Bob Davis: Tough job for anyone
Sep 23, 2012 | 1734 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A read of Michael Lewis’ fantastic Vanity Fair article on President Barack Obama fills in innumerable blanks about the style and work habits of the 44th U.S. president. He makes a priority of dining with his family. He enjoys playing pickup basketball. He avoids cable TV news. After his family goes to bed, he stays up past midnight catching up on work.

Yet, one question remains unanswered: Why would anyone want the job? Why is Obama seeking another four years of torture? And why would Mitt Romney put so much effort into becoming the 45th president, and in the process buy for himself enough headaches and stress to drive a normal human to an early grave?

At the outset, let’s establish that it takes a unique set of skills to run for president, much less actually serve as one. The serious candidates must be able to confidently say to themselves, “Leader of the free world? Oh yeah, I got this.”

They then begin the arduous process of campaigning for the job, years before the actual general election. Lots of baby-kissing, glad-handing, chicken dinners and, let’s not forget, fundraising to keep those campaign wheels rolling. Did we mention much of this is done in the winter in New Hampshire and Iowa, where the thermometer usually stays at or below freezing in December and January? Be prepared, presidential hopefuls, for the endless evenings of being caught in the clutches of the local party poobah who’s just itching to explain how he’s figured out the solution to a problem that’s so far escaped the grasp of your team of top-notch economists, advisers and policy experts.

Then there are your party rivals itching to bounce on any gaffe or slip-up. Don’t forget a press corps looking for a scoop or at least a fresh angle. The microphones are always live and the cameras are always rolling, as Romney was reminded last week during his “47 percent” fiasco.

In some ways, the winners in the primary season are the ones who drop out after running out of money, support or both. Those ex-candidates are free to pursue new opportunities. Many will see their speaking fees rise. (“Joining us tonight, ladies and gentlemen, is ex-presidential candidate Herman Cain.”) A book contract or two might be available. For Republicans, a sweet gig on Fox News is possible.

The nominees of their parties live to fight (and fund-raise) another day.

Then one of them wins, stands on a frozen podium in D.C. in January, raises his right hand and, ta-da, becomes president of the United States.

In the most recent issue of Vanity Fair, Lewis, the author of such classics as Moneyball and The Blind Side, explains what came next for Obama. (Spoiler alert: It’s not exactly a happy ending.)

Obama described for Lewis his first night in the White House after becoming president. “There’s a time in the middle of the night when you just kind of startle awake,” Obama said. “There’s a little bit of a sense of absurdity. There is such an element of randomness in who gets this job. What am I here for? Why am I walking around the Lincoln Bedroom? That doesn’t last long. A week into it, you’re on the job.”

While the president and his family can adapt to the new surroundings, they are captive to events far outside their control.

Lewis writes that Obama “has the oddest relationship to the news of any human being on the planet. Wherever it starts out, it quickly finds him and forces him to make some decision about it: whether to respond to it, and shape it, or to leave it be. As the news speeds up, so must our president’s response to it, and then, on top of it all, the news to which he must respond is often about him.”

Over months spending small chunks of time with the president, Lewis notes the job’s “bizarre emotional demands. In the span of a few hours, a president will go from celebrating the Super Bowl champions to running meetings on how to fix the financial system, to watching people on TV make up stuff about him, to listening to members of Congress explain why they can’t support a reasonable idea simply because he, the president, is for it, to sitting down with the parents of a young soldier recently killed in action. He spends his day leaping over ravines between vastly different feelings. How does anyone become used to this?”

For that matter, why would we expect so much from one politician?

Bob Davis is associate publisher/editor of The Anniston Star. Contact him at 256-235-3540 or bdavis@annistonstar.com. Twitter: twitter.com/EditorBobDavis.
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