It was revealed recently that President Obama’s bad cholesterol has gone up 42 points since 2007. Apparently, his diet is not as healthy as it was before. He’s also still smoking. His Republican adversaries did not leak these revelations. His press secretary didn’t begrudgingly admit them. On the contrary, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs implied that this proves that the president is not an effete eater, someone Republicans might describe as a latte-drinking, salad-grazing liberal.
“You guys think he eats carrots and celery,” said Gibbs. “There’s more cheeseburgers, fries, and pie than you previously knew.”
The subtext of that, of course, is that Obama isn’t just this Harvard-educated lawyer who’s a great orator. He is also a regular guy who likes unhealthy food and smokes even though he knows he shouldn’t. Why is it so important for politicians to be thought of as regular guys?
Obama really went over the regular guy line when he sat down for a lunch in Savannah, Ga. with a plate piled high with fried chicken, beans, sweet potatoes, greens, and macaroni and cheese. The worst part wasn’t what he was eating (the regular guy food). It was when he turned to the people there and said, “Don’t tell Michelle.” That’s good old-fashioned wink-wink, nod-nod, scratch your belly, manly punch to the shoulder “Regular Guyism.” At least he didn’t say, “Don’t tell the old lady.” Who does he think he’s kidding? Does anyone believe that he and the first lady really have that kind of “I’m the king of this castle” marriage?
Of course, he’s not the first president or presidential hopeful to try to cloak him- or herself in Regular Guyism. Dukakis in the Jeep and Hillary Clinton throwing back shots on the campaign are just two examples. George W. Bush was a master at Regular Guyism. Here was a man who was born into a wealthy, powerful, political family of the Northeast. He went to college at Yale, and got his master’s degree at Harvard. But I never heard him allude to any of these things. He passed himself off as an outsider to politics and a “regular guy.”
Those running for office don’t put on airs, they take them off. Intellectualism and even intelligence are often mocked and rarely thought of as good qualities for a president. Some pundits feel that Scott Brown, the new senator from Massachusetts, was aided in his election by the fact that he drove an old pickup truck — a “regular guy” vehicle.
I don’t buy into Regular Guyism. I don’t want a president who is just a regular guy (or gal). I want a president who is special. I want a president who is consumed by the unbelievably difficult job he has and not one who is consumed by the rumors that McDonald’s will soon be bringing back the McRib. I know it’s heresy in America, but forget a pickup truck. It wouldn’t bother me if a president didn’t even know how to drive, and majored in French in college — as long as he was dedicated to keeping our country safe, turning around the economy, and keeping Americans free and equal. I’m not turned off by a president who is educated. I want a president who is smarter than the average guy on the street. Let’s face it, would you want a president with my intelligence and personality? I wouldn’t.
To many people, having the very traits that they might admire in others are things they reject in political candidates. They see those who are highly educated, who seem overly serious, and who love things like the arts as “phonies.” And they don’t want a phony for a president.
Ironically, what actually happens is that the candidate or president who doesn’t want to appear to be a phony becomes a phony as he pretends to be a “regular guy.” The Republicans would be better off exposing Obama as a phony regular guy than wasting their time on things like insinuating that he’s not really a citizen or that his wife’s arms are too muscular. Let Mitch McConnell or one of those guys stand up and say, “I’ve got news for you, America. Obama is a phony. He might pretend to be a regular guy, but he’s not. He’s actually a brilliant, articulate, capable man who cares about our country’s problems far more than he cares about who will win the next Super Bowl.”
Then just watch Obama’s popularity drop like it’s never dropped before.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from “Sesame Street” to “Family Ties” to “Home Improvement” to “Frasier.” He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his Web site at lloydgarver.com and his podcasts on iTunes.