Why the President Didn’t Ring the Bell

Did anyone else feel the sober tone of the President last Wednesday?

He seemed tired, ill-prepared, scattered, aloof.

It looked to this observer as though he did not want to be there, but for different reasons than the pundits suppose. I saw a President who was tired of the nonsense, the posturing, the game in the Charlie the Tuna ad – “Just because it looks good doesn’t mean it is good.” He knew that the solutions proposed by his opponent were the problem that brought America to its knees on near economic collapse in 2008, and that the Republican Party set its sights on insuring the failure of his presidency instead of working together to solve the nation’s problems.

The President is a kind man. His civility is offensive to his enemies and his friends alike. He doesn’t wear his religion on his sleeve. But his belief in doing to others as he would have them to him is more than a throw-line.  At the Democratic National Convention, he had refused to follow the crowd in shouting down Gov. Romney as if he were evil incarnate. Even after Clint Eastwood had put in Obama’s mouth words that he never speaks (“Shut up”), the President chose not to retaliate. He hushed the convention delegates from playing tit-for-tat. He told them not to go there, to rise above it, incurring the anger of a number of party faithful who wanted him to fight with brass knuckles.

Last Wednesday President Obama’s face and demeanor seemed to say, “I want to be somewhere else. I hate this. I hate this charade. There has to be a better way than sound bytes, memorizing one-line shots to fire across each others’ bows, the twisting of fact and the avoidance of the deep philosophical questions that keep a President awake in the night.”

There are no simple solutions to America’s current problems.  They’ve been building for decades. There are no magic wands. The problems are moral, spiritual, and structural. This President knows that reality is different from the one we would like to make up. When such a one sees the complexity, it’s hard to step out on a staged, phony debate that squeezes the world into the nut-sized phrases and slogans that ring the bell that makes Pavlov’s dog salivate.

Could the stage on which he stood – on the night of his real wedding anniversary – have struck him as the opposite of reality itself?  Maybe that’s why he didn’t ring the bell.

16 thoughts on “Why the President Didn’t Ring the Bell

  1. These comments, especially the ones originating from Carolyn are spot on. There is a lot of commentary online about how Romney pulled that about face on debate night. An d much like how the people who watched the Kennedy vs Nixon debates thought the ‘clean’ looking Kennedy won the debate, while the ones to listened on the radio thought Nixon had won. I listened on MPR to this one, and even so, with Romney’s smooth voice had to concentrate quite hard to realize just what was being said, and how…..


    • Karin, I turned it off two-thirds of the way through. Carolyn and you would enjoy each other’s company and would keep each other informed – both voracious readers who think outside the box.


  2. Agreed, brother. You may want to check out the latest two video posts that I produced on people’s responses to the debate as a mechanism for investigating truth…or it’s failure to do so…I’d love to hear your thoughts!


        • Oakritchie, Did you happen to see the news from yesterday about a group of 1,000+ pastors of conservative evangelical Christian churches who endorsed a candidate from their pulpits in defiance of the IRS and separation of church and state? At the same time these pastors were participating in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” others are preparing for Election Day Communion that will seek to bring people together from across the poltical spectrum. The latter was initiated by two Mennonite pastors and an Episcopal lay person.


  3. Hi, Gordon. I believe there was another problem and a serious one. I think that everything you wrote may well be true, but, in addition, the President undoubtedly came out ready to debate the far right Tea Party candidate that Romney had been all the way up to the moment he walked out on stage for the debate. So it was, in fact, as Obama has said, “Who was that person up there? He sure LOOKED like Governor Romney, but he certainly didn’t sound like him.” Romney just jettisoned his base, knowing that such is their hatred of Obama that they will come out and vote for Romney just to “get” that nasty “other.”
    It is also really difficult to debate someone who can tell lie after lie with the most open and honest face in the world, and Romney is in there with the best of them. A debate setting such as that is not a good place to start a slanging match with the classic, and only truthful response: “That’s a LIE.”
    As I hinted before, I’m not thrilled with either, but I have no trouble at all in deciding who is the better man and President. I think there are more constraints on the President than most of us realize, but even so….. After the election, I may pursue a third party. Now *there’s* a way to get discouraged. An aside, not to be followed by anyone who isn’t positive that they are voting for Obama no matter what: http://www.justicepartyusa.org/


    • Thanks for mentioning how hard it is to argue with a liar. Lying is a form of bullying because public liars know instinctively that those watching (I’m no psychologist so I don’t know why) see weakness in the one who calls them out without holding obvious proof in his/her hands.

      And thanks for the link. My worry about any new party is the Animal Farm problem that’s rung true throughout history. Uncharitable personalities have always seemed to have a lot of power to infect. Maybe this new party can escape that curse.


      • Sparks, Thanks for the reply to Carolyn. She’s a very wise woman (we went to kindergarten together! :-)). We seem to have grown accustomed to believing that to be a politician is to be a liar, and there’s good reason for it. Lying or shading the truth, hiding the truth in some cases (such as national security), and spinning the truth in campaigning for office are all part of public life. The question we have to answer in voting for a candidate, I think, is whether the candidate has a basic intergrity that will serve the public well in this complicated world.


  4. I so agree with you. Sometimes I wonder if the majority of our country feels that only one personality type should hold government office. I’ve found out the hard way that employers seem to think that way about job applicants. The ‘perfection’ they require involves the same things the pundits and many voters think they want in a government leader. I firmly believe lack of understanding about the strength of Jimmy Carter’s personality type led to his defeat when he ran for a second term. I hope that kind of thinking doesn’t prevail this time.


    • Thanks, Sparks. As Carolyn observes in her comment, it’s hard to know which of Gov. Romney’s multiple personalities will show up on any given day. I think it’s clear, however, that the one he presented earlier int he campaign (the Tea Party – friendly face) is a mask he’s left behind now that he has to appeal to the wider electorate.


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