Ex-President George W. Bush’s former Chief of Staff, Andrew Card, was on Michael Medved’s radio show recently and he had this to say about the new, more relaxed, dress code in the Oval Office:
"...I found that Ronald Reagan and both President Bushes treated the Oval Office with tremendous respect. They treated the Office of the Presidency with tremendous respect. And some of that respect was reflected in how they expected people to behave, how they expected them to dress when they walked into the symbol of freedom for the world, the Oval Office. And yes, I'm disappointed to see the casual, laissez faire, short sleeves, no shirt and tie, no jacket, kind of locker room experience that seems to be taking place in this White House and the Oval Office."
I nearly spit out my coffee as I read Mr. Card’s words this morning.
Now, I am no psychologist, but allow me a moment of long-distance diagnosis here. President Obama seems to me to be a man who is supremely confident. He is not cocky. He is not obnoxious. He is not a braggart. He simply knows that he has what it takes to lead the United States, (and, by extension, the World), through these perilous economic times.
He has no need to hide behind the trappings of the office. He doesn’t need to place 220 years of tradition and history between himself and everyone else in order to command respect. He will be respected, (if indeed he IS respected,) for what he says and, more importantly, for what he DOES.
Mr. Card claims the Oval Office is “the symbol of freedom for the world.” This is the line that practically had me needing a new keyboard and screen—under President Bush the Oval Office has been seen as a symbol of closed-door meetings, abuse of Presidential authority, DISrespect for the actual symbol of freedom—the United States Constitution—and general ineptitude. President George W. Bush had a different kind of confidence than President Obama. President Bush’s confidence seems to be that of the man who is constantly out to prove himself. At his core, I think he knows that he was out of his depth and therefore he had to adopt his swagger and his outsize cockiness. Deep down, he had more doubts about himself then we did.
Just as some would make desecration of the flag a crime because they elevate the symbol itself (the flag) over the ideals it stands for (freedom of expression), Andrew Card and President Bush have mistaken the symbol for the thing itself. This mistake gives evidence of their inability to see much below the surface and points out some of the possible reasons for their eight years of ineptitude.
I for one am glad we have a President who can see through the surface and get to the heart of the matter. There is some especially hard work required at this moment in our history and to get it done, President Obama and his advisors will need to take off their jackets and roll up their sleeves.