The President doesn't seem to like Las Vegas-not even a little bit. During a town hall meeting about a year ago, he advised corporations receiving bailout money to stop meeting there. Then, about a week ago, he advised American families to stop gambling away their tuition money at Vegas casinos. The President explained that he was just using Vegas as a metaphor for the less responsible ways Americans spend money in a tough economy, when their focus should be on tuition and mortgage payments. I just don't think that's the whole story. Over the weekend, while I was playing poker at home in Massachusetts with my 7-year-old son Cole, I came up with what may be the real reason Las Vegas bugs the President. There were distinct moments during our game when I realized my son had some independent decisions to make_ * He had to decide whether to take a risk and bet his "money" on the hand he had been dealt. I couldn't see his cards, so I couldn't decide for him.
* He had to manage his money the way he saw fit, balancing his desire to increase his stack of chips rapidly with a big bet against the ominous prospect of rapidly losing and having far fewer.
* He did a very good job, beating me handily. I wouldn't have predicted the outcome. Yet there were times during the match when my heart sank, because he lost a hand and lost some of his chips and was obviously disappointed. There was no candy-coating those moments.
* He insisted on seeing my cards to make sure who had won "for real," so, even if I had been inclined to, there was no way to tell him he had won when he had not. The growing independence of a 7-year-old might be what bugs Barack Obama. As Parent-in-Chief, I think the President may peg the average American at a chronological age of about 5. (That's the age when I would have thrown some stimulus chips in my son's pile, just to make him feel better, for a while, until they ran out.) The President just may not like the idea that Americans are free to spend their money the way they want to, wherever they want to, on whatever they see fit-on entertainment or education or investments. And he might have a little unconscious bone to pick with Las Vegas itself. Because, ultimately, autonomy and individual choice are the forces that power the casinos. Whether you take a card, or stand firm or fold your hand is yourdecision, nobody else's. The cards don't lie. Even my 7-year-old boy knows that much.