Having had a day to think about it — and a day to hear from folks who think a great deal about presidential dignity and from folks who think even less of it than I do — I’ve decided the question of whether it was undignified for Obama to do Between Two Ferns is the wrong question. His detractors say yes. His defenders say no. There’s sincerity and the lack of it on both sides.
But I think the real issue isn’t whether it was dignified, but whether it was small. Did this seem like something a president should have to do? People say it was a success because it sent a lot of traffic to the Obamacare website, presumably from young people (we’ll see). But it was also seen by millions of older people who’ve never seen the site or heard of the show before. I’ve talked to a lot of older folks (and not just conservatives) about the skit in the last 24 hours and it’s a bit of a surprise how many of them just didn’t get the premise, didn’t think any of it was funny, and thought the whole thing was kind of pathetic. Dignified or not, it seemed kind of sad to them. After all, if Obamacare were hitting all of its numbers, does anyone think Obama still would have sat down for this kind of thing.
The scent of “It’s come to this?” wafts off the whole spectacle. Maybe that’s a worthwhile price to get young people to sign up. No doubt the hip — and the desperate-to-seem-hip — media class will wave away such concerns. But those older people matter, too. They vote more, for one thing. Obama is also their president. And from what I can tell, they didn’t like what they saw.