Greetings from the Bizarro World. Barack Obama, the social media president, took questions from Tumblr users at the White House yesterday, one of whom asked where he saw himself ten years from now.
His answer, which typically is 86 times as long as the question, is in the video below (transcript follows). The president, who is accustomed to giving lengthy answers even to direct questions, seems to think that the more he says, the better. In reality, his answer to every question — for that matter the text of every speech he gives — could be distilled down to one or two key points: (1) I’m frustrated that Congress (read: The GOP-controlled House) won’t do what I command them to do, and (2) I’ve done a great job at _____ (to be filled with some facet of the job of commander-in-chief: In this particular speech, the facet is his foreign policy, which he maintains has made the world less violent than ever before).
Lately, he has begun adding a dig at the mainstream media for failing to gloss over his failures as frequently as they once did.
Well, I haven’t projected out 10 years.I’m really focused on making sure that I make every day in the next two and a half years count, because it’s an incredible privilege to be in this office. And even when I’m frustrated with Congress or I’m frustrated with the press and how it’s reporting things and Washington generally, I also know that there’s something I can do every single day that’s helping somebody and that sometimes without a lot of fanfare we’re making it easier for a business to get a loan, and we’re making it easier for a young person to get an education, and we’re making it easier for a family to get health care, and making sure that each day I come away with something that we’ve done to make it a little easier for folks to work their way into the middle class, to stay in the middle class, to save for retirement, to finance their kids’ college educations — that’s a good day for me.
I know what I’ll do right after the next President is inaugurated. I’ll be on a beach somewhere drinking out of a coconut. (Laughter.) But that probably won’t last too long.
And one of the things that Michelle and I have talked about a lot is we’re really interested in developing young people and working with them and creating more institutions to promote young leadership. I’m so impressed when I meet young people around the country. They’re full of passion. They’re full of ideas. I think they’re much wiser and smarter than I was, part of it maybe is because of Tumblr — I don’t know. (Laughter.)
And so there’s just huge potential. And the challenge is they’re also fed a lot of cynicism. You guys are fed a lot of cynicism every single day about how nothing works and big institutions stink and government is broken. And so you channel a lot of your passion and energy into various private endeavors.
But this country has always been built both through an individual initiative, but also a sense of some common purpose. And if there’s one message I want to deliver to young people like a Tumblr audience is, don’t get cynical. Guard against cynicism. I mean, the truth of the matter is that for all the challenges we face, all the problems that we have, if you had to be — if you had to choose any moment to be born in human history, not knowing what your position was going to be, who you were going to be, you’d choose this time. The world is less violent than it has ever been. It is healthier than it has ever been. It is more tolerant than it has ever been. It is better fed then it’s ever been. It is more educated than it’s ever been.
Terrible things happen around the world every single day, but the trend lines of progress are unmistakable. And the reason is, is because each successive generation tries to learn from previous mistakes and pushes the course of history in a better direction. And the only thing that stops that is if people start thinking that they don’t make a difference and they can’t make changes. And that’s fed in our culture all the time.
It’s fascinating to me — I don’t consume a lot of television, but generally, the culture right now is inherently in a cynical mood in part because we went through a big trauma back in 2007, 2008 with the financial crisis, and we went through a decade of wars that were really tough. And that’s the era in which you were born.
But look out on the horizon, and there’s a lot of opportunity out there. And that’s what I’d like to do after the presidency, is make sure that I help young people guard against cynicism and do the remarkable things they can do.
Of special note in this particular response is his claim that the world is safer now than when he took office. It’s almost as though he is oblivious to the effects of his “ending” — as opposed to “winning,” which is so twentieth century — the war in Iraq. Al Qaeda, far from being on its heels, is now in control of two major cities, Mosul and Tikrit, hometown of Saddam Hussein. The terrorist group has its sights on the capital, Baghdad. Shouldn’t one of Obama’s crack team of advisers tell him?