Sunday, December 13, 2009
What Obama doesn't
know about America
I'll explain why this is as important as the Army-Navy game...
STILL MORE SERENDICITY. It's Sunday. Which means Fox News Sunday, ESPN wrap-ups of Saturday sports, and NFL coverage on what is increasingly the most illuminating source, the NFL Network.
So there was the panel on the Chris Wallace Fox News Sunday show, where we saw a 180-degree flip-flop on Barack Obama's latest speech -- three conservatives offering qualified praise for the Nobel acceptance address and Juan Williams expressing unqualified outrage that the president would depart from his practice of unmitigated bashing of America on foreign soil even once. Personally, I wasn't that impressed by the intended irony. Williams hews to far-left talking points more than I think he believes in his heart because it so embarrasses him to agree with conservatives in public that he tends to overstate his differences with them. Something about credibility with the liberal base, I suspect. And something about protesting too much. The conservatives, on the other hand, appear to be trying to play nice with Obama in this instance because they would like to see more expressions of the president's alliance with his own country, not deter him from same by ripping into him when he takes a baby-step toward actual American citizenship.
Then there was the ESPN reportage of the annual Army-Navy confrontation in Philadelphia. I admit I'm finessing this part of the Sunday theme. Like many others, I watched as much of the football game as I could bear to. For several years now, I've been rooting all out for Army because they're on a losing streak that shows no sign of ending anytime soon. The CBS coverage was indifferent at best. We don't get to see the grand entrances of the cadets and midshipmen into the stadium, and thanks to TV avarice, we don't get to see any half-time activities at all. The announcers (Vern Lundquist and Gary Danielson) were almost boasting about their determination to cover the event "as a football game," which is weaseling to an astonishing degree, because it is clearly far more than that. As this clip from a post-game interview with the Navy coach made clear:
So maybe I imagined more than saw the ESPN post-mortem of another dismal performance by Army -- their third straight year without a touchdown against Navy -- and the complete silence on what I considered the biggest story of the game. The absence of the Commander-in-Chief for whom the game's trophy is named. I know that presidents usually attend only a game or two even in eight years of office, but surely this was a year in which Obama should have attended. Barely a week ago, he ordered 30,000-plus new troops into Afghanistan, choosing as his backdrop for the announcement West Point and its corps of cadets. Cynics accused him of using the U.S. Military Academy as a prop. Defenders said, as is their wont, "Oh stop it."
But I refuse to stop it. When the president attends the Army-Navy game, halftime is no longer a toss to the network for a roundup of Heisman hype, basketball scores, and Division II playoff games between schools no one's ever heard of. It's the moment when the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. military crosses the field at the fifty-yard line to demonstrate ceremonially what the Navy coach expressed emotionally -- that a game is only a game and that we all owe impartial, non-partisan support to both of these great, heroic branches of the service which have done so much to defend our freedoms.
But the president wasn't there. Secretary of Defense Gates tossed the coin before the game. Cool. But where was the president? Resting up between his overseas trips to Norway for personal honors at the Nobel ceremonies and to Copenhagen for another egoistic commitment to spend American treasure on behalf of the 'world community' while his own country languishes in economic adversity and uncertainty. So much for fine words at West Point and Oslo. But I haven't heard a single solitary word of recognition, let alone criticism, that the president of the United States didn't see fit to honor the youth, vitality, and humanity of the U.S. military by participating in the pageantry of the great annual contest in Philadelphia.
Does any of this begin to explain the YouTube video above? Well, to me it does. The final portion of that video I saw on the NFL Network this morning. It moved me. In its own right and in the context of Fox News Sunday and ESPN. Our president is fond of implying that capitalism is somehow a bane of American existence, that it crushes rather than ennobles American experience. That business interests and the profit motive are antithetical to the ideal of human aspiration and self-actualization. Well, in some sense, the NFL is corporate capitalism at its worst. Isn't it? Tycoon owners, ruthless manipulative factotums below them who exploit the naive and vulnerable for their own gain...? Isn't it at least roughly analogous to the autocracy of the military? A bunch of dumb victims commanded by soullessly mean men who like killing and brainwash their troops into criminal acts?
Which is the exact point at which the video above becomes Exhibit A of what President Obama doesn't understand about America. Matthew Stafford, quarterback of the Detroit Lions, the losingest team in football, has a multi-million-dollar contract as a franchise player in the NFL. He gets hurt at the end of a game whose loss won't materially change his team's season. He is in tremendous, obvious pain. There isn't anybody, not even in the NFL, who could say a word of rebuke if he allowed himself to be hustled into the dressing room while his team goes down the drain. He is surrounded by trainers and coaches who want to know only how and how badly hurt he is.
Then he hears the other side call time-out. His immediate response has nothing to do with his contract, his money, his future with the team... It's about the sudden possibility of winning the game and believing that he is in a position to do exactly that.
So he switches, in an instant, from being an agonizingly hurt player to a player demanding ("Let me up. Get off me.") that he be allowed to return to the game and win it.
Which he does.
That's the American story to me. One could claim that the extraordinary discipline and self-sacrifice of Army-Navy footballers is a function of a certain kind of propaganda. (Hell, as Obama might observe, it could be the same with the Republican Guards of Iran. Give the military a long enough leash...) But Stafford is simply a more gifted and high-profile version of an American mentality that is spread throughout the land. An American cliche that isn't a cliche because it's so often true. Americans respond to crisis. They ask more of themselves. They demand of themselves what no external agent can. They're there -- they're here -- to win.
Obama doesn't know anything about this aspect of the country he was born in. I don't believe he will ever learn it. Which is why he has to be turned out of office at the first opportunity. I mean, when all is said and done, where was he during the Army-Navy game?