Bush and Obama: First Pitch, Lasting Impressions


By: Guest Authors

By: Greg Halvorson

Friends, thanks to Barack Obama’s first-pitch at the All-Star game in St. Louis, I’m announcing that it is now possible to compare liberals and conservatives in a meaningful way. That’s right: specific examples have entered my sphere. Toward this end, videos, one of President Obama (Wow, that’s hard to say!) at the Midsummer Classic, and one of Bush at Yankee Stadium for game 3 of the ’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 “floater” to the Cardinals’ 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 America’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 “it was like Special Olympics or something,” 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 president’s physicality matches that of Howdy-Doody; 2) thank god the baseball wasn’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, it’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 “the lib of liberals,” the standard-bearer for pacifism and “co-exist” 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 “touchy-feely.” The passivity of the toss, by warming “progressives,” says, if it says anything, “I am sensitive. I am kind. And I got the heck outta there without breaking a nail.”

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. It’s Yankee-freaking-Stadium, the House That Ruth Built, and it’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 crescendo—“U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” Spell-bound, he stands…. Time stops. A thumb—his thumb—raised to the sky, tells America, “I am with you.” And, in the brisk New York air, amid anxious cries, he dutifully pulls a magnanimous triumph. The ball leaves his hand…. This is the President of the United States, the Leader of the Free World, yet no less than an icon in cleats—a Gibson, a Koufax, a Seaver, a Ryan—would be so privileged to have delivered that strike. A collective roar and the House goes crazy. Message to bin-Laden: “You wanna PLAY BALL!?”

Now, it may be argued that “Dubya” 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 Obama’s lackadaisical blooper, are less interested in efficient arrivals than they are in expanding the ruthless cost-curve. Where Bush’s laser reflected resolve, Obama’s arc seats “compassion.” (Just about anyone can push a lolly-pop shy of home.) Conservatives, meanwhile, fortify strength. Countenance will…. Risk to them is a desirable notion, all the more so when Bush hammers leather. With Obama one muses whether “keeping score” is outdated. With “43,” on this night, the Muses shout— WIN!

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