It seems as though these days the presidency is just as much a TV job as it is a job centered on leading the country. As detailed in an article on CBSNews.com, in his first year in office President Barack Obama made 411 speeches, comments and remarks, held 42 news conferences and gave 158 interviews, 90 of which were done for television. He played 29 rounds of golf, more than four times the number of games President George W. Bush played in his first year in office. Now, of course this doesn’t necessarily mean the president is not doing his job or putting the best interests of the country first, that is not my argument. However, it would be foolish to believe the increase in public exposure in general doesn’t change the way the presidency is viewed.
Obama was the first president to make an appearance on a late-night talk show while in office. Then he went on another, and another and another. He has appeared on countless political shows, as well as The View, Oprah and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. While The Daily Show is a politically centered talk show, it is on Comedy Central and revolves around the heavy use of satire and is primarily a comedy show. In a New York Times article published Oct. 28, columnist Alessandra Stanley commented, “The country long ago stopped wondering whether a president demeans his office by appearing on a late-night comedy show. The more immediate question posed by President Obama’s appearance on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart on Wednesday is whether a political satirist loses credibility when hobnobbing with a sitting president.” I would argue, however, that we should not stop worrying about whether or not a president demeans his office by appearing on a late-night comedy show.
I understand completely that by appearing on these shows, the president reaches a certain demographic. I also understand that he seeks to appear a man of the people whose finger rests on the pulse of the country, while simultaneously taking the opportunity to talk about his politics. But when will it be enough? When do these television appearances shift the president from a respected political leader to just another famous person being covered on TMZ and followed by the paparazzi? It seems to me filling out his bracket on ESPN during March Madness and appearing on shows like The View isn’t doing much to show that President Obama can make effective long-term change.
While the country’s economic struggles creep toward what might be improvement (we hope) and with the midterm elections being imminent, President Obama seems to have been busy appearing on The Daily Show, Oprah and gearing up for an appearance on MythBusters to talk about the “Archimedes death ray.” I do not believe these television appearances discredit Obama as a political leader, but it is important we question whether or not there is such a thing as too much publicity for someone with so much influence and power. At the same time, we must be aware of the difference between celebrity and political prominence. The over-zealous media coverage of the president gives me the impression that he is more active on TV than in the White House. It is important for the president to be able to reach the people of the country, but it is just as important that he maintain a healthy respect for his office so that people around the world maintain respect for him and what he represents.