Many Republicans and other defenders of presidential dignity didn’t find the “Between Two Ferns” interview of President Obama by Zach Galifianakis as hilarious as the rest of us did. They need to lighten up, get with the times and tend to the indignities in their own backyard.
“Unimaginable that Truman, Ike, JFK, Reagan would appear on Between Two Ferns. They carefully protected majesty of their office,” tweeted David Gergen, the venerable adviser to four presidents. Dan Senor, a former foreign policy adviser to President George W. Bush, also took to Twitter to express his displeasure. “President Obama on #BetweenTwoFerns had me longing for this intv of PM Thatcher asserting the dignity of her office: http://ricochet.com/main-feed/Why-I-Loved-Margaret-Thatcher/,” he wrote.
Senor was giving the former British prime minister props for refusing a Swedish interviewer’s standard request of her guests to “stand up and make a jump up in the air.” It should be pointed out that the sit-down with the late Baroness Thatcher took place in September 1995, nearly five years after she resigned as prime minister. If anything, The Iron Lady was asserting her own sense of personal dignity.
Now, contrast that with the lack of dignity displayed by Sarah Palin at CPAC. The half-term governor of Alaska and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee turned best-selling author and reality television star wowed the conservative crowd with her usual mockery and insults. But there was one passage Palin delivered that I found particularly undignified. You can see the clip of her imagined limp exchange between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin here.
Vladimir, don’t mess around or you’re going to feel my flexibility. Because I’ve got a phone and I’ve got a pen, and I can dial it really fast and poke you with my pen. Pinky promise.
Oh, and that came just after she made a long-face joke about Secretary of State John Kerry. I have yet to hear Palin lay out a substantive [fill-in-the-blank] policy speech that would transform her from CPAC comedienne to serious leader within a party bereft of them. And folks want to lecture the president on dignity? As my mother would say, “Chi’l, please!”
There was nothing undignified about the off-beat yet hilarious Obama-Galifianakis video. The purpose of which was to get young people to shun procrastination long enough to visit HealthCare.gov and sign up for insurance. A rather worthy policy goal since the March 31 deadline is 18 days away.
Also, this was in keeping with the administration’s long-standing recognition that the media landscape is infinitely more diffuse than any of his predecessors had to deal with. Getting the attention of 313 million binge watchers with short attention spans requires creative thinking and a willingness to take risks.
“No risk, no reward,” former Bush communications director Nicole Wallace told the New York Times. And she’s right.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj