It’s About Respect

Steve Benen points us to an interview given by Andy Card (former Chief of Staff under GWB) to conservative host Michael Medved, in which Card criticizes Obama’s choice to not wear a jacket in the Oval Office:

I found that Ronald Reagan and both President Bushes treated the Oval Office with tremendous respect. They treated the Office of the Presidency with tremendous respect. And some of that respect was reflected in how they expected people to behave, how they expected them to dress when they walked into the symbol of freedom for the world, the Oval Office. And yes, I’m disappointed to see the casual, laissez faire, short sleeves, no shirt and tie, no jacket, kind of locker room experience that seems to be taking place in this White House and the Oval Office.

(Bold from Think Progress).

Steve makes an excellent point about Card’s faulty reasoning:

Traditionalists may not approve of Obama’s easy-going style, but we’re a long way from a “laissez faire locker-room experience.” A frat house it isn’t.

The other thing to consider here is exactly how one “respects” the presidency. For Card and others who served with Bush, it’s about choice of clothing. For those who serve with Obama, it’s about honoring institutional limits and the rule of law.

Or, put another way, where exactly does a loyal Bushie get off talking about “respecting” the presidency? Did George W. Bush always wear a coat and tie? Sure. Good for him. But while he was wearing nice clothes and demanding that his staff do the same, he also oversaw a scandal-plagued White House that trashed constitutional norms and routinely ignored the laws that the president twice swore to faithfully execute.

One respects the office by honoring it’s place in a constitutional system, not be wearing a suit.

We all get upset when we hear Republicans (I think, in particular, ones we consider more “moderate”, like Card or John McCain) make these kind of ridiculous pronouncements.  But you have to remember that they’re speaking to bloggers or anchors or journalists whose audiences are decidedly un-moderate.  So John McCain goes on Fox News and says that Obama shouldn’t criticize Rush Limbaugh (no doubt because McCain has himself felt Limbaugh’s wrath) and Andy Card (who left Bush’s White House because it was too hardline conservative for him, compared to Bush I) tells Michael Medved something absolutely irrational about Obama not respecting the office of the presidency.

It’s all for show.  Republicans say what they think their base wants to hear.  At least that’s my calculation.

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