steve ivory (2014)

Steven Ivory

*Every now and then, I go to You Tube and find assorted video of President Obama arrivals and departures. You read correctly: I get a kick watching footage of Obama on the move.

I’ll watch him deplane Air Force One in Paris; in Brussels, climbing out of Limo One, aka Beast, the massive, $1.5 million custom Cadillac supercar that is shipped around the world for his use.  I’ll check out footage of him anywhere,  striding at the center of a phalanx of Secret Service men and women, seen and unseen.

I get a thrill watching him race through the streets of recently-friended Havana on the presidential motorcycle, with Vice-president Biden in the sidecar. I’m kidding. There is no presidential motorcycle. But you get the picture. I relish scenes of Obama coming and going.

I’ve always enjoyed the pomp surrounding the transporting of a president. Something about the sense of ceremony enthralls me. As a kid,   I seriously thought I wanted to be a Secret Service man when I grew up.   Then I learned you had to go to college and that was that. As it was, I already hated school; didn’t understand why you needed a degree to wear a dark suit and a gun to trot alongside Kennedy’s Lincoln Continental.

Of course, I’ve long since discovered there’s more to moving the president than meets the eye. Though he’s been known to leave the White House on foot for a lunchtime sandwich in the neighborhood—you don’t have to imagine the delight of tourists and lunchtime regulars at Taylor’s sandwich shop, it’s there online–for the most part, he can’t just up and go somewhere.

There is protocol. Arrangements have to be made. Shit has to be set up. And whatever is set up has to go as planned. Only those participating truly know whether that always happens. In any case, when I watch online, I’ve got my own touches I add.

Sometimes, during You Tube footage of Air Force One taxiing to a halt, I’ll start up the O’Jays’ steamrolling, MSFB-driven “When The World Is At Peace.” Or better, Parliament’s funky, lazy “Dr. Funkenstein.” My man begins his descent down the steps just as George Clinton commences his egotistic rap. A different kind of “Hail to the Chief,” to be sure.   Politics have never influenced my fixation regarding a president’s travel. Democrat, Republican—I’m intrigued by the mechanics of it all.

However, Obama does bring something   anomalous to the process. It’s the  confidence he exudes–the swagger in that famous gait of his; the assured smile. One gets the impression the man enjoys being president.

Notice when he shakes the hand of someone he is fond of—or someone with whom he wants to create that feeling–there is a technique: the hand he shakes with, he pulls back just a bit and then thrusts it forward, taking the hand of the person in an aw-shucks gesture that suggests camaraderie.

I’ve seen him shake Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant this way. Actually, he gave Durant a Soul Shake, followed by the Brotherman Hug, whereby, still holding the person’s hand, you lean in for an embrace. How about that, a president who does the Soul Shake.

Abroad, when Obama steps off Air Force One, it is interesting to watch the dignitaries and heads of state of those countries wait their turn to greet him.   Pay close attention to their body language and you see the anticipation, not simply to meet an American president, but to meet this president.

As I said, I occasionally watch such footage because I dig watching the president on the move.   But there is another reason I watch those online videos: to specifically see Obama, if only in transport, treated like the President of the United States, without malice or vindictiveness.

While his Administration, like every other before it, has had its missteps, I believe that if Obama hadn’t come along when he did, much of America might be standing in soup lines by now.  Yet  many of this country’s citizens would have you believe Barack Obama is, at the very least, “the worst president in the history of the United States.” Imagine that. In the whole history of America. Sheesh.

Thus far I’ve lived through eleven presidents (too young to remember Eisenhower, I was nine when JFK was assassinated in 1963, when Obama, by the way, was just three), and I have never witnessed the vitriol heaped not only on President Obama, but his entire family.

Presidents have always taken heat;  it comes with the territory. Political cartoons.  Fodder for stand-up comic routines. Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier had a hit about America’s tough financial times during the Nixon years (1974’s “Fish Ain’t Biting” ) that actually featured the lyric, “Tricky Dick, stop yo’ shit”.

However, for Obama, there is more than just commentary on how the man performs his job. From a segment of the very country he governs there is sheer, unmitigated hate, the likes of which no American president has ever had to endure. Is this obsessive, evil abhorrence and the fact that Obama is the first black president mere coincidence?

So, yeah, anytime I can watch President Obama being what is deemed presidential, I’m down. For me, the only thing more enjoyable than observing him being escorted to and from all those cool presidential vehicles was his performance at the recent State of the Union Address. His bumptious entrance—glad-handing the men, kissing the women and watching them all jockey for an op to greet him and get a word in—is always popcorn-worthy.

However, at the climax of his speech, when Obama earnestly acknowledged, “I have no more campaigns to run,” the body of his detractors in the room took that opportunity—and they don’t miss many—to zealously applaud his statement, as if to say, “Thank God, the White House will soon be rid of you.”

To which Obama, pausing a nanosecond for charismatic, crushing  impact, coolly replied, “I know [I have no more campaigns to run], ‘cause I won both of ‘em.”

Oh!! Can somebody in here grunt a big, “Umph”?  Obama then took a second to bask in the cheers and howls of his supporters. On You Tube I’ve viewed  that moment almost as many times as Michael Jackson fans have watched MJ moonwalking during  that Motown 25th TV special.

Obama doesn’t often push back against the collective ignorance of his haters—at least, not so obviously; indeed, restraint has been one of his mightiest weapons—but when he does, it’s always a BOO-YA moment that leaves his opponents flustered and looking silly.

That’s how the man rolls.

Steven Ivory, veteran journalist, essayist and author, writes about popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio, TV and the Internet. Respond to him via [email protected]