Texas Congressman Louis Gohmert has jumped on the Far Right bandwagon that has become very crowded with those eager to denounce President Obama’s most recent “failure of leadership”: specifically, his “failure” to visit the U.S.-Mexican border while he was in Texas to discuss possible responses to the “flood” of desperate Central American children who are now overwhelming the available detention centers in the U.S.
Gohmert stated in an interview on FOX News: “’You remember the abuse that President Bush took when that picture came to light of him looking out the window of the plane down at New Orleans after Katrina? Well, this president won’t even look out the window.’”
I am certain that Gohmert thinks that this was a very witty attack on President Obama, a comparison that makes him look worse than George W. Bush and therefore makes George W. Bush look better by comparison–even if the comparison is, in Gohmert’s fashioning of it, simply a comparison between degrees of awfulness.
But what Gohmert said is not so much witty as nonsensical.
President Bush was roundly criticized for looking out a plane window at the Katrina disaster because it seem to symbolize his detachment from the rampant tragedies occurring on the ground. So President Obama’s refusal to look out a plane window or the window of his bullet-proff SUV at the local evidence of a subsequent “disaster” is not an indication of political ineptness, political stupidity, or political cowardice, but a demonstration of political awareness (and this is even allowing that “disaster” can be applied to both situations without becoming so elastic as to lose all meaning).
Repeating President Bush’s political stupidity was not, in effect, a necessary prerequisite to doing something substantive about this more current issue.
And although Gohmert et al clearly were hoping that President Obama would repeat President Bush’s stupidity, his failure to provide them with such an easy target cannot so easily be turned into a different reason for heaping scorn upon him. Not unless you think that someone should be mocked for learning from a predecessor’s mistakes—and then, by extension, I suppose, praised for repeating the same mistakes over and over again (which, however, does have an unsettling complement in what Bill Maher has termed the Far Right’s “zombie lies”).
Imagine that Louis Gohmert were watching one of those cable shows that feature Internet video clips of people relentlessly attempting what turn out to be painfully self-destructive feats of physical agility–for instance, a series of videos featuring adolescent male skateboarders who try to ride metal handrails but succeed only in greatly reducing the chances that they will ever father children.
One must assume that Gohmert would view any subsequent reluctance to attempt such a feat as a demonstration of undue timidity, if not abject cowardice, rather than as a sign of the most basic kind of intelligence. (Which reminds me that someone–the Department of Education, I think– has produced a public-service announcement for television that features a young girl who repeatedly tries to jump a flight of concrete stairs on a skateboard until she finally succeeds, as if that were an appropriate metaphor for girls’ succeeding academically.)
Gohmert’s mindset is why people keep having themselves filmed doing things that will send them to the ER. It is a mindset that proceeds from the assumption that it is preferable to be a self-promoting fool than to have the pedestrian intelligence to distinguish real issues and substantive solutions from pointless stunts.