Presidential Candidates

2012 Campaign Makes Even the F Word Lame

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Samuel Jackson shills for a sitting president with f-bombs. Result: comedy.

I've been saying for a while that President Obama needs to take the campaign up a level by dropping f-bombs in all his speeches. There's still time left! 

Given what now seems to be a widening gap in the presidential race (I warned you people!), the president may not need to spice things up with potty-mouth antics. But his supporters are greeting the presidential contest with a big Fuck Yeah! 

Here's Whoopi Goldberg getting a "bullshit" bleeped on ABC's The View

Sarah Silverman performs a lewd act with a cat in this attack on Romney supporter Sheldon Adelson. This one gets an "explicit" tag from the YouTubes. 

But this Samuel L. Jackson commercial (which like most videos these days features higher production value than it really needs) does not. In a laff-riot riff on his reading of the pissy parents' book Go the Fuck to Sleep, the Snakes On a Plane star disturbs an extended family with the phrase "Wake the Fuck Up." (Warning: "laff-riot" is a genre descriptor, not a guarantee of any actual funniness.) 

 

Presumably all these generations of a haute booboisie family are living under one roof (a habit most Americans are happy to leave back in the Old Country) thanks to the margin-of-error-level GDP growth, 11 percent cumulative inflation and 8+ percent unemployment that has characterized the Obama Administration. Tellingly, other than a vague reference to the family's having been "on the street" in 2008, Jackson's appeal does not rest on claims that anybody's actually doing better today. Most of the family members are told to support Obama just because they did so when he ran against John McCain. (Only PUSSIES change their minds in response to facts.) 

Should we be worried about this growing incivility in our campaigns? Not necessarily. Time's Claire Suddath gives a nice history of presidential profanity (along with one good piece of light-blue poetry from the perpetually underrated Prime Minister John Major): 

Lyndon B. Johnson had a famously dirty mouth. He chided Canada's Lester Pearson for his anti-Vietnam stance by saying, "You pissed on my rug," and once likened the difference between a Senator and a Representative to "the difference between chicken salad and chicken s___." He even considered removing J. Edgar Hoover as FBI chief but changed his mind, reasoning that "it's probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside pissing in."

Yet despite Johnson's many outbursts, Richard Nixon holds the unofficial record for being the most openly profane U.S. President — probably because he recorded much of what he said in the Oval Office. In a taped 1971 conversation between the President and two of his aides, Nixon called Mexicans "dishonest," said that blacks lived "like a bunch of dogs" and that San Francisco was full of "fags" and "decorators." And that was just one conversation.

These days, nearly everything is either recorded, broadcast, tweeted or put on YouTube. Yet for some reason, politicians still haven't learned to keep their mouths shut. In 1993, British Prime Minister John Major was caught on tape referring to three members of his Cabinet as "a shower of bastards." The same thing happened to then Texas Governor George W. Bush in 2000, when he called veteran New York Times reporter Adam Clymer "a major league asshole." And Vice President Dick Cheney knew others could hear him when he shouted "Go f___ yourself" to Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy on the Senate floor. (Of that incident, Cheney later said, "It was sort of the best thing I ever did.")

My concern is for the future of the f word. Politicians have a way of making everything suck, from the NFL to the iPod. While I've enjoyed many of Samuel Jackson's movies, I can't get too worked up about another Hollywood star's going in the tank for the sitting president. (Where's Dennis Farina in this election? He's my favorite hard-cussing actor.) The slow leeching out of profanity's power, on the other hand, is a real threat to the republic. And it's unnecessary. Why all this sailor talk when everybody knows the real reason to vote for Obama is that he gives you a free phone?