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Friday, March 20, 2009

The Everyman Presidency

Occasionally a democracy will get it right and elect a man of the people. Populist Presidents come in many forms, the patrician FDR, Give em Hell Harry Truman, Andrew Jackson the frontiersman, Clinton the great soothsayer. We want at times to know the President is us. Usually when times are really bad we want someone who can understand our plight. The President went on Jay Leno last night and we saw Barack Obama again. The President fell away for a night. "So what's it like on Air Force One," Jay wanted to know. Barack became one of us as he replied, "well it's really cool because you get to wear the jacket with the emblem." We all were there. Sort of that Talking Heads song, "well, how did I get here?" You know Barack Obama has plenty of those as he becomes President Obama. Sort of like a tuxedo you put on and wonder about the person in the mirror. But the everyman President is something of a phenomenon. Slipping around the usual pillars of wealth and privilege, Obama used his mind to open the doors. He deserves the Presidency, but it is still amazing that he got there. You see this man sitting on Jay's couch, talking laughing, witty, smart and you think...he's the President? Where is the nontalk? The speechifying? Where is the talking head of the Imperial Presidency? On one hand it is very weird, on another it is very good. Clinton approached this type of everyman status, but in the end he would retreat into the back rooms of slick Willyitus. Obama seems to have no backrooms. What you see is really what you get. He may stumble, he may fall, but there is no deviation from who he is. He seems like a man who could just sit on a talk show and have a candid conversation. I guess that's what he did.
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Books by William Hazelgrove