An odd thing happened in Washington last week: Two days passed without the President’s appearing on television.
My first reaction was to call my TV repairman, but on second thought I checked with friends at broadcast and cable news to see if I’d missed something. Also ESPN, on the possibility that the Nation’s Sports Analyst-in-Chief hadn’t appeared at some off-hour to offer his opinion on whether the New Orleans Saints would repeat as Super Bowl champions. (I was told no, but they did have that penciled in for mid-August, an interview with Erin Andrews in the Oval Office.) Finally, a call to a producer at the Family Network to ask whether, in the absence of all other possibilities, Barack and Michelle had taken a turn on America’s Funniest Home Videos. . . .
To the point, though stating the obvious makes dull table-talk (except around the CIA lunchroom), Barack Obama in eighteen short months has become the most-over-exposed president in American history. A comparison? All right: Even Bill Clinton, in one of his most egocentric moments, would never have called a full-dress Rose Garden news conference in 100-degree-heat to announce the firing of an insubordinate general (Harry Truman did it with a perfunctory statement.)
All of which leads to a personal observation as to why, for all his legislative victories, Barack Obama’s poll numbers keep falling. It’s an observation based on received wisdom from an embattled office-holder I worked for in the 1970s who, despite my urging that he go on a Sunday morning talk show, refused for the following reason: “Politics,” he said, “is a business of hills and holes. When you’re in a hole, the more your face shows on television the deeper it gets.”
Ancient history, but translated for the Twenty-first century political world of Barack Obama, still on target: Unemployment at 9.7 percent, the Louisiana wetlands soaked in BP oil, our troops fighting overseas, and what do Americans turn on their television sets to see? Their President on the Larry King show, advising LeBron James to stay with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Not to say that a President should disappear during hard times, but Rose Garden Specials five times a week? A suggestion: If by chance there’s a camera-addiction clinic somewhere near Martha’s Vineyard, it might be a good place for POTUS to check in for a weekend this August.