitting president goes on Letterman.
It seems to me the dignity of the office has been eroding for 40 years or longer, so how surprising is it really that an elected member of Congress would feel empowered to call Obama out as a liar in the middle of a speech to a joint session?
It probably was going overboard to call the president your excellency or your highness as some of the Founding Fathers wanted to do with George Washington. But I’ve come to think that the office of president has become just a little too touchable. And several recent occupants have contributed to that outcome.