Obama Should Tap His Inner Angry Black Man

The president needs to drop the Zen approach if he wants to end this fiscal gridlock.

President Barack Obama (Pool/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama (Pool/Getty Images)

(The Root) — Government is shut down. Some 800,000-plus human beings are being furloughed or ordered to work without pay as we speak. And if Washington, D.C., fails to reach a debt-ceiling compromise in two weeks, the globe could be on the verge of an economic meltdown unlike anything history has ever seen.  

Just another hot-mess apocalypse brought to you by, amazingly, a slick-haired band of fewer than three dozen rural, rednecky Republicans locked in a rinse cycle of Green Acres reruns. Mad yet? Even Republicans, like Long Island, N.Y., brawler Rep. Peter King, are fuming pink red and calling fellow Republicans names.

But if you managed to block out every slice of news-cycle noise and just let President Obama tell it, you would think you’d just won a Groupon deal for a free yoga class.

Most Americans get the president’s penchant for being the calm in the storm. Fine; honey tastes better than vinegar. It’s his signature cool-pose style, half engineered as a way to always stand above the fray, Zen sharpened and carefully chiseled in an effort to completely blast long-standing stereotypes of angry, militant black men on a marathon head stomp.

In 2008 voters chose this trait over the emotional push-button style of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Unflappable, determined Confucian in the crisis versus the six-shooter-on-the-hip cowboy of the previous eight years. Watching Obama was like watching a black Lao Tzu, an embodiment of the ancient Taoist who once said, “Respond to anger with virtue. Deal with difficulties while they are still easy. Handle the great while it is still small.”

Times like these, however, call for a street-court approach. We now hunger for flashes of impatience and outrage. Maybe it’s time for the hard foul under the basket, the elbow to the face and a rain of crashing glass from a moment of dunking rage. As 20th-century journalist H.L. Mencken put it: “Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats.” 

Instead we’re getting shoulder shrugs, sobering half-indictments and matter-of-fact talking points in which the president appears bored at best. While images of food-fighting adolescent Tea Party conservatives in suits are enough to drive us all insane, the president approaches briefing-room podiums with the softness of a toilet paper commercial.