Monday, October 19, 2009


It turns out that Diwali is a "significant festival in Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism, and an official holiday in India." It is also the subject of a new video by President Obama, whose writers appear to have consulted the wikipedia entry linked to above:

Many readers may not know this, but US Presidents have been issuing proclamations on American Thanksgiving for a long time. This behavior, and its apparent recent expansion beyond Thanksgiving, raises the question: should the president spend his or her valuable time recording what are essentially glorified Hallmark Cards? If so, where does one draw the line? Are there religions too small or politically touchy to merit this attention? Can we expect a video on the anniversary of Joseph Smith's murder or on Mary Baker Eddy's birthday? Who decides which religions merit presidential videos and which do not? What rules are used?

I suppose this is all harmless enough, but it does seem to reinforce the view that the President is something other than just a functionary, which, it seems to me, is the correct view of the president of a democratic republic. The president is not our grandparent, or our leader, or a moral guide, or a source of inspiration. He is just the head of a large, publicly held company that does a mediocre job of providing some public goods and suffers from an excess of both sanctimony and mission creep. More time on task, and less on holiday fluff, would not be amiss.

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