The New York Times has produced an article about the television viewing habits of President Obama. The piece, by Michael Shear, is called “Obama’s TV Picks: Anything Edgy, With Hints of Reality.”
Take away those hints, and this sounds like his presidency.
According to Shear, Obama enjoys watching Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Homeland, The Wire, Modern Family, House of Cards, and Parks and Recreation. This is consistent with what Tevi Troy reported in What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted, which provides a vastly more insightful account.
Obama’s viewing habits are thus well in line with those of the average middle-age Ivy League graduate who watches television dramas. In other words, his taste in television is upper-middlebrow. Or, as Matthew Continetti puts it, “the dramas the president favors are soap operas with sophisticated vocabularies.”
It could be worse. Obama could, like Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, be into Downton Abbey, a soap opera with sophisticated clothing. Maybe he is.
I don’t mean to suggest that there’s anything wrong with what Obama reportedly watches on television. I enjoyed Homeland until this season and I enjoy Mad Men thoroughly (I’m not familiar with the other shows).
Anyway, Obama is a middle-age Ivy League grad who watches television dramas. Why should his cultural tastes transcend those of this cohort? You never believed that Obama is a philosopher king who stands above his fellow Ivy Leaguers in more than ambition and glibness, did you?
What surprises me some is that President Obama watches so many shows. I don’t begrudge Obama his golfing outings. A president needs healthy recreation. But one might have hoped for a president who doesn’t need to sit so much in front of a television set to recharge his batteries.
But according to Shear, Obama doesn’t just use the “idiot box” for that purpose. Supposedly, the president draws policy insights and/or inspiration from his favorite “soap operas with sophisticated vocabularies.”
Continetti wisely dismisses this notion as an insult not only to our intelligence but also Obama’s. Presumably, any inspiration Obama draws from his favorite dramas is the same as that drawn by his fellow “edgy” middle-age Ivy League educated television viewers — the sense of getting a joke that (they assume) less sophisticated people aren’t in on.