Politics

04.06.13

Four Reasons Why Obama’s Week Totally Sucked (and One Reason It Didn’t)

The first week of April did not go well for the president. From creepily calling California’s attorney general the ‘best-looking’ in the country, to Michelle Obama (accidentally?) outing herself as a ‘single mother,’ see why the leader of the free world should probably just sleep in until Monday.

T.S. Eliot warned that “April is the cruelest month.” And with the week he’s had, President Obama might just want to curl up with “The Wasteland” and wait for Monday. On Wednesday, North Korea authorized itself to carry out nuclear strikes on the United States in an alarmingly colorful statement (“merciless,” “revolutionary,” “smashed!”). On Friday, news that the president’s upcoming budget proposal includes changes to Medicare and Social Security drew fire from liberal groups who called it “unconscionable” and “profoundly disturbing”— before the budget was even announced. Even Obama’s cool, science-fiction-sounding BRAIN initiative, intended for better understanding and mapping of the human brain, got ripped by the people who might supposedly benefit from it: brain researchers. Not to mention the protesters who have harangued him at every fundraising pit stop in San Francisco this week.

In fact, apart from meeting Kid President, pretty much nothing went Obama’s way this week. Here are five more reasons the president might just stay home this weekend.

Playing basketball with a bunch of kids got real embarrassing, real fast:

Video screenshot

Obama stands at the free-throw line, cameras rolling. He shoots, he… gets the ball to bounce precariously on the rim for a second before it falls, to the jeers of small children and members of the WNBA’s Washington Wizards. The president’s week got off to a rough start at the White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday, where he decided to shoot some hoops with some lucky kids. But the free-throw contest took a turn for the awkward when, despite the president’s professed love of basketball, it took him 15 tries to land a single shot, ultimately earning a final score of only 2 out of 22 shots. That’s a 9.1 percent success rate. “He couldn’t make one [throw],” said Kahron Campbell, 10. “I had to help him out.”

Michelle Obama forgot he exists?

Video screenshot

You know something’s rotten in Denmark when your wife (accidentally?) outs herself as a “busy single mother” during a televised interview. While talking about driving farmers’ market trucks into underserved communities to a reporter from a Vermont-based CBS station on Thursday, the first lady segued into a curious slip of the tongue. “Believe me, as a busy single mother—or, I shouldn’t say ‘single,’” she said, quickly correcting herself. “You know, when you’ve got the husband who’s president, it can feel a little single. But he’s there.” The fact that “he’s there” was the best thing that Michelle could say about Barack in that moment didn’t help.

Creepily calling Kamala Harris the “best-looking attorney general in the country.”

The last stop on the president’s fundraising run through San Francisco took him to the Atherton home of kajillionaire Levi-Strauss heir John Goldman on Thursday. It was totally fancy, with tickets ranging from $1,000 to $20,000. Maybe he got too comfortable, maybe he was loopy after a long week, but things got weird when the president began praising California Attorney General Kamala Harris to the luncheon crowd. All seemed well at first; the president praised her as “brilliant,” “dedicated” and “tough”—then he slipped into this ill-thought-out compliment: “She also happens to be, by far, the best-looking attorney general.” Laughs from the crowd of wealthy donors ensued—along with cringes from every blogger who found it troublesome that even the president of the United States felt a natural entitlement to comment on a woman’s looks, uninvited. The backlash was strong enough to get the president to call up Harris on Thursday night and apologize. Harris has not publicly commented on the issue, but White House press secretary Jay Carney told The New York Times, “You know, they are old friends and good friends and he did not want in any way to diminish the attorney general’s professional accomplishments and her capabilities.”

The man gave up 5 percent of his salary as a show of sequestration solidarity—and got called “patronizing” and “absurd” in return.

It’s probably the thought that counts, but President Obama’s decision to take a 5 percent pay cut on his $400,000 annual salary in order to match sequester cuts to government agencies has earned more than a few eye rolls. Dana Milbank in the Washington Post writes that “the amount … is so little for a man made wealthy by his political fame that it comes across as patronizing,” going on to note the royalties Obama earns from his bestselling memoirs and the appearance and speaking fees he will presumably earn once he leaves the White House. At Slate, Matthew Yglesias called the gesture simply “absurd.” “Who is better off thanks to this?” he writes. “It doesn’t seem to free up any budgetary funds for anything.” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry (the richest Cabinet member and husband to Heinz ketchup heiress wife Teresa), Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew also announced that they’d be sending 5 percent of their salaries straight back to the Treasury, though—which amounts to something, at least.

All in all, it was a shoddy week for our president. But hey, at least this happened!

Video screenshot