Published May 20, 2008
As a battle-scarred veteran of the horrific Jimmy Carter years (double-digit unemployment, inflation and mortgages -- plus gas lines), my radar has always been set to "high" for any reappearance of a president inclined as Carter was to tell us we have to learn to do with less. Travel less, consume less, feel warm… less.
So when I heard Barack Obama say we're actually going to have to eat less, my internal red lights and sirens instantly fired up.
"We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times… and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK," Obama said.
As Obama always says when he feels pounced upon for a few snippets of his words: context is important. (And he is absolutely correct, as I can personally attest, having been beaten with clubs for my own words removed from context.)
An AFP report from the massive Oregon rally described the context this way: "Pitching his message to Oregon's environmentally-conscious voters, Obama called on the United States to 'lead by example' on global warming and develop new technologies at home which could be exported to developing countries."
One can't know precisely what was on Obama's mind, but if this remark was in response to the news that George W. Bush had personally asked the Saudi king for a higher level of oil production to bring down prices -- to which the king said "No" -- I suppose context might matter to many people.
It might also matter if it were the general issue about getting international oil suppliers to give us more oil, without specifying either Bush or the Saudi king, or the recent "no."
But still, the remark has produced little comment from the punditocracy and I'm not sure I understand why. After all, the words leapt to (possible President) Obama's mind as an explanation of U.S. "leadership" and they are worth parsing, even if just for a moment.
To begin, two of the three elements of his response are standard Jimmy Carter. Just Google "Carter malaise" and you will find the famous Carter speech. In its dreary and depressing passages you will find the repugnant presidential order to drive less and turn down the thermostat. A new generation of Oregon-Obama-swooners may find this new and exciting, but quite a few of us have been down this hall of horrors before and we are alert to its implications.
But the third element of the Obama response is the jaw dropper: "We can't eat as much as we want" is a phrasing that seems to jump out as a direct (possible presidential) comment on the current world wide food shortage and as a warning to Americans that presidential-skinny may soon become official policy.
But your doctor already says you should lose weight? Fine, but what if it's the president saying you can't eat as much as you want and expect other countries to say it's OK? Is the president now giving the Saudi king a veto on your second trip to the buffet line?
Am I really making too much of it? Obama added that driving your SUV, eating all you want and keeping warm were not possible because, "that's not leadership. That's not going to happen."
Fresh off the Oregon triumph, a crowd of 75,000 people who gave up kayaking, rollerblading, hiking Mt. Hood and Ultimate Frisbee to see the next president in person, Obama issued yet another pre-presidential order.
Speaking to "Good Morning America's" Robin Roberts, Obama objected to the Tennessee GOP's attack ad on comments from (possible first lady) Michelle Obama: "Lay off my wife," he said.
Michelle beamed at her powerful husband's chivalry and Obama went on, specifying his wife's stump speeches were not to be mocked. People were using snippets of Michelle to make her look bad, he said and "that I find unacceptable."
When a president finds something "unacceptable" consequences follow. Drop that burger, fatty. And when my wife says this is a "mean" country, keep your thoughts to yourself.
President Bush has been condemned by the left for allegedly using extra-constitutional means to gain information from certifiable terrorists, but judging by the cheers of the massive Oregon crowd, turning presidential powers on overeaters and Michelle-quoters is going to be OK.
That's My Word.
Is it the president's business how much you eat? Call the "John Gibson Radio Show" starting at 6 p.m. ET. Find it at XM 168 or Sirius 145 or go to www.gibsonradio.com.