Monday, August 8, 2011

President Obama needs to watch "Full Metal Jacket"

The lesson of Stanley Kubrick's Vietnam move "Full Metal Jacket" is that the leader you follow in a jam isn't the nicest guy around--it's the ill-mannered jerk you think can save your hide.

Of course the problem here is that the ill-mannered jerk is the Congressional Republicans whose aim is to lead us over a cliff. But on a primal tribal level they seem to be strong, and the Prez seems to be weak--and people follow the strong, especially in an emergency.

When Obama was running for the presidency, I described him as imagining the job to be "Social Worker in Chief" while McCain saw it as "Wing Leader in Chief." I don't know what in Obama's character leads him to reject information about human nature that he must know is true on some level, even if he wishes it weren't.

But his efforts to compromise have met with exactly the same success as I had on my first substitute teaching stint, when I told the kids they could address me by my first name. I wish Obama had had my experience with being nice to people who only saw my niceness as weakness--nothing more or less.

I'll still vote for him, since I have no wish to be led over a cliff. But I have no confidence that the American people will "get" the nuances involved--especially since people's tendency to opt for a Tough Guy as their leader increases in proportion to the degree to which they believe they're in a crisis.

I listened to Rush Limbaugh for a painful length of time this morning (more than 10 seconds), and he didn't talk about President Obama resentfully or angrily or fearfully--he talked about Obama with contempt, with ridicule, with disdain. It was sad that a worm like Limbaugh could come to feel this way. He'll hate Obama no matter what Obama says or does. I just wish the hate was tinged with fear and grudging respect.

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