September 16, 2009

Two Questions

I have two questions re: this situation:

1. Is the President ever “off the record.” (Note: I do not mean to indicate “is” in the sense that Bill Clinton questioned it.)

2. Is it OK for the President to call someone a “jackass”?

An answer to #1: No. President’s must assume every word they speak and write will be subject to dissemination by journalists, pundits, and other information media types who hear or otherwise gather those words. Assume everyone is an open mic.

An answer to #2: Yes. Some people are jackasses.

But why did Obama comment on Kanye West’s boorish behavior? Simple answer: He was asked.

Why was he asked?

Hmmmmm… That’s the question I put to my ethics classes today.

(I’m going to leave this hanging for now.)

Is it common for reporters, even when engaging in friendly banter, to ask Presidents about pop culture trivia? (Compared to health care, the wars, the economy, etc. the West thing is trivia — perhaps even less than trivia.) Perhaps it is common. I wonder why that should be, if it is.

5 Responses

  1. In addition to the race thing, which I don’t mean to discount at all… Barack Obama has shaped a persona taking advantage of his youth, and emphasizing his connectedness to popular/youth culture, particularly music. Nobody would have considered asking George H.W. Bush (f’r’ex) about something a popular music star had done the previous night at a video music award show. President Obama has made use of this connectedness for his own purposes, and to some extent this sort of thing is the natural cost of that.

    Two more points about my take: first, I don’t want to give the impression that I think this is a Bad Thing; on the contrary, I think it is a Good Thing for a public figure to deliberately shape an image and its connections to the various subcultures. As it will happen anyway, even without deliberation.

    The last thing is that this is not, actually, disconnected from race at all. But it isn’t as simple as some of Left Blogovia would have it (the press make Barack Obama responsible for whatever any black person does). Part of the reason President Obama was successful at his persona-manipulation is because of the (incredibly complicated) interplay of race and youth culture.

    Well, and OK, one more last thing: despite it being ‘off the record’, I don’t think that President Obama was really shocked to hear that the J-word had leaked. This was not a gaffe. It may have been a mistake, but it was not a gaffe.


  2. acline 

    V.– That’s about what my students came up with. I agree.

  3. Tim 

    “How many media organizations does it take to establish that the President thinks Kanye West is a jackass?” [LINK]

  4. Tim 

    Kanye West disrespects Rhetorica!

  5. acline 

    Hahahahaha! Very funny 🙂