Bush and Obama: First Pitch, Lasting Impressions
By: Guest Authors
By: Greg Halvorson
Friends, thanks to Barack Obamaâ€™s first-pitch at the All-Star game in St. Louis, Iâ€™m announcing that it is now possible to compare liberals and conservatives in a meaningful way. Thatâ€™s right: specific examples have entered my sphere. Toward this end, videos, one of President Obama (Wow, thatâ€™s hard to say!) at the Midsummer Classic, and one of Bush at Yankee Stadium for game 3 of the â€™01 World Series, are offered here, not in biased judgment, but as windows into polarized tents. In Video 1 (http://tiny.cc/98SKJ) the president, who will never be in a blue jeans commercial, takes the mound, winds up and, without the aid of a teleprompter, delivers a â€œfloaterâ€ to the Cardinalsâ€™ first baseman. The delivery, in contrast to his speeches, lacks power and, as a result, the ball arcs, nearly bounces and, for those metaphorically inclined, symbolizes Americaâ€™s new world standing insofar as both are effete and lack punch. Obama, it must be remembered, bowled a 37 (http://tiny.cc/RWMot), including five gutter-balls (in-a-row), on his journey to the White House, and his later comment, that â€œit was like Special Olympics or something,â€ was so sensitive that bouquet sales spiked, adoptions ballooned, and psychotic dictators from Pyongyang to Tehran emerged from their caves. My analysis of the throw, separate from my opinion, is necessarily tied to that of the thrower, and can be summarized by saying: 1) that the presidentâ€™s physicality matches that of Howdy-Doody; 2) thank god the baseball wasnâ€™t a grenade, or Joe Biden would be holding weekly press-conferences; and 3) that if al-Qaida was tuning in, the membership will stop hawing sometime next year.
What does this prove? Very little. From a theoretical standpoint, however, itâ€™s worth noting that Obama, prior to becoming Commander-in-Chief, was tagged the single most “liberal” member of a body richly festooned with lightweights and clowns. Indeed, as â€œthe lib of liberals,â€ the standard-bearer for pacifism and â€œco-existâ€ bumper stickers, the president strikes fear in no fear-monger. Between the dainty throw, designer jeans, and a fatuous history of shackling gun-owners, Mr. Obama champions â€œtouchy-feely.â€ The passivity of the toss, by warming â€œprogressives,â€ says, if it says anything, â€œI am sensitive. I am kind. And I got the heck outta there without breaking a nail.â€
Now, switch to October, 2001 (http://tiny.cc/KxdNf). America, only weeks removed from the fall of the World Trade Center, is on a war-footing, their president, George Walker Bush, a symbol of courage and steely resolve. This is no All-Star game. Itâ€™s Yankee-freaking-Stadium, the House That Ruth Built, and itâ€™s jammed with people with prayer in their hearts, blood on their mind, and terror in their souls. Mr. Bush, not in blue jeans but slacks, and wearing a heavy jacket against the crisp autumn night, approaches the mound to a patriotic crescendoâ€”â€œU.S.A.! U.S.A.!â€ Spell-bound, he standsâ€¦. Time stops. A thumbâ€”his thumbâ€”raised to the sky, tells America, â€œI am with you.â€ And, in the brisk New York air, amid anxious cries, he dutifully pulls a magnanimous triumph. The ball leaves his handâ€¦. This is the President of the United States, the Leader of the Free World, yet no less than an icon in cleatsâ€”a Gibson, a Koufax, a Seaver, a Ryanâ€”would be so privileged to have delivered that strike. A collective roar and the House goes crazy. Message to bin-Laden: â€œYou wanna PLAY BALL!?â€
Now, it may be argued that â€œDubyaâ€ ran astray, that at some point in the ensuing years, he abandoned conservatism, myopically dumping that thread of goodwill; yet he wore it bravely with a Capital on that night. For the sake of conclusion, each pitch is telling; liberals, much like Obamaâ€™s lackadaisical blooper, are less interested in efficient arrivals than they are in expanding the ruthless cost-curve. Where Bushâ€™s laser reflected resolve, Obamaâ€™s arc seats â€œcompassion.â€ (Just about anyone can push a lolly-pop shy of home.) Conservatives, meanwhile, fortify strength. Countenance willâ€¦. Risk to them is a desirable notion, all the more so when Bush hammers leather. With Obama one muses whether â€œkeeping scoreâ€ is outdated. With â€œ43,â€ on this night, the Muses shoutâ€” WIN!