The Online Opinion Outpost features opinions and commentary on the latest hot topics from national news sources. As much as you love hearing from The Universe, we thought you might like to hear from journalists around the nation.
President Obama on ‘Between Two Ferns’
Getting the president to pop up in every conceivable entertainment context is a deliberate strategy by this White House. It is an awful development, and the next president has to at least try to put this genie back in the bottle.
The presidency of the United States is not meant to be a all-encompassing, ubiquitous role in the national culture. It is a job, with a four-year contract and an option for another four. And there is no shortage of real work in that job, beyond sitting on the talk show couches and taping introductions to documentary series. And a lot of big problems remain unresolved.
The Between Two Ferns segment contained a not-so-subtle plug for Obamacare. March 31, the deadline to enroll for 2014, is approaching, and the administration is conducting a final push to promote the program to the young and healthy. This population is integral to the success of the law because it will help offset the higher medical costs of older people.
Obama made no attempt to hide this motivation, telling Galifianakis, “I think it’s fair to say that I wouldn’t be here with you today if I didn’t have something to plug. Have you heard of the Affordable Care Act?”
The Atlantic’s David Graham writes that as president, it’s Obama’s job to communicate his policies to the electorate. Despite the unconventional setting, Graham says this “can hardly be a dereliction of duty.” He notes that because internet video is still a relatively new medium, it’s too soon to judge if Obama is spending too much time on it. James Poniewozik of Time writes that the skit is a good match for Obama’s sense of humor — “a little dry and a little cutting” — that doesn’t always come off well in more serious settings.
Despite facing higher levels of unemployment and student loans, millennials stand out — in Pew’s phrase — “as the nation’s most stubborn economic optimists.” A majority expect that they will earn enough money in the future to live the lives they want. Let’s hope their dreams come true. But looking at the demographic and economic statistics, that’s not the way to bet. What then?
Here’s a generation detached from religious institutions and only weakly attached to the country: Only 49% of millennials describe themselves as patriotic, compared with 64% of the next older cohort and 75% of baby boomers. Millennials are alienated. What will happen if they feel disappointed as well?
It’s become popular to dismiss Russian President Vladimir Putin as paranoid and out of touch with reality. But his denunciation of “neofascist extremists” within the movement that toppled the old Ukrainian government, and in the ranks of the new one, is worth heeding. The empowerment of extreme Ukrainian nationalists is no less a menace to the country’s future than Putin’s maneuvers in Crimea. These are odious people with a repugnant ideology.
Take the Svoboda party, which gained five key positions in the new Ukrainian government, including deputy prime minister, minister of defense and prosecutor general. Svoboda’s call to abolish the autonomy that protects Crimea’s Russian heritage, and its push for a parliamentary vote that downgraded the status of the Russian language, are flagrantly provocative to Ukraine’s millions of ethnic Russians and incredibly stupid as the first steps of a new government in a divided country.
These moves, more than Russian propaganda, prompted broad Crimean unease. Recall that this crisis began when Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovich retreated on a deal toward European integration. Are the Europe-aspiring Ukrainians who now vote to restrict Russians’ cultural-language rights even dimly aware that, as part of the European Union, such minority rights would have to be expanded, not curtailed?