To Be Cute

President Cute:

I guess we've all heard someone or other talk about Obama as being "cute." Cuteness is apparently highly valued, perhaps because it is nonthreatening. The nation has been so stressful, these last few years.

"Cute" means being childlike in some respects -- Obama's relative youth is often contrasted with McCain's age. It also means being harmless. A Yorkshire terrier barking and growling is "cute," for precisely the reason that a slavering Rottie engaged in the same behavior is not.

ABC News explores the question in its coverage of the Obamas' appearance on Good Morning America. The headline is adult and assertive: "Obama warns GOP, 'Lay off my wife.'"

But the subhead, which an editor chose to ensure you did not miss something located at the end of the story, is, "Obama loses argument with wife over getting a dog."

Michelle Obama actually overruled her husband while on "GMA" when they were asked whether their two daughters had yet to get the dog they were promised.

She said they had agreed to get the dog a year from now, while her husband said they will have "a year to test whether they are sufficiently responsible..."

But Michelle Obama cut him off, sayingy, "They are responsible."

He tried again by saying "Whether they are going to be responsible in the middle of winter to go walk that dog."

"We're getting a dog," his wife said flatly.

"When it's cold outside," Obama persisted.

His wife looked into the camera and said to their kids, "You guys are getting a dog."

When the presidential candidate again asked who would be walking the dog, the potential first lady replied, "You will. You will all be walking the dog."

"OK. All right," Obama conceded.
We'll leave aside the question of whether the TN GOP's ad was unfair, given that Michelle Obama made the comments at a political rally, and given that Obama himself "joked" that she would make a good Vice President. Certainly a man should stand up for his wife; he's under no obligation to be "fair" where she is concerned. A good man should be completely unfair in this regard: he should brook no slander on her honor, nor even the shadow or suggestion of one.

That much I approve of; but this aggressiveness is balanced by his wife's public humiliations, which ensure that he remains "cute." No viewer will be frightened away by his aggressiveness in today's interview. Obama doesn't come off as angry because of it; it is clear he remains harmless. This is apparently a chief reason for his success -- remember the other day when he was described by a supporter as "a skinny, athletic, gentle-seeming, virtually metrosexual man, [who] nearly splits the difference on gender as well."

Apparently that's just what a lot of people want. Exactly how it's meant to impress enemies at this difficult moment in history -- whether at war or the negotiating table -- is lost on me; but it may be just that many Americans want someone comforting. Perhaps Iran, too, will be won over to giving up their nuclear program just because he is so nonthreatening; why would they ever need a weapon?

No comments: