The evolution of the role of the presidency and politicians from staid wig-wearers to guy-I-want-to-drink-beer-with has led to a man-of-the-people arms race in which Americans in every state will suffer. For example.
That, as you almost certainly know, is "doge," a meme centered around a Shiba Inu dog that I guess thinks weird things that appear around his head in Comic Sans typeface. It's a meme that is so old by now that the actual dog that inspired the first doge photo has been found and interviewed, so old that even the Huffington Post, no longer exactly at the forefront of internet culture (sorry, guys) declared it dead in December. (So did we, to be fair.) Like, I think the Today Show probably did something on doge, which is basically like the official tombstone of anything popular on the internet.
What the Department of Health and Human Services is doing here is trying to be "cool." Obamacare, as we've pointed out, needs to get young people to sign up for coverage in order to make the economics of the insurance system work. The government has partnered with a number of celebrities and performing artists to spread the word on signing up (here, for example, is Will Ferrell). So HHS was like, Hey, kids are doing this "doge" thing — the way a dad would be like, Hey, the kids are doing "rap music" these days — and made a doge. And then they put it on Twitter and, even earlier, on the hopelessly-unhip Facebook.
It's easy to pick on HHS. But the whole Obama administration is in on this gig. Here's President Obama, offering a statement on the death of actor/director Harold Ramis.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Harold’s wife, Erica, his children and grandchildren, and all those who loved him, who quote his work with abandon, and who hope that he received total consciousness.
See what he did there? Ramis directed Caddyshack, a movie which features a famous line about how Bill Murray's weird caretaker character caddied for the Dalai Lama who then offered Murray "total consciousness" on his deathbed. ("So I got that going for me, which is nice.") It's a great line, that lots of people Obama's age (and, um, younger) can recite. But it's hard not to see Obama dropping it into his reminiscence as being a sort of nudge. It's not as bad as doge, but it definitely has a feel like the time you walked into your friend's house and his dad went wazzzzzuuuuuuuuppp about three years after that beer ad went off the air.
More egregious was Vice President Joe Biden last night. Biden appeared at an event attended by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who used to play professional basketball.
"I told the president, next game, I've got him," Biden said of the former NBA star, "I may be a white boy, but I can jump"
In 1992, Ron Shelton directed White Men Can't Jump, a movie about complex interracial relationships that has been distilled by two decades of dumb late-night ESPN jokes into a false self-deprecating statement by white guys who suck at basketball and want to excuse it while at the same time being racist. Biden wasn't being racist here, he was being "cool," like how your uncle calls a beer a "brewski."
Look, if you want to be cool and be in politics, there's a simple trick: Actually be cool. You know who's cool? Michelle Obama. Here's her yesterday, announcing a new program meant to get kids eating healthier.
See? That's cool! It's a kid's silly rap, and she delivers it without trying to rap, but still respectfully.
By the way, CNN titled that segment "First lady busts a rap for healthy foods." Because the problem isn't only that the government is run by deeply uncool people, it's that everyone who is over the age of 40 is almost certainly unhip, with rare exceptions. For politicians who are in the business of seeking approval or for a government agency that needs to spread the word, the temptation to walk close to a dork-boundary that they don't realize they've already crossed is just too strong. Holla.
Correction: As proof of my personal uncoolness, I misattributed the director of White Men Can't Jump. White men also can't use IMDB. Thanks to Jim Connelly for the catch.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.