Full disclosure I’m a bit of a fan of “Between Two Ferns,” which is to say it is sometimes very funny and sometimes not. That seems fitting given that it is on a site called “funny or die.” Sometimes it is funny and sometimes it dies.
The same can be said of the president’s stint on the show. I think some of it is funny. Some of it is not.
As for the complaint that it was unbecoming, I’m a bit torn. I don’t fret overly about the dignity of the presidency. President Clinton arguably did more to undermine the dignity of the office than all of the presidents before him combined. That didn’t stop Clinton from being popular, never mind permanently damage the institution. What does bother me is that Obama sometimes seems more concerned with his own cult of personality than he does with the prestige of the office or the mechanisms traditionally at its disposal. Rather than fold up his campaign and be content with his constitutional powers and his role as the head of his party, he instead created a parallel institution, OFA, that was dedicated to his political agenda rather than the agenda of the party. That the plan failed isn’t a defense of the idea in the first place.
On the other hand, if initial White House reports are to be believed (a very large “if”), this gig on Between 2 Ferns was a success. Funny or Die is allegedly referring millions of people to the Obamacare website. This raises two points worth pondering. First, this may be a sign that the presidency has permanently changed thanks to the splintering of the media landscape. Going viral may simply come with the job, no matter who is in office, now that interviews on a broadcast network don’t do much.
Second, it says something sad about the audience Obama is reaching out to. After all, if millions actually do sign up as a result (which I highly doubt), it would mean that there are millions of young people out there who couldn’t be persuaded by billions of words in newspapers, magazines, State of the Union addresses, and news broadcasts, but they are persuaded by a hipster webcast comedy show. That doesn’t really speak well of them — or the country generally.