Obama is now trying out Seinfeld shtick?
posted at 5:10 pm on October 23, 2012 by Howard Portnoy
“Thank you, you’ve been a great audience!” That was not the president of the United States at the end of last night’s third and final presidential debate on Monday, but it could have been (and perhaps will be when he makes his fifth appearance—his third since taking the Oath of Office—on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno).
Granted, last night’s debate was not the most engaging of the four this campaign season, and you had to be either asleep or dead not to notice that was hurling one-liners all night, much to the delight of his base and (one is beginning to sense) befuddlement of everyone else.
But a line that escaped this viewer’s ken that is warming the cockles of liberal writers everywhere. It is this near-Seinfeld line: “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.” The actual line, which the president (not atypically) flubbed, is one that has been getting a lot of play in James Taranto’s Best of the Web Today column in The Wall Street Journal since after the first debate, when Obama went on what might be called a “jerk store fool’s errand.”
The idea that informs both the Seinfeld line (uttered by the character of George Costanza) and Obama’s real-life effort to square the circle is that you get only one chance at zingers. In George’s case, the line that got away after a colleague insulted him by proclaiming “The ocean called and they’re running out of shrimp” was “The jerk store called and they want you back!”
That was the line Obama was channeling when his tongue tripped over his teeth, but his delivery hardly matters. As John Cook, a self-avowed Obama enthusiast in 2008, wrote today at Gawker:
[Obama’s] inaugural address—a deeply depressing read in light of the last four years—contained a stern admonition to those who insisted on sweating the small stuff: ‘On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises…. [I]n the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.’
That’s the same guy who let loose last night, in the midst of a debate that was ostensibly about how many people we are going to kill over the next four years and under what circumstances, this little nugget: ‘The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.’
It is one thing to stink at comedy and butcher jokes. It’s another thing altogether to know when jokes are appropriate. The fact that Barack Obama doesn’t ranks low among his many deficiencies as a head of state. But it reveals much about him as a man.
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