She wonders whether Obama might be "trying so hard to be perfect that it’s stultifying." What, she asks, if Obama seems:
so tightly wrapped, overcalculated and circumspect that he can’t even allow anyone to make jokes about him, and that his supporters […] so evangelical and eager for a champion to rescue America that their response to any razzing is a sanctimonious: Don’t mess with our messiah!
Dowd’s concern has appeared elsewhere. Bill Carter of the NYT complains there’s nothing "buffoonish" about Obama and James Rainey of the LAT remarks on his campaign’s "irony deficiency."
All presidents are people. All people are flawed. All president’s are flawed. Clinton was a womanizer. Bush a challenged communicator. Gore a bit robotic. We know our leaders by their faults, errors and inadequacies.
But there is more at work here than a sophomore’s syllogism. Flaws turn out to be an essential qualities in the democratic process. And where flaws do not exist they are made to exist. We might argue that that’s what late night TV is for. Letterman, Leno, Kimmel, O’Brien, that’s their job: to point out flaws, and to insist on them where they do not exist.
From an anthropological point of view, teasing is a political act. It’s part of the cultural construction on which democracy turns. Otherwise presidents are too grand, their powers too great, their status too asymmetrical. We scorn our politicians to level them. We tease to keep democracies democratic.
Teasing must allowed into the the Obama campaign or there can’t be any realistic hope of the White House. This will be a test of the Obama team. How good are they at meaning management? Is there room for even this in brand Obama?
Dowd, Maureen. 2008. May We Mock, Barack? New York Times. July 16, 2008. here.