Thursday, December 15, 2011

The White House Christmas: A Study In Contrasts

"We have 37 Christmas trees here at the White House --37!" Michelle Obama excitedly told a recent group of visitors. "That's a lot, right? Yes, that's a lot of trees. And we also have a 400-pound White House gingerbread house..."

Virtually every room has also been decorated for the holidays with some kind of a replica of the Obamas' dog, Bo, who's being made into a kind of first family Christmas canine symbol.

The Bo's are made of all sorts of materials and come in all sizes. There are Bo's made of pom-poms (750 of them), Bo's made from about 2,000 pieces of licorice, Bo's made from some 35 yards of wool felt and Bo's made from nearly 7,000 feet of plastic trash bags. There's even a nine-inch Bo made from hundreds of buttons...

Of course, every administration decorates the White House in some way for holidays, from green fountain water in mid-March to evergreen wreaths come December.

The extravagance of 2011's decorations, however, are striking given the widespread joblessness, pale economic growth, home foreclosures and grim outlook for 2012, not to mention the incumbent president's historically low approval rating heading into his reelection bid.

How simple, politically astute, symbolically helpful and cost-effective it would have been for the Obamas this year to say that in sympathy with so many struggling countrymen, they were curtailing holiday decorations to match the sacrifices of others.

Mrs. Obama took another tack, however. She said the massive holiday displays in her White House are designed to make others feel better, especially military families...

Yes, the Obama presidency is always about others, isn't it? The apology tours, the sneering put downs, the arrogant and constantly out-of-touch governing style, the endless vacations and golfing outings and basketball games, the coercion, the lack of transparency, the pernicious paternalism, the lies, the blame game, the spiteful and unjust rhetoric, the hypocrisy, the forever fundraisers, Michelle's super expensive threads and shopping sprees and jet setting hops -- the Obamas are all about others.

But instead of getting ill over the over-the-top hype (and hypocrisy) of the Obamas, I suggest you remember with me a time when Christmas at the White House was celebrated wisely, humbly and appropriately by an American President. Listen to Ronald Reagan's 3 and 1/2 minute Christmas address from 1981. Ponder his stirring exhortations. And then promise to do your part in sending to Washington next year someone more in keeping with these noble values.