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Obama on YouTube: Unintentionally–and Disastrously–Revealing

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The most revealing interview of the Barack Obama presidency involved a meeting of the minds between a clutch of YouTube stars and the Leader of the Free World. While most of the press attention focused on loopy comments by the likes of GloZell Green (who offered the president some of her signature green lipstick for his “first wife”), the significant portion of these exchanges came in response to a reasonably appropriate question from 19-year-old Bethany Mota. This one-time fourth place finisher on Dancing With the Stars has earned literally millions with popular videos giving her followers important advice on fashion and shopping. Sitting across from the President of the United States, she cheerfully acknowledged, “I never really followed politics that much” and then posed her question. “Why should the younger generation be interested in politics, and why should it matter to them?”

The president’s appalling inability to provide an even vaguely coherent or persuasive response highlights all the deepest problems of his unfocused and dangerously floundering second term. He began philosophically: “Well, basically politics is just how we organize ourselves as a society, y’know, how do we make decisions about how we live together.” With his interlocutor looking appropriately puzzled – he said nothing about why this should particularly matter to young people – the president then shifted to an embarrassing lie that any fact-checker could easily uncover. “So young people care about how college is paid for, well, the truth of the matter is that the reason we even have colleges is that at some point there were politicians who said, ‘y’know what? We should start colleges.’”

Of course this ignores the fact that the oldest and most prestigious colleges in both the United States and Europe were started by leaders of the church, not politicians. Harvard, Yale, Princeton were initially set up as seminaries to prepare young men for the clergy.

But a few moments later, the president, still searching for a reason that young Bethany (who apparently enjoys a flourishing career despite her lack of a college education) should care about government and came up with this unforgettable summary. “And so there’s no decision in our lives, basically, that isn’t touched in some way by the laws that we have,” said Barack Obama.

No decision in our lives not touched by laws? Fortunately, he’s wrong: I think my decision to write this column, or to try to go to bed early tonight to catch up on sleep, or to drive out to look at the sunset with my wife earlier this evening, all remain blessedly untouched by laws. All right, I get it: Obama could try to say that the word processor on which I’m typing only exists because of patents and regulation of commerce or that the mattress on which I hope to sleep requires governmental supervision so that it doesn’t poison me with radioactivity.

But isn’t that a wild stretch? And doesn’t the premise of “no decision in our lives not touched by laws” come across like the aspirational declaration of an ambitious totalitarian? In North Korea, where all decisions are best left in the hands of the all-knowing supreme leader, that summary of the role of politics might make sense but even Mr. Obama’s most ardent admirers don’t seem ready to grant him that sort of absolute power.

The best counter  to the president’s chilling statement was provided by a brilliant lover of liberty, Dr. Samuel Johnson more than 200 years ago:

How small, of all that human hearts endure

That part which laws or kings can cause or cure.

And one more statement by the mumbling president similarly violated Dr. Johnson’s wisdom. “Y’know, If you care about about an issue like, y’know, makin’ sure gays and lesbians and transgender persons are treated fairly,” he patiently explained, “well, laws on the books can make sure they’re not discriminated against.” Laws can “make sure” discrimination doesn’t exist? Would the president agree that some discrimination against African-Americans remains a factor in American life? Of course he would; he’s said so repeatedly. And yet the laws outlawing such discrimination have been on the books for nearly fifty years. Only the most doctrinaire progressive could entertain the idea that merely passing a law can permanently alter human behavior.

No, it’s not reasonable to assume that the president will deploy deep thoughts in a YouTube media event. But at least he might have offered more potent and effective encouragement for young people to engage in politics.

How about this, as an appropriate answer to the lovely Bethany? She wants to know why kids should concern themselves with politics? “Well, Bethany, most young people today have credit cards, don’t they? I know you do because I’ve seen your shopping videos.”

“So how would you feel if all of a sudden you starting getting credit card bills for tens of thousands of dollars for stuff that you never bought for yourself? It was actually some older people who you don’t even know who were running up your tab, leaving you to pay off at least $50,000 right now for stuff that they’re using. If that happened to you, wouldn’t you want to get involved and stop it? Well, that’s what’s happening right now to everyone in the younger generation because every single year our government spends a lot more than it takes in, and we’re just passing on that bill to you. You owed money before you were even born! That’s not fair. And if you want to help dig out from the mountain of debt, you’ve got to get involved in politics.”

A more effective response to a touchingly sincere question? Sure, but it would have required a very different president, and a very different direction for our country.



This column appeared at on January 26, 2015. 

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Comments (11)

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  1. Ed Norton  •  Feb 6, 2015 at 8:05 am

    Dear Michael:

    Our prayers and thoughts are with you. May your strong voice return as the best radio host “for this greatest nation on G-d’s green earth.” This Presidents words continually reveal his lack of vision or understanding of America. His actions and lack of action reveal the same. He is able to meet the NBA champions, but not stand with France after a terrorist attack. He can give a SuperBowl message, but refuses, for purely political reasons, to meet with the leader of the greatest Democracy in the Middle East. He is always political, rarely Presidential.

  2. Babsan  •  Feb 6, 2015 at 10:43 am

    This conversation the Resident had with this young lady confirms the “empty suit” that he is

    • janeflaherty  •  Feb 6, 2015 at 11:43 am

      He takes the meaning of empty suit to new heights.

  3. John  •  Feb 6, 2015 at 11:29 am in case your treatments are not working or you wish to see what integrative medicine has to offer in the form of natural treatments which do no harm to the body like chemo and radiation do, but stimulate the immune system to obliterate the cancer.

  4. janeflaherty  •  Feb 6, 2015 at 11:45 am

    It’s hard to know if his response is intentionally dumbed down….if it is, it’s insulting to her. If it is not, it’s insulting EVERYONE!

  5. J. Morton Jones  •  Feb 6, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    Michael, you and I think absolutely alike! Just want you to know I wish you well and so look forward to your return to radio. Your books are superb.

  6. Stephen Angelotti  •  Feb 7, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    Well said Michael. Wishing you well and awaiting your return to the radio. This is a perfect example of why studying civics is so important.

  7. Roger  •  Feb 7, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    Maybe Mr. Obama has exposed the progressive game plan. That is, to change the law so that everyone is coerced into living a progressive life. No freedom for those who dissent. One of the latest things is that affiliation with the Boy Scouts disqualifies one from serving on the California Supreme Court. Tolerance is one thing we cannot expect of progressives.

  8. Anita Schnadig  •  Feb 9, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    Don’t know what I’ll do from 12 to 3 if I don’t have you to so intelligently clear up and make sense out of all the political and media confusion out there! Come back SOON!

  9. deb  •  Feb 16, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Prayers that all is going well for you and your lovely, supportive wife. The most disturbing thing about that interview is the void it leaves with the You Tube crowd. What a wasted opportunity to those paying any attention at all.

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