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Shhh, Mr. President
When world already thinks you’re weak, saying as much on live TV is probably a mistake.

President Obama departs the White House, August 29, 2014. (Win McNamee/Getty)

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Jonah Goldberg

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.

Dear Reader (unless you’re the Oregon guy who drove 30 miles with his left-turn signal on. I’ve lost all faith in you),

I’m writing this barreling down I-70, which I learned earlier today is the “Main Street of Kansas.” So sayeth a billboard for all to see just across the border from Colorado. This is not a very good slogan for Kansas, in my humble opinion. I like Kansas quite a bit. I do not like I-70 at all. “Main Street” implies a certain amount of commerce, even hustle-and-bustle. To my mind, it also suggests a homespun charm. I would bet $10,000 (to borrow a locution from Mitt Romney) that “charm and commerce,” never mind “hustle” or “bustle,” do not appear in the firsthand accounts of any I-70 traveler in recorded history (though it’s not like the I-70 Oral History Project is an ongoing concern).

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This isn’t the dumbest geographic marketing campaign I’ve ever seen. The last couple times I was in Anchorage, the banners hanging from the light poles downtown proclaimed “Anchorage: Clean and Safe!” This is the kind of slogan that sows doubt rather than reassures. It’s like when a chef insists that no one ever actually died eating his clams “that I know of.” It reminds of the bit from 30 Rock. “Sheinhardt Wig Company: Not Poisoning Rivers Since 1977!”

I can only imagine the town elders of Anchorage sitting around a table saying:

“Okay, now that we cleared the hobos and garbage out of downtown, what do we want our slogan to tell people?”

“That Anchorage is clean and safe?”

“That’s gold! Let’s go with that! And they said we needed to hire a marketing firm!”

A better, and more honest campaign might be “Welcome to I-70! Where even the cows are bored!” Or “Make Sure to Get Off This Highway and Stay Awhile.” Or “I-70: We Clear the Roadkill Faster than those Slackers in Nebraska!”

What I don’t get is: Whose interest does it serve to call this highway the Main Street of Kansas? It’s insulting to Kansas and generates no business I’m sure. Indeed, the last thing you want to tell people is that this is the Main Street of Kansas. Who benefits from such slander? “Cui bono?” I shout. “Cui bono!?”

To which my wife, currently behind the wheel, responds: “Shhh, Jonah. We have 700 miles to go.”

Shhh, Mr. President

Because I have been on an extended road trip, I haven’t followed the news as closely as I might “They don’t call it a multi-state killing spree for nothing” — The Couch). But from the broad brushstrokes I take it that the president is just crushing it. Everything is falling into place. He had to send Joe Biden off to Office Depot to get more notepads because he’s checking off everything on his to-do lists so quickly. (Biden came back with a ten-gallon jug of Elmer’s glue, some pink-unicorn duct tape, and an office chair he won’t stop spinning around and around and around in. “Wheeeeee!”) By this time next week, expect to have Elvis’s “Taking Care of Business — In a Flash” logo painted on the tail of Air Force One.

Oh wait, that must be the road hypnosis talking (“You’re losing it man, keep it together.” — The Couch). Suddenly Joe Biden stops swiveling in his chair and announces in his most stentorian voice: “Attention White House. Attention White House. The Chess Master has left the building. Wheeeeeeeeee!”

You remember the Chess Master right? Here’s Bob Herbert describing him back in 2009:

Mr. Obama is like a championship chess player, always several moves ahead of friend and foe alike. He’s smart, deft, elegant and subtle. While Lindsey Graham was behaving like a 6-year-old on the Senate floor and Pete Sessions was studying passages in his Taliban handbook, Mr. Obama and his aides were assessing what’s achievable in terms of stimulus legislation and how best to get there.

Here’s Barack Obama describing his favorite person:

“I think I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters,” Obama told him. “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”


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