President Obama Sure Does Surround Himself With Irritating Young Speechwriters Named Jon!


The bro-dude on the left. ||| Originally obtained by the Washington Post
Originally obtained by the Washington Post

First up, there's 31-year-old Favreau (not the actor/director), with a Daily Beast column that lives down to its excrutiating subhed: "The handwringers and bed wetters in the D.C. punditocracy should know that Barack Obama will never be on their timeline, says his longtime speechwriter Jon Favreau." That jock ain't gonna sniff itself!

In the case of Benghazi, he was willing to accept the harsh judgments and sweeping recommendations of the independent Accountability Review Board because he holds himself responsible for the lives of the diplomats and intelligence officers he sends to dangerous places—something he said seven months ago. But he won't stomach more of the same debate about Sunday-show talking points that, 100 emails later, amounts to little more than the same interagency turf battles that accompany every piece of writing released by the federal government. I know, I was a speechwriter there.

In the case of the AP phone records, Obama the former constitutional-law professor cares deeply about the balance between freedom and security. This is the president who began the foreign-policy section of his inaugural with the words "We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals." And he wants Congress to debate and finally pass a media-shield law. […]

I was there, and you weren't. BOOM! ||| Pete Souza, Whitehouse.gov
Pete Souza, Whitehouse.gov

And in the case of the IRS, the president must have been furious when he learned the news. I can remember how angry he was during the GSA debacle (parties in Vegas; think there were clowns and jugglers involved? Wow). He was angry because he knows that a progressive vision of government requires faith that government is efficient, and responsive, and trustworthy—and the handful of morons who break that trust sully the reputation of all the federal employees who uphold those values every day.

That is who he is. The handwringers and bed wetters in the D.C. punditocracy should know that Barack Obama will never be on their timeline. He does not value being first over being right. He will not spend his presidency chasing news cycles. He will not shake up his White House staff just because of some offhand advice offered to Politico by a longtime Washingtonian or a nameless Democrat who's desperately trying to stay relevant. And if that means Dana Milbank thinks he's too passive; if it means that Jim VandeHei will keep calling him arrogant and petulant; if it means that Chris Matthews will whine about him not enjoying the presidency, then so be it. He'll live.

Because he is my bro-dude!

The face of authenticity. ||| Twitter portrait
Twitter portrait

Next up in off-putting apologia from a former White House speechwriter named Jon is Lovett (not Lovitz), from a recent commencement address at Pitzer College:

I believe we may have reached "peak bullshit." And that increasingly, those who push back against the noise and nonsense; those who refuse to accept the untruths of politics and commerce and entertainment and government will be rewarded. That we are at the beginning of something important.

We see it across our culture, with not only popularity but hunger for the intellectual honesty of Jon Stewart or the raw sincerity of performers like Louis CK and Lena Dunham. You can even add the rise of dark, brooding, "authentic" super heroes in our blockbuster movies. We see it in locally-sourced, organic food on campuses like this, at places like the Shakedown, a rejection of the processed as inauthentic. We see it in politics.

I believe Barack Obama represents this movement, that the rise of his candidacy was in part a consequence of the desire for greater authenticity in our public life.

I think Lovett at least is onto something with the hunger-for-authenticity bit (which he also extends to such non-Democratic politicians as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Rand Paul), and he hits the bullseye with his concluding advice that "All you have to do is avoid BSing yourself—in whatever you choose to do." But the exercise of presidential power is fundamentally at odds with the fight against bullshit. As has been repeatedly demonstrated by our allegedly authentic president.

No amount of cloaking partisan power politics in the holy glow of "truth-telling" can alter the dynamic that Lord Acton identified long ago. When you apologize for corruption, you're adding to, not subtracting from, the net level of bullshit. All you have to do is avoid BSing yourself.