Superman, not the president please

I was reading in the newspapers both in the US and in the UK the story of how a media show host was forced to issue a groveling apology because he used an inappropriate term to describe the female host of a rival show.  Now I cannot state if the term was appropriate or not (apparently he stated that she was a lady of professional virtue but without the monetary transactions), but I do know that somewhere in the uproar the actual context and the reason behind it was lost.  Whilst the term may or not be accurate and whether he should have used it is not really important here.  What is important is the reason behind the utterance.

Now unless you have been living on another planet, you will have heard that the Midwest of America has been suffering extreme weather that resulted in the death of many and serious loss of property.  As is the way of most civilized nations, the whole host of emergency services has responded admirably to aid the survivors and victims alike.  But apparently, this is not enough to satisfy our talk show host because she criticized the President for being seen drinking a pint of Guinness in a bar in Ireland, with the subtext that he should be back in the States, directing operations.  I don’t know about you, but if I am stuck up to my neck in water from an overflowing river or buried under the remains of my house, I want to be rescued by trained personnel equipped with the necessary tools and accompanied with boats, helicopters and all types of specialist vehicles.  What I don’t want is some politician in a 3 ton Lincoln town car flanked by police outriders and SUVs full of Secret Service agents to drive up to reassure me that he was in charge and tell the rescuers what a fine job they are doing.  For a start, they will be forced to abandon me as they salute the President and surely if there are enough Police available to help safeguard him, why the heck aren’t they helping me and everyone else instead? 

The President was in Ireland as part of a European tour before attending the G8 Summit where they would discuss trifling things like what the heads of state were going to do with the whole uprising in the Middle East, how far to prosecute the war – sorry, I mean humanitarian efforts – in Libya and how to get away with ignoring Syria.  There was also that that whole thing about the world economy currently in meltdown and Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain ready to pass the sombrero around for lots of dollars.  Oh, and the President was due to address Parliament and stay with Queen Elizabeth.  When Mr Obama’s  aides were planning the logistical nightmare that is a tour, making sure that the Leaders of Ireland, Britain and France would actually be in and not planning a night out with the lads, I doubt very much that President Obama looked as his diary and said “sorry, can’t do that date, there is going to be a tornado and I must be seen to be shaking hands with Hank from Fire Station Six… Liz and Phil and say we’ll do dinner some other time.”

If you are making an effort to go to Ireland in the first place to spend all day talking politics, listening to a bunch of other politicians asking you to force your industry to invest, after a couple of days of pretending to be nice you will be entitled to some downtime.  So a drink in a bar would be welcome (i.e., a cleverly arranged marketing opportunity by Diageo, the British company that owns Guinness, Smirnoff vodka and Jose Cuervo tequila amongst brands).  After all, Ireland is a bit short on natural monuments to visit, so a pint of beer based on a British recipe and made by a British company surrounded by press, politicians, aides and secret service agents is the best way to experience the real Ireland.   

There are also a couple of other things to consider.  The President is a lawyer and worked in the civil rights area.  When I last checked, nowhere does it say that he is a trained in search and rescue.  So although you may need to consult a lawyer after a disaster when the nasty insurance companies try to say that your claim is invalid, your immediate need is for a specialist to help you get out in the first place.  Mr Obama’s job as head of state is to ensure that the country has enough money to pay the bills and that the country is not invaded by the Canadians.   It’s the State that ensures that we have FEMA and all the other first responders and it will be the Government’s job to provide extra money to aid reconstruction.  It’s not in the job description that the President should be on hand to help dig through the rubble of a town that has just be wiped of the map.  In an emergency you phone 911, not the White House.

But for one minute, say that the President took off his business suit and put on a pair of overalls, commanded his pilots to fly Airforce One, Airforce Two and the C17 full of ground transportation back to the United States and the scene of the latest tornado.  I am sure that the same commentator who criticized him for being in Ireland would be the first to start shouting “Photo – Opportunity” and raving about how the President’s visit was diverting resources away from rescue efforts to clear the airport and provide security.  And people know that.  So when another commentator says “get real” perhaps he shouldn’t imply that the female in question is an unpaid lady of professional virtue, but he would have been quite correct if he pointed out that the last thing you need in the middle of a disaster is a presidential visit, in the same way that you don’t want your local mayor walk in when you are in the middle of a sewer overflow in the guest bathroom (unless of course he really is a trained plumber).  And I am sure that the ‘zoo-plane’ full of other journalists accompanying the president would have something to say if that instead of being in London and Paris they were diverted to Boondocks, Missouri.

So I don’t envy the President, he is in a no-win situation and will be attacked from both sides irrespective of what he does.  But not from me, because when I’m stuck in my tornado shelter buried under the remains of my house, I will not be phoning Washington and asking the President to put his underpants over a leotard to come and single-handedly dig me out.  Instead I will be phoning my local fire department and the emergency services first then followed by all the radio stations to see if I can sell my story of how I had to rely on trained professionals and how disgusted I was that Mr Obama took a few hours off.  If I can’t get a real journalist, I’ll even speak to someone who may just be a little bit bitter that she wasn’t considered to accompany the President.


About cryptothinker

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