While all of you were enjoying crazy Spring Break vacation in the Bahamas, I was freezing in Chicago. Fun fact: it’s actually colder in the Midwest than New England. While I was bundled up in my Hello Kitty Snuggie (Thanks, Dad!), I watched the latest episode of Between Two Ferns, a video web series produced by the site Funny or Die with host Zach Galifianakis. In this episode, President Obama made an appearance to stump for Healthcare.gov. While I appreciate Obama’s valiant effort, his appearance fell flat and shouldn’t have ever happened.
I understand why Obama decided to appear. It seems like a pretty good call from a public relations standpoint. President appears on an Internet web series to pitch affordable healthcare to the young whippersnappers who watch that weird Zach Galifianakis guy. It’ll make him seem hip with the kids, and he’ll get to speak directly to those who can’t look up from their smart phones.
Full disclosure: I don’t think Between Two Ferns is all that funny in the first place, but the episode with Obama was even less funny than the rest of them. There is something off-putting about the Commander-in-Chief appearing on the show. The guy with the missile launch codes is trying to make jokes about Bradley Cooper and pardoning turkeys. Emphasis on the word “trying.”
Don’t get me wrong. I completely appreciate what the president is trying to do. A Gallup poll released March 10 reported that 23 percent of young people are uninsured. That’s a large percentage of the upcoming generation. The faster they can get coverage, the healthier they will be. Medicine has never been better, but nothing is a better cure than preventative measures.
According to a Washington Post article published March 10, the administration wanted adults ages 18 to 34 to make up 40 percent of the exchange. Current numbers have their share of the exchange at 25 percent. Obama wants that number up before the March 31 deadline for open enrollment.
A quick break from our scheduled program: If you know someone who doesn’t have health insurance, get them to sign up for Heatlhcare.gov! There’s no commitment. You put in some information, maybe qualify for a potential tax credit. Then you see if there is a plan that fits your needs. That’s it! Now that doesn’t seem too scary, does it? I know you don’t want to be the socially awkward kid who says to all his friends, “Hey, guys, have you signed up for Obamacare yet?” But hey! You’d be the socially awkward kid that gets his friends affordable prescriptions and necessary preventative care. Sounds pretty cool, right? *
Now back to our regular programming: The responses to Obama’s interview have been fairly positive, which honestly confuses me. Am I the only one who didn’t think it was funny? There’s something distinctly uncomfortable about the President of the United States telling bad jokes for a web series. Doesn’t the guy have anything better to do?
This whole appearance was beneath Obama, and we can all admit it was a little ridiculous. Obama is not here to entertain us. He’s here to lead. I don’t want to see videos of our president acting like a mid-range comedian. I want pictures of him in the Oval Office, in The Situation Room and on Air Force One. We should want a president who is doing his job, not putting off important matters to appear on a less-than-funny web series.
I don’t have a problem with the president informing the population about important deadlines critical to their health. My issue lies with how his message was sent. There are a million and one channels on TV these days — I would know, I’m pretty sure I watched all of them over break. There are also other web shows that would be a little bit more appropriate for a president to appear on.
According to the Funny or Die website, the video had 18 million views as of Monday, so we should call the idea a success. There is nothing like subliminally informing millions of Americans about the government sponsored health care plans. However, while more information is distributed, there is also the hit to the president’s credibility to consider. I wish there were statistics on how many young people signed up for health care because of his appearance. It would make my job as a columnist a lot easier as I wouldn’t have to convince you that the appearance was a mistake.
Alas, it is too late to change the minds of Obama’s closest advisors. However, that doesn’t mean his message was invalid. Just because it was a poor PR decision doesn’t make him wrong. Just swallow your medicine and sign up for the exchange.
*Obamacare plug not paid for by the Obama administration. The administration is not responsible for any bullying or friend-loss that may result from the described scenario.
Sara Ryan is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences studying political science and math. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.