WASHINGTON — It was fun. It was odd. It was just a little bit … unseemly.
Doubtless you've heard plenty by now of President Obama's slow jam, which, for all you drips out there, refers to an R&B ballad or down-tempo song. You, too, can find this on Wikipedia.
During a visit to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Obama and late-night comedian Jimmy Fallon pushed the president's plan to preserve low student loan rates through a rhythmic rendering of his talking points set to music. Fallon, playing a one-man Greek chorus, interspersed commentary, such as: “Aw yeah, you should listen to the president. Or as I like to call him, the Preezy of the United Steezy.”
It was, shall we say, a tad unusual for a sitting president. Wannabes will do nearly anything, as we've observed. But this particular skit went beyond the usual horn-tooting a la Bill Clinton — or even the awkward stand-up “Top Tens” many candidates, including Mitt Romney, have endured for the sake of the sacrosanct “youth vote.”
One could argue that Obama's Fallon appearance was quite well done, which it was — for that sort of thing. The president played straight man and said or did nothing objectionable. He was, in a word, presidential, to the extent one can be under such circumstances. Even at the end when he said, “Oh yeah,” it was … cool.
Yet the effect was nearly narcotic, so strange that cognitive dissonance doesn't quite describe it. One had the uneasy feeling that something wrong was happening. The lead grown-up isn't supposed to act that way.
On the other hand, as we who argue with ourselves like to say, if you can get kids to learn multiplication tables by setting them to rap, why not push student loan relief with a little R&B? Maybe because you're the Preezy of the United Steezy?
That Obama is a cool drink is no one's revelation. He's the ice tinkling in the glass. He's Muhammad Ali to Romney's, well, Romney. It's hard to come up with a more quintessential uncool guy than the presumptive Republican nominee. What can you do? There's no book for cool, though if there were, Romney would have memorized and distilled it to a PowerPoint presentation.