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Jonah Goldberg: Obama’s Stand-up Routine

Obama-joker-Ha

Too bad the joke is on his youthful audience. 

If you’ve seen some of Obama’s speeches in the last week, perhaps you’ve noticed how he’s becoming quite the jokester. Obama’s spiteful sarcasm—disguised as humor, of course—is becoming increasingly hollow, divisive, unseemly. Nobody likes a bully, or a sore winner. I’m surprised he’s not called out more for his overuse of the most un-presidential rhetorical habit: the straw man. It’s one thing for a contender on the campaign trail, trying to climb his way up to an elected job, another for a man already holding the highest office in the land. The way Obama creates an imaginary opponent, then defeats that fictional opponent with zingers, snark, and bluster, is a peculiar thing to watch.

I can imagine a group of actual conservatives watching one of these speeches, finding absolutely nothing they can identify with, then, even agreeing with him about this awful enemy the president is describing. “Wow, who is that guy? He sounds like a real bastard!” “Yeah, let’s go find him and beat the snot out of him!” It’s easy to win an argument when you’re playing both roles in the debate. I’ve been hoping someone smart and entertaining would notice and report on this. Fortunately, Jonah Goldberg is back from vacation, and on the job:

Jonah Goldberg writes:

President Obama was doing his favorite thing this week: talking to crowds of adoring young people who already agree with him while acting like he persuaded them about something.

“…the president is utterly incapable of arguing with anything other than a fictional opponent.”

They also seemed to give Obama the impression that he’s a really funny guy. On Wednesday, he told a crowd of 1,400 at the University of Michigan that he visited a local deli, Zingerman’s. He proceeded to tell a long story about ordering the small Reuben sandwich, which he said was “killer.” That description got a good laugh. Then he explained how he thought the sandwich was too big, so he shared it with his adviser, Valerie Jarrett.

[Jonah's book, The Tyranny of Cliches, is available at Amazon]

“After I finished [my] half, I wanted [her] half back,” Obama said. “But it was too late, all she had was the pickle – so I took the pickle.”

“Took the pickle” was a huge laugh line.

Pickle is a funny word, but still; when an audience thinks this is a knee-slapper, you know it’s not a rough crowd.

But Obama had a serious point to make as well. Zingerman’s “is a business that treats its workers well and rewards honest work with honest wages. And that’s what I’m here to talk about today.” He then segued into a pitch for raising the minimum wage.

National Review’s Andrew Johnson noted that Zingerman’s is pretty expensive. That small Reuben cost $13.99 – pickle included! (Thank you! I’m here all week. Please tip your servers.) The large goes for nearly $17. The irony might have been lost on the president that Zingerman’s “honest wages” also lead to high prices.

Using Zingerman’s as his comedic muse, the president transformed into Zinger-Man. According to the Washington Post, Obama hurled “a series of zingers to draw a contrast with Republicans on the economy in an election year.”

Breaking slightly from the standard talking point that the GOP is out of ideas, Obama said, “Now, to give them credit, they do have one original idea, which is to repeal Obamacare.”

He then turned to Representative Paul Ryan’s budget proposal: “If they tried to sell this sandwich at Zingerman’s, they’d have to call it the Stinkburger, or the Meanwich.”

Not since the First Barbary War, when Thomas Jefferson proclaimed, “I see London, I see France, I see John Adams’ underpants” has a president so successfully combined deep wit with biting criticism of a political opponent….read more….

National Review Online

— Jonah Goldberg is the author of The Tyranny of Clichés, now on sale in paperback. You can write to him by e-mail at goldbergcolumn@gmail.com, or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2014 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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4 Comments on “Jonah Goldberg: Obama’s Stand-up Routine”

  1. […] Pundit from another Planet Too bad the joke is on his youthful audience. If you’ve seen some of Obama’s speeches […]


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