07.29.10

Obama's Televised Turn-Off

The president’s appearance on The View, billed as the first-ever by a chief executive on a daytime talk show, was the apotheosis of the anodyne.

Superlatives, I've now heard them all. Today, as the Varadarajan family huddled expectantly in front of its TV set (son, age 11: " Wow! Obama's on The View!"), we heard Whoopi Goldberg declare that Barack Obama was "the first president in history ever to visit a daytime talk show."

Sure enough, after we cut to the inevitable commercial break, Barbara Walters faced America to announce that The View was proud to welcome someone she described as "Bawack" Obama. The president strode onto the platform, kissed each of the five women hosts, and then sat down in their midst. He crossed his legs carefully, uncrossing them not once for the rest of the hour, and the thing that caught the eye was how the president crosses his legs just like a woman when seated. He bunches himself up tightly, one leg entwined over the other, with the crossed leg dangling, limply, languorously. (His long Luo legs were in no way inferior, one should add, to Elisabeth Hasselbeck's gleaming white gams.) The only one present who was seated like a man, legs crossed at right-angle, was Whoopi Goldberg. Good for her.

For an hour, we—America—witnessed the apotheosis of the anodyne. (That this was an event of "significance" was seen in the fact that The Wall Street Journal live-blogged it, offering minute-by-minute updates to the nation. A sample: "Barbara asks about Afghanistan. 'War is always tough,' says Obama. He says the recent WikiLeaks on the war confirmed what he had been saying. He says in Afghanistan, 'We still have a lot of work to do.'")

More Daily Beast Reaction to Obama on The View and VideoBreathless questions came at the president from the affectionate women, and answers flowed back—sinuous, unending answers, answers that were—inevitably, when it came to health care, and the economy, and Iraq, and Afghanistan—long-winded. Obama has but one gear, and whether it be at a day-time love-fest or at a bipartisan televised pow-wow, his inability to do anything other than hold forth is quite undeniable. All that said, it was worth the price of admission to hear Whoopi ask Obama, with echoes of Descartes: "What are we? Who are we?" And to hear Joy Behar—Josephina Victoria Behar to give you her full, glorious name—talk about "draw-down" in Iraq. Not to mention the fragrant Ms. Hasselbeck bemoan the fact that we now live in the "divided states of America." (Cut, here, from Mr. President to commercial, "Did you know that four out of five dogs in America have gum disease, and tartar build-up?")

The show only really came to life in its final moments, when the ladies broke free of their intellectual shackles and pinged the prez with the questions that were really on their minds: Did he like Snooki? Did Mel Gibson need anger-management classes? Lindsay Lohan, Chelsea, his iPod. (Predictably, Obama revealed that his iPod had everything, from Jay-Z, to Sinatra, to Maria Callas. All constituencies covered, I think. But wait...what about Bollywood? No "Jai Ho"?!

The man's not getting my vote the next time...

Tunku Varadarajan is a national affairs correspondent and writer at large for The Daily Beast. He is also the Virginia Hobbs Carpenter Fellow in Journalism at Stanford's Hoover Institution and a professor at NYU's Stern Business School. He is a former assistant managing editor at The Wall Street Journal. (Follow him on Twitter here.)