Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day 356- The narrative of the moment

Dear Mr. President,

Yay! You're officially a comeback kid! Did you wake up this week feeling suddenly more powerful than ever before? I ask because the media is abuzz with the story of your late legislative victories, and I can't get rid of this wry smile at the sudden change in narrative. Last week you were ineffective, stymied, your Presidency basically over. Now you're leading congress to more legislative accomplishments, repealing DADT, getting health care benefits for 9/11 first responders, saving the world from the threat of nuclear war with START. You're such a badass. How did things change so quickly?

Thing have not, of course, changed, but the way they are discussed on TV had to change. I'm not sure if this is a reflection of the American public's attention span or just the way the media feels about it, but it can't be a coincidence that every one changed their stories at once. It rings falsely to my ears, anyway. One of my favorite local writers, Paul Constant, agrees, asking that the media "let Bill Clinton's tired "comeback kid" trope molder in the 90s, where it belongs. Things are more complicated now. Don't we deserve a more nuanced media, too?"

Mr. Constant is right when he says "anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that you don't measure a presidency in inches, but these little victories and defeats are what keeps all these unworthy jackasses employed." . His media criticism reminds me of Jon Stewart, who has perfected the art of splicing news clips to show the absurd way one story can be discussed in identical terms. I don't think that you're a different President, that you're working any harder or that you've made any dramatic changes to your approach in the last week. I won't be even a little surprised when, a few weeks or months from now, the narrative changes again and every op-ed writer and pundit is lamenting your stalled/failed/vague/poorly articulated/tone-deaf agenda. As some one with a really unhealthy obsession with political news, I probably find this more annoying than a person who doesn't live and die with these narratives, but I think this practice contributes to our national discourse in an overwhelmingly negative way, encouraging reactionary, short-sighted emotional responses to decisions and events that require more context and perspective.

Just so you know, Mr. President, I'm not buying in to the idea of you being suddenly effective as a leader. For all of my angry, disappointed or nagging letters I've sent this year, I've never stopped appreciating your deliberate, measured approach to things (even when it frustrates the hell out of my hot-headed impulsive side.) I think you're great, but I thought you were great last week, too. I'm proud of what you've achieved and I recognize the magnitude of the work still to be done. This is no time for a victory lap or for complacency. So I hope that you soak up the good press while you've got it, because you know it won't last long.

Respectfully yours,


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