President Obama is a bit of a nerd. Not a huge nerd, but occasionally a little nerdish. No need to stop the presses because this isn't news, nor is it at all consequential in terms of the president's toughness or how he leads the free world. For example, ask Anwar Al-Awlaki or Osama Bin Laden whether the president is a feckless wimp.
Nevertheless, one of the most superficial and nonsensical Republican hobby horses, generally falling within the same category of ludicrousness as teleprompters and Hawaii vacations, is how the president dresses himself. Yes, too many Republicans tend to behave like Joan Rivers or a poncy E! host on the red carpet before an awards show, laser-focused on the president's clothing and accessories. This is a thing because, well, flailing and misplaced anger, for one. It's also about painting a silly boardwalk caricature of the president as an impotent waif.
We'll absolutely circle back to this, but yesterday on Sean Hannity's radio show, Hannity went off on a rant about a photo of the president riding a bicycle while -- gasp! -- wearing a helmet. His guest said that this photo has been circulating in Russia to illustrate the president's alleged weakness.
Didn't they show a picture of, like, Putin with his shirt off riding horseback, and then they have a picture of Obama with his -- on his bicycle with his, uh, goofy helmet of his? [...] I mean, it's embarrassing. I mean the picture of him on that bicycle with that goofy hat on -- heh, look, I'm gonna be honest as a parent, did I make my kids when they were learning to ride a bike wear that goofy helmet? Yeah. But when I grew up, all I did was ride my bike. I never wore a helmet. Ever. Not once. Not one time. Guess what? I had newspapers. And guess what? I went over the handle bars. My friends pushed me into cars, we pushed each other into cars. We survived. I mean, it just looks -- it's embarrassing.
Before we rip this apart, here's a photo of the president riding a bike Hannity-style: no helmet.
But what the guest didn't mention was that the contrasting Putin/Obama photos were obviously part of a government-led pro-Putin propaganda effort. So, it's something to be taken at face value, right? Whatever Moscow says, must be true, right? It's quite telling how in the midst of a crisis in Ukraine, Hannity is seriously accepting and repeating what's likely an example of anti-U.S. propaganda out of Moscow. Interesting, especially from someone who once said:
"The only ideas that they espouse are ways to undermine the troops in harm's way and undermine their commander in chief while they're at war. Your candidates have no idea how to keep this economy strong."
—Sean Hannity, 10/18/06
"He’s the Commander-in-Chief. And what I find frankly repugnant about you and some of your fellow Democrats – you have undermined our president..."
"You know, Norman, those comments while we are at war, while troops are in harm's way, while he is the commander in chief, do you not see the outrage in that?"
"I have had it with members of your party undermining our troops, undermining a commander in chief while we are at war..."
Last I checked we're still engaged in a war on terror, and in a war in Afghanistan. Someone should remind Hannity.
But so what? The president wore a helmet while riding a bicycle, just like avid mountain-biker George W. Bush who posed for numerous photo ops wearing "that goofy hat." (One of the few things I share in common with the former president is an unquenchable enthusiasm for cycling.) Admittedly, sure, it's a little odd for the president to wear those pleated slacks while riding a bike (see nerdish remark), but who the hell cares what the president is wearing while he's bike riding with his children? I suppose Putin's propaganda apparatchiks care, but are we suggesting that the president's "goofy" bicycle helmet sparked the Russian invasion of Crimea? Really?
Hannity, of course, isn't the only fashionista in the Fox News family. Earlier in the week, Sarah Palin went on Fox News Channel and criticized the president for wearing "Mom jeans" during a Saturday phone call with Putin.
Yes, this is what it's come down to. Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin have become Perez Hilton.
And I'm sure on the other end of that Saturday phone conversation was Pooty-Poot, likely shirtless, his weirdly hairless man-boobs oiled up; wearing the lower half of a suit of armor -- one chromium-plated foot stomping down mightily on the head of a live bear. Tough! And totally not apeshit crazy.
On the other hand, can you imagine if there had ever been a staged photo op of George W. Bush or Bill Clinton riding around shirtless wearing olive drab army pants and khaki combat boots on the back of a horse? Not only would they instantly become laughing stocks in a cynical America, but the photos would single-handedly quadruple the traffic to sites like Fark.com and The Superficial. And the photoshopping would be both merciless and breathtakingly hilarious.
Why? Because in Russia it's clearly excellent, but here in the United States it'd be utterly silly for a middle aged elected official to pose like that. First of all, it's trying too damn hard, and second of all, eeewwwwww.
Here, we like our leaders folksy and [insert your favorite have-a-beer cliche]. Sure, I'd like to jam that folksy egg back into its folksy shell, but it's probably here to stay. So what does that mean? Every so often, we get photos of George W. Bush in a belt buckle the size of your face; Speaker John Boehner in awkward golfing shorts, his bony orange legs exposed to the world; and Barack Obama in jeans and a button-down shirt talking on the phone, maybe later donning a cycling helmet or eating a shave ice while flashing the shaka in Kailua.
If the Republicans, who really perfected the whole folksy POTUS thing, are interested in bottling it up and putting it back on the shelf, please do. But in the meantime, if they're going to make a big deal about the president's non-presidential clothing choices, be prepared to be inundated with the following videos.
Nice "goofy" goggles and "Mom jeans" on Mr. Reagan there. Why, when I was a kid, I didn't wear any goofy goggles while doing yard work. What a wimp.
And by the way, the Republicans need to explain how the president can be both a weak, spineless dilettante and a ruthless, Chicago gangster/thug/ruffian. It really can't be both.